Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
Week of 20th to 26th of December 2009
Damaged tug towed slowly from Bligh Reef to Port Valdez
A tugboat disabled after it slammed into Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound was under tow late Saturday and was expected to arrive at Port Valdez, 17 miles from the famed reef, sometime overnight, the Coast Guard said.
The Crowley Maritime Services Pathfinder left the reef area just after 2 p.m. Saturday attached by a line to another Crowley tug, the Invader, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Coast Guard officials originally expected the tug, making about 4 knots, to arrive at Port Valdez about 7 p.m. Citing the care being taken with the towing operation, however, the agency later abandoned that estimate.
"They are taking it real slow, trying to be extra cautious," Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley said Saturday evening.
The towing operation began after about 49,000 gallons of fuel and water in two tanks slashed open in the collision with Bligh Reef had been pumped off the vessel.
Inept nurses free to work in new locales; Lax regulators allow harmful workers to lose licenses in one state, keep them in others.
Wilson's case highlights a dangerous gap in the way states regulate nurses: They fail to effectively tell each other what they know. As a result, caregivers with troubled records can cross state lines and work without restriction, an investigation by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica and The Times found.
Using public databases and state disciplinary reports, reporters found hundreds of cases in which registered nurses held clear licenses in some states after they'd been sanctioned in others, often for serious misdeeds. In California alone, a months-long review of its 350,000 active nurses found at least 177 whose licenses had been revoked, surrendered, suspended or denied elsewhere.
Obama grants Interpol immunity as foreign "assets" assigned to U.S. homeland
In a special news bulletin, Alex Jones covers some recent aspects of diplomatic immunity, as extended to Interpol and other foreign agencies, by way of President Obama's Executive Order 12425. They, along with foreign troops & assets have been increasingly used throughout the United States to for "Homeland" control over the populace.
PAM COMMENTARY: Notice this executive order happened days after the FDA allegedly had herbalist Greg Caton kidnapped from Ecuador (see earlier links). According to other press reports, the FDA had previously listed Caton as wanted with INTERPOL, although witnesses didn't see INTERPOL involved in that particular abduction. However, if other government agencies abuse INTERPOL in similar ways, was this order meant to protect them from scrutiny, or even legal action against the agencies instigating INTERPOL arrests?
Analysis Of The Obama Interpol Order [R]
INTERPOL - an international law enforcement agency - has just been granted complete and utter "diplomatic immunity" within the borders of the United States, courtesy of Obama. They are not subject to any Constitutional limitations within the United States. Good luck filing for discovery, documents, witnesses or subpoenas against a police force that is operating outside of the Constitution in your own country! You can't sue them. Their records can't be searched. They are not subject to FOIA requests. You probably won't even know the name of the agent prosecuting you if INTERPOL comes to visit. And they don't have to tell you either.
Alcohol a Factor ... But Not for Charlie Sheen
Law enforcement sources tell TMZ ... Brooke Mueller was legally drunk when she called 911 on Charlie Sheen ... and, we've learned, Brooke has fessed up that her allegation was phony.
Sources say authorities gave both Charlie and Brooke blood alcohol tests. Brooke registered a .13 while Charlie registered a .04. By the way, the 911 call came in at 8:34 AM on Christmas day.
We're also told Brooke recanted her story to a female officer just before the bail hearing, telling the cop she was drunk when she made the 911 call. Nevertheless, law enforcement sources say police will still pursue the case -- at least for now.
We've also learned Sheen has hired well-known Colorado attorney Richard Cummins to represent him.
Cops responded to the 911 call, arrived at the home and Sheen was arrested after Brooke claimed he assaulted her. Charlie was booked for two felonies and one misdemeanor relating to domestic violence.
As we first reported, Sheen told law enforcement Brooke was the aggressor and he was just trying to defend himself.
PAM COMMENTARY: Sheen already catches enough grief for being one of the few celebrities to come out publicly in support of 9/11 truth.
Pentagon sees big savings in replacing contractors with federal employees [BF]
The Defense Department estimates it will save an average of $44,000 a year for every contractor it replaces with full-time federal personnel to perform critical defense jobs, according to the House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2010 defense appropriation bill.
The measure, which passed Congress on Saturday, contains $5 billion to hire replacements for contractors currently performing what have been termed "inherently government functions" both at home and abroad. Those functions include a wide range of activities, from supervising other contractors who provide guard services at forward operating bases, to providing oversight of aid projects overseas.
The Bush administration widely expanded the use of contractors following the invasion of Iraq. At the time, officials argued that the Pentagon and other agencies had to staff up quickly; the war was seen as a limited operation that would end quickly, without the need to either increase the size of the military or the ranks of civilian employees.
The aim was also to save money, but last year Congress reported that contract employees were each costing the government an average of $250,000 annually, an amount far in excess of what federal employees or military personnel were paid.
Gallatin National Forest presents gift to Yellowstone bison (Opinion)
Yellowstone�s iconic wild bison received an early winter solstice gift from the Gallatin National Forest: permanent closure of the Horse Butte public grazing allotment.
This is huge, wonderful news for America�s only continuously wild bison population.
Horse Butte is a large, cattle-free peninsula that juts into Hebgen Lake on the west side of Yellowstone National Park. The butte has broad, exposed, south-facing slopes that green up early in the year. As such, many bison leave snow-covered Yellowstone and migrate to Horse Butte in the spring to graze and give birth.
But current bison-management regulations under the Interagency Bison Management Plan prevent bison from occupying Horse Butte after May 15. Instead, bison have been needlessly hazed from Horse Butte back into the park with helicopters, horses, ATVs, and snowmobiles. A lot of time, resources and your taxpayer dollars are unnecessarily wasted along the way.
2010 preview: Tooth-mounted hearing aid for the masses
Beethoven is said to have overcome his deafness by attaching a rod to his piano and clenching it between his teeth, enabling the musical vibrations to travel through his jawbone to his inner ear. Next year, a similar but less unwieldy approach might restore hearing to people with a common form of deafness.
Single-sided deafness (SSD) affects around 9 million people in the US, and makes it difficult for them to pinpoint the exact source of sounds. This can make crossing roads extremely hazardous, and also makes it hard to hear conversations in noisy rooms.
Sonitus Medical of San Mateo in California has created a small device that wraps around the teeth. It picks up the sounds detected from a tiny microphone in the deaf ear and transforms them into vibrations. These then travel through the teeth and down the jawbone to the cochlea in the working ear, where they are transmitted to the brain providing stereo sound. The same process of "bone conduction" explains how we hear our own voices, and why they sound different when they are recorded and played back to us.
Some existing hearing aids also use bone conduction to transmit sounds to the cochlea, but these either require a titanium post to be drilled into the skull, or rely on cumbersome headsets. It also differs from conventional hearing aids, which employ air conduction to simply turn up the volume of sound travelling into the ear. The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio voted Sonitus's device its top medical innovation for 2010.
PAM COMMENTARY: Some psychotronic weapons or "mind control" technology (the type where people hear voices) involves the bones in receiving transmitted sound. This came out in press reports describing Russian scientists' "helpful" advice to the US that bones were better conductors of sound for voice-to-skull technology.
Patrick Flanagan's neurophone enables people to hear through their skin, if the saccule in the ear hasn't been damaged beyond hearing. The neurophone is technology that requires metal pads to be placed on the skin, usually under an athletic head band on the forehead.
It's good to see some of that technology used to help the deaf. In fact, Patrick Flanagan recalled during an interview on the Jeff Rense radio show that he had to invent a scrambler for the CIA before they'd help him take his neurophone out of secrecy. Flanagan wanted to use the device to help deaf people hear without surgery, but the American government recognized its possible use as a weapon and initially classified the device. Some types of mind control technology were based on Flanagan's inventions. Flanagan has since developed the "golden ratio neurophone" to help people concentrate and resist mind control disruption when the device is used.
Many documents related to mind control technology were declassified under President Clinton, resulting in a flourish of articles and books on the topic, in the 1990s.
The Cause Behind the Great Potato Famine (And Why it's Coming Back)
(NaturalNews) Researchers have sequenced the genome of the fungus responsible for the Great Irish Potato Famine in the 1800s, uncovering the reason that the organism continues to plague potato farmers to this day.
"This pathogen has an exquisite ability to adapt and change, and that's what makes it so dangerous," said lead researcher Chad Nusbaum of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass.
The organism, known as Phytophthora infestans, is a type of water mold that continues to cost potato farmers billions of dollars every year. It prefers cool, wet climates and is capable of destroying entire fields of potatoes and tomatoes within only a few days. In 2003, P. infestans destroyed Papua New Guinea's entire potato crop.
The mold evolves resistance to antifungal sprays with astonishing speed. In just the last few years, potato farmers in the United Kingdom have increased chemical spraying by 30 percent in an attempt to hold the organism at bay, and the ongoing blight in Ireland has been called "the worst in living memory," according to the BBC.
Just 16 Ships Expel as Much Sulfur as All the Cars in the World
(NaturalNews) Large shipping vessels have become commonplace in today's global marketplace as goods are imported and exported across the world. While the high levels of pollution they create are something that most people don't think too much about, some scientists are beginning to evaluate their environmental effect. One of the most disturbing facts discovered about these giant ships is that a mere 16 of them emit as much sulfur as do all the cars in the world combined.
Fred Pearce, a science writer and environmental consultant for New Scientist, has been studying the shipping industry for quite some time. He has focused particularly on their use of filthy, toxic fuel that is polluting the air at a staggering pace. According to his assessment, thousands of people die every year from the toxic fumes that are emitted from their smokestacks, lingering in the air as a brown haze for many days. If current practices continue, he estimates that upwards of a million people will die in the next decade due to ship pollution.
The type of fuel typically used in large ocean craft is composed of the dirty leftovers from the refined fuel that is used in cars, trucks, and other land vehicles. It is thicker than land fuel and high in sulfur. It is essentially a cheap, filthy form of fuel that would never be permitted for use on the mainland but that are tolerated on international waters. The chemicals found in the smoke trails of this "bunker fuel" are known to cause severe inflammation, cancer, breathing problems and heart disease.
Arrow drivers wake to nightmare before Christmas [AJ]
On Tuesday, as many as 1,400 truck drivers for Arrow Trucking Co., based out of Tulsa, OK, have been frantically trying to figure out their next moves as the company unexpectedly announced it was �suspending all operations� that day.
Truckers started calling in to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Land Line after they were awakened with phone calls from their dispatchers alerting them to the grim news that the company was shutting its doors and that their instructions were to turn in their trucks to the nearest Freightliner dealership. However, no instructions were given for drivers of International trucks.
One OOIDA member told Land Line on Tuesday, Dec. 22, that he had a bad feeling this was coming down the pike when his fuel card didn�t work at a truck stop the previous night. As of press time, the company driver, who didn�t want to be named, was stranded at a Freightliner dealership in Roanoke, VA, because he didn�t have enough fuel to make it to his delivery in Maryland.
Galloway raps Egypt for stopping Gaza aid convoy [WRH]
British Lawmaker George Galloway has criticized Egypt over denying the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy to enter the Gaza Strip.
The humanitarian convoy to the Gaza Strip has become stuck in Jordan as Egypt is reportedly denying the convoy's passage through its territory.
"It's a strange Christmas for us. We are stuck in Aqaba. 500 people, 210 vehicles, hundreds of tons of aid which is desperately needed in Gaza," Galloway said in an interview with Press TV on Friday.
"Our Jordanian friends are doing their best to keep us warm and to feed us," he added.
Va. lab IDs Argentine 'dirty war' victims by DNA
WASHINGTON � A northern Virginia lab has identified the remains of 42 victims of Argentina's former dictatorship using DNA.
The Bode Technology Group compared DNA from 600 victims' bone samples with the DNA from surviving relatives' blood samples to seek matches.
The independent Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team exhumed the skeletons from mass graves and other sites in Argentina. The group has collected 6,000 blood samples from families and hopes to process another 500 bone samples in 2010.
Experts expect advances in DNA testing to increase the pace of identifications.
Some 12,000 people are officially listed as dead or missing from the 1976-83 junta's "Dirty War" on dissent, or nearly 30,000 by human rights estimates.
Fuel transfer from grounded Alaska tug is done
Salvage crews have completed transferring thousands of gallons of diesel fuel from a stricken tug boat that crashed into the same reef that damaged the Exxon Valdez 20 years ago, a spokesman for the tug's owner said Saturday.
Crews finished transferring about 49,000 gallons of fuel and water mixed from the two damaged tanks late Friday, said Jim Butler, a spokesman for Crowley Maritime Services. On Saturday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard, state of Alaska and Crowley _ owners of the stricken tug _ had agreed on a tow plan to bring the boat back into the Port of Valdez, Butler said.
Officials had hoped to remove the fuel from the tugboat's tanks early Friday before towing it back to Valdez, but diesel removal was halted after about 10 minutes when workers noticed a new sheen on the surface of the water, said Coast Guard Lt. Erin Christensen, a spokeswoman for the joint information center.
Helicopter flights measured the sheen at 50 feet wide by one-mile long, Christensen said.
Foiled Terrorist Bombing in Detroit: An Excuse to Expand the Bogus War On Terror [AJ]
Obama has defined the Africom mission to be within in the parameters of U.S. national security and the larger globalist agenda. �America has a responsibility to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity. When there is genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems � they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response,� he said during a speech delivered on July 11, 2009. �Our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa and the world.�
Africa Command was established October 1, 2007 as a temporary sub-unified command under U.S. European Command, which for more than two decades was responsible for U.S. military relations with more than 40 African nations. Africa Command was formally activated October 1, 2008, during a public ceremony at the Pentagon attended by representatives of African nations posted in Washington, D.C.
