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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com ARCHIVES 2009

Week of 29th of November to 5th of December 2009

Kucinich: The War Is a Threat to Our National Security [AJ]
WASHINGTON � December 3 � Following a speech on the Floor of the House of Representative, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made the following statement:

�America is in the fight of its life and that fight is not in Afghanistan � its here. We are deeply in debt. Our GDP is down. Our manufacturing is down. Our savings are down. The value of the dollar is down. Our trade deficit is up. Business failures are up. Bankruptcies are up.

�The war is a threat to our national security. We�ll spend over one $100 billion next year to bomb a nation of poor people while we reenergize the Taliban, destabilize Pakistan, deplete our army and put more of our soldiers� lives on the line. Meanwhile, back here in the USA, 15 million people are out of work. People are losing their jobs, their health care, their savings, their investments, and their retirement security. $13 trillion in bailouts for Wall Street, trillions for war; when are we going to start taking care of things here at home?�

"Farmed Salmon Exposed" - Intro/Excerpt (VIDEO) [R]
This is an excerpt from a new film by Canadian documentarian Damien Gillis that visually portrays the damage caused by open-net salmon farms to marine ecosystems worldwide. The film features firsthand...

Veterans Administration outsourcing threatens employment opportunities for veterans says AFGE [BF]
The high unemployment rate of returning service members has not escaped the attention of the White House. On November 9, President Obama issued an executive order aimed at enhancing the recruitment and promotion of employment opportunities for veterans. The order established a multi-agency �Council on Veterans Employment� and is supposed to develop a strategic plan on how to recruit and employ veterans for federal civilian service. According to the union, however, any plan developed by the Council should address the systemic risk to federal civilian employment of veterans posed by the expanded use of for-profit contractors. Ironically, the VA � the agency that strives to be the model employer of veterans -- has contracted out more jobs held by veterans than most other agencies.

�The VA has long been a valuable and honorable employer for returning service members, including veterans with disabilities. However, as federal civilian jobs have been increasingly replaced with outside contractors, the current generation of veterans has far fewer job opportunities throughout the federal government and in the VA in particular,� said Cox.

Eliot Spitzer: Geithner, Bernanke "Complicit" in Financial Crisis and Should Go [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you sued AIG.

ELIOT SPITZER: Oh, yes. And we got them to confess that they�and that's when they removed Hank Greenberg as the CEO. Federal criminal charges were brought. Hank Greenberg was called an unindicted co-conspirator. And now he's back in the good graces of Wall Street again, of course, because that's how they handle these issues.

AIG was, to a great extent�their financial products division�a Ponzi scheme supposedly guaranteeing hundreds of billions of dollars of CDS collateral, credit default swaps, with no collateral behind it. That is part of what brought us down.

But that is the system that the Fed was overseeing. They specifically rejected the effort back in '94, '95 to regulate this swamp. The derivatives, that are a quintessential Wall Street creation, have some small utility at an economic level, but became an enormous revenue stream for banks, and they were unregulated. People made a fortune. We taxpayers hold the bag.

Now, the money, put in perspective, the $12.9 billion, a small piece of the whole bailout�Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, has $4 billion to redo all of K-through-12, and everybody's saying, �Isn't this great? Four billion dollars.� Goldman Sachs got $12.9 [billion]. Eight billion dollars for high-speed rail. Entire high-speed rail stimulus effort, $8 billion. Goldman Sachs got $12.9 [billion]. So what are the priorities, in terms of infrastructure investment, job creation, building the foundation of an economy that will permit us to be competitive so that real Americans can get jobs, not just investment bankers and lawyers?

Al Gore Got Rich From Owning Google Stock [WRH]
Gore became a senior adviser to the star Internet search engine back in February 2001 - years before its stock went public in August 2004 - and is a close pal of CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt.

Since its shares went public, Google has soared from $85 to more than $400 and co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are worth an estimated $11 billion each.

Gore "owns a ton of Google and he's made enough money that he could wait until a month before and just drop $50 million in to launch a [2008] race," claims a well-placed Democrat.

Fire kills 2 men and 43 horses; no sign of criminal intent
(CNN) -- A barn fire that killed two men and dozens of horses in Ohio on Saturday shows no sign of criminal intent, authorities said.

The Ohio State Fire Marshal said the cause of the fire, at the Lebanon Raceway near Cincinnati in southwestern Ohio, is undetermined.

North Koreans dare to protest as devaluation wipes out savings [WRH]
The North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is trying to smother his country's fragile free market with a shock currency devaluation that has reportedly sparked panic, chaos and protests inside the isolated Stalinist state.

Monday's devaluation of Pyongyang's nearly worthless currency from 100 to a single won has wiped out the savings of impoverished North Koreans and generated a scramble for dollars and Chinese yuan, say sources behind the bamboo curtain.

Millions of Koreans have been given until next Monday to exchange their savings for the new won following Monday's decree, which has caused "great confusion" and anger, says South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Coming soon: The first new U.S. uranium mill since the Cold War
Though this is exactly the kind of project that might normally lead neighbors to say, "Not in my back yard," there's local precedent in Paradox Valley and throughout Montrose County. Union Carbide once ran a uranium mill nearby, which the Environmental Protection Agency later made one of its Superfund sites, spending $120 million to clean up hazardous materials there.

Montrose County also supplied uranium for Madame Curie, the Manhattan Project, and Little Boy and Fat Man, the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, says local geologist Mike Thompson.

Drugmakers' Payments Draw Heat; Following its settlement of kickback allegations with Omnicare, the Justice Dept. continues to probe Johnson & Johnson [R]
A $112 million settlement involving alleged drug kickbacks that the Justice Dept. announced with the nation's largest nursing home pharmacy and a generic drug manufacturer on Nov. 3 is part of a wide-ranging investigation of suspected Medicaid fraud by the pharmaceutical industry. Critics say the continuing probe, which involves Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and other major drugmakers, highlights what they describe as an industry practice of paying money to outfits that provide drugs to consumers, in return for preferential treatment.

Because those alleged payoffs have the effect of compromising patient care and driving up costs for government and private health insurers, cases like the settlement unsealed with Omnicare (OCR) in Covington, Ky., and IVAX Pharmaceuticals in Weston, Fla., could bolster opposition to the controversial deal the Obama Administration reached with the pharmaceutical industry to win its support for health-reform legislation. Many Democrats say the Administration should have asked for much bigger cost savings from drugmakers.

Under Tuesday's settlement, Omnicare will pay $98 million plus interest to the federal government and a number of state Medicaid programs to settle allegations that it participated in kickback schemes with IVAX, J&J, and two nursing home chains. IVAX, a subsidiary of Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA), agreed to pay $14 million plus interest.

Spate of suicides by foreign maids in Lebanon sheds light on abuse http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/02/lebanon.suicides/index.html
London, England (CNN) -- A recent spate of suicides by foreign maids in Lebanon is prompting outrage among human rights groups, who say the government is doing too little to protect migrant domestic workers from severe abuse.

Over the past seven weeks at least 10 women have died, either by hanging themselves or by falling from tall buildings. Six of these cases have been reported in local media as suicides and four more have been described as possible work accidents.

An Ethiopian woman working as a cleaner in Lebanon told CNN by phone that she was sad about the recent suicides, and that she had a friend who killed herself several years ago, when she too was working as a live-in maid.

"If the Madame maybe she is very bad, they feel there is no way, no solution," said the woman who asked not to be identified, referring to abuse by the female employer. "Everyone has a different case," though she added.

