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Week of 27th of December 2009 to 2nd of January 2010

The Big GMO Cover-Up [BF]
Big biotech claims that genetic engineering is a necessary step towards feeding the world�s growing population. And yet debate still rages as to whether GM crops actually increase yields at all. Furthermore, the UN recently stated that 30,000 people a day were starving to death, but not because of underproduction of crops. It�s simply through lack of access.

Independent scientific studies raised serious alarm bells over the safety of GM foods over a decade ago. But while this made front-page headlines in European newspapers, the North American mainstream media were conspiratorially silent.

Biotech companies stand to make billions from their seed patents. Governments and supreme courts have sanctioned the patenting of life itself. The planet�s food supply is becoming increasingly dominated by fewer and fewer players.

If the biotech industry�s stated intention of feeding the world is misguided or even misdirecting, is there another political agenda behind GM food? Have we been mis-sold? Were we even given a choice in the first place?

PAM COMMENTARY: GM crops were never about better yields -- they were about a corporation getting paid every time somebody eats, or as Vandana Shiva says, "It was about owning life on earth." (She was actually referring to "Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights," a type of law that forces governments to accept "life patents" -- basically GMO patent rights owned by companies like Monsanto. See video below for the exact excerpt, between the 15 & 16 minute marks.) Time for a couple of flashbacks...

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Ellsberg on Mordechai Vanunu�s Arrest
I just learned, late this New Year�s Eve, of my friend Mordechai Vanunu�s outrageous arrest, facing further imprisonment, for �meeting with foreigners� (of which I have quite openly been one, on several occasions). I plan to do whatever I can to bring international pressure to bear on the Israeli government to free him. My views about him are expressed adequately in the op-ed below which appeared in the LA Times (and elsewhere, including Common Dreams) on the day of his release having served 18 years in prison, five years ago.

Mordechai Vanunu�my friend, my hero, my brother�has again been arrested in Israel on �suspicion� of the �crime� of �meeting with foreigners.� I myself have been complicit in this offense, traveling twice to Israel for the express purpose of meeting with him, openly, and expressing support for the actions for which he was imprisoned for over eighteen years. His offense has been to defy openly and repeatedly ,conditions put on his freedom of movement and associations and speech after he had served his full sentence, restrictions on his human rights which were a direct carry-over from the British Mandate, colonial regulations in clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such restrictions have no place in a nation evincing respect for a rule of law and fundamental human rights. His arrest and confinement are outrages and should be ended immediately.

My perspective on Mordechai and his behavior was expressed as well as I could do it today in the following op-ed published in 2004 on the day of his release from prison. I can only say that I would be proud to be known as the American Vanunu: though my own possible sentence of 115 years for revealing state secrets was averted by disclosure of government misconduct against me which pales next to the Israeli misconduct in assaulting, drugging and kidnapping Vanunu in the process of bringing him to trial, let alone the eleven years of solitary confinement he was forced to endure.

PAM COMMENTARY: Mordechai Vanunu and Daniel Ellsberg -- TWO great international heroes. See flashback to Ellsberg's recent Democracy Now! appearance below.

�The Most Dangerous Man in America�: New Documentary Chronicles Story of Daniel Ellsberg, Whose Leak of the Pentagon Papers Helped End Vietnam War (FLASHBACK)
AMY GOODMAN: The role of Randy Keeler, the longtime tax resister, as we know him today, peace activist, and then how you actually leaked the papers?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, the difference that it made was, as I said, practically everybody who had been to Vietnam concluded that the way we were doing it would lead to no success whatever, merely to an escalating bloody stalemate, which is what it did under both Johnson and Nixon.

The question was what you might do about that. And most of them did their job, got their retirement eventually, had the excitement of working in Vietnam and feeling important, or they moved to other things. They moved to the Peace Corps, or they moved out of government some way or other, and they washed their hands of it. Even McNamara, when he left, when he was fired in March of '68, then went to the World Bank and tossed off Vietnam, did nothing, while the war went on for seven more years. So the question really was, what do you do about this pessimism there? And most people regarded it as fully the responsibility of the President or the public or the Congress, and for them to move on and not look toward the past, as Obama likes to say now.

In my case, I thought, I had been there, I'd been part of it, even when I'd criticized what was going on, like the bombing, which I�d criticized from the beginning. Nevertheless, I'd taken part in it, under orders. So I thought, alright, we�re there, it�s my job to do something to get us out.

Randy Keeler showed me that I could do something that I had never thought of, and that was risk my clearance, risk my career, risk my new relationship or my regained relationship with Patricia, go to prison for the rest of my life -- very heavy costs -- with the possibility of informing the public in a way that would save hundreds of thousands of lives. And when I saw Randy, who was going to prison as a draft resister, rather than go to Canada, rather than to be a CO, I realized I could do what they did, and it put the question in my head: what can I do now that I�m willing to go to prison?

Aughts were a lost decade for U.S. economy, workers
For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. economy has grown at a steady clip, generating perpetually higher incomes and wealth for American households. But since 2000, the story is starkly different.

The past decade was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times, a sharp reversal from a long period of prosperity that is leading economists and policymakers to fundamentally rethink the underpinnings of the nation's growth.

It was, according to a wide range of data, a lost decade for American workers. The decade began in a moment of triumphalism -- there was a current of thought among economists in 1999 that recessions were a thing of the past. By the end, there were two, bookends to a debt-driven expansion that was neither robust nor sustainable.

There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well.

Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 -- and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009. The Aughts were the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960s.

PAM COMMENTARY: Great article, but I think they blame too much on bubbles and not enough on efforts to move US jobs overseas, wars funded with borrowed money, large cash diversions to defense subcontractors affiliated with politicians, etc. In other words, the all-out looting of the economy from policy makers like Bush and Cheney. Economic looting seems to be a characteristic of the Bush family -- I remember it from the early 90s.

Fox, Time Warner Cable reach deal
Time Warner Cable Inc. Chief Executive Glenn Britt said he was "happy to have reached a reasonable deal with no disruption in programming for our customers."

Politicians and regulators had gotten in on the dispute, especially because Fox sends its signals out freely on public airwaves on a frequency it obtained for nothing, with the obligation that it serve the public interest.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski congratulated both companies and his staff for the deal.

But Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., raised concerns about the effectiveness of a 1992 cable law that allows broadcasters to seek compensation from cable and satellite operators for their signals.

"I will reach out to both parties, the FCC, and consumer advocates to assess lessons learned from this dispute and what, if any, changes to law are necessary," Kerry said in a statement.

Fox said it could no longer give away its stations' signals to cable companies because the network is facing stiff competition from cable channels, such as the Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, which earn subscriber fees on top of advertising dollars.

PAM COMMENTARY: Fox wants its sports bidding to be subsidized by cable viewers now? How about the other major networks who might want to bid on the same thing?

Before vote, some senators knew of testimony error by TSA nominee Southers
Democratic senators rallied around President Obama's pick to head the Transportation Security Administration on Friday as new details emerged indicating that key lawmakers already knew when they voted in November to advance his nomination that he had mischaracterized a personal incident in his testimony.

The White House rushed to defend Erroll Southers, who is under fire for providing inconsistent statements to Congress about inappropriately accessing confidential criminal records 20 years ago about his then-estranged wife's new boyfriend. Democratic senators, meanwhile, intensified pressure to confirm Southers soon after Congress returns from its winter recess, saying it is critical that permanent leadership is installed at the TSA in the aftermath of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner.

Still, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who earlier delayed Southers's nomination over a labor union issue, on Friday became the first senator to oppose the nominee, saying, "If he can't tell the truth, then he's not qualified and should not be confirmed."

Heart attacks more common in winter; tips to lower your risk
You probably know from experience that winter brings a surge in colds and flu. But did you know winter is also the season for heart attacks?

Frigid air causes blood vessels to constrict as the body tries to prevent heat loss, said Dr. Holly Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

"This is a natural response that can also put people with heart conditions and those involved in strenuous exercise at greater risk of having a heart attack," Anderson said.

The narrowing raises blood pressure and can reduce oxygen flow to the heart. Combined with a strenuous activity, such as shoveling snow, this can strain the heart, triggering a heart attack in those at risk.

Canadian hospital battling superbug, limits patient visits
Hospital spokeswoman Marie-Josee Labrosse confirmed the hospital is dealing with an outbreak of VRE in eight patients.

"What we do is close the floor, clean as much as we can, and isolate the patients," she said. "We have some cases but no outbreak."

Visitors are allowed into patients' rooms one at a time if they wash their hands thoroughly and wear a surgical gown and gloves.

Hand sanitizers prove no match for soap, water; 'If you have the choice, wash your hands,' Ottawa scientist says
Hand sanitizers claiming to kill 99.9% of germs actually kill far fewer in real-world conditions, a University of Ottawa microbiologist has found.

While sanitizers may indeed kill nearly all the germs in lab conditions, in ordinary life they're second-best to soap and water, a new study shows.

Jason Tetro still recommends -- and uses -- the alcohol-based gels and foams, but only as a supplement to washing with soap, or in situations where there's no way to wash.

His study on a group of Grade 8 children shows sanitizers kill most of the germs on scrubbed skin, but only half or fewer of the germs on hands that aren't washed often.

Earth's magnetic north on a Russian voyage
Earth's north magnetic pole is racing toward Russia at almost 65 kilometres a year because of magnetic changes in the planet's core, new research says.

The core is too deep for scientists to directly detect its magnetic field. But researchers can infer the field's movements by tracking how Earth's magnetic field has been changing at the surface and in space.

Now, newly analyzed data suggest that there's a region of rapidly changing magnetism on the core's surface, possibly being created by a mysterious "plume" of magnetism arising from deeper in the core.

And it's this region that could be pulling the magnetic pole away from its long-time location in northern Canada, said Arnaud Chulliat, a geophysicist at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris in France.

Magnetic north, which is the place where compass needles actually point, is near but not exactly in the same place as the geographic North Pole. Right now, magnetic north is off the shore of Ellesmere Island.

Iceland agrees �3.2bn bank crash deal
Iceland's repayments � some �3.4bn in all � will also compensate the Dutch government, and represents 40 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. It will be repaid to the two countries over the next 14 years.

The majority of Britons affected by the crisis have already received their money back in full.

The parliamentary bill approving the deal has been deeply unpopular in Iceland, amid fears that the country cannot afford the repayments.

However, the government had threatened to resign if the measure was rejected, and it was passed � but with a narrow margin of 33 votes to 30.

Arrests Over Tainted Milk Scandal In China
A dairy in Shanghai has been shut down and three of its executives arrested after some of its milk products were tainted with an industrial chemical.

The substance, melamine, was at the centre of a deadly milk contamination scandal more than a year ago.

The Shanghai Daily newspaper said authorities found that Shanghai Panda Dairy was producing milk powder and condensed milk with unacceptably high levels of the chemical.

Wildfires rage through Western Australia
Wildfires are raging through Western Australia, with the government announcing a 'natural disaster' in the area around Perth.

It is reported around 33,000 acres of land have been affected and 40 homes damaged, as the country experiences one of its warmest winters on record.

'Best job' winner stung by lethal jellyfish (Australia)
The man who won the 'best job in the world' competition has been stung by a lethal jellyfish on his last few days on Hamilton Island in Australia.

Ben Southall, 34, from Hampshire, won the job of a lifetime when he beat 34,000 applicants to become the caretaker of Hamilton Island.

But as his dream job comes to an end, Mr Southall was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish, which can release lethal venom. The tiny jellyfish is no bigger than a human's little finger nail, and almost invisible to the naked eye.

Sleep-deprived teenagers 'more likely to suffer depression'
The study, released today in the journal Sleep, found sleep-deprived teens were 24 per cent more likely to suffer from depression and a fifth more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Lead author James Gangwisch from Columbia University in New York, said: 'Our results are consistent with the theory that inadequate sleep is a risk factor for depression.

'Adequate quality sleep could therefore be a preventative measure against the illness.'

Professor Gangwisch added that a lack of sleep may affect how the brain responds to aversive stiumuli and hinder the ability to cope with daily stress. It could also affect judgement, concentration and impulse control.

Solar showdown in tortoises' home; Activists like renewable power, but not on that Mojave spot
LOS ANGELES - On a strip of California's Mojave Desert, two dozen rare tortoises could stand in the way of a sprawling solar-energy complex in a case that highlights mounting tensions between wilderness conservation and the nation's quest for cleaner power.

Oakland, Calif.-based BrightSource Energy has been pushing for more than two years for permission to erect 400,000 mirrors on the site to gather the sun's energy. It could become the first project of its kind on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property, leaving a footprint for others to follow on vast stretches of public land across the West.

The construction would come with a cost: Government scientists have concluded that more than 6 square miles of habitat for the federally threatened desert tortoise would be permanently lost.

The Sierra Club and other environmentalists want the complex relocated to preserve what they call a near-pristine home for rare plants and wildlife, including the protected tortoise, the Western burrowing owl and bighorn sheep.

PAM COMMENTARY: It's great to hear about another solar project, but it's true, they need to find another good weather spot for their project.

Deer poaching figures treble but police accused of failing to act (UK)
Deer poaching has trebled in the last year, according to new figures, as gamekeepers said the problem was out of hand and agencies admitted they were tackling only a tiny proportion of cases.

The number of deer poaching incidents reported to the police in England and Wales rose to 335 in the 12 months to October, up from 106 the previous year. But wildlife and countryside groups say thousands of cases go unreported, largely because few believe the police would take it seriously, despite fines of up to �5,000.

Russia's Putin and Medvedev appear in new year cartoon
Animated figures of Russia's president and prime minister are shown dancing in Moscow's Red Square and singing a duet about 2009.

President Medvedev is depicted playing an accordion while Mr Putin beats a tambourine against his bottom.

Channel One television broadcast the cartoon after Mr Medvedev's official new year address. The ditty was featured in a special episode of Mult Lichnosti (a play on the Russian for "cult of personality") - a biweekly show poking fun at public figures.

The two-and-a-half-minute cartoon, with surprisingly true-to-life voices, has surprised Russians used to serious depictions of their leaders.

Mayor Bloomberg Sworn In for Third Term
But the mayor, who is hardly regarded as having an introspective personality, was clearly trying to address concerns about a stagnant administration more than eight years after first taking office as a billionaire businessman and novice politician.

And Mr. Bloomberg, in uncharacteristic fashion, struck a more humble chord, saying that having been granted another four years was a "special opportunity."

Mr. Bloomberg's tone suggested a tacit appreciation for the resentment from many New Yorkers over the way that Mr. Bloomberg, an independent who ran as a Republican, spent more than $102 million -- a record-shattering amount == to win by a surprisingly small margin in November. So Mr. Bloomberg promised to "reach out to every community" in tackling difficult issues, during difficult economic times.

PAM COMMENTARY: Bloomberg changed the law to allow a 3rd term by using dirty political tactics, and New Yorkers haven't forgotten that. Some press accounts mention that he barely won his third term, despite spending truckloads of money on the campaign. There's no reason to put him in for a third term -- the city has deteriorated since he took office. The subways are filthy and crowded, the city itself has trash in the streets and looks dirty most of the time, and the economy there is poor. This doesn't reflect well on the Mayor, who seems detached from real living and working conditions in the city.