In addition to paving the way for expanded incursion in Africa, the failed bombing provides an excuse to further harass an impose police state measures on airline passengers. �President Barack Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, ordered heightened security, calling for �all appropriate measures to be taken� after receiving a briefing from national security officials, a White House statement said,� reports Bloomberg. Obama considers yesterday�s incident as an attempted terrorist attack.
Airlines: New rules keep passengers in seats
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some airlines were telling passengers on Saturday that new government security regulations prohibit them from leaving their seats beginning an hour before landing
The regulations are a response to a suspected terrorism incident on Christmas Day.
Air Canada said in a statement that new rules imposed by the Transportation Security Administration limit on-board activities by passengers and crew in U.S. airspace. The airline said that during the final hour of flight passengers must remain seated. They won't be allowed access to carryon baggage or to have any items on their laps.
Flight attendants on some domestic flights are informing passengers of similar rules. Passengers on a flight from New York to Tampa Saturday morning were also told they must remain in their seats and couldn't have items in their laps, including laptops and pillows.
PAM COMMENTARY: Somehow I knew the latest alleged terror plot was going to result in more increased "security measures" and scare tactics.
Bomb Suspect May Be Prominent Banker's Son [WRH]
A prominent Nigerian banker says he's meeting with security officials because he fears his son may have been the man who allegedly tried to bomb a U.S.-bound flight.
Former bank official Alhaji Umaru Mutallab says he traveled from his home in the Nigeria's Muslim-dominated north to meet officials in Abuja, the capital. According to multiple media reports in Nigeria, Mutallab is the former chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria.
The elder Mutallab says his son, identified by U.S. officials as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was a student in London. He said his son left London to travel, though he did not know where to.
Mutallab says: "I believe he might have been to Yemen, but we are investigating to determine that."
Alaska oil spill cleanup problems: New sheen delays effort to get fuel off crippled tug
Gov. Sean Parnell and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich issued statements decrying the spill. Parnell described himself as "indignant," especially in light of three recent North Slope spills, and said he had called officials at BP Exploration and Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. "to express ... deep concern."
"The spills harm both Alaska's environment and Alaska's reputation for responsible resource development," Parnell said. "I let the companies know this was not acceptable."
"I'm troubled that a spill response vessel, which is mandated by federal law to help ensure safe passage of oil tankers through Prince William Sound, managed to run aground on one of the most well-marked and well-known reefs in the northern hemisphere," Begich said. "At a time when Alaskans are advocating for new oil and gas development, especially in the waters off our coasts, we must demand a higher level of operational competence."
It was unclear how much fuel spilled from the tug. Three of the Pathfinder's nine tanks were damaged, but only two had fuel in them at the time -- one containing about 10,000 gallons and the other, 23,500.
Divers examined the hull Thursday and found a 4- to 5-foot section of the keel was ripped open.
Jack Bauer Interrogates Santa (Video, Satire) [AJ]
PAM COMMENTARY: Meant to satirize the show, with a Christmas theme of course.
Yellowstone getting better earthquake monitors
"It will provide everyone with better raw data," said Jake Lowenstern, scientist in charge of the observatory. "All the data is public. So everyone will have much better data."
Yellowstone rests in a 37- by 25-mile caldera that is one of the world's largest volcanoes, known as a supervolcano. It rests upon a magma plume that extends roughly 400 miles beneath the Earth's surface.
The current Yellowstone Seismic Network consists of 26 sites dating back to the mid-1960s, Smith said.
One feature of the system will be a new alarm system that will allow smaller seismic events to be posted directly to the Internet. Right now, any quake smaller than 2.5 in magnitude is filtered through a person to ensure false events are not posted.
There is also $95,000 in federal money going to the Wyoming State Geological Survey to posting geological maps of Yellowstone on the Internet which can be overlaid with earthquake locations or other maps, the researchers said.
Canada falling behind U.S. in clean-energy efforts: experts
The wind-energy industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. In Canada, while other industries suffered through the economic slowdown, the wind industry set a record in 2009 by introducing 900 megawatts in new wind-energy projects. The total capacity in Canada has risen from 322 megawatts in 2003 to 3,250 megawatts in wind power.
The existing Canadian government ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program offers a guaranteed production incentive for new projects over a 10-year period, but more than 90 per cent of its funding of $1.4 billion has been committed, leaving little incentives for additional projects. By comparison, Hornung said, the U.S. program has already been extended to 2012 and offers producers nearly three times more support in incentives through a flexible program for domestic or foreign producers.
"It's actually created a situation where, (for) the first time ever, a lot of Canadian companies have the potential to access the U.S. incentive and build projects in the United States, because they can access it now as a capital grant and don't have to have a tax base within the U.S. tax system."
PAM COMMENTARY: From this side of the border, it's great that we're making enough progress for people to notice!
Christmas Eve Is the 3,000th day in Afghanistan and 30th anniversary of the Russian invasion (Rep. Eric Massa)
Christmas Eve is a time to gather with friends and family to reflect on the good things in life. It's a time to share our joys and our hopes for peace on earth and good will towards all.
This year Christmas Eve has a sad and ironic twist to it however.
As we begin our deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, this Christmas Eve will also mark the 3,000th day of the war in Afghanistan and the 30th anniversary of the initial Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Thus far, this war has already cost the American taxpayer a minimum of $300,000,000,000 according to the Congressional Research Service (and that's just the funding that's "on budget").
Sadly, the fact that we're spending about $101 million per day in this war is the good news. The financial cost of this war is nothing compared to the fact that 937 American troops have been killed, and 4,434 have been wounded (and that's not counting the thousands more that will carry the memories of this war for their entire lives).
PAM COMMENTARY: Exactly. Other than Vietnam, we've never had a war this long.
Internet�s Primary Gatekeeper in Bed With Big Brother?
LIKE AN ORWELLIAN SET OF EYES watching society�s every move, Google�the world�s predominant search engine�is quickly becoming a modern-day Big Brother. Robert Verkaik, law editor for The Independent, described their intent on May 24, 2007 as �setting out to create the most comprehensive database of personal information ever assembled, one with the ability to tell people how to run their lives.�
Similarly, Clint Boulton of GoogleWatch described the corporation on September 9. �Google conjures an image of science fiction films such as War of the Worlds. The servers are like alien ships covering all of humanity, though instead of harvesting food sources, they are harvesting our search data for better advertising opportunities.�
But their motives aren�t simply financial. Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is Killing Our Culture, provided a glimpse into their larger agenda in a June 30 article for the Daily Telegraph. �Back in 2006, when asked where he wanted Google to be in five years time, company CEO Eric Schmidt confessed that he hoped his search engine would be so knowledgeable about all of us that it would know what we wanted to do tomorrow.�
Fuel spill at same Alaska reef as Exxon Valdez
A tugboat struck the same reef as the Exxon Valdez tanker 20 years ago, spilling diesel into Alaska's Prince William Sound and creating a three-mile-long slick, the US Coast Guard said on Friday.
An unknown quantity of the fuel leaked from the Pathfinder tug after it ran aground Wednesday on Bligh Reef. The boat's owners were pumping the remaining diesel from the original 33,500 gallons (127,000 liters) in its tanks.
Flyovers by a C-130 cargo plane and helicopters revealed "a light grey or silver diesel sheen spanning an area approximately three miles (five kilometers) long and 30 yards (meters) wide approximately one mile east of Glacier Island," the Coast Guard said on its website.
The tug had been scouting shipping lanes for ice when it struck the same rock that did for the Exxon Valdez on March 24, 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of crude into the sea in the worst US oil disaster.
Oklahoma firm recalling beef products in six states
CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Oklahoma company said it was voluntarily recalling 248,000 lbs (112,000 kg) of beef products in six states following an outbreak of illnesses involving E. coli bacteria.
In a recorded telephone message, National Steak and Poultry of Owasso, Oklahoma, said it was recalling various products in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Michigan, and Washington state.
The company said it was cooperating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service as a precautionary measure because some of its beef products might be linked to a series of E. coli-linked illnesses in the six states.
Minister's campaign to keep foxhunting ban (UK)
Environment secretary Hilary Benn is launching a campaign to boost support for the foxhunting ban, after the Conservatives pledged to review it.
The minister today urged people to sign an online government petition to back the ban on hunting foxes with dogs.
His campaign launch was timed to coincide with today's traditional Boxing Day meet, which opponents hope will be the last under current restrictions.
Malnutrition costing up to �1.5 billion per year (Ireland)
MALNUTRITION IN older people is a significant public health problem which is costing Ireland in excess of �1.5 billion annually and needs to be urgently addressed, according to a leading international expert.
Professor of nutrition at the Institute of Human Nutrition in Southampton, Marinos Elia, said that Ireland � in common with other countries � had reached a critical crossroads in its approach to the problem of malnutrition.
He pointed out that the cost of treating malnutrition-related illness was twice that of obesity, with the condition exacerbating a range of age-related conditions including diabetes, vascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer�s.
China launches world's fastest train service
BEIJING: China on Saturday launched what it described as the world�s fastest train service covering a distance of 1,068 kms at the average speed of 350 kms an hour. The distance between Wuhan in central China and Guangzhou in the country�s south was covered by the high-speed train in two hours forty five minutes.
The new service will cut the travel time between these cities by more than six hours. The train reached a maximum speed of 394.2 km per hour during trail runs that begun on December 9. The commercial operation was launched today with two trains covering the distance while passing through 20 different cities along the route.
The high speed line will use technology developed in co-operation with foreign firms such as Siemens, Bombardier and Alstom, sources said.
The new service is expected to act as a catalyst in the development of central China that includes backward areas like Xianning by linking it to the highly developed Pearl River Delhi, which is an industrial hub in south China.
Chinese railway authorities pointed out that the average speed of the high-speed railways is 243 km per hour in Japan, 232 km per hour in Germany and 277 km per hour in France.
Fire on Greek cargo ship off Venezuela kills nine crew
A fire on board a Greek cargo ship off the Caribbean coast of Venezuela has killed nine members of the crew.
The blaze reportedly broke out early on Friday in an engine room of the Aegean Wind and spread upwards.
The vessel, which was carrying iron ore from Brazil to Texas, was about 160km (100 miles) north of Venezuela, near Margarita Island.
Dodd chastises Senate's 'newest members' for their behavior
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on Wednesday ripped the Senate's "newest members" for the lack of comity in the upper chamber.
In a floor speech Wednesday night, Dodd said there is "nothing wrong" with partisanship, but added he has "been deeply disturbed by some of the [healthcare] debate I have heard, usually from newer members, usually those who have been here one, two, three years, who do not have an appreciation of what this chamber means and how we work together."
Dodd did not name names, and spokesmen for the Connecticut senator did not respond to requests for comment.
Most of the newest members of the Senate are Democrats, having been swept into office in the blue waves of the 2006 and 2008 elections. One of the newest members of the upper chamber is Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who recently did not allow Dodd's Connecticut colleague, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I), to extend his floor remarks on healthcare reform. Franken's office has noted that as the presiding officer, the Minnesota senator was under strict orders to keep the healthcare debate moving, which was confirmed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) office.
PAM COMMENTARY: I guess Dodd feels he has to stick up for Lieberman because they're from the same state. But Lieberman isn't nearly as popular as Al Franken. Everyone likes Al Franken because he tries to help people, and his old radio show was great -- funny and informative, one of the few standing up to the Bush regime. Don't ask us to side with Lieberman, the guy who's always threatening to break ranks if his corporate buddies don't get their cut, the guy who was ousted in the Democratic primaries but won due to Republican support. Al Franken's latest victory was a bill restoring rape victims' rights to defense contractor employees. (Several women raped or gang-raped on the job by their co-workers at defense contractors like KBR found that their employers had contractually limited them to arbitration -- even for crimes as serious as rape.) That's Al Franken -- making a positive difference. So I'm sure whatever he said to Lieberman was just fine.
Report: North Korea could conduct another nuclear test
SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea could conduct another nuclear test next year in an attempt to solidify itself as an atomic power, a news report said Friday, citing a state-run South Korean think tank.
The Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said in a report that the communist nation won't give up its nuclear ambitions and could test an atomic device in an attempt to assert itself as a nuclear weapons state, according to Yonhap news agency.
North Korea carried out its first-ever nuclear test in 2006 and the second, more powerful test blast in May. The think tank said the second test was five times as powerful as the first one and demonstrated progress Pyongyang had made in its capabilities to build atomic bombs, according to Yonhap.
Journalist killed in Mexico, 12th case in 2009
MEXICO CITY -- A journalist was gunned down this week as he left a holiday party in the Mexican Caribbean resort town of Tulum, human rights officials and an international media group said Friday, bringing to 12 the number of reporters killed this year in the country.
Alberto Velazquez of the newspaper Expresiones de Tulum was killed on Tuesday.
Velazquez had written articles critical of local officials, and his paper had received threats, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In a statement, the group quoted colleagues as saying Velazquez was shot by a gunman on a motorcycle, and they believed it was related to his reporting.
Webcam can't recognize black face
The discovery by a couple of Texas computer sales clerks that a Hewlett Packard webcam can't recognize black faces has turned into a viral video and corporate humiliation.
Wanda Zamen and Desi Cryer made the video and posted it Dec. 10 on YouTube after realizing the HP Mediasmart webcam went on the fritz when Cryer, who is black, was in front of it.