�The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther� [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: On this fortieth anniversary of the FBI and police killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, Black Panthers in Chicago, we�re going to turn right now to Deborah Johnson. Deborah Johnson was the fianc�of Fred Hampton. She was in bed with Fred when the police raided the apartment. She was, well, more than eight months pregnant. This is how she described the raid. Her son Fred Hampton, Jr. is sitting on her lap as she describes how his father was killed.

DEBORAH JOHNSON: Someone came into the room, started shaking the Chairman, said, �Chairman, Chairman, wake up. The pigs are vamping.� Still half asleep, I looked up, and I saw bullets coming from, it looked like, the front of the apartment, from the kitchen area. They were�pigs were just shooting.

And about this time, I jumped on top of the Chairman. He looked up. Looked like all the pigs had converged at the entranceway to the bedroom area, back bedroom area. The mattress was just going�you could feel bullets going into it. I just knew we'd be dead, everybody in there. When he looked up, just looked up, he didn't say a word. He didn't move, except for moving his head up. He laid his head back down, to the side like that. He never said a word. He never got up off the bed.

The person who was in the room, he kept hollering, �Stop shooting! Stop shooting! We have a pregnant woman, a pregnant sister in here!� At the time I was eight-and-a-half, nine months pregnant. My baby was to be delivered in two weeks. Pigs kept on shooting. So I kept on hollering out. Finally, they stopped.

They pushed me and the other brother by the kitchen door and told us to face the wall. Heard a pig say, �He's barely alive. He'll barely make it.� I assumed they were talking about Chairman Fred. Then they started shooting. The pigs, they started shooting again. I heard a sister scream. They stopped shooting. Pig said, �He's good and dead now.� The pigs were running around laughing. They was really happy, you know, talking about Chairman Fred is dead. I never saw Chairman Fred again.

Pilot for 9/11 flight school considered "Grave threat to national security" [R]
A U.S. Customs Agent on duty when controversial drug pilot and �soldier of fortune� Michael Brassington attempted to re-enter the US through Fort Lauderdale International Airport in April of 2004 was instructed by a Supervisor at Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to treat Brassington�a long-time employee and business associate of Wallace J. Hilliard, owner of the flight school that taught Mohamed Atta to fly� as a �grave threat to national security.�

The news comes as the former Guyanese military pilot prepares to go on trial in a Federal Courthouse in Newark next month for recklessly endangering the lives of passengers, whose number includes ex-Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton as well as numerous celebrities.

The disclosure, from a soon-to-be-released documentary, �The New American Drug Lords,� is a reminder, more than eight years later, of the unfinished nature of the investigation into the 9/11 attack.

Earth could plunge into sudden ice age; Experts: �Big Freeze� about 12,800 years ago happened within months
In the film, "The Day After Tomorrow," the world gets gripped in ice within the span of just a few weeks. Now research now suggests an eerily similar event might indeed have occurred in the past.

Looking ahead to the future, there is no reason why such a freeze shouldn't happen again � and in ironic fashion it could be precipitated if ongoing changes in climate force the Greenland ice sheet to suddenly melt, scientists say.

Starting roughly 12,800 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere was gripped by a chill that lasted some 1,300 years. Known by scientists as the Younger Dryas and nicknamed the"Big Freeze," geological evidence suggests it was brought on when a vast pulse of fresh water � a greater volume than all of North America's Great Lakes combined � poured into the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

This abrupt influx, caused when the glacial Lake Agassiz in North America burst its banks, diluted the circulation of warmer water in the North Atlantic, bringing this "conveyer belt" to a halt. Without this warming influence, evidence shows that temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere plummeted.

The Mark Fiore cartoon "Obama Interruptus" (VIDEO ANIMATION)
PAM COMMENTARY: This almost made "fun link of the month" but of course was eclipsed by the old John Lennon song "Happy Christmas (War is Over)." Mark Fiore has some good animated political cartoons.

Robert Fisk: This strategy has been tried before � without success [WRH]
"They shoot Russians," the young paratrooper told me. It was cold. We had come across his unit, the Soviet 105th Airborne Division, near Charikar, north of Kabul, and he was holding out a bandaged hand. Blood seeped through, staining the sleeve of his battledress. He was just a teenager with fair hair and blue eyes. Beside us a Soviet transport lorry, its rear section blown to pieces by a mine � yes, an "improvised explosive device", though we didn't call it that yet � lay upended in a ditch. In pain, the young man raised his hand to the mountain-tops where a Soviet helicopter was circling. Could I ever have imagined that Messers Bush and Blair would have landed us in the same sepulchre of armies almost three decades later? Or that a young black American president would do exactly what the Russians did all those years ago?

Within weeks, we would see the Soviet Army securing Kabul and the largest cities of Afghanistan, abandoning the vast areas of mountain and desert to the "terrorists", insisting that they could support a secular, uncorrupt government in the capital and give security to the people. By the spring of 1980, I was watching the Soviet military stage a "surge". Sound familiar? The Russians announced new training for the Afghan army. Sound familiar? Only 60 per cent of the force was following orders at the time. Yes, it does sound familiar.

Iraq inquiry: Blair told Bush he was willing to join, 11 months before war [R]
Tony Blair made it clear to George Bush at a meeting in Texas 11 months before the Iraq invasion that he would be prepared to join the US in toppling Saddam Hussein, the inquiry into the war was told today.

The prime minister repeatedly told the US president that British policy was to back United Nations attempts to seek Iraq's disarmament, Sir David Manning, his foreign policy adviser, told the inquiry.

However, Blair was "absolutely prepared to say he was willing to contemplate regime change if [UN-backed measures] did not work", Manning said. If it proved impossible to pursue the UN route, then Blair would be "willing to use force", Manning emphasised.

Manning recalled the meeting between the two leaders at Crawford, Bush's Texas ranch, in April 2002. "I look back at Crawford as the moment that he [Blair] was saying, yes, there is a route through this that is an international, peaceful one and it is through the UN, but if it doesn't work, we will be willing to undertake regime change," Manning said.

The issue is crucial because Blair was warned at the time by Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, and other legal advisers that going to war with regime change as the objective was unlawful and breached the UN charter.

Richmond gang-rape defendants plead not guilty
Prosecutor Dara Cashman said she expects to bring evidence against all six defendants at a single preliminary hearing. Under state law, the victim would not have to testify. A judge would then have to decide whether to send the case to trial.

Police said the defendants raped the girl in a courtyard at Richmond High over two hours Oct. 24, while as many as 20 other people watched and took photographs.

Cashman called the incident "cold and callous," citing the number of people involved and the fact that there was "so little effort to help the victim."

She said the rape was fueled by a mob mentality, but added, "That doesn't make it any less violent."

The defendants, who face varying charges, are Elvis Josue Torrentes, 22; Manuel Ortega, 19; Jose Carlos Montano, 18; Marcelles James Peter, 17; Ari Abdallah Morales, 16; and 15-year-old Cody Ray Smith.

DuPont Accused of Massive Water Pollution [R]
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) - DuPont has been covering up and refusing to take responsibility for its toxic pollution of the Ohio River for a quarter of a century, and the poisons it uses to make Teflon stay in the environment for 2,000 years, a nonprofit water association claims in Federal Court.

The Little Hocking Water Association says that air and water emissions of perflourinated compounds from DuPont's Washington Works Plant have been polluting its wellfields since 1984.

These chemicals, which DuPont uses to make Teflon products, stay in the environment for up to 2,000 years, and accumulate in the tissue of living things, causing developmental and immunological problems, the water group says.

It claims at least four wells on 45 acres along the Ohio River were polluted by DuPont's disposal of hazardous waste in landfills, injection wells and burn pits.

The water association claims that DuPont hid the threats of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, despite knowing of its risks - including the birth of deformed babies to its employees in 1981.