Margaret Thatcher considered banning Irish from voting
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher considered banning the vote from Irish citizens living in the UK.

She told Northern Ireland Secretary Humphrey Atkins she did not believe there was hostility between the Irish Republic and the IRA during a tense meeting at Downing Street on August 23, 1979.

She said the only way to bring the Irish Government into line on security was to think about imposing restrictions against Irish people living in the UK.

Limbaugh: Tests show no ailments after chest pain
HONOLULU -- Conservative talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh said Friday that tests show nothing wrong with his heart after chest pains hospitalized him earlier this week.

Limbaugh said at a Honolulu news conference that he was being released from The Queen's Medical Center, where he was rushed Wednesday during a vacation. Doctors said he did not have a heart attack or heart disease.

"The pain was real, and they don't know what caused it," Limbaugh said.

Asked whether he was taking painkillers, Limbaugh said no.

Russia raises price of vodka to combat alcoholism
The Russian government has set a minimum price for vodka that more than doubles the cost of the cheapest vodka on the market in an effort to fight rampant alcoholism.

The measure is aimed at reducing the number of deaths caused by drinking in Russia. The minimum price of 89 roubles (�1.80) for half a litre of vodka went into effect today, the start of the 12-day New Year and Orthodox Christmas holiday, when alcohol consumption is at its highest.

A study in the Lancet last year said drinking had caused more than half of deaths among Russians aged 15 to 54 since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Full-Body Scanners to Fry Travelers With Radiation [AJ]
Virtually all passengers and airline crews who pass through airport screening checkpoints in the U.S. may soon be forced to submit to compulsory, whole-body X-ray exposure. Some fliers could be �fried� several times in one day. Frequent fliers could get hit hundreds of times each year. Pregnant women, infants, the chronically ill and immune suppressed would get the rays. Grateful herds of traveling livestock, prodded by TSA drovers through federally-funded "nuke chutes," are expected to believe Hollowell's scientifically unsupported assertion that ionizing radiation delivered via backscatter will be "about the same as sunshine."

Officials must naturally defend compulsory passenger X-rays as harmless. But they are signing no guarantees because ionizing radiation in the X-ray spectrum damages and mutates both chromosomal DNA and structural proteins in human cells. If this damage is not repaired, it can lead to cancer. New research shows that even very low doses of X-ray can delay or prevent cellular repair of damaged DNA, raising questions about the safety of routine medical X-rays. Unborn babies can become grotesquely disfigured if their mothers are irradiated during pregnancy. Heavily X- rayed persons of childbearing age can sustain chromosomal damage, endangering offspring. Radiation damage is cumulative and each successive dose builds upon the cellular mutation caused by the last. It can take years for radiation damage to manifest pathology.

A leading U.S. expert on the biological effects of X-radiation is Dr. John Gofman, Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Gofman's exhaustive research leads him to conclude that there is NO SAFE DOSE-LEVEL of ionizing radiation. His studies indicate that radiation from medical diagnostics and treatment is a causal co-factor in 50 percent of America's cancers and 60 percent of our ischemic (blood flow blockage) heart disease. He stresses that the frequency with which Americans are medically X-rayed �makes for a significant radiological impact.�

This highly credentialed nuclear physicist states: �The fact, that X-ray doses are so seldom measured, reflects the false assumption that doses do not matter�[but] they do matter enormously. And each bit of additional dose matters, because any X-ray photon may be the one which sets in motion the high-speed, high energy electron which causes a carcinogenic or atherogenic [smooth muscle] mutation. Such mutations rarely disappear. The higher their accumulated number in a population, the higher will be the population�s mortality rates from radiation-induced cancer and ischemic heart disease.�

PAM COMMENTARY: Dr. Gofman's information makes sense to me personally -- readers familiar with this page know that in 2004-05 I battled what seemed to be a bad case of breast cancer. (Obviously I won the fight, using alternative medicine like a zapper and the flaxseed oil-based Budwig diet.) But the lump originally appeared years earlier in 2002, shortly after an auto accident and plenty of x-rays at the local hospital's ER, followed by more x-rays during chiropractic treatment. (There were awful bruises and pains going on at the time, x-rays were justified). I wonder if all of those x-rays were what caused the lump, which in turn sat there for a couple of years before giving me problems... Anyway, if these new machines can cause the same thing, trust me -- you DON'T want to use them. Even with my knowledge of some of the best alternative cancer protocols, it was still difficult to beat the disease.

Iraqis Angered as Blackwater Charges Are Dropped
The Blackwater guards said they believed they had come under small-arms fire from insurgents. But investigators concluded that the guards had indiscriminately fired on unarmed civilians in an unprovoked and unjustified assault.

The incident calcified anti-American sentiment in Iraq and elsewhere, raised Iraqi concerns about the extent of its sovereignty because Blackwater guards had immunity from local prosecutors and reopened a debate about American dependence on private security contractors in the Iraq war.

Many Iraqis also viewed the prosecution of the guards as a test case of American democratic principles, which have not been wholeheartedly embraced, and in particular of the fairness of the American judicial system.

Exclusive: Secret Army squad 'abused Iraqis'; MoD inquiry into claims that 'shadowy' unit is guilty of torture
A secret army interrogation unit accused of being responsible for the widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners is being investigated by the Ministry of Defence.

Fourteen fresh claims of torture against the British Army include detailed accounts of a shadowy team of military and MI5 interrogators who are alleged to have authorised the physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi detainees.

The new allegations bring the total number of cases being investigated by the Government to 47.

Many of the Iraqis allege they were abused after they were sent to a unit called the Joint Forward Intelligence Team (JFIT) based at the Army's Shaibah Logistics Base, 13 miles from Basra, between 2004 and 2007. Nearly all the men say they were beaten, denied sleep and then dragged around the prison compound before facing multiple interrogations.

In one account the interrogators are accused of creating an image superimposing a suspect's head on the body of a man who is sexually abusing a child, and then threatening to disseminate the image throughout Basra.

Premature birth tied to later behavioural problems
NEW YORK � Children who were born prematurely and at a very low weight may have an increased risk of certain behaviour problems and symptoms of depression and anxiety, research suggests.

As the survival rates of very preterm newborns have improved in recent years, studies have uncovered some of the potential long-term challenges these infants will face -- including lower IQ and higher rates of behavioural problems compared with their peers born at term.

In the new study, researchers found that among 104 7- to 16-year-olds they assessed, the 49 who were born very prematurely had higher rates of hyperactivity and attention problems, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety.

New SSRI warning: antidepressants increase risk of stroke and death
Data from 5,496 women who were taking antidepressants at their first follow-up visit were then compared with data from 130,797 women not taking antidepressants at follow-up. The researchers found no difference in the rate of heart disease (which they assessed by how many women had fatal or non-fatal heart attacks). However, they did find a troublesome difference in the occurrence of another potentially deadly health problem.

Antidepressant users were 45% more likely to experience strokes than women not taking the drugs. What's more, when the scientists looked at the overall death rates of the research participants, they discovered that the women taking antidepressants had a 32% higher risk of death from all causes compared to non-users.

It wasn't only SSRIs that raised the stroke risk -- so did the older class of antidepressants known as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). However, the SSRIs appeared to be even more dangerous than TCAs because they carried a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke. In other words, the postmenopausal women on SSRIs were more likely to have a stroke caused by bleeding into the brain.

Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller and colleagues noted that even small increases in stroke and death rates can have significant implications for large patient populations. And middle-aged women on SSRIs are a huge patient population. The researchers acknowledged in their statement to the media that antidepressants are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S., especially for postmenopausal women. As a matter of fact, Big Pharma has aggressively pushed the use of SSRIs in recent years as a "treatment" for mid-life hot flashes and mood swings as well as late life depression.

Not Knowing This about Your Car Tires Could Kill You or Your Loved Ones
Tire rubber dries out after six years, but American companies are allowed to sell expired tires long after they wear out. "New" tires on sale at Sears and Walmart can be up to 12 years old!

If you want to know the age of your tires, look for the Department of Transportation number hidden on the inner wheel wall. At the end of the number is a four-digit sequence that shows the week and year the tire was made. Tires with the notation 3502 were made in the 35th week of 2002.

If you only see three digits, get new tires immediately; your tires are from the 90's and are way past their effective lifespan.

Warning on heavy drinking 'burden'
Britain's growing culture of heavy drinking is placing an "unsustainable burden" on the healthcare system, costing the NHS �2.7 billion a year, according to a report released today.

The report, from the NHS Confederation and Royal College of Physicians, said the cost to the NHS of excessive drinking has doubled in the past five years.

It called for improvements to systems to identify, assess and treat patients with alcohol problems, but also said a wider change in society's attitudes towards drink was needed.

The bulk of the financial burden is falling on hospitals and ambulance services, which are forced to deal with people who get into difficulties after drinking too much, but there is also a cost in long-term health conditions caused by boozing over many years.

NYC eatery patron hurt by falling moose head
A Web designer says she was struck by the decor at a New York City restaurant � when it fell on her head. Raina Kumra says in a negligence lawsuit filed last week that a 150-pound stuffed moose head with 3-foot-wide antlers plummeted off a wall at the Scandinavian-themed White Slab Palace on Oct. 4 and hit her. She says she suffered a concussion and other injuries.

All charges dismissed in Blackwater shooting
Ruling in a case that strained U.S.-Iraqi relations, a federal judge in Washington on Thursday dismissed all criminal charges against five Blackwater security guards who were accused of firing machine guns at unarmed civilians driving through a Baghdad traffic circle, killing 17 of them and injuring 20 more.

The judge did not rule on the substance of the charges against the private security guards but instead decided that prosecutors had wrongly relied on what the guards told State Department investigators shortly after the incident. As government contractors, the employees of Moyock, N.C.-based Blackwater were required to speak to an investigator after a shooting.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said the use of these statements violated the defendants� rights against compelled self-incrimination.

�In their zeal to bring charges against the defendants � the government used (their) compelled statements to guide its charging decisions � and ultimately, to obtain the indictment in this case,� the judge wrote in a 90-page opinion. �We�re disappointed by the decision,� said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. �We�re still in the process of reviewing the opinion and considering our options.�

Because the indictment was thrown out on legal grounds, the government could bring an appeal.

The five guards in the case were Paul Slough of Keller, Texas; Nicholas Slatten of Sparta, Tenn.; Evan Liberty of Rochester, N.H.; Dustin Heard of Maryville, Tenn.; and Donald Ball of West Valley City, Utah. Each had been charged with multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter and firearms violations.

A sixth guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter and helped authorities confirm the details of the incident.

The guards maintained that they fired their weapons in response to an attack by insurgents. But according to the U.S. prosecutors and an Iraqi government investigation, the shooting was unprovoked.

The September 2007 shooting in Baghdad�s Nisoor Square put a spotlight on the role of private security guards in the Iraq war . Blackwater guards were hired to provide protection for U.S. officials, but they were not bound by all the same rules and procedures as the U.S. military.

Before the 2007 incident, Blackwater�s guards had been involved in other shootings, and they were faulted for firing at unarmed civilians.

PAM COMMENTARY: The small article I posted yesterday was the first I found reporting on this story -- often larger papers want to write a big article with lots of background information, and so they break their stories later. I'm going to link to a couple more of those late-breaking articles on this case because it's important, and the bigger articles fill in important details.

Charges dismissed against Blackwater guards in Iraq deaths
Federal prosecutors have said the guards killed 14 Iraqis and wounded 20 in an unprovoked blaze of bullets and grenade explosions. The guards' attorneys have said their clients opened fire in self-defense after being shot at by insurgents.

The incident, which badly strained U.S.-Iraqi relations, was the most serious one involving private security contractors in recent years, and it raised questions about using such guards in war zones. It so badly stigmatized Blackwater that the company renamed itself Xe Services.

Human rights groups have decried the incident and others involving contractors and U.S. troops that resulted in the deaths of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the most deadly of several incidents involving Blackwater in Iraq. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported that the company had been involved in at least 195 incidents in Iraq that involved the firing of weapons.

The Iraqi government wanted the guards tried in Baghdad and promised to watch the case closely. "The world quaked because of this crime," said Fared Waleed Hasson in Iraq, who was injured in the shooting. "How have we lost our rights so quickly?"

The decision is latest embarrassment for the Justice Department in a high-profile prosecution. In April, the department asked a federal judge to dismiss the corruption conviction of former senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) after lapses by prosecutors.

Judge tosses charges against Blackwater guards in Baghdad shooting; cites gov't missteps
Urbina's ruling does not resolve whether the shooting was proper. Rather, the 90-page opinion underscores some of the conflicting evidence in the case. Some Blackwater guards told prosecutors they were concerned about the shooting and offered to cooperate. Others said the convoy had been attacked. By the time the FBI began investigating, Nisoor Square had been picked clean of bullets that might have proven whether there had been a firefight or a massacre.

The Iraqi government has refused to grant Blackwater a license to continue operating in the country, prompting the State Department to refuse to renew its contracts with the company.

In a statement released by its president, Joseph Yorio, the company said it was happy to have the shooting behind it.

"Like the people they were protecting, our Xe professionals were working for a free, safe and democratic Iraq for the Iraqi people," Yorio said. "With this decision, we feel we can move forward and continue to assist the United States in its mission to help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan find a peaceful, democratic future."

The case against the five men fell apart because, after the shooting, the State Department ordered the guards to explain what happened. In exchange for those statements, the State Department promised the statements would not be used in a criminal case. Such limited immunity deals are common in police departments so officers involved in shootings cannot hold up internal investigations by refusing to cooperate.

Israel Nuclear Blackmail Against USA, Europe, Testifies Israeli Nuclear Scientist Vanunu
Israel claims that Vanunu was a "low-level technician", in what is seen by analysts as damage control, after his whistle-blowing on the top secret Israeli WMD nuclear weapons program.

In a recent interview, Vanunu said that Israel is conducting "global thermo-nuclear blackmail" as well as having the ability to hit every major European city with nuclear bombs via its long-range nuclear missiles.

What has now come to light via these claims, is of gigantic world security proportions: that Israel may be holding the United States to blackmail, along with European allies, which would explain the subservience to Israel of otherwise powerful western governments.

The United States' Military command - the Pentagon - is directed by a "Defense Policy Board" which is itself staffed by Zionists openly sympathetic to Israel, something which may also have been achieved via Israeli blackmail, and the current U.S. President Obama's Chief of Staff is an Israeli, said to be working for the Israeli Intelligence as a senior officer.

The small middle eastern country - widely criticized elsewhere for human rights abuses - has been able to invade neighbouring countries on several occasions during recent years with impunity as well as to occupy Palestinian territories militarily without resistance or sanction by the western powers on the United Nations Security Council.

Vanunu Confirms Israel's Global Thermonuclear Blackmail (FLASHBACK) [R]
TILLAWI - Mordechai, there are a lot of nations that have nuclear weapons. What is it about Israel having them that makes you so nervous?