The facial recognition software appeared to have no trouble tracking Zamen, who is white.
"I think my blackness is interfering with the computer's ability to follow me," a smiling Cryer says on the video as Zamen laughs in the background. "As soon as white Wanda appears" it works, he says. "Black Desi gets in there and there is no facial recognition anymore, buddy. Hewlett Packard computers are racist. The worst part is, I bought one for Christmas."
Earth-Friendly Elements, Mined Destructively
Small mines producing heavy rare earths like dysprosium and terbium still operate on nearby hills. �There are constant protests because it damages the farmland � people are always demanding compensation,� Mr. Zeng said.
�In many places, the mining is abused,� said Wang Caifeng, the top rare-earths industry regulator at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in China.
�This has caused great harm to the ecology and environment.�
There are 17 rare-earth elements � some of which, despite the name, are not particularly rare � but two heavy rare earths, dysprosium and terbium, are in especially short supply, mainly because they have emerged as the miracle ingredients of green energy products. Tiny quantities of dysprosium can make magnets in electric motors lighter by 90 percent, while terbium can help cut the electricity usage of lights by 80 percent. Dysprosium prices have climbed nearly sevenfold since 2003, to $53 a pound. Terbium prices quadrupled from 2003 to 2008, peaking at $407 a pound, before slumping in the global economic crisis to $205 a pound.
Ethanol plant hot over corn cobs
BENSON, MINN. - A southwest Minnesota ethanol company will buy more than just corn from farmers. It wants their cobs, too.
Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. (CVEC) in Benson is using about 70 tons of corn cobs, wood and glycerin per day in its gasifier. The company burns it to create steam, which is used as a heat source to make ethanol.
CVEC hopes to eventually reach 300 tons of biomass per day, which would replace 90 percent of the natural gas they use with renewable sources. Currently, they're replacing 20 percent.
Tapping into the Earth to go green and save some money
As construction starts on Edina's new public works building, one of the earliest jobs will be to drill 124 wells 250 feet deep. A closed network of pipes snaking up and down underground will be sunk into the holes and connected to the building.
Then the area will be made invisible by a coating of pavement.
The piping under the parking lot will become a geothermal system that uses the Earth's constant temperature to draw warmth into buildings in winter and cool them in summer. Such systems have been around for decades, but are growing more popular in Minnesota as improved technology makes them more efficient in extreme climates.
Israel Admits Harvesting Palestinian Organs [AJ]
The latest accusation was revealed in connection to the Swedish report. The former head of Abu Kabir forensic institute, Dr Jehuda Hiss, was interviewed in 2000 by an American academic who released the interview because of the report in Aftonbladet and the denials of the Israeli government. �We started to harvest corneas,� Hiss told the academic. �Whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family.�
�We�d glue the eyelid shut,� Hiss added. �We wouldn�t take corneas from families we knew would open the eyelids.�
Israel�s Channel 2 TV aired parts of the interview over the weekend.
In addition to corneas, skin, heart valves, and bones were taken from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.
Hiss also said skin was taken from the backs of dead Palestinians and the families of the dead never discovered the theft because they did not examine the bodies before burial. Muslim custom dictates that the deceased be buried as soon as possible after death, avoiding the need for embalming or otherwise disturbing the body.
Coast Guard setting up security zone in waters around Obama's Hawaii vacation home [WRH]
HONOLULU (AP) � The U.S. Coast Guard is setting up a security zone in the waters off President Barack Obama's vacation home on Oahu.
The Coast Guard said Thursday small boats will enforce the zone around part of Kailua Bay through Jan. 5. The restrictions may be lifted before then.
Those entering the zone without permission may be fined up to $25,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years. Yellow buoys mark the restricted area.
PAM COMMENTARY: It's not enough to inconvenience everyone in the area and put restrictions on where they can go -- they have to fine or imprison people, too? If the Prez can't take a vacation without turning the area into a war zone, maybe he should just stay home.
Sorghum harvest eases food crisis in Katine
Although she has no vegetables, Ajemo is happy that her son, who has since been transferred for work to the neighbouring Dokolo district, still sends money, which she can use to buy sauce to go with sorghum bread. Ajemo can now sell some of the sorghum to buy other things like cassava or beans from the market.
She has also planted cassava � the new improved, disease-resistant variety promoted by the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref) and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADs) � which should mature by April.
"We had earlier planted our Nigeria cassava, but it failed to germinate. It takes longer to mature and it can be bitter. But this new type matures faster and you can cook it for food. It always has a good taste."
Ajemo's situation is replicated in many homes in Katine sub-county and in the wider Soroti district, according to Jorem Eboku, the sub-county local council chairman, and an official of the NGO World Vision.
PAM COMMENTARY: I wonder about those "new and improved varieties" -- are they GMO? Are any negative health effects made known to the farmers? Do farmers have to pay for seeds with their scarce resources?
Source: Madoff fell out of bed, injured [R]
ABC11 Eyewitness News first reported that Madoff had injuries consistent with an assault. Now, the source says Madoff was not attacked in prison, but that he fell off a bed onto his face. The source said there was a lot of facial bleeding.
Sources also confirmed Madoff was treated at Duke University Medical Center in Durham last Friday and discharged earlier this week.
He is serving a life sentence at the federal prison in Butner after admitting to cheating investors out of billions of dollars.
According to the sources, Madoff came to Duke with facial fractures, broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
Madoff Had Dizziness, Hypertension [R]
Dizziness and hypertension sent Ponzi scheme orchestrator Bernard Madoff to a prison hospital, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
Mr. Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence in a federal prison in Butner, N.C., is now housed in a low-security medical center at the prison, said a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons. Mr. Madoff, 71, was moved to the medical facility Friday from a medium security area of the prison.
Christmas at Jesus' birthplace
Hundreds of Palestinian Christians and pilgrims celebrated Christmas Day Mass on Friday in Jesus� traditional birthplace, their prayers joined by wishes from the Vatican for peace in this strife-torn region.
Worshippers, many of them Palestinian locals, packed the Roman Catholic church built near the grotto where the traditional site of Jesus� birth is enshrined.
�It feels like a giant family gathering,� said Jonathan Croy, a 24-year-old musician from Birmingham, Alabama, who was visiting Bethlehem for the first time.
�It�s interesting being here and seeing the dichotomy of religions, all nationalities and religions mixing together. It�s beautiful. There�s a lot of respect for each other.�
US man finds apartment filled with Christmas gifts, but packages aren't what they seem
CHICAGO - A Chicago man could be unwrapping the hundreds of Christmas gifts spread around his apartment for days, even weeks.
Trouble is, they aren't really presents. They're his own belongings meticulously wrapped by friends as a prank while he was out of town.
Louie Saunders' packages contain everything from couch cushions to the beer in his refrigerator.
His friend Adal Rifai masterminded the scheme after Saunders gave him a spare key. It took 16 people, 35 rolls of wrapping paper and eight hours to finish the job.
PAM COMMENTARY: Yeah, another "Christmas story" instead of "serious news," but why not enjoy the season while it lasts?
Breast cancer is not a single disease, scientists discover [R]
Breast cancer is not a single disease but a collection of at least five separate conditions that differ in prognosis and response to treatment, a detailed genetic study has revealed.
A comparison of the genomes of 24 breast tumours has found several distinct patterns of DNA damage, each of which appeared to be characteristic of a peculiar sub-type of cancer.
PAM COMMENTARY: That's if you buy their theory about genetic causes of breast cancer.
The Nation: Immigration Agents Holding US Residents in Unlisted, Unmarked Facilities [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Stevens, you quote James Pendergraph, an ICE official, speaking at a conference last year, saying, �If you don�t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but� you know��you think he�s illegal, we can make [him] disappear.�
JACQUELINE STEVENS: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What is he talking about?
JACQUELINE STEVENS: So he�s talking about the facilities that ICE makes available through not just these sub-field offices�and just to be clear, you know, the vast majority of detainees who are held are not held on a long-term basis in these sub-field offices. They are held in about 300 jails and ICE-run detention facilities across the country. And so, what he�s talking about is the ability of ICE to distribute people among these facilities, and the typical system that governs the organization of detainee records would mean that it would be very difficult for anybody to locate the whereabouts of the people they pick up.
AMY GOODMAN: Are family members notified when someone is arrested?
JACQUELINE STEVENS: No, they�re not notified. And not only are they not notified, even when they make very diligent efforts to locate their relatives, they meet obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. And, you know, the phones don�t get answered. When they do get answered, people are non-responsive.
PAM COMMENTARY: The link below is The Nation article mentioned in this interview.
America's Secret ICE Castles [DN]
Pendergraph knew that ICE could disappear people, because he knew that in addition to the publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is also confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants--nary a sign, a marked car or even a US flag. (Presumably there is a flag at the Veterans Affairs Complex in Castle Point, New York, but no one would associate it with the Criminal Alien Program ICE is running out of Building 7.) Designed for confining individuals in transit, with no beds or showers, subfield offices are not subject to ICE Detention Standards. The subfield office network was mentioned in an October report by Dora Schriro, then special adviser to Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, but no locations were provided.
I obtained a partial list of the subfield offices from an ICE officer and shared it with immigrant advocates in major human and civil rights organizations, whose reactions ranged from perplexity to outrage. Andrea Black, director of Detention Watch Network (DWN), said she was aware of some of the subfield offices but not that people were held there. ICE never provided DWN a list of their locations. "This points to an overall lack of transparency and even organization on the part of ICE," said Black. ICE says temporary facilities in field or subfield offices are used for 84 percent of all book-ins. There are twenty-four listed field offices. The 186 unlisted subfield offices tend to be where local police and sheriffs have formally or informally reached out to ICE. For instance, in 2007 North Carolina had 629,947 immigrants and at least six subfield offices, compared with Massachusetts, with 913,957 immigrants and one listed field office. Not surprisingly, before joining ICE Pendergraph, a sheriff, was the Joe Arpaio of North Carolina, his official bio stating that he "spearheaded the use of the 287(g) program," legislation that empowers local police to perform immigration law enforcement functions.
A senior attorney at a civil rights organization, speaking on background, saw the list and exclaimed, "You cannot have secret detention! The public has the right to know where detention is happening."
Alison Parker, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, wrote a December comprehensive report on ICE transit policies, "Locked Up Far Away." Even she had never heard of the subfield offices and was concerned that the failure to disclose their locations violates the UN's Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a signatory. She explained that the government must provide "an impartial authority to review the lawfulness of custody. Part and parcel is the ability of somebody to find the person and to make their presence known to a court."
PAM COMMENTARY: Shocking. This would qualify as a violation of habeas corpus, "disappearing" people right here in America. Try to read the whole article -- it gets worse.
Generics chafe under big pharma's reform shadow
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The massive U.S. Senate healthcare reform measure passed on Thursday with support from the multibillion drug industry, but makers of cheaper generic rivals are feeling left out in the cold.
Generic drugmakers face several obstacles in the bill backed by Democrats that they worry will dampen a potential increase in use even as more people gain access to health insurance and prescription medicines.
The hurdles include extensive protections against generic versions of pricey biotech medicines, an incentive for Medicare recipients to use more brand-name drugs, and a possible end to payments from brandname makers to delay the launch of copy-cat medicines.
"The bill passed by the Senate unfortunately amounts to a treasure trove to brand drug companies," said Generic Pharmaceutical Association President Kathleen Jaeger, whose group represents Mylan, Watson Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, among other companies.
President Barack Obama has often pointed to generics as a key way to cut costs, but big pharmaceutical makers such as Pfizer and Merck came to lawmakers and the White House with an $80 billion, 10-year pact to cut prices and pay additional taxes to help fund the expansion of health insurance coverage.
Democrats see GOP hypocrisy in health debate
WASHINGTON � Republican senators attacking the cost of a Democratic health care bill showed far different concerns six years ago, when they approved a major Medicare expansion that has added tens of billions of dollars to federal deficits.
The inconsistency � or hypocrisy, as some call it � has irked Democrats, who claim that their plan will pay for itself with higher taxes and spending cuts and cite the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for support.
By contrast, when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House in 2003, they overcame Democratic opposition to add a deficit-financed prescription drug benefit to Medicare. The program will cost a half-trillion dollars over 10 years, or more by some estimates.
With no new taxes or spending offsets accompanying the Medicare drug program, the cost has been added to the federal debt.
All current GOP senators, including the 24 who voted for the 2003 Medicare expansion, oppose the health care bill that's backed by President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats. Some Republicans say they don't believe the CBO's projections that the health care overhaul will pay for itself. As for their newfound worries about big government health expansions, they essentially say: That was then, this is now.
Webb raises new concerns about Navy's Fla. carrier plan
Sen. Jim Webb is raising new concerns about the Navy's proposal to send a Norfolk-based aircraft carrier to Mayport, Fla., highlighting the lobbying role of the former commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, retired Adm. Robert J. Natter.
Webb on Wednesday fired off a letter to Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III, calling the Navy proposal "fiscally irresponsible and strategically unjustified."
He also questioned how transparent Natter has been about his lobbying efforts, following an article last month in USA Today that described Natter's current lobbying for the city of Jacksonville, Fla., which is near Mayport Naval Station. Natter also lobbied for the state of Florida from 2004 to 2006, the period when the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, recommended closing Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach and reopening Cecil Field near Jacksonville.
Animal welfare victories prompt farmers' PR moves
Consumers have been led for years to believe California cows are happy, which is why many were sickened when images surfaced of a washed-up milker, too weak to stagger to slaughter, rolled, pushed and run over by a forklift operator.