State officials say federal toxic chemical laws too weak [BF]
AUGUSTA, Maine � Environmental officials in Maine and a dozen other states issued a statement Wednesday saying federal laws to protect the public from toxic chemicals are too weak and states instead are leading the way.

The joint statement asks for changes in national laws so they will protect vulnerable populations by identifying and regulating the most troubling chemicals in consumer items and elsewhere. It also says manufacturers should provide regulators with enough information to show that chemicals used in their products are safe for humans and won�t harm the environment.

�Current federal chemical regulations fail to adequately protect the nation�s citizens and environment from toxic chemicals and unsafe products,� said David Littell, commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. �The effects of exposure to toxic chemicals on human health, the environment and the economy are enormous and often avoidable.�

�America: Freedom to Fascism� Star Sherry Jackson is Being Murdered [AJ]
The feds seem intent upon MURDERING SHERRY JACKSON. See her own report below, and you�ll understand. She details how the feds denied her medical care in prison and right now she IS IN THE PROCESS OF DYING.

Sherry was one of the stars of Aaron Russo�s America: Freedom to Fascism. She was the former IRS agent who cried out, �SHOW ME THE LAW!�. Right now she deserves the support of the entire Freedom Movement. We can give it to her by calling her Congressional Representative imploring him to intercede to save her life. For her service to the Cause of Liberty, WE SHOULD DO NO LESS!!

Sherry�s Representative is Hank Johnson, representing the 4th Congressional District of Georgia.

PAM COMMENTARY: Apparently this lady is being denied medical care in prison (click here for original article), which is particularly shocking in light of the fact that she isn't a rapist or murderer -- some claim she's just a political prisoner for speaking out against the Federal income tax on film.

I ordered and watched the "Freedom to Fascism" movie a couple of years ago, and it was pretty good. I was surprised to see a Virginia Beach nightclub's troubles with the IRS featured (a disgruntled employee's claims caused trouble there, although later weren't found to be true). I've been to that nightclub (Jewish Mother) when I was consulting in that city -- the club is known as one of the best live music scenes in Virginia Beach.

Although "Freedom to Fascism" covered the case against the Federal income tax, the movement against that tax must realize that if it is removed, the government will find other ways to get enough money from them. The historical argument against Federal taxing authority is a valid concern though, that it makes the Federal government too powerful. By design, the founders intended STATE representatives to be the go-to guys for money. That way if you had some President (like George W. Bush) begging to start unjustified wars, he'd have to convince state leadership of his reasons to get money for those wars. State control is a good way of preventing or slowing a dictator-like, centralized person from taking us into wars that aren't absolutely necessary. (More genius from the founding fathers.)

Anyway, it'd be great for people who live in this lady's Representative's district to call that office -- obviously someone needs to look into the situation urgently. It's a slippery slope anytime you allow limitations on freedom of speech. If you allow income tax activists to become political prisoners, tomorrow it'll be criticizing the government that lands you in jail, dying from lack of medical care. It's a dangerous legal precedent to set, and we cannot allow it to stand.

Nonprofit sues state to avoid revealing source
The Know Campaign, the source of an aborted mass mailing that would have disclosed many Virginians' personal voting history days before the Nov. 3 election, is defying the State Board of Elections' demand that it reveal where the data came from.

In an escalating battle, the nonprofit group sued the state board Friday on constitutional grounds.

The group had planned a personalized mailing to 350,000 Virginia households in the week before the election detailing the recipients' voting history in recent elections and that of their neighbors. The mailing would have disclosed only who voted in a given election, not how they voted.

The mailing was halted at the last minute amid indications that the voter information may have been acquired illegally.

The Board of Elections has been conducting an inquiry into where the group got the voter history lists it used to prepare the mailing. Under state law, such information is restricted to candidates, elected officials and political party chairmen. Those who acquire such lists must sign a statement agreeing not to share the information with anyone else. Violation of the law is a felony.

Mayo reports on slaughterhouse illness research [R]
MINNEAPOLIS � Doctors at the Mayo Clinic and government public health experts have confirmed the mysterious illnesses in 24 slaughterhouse workers in Minnesota and Indiana from 2006 to 2008 was caused by an autoimmune response to a mist of pig brain tissue.

Their article was published Monday in the British medical journal Lancet Neurology. Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Daniel Lachance, the lead author, said it was the first comprehensive account of the outbreak and response from Mayo, the state Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This was really a kind of unique experiment of nature where an unusual form of harvesting a part of an animal was utilized and inadvertently exposed individuals through their respiratory tract or their eyes or mouth and ended up triggering an autoimmune response in their own bodies," he said.

The immune response attacked the nervous systems of the 21 workers in Minnesota and three in Indiana from November 2006 to May 2008, causing painful symptoms that included weakness and fatigue to confusion and seizures.

All are improving and most no longer have measurable symptoms, Lachance said, although two may have permanent damage.

Aide: Baucus nominated girlfriend for US attorney
Matsdorf said Baucus' relationship with his girlfriend had nothing to do with his decision.

"Senator Baucus recommended each of the three candidates based solely on qualifications, and merit, knowing whichever one the White House selected would serve Montana well," Matsdorf said.

The spokesman said Baucus and Hanes decided during the nomination process that she should withdraw her name because the couple wanted to live together in Washington, which they later did.

The senator disclosed the circumstances surrounding the nomination after inquiries from Mainjustice.com, a news Web site focusing on the Justice Department that first reported Baucus' relationship with his nominee.

PAM COMMENTARY: At least they backed out when their relationship became more serious.

Amanda Knox faces 26-year sentence for murder
Amanda Knox's conviction and 26-year prison sentence for the murder and sexual assault of her British roommate sparked celebration in Italian streets and left her family and friends sobbing and stunned, both at home in Seattle and abroad.

Two years after Meredith Kercher, 21, was killed and Knox and her one-time Italian boyfriend were arrested and jailed, Knox's battle for freedom headed sharply uphill.

Knox's father, Curt Knox, asked if he would fight on for his daughter, replied, with tears in his eyes: "Hell, yes."

As the judge read the verdict in front of a crush of family members and media shortly after midnight Saturday in Perugia, the 22-year-old former University of Washington student wept and murmured, "No, no."

Knox's family also broke down in tears. Her sister, Deanna Knox, collapsed and sobbed on the courtroom floor.

PAM COMMENTARY: The evidence against her seemed to be pretty convincing.

Back in my college days, I had a couple of "problem" roommates, and can empathize with their victims. I know firsthand that college-aged girls can be much worse than people would imagine. I won't mention many details here because I assume the worst of my old roommates have grown up and are better people now -- I don't want the girls to feel bad if they've truly become decent people... and have managed to stay out of prison!

At least partially, I blame policies at those smaller colleges. A lot of people don't know that before I graduated from University of Wisconsin, I started college at a couple of small, private schools. They insisted on housing 2 girls to a dormitory room, and charged top dollar for those tiny, crowded, and sometimes run-down rooms. I was usually placed with problem students because I didn't know anyone else at those colleges, and therefore couldn't request a room with someone who I knew to be of good character. As a result I'd often end up with the roommate who no one else wanted. (I'm sure it didn't help matters to say that I was easy-going and could get along with anyone.)

The worst of my past roommates tried to drive me out of the room so that she and her new boyfriend could have it all to themselves. That girl actually tried to harm me in ways I won't mention here because people at the old college would probably recognize the story and reveal her name. But long story short, at first I ended up sleeping over my books in study areas, or flopping on the couch at the student radio station where I volunteered -- only to wake up one night to see a man who I recognized as a perverted professor I had, walking toward the window with a stocking over his face. He ran off when he saw me come to the window, although I've occasionally wondered if some of his other students have disappeared through the years. Then friends took me in briefly (thanks to Susan J. and Sarah L. for saving my life -- yes, I still remember you), and finally my mother rented me a room elsewhere, despite having paid for a room at the college. I may have ended up like Meredith Kercher if we hadn't taken those precautions.