VANUNU - Because Israel wants to use them, to cause genocide and holocaust on other innocent citizens. It has always been a part of Israel's secret policy. And also by having them, Israel will use them as a threat to avoid making peace with the Arab world as well as imposing her policies on those peoples. As long as she has them, she will continue on in her policies of not making peace, of occupation and of neglecting the Palestinian suffering caused by the refugee camps that have existed for more than 50 years.

TILLAWI - One of the Israeli professors said a few months ago that 'we have the nuclear capability of hitting every major European city,' is that true to your knowledge?

VANUNU Yes, it is true. They can bombard any city all over the world, and not only those in Europe but also those in the United States, and by this threat what they are doing is to send a secret message to any leader and to any government that they have the ability to use them aggressively and to blackmail them, to blackmail Europe and the United States, every where, in every state around the world. It was Europe and the United States who helped them get this power, and now that Israel has it, she is coming back and saying to them 'We will not obey any orders that you give us. No international law, no international agreement, no UN resolutions,' and all because of these atomic weapons that they have. ...

Gaza convoy faces huge detour
An aid convoy carrying medical supplies to Gaza from Bradford is having to turn back to Syria after being denied entry into Egypt.

Members of the Viva Palestina group, which includes 45 Bradford people, had begun a hunger strike in protest at the decision but called it off after mediation talks reached a deal.

More than 400 people from 17 countries are travelling in the 150-vehicle convoy, which is taking medical, humanitarian and educational aid to people in Gaza.

But after nearly 3,000 miles across Europe and the Middle East they were forced to stop in the Jordanian port town of Aqaba.

Earlier this week news came through to Bradford supporters that the Egyptians had laid down certain terms for allowing the convoy access to Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

Conditions included that the convoy must travel through Syria before going into Gaza, get permission from Israel to enter Gaza and hand over all goods and vehicles to the United Nations Works and Reliefs Agency.

Arshad Ali, who is leading the Bradford convoy, said in a text message home: �We have to go back to Syria � another three days added to our journey. Thanks to everyone for your solidarity. It meant a lot to us all.�

A message from another traveller on the Twitter social networking site read: �Back to Syria means 700km back northwards by road, means a long, hard drive and means additional fuel costs. Plus five days wasted in Aqaba!�

The agreement came after a Turkish mediator reached a deal with the Egyptian consul in Aqaba.

The convoy is now heading back to the Syrian port of Latakia to sail from there in a Turkish-funded charter vessel for a 19-hour trip to the Egyptian Mediterranean port of El Arish, and then on to Gaza.

Humanitarian convoy to leave for Gaza from Syria's Lattakia
DAMASCUS, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy, led by British lawmaker George Galloway, is set to leave Syria's Lattakia port Wednesday afternoon and head for the Egyptian harbor of El-Arish to enter the Gaza Strip, the official SANA news agency reported.

Galloway, founder of Viva Palestina Association, told a press conference held Tuesday evening that "the convoy is carrying humanitarian aid and medicines to the Palestinian people in the besieged Gaza Strip without any political objectives."

The international humanitarian aid convoy consists of around 250 vehicles, carrying humanitarian relief from Europe, Turkey and Arab countries, including food and medical equipment.

Spokesman for the convoy Zaher an-Birawi said the convoy faces the risk of interception by the Israeli authorities at sea, said the report.

"Any Israeli aggression on the convoy during sailing to Egyptian El-Arish port will be condemned and will unveil the truth of its perpetrators," he added.

The convoy, which departed from London on Dec. 6, returned to Syria on Tuesday from the Jordanian harbor of al-Aqaba after the Egyptian authorities requested that the convoy enter through El-Arish, on its Mediterranean coast.

Flight 253 passenger Kurt Haskell: 'I was visited by the FBI' [WRH]
Please note that there is a very easy way to verify the veracity of my prior "sharp dressed man" account. Dutch police have admitted that they have reviewed the video of the "sharp dressed man" that I referenced. Note that it has not been released anywhere, You see, if my eye witness account is false, it could easily be proven by releasing the video. However, the proof of my eyewitness account would also be verified if I am telling the truth and I am. There is a reason we have only heard of the video and not seen it. dutch authorities, "RELEASE THE VIDEO!" This is the most important video in 8 years and may be all of two minutes long. Show the entire video and "DO NOT EDIT IT"! The American public deserves its own chance to attempt to identify the "sharp dressed man". I have no doubt that if the video indicated that my account was wrong, that the video would have already swept over the entire world wide web.

Instead of the video, we get a statment that the video has been viewed and that the terrorist had a passport. Each of these statements made by the FBI is a self serving play on semantics and each misses the importance of my prior "sharp dressed man" account. The importance being that the man "Tried to board the plane with an accomplice and without a passort". The other significance is that only the airport security video can verify my eyewitness account and that it is not being released.

PAM COMMENTARY: See previous link with Haskell, he was interviewed by Alex Jones.

North Korea calls for end to hostile relations with US
North Korea called for an end to hostile relations with the US in a new year message today and said it was committed to making the Korean peninsula nuclear-free through negotiations.

North Korea has long demanded an end to Washington's hostility and said it developed nuclear weapons to deter a US attack. Washington has repeatedly said it has no intention of invading the country.

The new year statement brightened prospects of North Korea rejoining stalled international talks on ending its nuclear weapons programmes in exchange for aid and other concessions. Washington has sought to coax it to return to the six-country talks, which include South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

North Korea has often said it wants to replace a ceasefire that ended the 1950-53 Korean war with a peace treaty and forge diplomatic relations with the US as a way to win security guarantees. Washington says this should be linked to North Korea's verifiable denuclearisation.

Fake Al Qaeda Actors EXPOSED! Adam Gadahn & Yousef al-Khattab (Video) [WRH]
PAM COMMENTARY: This was the video referred to in the article THE VIDEO ISRAEL WON�T LET ME WATCH.

Al-Qaeda Never Existed - BBC (Video)
PAM COMMENTARY: Great little video clip -- one of my favorite news boards linked to this in the past, it may have even been WhatReallyHappened.com again.

Fox grants 'brief extension' in cable dispute
LOS ANGELES (AP) � Fox television's threatened blackout was avoided just before a midnight Thursday deadline when the network struck a deal with Time Warner Cable to briefly extend their contract as fee negotiations between the two companies continued.

Time Warner Cable Inc. made the announcement as the clock rolled past midnight on the East Coast.

The extension for just a few hours made it appear likely that at the very least a further extension would be granted, allowing millions of cable subscribers access to Friday's Sugar Bowl between the Florida Gators and the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Cotton Bowl on Saturday, the NFL's final regular season contests on Sunday and "The Simpsons" and other Fox shows were also at risk.

Karen Amaya, a 30-year-old schoolteacher and Time Warner Cable subscriber in Van Nuys, Calif., said she was concerned about not being able to see "The Simpsons" on Sunday night, which her husband watches "religiously."

PAM COMMENTARY: "The Simpsons" -- Fox's reason for existence. As far as missed episodes -- just buy him a DVD with the whole season on it, and skip the commercials!

Agency Drops Bloggers� Subpoenas
WASHINGTON (AP) � The Transportation Security Administration on Thursday dropped the subpoenas it had issued to two Internet writers in its effort to learn who leaked an airline security directive.

The agency said the investigation was �nearing a successful conclusion, and the subpoenas are no longer in effect.�

The security directive ordered extra measures after a Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound airliner.

PAM COMMENTARY: They're always trying to say that bloggers aren't real "press," and so protections of the press don't apply to them. To me, it seems that bloggers are just easier for them to pick on because most bloggers don't have huge international news organizations paying for their attorneys. And the founding fathers clearly meant to have a broad definition of the "press" -- after all, some of their own brochures wouldn't be more than a blog today, printed on paper (e.g., think of "Common Sense" by Payne).

Polar bears wrestle in snow storm
Mr Schultz, 53, said: "I watched for about three hours as four polar bears lay sleeping and rolling around in the snow, basically being lazy.

"The tundra buggy driver positioned us so we could take advantage of the wind blowing the powdery snow off their coats and surroundings.

"That gave me an opportunity to get some beautiful and more dramatic back-lit images when the bears decided to show a little more activity.

Toronto Humane Society to resume adoptions in new year
The Toronto humane society will open its doors in the new year after an investigation shut down the facility in November.

About 100 cats and 20 dogs will be available for adoption when the facility reopens to the public on Jan. 4.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals searched the shelter last month and uncovered several alleged cases of animal neglect.

The society's former president, Tim Trow, and four senior employees were arrested and charged with animal cruelty.

Staff returned to the facility for the first time since the raids on Tuesday.

PAM COMMENTARY: This is such an unusual case -- a very large city and very mainstream organization to have such accusations stick.

Base chief among CIA dead
Among those killed was the chief of the CIA's operation at Camp Chapman in the Khost province of eastern Afghanistan, The Associated Press has learned. Former CIA officials said the base chief, a mother of three, would have directed and coordinated CIA operations and intelligence gathering in the province, a hotbed of Taliban and insurgent activity because of its proximity to Pakistan's lawless tribal region.

Judge dismisses all charges in Blackwater shooting
WASHINGTON � A federal judge has dismissed all charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards charged in a deadly Baghdad shooting.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said Thursday the Justice Department overstepped its bounds and wrongly used evidence it was not allowed to see. He said the government's explanations have been contradictory, unbelievable and not credible.

Blackwater contractors were hired to guard State Department diplomats in Iraq. Prosecutors say the guards fired on unarmed civilians in a busy intersection in 2007, killing innocent people.

After the shooting, the guards gave statements to State Department investigators. Prosecutors were not allowed to use those statements in the case.

Gold giant faces Honduras inquiry into alleged heavy metal pollution
Authorities in Honduras are investigating claims that one of the world's biggest gold mining corporations has contaminated a valley with toxic heavy metals. Villagers and non-governmental organisations have accused Goldcorp of killing livestock and making people sick by polluting land and rivers in the Siria valley.

The environmental prosecutor is undertaking an investigation after being presented with evidence that the Canadian corporation's San Martin opencast mine discharged highly acidic and metal-rich water in 2008. The company has denied wrongdoing.

The inquiry comes at a critical time when record gold prices are encouraging other mining corporations to explore fresh sites in Honduras. Environmentalists fear the impoverished central American country will lift a moratorium on new mining after a new government takes office in January.

Goldcorp is shutting the decade-old San Martin mine after extracting nearly 12,000 tonnes of ore from its forested slopes. The dynamite explosions have stopped and there are no more ore-laden trucks rattling down rutted, dusty roads.

People in villages bordering the site say the damage is done and the fields and streams are poisoned. "The water tastes like acid, like something out of a car battery," said Roger Abraham, vice-president of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, an activist group. "It would have been better if the mine never came. It has done more harm than good."

Fearing for their lives, six Eritrean athletes absconded while in Scotland - and found a new home with a Glasgow running club
"We asked what he was going to do when we got back to Eritrea and he replied, 'I'll see'."

The team understood this as an implied threat they would be dropped and forced into the army. "Later that day we went up the mountain (Arthur's Seat] to talk about what to do. We were scared to go back to Eritrea and scared what would happen in this country if they did not accept us. We asked ourselves, 'What can we do?'" It was a big, big decision.

"We went out at night and asked someone where the train station was. Then we asked what was the nearest city that was cheapest to get to as we didn't have much money. That's how we got to Glasgow."

On their arrival in Glasgow, the runners went to a police station and asked for asylum. The athletes were granted political asylum by the UK government within two months of their arrival in Scotland, on the grounds that they could face persecution if they returned home.

Egypt To Allow Convoy To Enter Gaza - Galloway Statement
George Galloway gives a statement explaining a deal that has been reached between the Turkish side of the Viva Palestina Convoy the Egyptian Government allowing the convoy to proceed to Gaza. Aired on December 30, 2009.

PAM COMMENTARY: Great news, but so far this is the only news clip I've found on such an agreement. I'll post others to this site as more news breaks.

How Goldman Sachs Made Tens Of Billions Of Dollars From The Economic Collapse Of America In Four Easy Steps [AJ]
The following is how Goldman Sachs made tens of billions of dollars from the economic collapse of America in four easy steps....

Step 1: Sell mortgage-related securities that are absolute junk to trusting clients at vastly overinflated prices.

Step 2: Bet against those same mortgage-related securities and make massive bets against the U.S. housing market so that your firm will make massive profits when the U.S. economy collapses.

Step 3: Have ex-Goldman executives in key positions of power in the U.S. government so that bailout money can be funneled to entities such as AIG that Goldman has made these bets with so that they can get paid after they win their bets.

Step 4: Collect the profits - Goldman Sachs is having their "most successful year" and will end up reporting approximately $50 billion in revenue for 2009.

So is it right for the biggest fish on Wall Street to make tens of billions of dollars by betting that the U.S. housing market will collapse?

You see, when you are talking about a financial giant the size of Goldman Sachs, the line between "betting that something will happen" and "making something happen" gets blurred very quickly.

Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned
Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.

The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella.

Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed the company�s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli �to an undetectable level.� They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.

With the U.S.D.A.�s stamp of approval, the company�s processed beef has become a mainstay in America�s hamburgers. McDonald�s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.

But government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.

Nevada wild-horse roundup protested in S.F.
The Bureau of Land Management began Monday rounding up 2,500 wild horses from a group of about 3,050 in the Calico Mountains near Nevada's Black Rock Desert. The younger horses will be tamed and adopted out, and the older horses will be trucked to the Midwest, where they'll spend the remainder of their lives roaming on private pastureland, according to the bureau.

The roundup is necessary because the herd populations are doubling every four years and the horses are overgrazing on federal land that must be shared with cattle, said BLM spokesman Tom Gorey.

The roundups started in 1976 and occur every few years to thin out herds around the West, but the current Calico roundup is among the largest in agency history. Using helicopters and wranglers, federal contractors are moving the horses through the mountains to a corral where they're vaccinated, checked by a veterinarian and sorted by age and gender.

Mustang advocates say the horses, which have been roaming free for 500 years, should be left alone. They're being unfairly forced off their land to make room for cattle, whose grazing permits generate revenue for the federal government, said lawyer Virginie Parant, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

Bohemian Club wins timber-harvesting permit
The Bohemian Club, the secretive, men-only society known for its annual bacchanal on a sprawling forest enclave in Sonoma County, has won state approval for a logging plan allowing the group to harvest as much as 1.7 million board feet of timber a year.

The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's endorsement of the club's controversial permit essentially eliminates government oversight of its timber-harvesting practices over the next century.

While the 130-year-old club, whose members are believed to have included every Republican president since Herbert Hoover, argues the logging plan will help reduce fire risk and restore its 2,700-acre Russian River encampment to a natural state, critics say the forest, its streams and wildlife could suffer broad, long-term damage.

"If we fly over the area in 30 or 40 years, we'll see pockets that are relatively pristine and other areas that will look like a commercial tree farm - a mosaic of industrially managed stands," said John Hooper, a former club member who resigned in 2004 in protest of the organization's logging practices.