The suffering cow covertly taped by the Humane Society of the U.S. prompted the biggest beef recall in U.S. history and contributed to sweeping legislation over the past 13 months designed to improve the lives of farm animals. But more important for farmers, it awakened the masses to the stark reality for many animals raised for food.
This October, as the animal protection organization taped workers at a Vermont veal slaughterhouse kicking and shocking day-old calves, the National Milk Producers Federation began urging dairy operators to participate in a new standard-of-care program it is launching in January.
SSE warns of wind farm delay after �39m Irish Sea deal (UK)
SSE, through its renewable energy business Airtricity, has 30 wind farm projects in the UK which are in the planning process or construction, with 27 of these in Scotland or its surrounding waters.
High-profile projects such as Greater Gabbard in the Thames estuary and Clyde, the world's largest onshore wind farm, are unlikely to be affected by delays because construction is already well advanced.
Chief executive Ian Marchant said the potential for harnessing wind off the coast of the UK was "vast", and that Walney and Greater Gabbard gave it a strong offshore construction portfolio for the coming years. Construction of Walney will be completed in two phases, the first of which is expected to begin early in 2010.
The second phase, which will use new 120 metre turbines designed by Seimens, will begin later in the year.
Vitamin C 'could boost stem cell generation'
Vitamin C could play an essential role in the manufacture of stem cells for treating human diseases, new research suggests.
The vitamin boosts the reprogramming of adult cells to give them the properties of embryonic stem cells.
Scientists who made the discovery believe it may help them overcome long-standing hurdles in the way of creating the reprogrammed cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
IPSCs offer a solution to the ethical problems involved in producing embryonic stem cells with the potential to become any kind of human tissue, from bone to brain.
Embryonic stem cells have to be extracted by cannibalising early stage embryos obtained from fertility clinics. IPSCs, on the other hand, are made in the laboratory from ordinary adult cells by altering their genes.
More than 100 teenagers launch snowball attack on police patrol car (UK)
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: 'On the face of it this just looks like harmless fun.'
The reaction of the police was a far cry from the actions of a policeman in Washington DC this week, who pulled a gun on revellers who pelted his car with snowballs and has since been transferred to desk duty.
PAM COMMENTARY: The language in this article seems a little too exciting for what really happened -- kids started lobbing snowballs at a police car, and instead of being jerks, the cops flashed their lights and drove away. Watch the video to see it unfold.
Nativity scene donkeys escape in Eagle-Vail
Howard was on his way to ski school � he teaches snowboarding at Beaver Creek � when he decided to stop by the church for a minute.
�They weren't there � it freaked me out,� Howard said. �I was so afraid and nervous that the worst could have happened.�
Howard immediately called 911 when he realized the donkeys escaped. He could see fresh footprints in the morning snow and hoped they didn't go too far.
A sheriff's deputy quickly arrived and the two decided to follow the footprints down the railroad tracks. Howard set off on-foot, while the police officer drove along Highway 6.
PAM COMMENTARY: Short-lived freedom for the donkeys.
New orders won't punish pregnant soldiers in war zones
WASHINGTON (AP) � A controversial policy that put pregnant soldiers in war zones at risk of discipline will be rescinded under an order from the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Gen. Raymond Odierno has drafted a broad new policy for the U.S. forces in Iraq that will take effect Jan. 1, and that order will not include a pregnancy provision that one of his subordinate commanders enacted last month, according to the U.S. military command in Iraq.
Odierno's order comes about a week after the pregnancy policy issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo triggered a storm of criticism. Cucolo had issued a policy that would permit the punishment of soldiers who become pregnant and their sexual partners.
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo sentenced to 11 years on 'subversion' charges
BEIJING -- China's leading dissident, Liu Xiaobo, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Friday after a court found the 53-year-old literary scholar guilty of "inciting subversion to state power" through his writings and role in Charter 08, a petition advocating human rights, free speech and an end to one-party rule.
The sentencing sent a signal that the Chinese Communist Party will continue to stifle domestic political critics, especially those who seek to organize their fellow Chinese. And it provided evidence that political modernization might not go hand in hand with China's economic modernization, contrary to past predictions by Chinese dissidents, U.S. business executives, political theorists and proselytizers of the Internet age.
According to the Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based human rights group, Liu's sentence was longer than any other sentence handed down for "inciting subversion" since the charge was established in the 1997 reform of the criminal law.
The Nevada gambler, al-Qaida, the CIA and the mother of all cons
The intelligence reports fitted the suspicions of the time: al-Qaida sleeper agents were scattered across the US awaiting orders that were broadcast in secret codes over the al-Jazeera television network.
Flights from Britain and France were cancelled. Officials warned of a looming "spectacular attack" to rival 9/11. In 2003 President Bush's homeland security tsar, Tom Ridge, spoke of a "credible source" whose information had US military bracing for a new terrorist onslaught.
Then suddenly no more was said.
Six years later, Playboy magazine has revealed that the CIA fell victim to an elaborate con by a compulsive gambler who claimed to have developed software that discovered al-Jazeera broadcasts were being used to transmit messages to terrorists buried deep in America.
Dennis Montgomery, 56, the co-owner of a software gaming company in Nevada, who has since been arrested for bouncing $1m worth of cheques, claims his program read messages hidden in barcodes listing international flights to the US, their positions and airports to be targeted.
How fast does Santa need to travel?
Did you know ...
Santa has 31 hours to do his job on Christmas, thanks to different time zones around the world? To travel around the world's 122 million kilometres in that time, that means Santa's sleigh has to move at a mind-blowing 1,047 km persecond-- 3,000 times the speed of sound!
Santa has to travel with a lot of cargo: Assuming each child gets two pounds worth of gifts, Santa's payload amounts to an astonishing 321,300 tons.
COMPULSORY PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE: JUST ANOTHER BAILOUT OF THE FINANCIAL SECTOR? [R]
The health reform bills now coming through Congress are not focused on how to make health care cheaper or more effective, how to eliminate waste and fraud, or how to cut out expensive middlemen. As originally envisioned, the public option would have pursued those goals. But the public option has been dropped from the Senate bill and radically watered down in the House bill.
Rather than focusing on making health care affordable, the bills focus on how to force people either to buy health insurance if they don�t have it, or to pay more for it if they do. If you don�t have insurance and don�t purchase it, you will be subject to a hefty fine. And if you do purchase it, premiums, co-pays, co-insurance payments and deductibles are liable to keep health care cripplingly expensive. Most of the people who don't have health care can't afford to pay the deductibles, so they will never use the plans they are forced to buy.
To subsidize those who can�t pay, the Senate bill would make families earning two to four times the poverty level who don�t have employer-sponsored insurance surrender 8% to 12% of their income to insurance payments, or pay a fine. In another effort to make the insurance payments �affordable,� the Senate bill calls for the lowest cost plan to cover only sixty percent of health care costs.
�In other words,� writes Dr. Andrew Coates in a November 23 article, �a guarantee of insurance industry dominance and the continued privatization of health care in every arena.�
Compulsory health insurance is like compulsory selective military service (the draft), except that all of our numbers have come up. The argument has been made that auto insurance is compulsory, so why not health insurance? But the obvious response is that you can choose to drive a car. The only way to escape the vehicle we call a body is to give up the ghost.
Senate Passes Health Care Overhaul Bill
WASHINGTON � The Senate voted Thursday to reinvent the nation�s health care system, passing a bill to guarantee access to health insurance for tens of millions of Americans and to rein in health costs as proposed by President Obama.
The 60-to-39 party-line vote, on the 25th straight day of debate on the legislation, brings Democrats a step closer to a goal they have pursued for decades. It clears the way for negotiations with the House, which passed a broadly similar bill last month by a vote of 220 to 215.
If the two chambers can strike a deal, as seems likely, the resulting product would vastly expand the role and responsibilities of the federal government. It would, as lawmakers said repeatedly in the debate, touch the lives of nearly all Americans.
The bill would require most Americans to have health insurance, would add 15 million people to the Medicaid rolls and would subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people, at a cost to the government of $871 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Senate approves landmark health-care bill
One of the toughest critics, was Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who last summer had spent months trying to craft a bipartisan reform package with Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
Grassley abandoned the quest after the "death panel" controversy erupted in August and the debate took a sharply ideological turn. The Iowa Republican said Wednesday that he concluded that Democrats were ceding too much authority over health care to the federal government, while failing to aggressively contain costs.
PAM COMMENTARY: The failure to contain costs is a real problem -- for example the drug industry has again evaded any price regulation for its drugs. Now they'll have even more power over the press and Congress. And I don't like my tax dollars going toward the drug industry. Some mainstream medical care and drugs that go with it are needed for traumatic events, but "alternative health" people like me use a zapper, herbs, and dietary changes to solve most of our health issues. Why should our tax dollars go toward subsidizing the drug industry? And there's so much more to this bill that's just as bad, I'd need to write pages to cover it all.
Former head of CDC lands lucrative job as president of Merck vaccine division (opinion)
(NaturalNews) You've heard it before, how the pharmaceutical industry has a giant "revolving door" through which corporations and government agencies frequently exchange key employees. That reality was driven home in a huge way today when news broke that Dr. Julie Gerberding, who headed the CDC from 2002 through 2009, landed a top job with Merck, one of the largest drug companies in the world. Her job there? She's the new president of the vaccine division.
How convenient. That means the former head of the CDC was very likely cultivating a relationship with Merck all these years, and now comes the big payoff: Heading up a $5 billion division that sells cervical cancer vaccines (like Gardasil), chickenpox vaccines and of course H1N1 swine flu vaccines, too.
So what's the problem with all this? The problem is that private industry and government health offices such as the CDC or FDA should never be so cozy. When they are, it creates an environment of collusion between Big Government and Big Pharma. We've already seen this with the government-led push for swine flu vaccines that are manufactured (and sold) by drug companies like Merck.
You might even say that the CDC already functions as the marketing division of the pharmaceutical industry. It was the CDC that pushed so hard for swine flu vaccines, even amid the obvious realization that swine flu was no more dangerous than seasonal flu. To this day, the CDC still hasn't bothered to recommend vitamin D for the prevention of either seasonal flu or swine flu. It remains heavily invested in the lucrative vaccine approach -- an approach that just happens to financially benefit the very corporations that are hiring ex-CDC employees like Dr. Gerberding.
Nearly 100 percent of women reject tamoxifen drug despite claims that it prevents breast cancer
Eighty-percent of the women who participated in the study indicated that they were most concerned about the side effects of the drug, which include sexual problems, hot flashes, blood clots, cataracts, and endometrial cancer. Despite concern among some that women are not taking the drug because they don't know about it, Dr. Peter Ubel from the University of Michigan noted that the real reason women are not taking tamoxifen is because of the many dangers associated with it.
Death By Rx - Drug Interactions For Brittany Murphy [R]
"The list included Carbamazepine, an anti-convulsant, Methylprednisolone, an anti-inflammatory treatment, Propranolol, a heart drug, Klonopin and Ativan, both anti-anxiety drugs, Topamax, an anti-seizure medication, the antibiotic Biaxin, pain reliever Vicoprofen, anti-deressant Fluoxetine (my note: fluoride-based Prozac) and Hydrocodone, another pain killer"
PAM COMMENTARY: This article lacks a clear analysis of how the drugs interacted, but the contention is that Murphy was on a list of meds and some didn't mix, obviously.
Taking Hold in Silicon Valley, a Ping-Pong Boom
This is the largest training program for youths in the country, run by the India Community Center in an area that is 60 percent Asian. Here, Ping-Pong parents who grew up with the sport in Sichuan Province or Hyderabad are the new soccer moms and Little League dads.
One of 12 table tennis clubs in the area, up from 5 clubs in 1990, the India Community Center�s Ping-Pong facility was started last year with seed money from two Indian entrepreneurs and has already become an influential hatchery for Olympic hopefuls, most of whom banter in Hindi or Mandarin at home.
Health care bill clears last hurdle before passage
WASHINGTON -- Exultant Senate Democrats pushed President Barack Obama's landmark health care overhaul past a final procedural hurdle Wednesday, setting up a Christmas Eve vote to pass the legislation extending coverage to 30 million Americans.
Democrats voted 60-39 to end a GOP filibuster and move to a final vote Thursday. All 58 Democrats and two independents hung together against unanimous Republican opposition.
It was the 24th day of debate on the 10-year, nearly $1 trillion bill.
PAM COMMENTARY: Last chance to call or e-mail your Senators!
From Guant�mo to Desk at Al Jazeera [WRH]
Of the 779 known detainees who have been held at Guant�mo Bay, Cuba � terrorism suspects, sympathizers of Al Qaeda, people deemed enemy combatants by the United States military � only one was a journalist.
The journalist, Sami al-Hajj, was working for Al Jazeera as a cameraman when he was stopped by Pakistani forces on the border with Afghanistan in late 2001. The United States military accused Mr. Hajj of, among other things, falsifying documents and delivering money to Chechen rebels, although he was never charged with a crime during his years in custody.
Now, more than a year after his release, Mr. Hajj, a 40-year-old native of Sudan, is back at work at the Arabic satellite news network, leading a new desk devoted to human rights and public liberties. The captive has become the correspondent.
Big payoffs to senators on health bill stoke public
With the approval rating of Congress sinking in the polls and public opinion of their health care plan going down along with it, Democrats may have done themselves one favor too many this week when they riddled the bill with special deals for individual lawmakers.
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., struggled to pull together his 60 Democratic-controlled votes needed to pass the bill, certain holdout lawmakers were able to carve out extra money, benefits or exemptions that senators from other states didn't get.