Another girl tried to drive me out of our room even though she had no boyfriend, and in fact didn't seem to have any friends or prospects of friends. Apparently she wanted the whole room to herself. But I'd become more aggressive by that time and put her in her place.

I still remember the relief of transferring to University of Wisconsin, and finding it to be run professionally, superior academically, and just plain FUN. Some people claim that small colleges are better, that classes are smaller and you get more attention. But the professors at the smaller colleges weren't even 10% as good as the professors at UW academically. (UW specifies high standards in their ads, demanding a consistent record of publications to work there, etc.) And so the "extra attention" at small schools (which I found meant they'd often gossip about you) didn't do much good for my studies. In fact the smaller colleges let the professors get away with more bad behavior like sexual harassment. (The stocking-faced professor did some of that before showing up at the radio station).

UW didn't put up with that stuff, it was a state school and they observed the laws like good bureaucrats. Plus they treated you like a number and so I didn't observe some of the preferential treatment that one of my past problem roommates had received at a smaller college. (People were impressed with her father's job at a big corporation, and were afraid of even admitting her bad behavior, despite the girl having told several students that she'd get the room to herself.) It's just too bad that UW has become so expensive these days. And I don't mean to give UW a commercial, it wasn't without its faults -- you'd occasionally get horrible TAs or a bad professor there, COINTELPRO seemed to be on campus, things like that.

The point is, I've experienced out-of-control roommates, and my heart goes out to college kids suffering in bad situations like that. (I'm sure they're paying top dollar for the experience, with their academic future in the balance.) I'm just glad I was fortunate enough to get out of those ordeals, and with a good education in the end.

Meredith Kercher family welcome guilty verdicts on Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito
The family of murdered British student Meredith Kercher have welcomed the convictions of her killers, saying they agree with the guilty verdicts.

Meredith's brother, Lyle Kercher, said they were "pleased with the decision" to convict Amanda Knox and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.

"Ultimately we are pleased with the decision, pleased that we've got a decision, but it's not a time for celebration," he told a press conference in Perugia, Italy.

His mother, Arline, said: "If the evidence has been presented, then yes, you have to agree with that verdict."

Knox, 22, and Sollecito, 25, killed Kercher in an attack that ended with Sollecito taunting Kercher with one knife while Knox plunged another into her throat, the trial heard.

Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was found with a deep knife wound in the throat on the floor of her bedroom in the flat she shared with Knox and two young Italian women. The Leeds University student had been spending a year at Perugia's university for foreigners when she was found murdered on 2 November 2007.

PAM COMMENTARY: I took the previous story from the accused's city of Seattle -- this article should balance things out with the redcoat press' side of the story.

Vegetarian low protein diet could be key to long life [R]
Reducing consumption of a protein found in fish and meat could slow the ageing process and increase life expectancy, according to the research.

Scientists have long believed that an ultra low calorie diet - aproximately 60 per cent of normal levels - can lead to greater longevity.

But now a team of British researchers have discovered that the key to the effect is a reduction in a specific protein and not the total number of calories.

That means that by reducing foods that contain the protein - such as meat, fish and certain nuts - people should live longer wiuthout the need to cut down on meals.

25 Years After Bhopal Disaster, Survivors Still Seeking Justice [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Union Carbide, what it did at the time of the spill, how you believe it happened, and then how the Indian government dealt with them, and where they stand today.

SATINATH SARANGI: Yeah. What is very clear from the internal documents of Union Carbide that we obtained through the discovery process in the US federal court is that, to start with, back in �73, when the proposal for the methyl isocyanate plant in Bhopal was approved by the Union Carbide Corporation�s Danbury, Connecticut headquarters, they knew very well that, to cut costs, they had sent �untested technology,� quote-unquote. And this untested technology involved substandard construction material. It involved substantial design changes compared to its sister plant in Institute, West Virginia. And it was built in a way that its operating costs would be much lower. And it was also built in a way that they would just dump toxic waste on the surface, which would�and there was�they already�the Union Carbide�s management already knew that a serious problem of contamination would occur. And yet, this was sent to Bhopal.

In 1980, it was made further unsafe by�because of the global cost cutting that Union Carbide headquarters from Danbury, Connecticut directed, which meant that workers were cut down. It was cut down to about half, so that while safety training used to be six months, it was cut down to fifteen days. And as a result of this cost cutting, very soon the results were apparent, which was workers were hospitalized, they were injured. One worker died. And all this information was sent from the Bhopal office to Union Carbide�s headquarters, but they took no note. What happened was they sent�Union Carbide Corporation sent a safety audit team of engineers from Charleston, West Virginia in 1982, and this team found that there were at least thirty spots where major hazard could occur in the Bhopal pesticide plant. And eleven of them were in the methyl isocyanate 7 unit, which is where the disaster occurred. But none of these�nothing was done about these hazard spots to remedy this. The information was not even shared with the local management or the workers. And so, this was a disaster waiting to occur. And Union Carbide knew that, and yet they went ahead with the cost cutting, which included shutting down a refrigeration system that was meant to be kept�that was mandated to be kept there to keep the methyl isocyanate at sub-zero temperature. Instead, the refrigeration unit was cut down just to save something like $30 a day. And so, all these deliberate design differences, the cutting down of safety systems, all this led to the disaster, which was very, very clear.

And right after the disaster, Union Carbide took this position that it was caused by a disgruntled worker, deliberately it was caused by a disgruntled worker who didn�t like the way the management was treating them, which is a very, very serious lie, because Union Carbide has not given the name of this person who�this worker who they say was disgruntled and who they say caused a sabotage, without any evidence.

The other thing that Union Carbide has done is tried to bring down the damage, downplay the damage that was caused, by flying in well-known professionals like Hans Weill, who had fudged x-ray pictures to protect Johns Manville in the asbestosis case. So Hans Weill was flown in, Dr. Hans Weill was flown in, and he said, �No, there�s no problem.�

And the third thing that Union Carbide has done is to flex its muscles and basically try to scare people against that. Like the time when the case was sent back to India, Union Carbide said that they would cross-examine every single person who claims damages from the disaster, which meant they would have�that each of the over half a million people would have to come to court, which would take more than 1,500 years.

And since �92, when Union Carbide was declared an absconder from justice, a fugitive from justice, what it has done is that it continues to refuse to obey the summons from the Indian court, and it�s just not going there. And yet it continues�we know that it continues to do business through its current owner, Dow Chemical. And Dow Chemical took over Union Carbide in 2001, but they bought the assets. And Dow Chemical�s position is that, oh, we are not liable for Bhopal, we cannot be made responsible for a factory we never ran in a place we never went, which is totally, totally unjust. It�s wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: Sathyu, you have in 1987 the Bhopal district court charging Union Carbide and its officials and the CEO Warren Anderson with culpable homicide, grievous assault and other serious offenses. In 1989, Union Carbide and the Indian government arrived at a negotiated settlement of what, almost $500 million for all gas disaster-related injuries. Where is that money?

SATINATH SARANGI: That�Union Carbide paid $470 million for more than half a million people victimized. That money has all been distributed. Every single penny from that money has gone to the victims. It has been done by the Indian government. But it has been paltry. It was $500 per person for lifelong injuries and $2,000 for deaths that occurred in the families.

�Party Crashers� had five-year relationship with Obama before state dinner [R]
While the big gun media and American Secret Service are out there investigating �party crashers� Tareq and Michaele Salahi, no one�s telling the truth: Obama knew the Salahis when he was still an Illinois senator.