Hooper and others are particularly concerned about the preservation of old-growth redwoods, which Hooper said have been felled on several occasions in the San Francisco club's history. Hooper said that in 2001 he helped halt the cutting of one section of the mammoth trees.

The Year in Cute: 2009's 20 most adorable animals
Regular readers of L.A. Unleashed may be familiar with our addiction to adorableness and, in a related note, with our regular feature, Your Morning Adorable. (Naysayers and grumps may scoff, but we ask you: What better way is there to ensure a great day than by starting it off with a photo or video of an adorable animal? We can't think of one, and that's including coffee.) That being the case, we don't mind telling you that we've looked at a lot of adorable animals this year. We took this year-end opportunity to remember 20 of our top favorites. . .

Contrary to popular belief, white tigers (like those seen in magic shows protested by PETA) aren't albinos; instead, they have a genetic condition that affects the pigment in their fur, causing it to be light-colored rather than the typical orange.

FDA approves Crestor for people who have no health problem to correct
This FDA approval for the marketing of Crestor to healthy people is a breakthrough for wealthy drug companies. Selling drugs only to people who are sick is, by definition, a limited market. Expanding drug revenues requires reaching people who have nothing wrong with them and convincing them that taking a cocktail of daily pharmaceuticals will somehow keep them healthy.

All this is, of course, the greatest quackery we've yet seen from Big Pharma, because once this floodgate of "preventive pharmaceuticals" is unleashed, the drug companies will be positioned to promote a bewildering array of other preventive chemicals you're supposed to take at the same time. Did you take your anti-cancer pill today? How about your anti-diabetes pill? Anti-cholesterol pill? Don't forget your anti-Alzheimer's pill, too.

Russia considering sending spacecraft to knock asteroid off path and prevent Earth collision [BF]
MOSCOW (AP) � Russia's space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of earth impact, even though U.S. scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.

Anatoly Perminov told Golos Rossii radio the space agency would hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis. He said his agency might eventually invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project.

When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1-in-37.

Further studies have ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) from Earth's surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

Down on the Farm, an Endless Cycle of Waste
GUSTINE, Tex. � Day and night, a huge contraption prowls the grounds at Frank Volleman�s dairy in Central Texas. It has a 3,000-gallon tank, a heavy-duty vacuum pump and hoses and, underneath, adjustable blades that scrape the surface as it passes along.

In function it is something like a Zamboni, but one that has crossed over to the dark side. This is no hockey rink, and it�s not loose ice being scraped up. It�s cow manure.

Lots of cow manure. A typical lactating Holstein produces about 150 pounds of waste � by weight, about two-thirds wet feces, one-third urine � each day. Mr. Volleman has 3,000 lactating Holsteins and another 1,000 that are temporarily �dry.� Do the math: his Wildcat Dairy produces about 200 million pounds of manure every year.

Rush Limbaugh felt pains similar to heart attack
HONOLULU -- Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh remained hospitalized in Hawaii Thursday after experiencing chest pains similar to a heart attack, according to the guest host on his nationally syndicated radio show.

Limbaugh was rushed to a Honolulu hospital Wednesday during a vacation.

Guest host Walter E. Williams described Limbaugh's pains as similar to the feeling of a "heart attack coming on." But Williams said doctors haven't confirmed whether the 58-year-old had a heart attack, and more exams were planned Thursday.

PAM COMMENTARY: Is it coincidence that the Obama family is vacationing in Hawaii at the exact same time?

Tylenol arthritis caplet voluntary recall expanded
NEW YORK � Johnson & Johnson is expanding a voluntary recall of Tylenol Arthritis Caplets due to consumer reports of a moldy smell that can cause nausea and stomach pain.

According to a statement on the Food and Drug Administration Web site, the New Brunswick, N.J., company is now recalling all product lots of the Arthritis Pain Caplet 100 count bottles with the red EZ-Open Cap.

Johnson & Johnson had recalled five lots of the product last month.

The health care company says the odor results from trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole. That chemical is believed to result from the breakdown of another chemical used to treat wooden pallets that transport and store packaging materials.

Proroguing Parliament � a travesty, yet clever (Canada)
Conservatives will tell you that this newspaper, a few other journalists and opposition politicians are the only ones concerned with the detainees issue. It's �old news,� as press secretary Dimitri Soudas put it in a conference call with reporters yesterday.

That government officials or politicians may have been negligent in safeguarding the treatment of Afghan detainees, thus violating the Geneva Conventions, is of no real concern to most Canadians, the Tories maintain.

They are almost certainly right. But the fact remains that proroguing Parliament shuts down the committee that was the source of the most embarrassing revelations about government bungling in Afghanistan. The Military Police Complaints Commission, which was also looking into the affair, is effectively suspended until the government gets around to appointing a new commissioner.

By government design, all official inquiry into this matter has been terminated until March, at least. The Conservatives aren't concerned? They have a strange way of showing it.

San Francisco's sea lions disappear from pier
Hundreds of the animals have relaxed on San Francisco's Pier 39 for the last 20 years, attracting tourists from around the world.

Only last month the pier was groaning under the weight of more than 1,500 sea lions. But now there are less than 10.

The animals first arrived in 1990, attracted into San Francisco Bay by herring. Their numbers have fluctuated over the years with changing water temperatures and food supplies, but were at record levels earlier this year.

Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Sausalito Marine Mammal Center, said the herd probably moved off to follow their favourite foods, sardines and anchovies.

Eight Americans killed in Afghan blast were CIA agents
Eight American civilians who were killed in a suicide attack at a military base in �eastern Afghanistan yesterday were CIA agents, US officials confirmed tonight.

CIA officials in Washington were not immediately available for comment, and US officials said they could not provide details before the agents' families were informed.

The attack occurred late yesterday inside Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province, eastern Afghanistan. The base has been used to house a �provincial reconstruction team �operating under Nato authority.

Herald journalist, 4 soldiers die in Afghan blast
"Hopefully this will produce some interesting stories on the civilian-reconstruction side, as well as some military ones," Lang wrote in an e-mail two days before her death.

Travelling Wednesday afternoon with a Canadian convoy, their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb four kilometres south of Kandahar city, killing Lang and four soldiers.

The soldiers' names have not been released.

Four other soldiers and a Canadian civilian were injured. No other details were released.

Lang's death, the first of a Canadian journalist in Afghanistan, was felt at home and in newsrooms across the country.

Shell to face a Dutch court over African oil spill claims
But a judge yesterday found that courts in the Netherlands can claim jurisdiction over the behaviour of Dutch companies overseas.

The ruling is a potential blow to Shell, which has come under relentless fire for its activities in the West African nation for the past decade and a half.

A spokesman for Shell said: 'It is with disappointment that we learned of the ruling.' The group recently reached a �9.7million settlement with relatives of playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists executed in 1995 by Nigeria's then dictator, General Sani Abacha.

The June deal, in which Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary denied any liability, allowed the group to avoid embarrassing questions over its alleged complicity in the killings.

Environmental campaigners hope the forthcoming trial will turn the spotlight on the murky dealings of foreign oil companies in oil-rich Nigeria.

Shell is comfortably the largest oil firm operating in a region where toxic oil and gas leaks are a daily occurrence, devastating the lives of local Nigerians.

PAM COMMENTARY: That's Shell, always in well-deserved trouble.

First, I want to complain that Shell owns Rotella.com. That's because they named one of their oil products "Rotella-T." I resent a "corporation of ill repute" taking over a family name that goes all the way back to the Romans. In fact, until about 100 years ago, in the Italian language a "rotella" was a small round shield that Romans wore on their arms. My father showed me the term in an old Italian dictionary he'd located at a used book store. Our family had been given a military title that went with the shield symbol, I think it was "defender of the empire." These days, rotella in Italian just means a small wheel. People don't carry shields on their arms any more, and the old usage of the word is forgotten. However, it's also a type of sea shell, in fact someone told me that the sea shell on the Shell Oil logo is actually a "rotella." I don't know if that's true, but even so, I want the name back! Shell is such a bad oil company all around, I don't want them anywhere near the family name.

I still boycott Shell the best I can -- if I'm almost out of gas and they're the only gas station around, or if I just need a coffee and not gas, then I might buy something from a Shell station. But otherwise I've been boycotting Shell off and on for the past 25 years. People in my age group will remember why -- in the 80s, a lot of companies were being boycotted for doing business in South Africa, or at least for being some of the worst companies doing business there. College students of the 80s were trying to pressure corporations to in turn put pressure on the South African government. We wanted Apartheid to end, and native black South Africans needed the right to vote. According to the boycotts, we could drink Pepsi but not Coke, because Pepsi had divested from South Africa but Coca-Cola had not.

The University of Wisconsin had already divested -- in fact, I seem to recall that students had taken over buildings in the 70s, and the university's administration had divested without much resistance in order to avoid trouble. On the other hand, I remember covering a protest at Harvard University in the 80s -- students there had built a shanty town in the yard, demanding that their university divest from corporations that did business in South Africa. Harvard was slow in even partially divesting after that (my sympathy to students there). I remember the Harvard students were quite eloquent in the speeches they gave that day, and I gathered a lot of quotes for an article that made the front page of "Invictus," the newspaper of UWM's Black Student Union. I can't remember most of those quotes anymore, but they were essentially things like "I don't want my money to go toward oppressing a people," or "If Harvard is going to act dirty, it has to look dirty," etc.

Around the same time, I'd written a research paper for one of my classes, trying to determine whether sanctions would work in helping to end Apartheid. It was a popular topic of the day -- Congress was debating sanctions, but of course Reagan didn't want sanctions and had all sorts of excuses. After researching the topic, I came to the conclusion that the Apartheid regime would collapse rapidly if the international community placed sanctions on them. This went against conventional wisdom at the time, but in my research I found that the Apartheid government was already suffering financially. If I'm remembering correctly, they'd made investments during the Carter administration assuming that the US dollar would become worthless, but that didn't happen after Reagan took office. South Africa had already lost a lot of money that way, and anything else to harm them financially could easily push them over the edge. When my Professor (an African originally from Ghana) reviewed my research paper, he told me that he disagreed with me, that he didn't think South Africa was hurting enough for sanctions to make much of a difference.

Eventually, Senator Kennedy and others managed to get sanctions passed, and sure enough, Apartheid ended only a few years after that.

So I thought I could buy gas from Shell stations after that, which was nice because a Shell station near where I worked had the nicest car wash in town... but as soon as I started buying gas there, word got out that Shell was engaged in dirty dealings in Nigeria. It's like, what is WRONG with this company? There was an especially bad story about how they had some villagers and their leaders murdered in the Ogoni ethnic group's area (right where Shell was conducting its oil operations, of course). Then a local activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was blamed for those murders and executed. Saro-Wiwa had been trying to organize the Ogoni against Shell for spoiling their land, he had no interest in killing his own people. But with him out of the way, Shell could continue to ruin the Ogoni land more easily. So now everyone assumed that Shell was behind the murders and framing/execution of Saro-Wiwa. We all hated Shell again, and we were supposed to boycott them from the mid-90s on, which I still do to this day, despite their recent settlement with some of the Ogoni victims' families.

...And I still want our family's name back! If Shell managed to conduct business with at least a minimal code of ethics, maybe I wouldn't care, but they're the WORST! Stop using the Rotella name, nasty old SHELL!!! Why don't you change your name to something that actually describes your company, like "We kill Africans for oil?"

Here are a couple of documentary clips on why I still boycott Shell oil when possible:

Why Pam still boycotts Shell Oil -- "Crude Impact" documentary part 5 of 10 (Nigeria portion starts around the 2 minute mark)

Why Pam still boycotts Shell Oil -- "Crude Impact" documentary part 6 of 10

Israeli Nuclear Whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu allegedly released to house arrest
A court spokesman said Vanunu would be released from jail Tuesday evening and was ordered to stay under house arrest through Thursday.

"Vanunu was detained in Jerusalem last night," said Rosenfeld. "He is suspected of having had contacts with foreign agents."

Mr Vanunu was jailed in 1986 for disclosing the inner workings of Israel's Dimona nuclear plant to a British newspaper. Since his release in 2004, he has been detained several times for violating the terms of his parole which ban him from travel or contact with foreigners.

Israel maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity. It is widely believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, with around 200 nuclear warheads.

The Jewish state has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or allow international surveillance of Dimona, in the southern Negev desert.

Mr Vanunu became an international cause celebre during his time in prison. At home, he is still widely reviled for converting to Christianity shortly before he was kidnapped in Italy and jailed after being covertly shipped back to the Jewish state

PAM COMMENTARY: Vanunu is an international hero for informing the world about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal, and harassing him only reminds people that Israel is withholding such information from the world community.

E. coli-tainted beef infects 21 people in 16 states
Twenty-one people in 16 states have been infected in recent days with a potentially lethal strain of E. coli bacteria, after consuming beef in restaurants supplied by the same Oklahoma meat company, federal officials said.

The outbreak spurred the company, National Steak and Poultry, to voluntarily recall 248,000 pounds of beef Dec. 24. The products, which range from steaks to sirloin tips, were packaged in October and shipped to restaurants, hotels and institutions nationwide, according to the company.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has only a partial list of restaurants that received the potentially tainted beef, including two chains, Moe's and Carino's Italian Grill, primarily in the West and Midwest.

The recall is considered a "class 1" or a "high health risk" by the USDA, which regulates the meat industry, because among the pathogens that can harm human health, E. coli O157:H7 is one of the most lethal. Even for those who survive, there can be long-term health effects.

Officials Admit Second Man Detained As More Witnesses Emerge [AJ]
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have admitted that a second man possibly carrying explosives was detained after last week�s aborted plane bombing attack, contradicting initial statements by the FBI that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was the only person arrested or charged in relation to Friday�s foiled attack.

As we reported yesterday, attorney and Flight 253 eyewitness Kurt Haskell said that he saw a well-dressed Indian man aid the accused bomber to board the plane despite the fact that he had no passport and was on a terror watch list. After the incident, while the passengers were being detained, Haskell witnessed an Indian man being handcuffed and led away after a bomb-sniffing dog had flagged up his luggage. The FBI then removed the other passengers from the area, strongly indicating that explosive materials had been found in the man�s bag.

Officials have now been forced to acknowledge that a second man was detained despite initial FBI denials after two more witnesses came forward to validate Haskell�s account.

�Daniel Huisinga of Fairview, Tenn., who was returning from an internship in Kenya for the holidays, says he also saw a man being taken away in handcuffs at the airport after a dog search. A third person, Roey Rosenblith, told The Huffington Post on Sunday that he saw a man in a suit being placed into handcuffs and escorted out, as well,� reports Michigan Live.

�Huisinga talked about seeing a man taken away at the airport during an interview Monday on MSNBC. He mentions it at about the 1:25 mark of the video below. The reporter appears to confuse Huisinga�s account with a man who was detained on a separate flight Sunday and deemed not to be a threat.�

Sen. Hatch admits GOP �standard practice� was to run up deficit [AJ]
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow believes she has found the smoking gun proving Republicans' hypocrisy on health care and the budget deficit: an admission by Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch that, during the Bush administration, "it was standard practice not to pay for things."