Reid said the deal making is just part of how legislation gets done in the Senate.
TVA Coal Ash Spill has Hundreds Suing for Damages
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Hundreds of people sued the Tennessee Valley Authority for damages before the one-year deadline to file personal injury claims related to the huge coal ash spill at Kingston.
With the deadline Monday, court clerks said 20 more federal lawsuits were filed in Knoxville, most of them seeking damages for multiple plaintiffs.
The Daily Outrage: New York hospital�s misdiagnosis nearly destroys life of healthy woman
WHAT: A TV ad offering $15 mammograms last Valentine�s Day drew Maria Osorio, 54, to Harlem Hospital, where a nurse also gave her a free instant cheek swab and blood test. That�s when the New Jersey home health aide was told she had HIV, and she immediately accused her husband of 37 years, Gabriel Lezcano, 60, of transmitting the sexual virus from other women.
WORSE NEWS: A few days later, the hospital called again to say her disease was terminal and very advanced � and she also had hepatitis and herpes. Osorio stopped sleeping, threw up constantly and couldn�t work. She planned to drown herself at the beach that summer. She and her husband both became addicted to sleeping pills and moved to separate rooms.
THE REPRIEVE: When she told nurses she had no medical problems whatsoever, they replied, �This machine does not lie.� Then, almost three weeks later, the hospital called to say she was perfectly healthy. No one apologized or admitted to a mistake. Some nurses called it a miracle.
WHAT�S BEING DONE: Osorio has filed a medical malpractice notice of claim against New York City with the state Supreme Court.
Destination of Arms Seized by Thais Is a Mystery
BANGKOK � Ten days after the Thai government announced that it had seized an aircraft carrying weapons from North Korea, the final destination and the buyer of the arms cache remains a mystery.
A research organization based in Belgium that specializes in the analysis of arms trafficking posted documents this week on its Web site that appear to show Iran as the drop-off point.
The lawyer for the five-man crew detained in Thailand maintains that the cargo was to be offloaded in Ukraine, and other experts said it was far too early to reach any conclusions, because documents are often forged and designed to deceive in the smoke-and-mirrors world of arms trafficking.
As the researchers point out, the documents are false in at least one key respect: They say that the cargo was oil-drilling equipment.
PAM COMMENTARY: I didn't know what to make of this story when it first appeared. Now this new article seems to indicate that it could be another cover story to build up justification for the invasion of Iran wanted by Bush, and apparently now Obama.
Venezuela, China Sign Oil Deals
CARACAS -- Venezuela and China gave a new boost to their thriving economic ties Tuesday, signing a package of agreements that advances China strategy of locking in access to the South American country's vast oil reserves.
After two days of talks in Caracas, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation will help the government of President Hugo Chavez develop the Boyaca 3 oil block in the Orinoco-belt, a large heavy-crude basin in Eastern Venezuela.
The move is part of Venezuela's efforts to increase oil sales to China to 1 million barrels per day from the 400,000 barrels per day it says it currently supplies. Under Chavez, Venezuela has tried to curb oil exports to the U.S. and searched for new markets. Despite his efforts, the U.S. remains the main destination for Venezuela oil, with sales averaging around 1 million barrels per day.
The China National Petroleum Corporation also moved forward by securing access to another oil block in the Orinoco region that could eventually produce 400,000 barrels of oil per day.
The Chinese oil titan also agreed to build a refinery with Venezuela that will process crude from a joint oil venture between the two countries that operates the Junin 8 block.
Bad Santa robs bank, flees with bag full of cash
While overall commercial robberies are down by 18 percent from last year, local police don't track bank robberies. The local FBI office handles them. Efforts to reach the FBI for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Several bank robberies have involved people mimicking Kris Kringle. In Pennsylvania earlier this month, a man donned a white beard and flashed a handgun at a bank.
The most infamous Santa Claus heist was in Cisco, Texas, on Dec. 23, 1927, billed The Santa Claus Bank Robbery. A man dressed in a Santa suit and his crew shot and killed six people and injured several others.
FBI Probed Jackson 'Sex Call' To Brit Teen
The FBI worked with local authorities in Britain to investigate claims Michael Jackson made a sexually explicit phone call to a 13-year-old British boy.
Terry George claimed the singer called him in 1978 and was encouraged to discuss sexual matters.
The revelations come in formerly classified documents released under the US Freedom of Information Act following an application by US media.
They contain no new information about Jackson's death.
But they do disclose details of the probes into allegations of child molestation made against Jackson in 1993 and 2004.
The star was acquitted of all charges in 2005.
Obama signs Franken�s anti-rape amendment into law. [BF]
The White House Press Office sent out a statement today announcing that President Obama signed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 into law on Saturday:
H.R. 3326, the �Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010,� which provides FY 2010 appropriations for Department of Defense (DOD) military programs including funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, and extends various expiring authorities and other non-defense FY 2010 appropriations.
Within the Appropriations Act is Sen. Al Franken�s (D-MN) amendment prohibiting defense contractors from restricting their employees� abilities to take workplace discrimination, battery, and sexual assault cases to court. The measure was inspired by Jamie Leigh Jones, who was gang-raped by her co-workers while working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. Many Republicans opposed the legislation � saying it was an unnecessary attack on their allies in the defense contracting business � and faced intense political blowback over their positions.
Sanders: 'Big money interests control' Congress [BF]
Moneyed interests "control" the Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) lamented Tuesday.
Sanders, the liberal independent senator, said that health insurance companies and drug manufacturers are getting too much out of the Senate healthcare bill, but said he'd still vote for it in order to extend coverage.
"The insurance companies are going to make out like bandits. The drug companies are going to make out like bandits," Sanders said during an appearance on MSNBC. "No question about that. This is not a strong bill."
A number of liberal senators have lamented the strength of the bill, complaining about its subsidies to insurers in the absence of a government-run option to stay competitive with private health providers.
Nuclear plant spills tritium into lake; Probe looks at why Darlington workers were filling wrong tank (Canada)
Workers at the Darlington nuclear station filled the wrong tank with a cocktail of water and a radioactive isotope Monday, spilling more than 200,000 litres into Lake Ontario.
Ontario Power Generation is investigating how the accident happened and officials say hourly tests of the lake water show that the level of tritium � the radioactive isotope of hydrogen � poses no harm to nearby residents.
Plane from D.C. overshoots runway in Jamaica; dozens injured
Dozens of people were reported injured Tuesday night when an American Airlines flight that originated in Washington ran off a runway while landing in Jamaica.
Flight 331, a Boeing 737-800, was carrying 148 passengers and a crew of six when it overran the runway in Kingston, the airline said in a statement.
The plane's right-hand engine separated from the wing, and the landing gear on the left wing collapsed, said American spokesman Tim Smith. He said that damage was more likely a result than a cause of going off the runway. The airplane's fuselage was also damaged, he said.
A newspaper in Jamaica reported on its Web site that about 40 people were injured and taken to a hospital in Kingston, the capital. While not confirming the figure, an airline spokesman said that as of 2:35 a.m. Wednesday none of the injuries was critical. Information Minister Daryl Vaz told the Jamaica Observer, "There are no reports of fatalities."
Plan to Move Guant�mo Detainees Faces New Delay
WASHINGTON � Rebuffed this month by skeptical lawmakers when it sought finances to buy a prison in rural Illinois, the Obama administration is struggling to come up with the money to replace the Guant�mo Bay prison.
As a result, officials now believe that they are unlikely to close the prison at Guant�mo Bay, Cuba, and transfer its population of terrorism suspects until 2011 at the earliest � a far slower timeline for achieving one of President Obama�s signature national security policies than they had previously hinted.
While Mr. Obama has acknowledged that he would miss the Jan. 22 deadline for closing the prison that he set shortly after taking office, the administration appeared to take a major step forward last week when he directed subordinates to move �as expeditiously as possible� to acquire the Thomson Correctional Center, a nearly vacant maximum-security Illinois prison, and to retrofit it to receive Guant�mo detainees.
Palestinians say Israelis are cutting off Bethlehem; Israel has been accused of deliberately impoverishing Bethlehem by ensuring tourists part with as little of their money as possible
West Bank Palestinian officials say they have been blocked from benefiting from a record 1.4 million foreign visitors to the occupied West Bank�s most important tourist attraction.
They claim Israeli tour guides play on the fear of the tourists by warning them they face danger as soon as they enter the area.
Safety of food at airports spotty
Airport restaurants packed with holiday travelers have been cited in the past year for hundreds of food safety violations, local health department reports show.
A USA TODAY review of inspection records for nearly 800 restaurants at 10 airports found items such as tuna salad and turkey sandwiches stored at dangerously warm temperatures, raw meat contaminating ready-to-eat foods, rat droppings and kitchens lacking soap for workers to wash hands.
Serious violations, which can increase the risk of illness, are common. On the most recent inspections available online, 42% of 57 restaurants reviewed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had at least one "critical" violation. So did 77% of 35 restaurants reviewed at Reagan National Airport.
PAM COMMENTARY: Oh yeah, and you're charged top dollar for airport fast food, as much as a full meal at a good restaurant.
Who killed cock robin? The hungry Cypriots did in annual slaughter; RSPB says songbirds fleeing the cold to Cyprus this year will be illegally killed and served up in restaurants as a local delicacy (UK)
As a favourite winter bird they appear on millions of Christmas cards every year, but robins face being illegally killed in enormous numbers this Christmas, conservationists warned today.
Many of the birds escape the freezing cold to spend the winter on Cyprus, only for hundreds of thousands to be illegally killed to provide a Cypriot delicacy � ambelopoulia � for local restaurants.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and its partner organisation BirdLife Cyprus, said one of the trapping hotspots was on the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekalia.
The RSPB said it was "unacceptable" that the illegal slaughter of the birds was taking place on an area controlled by the British authorities.
During the autumn trapping season, an estimated 700,000 birds were caught in the area monitored by BirdLife Cyprus field workers, and the organisation believes the total may exceed 1 million. Winter figures are expected to be even higher.
Court-martial for pregnant soldiers? General backs off under fire.
An American commander in Iraq has backed down on a controversial stance he took last month that threatened court-martial for soldiers who became pregnant or who got someone pregnant.
Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, who commands US forces in the northern sector of Iraq, issued a general order last month in which he stated that getting someone pregnant or becoming pregnant as a way to get out of a deployment could be punishable under the military court system, the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, to include court-martial.
But after an angry response from women�s rights groups and others, Cucolo on Tuesday appeared to retreat from that stance. While he retains the authority to court-martial a soldier under those circumstances, he said, the punishment would be unlikely to go that far.
Ford Reaches Deal to Sell Volvo to Chinese Automaker
PARIS � Ford Motor and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group said Wednesday that they had settled �all substantive commercial terms� on a sale of Volvo, clearing the way for the Chinese automaker to purchase the Swedish business early next year.
The U.S. automaker said that while final documentation, financing and government approvals remain to be completed, �Ford and Geely anticipate that a definitive sale agreement will be signed in the first quarter of 2010, with closing of the sale likely to occur in the second quarter 2010, subject to appropriate regulatory approvals.�
The companies did not disclose a price. John Gardiner, a Ford spokesman in London, declined to comment on the financial terms, saying �that kind of detail will come when we have a definitive agreement.�
Ford paid $6 billion in 1999 to buy Volvo; unconfirmed reports have said that Zhejiang Geely could pay $2 billion for the unit in the currently depressed market for automakers.
Boston subway train derails; no injuries reported
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- A car on a Boston subway train has derailed, but authorities say no injuries were reported.
Boston-area transit spokesman Joe Pesaturo says the fourth car of a six-car train left the tracks of the city's T system during the Tuesday evening rush hour.
It happened shortly after the train left the Alewife station in suburban Cambridge.
Pesaturo says 65 passengers were safely removed. He says investigators looking for the cause of the derailment are focusing on the rear wheels of the fourth car.
Service between the Alewife and Harvard stops was suspended. Buses are carting commuters until service is restored.
Two firefighters injured in Guinness brewery blaze
TWO FIREFIGHTERS were injured and some 200 people evacuated from the Guinness brewery at St James�s Gate, Dublin, yesterday when a fire started during roof repairs on a storage warehouse at the site.
Fifteen units of Dublin Fire Brigade attended the blaze, including three aerial appliances with turntable ladders, after the alarm was raised at 12.10pm.
Flames shot through the building for a short time and billowing smoke could be seen for miles while fire crews fought to bring the blaze under control.
The roof of the building, partly made of felt, caught fire during routine repairs.
It is understood that a blow torch was being used in the repairs and much of the smoke from the fire was attributed to tar and felt on the roof.
The firefighters were injured in an ammonia blast in the building and were taken to St James�s Hospital as a precaution, according to Dublin Fire Brigade. It is believed they were wearing full chemical protection suits at the time. Their condition was last night described as comfortable.
Workmen spark blaze at Dublin's Guinness plant
Workmen repairing a roof with a blowtorch yesterday sparked a major blaze at the iconic Guinness plant in Dublin city centre.
Plumes of thick black smoke billowed across the city skyline as a dozen fire crews battled to bring the inferno under control and stop it from spreading to a nearby ammonia plant.
Pat Fleming, assistant chief fire officer with Dublin Fire Brigade, said it took three-and-a-half hours to get the inferno under control.
Federal agents hunt for wolves from 5 packs
BILLINGS, Mont. � Federal wildlife agents are working to remove gray wolves from six packs in Montana in response to recent livestock attacks.