Polo Contacts Worldwide could make it easy for the investigating Secret Service by brown-enveloping them this picture: (Click here to see original photo.)

Hey Secret Agent Man, here�s Obama, the senator flashing his pearly whites with Randy Jackson, better known as a judge on American Idol. �Others pictured are Black Eyed Peas Rock Band; Tareq Salahi the President of the America�s Polo Cup; President Elect Obama, Fergie from Black eyed Peas and Michaele Salahi, posing this time as a former Miss USA and SuperModel.�

Interesting little detail for White House gumshoes: As the above photo was published in June 2005, Barack Obama was still Senator Obama and not the President Elect.

PAM COMMENTARY: Check out the photo -- it's for real, they're posing with Obama back when he was a Senator. Great work finding this article by Jeff Rense at Rense.com.

GE reaches deal with Comcast for NBC; Under pact, NBC Universal would be 51 percent controlled by Comcast
Comcast Corp. said Thursday it has finalized a deal to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal for $13.75 billion, giving the nation's largest cable TV operator control of the Peacock network, an array of cable channels and a major movie studio.

Although the deal could mean that movies could reach cable more quickly after showing in theaters, it already is raising concerns that Comcast will wield too much power in the entertainment industry.

Indeed, if the deal clears regulatory and other hurdles, Comcast would rival the heft of The Walt Disney Co. � which Comcast CEO Brian Roberts already tried to buy.

Comcast, which already serves a quarter of all U.S. households that pay for TV, would gain control of the NBC broadcast network, the Spanish-language Telemundo and about two dozen cable channels, including USA, Bravo and Syfy. It also would have regional sports networks, Universal Pictures and theme parks.

Taxpayers have spent 41 million dollars on an unsuccessful effort to fight chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin deer herd [R]
Taxpayers have spent 41-million-dollars on an unsuccessful effort to fight chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin�s deer herd.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism came up with that figure � and it includes both state and federal funds spent over the last seven years. C-W-D was first found in southwest Wisconsin in 2002. And according to the center, the infection rate in adult bucks grew from 10 percent of the herd in 2007 to 15 percent last year in western Dane and eastern Iowa counties.

The center also reported that the population goal for that zone was 1,800 � but it was estimated at 11,500 earlier this year. The head of the DNR�s program against chronic wasting disease, Davin Lopez, admits his agency has not met key goals for reducing the infection rate and the deer herd in the affected spot in southwest Wisconsin. And the report said the agency made its best progress when goals were relaxed and made easier to achieve.

Lopez says the DNR is doing all it can, but the agency can�t do it all themselves � and they need hunters to step up and do more. Ed Harvey, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress which represents hunters, says there�s no question that more needs to be done to fight CWD.

PAM COMMENTARY: Notice that hunters are being blamed here, rather than a flawed model of the disease. The rest of the state isn't seeing the same problem, and the Mount Horeb area has already gone through a big deer hunt to reduce the deer population there. Yet the disease persists in that little area. This seems to confirm models of the disease based on high manganese soil in that particular area, in combination with certain agrichemicals most likely in use (see below):

Mark Purdey's Organophosphate Model of Mad Cow Disease (FLASHBACK)

The bacterial model of Mad Cow Disease (FLASHBACK)

Bernanke's nomination to be held up in Senate
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said today he will block Ben Bernanke's nomination to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Sanders has frequently argued that the Fed has bailed out Wall Street without doing enough for regular people during the recent economic crisis.

�The American people overwhelmingly voted last year for a change in our national priorities to put the interests of ordinary people ahead of the greed of Wall Street and the wealthy few,� Sanders said in a statement. �What the American people did not bargain for was another four years for one of the key architects of the Bush economy.�

Sanders' "hold" means that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will have to find 60 votes to proceed to a final vote on Bernanke's nomination. Sanders is an independent, but tends to vote with Democrats.

Bernanke goes before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday to answer questions about his tenure. He took over as chairman in 2006 under President Bush and was nominated for a second term by President Obama.

Humane society hires top criminal lawyer
The Toronto Humane Society has hired one of the city's most prominent criminal lawyers to fight the animal cruelty charges laid against some of the shelter's directors.

Frank Addario, former president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, will be paid with the shelter's liability insurance and not donor money, said THS spokesperson Ian McConachie.

Iran whistleblower died from drug-laced salad [R]
CAIRO � A 26-year-old doctor who exposed the torture of jailed protesters in Iran died of poisoning from a delivery salad laced with an overdose of blood pressure medication, prosecutors say. The findings fueled opposition fears that he was killed because of what he knew.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether his death last month was a suicide or murder, Tehran's public prosecutor Abbas Dowlatabadi said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

The revelations of torture against prisoners in Iran's postelection turmoil angered even government supporters and deeply embarrassed the country's clerical leadership and security forces.

Much of the abuse took place at Kahrizak, a prison on Tehran's outskirts where hundreds of opposition protesters were taken. Several there died, and the facility became so notorious that Iran's supreme leader was forced to close it down.

Blackwater CIA Agent Erik Prince to Step Down [AJ]
Blackwater�s Erik Prince was recruited as a CIA agent in the years after the 9/11 attacks, says an exclusive report at Vanity Fair that also reveals the billionaire ex-Navy SEAL plans to step down from Blackwater to teach high school.

For the past six years, Prince �appears to have led an astonishing double life,� writes Adam Ciralsky. �Publicly, he has served as Blackwater�s CEO and chairman. Privately, and secretly, he has been doing the CIA�s bidding, helping to craft, fund, and execute operations ranging from inserting personnel into �denied areas�--places US intelligence has trouble penetrating--to assembling hit teams targeting al-Qaeda members and their allies.�

Ciralsky reports that Prince became a CIA �asset,� or spy, who became a �Mr. Fix-It� in the war on terror.

PAM COMMENTARY: Erik Prince? Teach high school? That'll convert some parents to home-schooling!

Quick work by Alex Jones' news organization in finding this story right away. See also:

Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy

VF exclusive: Blackwater�s Erik Prince to step down, reveals CIA role

More War: Obama Unveils Plan to Send 30,000 More Troops to Afghanistan [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama announced Tuesday night that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the coming months, bringing the total number of American troops occupying Afghanistan to nearly 100,000. Describing the war as, quote, �Not just America�s war,� Obama vowed to start bringing the troops back home by the middle of 2011.

The President gave his long-awaited speech following a three-month review before a crowd a 4,000 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point.

Rep. Kucinich on Afghanistan War: �We�re Acting Like a Latter Day Version of the Roman Empire� [DN]
REP. DENNIS KUCINCH: First I would like to respond to the voices of the Afghan people. It�s very clear they do not want to be saved by us. They want to be saved from us. And President Obama�s escalation of the war, sending an additional 30,000 troops, will bring--as you pointed out--the total strength to about 100,000.

That�s $100 billion a year and that doesn�t even include the private contractors we�ll be paying for, which adds up to about $160 billion dollars a year. It really begs the question about whether the nation-building that we seek to do in Afghanistan would be better directed to rebuilding America, to creating jobs here, to rebuilding bridges here instead of blowing them up in Afghanistan.

I think our priorities are misplaced. And I think that all those who really support this President, who really like him--and I like him--need to challenge him on this. Because we can�t just let this go by the boards because we may have some sympathetic feelings for the difficult task that he has undertaken as President of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, can you talk about the level of opposition in Congress right now and explain what Congressman Obey has been talking about, the war tax?