"Every single Republican opposed the health reform bill when it was voted on on Christmas Eve, and that includes the 24 Republicans who voted for George Bush's Medicare prescription-drug expansion in 2003," Maddow said on her show Monday night. "Now that expansion in 2003, unlike the reform bill that's being currently debated, added tens of billions of dollars to the deficit. And this makes for some awkward politics, because many Republicans are citing worries about the deficit as their reason for voting against health reform now."

The host of The Rachel Maddow Show then quoted Sen. Hatch, who told the Associated Press that, when the Medicare expansion was passed in 2003, "it was standard practice not to pay for things."

PAM COMMENTARY: The Republicans are just more sold out than the Democrats. That's why they wouldn't pass the 2003 bill without a guarantee that the government couldn't negotiate lower prices with drug companies. In fact, for Republicans to pass a big-spending new entitlement program was telling -- the Bush family was heavily invested in pharmaceuticals. And so along with the war to boost their defense investments, Republicans helped to boost drug company profits, making the Bushes more money that way. The ballooning deficit also gave their banker buddies more money.

This year, there were some Democrats who wanted a fiscally responsible "Medicare for all" system. But because the Democrats are still SOMEWHAT sold out, they couldn't find enough votes to do it, and so it turned into another gift for the insurance and medical industries. Regardless of political party, new legislation means more money for corporate campaign contributors and industries with an army of lobbyists.

Ritalin Linked With Sudden Death of Children
(NaturalNews) Research from The National Institute of Mental Health has revealed that popular Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) drugs like Ritalin are responsible for causing sudden death in many children. Study numbers indicate a 500 percent increased risk in childhood death from taking such mental health drugs.

For years, many experts, scientists, and health practitioners have speculated that ADD drugs are dangerous and can cause serious injury and death. Etta Brown, a licensed educational psychologist and author of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges explained in response to the study that drugs like Ritalin actually destroy the neural function in children's brains. As a result, children who have undergone treatment with Ritalin will actually have a much more difficult time processing information and learning new things.

Brown also notes that Ritalin is responsible for causing a permanent tic in the face, neck, and head of many of the children who have taken or are taking it. Ironically, Ritalin is responsible for causing far more serious neurological damage than the problems it is alleged to treat. Comprehensive studies over the years have revealed that while drugs like Ritalin visibly calm children, these drugs destroy their delicate, developing nervous systems and can permanently cripple their ability to function as normal human beings.

Sheep farmers still stuck under a Chernobyl cloud
David Ellwood � then a 30-year-old sheep farmer who had just taken on a National Trust tenant farm above the hamlet of Ulpha in the Duddon valley � remembers that week well. "It was lambing time," he recalls. "It was really, really wet. And then we got the message from the ministry. All the sheep farmers in the area were told there was to be a fortnight-long restriction on the sale and movement of our sheep."

A week earlier, on 26 April 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what was then the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine exploded, sending a plume of radio- active particles � equivalent in toxicity to 400 Hiroshima bombs � more than seven kilometres up into the atmosphere and due east in the breeze. In the days that followed, as a fire raged unchecked inside the twisted, white-hot remains of the reactor, the wind direction reversed and the plume, now a kilometre tall, headed west towards north-western Europe. It wasn't until workers at a nuclear reactor in Finland detected abnormally high doses of radioactivity on their clothes - up to 100 times normal background levels � that anyone outside the Soviet Union realised the true severity of the accident.

On 2 May 1986, the plume finally passed over parts of the UK and, with fateful timing, so too did a column of cloud carrying heavy rain. The rain fell hardest where it always falls hardest � on the uplands. As the droplets of water fell from the sky, they carried with them the radionuclides � in particular, caesium-137, iodine-131 and strontium-90 � that had been dispersed from Chernobyl. It is estimated that 1% of the radiation released from the reactor fell on the UK. In an effort to prevent these radionuclides entering the food chain once they had settled on the upland soil, the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food, as it was then known, ordered an immediate restriction on the movement and sale of sheep within the most affected areas � particularly north Wales, south-west Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Lake District, where the landscape is predominantly suited to grazing sheep. In total, almost 9,000 farms, and four million sheep, were placed under restriction.

"We couldn't believe it at first," says Ellwood today, leaning on his crook and looking up from his farmhouse towards the smooth dome of Hesk Fell � an ascent that Alfred Wainwright, the fellwalker's guidebook guru, said would lead nobody to "drop dead with excitement or suffer spasms of emotion" � where the majority of his 600 sheep still roam. "The radiation had come from 3,000 miles away and you couldn't see it. For many farmers around here, it brought back memories of the Windscale nuclear accident in 1957. My father, who was a sheep farmer at that time up near Eskdale, reassured me by saying he didn't have any problems with Windscale, but we didn't know anything about these sorts of things back then."

Did communications breakdowns imperil Utah VA patients?
Communication breakdowns between two medical departments may have compromised the care of patients being treated in the Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System, according to a new report by the VA Office of Inspector General.

But the report, released Monday afternoon, did not substantiate an unidentified complainant's allegations linking the failures to four patients' deaths at the VA Medical Center.

John D. Daigh assistant inspector general, wrote that "miscommunication and the lack of a cohesive team approach" between the system's Interventional Radiology Department and vascular surgery residents at the University of Utah caused delays in care for one of the patients, described in the report as a man in his 50s. That patient's death led to an apology to the man's family and a two-week moratorium on vascular surgeries and interventional radiology procedures.

NY's Tavern on the Green restaurant bites the dust
Tavern on the Green, once America's highest-grossing restaurant, is singing its culinary swan song.

The former sheepfold at the edge of Central Park, now ringed by twinkling lights and fake topiary animals, is preparing for New Year's Eve, when it will serve its last meal. Just three years ago, it was plating more than 700,000 meals annually, bringing in more than $38 million.

But that astronomical sum wasn't enough to keep the landmark restaurant out of bankruptcy court. Its $8 million debt is to be covered at an auction of Baccarat and Waterford chandeliers, Tiffany stained glass, a mural depicting Central Park and other over-the-top decor that has bewitched visitors for decades.

Even the restaurant's name is up for grabs. At stake is whether another restaurateur taking over the 27,000 square feet of space, owned by the city, can reopen as Tavern on the Green.

For 75 years, since it first opened amid the Great Depression, the Tavern has attracted clients from around the world.

PAM COMMENTARY: Take a look at the photo gallery accompanying this article.

Shinnecock Indians See Prosperity Ahead
�The older men said, �If all of you young men move away, who is going to be here to carry on the work of the reservation and our traditions?� � recalled one war veteran, Harry K. Williams, who is now 85.

It has been a stark and constant choice in the life of the tribe: a pastoral yet relatively impoverished existence on the 800-acre reservation or something different beyond its borders.

Now this small tribe on the eastern end of Long Island is on the verge of sketching a new, perhaps more prosperous chapter. The Obama administration�s recent announcement that the Shinnecocks met the criteria for federal recognition finally paves the way for a casino, generating a bounty of jobs and revenue.

Federal financing could now be available for homes; there also may be grants to create jobs. �It�s a new day for us,� said Randy King, a tribal trustee. �We want to try to become a self-sufficient community.�

Over the years, the tribe�s hardscrabble existence has been amplified by its surroundings: the reservation, where the median household income is $14,055 a year, sits near some of the country�s wealthiest communities, where celebrities spend their summers in sprawling, oceanfront estates. The contrast is vividly illustrated by looking across Shinnecock Bay from the reservation to Meadow Lane in Southampton, where mansions have sold for more than $30 million.

Pressure rises to stop antibiotics in agriculture
FRANKENSTEIN, Mo. -- The mystery started the day farmer Russ Kremer got between a jealous boar and a sow in heat.

The boar gored Kremer in the knee with a razor-sharp tusk. The burly pig farmer shrugged it off, figuring: "You pour the blood out of your boot and go on."

But Kremer's red-hot leg ballooned to double its size. A strep infection spread, threatening his life and baffling doctors. Two months of multiple antibiotics did virtually nothing.

The answer was flowing in the veins of the boar. The animal had been fed low doses of penicillin, spawning a strain of strep that was resistant to other antibiotics. That drug-resistant germ passed to Kremer.

Like Kremer, more and more Americans - many of them living far from barns and pastures - are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people.

Health Cuts With Little Effect on Care
Virginia requires him to get permission. It is one of 37 states with a certificate-of-need program, and unlike some, Virginia�s is more than a mere formality. If a hospital even wants to move, it needs permission to remain as big as it was (which is a big reason hospital capacity has shrunk in recent years). Major hospitals usually win approval for the certificates they request, but the process itself is often enough to discourage them from applying. It�s even more discouraging to individual doctors who are thinking of buying, say, their own M.R.I. machine.

That seems to be why Richmond is dominated by a small number of group practices. Three orthopedic groups provide essentially all the orthopedic care. One pulmonologist group provides much of the lung care. Richmond doesn�t seem to have many of the entrepreneurial doctors, common in some other places, who are extremely aggressive about doing procedures or tests. �There aren�t a lot of people who are on the fringe doing things that are not medically acceptable,� Dr. Marc Katz, a cardiac surgeon, says.

Nobody in Richmond thinks that the certificate of need is a silver bullet. Some say the area emphasizes primary care, which holds down costs. Others named Virginia�s $2 million cap on malpractice awards. Dr. Sheldon Retchin, head of the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, pointed out that his hospitals self-insure for malpractice � which gives them more incentive to reduce the costly medical errors that lead to lawsuits.

PAM COMMENTARY: I don't like getting care from someone who has a cap on malpractice, I think it encourages them to be more careless about sanitation and everything else. And then what about the people they damage? What if someone needs a lot of corrective surgery, or is so damaged and disabled that their care alone will exceed that amount? Who's going to pay for their care after that, or take care of their family with their inability to work?

Sweden link in Auschwitz theft investigation
Poland will formally seek Sweden's help in investigating the theft of the "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free) sign from the Auschwitz memorial, confirming that Polish authorities suspect a Swedish link in the crime.

Boguslawa Marcinkowska, a spokeswoman for Krakow prosecutors, says her office will send a formal request for help Wednesday to the Swedish Justice Ministry in Stockholm.

Polish media have been reporting that the theft was commissioned by a collector living in Sweden, but investigators have not confirmed that.

The sign was stolen earlier this month and found two days later cut into three pieces. Police have arrested five men whom they described as common criminals who likely stole the sign on a commission from abroad.

Bombshell Eyewitness Revelations: Confirmed FBI Cover-Up Of Flight 253 Attack [AJ]
After being allowed to disembark from the plane by officials, passengers were detained in customs with their carry-on luggage for six hours while they waited to be interrogated by the FBI, according to Haskell.

At this point a bomb-sniffing dog pointed at carry-on luggage in the possession of a man Haskell described as Indian around 30 years old. Officials led the man away to an interrogation room. Haskell said he was concerned because the bomb-sniffing dog had flagged the man, indicating he may have had explosives in his carry-on luggage. The Indian man was subsequently led away in handcuffs.

Following this incident the FBI moved the passengers to another location. �You�re being moved,� the FBI told them, �it is not safe here. I�m sure you all saw what happened and can read between the lines and why you�re being moved.�

Haskell said the corporate media refuses to cover this aspect of his story. He has repeated it to �countless� news agencies and they uniformly have not included it to his knowledge.

Mr. Haskell questioned why officials have not released the Amsterdam airport security video that will undoubtedly reveal crucial information about the �sharp-dressed man� who escorted a disheveled Mutallab to the boarding area. Haskell described the suspected terrorist as appearing to be a �poor black teenager.�

The well-dressed Indian man did all the talking. He insisted Mutallab be boarded on the plane without a passport and when an airport employee refused to do so Mutallab and the Indian man went to talk with a supervisor. The Indian man tried to pass off Mutallab as a Sudanese refugee and have him boarded despite the fact doing so would be in violation of regulations concerning refugees. In general, documentation must be provided by an embassy in order for refugees to board international flights.

Israeli nuclear arsenal whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu arrested for tryst with foreign girlfriend
The man who blew the whistle on Israel�s nuclear arsenal more than 20 years ago was rearrested yesterday by Jerusalem police.

Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the secret Israeli nuclear facilities in the Negev Desert, was charged with violating his parole by speaking to a foreign national and ordered to be kept under house arrest for two days.

His lawyer said that Mr Vanunu had merely met his Norwegian girlfriend at a hotel in east Jerusalem.

Mr Vanunu, 59, was jailed in 1986 after being abducted in Rome by Israeli secret service agents for disclosing details of Israel�s nuclear weapons programme to The Sunday Times.

He served 18 years � 11 of them in solitary confinement � and was released in 2004. Since then he has been kept under close watch by the Shin Bet internal security agency and forbidden from leaving the country or meeting foreigners.

This was the second time in two years that he has been detained. In court yesterday his lawyer criticised the arrest, saying that the past charge, which led to his client being given a six-month jail sentence in 2007, referred to contacts with journalists.

FDA approves cardiac devices with scant testing
Millions of Americans receive implanted cardiovascular devices such as pacemakers and stents, but many of the devices are not subjected to rigorous safety and effectiveness research before being approved for use, according to a study released Tuesday.

It's common for such devices to receive Food and Drug Administration approval based on information from only a single study, which "raises questions about the quality of data on which some cardiovascular device approvals are based," said the authors, from UC San Francisco.

Such scant data do not constitute the kind of high-quality evidence for safety and efficacy that doctors and consumers expect, the authors said, although they stressed that their findings don't mean cardiovascular devices are universally unsafe. The study was published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Assn.

In recent years, the FDA has subjected drugs to tougher scrutiny before deciding whether to approve them. But far less attention has been given to medical devices, said Dr. Sanket Dhruva, a coauthor of the paper and a medical resident at UC San Francisco.

F.D.A. to Seek New Standards on Human Test Data
The Food and Drug Administration is developing guidelines that will set tougher scientific standards for data from tests on humans that makers of medical devices submit when seeking approval of their products, a top agency official said.

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, the acting director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a telephone interview on Monday that the F.D.A. most likely will soon urge device makers to take steps like using more sharply defined targets to measure the success of clinical trials. The agency may also urge producers to more closely follow patients enrolled in such trials to determine whether the targets are met, he added.

His comments were made before the release on Tuesday of two studies that found shortcomings in some clinical trials accepted by the F.D.A. over the last decade in connection with the approval of high-risk cardiovascular devices. Such products include pacemakers, implanted defibrillators and the tiny tubes known as coronary stents, which are used to prop open clogged blood vessels.

More talk than progress in U.S. energy policy
The federal government fixated on energy in a way it hadn't for years.

"Haven't seen anything like it since the Arab oil embargo," said William Hederman, senior vice president for energy policy at the Concept Capital research firm. "But it's still largely potential change more than actual change, in a lot of ways."