Agents from the Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services are trying to kill between 16 and 22 wolves at sites scattered across western Montana.
The agency operates under authorization from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Wolves in Montana and Idaho were removed from the endangered species list in the spring, leading to the first public hunting for the animals in decades this fall. But wolf attacks on livestock have continued.
Carolyn Sime with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks says it is unusual to have so many livestock attacks this late in the year. To date, 91 wolves have been killed in 2009 by officials or ranchers who caught the predators in the act.
Another 112 have died from hunting, natural causes and other reasons.
Top U.S. Commander: Women Who Become Pregnant While On Active Duty Face Jailtime [BF]
Major General Anthony Cucolo, who is responsible for operations in northern Iraq, has issued a controversial new policy � which went into effect on Nov. 4 � that allows throwing women service members on active duty in jail if they become pregnant:
Under the new policy, troops expecting a baby face court martial and a possible prison term � and so do the men who made them pregnant.
And the rule applies to married couples at war together, who are expected to make sure their love lives do not interfere with duty.
Usual US Army policy is to send pregnant soldiers home from combat zones within 14 days.
But Major General Anthony Cucolo, who runs US operations in northern Iraq, issued the new orders because he said he was losing too many women with critical skills. He needed the threat of court martial and jail time as an extra deterrent, he said.
All troops under his command are covered by the extension to the military�s legal code � the first time the US Army has made pregnancy a punishable offence.
Feds offer Utah $4M to seal up abandoned mines
Washington � Utah could get more than $4 million to help seal abandoned coal mines in the state, an increase of more than $500,000 from last year, the Interior Department announced Tuesday.
The state has about 500 mines, most with multiple openings, that already have been closed. But officials can now revisit those mines to do more environmental cleanup and more tightly shutter them, says Lucia Malin, the program administrator for the Utah Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.
The funds -- paid through fees on operating coal mines -- cannot go toward other non-coal mines; the state has about 17,000 abandoned mines, Malin says.
Abducted Colombia governor found dead
Reporting from Bogota, Colombia - Caqueta state Gov. Luis Francisco Cuellar was found dead Tuesday, Colombian authorities said, less than a day after he was abducted from his home by suspected leftist guerrillas.
Cuellar's body was found near Florencia, the state capital where he lived, authorities said.
Colombian armed forces, under orders from President Alvaro Uribe, searched in the jungles of Caqueta state Tuesday for Cuellar, who was abducted from his home late Monday.
The kidnapping was the first in several years of a politician of Cuellar's stature and presented a challenge to Uribe's get-tough stance against the rebels, which has produced dramatic declines in violence and kidnappings since he took office in 2002.
Photos: Cappadocia's fairy-tale-like landscape
PAM COMMENTARY: Beautiful Turkish scenery -- reminds of the Badlands a little, but not the same.
Photos: Santas gone wild
PAM COMMENTARY: This photo gallery is SO bad it'll make you laugh.
Astor's son gets jail term after stealing her millions
Anthony Marshall, the 85-year-old son of the socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor, was sentenced yesterday to between one and three years in prison for stealing millions of dollars from his mother's fortune.
A judge in Manhattan rejected defence claims that Marshall was too frail to survive a prison term and dismissed more than 70 letters from friends, including the actress Whoopi Goldberg, appealing for clemency.
Sentencing him to the minimum allowed, Justice Kirke Bartley said Marshall must report to prison on January 19, although the appeal process might allow him to avoid detention for years. His wife, Charlene, who was accused at his trial of being the prime instigator in his greed, wept as he was sentenced.
Marshall, the only child of Mrs Astor -- once the queen of New York society -- said nothing in his defence, as was the case during his five-month trial.
He was convicted in October of exploiting his mother's suffering from Alzheimer's to steal from her $198m (�138m) fortune, by pressuring her to alter her will in his favour.
Former friends of Mrs Astor, including Henry Kissinger, Annette de la Renta and Barbara Walters, testified for the prosecution about her frail mental state in the final years before her death aged 105 in 2007.
PAM COMMENTARY: Bizarre case. It's stealing when a women leaves her fortune to her only child? Even though she was supposedly losing her memory, who else expected to inherit her fortune?
Auschwitz sign stolen for collector
The missing Auschwitz death camp sign recovered by Polish police yesterday may have been stolen to order for a "mad collector", officials said.
Investigators believe the infamous "Work Sets You Free" sign could have been destined for a private collector who wanted to own one of the most evocative symbols of the Nazi regime.
Stunning Statistics About the War That Everyone Should Know; 69% of DoD workforce comprised of contractors [R]
A hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill�s Contract Oversight subcommittee on contracting in Afghanistan has highlighted some important statistics that provide a window into the extent to which the Obama administration has picked up the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted with it. Overall, contractors now comprise a whopping 69% of the Department of Defense�s total workforce, �the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in US history.� That�s not in one war zone�that�s the Pentagon in its entirety.
In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo [PDF] released by McCaskill�s staff,
�From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.�
State to destroy 4 million newborn blood samples
AUSTIN � The state will destroy blood samples legally collected from newborns, but kept without parental consent under a federal lawsuit settlement announced today.
There were between 4 million and 4.5 million specimens stored between 2002 and this year at Texas A&M University by the Texas Department of Health, said lawyer Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project, which sued over the practice on behalf of parents in federal district court in San Antonio.
The number of newborns involved was unclear, because there could be multiple samples from each.
The Health Department said in a statement that it would destroy the samples � retained as bloodspot cards � that it received and stored before legislation took effect on May 27 allowing the practice. The legislation specifically allows parents, guardians or managing conservators to opt out of having the blood retained.
Andrea Beleno of Austin, a mother who was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she was pleased with the settlement and added that there was no money attached.
�There's no financial gain for any of the plaintiffs,� Beleno said. �Basically, what we wanted to do was to make sure that our children's privacy was being protected and that the state is respecting our rights, because if we don't stand up and make the government do that, nobody's going to do it for us.�
Supreme Court hands victory to media (Canada)
The Supreme Court of Canada handed the press a major victory this morning, ordering a new trial for an Ottawa newspaper that allegedly libelled a police officer who helped search for survivors after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City.
The ruling rewrote the law governing libel and defamation, giving the media an opportunity to justify its efforts to obtain fair, journalistic accounts of publicly-important events.
A spectrum of the Canadian news media, including The Globe and Mail, tried to persuade the court to revolutionize the law of defamation and libel.
AP Enterprise: Feds mull regulating drugs in water
Federal regulators under President Barack Obama have sharply shifted course on long-standing policy toward pharmaceutical residues in the nation's drinking water, taking a critical first step toward regulating some of the contaminants while acknowledging they could threaten human health.
A burst of significant announcements in recent weeks reflects an expanded government effort to deal with pharmaceuticals as environmental pollutants:
-- For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency has listed some pharmaceuticals as candidates for regulation in drinking water. The agency also has launched a survey to check for scores of drugs at water treatment plants across the nation.
-- The Food and Drug Administration has updated its list of waste drugs that should be flushed down the toilet, but the agency has also declared a goal of working toward the return of all unused medicines.
-- The National Toxicology Program is conducting research to clarify how human health may be harmed by drugs at low environmental levels.
Ford offers another round of buyouts to hourly workers
Ford Motor Co. is offering another round of buyouts to all of its hourly workers in an attempt to reduce the size of its work force.
Two different plans are being offered, aimed at United Auto Workers members at Ford with different levels of experience. The deadline for workers to sign up is Jan. 22, said Marcey Evans, a Ford spokeswoman.
One plan is aimed at workers eligible for retirement, either through their years of service, age or a combination of both, Evans said.
Those eligible skilled trades workers are being offered $40,000, while other workers are being offered $20,000. Plus, they have the choice of either a $25,000 voucher for a new Ford vehicle or an additional $20,000 cash. Once retired, they would receive their regular retirement benefits.
Cancer-fighting additive weighed for junk food (Canada)
Canada is investigating whether to approve a cancer-fighting additive's use in junk food, but Health Canada wants consumers to weigh in on the idea first.
The concern surrounds a chemical byproduct called acrylamide that is produced when carbohydrates such as bread or potatoes are cooked at high temperatures.
Studies in mice suggest acrylamide may cause cancer. There is less evidence in humans, but the suggestion that it might has governments and food manufacturers looking for ways to reduce the potential.
That's where the additive comes in. It's an enzyme used in some chemotherapy agents to treat leukemia. Food manufacturers say adding it could bring down levels of acrylamide in heated foods since the enzyme breaks down the acrylamide.
Health Canada's safety assessment of the enzyme, which is called asparaginase, didn't turn up any health or safety concerns.
Use of the enzyme is approved by regulators in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Denmark, and has been given a green light by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives, Health Canada said.
Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning [R]
AUGUSTA, Maine � A Maine legislator wants to make the state the first to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer, although there is no consensus among scientists that they do and industry leaders dispute the claim.
The now-ubiquitous devices carry such warnings in some countries, though no U.S. states require them, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. A similar effort is afoot in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom wants his city to be the nation�s first to require the warnings.
Maine Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, said numerous studies point to the cancer risk, and she has persuaded legislative leaders to allow her proposal to come up for discussion during the 2010 session that begins in January, a session usually reserved for emergency and governors� bills.
They're All Against Jobs [BF]
Who is against jobs in the United States? The big banks, Wall Street, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Business Roundtable, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Corporate America, the President of the United States, Congress of the United States. Everyone is crying for jobs, but no one seems to understand why there aren't any. And the reason for those opposing jobs is money.
Beginning in 1973, big banks made most of their profit outside of the United States. Industries off-shoring, investing, banks financing the investments, transfer fees, fees and interest on the loans made for bigger profits. Long since, the big banks under the leadership of David Rockefeller have led the way to off-shore and make a bigger profit. Goldman Sachs, AIG, Citicorp and Wall Street, conspiring for a bailout and now using it for bonuses, make more money from the off-shored operations.
The Council on Foreign Relations ought to be renamed the Council on Making Money. A recent PEW poll reported fully 85% of Americans said that protecting United States jobs should be a top foreign policy priority. But only 21% of the Council on Foreign Relations agrees. Financial interests organized the Business Roundtable to continue off-shore investment and profit. The local Chamber is for Main Street America, but Tom Donahue and the United States Chamber have sold out to the financial interests and oppose jobs and producing in the United States. Thirty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Arrow shirts produced in China were a best seller in the United States. But at Christmastime, the Chinese supply ran short and the retail stores had to order the same shirt from New Jersey. They made 20% less profit on the New Jersey shirt. Retailers are all for profit from imports and against domestic production and jobs in America.
Corporate America would fight any initiative by the President, the Congress, or the government to create jobs in the United States. That is, production that faces competition offshore. In globalization, U. S. production can't make a profit, can't survive. Its competition will off-shore the same article for a lesser price, putting you out of business. Moreover, Corporate America doesn't have to bother with labor in China. The China government controls labor and you don't have to worry about a work stoppage or minimum wage. All they have is a maximum wage.
Obama Extends Diplomatic Immunity to Interpol by Executive Order [AJ]
Because of this move by the Obama Administration any and all Interpol offices in the United States cannot be searched due to its status as a diplomatically protected organization. It's offices are considered sovereign and its files are not subject to legal request, be it by subpoena or discovery.
The website ObamaFile.com notes, "If any branch of government wants to keep documents out of the hands of the US court system, just hand them over to Interpol until the smoke clears." It added that Interpol can maintain files on US citizens.
Diplomatic immunity, usually reserved for those who work at diplomatic missions throughout the United States, exempts persons and offices directly connected to foreign governments from being subject to search and seizure by law enforcement. It exempts said entities from US taxes and extends this protection to immunity from FOIA requests.
States' jobless funds are being drained in recession
The recession's jobless toll is draining unemployment-compensation funds so fast that according to federal projections, 40 state programs will go broke within two years and need $90 billion in loans to keep issuing the benefit checks.
The shortfalls are putting pressure on governments to either raise taxes or shrink the aid payments.
Debates over the state benefit programs have erupted in South Carolina, Nevada, Kansas, Vermont and Indiana. And the budget gaps are expected to spread and become more acute in the coming year, compelling legislators in many states to reconsider their operations.
Currently, 25 states have run out of unemployment money and have borrowed $24 billion from the federal government to cover the gaps. By 2011, according to Department of Labor estimates, 40 state funds will have been emptied by the jobless tsunami.
Foreigner was behind Auschwitz sign theft, Polish police say
WARSAW, Poland -- A foreigner outside of Poland commissioned the brazen theft of the infamous Auschwitz sign "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free") and detectives must expand their investigation beyond the country's borders, officials said.
In a bid to learn more about the escapade, the investigators held an re-enactment of the theft by the three men who confessed to taking the sign from the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
Based on the evidence gathered since the theft Friday, the crime was commissioned by a "person living outside Poland" and police were seeking help from Interpol and others as they investigate, said Artur Wrona, the chief prosecutor in Krakow.
Polish media have reported, without citing any sources, that someone in Sweden could be under suspicion, but Wrona refused to confirm or deny the claims.
Hit Men Execute Mexican Serviceman's Family
MEXICO CITY -- More than a dozen hit men burst into a house in eastern Mexico early Tuesday and executed or wounded several family members of a navy sailor who died in last week's battle that killed drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva, Mexican police officials said.
The gunmen killed the mother, sister and aunt of Melquisedet Angulo C�va near the town of Paraiso, Tabasco, just hours after the sailor was buried with a military honor guard and had been feted by the military high command as a national hero. Two of the sailor's brothers were badly wounded and remain in critical condition, officials said.