REP. DENNIS KUCINCH: First of all, it will remain to be seen what the level of opposition is in the Congress. And I want to point out why: On October 8, 2009, the Congress of the United States passed a bill that authorizes the expenditure of $130 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House actually preceded the President in making a statement about support for the war. Unfortunately, that bill was supported by all but 15 members of my own party. So we�ll have to see whether or not Congress will take a stand against spending more money for this war, whether it�s in an appropriation bill or a supplemental bill.

Now with respect to Congressman Obey and the proposal for a war tax, we�re already paying a war tax. A substantial amount of the tax dollars that Americans pay today go for paying for wars. And we don�t need to pay more. The point is well taken and that is that we�re already paying more for war. We�re already spending more for a military buildup than any nation. As a matter of fact, than all the nations of the world put together. We are in 130 countries.

You would think that we don�t have enough to do here at home. You would think that we don�t have 47 million Americans who go to bed hungry, 47 million Americans who don�t have any health care, 15 million Americans who are out of work, another 10 million Americans whose homes are threatened with foreclosure, people going bankrupt, business failures. All these things are happening in our country and we�re acting like a latter-day version of the Roman Empire, reaching for empire while inside we rot.

We have to challenge this because our future as a nation is at stake. If we continue to militarize, we lose our civil liberties, we lose our capacity to meet our needs here at home.

Vietnam Vet, Scholar Andrew Bacevich on Obama War Plan: �The President Has Drawn the Wrong Lessons From His Understanding of the History of War� [DN]
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well I think the President is unfortunately misreading the history with regard to Vietnam. My sense is that the President has made this decision to escalate in Afghanistan with great reluctance. And it�s worth recalling that Lyndon Johnson I think felt a similar reluctance about going more deeply into Vietnam. President Johnson allowed himself to be convinced that really there was no plausible alternative, that to admit failure in Vietnam would have drastic consequences for his own capacity to lead and for the credibility of the United States and so he went in more deeply. And he went in more deeply persuading himself that he, his generals could maintain control of the situation even as they escalated. I think that may well turn out to be the key error that Obama is also making.

The very notion that we can ratchet up our involvement in Afghanistan and then state with confidence at this point that in 18 months we will carefully ratchet our involvement back down again. He seems to assume that war is a predictable and controllable instrument that can be directed with precision by people sitting in offices back in Washington, D.C. I think the history of Vietnam and the history of war more broadly teaches us something different. And that is, when statesmen choose war, they really are simply rolling the dice. They have no idea of what numbers are going to come up. And their ability to predict, control, direct the outcome tends to be extremely precarious. So from my point of view, the President has drawn the wrong lessons from his understanding of the history of war.

PAM COMMENTARY: A few stories in a row from "Democracy Now!" on Obama's decision to escalate and then supposedly exit the war in Afghanistan. While I'm glad that he's planning to exit BEFORE the next election instead of afterwards like some politicians ("Sure I'll do what you want -- AFTER you put me in office for another term!"), people expected to be out of BOTH wars sooner than this. Some of the changes that Obama is making (for example, the anti-trust work mentioned below) prove that he could be a great president -- IF he can get his act together on key issues like the wars and economy.

Cop-killer suspect shot dead by officer; Deadly confrontation ends massive manhunt in Seattle-Tacoma area
SEATTLE - A lone officer on patrol in the middle of the night Tuesday spotted a car reported stolen, its hood up and engine running, and pulled over to check it out. As the patrolman sat in his cruiser, a burly man with a large mole on his cheek came up from behind.

The officer turned, stepped outside and recognized the most wanted man in the Pacific Northwest � the ex-con accused of gunning down four cops at a coffee shop.

Moments later, Maurice Clemmons, 37, lay dead in the street, shot by the patrolman after Clemmons made a move for a gun he had taken from one of the slain officers, police said.

Clemmons' death brought to an end two days of fear across the Seattle-Tacoma area and one of the biggest manhunts the region has ever seen. Dozens of police officers milled around at the scene afterward, some solemnly shaking hands and patting each other on the back.

Huckabee Granted Clemency To Maurice Clemmons, Person Of Interest, In Ambush That Killed 4 Cops
In a news release, the sheriff's office said Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history from Arkansas, including aggravated robbery and theft. Clemmons was also recently was arrested and charged in Pierce County, Washington state for third-degree assault on a police officer, and second-degree rape of a child.

According to The Seattle Times, Clemmons was released from the Peirce County Jail last week, despite facing eight felony charges. Clemmons posted $15,000 with a bail bondsman, who paid the remainder of the man's $150,000 bail.

In 1989, Clemmons, then 17, was convicted in Little Rock for aggravated robbery. He was paroled in 2000 after then-Gov. Mike Huckabee commuted Clemmons' 95-year prison sentence. Huckabee, who was criticized during his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 for the number of clemencies and commutations he granted, cited Clemmons' age at the time of the sentence.

After his release from prison, Clemmons violated his parole and was returned to prison in July 2001. He was released March 18, 2004, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper

PAM COMMENTARY: ANOTHER criminal released by Huckabee gone bad? Remember Huckabee's serial rapist problem during the 2008 Republican primaries? (See below.)

(FLASHBACK) Rapist released early under pressure from Huckabee rapes and murders two women before locked up again

(FLASHBACK) Huckabee's pressure to release violent rapist leads to rape, murder

(FLASHBACK) Additional documents from Huff Post on Huckabee's role in the Dumond rape/murders

Maurice Clemmons, Seattle Cop Killer, Claimed He Was Jesus Christ
According to the New York Daily News, Clemmons, who was gunned down by a Seattle police officer on Tuesday, apparently "disturbed a June 13 prayer service, trying to rush the stage and yelling, and then approached Bishop Bernard Jordan at his gala 50th birthday banquet the next day."

Jordan, who runs a "cyber-ministry" and claims to be a prophet, says Clemmons told him he was Jesus Christ.

The Associated Press reports that Clemmons had also told Washington state investigators that he "had visions that he was Jesus Christ and the the world was on the verge of the apocalypse."

WH gatecrashers went without confirmed invitation
WASHINGTON -- The attention-hungry couple that crashed the Obama administration's first state dinner admitted to a friendly Pentagon official that they went without a confirmed invitation - just in case they got approved at the last minute.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi claimed a dead cell phone battery prevented them from hearing a voicemail earlier that day advising them they did not make the guest list

The Salahis gave that account in an e-mail sent just hours after last week's dinner to Pentagon official Michele Jones, who had tried to get them invited. A collection of e-mails between the Salahis and Jones was obtained Tuesday night by The Associated Press from a source who got them in manner that confirmed their authenticity.

The Salahis wrote that they drove to the White House at 6:30 p.m. "to just check in, in case it got approved since we didn't know, and our name was indeed on the list!" The Secret Service has said they weren't on that list and that it erred by letting them in anyway.

Last week's White House gate caper has captivated a capital where high-end social life and celebrity eruptions frequently enliven the day-to-day business of governing. The Secret Service is investigating. Congress also is about to hold a hearing. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle are described as angry. And the Salahis asked a national television audience to take their word that the e-mail exchange would show that they were invited to the dinner for the visiting Indian prime minister.

The Autumn Foliage Gallery, a/k/a Pam spends time with the Secret Service (FLASHBACK)
I don't even know how many hours I spent with the Secret Service that morning while they pursued various lines of questioning. Near the end of the interview, they brought in another man to fill out some forms, and by that time I was slower in my answers, and repeatedly informed him that I'd already given things like info on relatives to other agents. He was quick though, seeming to sense I was worn out, and I was on my way soon after that. Frankly, I was tired... and I wanted to eat lunch.