Indeed, despite all the attention, many of the biggest energy issues broached by Washington this year remain unresolved, due in part to the frenzy of lobbying from every industry and interest group involved.

A climate change bill that would create a "cap and trade" system for lowering greenhouse gas emissions passed the House of Representatives. But a similar bill remains stuck in the Senate, stalled by the fierce opposition of Republicans and the qualms of Democrats worried about the economic impact.

Competing studies have claimed the House and Senate climate bills would create jobs or kill them. That presents a difficult choice for some wavering Democratic senators facing re-election next year.

PAM COMMENTARY: Actually, readers of my page will realize that a lot of progress in energy is being made on the grass roots level. Time for another flashback... the actual topic is nuclear power, but it gives a good perspective on progress in the field as well.

Amory Lovins: Expanding Nuclear Power Makes Climate Change Worse (FLASHBACK) [DN]
AMORY LOVINS: ...So, nuclear cannot actually deliver the climate or the security benefits claimed for it. It�s unrelated to oil. And it�s grossly uneconomic, which means the nuclear revival that we often hear about is not actually happening. It�s a very carefully fabricated illusion. And the reason it isn�t happening is there are no buyers. That is, Wall Street is not putting a penny of private capital into the industry, despite 100-plus percent subsidies.


AMORY LOVINS: It�s uneconomic. It costs, for example, about three times as much as wind power, which is booming.

Let me give you some numbers about what�s happening in the marketplace, because that�s reality, as far as I�m concerned. I really take markets seriously. 2006, the last full year of data we have, nuclear worldwide added a little bit of capacity, more than all of it from upgrading old plants, because the new ones they built were smaller than the retirements of old plants. So they added 1.4 billion watts. Sounds like a lot. Well, it�s about one big plant�s worth worldwide. That was less than photovoltaics, solar cells added in capacity. It was a tenth what wind power added. It was a thirtieth to a fortieth of what micropower added.

AMY GOODMAN: What�s micropower?

AMORY LOVINS: Again, it�s renewables, other than big hydro, plus co-generating electricity and heat together, usually in industry.

In 2006, micropower, for the first time, produced more electricity worldwide than nuclear did. A sixth of the world�s electricity is now micropower, a third of the new electricity. In a dozen industrial countries, micropower makes anywhere from a sixth to over half of all the electricity elsewhere. This is not a fringe activity anymore.

China, which has the world�s most ambitious nuclear program, by the end of 2006 had seven times that much capacity in distributed renewables, and they were growing it seven times faster. Take a look at 2007, in which the US or Spain or China added more wind capacity than the world added nuclear capacity. The US added more wind capacity last year than we�ve added coal capacity in the past five years put together.

And renewables, other than big hydro, got last year $71 billion of private capital; nuclear, as usual, got zero. It is only bought by central planners with a draw on the public purse. What does this tell you? I mean, what part of the story does anybody who take markets seriously not get?

Rare New Year's Eve 'blue moon' to ring in 2010
LOS ANGELES � Once in a blue moon there is one on New Year's Eve. Revelers ringing in 2010 will be treated to a so-called blue moon. According to popular definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a month. But don't expect it to be blue � the name has nothing to do with the color of our closest celestial neighbor.

A full moon occurred on Dec. 2. It will appear again on Thursday in time for the New Year's countdown.

"If you're in Times Square, you'll see the full moon right above you. It's going to be that brilliant," said Jack Horkheimer, director emeritus of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium and host of a weekly astronomy TV show.

Karl Rove divorces wife of 24 years, Darby
According to Politico.com, the man famously referred to as "Bush's Brain" for his stewardship of President George W. Bush's successful White House bids, has divorced his wife of 24 years.

Karl Rove, former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, was granted a divorce from his wife, Darby, in Texas according to family spokesperson Dana Perino, herself a former Bush White House staffer.

Potent fuel at MIT reactor makes for uneasy politics
WASHINGTON - MIT�s 50-year-old nuclear reactor, one of only three US research facilities not run by the Department of Energy that still use material that could also be used to make atomic bombs, will probably not be converted to use a safer fuel for at least another five years because of technical obstacles, according to a recent government report obtained by the Globe.

That means the reactor on the university�s Cambridge campus, originally slated for fuel conversion by 2014, will continue to present a political liability for US officials, who are strongly urging other countries around the world - most notably Iran - to forgo the civilian use of highly enriched uranium to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

MIT views the delays, out lined in a November report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as unfortunate, if unavoidable.

�We would like to get this particular monkey off our back because it is not helpful for public relations,�� said David Moncton, the nuclear reactor laboratory�s director.

The US government has spent millions of dollars in recent years helping other nations convert their civilian reactors from using highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium, a suitable alternative for generating nuclear power that cannot be used to make an atomic bomb. And President Obama is expected to seek further commitments next year from foreign nations to phase out highly enriched uranium from civilian reactors.

Israel arrests nuclear whistle-blower
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said Vanunu was arrested for an unauthorized meeting with foreigners and was due in court later Tuesday.

Vanunu's attorney, Avigdor Feldman, clarified that the arrest had to do with his client's relationship with a Norwegian girlfriend and nothing to do with revealing state secrets.

The court ordered that Vanunu be put under house arrest for three days until an indictment is served, a police spokesman told CNN.

Speaking to reporters at a Jerusalem court, Vanunu said Israel and its leaders were "impotent" because they have nuclear weapons which they are not able to admit they have.

"This Jewish state has 200 atomic ... hydrogen bombs, atomic weapons, neutron bomb," he said. "They are not able to say they have the bomb, they are not able to destroy anyone. ... Instead they arrest Vanunu Mordechai."

Federal appeals court sets limits on police use of Tasers
A federal appeals court on Monday issued one of the most comprehensive rulings yet limiting police use of Tasers against low-level offenders who seem to pose little threat and may be mentally ill.

In a case out of San Diego County, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized an officer who, without warning, shot an emotionally troubled man with a Taser when he was unarmed, yards away, and neither fleeing nor advancing on the officer.

Sold as a nonlethal alternative to guns, Tasers deliver an electrical jolt meant to subdue a subject. The stun guns have become a common and increasingly controversial tool used by law enforcement.

There have been at least nine Taser-related fatalities in the Sacramento region, including the death earlier this month of Paul Martinez Jr., an inmate shot with a stun gun while allegedly resisting officers at the Roseville jail.

As lawsuits have proliferated against police and Taser International, which manufactures the weaons, the nation's appellate courts have been trying to define what constitutes appropriate Taser use.

Sweat lodge problems detailed in documents
RESCOTT, Ariz. � Documents released in the investigation of a fatal sweat lodge ceremony show that people lost consciousness and others suffered broken bones at past events led by self-help guru James Arthur Ray, but Ray largely ignored the medical problems that arose.

Three people died after an Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony that was the highlight of Ray's five-day "Spiritual Warrior" event at a retreat he rented near Sedona. The Yavapai County sheriff's office has focused a homicide investigation on Ray.

In documents released Monday, a man whom Ray hired to build the sweat lodge told investigators that he was hesitant to assist with the ceremony for a third year because participants previously emerged in medical distress, and emergency help wasn't sought. Theodore Mercer said Ray repeatedly told participants in this year's ceremony, "You are not going to die. You might think you are, but you're not going to die."

Iraq inks oil deal with Russia's Lukoil
A consortium led by Russia's private oil giant Lukoil on Tuesday signed an initial deal with Iraq to develop one of its biggest oil fields, an agreement key to the war-ravaged nation's efforts to boost the output of a resource crucial to its postwar reconstruction efforts.

Lukoil had partnered with Norway's Statoil ASA to bid to develop the 12.88 billion barrel West Qurna Phase 2 field, the crown jewel of the 15 fields offered during Iraq's second postwar oil licensing round held earlier this month.

Under the 20-year deal which is slated to be presented Thursday to Iraq's Cabinet, the companies plan to produce 1.8 million barrels per day in 13 years and will be paid $1.15 per barrel of crude they produce from the southern field.

Putin: Russia to develop offensive weapons to keep balance with U.S.
Moscow, Russia (CNN) -- Russia needs to develop "offensive strike systems" to preserve strategic balance with the United States, without producing its own missile defense, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

Putin's comment, made at a press briefing in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, echoed a similar call from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week.

"If we want to retain the balance, we have to establish an exchange of information: Let the U.S. partners provide us information on [their] missile defense while we will give them information on [our] offensive weapons," Putin said.

U.S. Intelligence Found Iran Nuke Document Was Forged [AJ]
Giraldi�s intelligence sources did not reveal all the reasons that led analysts to conclude that the purported Iran document had been fabricated by a foreign intelligence agency. But their suspicions of fraud were prompted in part by the source of the story, according to Giraldi.

�The Rupert Murdoch chain has been used extensively to publish false intelligence from the Israelis and occasionally from the British government,� Giraldi said.

The Times is part of a Murdoch publishing empire that includes the Sunday Times, Fox News and the New York Post. All Murdoch-owned news media report on Iran with an aggressively pro-Israeli slant.

The document itself also had a number of red flags suggesting possible or likely fraud.

The subject of the two-page document which the Times published in English translation would be highly classified under any state�s security system. Yet there is no confidentiality marking on the document, as can be seen from the photograph of the Farsi-language original published by the Times.

The absence of security markings has been cited by the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as evidence that the �alleged studies� documents, which were supposedly purloined from an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons-related programme early in this decade, are forgeries.

The document also lacks any information identifying either the issuing office or the intended recipients. The document refers cryptically to �the Centre�, �the Institute�, �the Committee�, and the �neutron group�.

Scientists discover how wild mushroom cancer drug works
The Nottingham team observed two effects on the cells - at a low dose cordycepin inhibits the uncontrolled growth and division of the cells, and at high doses it stops cells from sticking together, which also inhibits growth.

Both of these effects probably have the same underlying mechanism - that cordycepin interferes with how cells make proteins.

At low doses cordycepin interferes with the production of mRNA, the molecule that gives instructions on how to assemble a protein.

And at higher doses it has a direct impact on the making of proteins.

San Jose police mount cameras on officers' heads
The so-called head cameras are the latest technology to come from TASER International, Inc., makers of the stun guns popular with law enforcement.

"It's like the helmet cam you've seen on X Games," said San Jose police officer William Pender, who demonstrated the camera on a recent afternoon.

Eighteen of San Jose's more than 1,300 sworn officers have been trained to use the AXON head cameras as part of a free trial. Other departments are expected to be added to the program.

Experts say the head cameras could help catch officers behaving badly and clear those who are falsely accused so long as they are accompanied by police department policies requiring they be switched on during each encounter and not as an officer chooses.

"I think it will also make the officers very aware that their behavior is being documented, which could cut down on possible police excesses," said Sam Walker, professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

The device resembles a Bluetooth earpiece and is attached by a band that runs around the back of the officer's head.

It can be connected to an on-and-off button on the officer's chest, and from there to a video screen on a holster. In San Jose, officers are required to switch on the cameras for even routine investigations, such as vehicle stops.

At the end of an officer's shift, the device is placed in a docking station, where it recharges and its content is downloaded and stored on a secure server offsite. A three-year contract for the system for one officer that includes software and video storage costs $5,700, said Tom Smith, chairman and founder of TASER.

ConservaDem Senators Vow to Kill The Bill If It Is Improved. [BF]
The Conservadem Senators are vowing to kill the bill unless House Democrats f.ck labor and roll over on all major issues:

"Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have made clear there is little room to deviate from the bill the Senate passed on Christmas Eve.

"Centrists have said they will not vote for a healthcare reform bill that imposes a tax surcharge on the nation's highest income earners or reduces the tax burden on so-called Cadillac health insurance plans, which are held by many unionized workers."

Health Lobby Takes Fight to the States
WASHINGTON � Like about a dozen other states, Florida is debating a proposed amendment to its state constitution that would try to block, at least symbolically, much of the proposed federal health care overhaul on the grounds that it tramples individual liberty.

But what unites the proposal�s legislative backers is more than ideology. Its 42 co-sponsors, all Republicans, were almost all recipients of outsized campaign contributions from major health care interests, a total of about $765,000 in 2008, according to a new study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan group based in Helena, Mont.

It is just one example of how insurance companies, hospitals and other health care interests have been positioning themselves in statehouses around the country to influence the outcome of the proposed health care overhaul. Around the 2008 election, the groups that provide health care contributed about $102 million to state political campaigns across the country, surpassing the $89 million the same donors spent at the federal level, according to the institute.

�The Man Who Conned the Pentagon� [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: And they would cancel planes, for example, around the holidays, like the French airlines.

ARAM ROSTON: Yeah, that was--

AMY GOODMAN: Air France.

ARAM ROSTON: Exactly. That was one particular period, when they took him�for some reason, he was taken very seriously. It was during that orange alert. And he was the source for all those numbers that were�those flights that were�he was the reason those flights were canceled.

Nobody�most people in the administration didn�t even know where it was coming from. Only a tiny group knew of Dennis Montgomery, a very tiny group, perhaps a handful of people at the CIA. A slightly bigger group knew about this crazy Al Jazeera bit. They knew the substance of what he was saying. That part got to the Bush White House. It got to Homeland Security. And it made its way to the administration.

And by the way, it�s all still classified. Even though they all know it�s false, it�s still classified.

AMY GOODMAN: And how much money did he get?

ARAM ROSTON: No one knows for sure. It looks like his companies, over the years, have received $30, $40 million, $30 to $40 million.

AMY GOODMAN: From the US government?


PAM COMMENTARY: I wonder if this is true, or just a belated cover story for those bogus "terror alerts" they'd try to scare people with. Notice that the fake terror alerts would come at strategically convenient times for Bush and his cronies, like just before elections, or just after unfavorable press stories. Now they're telling us the perfect timing was the work of a lone con-artist?

McDonnell urges feds to pave way for offshore drilling in 2011
Seeking to move ahead with one of his major campaign issues, Governor-elect Bob McDonnell today released a letter urging the federal government to move quickly on a lease sale that would permit exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas off Virginia's coast.

The letter, sent last week to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, noted that more than a year has passed since Congress allowed a moratorium on East Coast drilling to expire. But "virtually no progress has been made" toward allowing exploration and drilling, McDonnell said.

"Any effort to remove or delay Virginia�s participation in the lease sale would significantly hamper our efforts to create jobs, eliminate much-needed new revenue, and undermine support for President Obama�s stated commitment to make the United States more energy secure," he wrote.

PAM COMMENTARY: Bob McDonnell, the new governor-elect of Virginia, promised in his campaign ads that offshore drilling would bring jobs and tax revenue to Virginia. They're both unrealistic claims, and the tourist trade in Virginia Beach would suffer if any rigs were visible from the shore, or if oil spills damaged the Beach. (See November's links on the Virginia election, and on McDonnell's friend, the controversial TV preacher Pat Robertson.)

Fire at India's nuclear research facility kills 2
MUMBAI, India -- A fire broke out in a chemical laboratory at India's main nuclear research facility Tuesday, killing at least two people, an official said.

The fire was extinguished within 45 minutes at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center on the outskirts of Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital, the center's spokesman, S.K. Malhotra, said in a statement.