FDA slams Nestle for drink health claims;
Food giant marketed some kids' beverages as �medical food�
WASHINGTON - Swiss food giant Nestle made misleading claims about the health benefits of some children's beverages, U.S. regulators said in letters released on Tuesday.
The Food and Drug Administration, in a December 4 letter, said Nestle made unauthorized nutrient content claims on certain Juicy Juice products marketed for children under age 2.
In a separate December 3 letter, the FDA said Nestle's Boost Kid Essentials Nutritionally Complete Drink, in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavors, was promoted as a "medical food" but did not meet requirements for that type of claim.
AP ENTERPRISE: Vets wait for GI Bill payments
Keith M. Wilson, director of the VA's Office of Education Service, told a congressional panel on Dec. 3 that the agency is using "brute force" to get claims processed. The number of staff has increased from 800 to 1,200 and the VA implemented a mandatory overtime policy. The VA expects to have all claims received by Jan. 15 paid by Feb. 1.
Wilson said the VA is open to the possibility of doing another round of emergency payments. It is set to have an automated system fully running in December of next year.
The financial uncertainty of when money will arrive is too much for some veterans. Margaret Baechtold, director of veterans support services at Indiana University, testified at the same hearing that one veteran who attended classes last fall at the university's Indianapolis campus is instead going to be a roofer in January.
"Some have indicated they can't bear the stress of the financial situation that they are in because they don't know what's going to happen," Baechtold said.
LED Christmas lights don't cut it: holdouts
"They're not the same. They're weird looking. They're sized different and have these unusual ripples. If you have those interspersed with your traditional lights, they're going to look dumb," he said.
Many people aren't willing to trade the brighter, colourful halo effect on the incandescent light for the softer glow of a light-emitting diode, or LED. As retailers increasingly stock the more energy-efficient lights, lovers of the classic lights scramble to find them, fearing they will soon be gone from shelves for good.
Karen Shields of Purcell, Okla., said she had to visit four stores before finding replacement incandescent bulbs at a farm and ranch supply store in another town.
"I like the vintage look, the old-school look. That's the way everybody's lights used to be growing up," said her husband, David Shields.
This year more than 100 million decorative light strings are expected to be sold in the U.S., according to government statistics, and a growing number are LED lights. This year, sales of LED holiday lights more than doubled from a year ago, partly because of retail incentives to trade in old strings of incandescent lights.
Great Lakes Carp Threat Prompts New Lawsuit
The lawsuit asks for the locks and waterways to be closed immediately as a stopgap measure, echoing a call by 50 members of Congress and environmental groups last week. But the suit goes further, also requesting a permanent separation between the carp-infested waters and the lakes.
That would mean cutting off a link between the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins created more than 100 years ago, when Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River and began sending sewage-fouled Lake Michigan water south toward the Mississippi River.
"The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable resource," Cox, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Michigan, said at a news conference in Detroit. "Thousands of jobs are at stake and we will not get a second chance once the carp enter Lake Michigan."
He likened the notorious fish to "nuclear bombs." The biggest Asian carp can reach 4 feet in length and weigh 100 pounds while consuming up to 40 percent of their body weight daily in plankton, the base of the Great Lakes food chain.
Cox went directly to the Supreme Court because it handles disputes between states.
PAM COMMENTARY: When the flow of the Chicago River was originally reversed, it was considered to be the engineering wonder of the century.
Dutch police shoot dead 4 runaway reindeer; Authorities say animals had escaped from a Christmas sleigh display
AMSTERDAM - Dutch police shot dead four reindeer that escaped from a Christmas sleigh display, fearing they might run into traffic and cause accidents.
Three of the animals were shot and killed hours after their escape on Saturday. Animal experts tried capturing the fourth reindeer Tuesday by stunning it with tranquilizer darts, but that proved impossible, said police spokesman Dirk Neef in the northern Dutch province of Drenthe.
FBI probes cyber attack on Citigroup: report
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing a computer hacking that targeted Citigroup Inc and resulted in the theft of tens of millions of dollars, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, but the financial institution denied its systems had been breached.
"There has been no breach and there have been no associated losses," Citigroup said in a statement.
"Occasionally, as with virtually all financial institutions, there are instances of fraud or breaches of third-party systems that result in our taking actions to protect our customers and Citi," the bank added.
The cyber attack, believed to be linked to a Russian gang, was aimed at Citigroup's Citibank subsidiary, the paper reported, citing unnamed government officials. It also said the hackers may have gained access to the bank's systems through third parties.
The attack on Citibank is believed to have taken place over the summer and was detected at that time, but investigators suspect it could have taken place up to a year earlier, the paper said.
Two other entities, including a U.S. government agency, were also attacked by hackers, the paper said, citing people familiar with the Citibank incident.
Court bans sale of Word; Microsoft has fix ready
SEATTLE -- A federal appeals court ordered Microsoft Corp. to stop selling its Word program in January and pay a Canadian software company $290 million for violating a patent, upholding the judgment of a lower court.
But people looking to buy Word or Microsoft's Office package in the U.S. won't have to go without the software. Microsoft said Tuesday it expects that new versions of the product, with the computer code in question removed, will be ready for sale when the injunction begins on Jan. 11.
Toronto-based i4i Inc. sued Microsoft in 2007, saying it owned the technology behind a tool in the popular word processing program. The technology in question gives Word users an improved way to edit XML, or code that tells the program how to interpret and display a document's contents.
A Texas jury found that Microsoft Word willfully infringed on the patent. Microsoft appealed that decision, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday upheld the lower court's damage award and the injunction against future sales of infringing copies of Word.
Study: American food waste rising along with obesity rates [BF]
Americans throw away over 40 percent of all available food each year. Production of that wasted food accounts for more than one-quarter of the U.S.�s total annual freshwater consumption and equates to 300 million barrels of oil, according to a study by researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
�It�s comin� on Christmas...� goes the song, and we shall all soon be sitting down to what is traditionally one of the biggest eating sprees of the year and probably one of the most wasteful, too. In that context, �The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact,� a study published in PloS One, makes edifying reading.
�Recent spikes in food prices have led to increasing concern about global food shortages and the apparent need to increase agricultural production,� wrote the authors, adding �Surprisingly little discussion has been devoted to the issue of food waste.�
The study confirms previous papers on this subject, many of which have estimated food waste figures in developed countries at some 30 to 40 percent. One of the reasons for these figures is said to be the increasing quantity of cheap and readily available food.
Nation's Largest Nurses Organization: Health Care Bill Cedes Too Much To Insurance Industry
National Nurses United, the nation's largest registered nurses union and professional organization, declared on Tuesday that the Senate health care bill gives away too much to insurance companies and "fails to meet the test of true health care reform."
"It is tragic to see the promise from Washington this year for genuine, comprehensive reform ground down to a seriously flawed bill that could actually exacerbate the health care crisis and financial insecurity for American families, and that cedes far too much additional power to the tyranny of a callous insurance industry," said co-president Karen Higgins in a statement.
"Sadly, we have ended up with legislation that fails to meet the test of true health care reform, guaranteeing high quality, cost effective care for all Americans, and instead are further locking into place a system that entrenches the chokehold of the profit-making insurance giants on our health. If this bill passes, the industry will become more powerful and could be beyond the reach of reform for generations," she added.
The group argued that the bill does not do enough to control prices considering it would force all Americans to buy insurance. They say many of the same flaws are in the House bill, and they don't expect the legislation to be improved in conference committee.
One-time Vick fighting dog to visit St. Paul 3rd-graders
A battle-worn pit bull that was part of Michael Vick's dogfighting operation will visit St. Paul third-graders Tuesday morning.
Hector, still bearing the scars of his time under the convicted NFL quarterback's control, will mingle among the youngsters at Barack and Michelle Obama Learning Elementary School.
The 4-year-old was placed with a family in Rochester, Minn., and is now a registered therapy dog that helps a Minnesota Rottweiler and pit bull rescue group educate the public about the breeds.
"He's the sweetest dog in the world," said Kellie Dillner, volunteer director of education for Twin Cities-based A Rotta Love Plus, which is overseeing Hector's lunch-hour school visit. "He's always been like he is now. It's hard to imagine him having to act any other way. ... It's kind of amazing that he's survived."
The chest and front legs of 55-pound Hector still bear "the physical marks and scars of being an ex-fighting dog," Dillner said.
Time Warner and Fox in fight over fees
The current dispute affects several markets where long-term deals with Fox television stations are about to expire, including Austin; Dallas; New York; Los Angeles; Detroit; Orlando, Fla.; and Tampa, Fla. The outcome would also affect Fox cable channels FX, Speed, Fuel TV, the Fox Movie Channel and regional sports outlets such as Fox Sports Southwest.
According to news reports, Fox has requested a monthly $1 per subscriber fee in exchange for allowing Time Warner to carry the network's signals. Time Warner has so far refused.
In the past, networks have not received cash fees for allowing their broadcast network channels to be carried on cable, although they have been paid for their cable channels.
But this fight could set a precedent if Fox ends up wrangling a significant fee from Time Warner.
Both sides have launched advertising campaigns. Time Warner set up a Web site, www.rolloverorgettough.com, asking customers to "help us decide what to do."
On its Web site, the cable company says, "Some TV networks have demanded that we pay them a lot more for their programming \u2026 even up to 300 percent more than what we are currently paying. We don't think that's fair, especially considering the economic reality everyone is facing today."
Fox fired back with www.keepfoxon.com and a full-page ad in Sunday's American-Statesman. "Time Warner Cable is using programming costs as an excuse to raise your bill while they continue to rake in billions in profits," the ad read.
'Barry from DC': President Obama Surprises Talk Radio Show With Call-In
President Obama called into a D.C. radio station on Tuesday to talk to Gov. Tim Kaine.
During WTOP Radio's monthly "Ask the Governor" show with Kaine, a "Barry from DC" called in to complain about traffic. But then he dropped the guise and thanked the governor for his hard work.
"We continue to think your wife is probably a little superior to you, as I think people think about the first lady, but you and me have to stick together since we're married to better people," Obama joked.
Kaine, who is also chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the president he is "looking forward to being helpful."
PAM COMMENTARY: Forget the wife -- we're all still waiting for him to live up to Howard Dean... Although in all fairness, he still has to do his Virginia Governor's job until Pat Robertson's buddy takes over.
UK recession longest and deepest since war, says ONS
Gordon Brown received a twin blow today when a leading ratings agency warned Britain to get a tighter grip on its record budget deficit and figures revealed that the slump of the past 18 months was now officially the deepest since the second world war.
Fitch said that the UK � along with France and Spain � needed to "articulate more credible and stronger fiscal consolidation during the course of 2010 to underpin confidence in the sustainability of public finances".
Failure to do so, the ratings agency added, would greatly increase the chances of a debt downgrade, which would increase the cost of servicing the national debt.
The warning came within hours of data from the Office for National Statistics showing that Labour's attempts to boost growth took the edge off the recession in the third quarter but were not enough to prevent the slump extending into a record-breaking sixth quarter.
Study Reveals �Revolving Door� Between Capitol Hill Staffers and Healthcare Lobbyists [DN]
ANDREW ZAJAC: We looked at former employees of the five key committees which were involved in shaping healthcare legislation, people who in the past had worked for those committees, and matched those identifications with lobbying registrations. That�s how we got at the number of�I think it�s 166 former staffers and thirteen former members of those committees that are involved in lobbying healthcare issues.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of the number of staffers from�well, in the House, you talk about the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and, significantly, in the Senate, the Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus.
ANDREW ZAJAC: Right. There�s�I think the overall�this is kind of an old story. People have been making a living through the revolving door in increasing numbers for probably the last thirty years. It�s a relatively recent phenomenon in Washington, but it is established now, and it�s an established career path. You put in your time on the Hill, and then you move out as a lobbyist. You have a brief cooling off period. I think there�s a year or two where you can�t lobby your former bosses. But essentially you move out, and you can double or triple or even maybe quadruple your salary.
But in this instance, I think what�s significant is that there�s already a dominance of business and corporate interests in lobbying in Washington. They already have the edge, in the sense that they�re the best funded, they�re the greatest number of groups, they�re�they take up a lot of the oxygen. And on top, they�ve magnified their advantage. The impact of these people working for these special interests�for pharmaceutical companies and hospitals and doctors and so forth�is it magnifies the advantage that corporate interests have, and it squeezes out room for other kinds of conversation. A lot of opinion polls show that a majority of Americans would have liked a public option, for example. That simply wasn�t going to be feasible, given the sheer array, the power and the resources that the corporate interests could bring to bear, including being able to hire all of these insiders who have the connections and the understanding of how the Hill works. It has the effect of magnifying the advantages that corporate interests have and also sort of shrinking the playing field for the available options, the available alternatives for how we fix healthcare.
AMY GOODMAN: You quote Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, blaming �a toxic cocktail of insiders and money� for short-circuiting a government-run plan that would have competed with private insurers.
ANDREW ZAJAC: Right. There are two things going on here. One, you have the money to hire the top-shelf lobbyists. But then, in addition, those lobbyists come bearing your gifts, the resources, the campaign resources of their clients. So it�s a kind of a double whammy. You have the expertise, but then you also have the campaign contributions that these corporate interests can also bring with them.
And this is also reflective of the system that we have in Washington. We don�t have public financing of campaigns. And over the last thirty or so years, coinciding with the rise of this sort of growing professional class of lobbyists, you have increasingly expensive political campaigns. So you have these lawmakers who need to raise money. That�s just the reality. And these are the interests that have it. So, not only are they dealing with familiar faces, in many cases�the former staffers, people who they know and who they presumably have a certain comfort level with�but those people are also in a position to steer them to the campaign contributions they need to stay in Washington.