The Secret Service treads in a strange place, "the neutral zone." They have to protect both Democrats and Republicans, so they can't take sides. They also can't be bad publicity for the politicians they protect, or else that politician would have to take the heat for them, would lose credibility. So while they talked to me, it was very apparent that they were well-trained to keep a neutral facial expression going at all times. I couldn't tell whether they were Republican or Democrat, or what they thought at all. And their entire demeanor was non-offensive. No one could complain about their grooming, their clothes, their manners -- there was nothing that would reflect poorly on their bosses at all. One of them acted surprised when I mentioned the Mena airport photo gallery, and I had to explain its significance to him. He was pretty young, but I had to wonder if he really didn't know about it, or if he just didn't want to admit to any knowledge of issues that might be a bad reflection on the man he was assigned to. Or perhaps they just didn't want any of their possible bosses, in the present or future, knowing that the Secret Service had a good laugh at their expense, or knew some of their past less-than-honorable dealings.

Some taxpayers would object to the expense of several agents wasting the entire morning on me, and they'd have a point. But I'm old enough to realize that this country is run in a half-assed fashion -- why gate off a very short road, when you could pay 6 guys to interrogate someone instead? Admittedly, it was a lot more fun for me personally to meet the Secret Service than to be blocked by gates. They did occupy my entire morning, which turned my foliage trip into a 2-day affair, but it was pretty amusing, especially for an old woman like me who was both seeing through their techniques and plotting to write about it later. One agent even admitted how I'd have something new to write about, with the clear implication that he dreaded seeing it later. (Ah-ha-ha! Silly Secret Service boy. Who'd he think I was? Diane Sawyer?) Leave it to Bill Clinton to give me one of those "life experiences" you can't even pay for. Better than an amusement park ride.

It really seems a shame that intelligent, attractive, suave young men have jobs that make them bullet catchers for less-than-exceptional people like George W. Bush. You'd think that society would value the lives of intelligent men over the clueless, outrageously dishonest, & evil types. Maybe if Kerry's elected and the economy picks up, they'll be able to find REAL jobs. In the meantime, I'm sure they know some really good secrets.

PAM COMMENTARY: I just had to bring this old article back, in light of the recent White House party-crashing.

Pet Talk: Beware the flowers you keep around your kitties
"We're people who research everything to death," and she's mystified how in all their reading, all their years of cat ownership, all their annual trips to the vet, they never knew about the lethalness of lilies.

They're not alone in that. Just ask any vet. Ask any cat owner, for that matter.

And, if you happen to be among the unknowing, you need to understand petals, stems or leaves of Easter lilies, stargazer lilies, lots of lilies, can kill cats. Find the whole list of toxic plants on the ASPCA's poison control site.

Today Rebecca is channeling her grief into trying to reduce the number of times the same awful fate befalls others. She made a poster about Napoleana that her vet has posted, and she'll hit other vets' offices and grocery stores. She has posted a plea on the Care2 petition site for the creation of a National Lilies Kill Kittens Awareness Day.

She has nothing against people selling and buying lilies, of course. She just wants cat owners to know the risk. "They have hang tags warning about dangers associated with mini-blinds," she says. "You'd think they could do the same with flower arrangements."

Monsanto's dominance draws antitrust inquiry; Patented seeds are go-to for farmers, who decry their fast-growing price
For plants designed in a lab a little more than a decade ago, they've come a long way: Today, the vast majority of the nation's two primary crops grow from seeds genetically altered according to Monsanto company patents.

Ninety-three percent of soybeans. Eighty percent of corn.

The seeds represent "probably the most revolutionary event in grain crops over the last 30 years," said Geno Lowe, a Salisbury, Md., soybean farmer.

But for farmers such as Lowe, prices of the Monsanto-patented seeds have steadily increased, roughly doubling during the past decade, to about $50 for a 50-pound bag of soybean seed, according to seed dealers.

The revolution, and Monsanto's dominant role in the nation's agriculture, has not unfolded without complaint. Farmers have decried the price increases, and competitors say the company has ruthlessly stifled competition.

Now Monsanto -- like IBM and Google -- has drawn scrutiny from U.S. antitrust investigators, who under the Obama administration have looked more skeptically at the actions of dominant firms.

During the Bush administration, the Justice Department did not file a single case under antimonopoly laws regulating a dominant firm. But that stretch seems unlikely to continue.

This year, the Obama Justice Department tossed out the antitrust guidelines of its predecessor because they advocated "extreme hesitancy in the face of potential abuses by monopoly firms."

An Evening With Vandana Shiva (Video) (FLASHBACK)
PAM COMMENTARY: KPFA aired this speech over a year ago. Shiva discusses Monsanto, GMO seeds, globalization, and other topics. Shiva was a key activist and author of the People's Biodiversity Registry in India -- a document meant to protect Indians' herbal folk usages from the patents of international corporations.

Agencies, Monsanto forge cleanup pact for ID mines
BOISE, Idaho -- Federal and state agencies, an Indian tribe and the maker of Roundup weedkiller have agreed to develop comprehensive plans to clean up pollution at three defunct phosphate mines, officials said Tuesday.

The pact, which was announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, requires Monsanto Co. to investigate pollution from its mines in Ballard, Henry, and Enoch Valley. A first proposed cleanup plan is expected by 2013.

Mines dotting Idaho's rich phosphate belt came under scrutiny after livestock were poisoned by selenium starting in the 1990s. Though no horses, sheep or cattle died at Monsanto sites, EPA officials say the agreement will provide a clearer picture of health risks to people, livestock and wildlife.

Wildlife taken from humane society
The MNR raid on the THS wildlife centre is part of an investigation that is separate from the investigation conducted by the OSPCA, which led to criminal charges against five senior THS officials.

The wildlife centre, located within the THS building on River St., opened in the mid-1980s and has been the target of frequent criticism. In 2006, veterinary technician Sandra Prins, who had resigned from the THS, told the Star she and other veterinary technicians had been asked to do wildlife work for which they had received "no training." Veterinarian Sue Carstairs, who had also resigned, said managers had failed to replace wildlife staff who had retired or been reassigned.

The centre, Prins said, was "an absolute mess. Sometimes there wouldn't be anyone to clean or feed there."

The centre was also criticized in 2006 by Kip Parker, the wildlife director of Earth Rangers, a Woodbridge wildlife rehabilitation agency which once had a contract with the THS to take in animals the THS had first stabilized with fluids or pain medication.

Parker, who worked at the THS wildlife centre in the 1980s, said Earth Rangers cancelled the contract because the THS was not providing proper care. It failed to euthanize some animals that obviously required euthanization, he said, and failed to transfer others in a timely fashion, forcing Earth Rangers to euthanize them once they arrived.

"When I looked at their program to assess what they were doing, I was distressed," Parker said in 2006. "It was now gutted, trained staff had been removed, space had been cut back severely. It's been destroyed. It's disheartening. It makes me extremely sad, and it doesn't provide care for wildlife in the city of Toronto."

THS president Tim Trow, who was charged Thursday with animal cruelty, said in 2006 that the cancellation of the Earth Angers contract was a mutual decision; the THS, he said, found it expensive and inconvenient to transport wildlife through the city.

Toronto officially breaks snow-free record
Not a single snowflake fell in the city in October or November, which hasn't happened since the country's oldest weather observing station at the University of Toronto's downtown campus starting recording snow measurements in 1847.

Snowflakes didn't fall downtown last night either, but Pearson Airport recorded traces of snow at around 3 a.m., just hours after the record was set.

Official: Afghan buildup involves 30,000 troops [BF]
With U.S. casualties in Afghanistan sharply increasing and little sign of progress, the war Obama once liked to call one "of necessity," not choice, has grown less popular with the public and within his own Democratic party. In recent days, leading Democrats have talked of setting tough conditions on deeper U.S. involvement, or even staging outright opposition.