Two killed by fire at nuclear facility in India, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
MUMBAI: A fire broke out in a chemical lab at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in suburban Trombay today leaving two persons dead but there was no threat of any radioactive leak.

The process of identification of the victims is on and it is suspected that they could be students, sources at the BARC said.

"The fire broke out in the chemical lab on the third floor of the Modular lab at the BARC," director and AEC chairman Sreekumar Banerjee said.

The Fire Brigade and police are yet to ascertain the cause of the blaze which broke out this afternoon. Fire tenders were rushed to the spot and the blaze was doused within 45 minutes.

Usually, seven people worked in the lab but today only two were there.

The Modular lab at BARC is home to a number of departmental labs and hundreds of people work on different floors of the building. Instruments, chemicals and gadgets required for research are stored at the labs.

Iran intensifies protest crackdown with arrests of activists' relatives; Nobel laureate's sister held as UK ambassador is called to foreign ministry over alleged western support for protesters
Authorities in Iran intensified their drive to snuff out the opposition movement overnight by arresting the relatives of prominent activists, including the sister of the Nobel laureate and human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi.

The arrests came as the Iranian foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran, Simon Gass, to complain that western countries, including Britain, had fomented renewed protests on Sunday that left at least eight people dead.

Ebadi � winner of the 2003 Nobel peace prize � said her sister, Dr Noushin Ebadi, a lecturer in medicine at Tehran Azad university, was arrested at her home last night by four intelligence agents. She was taken to an unknown location. Shirin Ebadi, who is currently in London, said the arrest was intended to pressure her into giving up her human rights work.

"During the past two months, [my sister] has been summoned by the intelligence ministry several times and ordered to persuade me to stop my human rights activities," Ebadi said in a statement posted on the reformist website Rah-e Sabz. "She was also ordered to vacate her home, which adjoins my apartment. She was threatened that if she failed to comply with these two demands, she would be arrested."

ICE agents posing as LDS missionaries?
Aaron Tarin, an immigration attorney in West Jordan and a Mormon, was quoted in The Nation story.

"If this gets out," Tarin told the magazine, "it could have a catastrophic effect on missionaries' work in Utah, and it can really put missionaries in danger. Aliens could get hostile and offensive."

Tarin did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.

The article by Jacqueline Stevens, a University of California at Santa Barbara professor in the law and society program, detailed instances in which ICE agents allegedly impersonated OSHA inspectors, insurance agents and religious workers.

"The effect," she wrote, "is to corrode trust in the government, neighbors -- and even Mormons."

PAM COMMENTARY: See earlier links to The Nation's "ICE Castles" story, and to Democracy Now!'s follow-up interview.

Obama's vision of nuclear-free world drawing fire
Congress called for the nuclear review, the third such study since the end of the Cold War, and placed the Pentagon in charge. Similar reviews were conducted near the beginning of both the Clinton and the Bush administrations, but Obama's is the first in which substantial changes stand to be made both in the number of U.S. nuclear weapons and how they are used.

The government maintains an estimated 9,400 nuclear weapons, about 1,000 fewer than in 2002. But Obama believes that stepping up efforts to reduce the stockpile will give U.S. officials added credibility in their quest to strengthen the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the cornerstone international arms control pact.

The timing of the administration debate is crucial, because a key international meeting on the treaty is planned for May in New York. Also looming next year are other elements of Obama's nuclear agenda, including renewal of an arms reduction treaty with Russia and a push for Senate ratification of a global ban on nuclear testing.

Many dead in China mine blasts
At least 17 people have been killed in two separate coal mine explosions in China, state media has reported.

While an explosion killed 12 miners in northern China, another five were killed and six trapped in an accident in the southwest of the country.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the 12 miners were killed in Shanxi province when a pocket of gas was ignited. Four others survived.

Congress deals funding blow to Patent Office; Budget strips $100 million provision for backlogged agency
The $1.1 trillion spending bill that Congress passed this month bankrolls thousands of pet projects: the World Food Prize in Iowa, a farmers market in Kentucky, and a 12-mile bike path in Michigan, among many others.

And to pay for a fraction of its largesse, Congress added one late change to the budget: It slapped a restrictive spending ceiling on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, further cramping an agency that was already incapacitated by more than a decade of congressional raids on its fees.

A Journal Sentinel investigation published in August documented how congressional diversions of the agency's income from 1992 through 2004 left the Patent Office incapable of keeping pace with the volume and complexity of the applications it receives. The backlog has grown to more than 1.2 million applications, which the agency has said could take at least six years to get under control - assuming it receives the funding to hire and train new examiners.

But a budgetary provision that could have allowed it to spend up to an additional $100 million during the current fiscal year was stripped on Dec. 9, the final day of budget negotiations.

"We are currently operating on a barebones budget that makes it very difficult to attack our application backlog," said Sharon Barner, the agency's deputy director.

Israeli nuclear whistleblower arrested again
JERUSALEM - Israeli police say that nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has been arrested.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Vanunu was detained on suspicion he met with several foreigners, in violation of the conditions of his 2004 release from prison. He's to appear in a Jerusalem court later today.

Vanunu was a former low-level technician at an Israeli nuclear plant who leaked details and pictures of the operation to the Sunday Times of London in 1986.

From the material, experts concluded that Israel had the world's sixth-largest nuclear arsenal.

Vanunu was later kidnapped by Israeli intelligence agents in Rome and brought back to Israel to stand trial.

He served 18 years in prison before being freed.

PAM COMMENTARY: His information is really old, and he's already leaked what he knows. No doubt Israel is just trying to harass him for the original leaks.

More street drug problems: 2 of 4 Anthrax Patients Have Died (UK) [R]
A further heroin drug injector has died but tests to determine the presence of Anthrax have yet to be completed.

The two surviving confirmed Anthrax-linked patients are responding well to treatment � one at Glasgow�s Victoria Infirmary and one at Monklands District General Hospital in Lanarkshire.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde�s Public Health Protection Unit are continuing to work closely NHS Lanarkshire, the Procurator Fiscal�s Office and Strathclyde Police to identify the source of the Anthrax.

One avenue which is still being investigated by Public Health and Strathclyde Police is that contaminated heroin or a contaminated cutting agent mixed with the heroin may be responsible for the infections.

Most cocaine diluted with unsafe livestock drug
Most cocaine coming into the United States has been diluted with a veterinary drug that is used to deworm horses and other animals but can cause severe illness and death in humans, public health experts say.

So far, eight cases of illness caused by the drug levamisole have been identified in San Francisco, one of a handful of cities in the country where pockets of sickness caused by the drug have been found.

All of the cases in San Francisco involved women who used either crack or powder cocaine. At San Francisco General Hospital, where the first cases of the illness were diagnosed, 90 percent of 200 patients who recently tested positive for cocaine also tested positive for levamisole. Most of them did not become ill.

Levamisole can significantly reduce the number of white blood cells in the body, a condition called agranulocytosis. Symptoms include fever, swollen glands, painful sores in the mouth and anus, and an infection that won't go away. In San Francisco, patients with levamisole poisoning also are getting serious skin conditions that make their skin look black.

Anybody Seen Pati? �One-sixth of the people on earth are hungry� [BF]
Father V�uez confirmed the Castillos� story and said it is common since the fall in remittances and the collapse in the economy (in Honduras�s case, greatly aggravated by political instability after a coup last summer). �The recession in the U.S. is felt at a grass-roots level here,� he said. �I see a lot of kids who don�t get breakfast now before going to school.� Many children cope, he said, by sniffing glue.

Similar dramas are playing out in slums and villages around the world. In Haiti, I�ve seen a school nearly emptied of children because remittances stopped coming from relatives in Miami.

�One-sixth of the people on earth are hungry,� said Josette Sheeran, director of the United Nations World Food Program. �We�re seeing epidemics of child malnutrition.�

Ms. Sheeran notes that evidence has mounted that babies who are malnourished in their first two years of life are likely to suffer lifelong intellectual impairments that later feeding can never overcome.

Ponzi collapses more than tripled in '09 as investors lost about $16.5B
MIAMI � It was a rough year for Ponzi schemes. In 2009, the recession unraveled nearly four times as many of the investment scams as fell apart in 2008, with "Ponzi" becoming a buzzword again thanks to the collapse of Bernard Madoff's $50 billion plot.

Tens of thousands of investors, some of them losing their life's savings, watched more than $16.5 billion disappear like smoke in 2009, according to an Associated Press analysis of scams in all 50 states.

While the dollar figure was lower than in 2008, that's only because Madoff � who pleaded guilty earlier this year and is serving a 150-year prison sentence � was arrested in December 2008 and didn't count toward this year's total.

Too much trust put in social networking sites: security expert
Instead of obscure and poorly written e-mails from Nigerian princes and oil barons � who offer to share their fortunes via a simple bank transfer � these new cyber threats are sent from the accounts of your friends and family, making them look legitimate, Stern said.

"One of the big differences here is that with the Nigerian scam e-mail, the traditional one, the people who get caught up in it really should be knowing better," he said. "But with these, it's someone trying to do the right thing and getting burned for it."

The hacker sends out messages to friends and family listed in the stolen accounts, claiming to be stuck in the United Kingdom and unable to get home. He can't pay his hotel bill or even call home, because his phone, money and credit cards have all been stolen, Stern said.

Disinfectants 'train' superbugs to resist antibiotics
Scientists know bacteria can become inured to disinfectant, but research increasingly shows the same process may make them resistant to certain drugs.

This can occur even with an antibiotic the bacteria have not been exposed to.

Writing in Microbiology, the National University of Ireland team, who focused on a common hospital bacterium, urges a rethink of how infections are managed.

Scientists in Galway found that by adding increasing amounts of disinfectant to cultures of pseudomonas aeruginosa in the lab, the bacteria learnt to resist not only the disinfectant but also ciprofloxacin - a commonly-prescribed antibiotic - even without being exposed to it.

Montreal hospital battling superbug; Guard at door, limiting visits
Maisonneuve Rosemont and St. Luc hospitals reported 14 cases of C. difficile. There have been no deaths.

"This is the time of year when C. diff occurs," Tannenbaum said. "But hospitals are aware of what they have to do - basic control measures that have to do with cleaning and rapidly isolating symptomatic people."

At least 13 people died at Charles LeMoyne Hospital in the Mont�gie region as of August in connection with an outbreak that sickened 43 patients.

PAM COMMENTARY: Again, has anyone tried a zapper?

In New Gas Wells, More Drilling Chemicals Remain Underground [BF]
In the nation's largest and most important natural gas fields, far more chemicals are being used today than when Congress and the EPA last visited the fracturing issue, and far more of those fluids are remaining underground. Drilling companies say that as they've drilled in the Marcellus they've discovered that the shale rock -- which is similar to many of the nation's largest natural gas projects in Louisiana, Texas and several other states -- holds more fluids than they expected.

During hydraulic fracturing, drillers use combinations of some of the 260 chemical additives associated with the process, plus large amounts of water and sand, to break rock and release gas. Benzene and formaldehyde, both known carcinogens, are among the substances that are commonly found.

If another industry proposed injecting chemicals -- or even salt water -- underground for disposal, the EPA would require it to conduct a geological study to make sure the ground could hold those fluids without leaking and to follow construction standards when building the well. In some cases the EPA would also establish a monitoring system to track what happened as the well aged.

But because hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, it doesn't necessarily have to conform to these federal standards. Instead, oversight of the drilling chemicals and the injection process has been left solely to the states, some of which regulate parts of the process while others do not.

PAM COMMENTARY: See link from weeks ago -- "Democracy Now!" covered this topic on one of their earlier shows. I'm linking to this new article because it also has some good detail.

Crackdown in Iran: Up to 12 Dead, Hundreds Arrested in Opposition Protests [DN]
HADI GHAEMI: Good morning, Amy, and thanks for having me.

As you mentioned, yesterday Iran was the scene of a major unrest. And we see that the political crisis in that country six months after the election, not only not coming to an end, but it�s expanding, and the government and the Supreme Leader are facing major issues of legitimacy. And basically, the political elites who have been in charge of the country for the past thirty years have come to head-on war with each other. And yesterday showed that the level of violence is escalating.

And it was very, very disturbing to see that on the holiest day of the Shiite calendar the government felt free to use violence, and as many as ten people throughout the country are reported killed. That has been a shocking development for many people, because even thirty years ago when protests were taking place against the Shah, the Shah�s military did not open fire on that day. And now we see a government that has claims to religious authority basically overlooking all that and killing its own people on that day.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance more of Ashura and also the death of the nephew of the presidential candidate.

HADI GHAEMI: Ashura is the holiest day for the Shiites, because it marks the martyrdom of their third Imam, who is really their hero, the man who stood up against tyranny. And even though he did not have an army, only with seventy-two people, he took out on a much larger army to fight for his ideals and what he believed was a fight against tyrannical, so that imagery has been very potent in Shiite version of Islam. And yesterday was a day where every day in Iran people congregate to mark that day. And to see it turned violent was very shocking for many people.

Now, the death of�the death of the nephew of the opposition leader, Mousavi, is being reported as an assassination. It looks like it was very targeted. An SUV pulled out in front of him, and someone jumped out and shot him point blank. And then his body was taken to a hospital, where Mousavi visited it. And at the same time, Basiji forces surrounded the hospital. And by midnight, it�s reported that the body disappeared. So it�s becoming quite an intrigue. But one analysis is that he was assassinated as a warning to Mousavi himself. And it also shows that the political infighting is becoming very personal within the regime.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, for people who are listening right now on the radio, you can go to our website at democracynow.org, and you can see all of the video. But talk about the significance of what we�re seeing, from people�s cell phones, video that they�re taking and that they�re uploading. What kind of crackdown is going on, Hadi Ghaemi?

HADI GHAEMI: Yeah, we�re really seeing a modern phenomenon in terms of social networking and impact of technology on empowering people. The government has done its best to shut down any channels of communication and information coming out of the country or being circulated within the country. We�ve had the foreign journalists banned from going on this trip and covering anything, including the wire services. The media within Iran is highly censored.

And actually yesterday �til afternoon, they would not even admit anything unusual happening in the country. And the Revolutionary Guard who are in power right now politically, they had been warning people not to congregate and not to hold any kind of events on that day, and yet we see that hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country came out. And they were very creative in getting the information out as soon as possible through the internet. So, by late afternoon, there were so many YouTube videos and images flooding the internet that the government media could not deny anymore that events were taking place. And by the end of the evening, the police commander was coming out and admitting that five people have been killed, 300 have been arrested, and signaling that the country is undergoing a major crisis. But the role of the citizen journalists to bringing out information, showing what is really happening in the country, has been very significant, and it�s quite a phenomenon.

New form of malaria threatens Thai-Cambodia border
PAILIN, Cambodia -- O'treng village doesn't look like the epicenter of anything.

Just off a muddy rutted-out road, it is nothing more than a handful of Khmer-style bamboo huts perched crookedly on stilts, tucked among a tangle of cornfields once littered with deadly land mines.