PAM COMMENTARY: See the Chicago Tribune article that Goodman was referring to below.
How health lobbyists influenced reform bill
An analysis of public documents by Northwestern University's Medill News Service in partnership with the Tribune Newspapers Washington Bureau and the Center for Responsive Politics found a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation.
At least 166 former aides from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees involved in shaping health overhaul legislation -- along with at least 13 former lawmakers -- registered to represent at least 338 health care clients since the beginning of last year, according to the analysis.
Their health care clients spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years, the study shows.
The total of insider lobbyists jumps to 278 when non-health-care firms that reported lobbying on health issues are added in, the analysis found.
Part of the lobbying pressure on current members of Congress and staffers comes from the powerful lure of post-congressional job possibilities.
"There's always a worry they may be thinking about their future employment opportunities when dealing with these issues, particularly with health care, because the stakes are so high and the breadth of the issues -- pharmacies, hospitals, doctors," said Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.
Lobbyists' earnings can dwarf congressional salaries, which currently top out at $174,000 annually for lawmakers and $156,000 for aides, though committee staff members can earn slightly more.
In the health care showdown, insider lobbying influence has magnified the clout of corporate interests and helped steer the debate away from a public insurance option, despite many polls indicating majority support from Americans, according to Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker.
"It imposes a kind of conservative bias on the discussion," said Baker, himself a former Senate staffer.
The lineup of insiders working for clients with health care interests includes at least 14 former aides to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and at least 13 former aides to Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee and a key overseer of the health care overhaul.
Nexon, who is now senior executive vice president of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, is among at least a half-dozen former Kennedy aides lobbying on health care.
A Quiet End for the Boys Choir of Harlem
For more than three decades, they sang Mozart in Latin, Bach in German, and Cole Porter and Stevie Wonder in English, from Alice Tully Hall in New York to Royal Albert Hall in London.
For the audiences that marveled at the Boys Choir of Harlem, it was an additional wonder that the young performers with world-class voices had emerged from some of the most difficult neighborhoods of New York. December was always a busy month, as the choir toured the country�s premier concert halls and appeared on television Christmas specials.
But this year, the boys are nowhere to be found. Last week, Terrance Wright, a 39-year-old choir alumnus, picked up a microphone in front of the altar of Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church in Harlem, the choir�s last home, and delivered news that surprised few people but saddened many.
"Tell the people. Let it be known," Mr. Wright said, glistening and exhausted after leading a Christmas concert by former singers in the choir. "There is no Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem."
Flu symptoms can point to silent killer: carbon monoxide; Regions Hospital and St. Paul firefighters are spreading the word that the two can be easily confused.
With carbon monoxide poisoning, several people in the home may wake up with the same symptoms, including blurred vision, disorientation, shortness of breath and vomiting. But unlike the flu, these symptoms disappear when they leave the home and breathe fresh air.
Pets can also be affected. "Sometimes small animals tend to be kind of haggard or feel a little drugged out, so to speak," Harris said. "They tend to be affected a little more quickly [than people]."
It's important to diagnose the problem early, he said, because the longer you're exposed to carbon monoxide, the greater the health risk, including death. If caught soon enough, carbon monoxide poisoning can be treated with oxygen or hyperbaric chambers.
Big Pharma kills yet another celebrity: Brittany Murphy on multiple prescriptions at time of death
(NaturalNews) It's not normal to die at age 32 of a heart attack. To make that happen, you normally have to be taking chemical substances of some kind, either recreational drugs or prescription drugs. Actress Brittany Murphy, who died this last weekend from a heart attack, was reportedly taking prescription drugs to treat the symptoms of the flu (not to actually treat the flu itself, mind you, just the symptoms of the flu). She was found collapsed in her shower after her heart gave out.
If prescription drugs are the cause, this would be just the latest celebrity death caused by pharmaceuticals. Other celebrity deaths recently caused by pharmaceuticals include:
• Heath Ledger
• Patrick Swayze
• Bernie Mac
• Michael Jackson
• Farrah Fawcett
And from the realm of politics and the media, the following celebrities have also been killed by pharmaceuticals:
• Tony Snow
• Tim Russert
• Peter Jennings
If you add it all up and include all the non-celebrities killed by Big Pharma, these dangerous prescription medications are racking up a body count that makes terrorists look like amateurs.
Cuppa health: Recent research reveals coffee rich in benefits
While I love the mere ritual of drinking coffee, I definitely rely on the caffeine to make me feel more alert, energetic and often just plain better. Yet because I don't like feeling dependent on anything, I occasionally wonder whether I should give it up. Can something that tastes and feels this good not be bad for you?
Rest assured: Not only has current research shown that moderate coffee consumption isn't likely to hurt you, it may actually have significant health benefits. "Coffee is generally associated with a less health-conscious lifestyle - people who don't sleep much, drink coffee, smoke, drink alcohol," explains Rob van Dam, an assistant professor in the departments of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Early studies failed to account for such issues and thus found a link between drinking coffee and such conditions as heart disease and cancer, he said. "But as more studies have been conducted - larger and better studies that controlled for healthy lifestyle issues - the totality of efforts suggests that coffee is a good beverage choice."
Van Dam's research, for example, found no evidence that coffee consumption had any effect on mortality from any cause, including cardiovascular disease or cancer, even for people who drink up to six cups a day. He and his colleagues have also found that drinking coffee is associated with a reduced risk of liver disease and Type 2 diabetes. The latter is backed up by a study published this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine; it suggested that three to four cups of joe a day might reduce chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by roughly 25 percent.
Also this month, Harvard researchers unveiled new data suggesting that drinking coffee might lower men's chances of developing aggressive prostate cancer by up to 60 percent, with the highest benefits for those who down the most java.
PAM COMMENTARY: Although I drink a lot of coffee and would like to believe this article, I'd warn people to be cautious of any new study that claims it has reversed many earlier studies and the conventional wisdom. In fact, coffee has its pros and its cons.
Although I don't have time to do a literature review on such a big topic, at least not at the moment, just from memory I've seen its cons listed as high acidity which can rob the body of calcium, and a tendency to chelate critical minerals out of the body such as copper and calcium. The fact that heavy coffee drinkers sometimes become tired from drinking coffee has been theorized as due to anemia from coffee's chelation of iron. (Obviously, if coffee can chelate toxic minerals as well, then it could be an asset this way, but to avoid negative health effects the good minerals would have to be replaced at the same time.) Also, the late and great Hulda Clark thought that coffee contributed to kidney stones. That makes sense because high acidity does contribute to kidney stones.
On the other hand, its anti-liver cancer properties are well known, and thought to be caused by coffee making the liver produce more bile. Coffee also has some good antioxidants if consumed immediately after of brewing. (Keeping it on a hot burner supposedly starts ruining those antioxidants after 10 minutes.)
There's much more to say about coffee, but I don't have time to write a book -- if you'd like more information, just Google it.
Supreme Court Guts Due Process Protection
Reader Walter passed along this distressing sighting from Chris Floyd�s blog. American civil liberties were gutted last week, and the media failed to take note of it.
The development? If the president or one of his subordinates declares someone to be an �enemy combatant� (the 21st century version of �enemy of the state�) he is denied any protection of the law. So any trouble-maker (which means anyone) can be whisked away, incarcerated, tortured, �disappeared,� you name it. Floyd�s commentary:
"After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president�s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a �suspected enemy combatant� by the president or his designated minions is no longer a �person.� They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever � save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials."
It is hard to overstate the significance of this horrid decision. The fact that the Supreme Court authorized this land grab says we no longer have an independent judiciary, that the Supreme Court itself is gutting the protections supposedly provided by the legal system. Per Floyd:
"In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence."
PAM COMMENTARY: If this original link disappears with age, Jeff Rense has archived it here.
Eurostar services resume as snow causes fresh travel disruptions
Eurostar passengers have finally begun arriving at their destinations, three days late, as angry motorists blamed councils for the road chaos that led to thousands sleeping in their cars overnight.
Eurostar successfully ran services between London, Paris and Brussels after its trains were modified to cope with the snowy conditions of recent days. But bosses warned that services would not return to normal until after Christmas.
As the recriminations continued about who was to blame for the latest transport disruption, the Met Office issued fresh warnings of heavy snow and icy conditions across much of northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Up to 10cm of snow is expected this evening and motorists are being advised to check conditions before setting out.
New approach to snow, ice removal reduces harm
Several communities are moving away from just using road salt, which is applied to snow and ice after storms. Instead, they're turning to brine, a mixture of rock salt and water that is applied to roads before precipitation forms on them and prevents ice from bonding to the surface. Brine is cheaper than regular rock salt and leaves behind less salt.
"It's totally opposite of what we normally do in the city of Syracuse," says Jeff Wright, commissioner of the Department of Public Works in Syracuse, N.Y., which is testing brine on bridges this year. "It's anti-icing vs. de-icing."
Vermont, which built a brinemaking facility last year, is using brine on its roads for the second year, says John Zicconi, spokesman for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
�KopBusters� helps free Yolanda Madden [AJ]
Madden, jailed in 2005 on a conviction of intent to distribute methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school zone, was the reason that Barry Cooper came to Odessa, Texas last December.
After being hired to embarrass the local police by Yolanda's father Raymond, Cooper set up a fake marijuana grow house and baited officers to stage an illegal raid. When they did, police were confronted by an empty house and lots of cameras, with a hand-written poster explaining they had become part of a new reality show called "KopBusters".
For Yolanda, the stunt was just the beginning of efforts to secure her freedom.
"This is so exciting," Cooper told RAW STORY. "We're so happy to see Yolanda out of that cage and back with her family where she belongs."
"Everybody knows we attached this case and 'KopBuster' program to my attorney general campaign as proof that citizens can band together to fight corruption," he told an Odessa CBS affiliate station.
Ayatollah's funeral turns into huge anti-government rally
One opposition website reported clashes outside the home of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died on Sunday aged 87.
His death put the Iranian authorities in a difficult spot. On the one hand, they were obliged to pay their respects to one of the patriarchs of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the one-time heir apparent to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; on the other, they were worried memorial events could become new rallying points for opposition demonstrations.
The ayatollah had broken with Iran's clerical leadership and become a vehement critic, denouncing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling the crackdown after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the work of a dictatorship.
Mourners shouted "death to the dictator" and other slogans in displays of anger against Iran's ruling establishment during the procession in Qom, a city of shrines and clerical seminaries.
Marchers held aloft black-rimmed portraits of Ayatollah Montazeri and green banners and wrist bands in a powerful show of support for the Green Movement of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who attended the funeral with another prominent protest leader, Mahdi Karroubi.
Auschwitz camp's stolen sign recovered in three pieces
Polish police said last night that they had recovered the infamous bronze sign to the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz after it was stolen on Friday. They said it had been cut into three pieces, each containing one of the words Arbeit Macht Frei (work sets you free).
Five men, aged between 25 and 39, were detained in northern Poland and taken yesterday for questioning to the southern city of Krakow, about 40 miles from Auschwitz.
A state of emergency involving tightened border controls and a nationwide search was declared in Poland last week after the theft of the sign, which was cast by camp prisoners and stands as a symbol of the suffering millions endured at the death camp.
FDA accused of international kidnapping, illegal detention of prominent Ecuadorian herbalist
Cathryn Caton said that Caton's company Alpha Omega Labs (AltCancer.com) had been selling herbal products after Caton's release in the US, but that the herbs were sold from Ecuador where herb sales are legal along with information on their medicinal properties. In fact, Caton had moved his company to Ecuador specifically because he could continue working with herbal remedies without restrictions on the information provided to customers.
At issue is whether Caton's herb sales in Ecuador would violate Caton's probation in the United States. This legal issue could not be addressed in Ecuador, as Caton was seized before his court date there. It is possible that Caton's abduction was meant to preempt such legal precedent from being set on this matter.
After arriving in Florida, Greg Caton was given a detention hearing and arraigned for violating his supervised release. A hearing is scheduled for December 28th to move him to Louisiana. According to his wife, Caton will probably be held in Florida until early next year, and then moved to Louisiana for hearings on probation violation charges. So far, Caton has been represented by a court-appointed attorney.
The method used to remove Caton from the country -- kidnapping -- is probably the most egregious charge leveled against the FDA. Before his scheduled court date, Ecuadorian police illegally removed Greg Caton from his cell in Ecuador without court authorization, and put him on an American Airlines jet. One of Cathryn Caton's contacts at the airport recognized a US State Department employee, and happened to know the man's identity due to his presence at Greg Caton's hearings in Ecuador. Caton's contact informed her that the State Department employee was directing the Ecuadorian police on how to slip Greg Caton out of Ecuador.
The Ecuadorian Federal Judge in charge of Caton's appeal was contacted and went to the airport in person, where he informed American Airlines that they were engaged in an illegal action, and presented paperwork ordering the release of Greg Caton. American Airlines refused to allow Caton off of the plane, and claimed that they were not subject to Ecuadorian laws even while in Ecuador, that they were technically US soil (a privilege enjoyed by embassies). The jet was then allowed to leave the airport, and Caton was transported to Miami, Florida. The Ecuadorian police officers flew out of the country on the airplane with Caton according to witnesses, but the US State Department employee who directed the action stayed in Ecuador. Cathryn Caton wants to know who paid for their airline tickets.
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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