The displeasure on both sides of the aisle was likely to be on display when congressional hearings on Obama's strategy get under way later in the week on Capitol Hill.

In his speech and in meetings overseas in the coming days, Obama also will ask NATO allies to contribute more -- between 5,000 and 10,000 new troops -- to the separate international force in Afghanistan, diplomats said.

One official from a European nation said the troop figure was included in an official NATO document compiled on the basis of information received from Washington ahead of Obama's announcement. The NATO force in Afghanistan now stands at around 40,000 troops.

The 30,000 new U.S. troops will bring the total in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 U.S. forces by next summer. New infusions of U.S. Marines will begin moving into Afghanistan almost as soon as Obama announces a redrawn battle strategy.

PAM COMMENTARY: Everyone came out in force to vote AGAINST the wars last year, and this is what they get.

Obama wants Afghan war over in 3 years, officials say [BF]
Washington (CNN) -- President Obama intends to conclude the Afghanistan war and withdraw most U.S. troops within three years, according to senior administration officials.

Obama is sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and ordering military officials to get the reinforcements there within six months, White House officials told CNN Tuesday.

Obama will travel to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, later Tuesday to officially announce his plans. It would to be his second escalation of U.S. forces in the war-torn Islamic country since he came to power in January.

The president also is seeking further troop commitments from NATO allies as part of a counterinsurgency strategy aimed at wiping out al Qaeda elements and stabilizing the country while training Afghan forces.

India's economy grows 7.9% [WRH]
India's expansion was the strongest quarterly performance since early 2008.

Growth in the September quarter was led by manufacturing, which surged 9.2% while social spending climbed 12.7%, reflecting big government outlays to shield the economy from the international slump.

India has weathered the worldwide downturn better than other nations due to its mainly domestically focused economy.

Use of food banks in Ontario hits record
More Ontarians turned to food banks in the past year than ever before, says the Ontario Association of Food Banks in a report released today.

It's a sobering counterpoint to economic indicators that suggest the recession is technically over, says the report based on data collected in September.

More than 375,000 Ontarians � a population size comparable to the city of London � relied on food banks that month, an increase of 19 per cent over September 2008, the report says.

Indian nuclear workers 'deliberately poisoned' [R]
Routine tests showed 55 employees from the plant in Kaiga in the state of Karnataka had increased levels of the radioactive element tritium, which is used in nuclear reactors. Exposure to tritium is believed to increase the risk of cancer.

B. Bhattacharjee, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority, said someone had inserted contaminated water into a water cooler, according to the Press Trust of India.

The workers had not suffered any ill effects and had returned to work, plant officials said.

Anil Kakodkar, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, said the sabotage was the work of "an insider who has played mischief". In an interview on the Headlines Today television network, he said security was "fool-proof" and there was no chance of an outsider gaining access to the station.

Bhopal water still toxic 25 years after deadly gas leak, study finds; Two reports say scene of 1984 disaster still has alarming levels of poisons, with one 2,400 times the WHO guideline
Groundwater found near the site of the world's worst chemical industrial accident in Bhopal is still toxic and poisoning residents a quarter of a century after a gas leak there killed thousands, two studies have revealed.

Delhi's Centre for Science and the Environment said that water found two miles from the factory contained pesticides at levels 40 times higher than the Indian safety standard.

In a second study, the UK-based Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA) found a chemical cocktail in the local drinking water � with one carcinogen, carbon tetraflouride, present at 2,400 times the World Health Organisation's guidelines.

Around 5,000 people were killed when clouds of toxic gas escaped from Union Carbide's pesticide plant at midnight on 3 December 1984. 15,000 more died in the following weeks, and activists say that the disaster is still poisoning a new generation of victims.

The Sambhavna clinic, a charity campaigning in Bhopal, has conducted a survey of 20,000 people and says it has found alarmingly high rates of birth defects. A preliminary study suggests as many as one child in 25 is born with a congenital defect.

"We are seeing birth defects at 10 times the incidence at national levels," said Satinath Sarangi, of the Sambhavna clinic.

White House 'gatecrashers' insist they had an invite; Tareq and Michaele Salahi say they have documents proving they were authorised to attend a gala for the Indian PM
The Virginia couple accused of crashing last week's White House state dinner insisted today they had an invitation to the party, and said their reputations have been ruined by rumours to the contrary.

In their first public remarks since last week's gala for the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, Tareq and Michaele Salahi told NBC television's Today show that they have documents proving they were authorised to attend. They said they will make the documents public once the US secret service has completed its investigation into the incident.

"We were invited, not crashers," Michaele said. "There isn't anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behaviour to do that."

Amy Goodman Detained at Canadian Border, Questioned About Speech... and 2010 Olympics [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: He was working with a group of customs agents, with the border guard. I mean, they�re armed. Another border guard now has the book, and he�s reading it. But they�re also inputting everything I say. This border guard is handwriting all notes about what I say. And then the other border guard is going to the computer and inputting everything.

Then, they say, �What else?�

And I say, �That�s about it.�

And he says, �What about the Olympics?�

I said, �The Olympics? You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics to come to Chicago?�

And he said, "And you didn't get them."

I said, "I know we didn't get them."

He said, "No, I'm talking about the Olympics here in 2010, in Canada."

I said, "No, I hadn't planned to talk about the Olympics.

"You're denying that you're talking about the Olympics."--

JUAN GONZALEZ: Did you even know there's an Olympics in 2010 in Canada?

AMY GOODMAN: This was not my topic, right? This is not so much news in the United States.

I really didn't know what he was referring to. And he kept pushing. He was clearly incredulous. And at my surprise, he disbelieved me even further. He clearly did not think I was telling the truth. He kept pushing, "You're denying you're talking about the Olympics?" I said, "That wasn't my plan for tonight."

Of course, as the reporter had asked me, "And what if you said yes. What would have happened then?"

Anyway, he finally tells me to sit down. And they go out and they combed through the car. I got very alarmed at what was happening, and I walked outside to where the guards were going through the car. One is on my colleague�s computer, as if it was his. You know, he�s just--the computer was set up and he was going through it. They were rifling through the papers and everything. They told me to get back inside. I went back inside.

Finally they came in. We�re now over an hour and a half late to the talk. And they say for me to follow them into a back room. I go with them into a back room--the border guards--and they take my picture. They make four copies of the picture. They take Dennis and Chuck�s pictures. Individually, one by one, they take us in the back, one by one.

And then they attached them to what they called a control document. I said, �I wasn�t aware we needed a visa.� And they said, �These are control documents.� And they stapled them into each of our passports. And I opened it, and it said--the control document--that we had to leave by Friday. We were coming in on Wednesday--that we had to leave by Friday.

Then we were allowed to leave. We saw they had been through both of my colleagues computers, both Dennis and Chuck�s computers. I don�t know if they had gone into mine. And they had gone through the car. And we eventually arrived an hour and a half late to the talk.


AMY GOODMAN: To say the least, it was--

JUAN GONZALEZ: This is from our friendly Canadian neighbors.

PAM COMMENTARY: Oh yeah, that's what Amy Goodman covers -- SPORTS!

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Sources (if found on major news boards):
[AJ] - InfoWars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, or other Alex Jones-affiliated sites
[BF] - BuzzFlash.com
[DN] - DemocracyNow.org
[R] - Rense.com
[WRH] - WhatReallyHappened.com


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All original content including photographs © 2009 by Pam Rotella. (News excerpts copyright by their corresponding authors, news organizations, or other copyright holders, and quoted here typically as "fair use" or "teaser" paragraphs to generate interest in the full articles.)