Yet this spot on the Thai-Cambodian border is home to a form of malaria that keeps rendering one powerful drug after another useless. This time, scientists have confirmed the first signs of resistance to the only affordable treatment left in the global medicine cabinet for malaria: Artemisinin.

If this drug stops working, there's no good replacement to combat a disease that kills 1 million annually. As a result, earlier this year international medical leaders declared resistant malaria here a health emergency.

PAM COMMENTARY: Again, has anyone tried a zapper? Colloidal silver? Herbs? It might be DRUG-resistant, but that doesn't mean it can't be cured through other means.

Pa. county starts witness protection program
READING, Pa. - Berks County District Attorney John Adams said an ongoing problem of retaliation against witnesses is forcing him to protect those witnesses.

Adams said he will begin relocating cooperating witnesses in violent cases from the Reading area starting next month.

He said money seized in drug cases will fund the program.

PAM COMMENTARY: That area needs SOMETHING different, has a bad problem with sexual predators and organized crime.

Advancements in solar technology will allow more people to power their own homes
(NaturalNews) A recent issue of Inorganic Chemistry contains a report about the many advancements being made in the field of solar energy production. The concept of "personalized solar energy", a model by which people power their own homes using the energy from the sun rather than rely on the power grid, is becoming more viable as scientists have discovered improved ways of storing large quantities of solar energy.

The new method of energy storage is similar to plant photosynthesis. Scientists have designed a catalyst that splits water into oxygen and hydrogen that are then stored in fuel cells as fuel. The entire process from production to use is both clean and sustainable.

Dr. Daniel Nocera, author of the report, noted that energy use is expected to increase three-fold in the next century as countries around the globe continue to industrialize. The ability to capture and store energy from the sun has the real potential to solve the world's energy and pollution crises.

5,000 Shiites demonstrate against government of Iraq
KARBALA, Iraq � A group of 5,000 Iraqi Shiite demonstrators in the city of Karbala turned the religious observance of Ashoura into a political protest against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday, expressing wide-ranging criticisms as the country prepares for a critical national election in early March.

The protesters gathered outside the Imam Hussein shrine to greet the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who had descended on the city. "We don't vote for people who steal public money," the protesters shouted.

The anti-government overtones surrounding the holiday, banned under Saddam Hussein's regime, were a marked change from recent years. After the U.S. invasion, the day had been embraced by the country's Shiite majority as a moment to express solidarity in their newfound political power and long-frustrated religious freedom.

What Does Anger Smell Like?
The scent of a single chemical can turn peaceful, happy fruit flies into flying fists of fury.

For the first time, scientists have found a rage-inducing pheromone and the neuron that detects it in fruit flies. The research, detailed in the journal Nature, could help explain everything from bar fights to species-wide population control.

"Not only did we identify the pheromone that leads to aggression and its neuron," said David Anderson, a scientist at Cal Tech and co-author of the Nature study, "but we were able to manipulate the ability of the flies to increase aggression."

Jumping on the hop crop bandwagon
As part of the town�s planning, officials want to promote diverse agricultural businesses that could replace traditional family farms, which aren�t being passed on, he said.

�(Gorst Valley Hops) is a different take on agriculture,� added Sue Studz, town of Berry supervisor. �It�s a good example of how smaller parcels can be used for agricultural purposes.�

In the 19th century, Wisconsin grew one-fifth of all the hops raised in the country until mildew and aphid problems resulting from overcrowded plantations forced growers to move the crop the Pacific Northwest.

Now Altwies said state farmers have more sustainable production practices and new hop varieties that are disease and pest resistant and much higher yielding.

The state has the right growing conditions, including the right amount of sunlight, 120 frost free growing days, and very cold winters, which allow for the dormancy the hops require to flower properly and produce optimal yields, Altwies said.

Ethanol burns dirtier than gasoline, study finds
(NaturalNews) A recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University has revealed that ethanol fuel produces more ozone that regular gasoline. When ethanol is burned through combustion, it produces emissions that are substantially higher than gasoline in aldehydes, the carcinogenic precursors to ozone.

Much of the fuel dispensed at pumps in America today is a blend of both ethanol and gasoline. E85, a typical gasoline blend that is 85 percent ethanol, was found to emit more ozone pollutants than gasoline, especially during warm, sunny days. Diana Ginnebaugh, a doctoral candidate who worked on the study, explained that even on cold days when ozone is typically not a problem, E85 could result in problematic levels of ozone.

When a car is first started on a cold day, it takes the catalytic converter a few minutes to warm up in order to reach maximum efficiency. During the warmup period, the highest proportion of pollutants escape the car's tailpipe, resulting in increased pollution. According to Ginnebaugh, even a slight increase in pollutants could cause places like Los Angeles and Denver, cities that already have smog problems, to have significantly more days when ozone limits are exceeded and public health is at risk.

Ohio fishermen may be billed for ice rescues
PORT CLINTON, Ohio - As Lake Erie begins to freeze, Ohio authorities are making some changes following last winter's stranding of 130 fishermen on an ice floe.

The rescue operation cost the Coast Guard more than $245,000 on Feb. 7, after a miles-wide chunk of ice broke away in the lake. Local agencies dealt with about $20,000 in additional costs.

Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton says rescues from lake ice will now be coordinated by fire departments, and they will decide whether any fishermen will face civil penalties effectively billing them for the services. The sheriff's department will determine whether any criminal charges are in order.

Bratton says he supports ice fishing but also wants people to use common sense when the ice may be thin.

Iran opposition figures arrested as protests continue
Clashes between the Iranian authorities and the reformist movement continued today following yesterday's crackdown which left at least nine dead, including the nephew of the main opposition leader.

Police fired teargas on crowds mourning Ali Mousavi, a nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, and arrested a further seven reformist activists, including Ali Riza Beheshti, the opposition leader's closest aide, and Ebrahim Yazdi, a former foreign minister, according to Iranian opposition websites.

"A group of Mousavi supporters have gathered in front of Ibn-e-Sina hospital where his nephew's body was kept ... Police fired teargas to disperse them," the Norooz website reported.

The latest crackdown comes after reformist demonstrators were killed during anti-government rallies marking Ashura, one of the holiest days in the Shia calendar. The unrest was one of the bloodiest confrontations between the government forces and pro-reform protesters since the disputed presidential election in June. The brutal tactics of the police and security forces were condemned by another opposition leader, Mahdi Karroubi.

Karroubi posted a statement on an opposition website asking how the government could spill the blood of its people on the sacred day of Ashura. He said even the former government of the last shah respected the holy day.

Gaza Aid Convoy Members Prepare For Hunger Strike [WRH]
Members of the Viva Palestina international aid convoy to Gaza will begin a hunger strike at 11.25am local time tomorrow (27th) in protest at the Egyptian government's refusal to allow the convoy entry onto its soil.

Diplomatic negotiations are also taking place between the Turkish and Egyptian governments over the convoy's entry to Egypt. IHH, Turkey's main humanitarian aid agency, has 63 vehicles travelling on the convoy.

The Syrian government has also provided aid and vehicles, as has the government of Malaysia. More than 400 people from 17 countries are travelling on the 150 vehicle convoy, which is taking medical, humanitarian and educational aid to Gaza.

They left London on 6 December and have travelled nearly 3,000 miles across Europe and the Middle East. However, the convoy and its cargo of aid is now stopped in the Jordanian port town of Aqaba, having been denied entry into Egypt.

British MP, George Galloway, who is travelling with the convoy, said: 'Israel has kept Gaza under siege for three-and-half years against international law. It has not allowed aid or rebuilding materials in following its attack on Gaza earlier this year. Our convoy is determined to break the siege and take in urgently needed supplies Spirits are high in our camp in Aqaba, and we are going nowhere except to Gaza.'

PAM COMMENTARY: Galloway is one of the few "real men" left in politics. I remember back in 2005, when nearly all politicians were afraid of going against Bush and his wars, Galloway came to the US to defend himself against bogus charges of corruption in the old "Oil for Food" program. When questioned by Bush's pathetic yes-man, former Senator Norm Coleman (since ousted by the popular Al Franken), Galloway made a memorable speech against the war, and exposed many of Bush's lies used to launch it. Almost nobody in US politics was willing to be so honest or bold, at least until anti-war sentiment built to today's levels.

People remember who lied to them and who told the truth, who's good and who's bad. Galloway endeared himself to the anti-war movement and made a name for himself in the United States that day. He was obviously better at representing us than our own Congress.

As today's events unfold, a few more articles on the Gaza situation to follow...

Holocaust survivor stages hunger strike for Gaza
CAIRO � An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor was among a group of grandmothers who began a hunger strike in Cairo on Monday to protest against Egypt's refusal to allow a Gaza solidarity march to proceed.

American activist Hedy Epstein and other grandmothers participating in the Gaza Freedom March began a hunger strike at 1000 GMT.

"I've never done this before, I don't know how my body will react, but I'll do whatever it takes," Epstein told AFP, sitting on a chair surrounded by hundreds of protesters outside the United Nations building in Cairo.

Egyptian authorities had said they would not allow any of the 1,300 protesters who have come to Egypt from 42 countries to take part in the march to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing, the only entry that bypasses Israel.

High-ranking officers and riot police were deployed on the Nile bank where the UN building is located and where hundreds of Gaza Freedom March participants asked the United Nations to mediate with Cairo to let their convoy into Gaza.

Hezbollah slams Egypt over Gaza
Tha leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement accused Egypt on Sunday of "choking off an entire people" by building an underground barrier designed to obstruct tunnels which provide a lifeline for the blockaded enclave.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told a crowd of tens of thousands who had gathered for the Ashura religious ceremony that Cairo should be condemned if it continued installing the steel barrier.

He said that it would tighten the blockade imposed by Tel Aviv on Gaza since Hamas defeated a Western-backed coup bid by Fatah in 2007.

Tensions between Egypt - where most Muslim citizens are Sunni - and Hezbollah, backed by traditionally Shi'ite Iran, have been running high since last year when Mr Nasrallah accused Cairo of complicity with Israel in its siege of the Gaza strip.

He said: "In addition to the siege, there has been news about the construction of a steel wall to terminate the thin veins which are giving some life and some hope to Gaza.

Gaza still in ruins a year after the war
Closed border crossings
The international community has made more than 2.78 billion euros available for reconstruction but Gaza residents haven't seen a cent so far. Israel and Egypt have both refused to allow building materials into the territory. To coincide with the commemoration of the start of the attack, two groups have started campaigns to break the blockade.

On 31 December, a group of international peace activists in Gaza are planning to organise a protest march to the Israeli border. The Gaza Freedom March will go from Gaza City to the Erez crossing. Around 1350 activists have signed up to take part in the event and they are hoping to be accompanied by around 50,000 Palestinian demonstrators. The activists who have signed up have all signed a document promising to protest peacefully. Many of the activists have been refused entry by the Egyptian authorities and it is not yet known how those who have entered the Gaza Strip managed to do so.

Egypt's Rafah crossing
Another peace initiative was started outside the Gaza Strip. Volunteers working for the Viva Palestina aid convoy are stranded in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba with 250 lorry loads of goods. They are waiting for permission from the Egyptian authorities to proceed by ferry to the Gaza Strip. Egypt has so far refused to co-operate. The activists are considering starting a hunger strike in order to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities.

The controversial British politician George Galloway is heading the convoy. In an interview with the Arab television station Al Jazeera on Sunday, he called directly on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to allow the goods through. "Please, President Mubarak, let's solve this issue. We have to make haste otherwise the food and medicine will spoil. We are just four hours from Gaza," he said.

FBI deluged by fraud cases from real estate bubble
And now, about half of the FBI's mortgage fraud cases involve foreclosure rescue scams. That happens when unscrupulous brokers negotiate refinancing on behalf of homeowners facing foreclosure.

"They think they're refinancing their house. They think their credit will be repaired and they'll have no payments for a year," Woods said. "What happens is they are really selling their house to a straw buyer."

All the equity is sucked from the house and the proceeds split among the broker and accomplices.

"These are often the most heart-wrenching cases - the elderly, the less fortunate," he said. "Rarely is there restitution available."

The Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General's Office and the Treasury Department are among other federal agencies battling mortgage fraud on different fronts.

China enacts law to promote renewable energy
BEIJING -- China's utilities will be required to buy all the power produced by wind farms and other renewable sources under a new law meant to promote the industry and reduce heavy reliance on coal.

Legislators approved the measure Saturday as an amendment to China's 2006 renewable energy law, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Beijing has set ambitious goals for wind, solar and other renewable energy in an effort to clean up its environment and curb surging demand for imported oil and gas, which communist leaders see as a strategic weakness.

Conservation groups hope to buy forestlands to manage
Invariably, someone on a fundraising tour will ask about the stumps and slash piles, which are everywhere.

"Why would I give money to cut trees down?" asks a woman on a November day.

The question highlights Chalfant's challenge as he shapes the future of forestry in Oregon: How do you convince the public that logging forests is a means of saving them?

Conservation groups are now the forest industry's biggest allies, as institutional investors buy millions of acres of forestland nationwide.

From Maine to Montana, they're giving rise to a new model of private ownership, called community forests, hoping to save them from homes and subdivisions.

They're finding creative ways to finance big purchases and pushing a surprising tactic to preserve trees: harvesting them.

Swamped by teen suicides; 13 northern Ontario youngsters killed themselves last year. Another 80 tried. Desperate social workers struggle to cope � and wonder how many more have to die before they get the help they need
In mid-December, a Star investigation focused on the epidemic of teen suicides in northeastern Ontario. In the last year, 13 teens living in remote communities along the James and Hudson Bay coasts and throughout the isolated north have committed suicide � all by hanging. The youngest to die was 14.

Tragically, another 80 have tried to take their lives.

The youth living in the province's poorest communities � Moosonee, Moose Factory Island, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Kashechewan � face a host of problems.

Most of the areas are plagued with drug addiction, high unemployment and poverty. Locals complain there is little for the kids to do.

A new youth centre on Moose Factory, built mostly by the province, sits largely empty because of a lack of cash to run programs, something the province says is the federal government's responsibility.

"There were times the bodies came in in twos," Wilson said in an interview from Timmins. "I have never seen the likes of this before. It is amazing, the native kids we bury."

PAM COMMENTARY: I remember a caller to the Alex Jones show from the Native community in Canada. Although I don't know if she was talking about the same geographical area within Canada, she mentioned that all of the Native kids who'd commited suicide had cell phones. Jones mentioned that it may be mind control (waves coming from the cell towers), but it could be that cell phone radiation played a role in their brain health as well.

Big plans for small wind
Wind power has been adding to North Dakota�s power generation capacity in multi-megawatt surges as turbine towers spring up across the landscape.

But apart from major wind farms, individuals can pull a couple of kilowatts from the air on a smaller scale with �small wind,� a niche power source that grew by 78 percent in the United States last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

�I think it�s a coming thing. We all know that electricity bills are going up,� said Art Mariner, who has been selling small wind power units at his GR-8 Country Wind Power business for about a year and a half. He said he installs an $18,000 to $19,000 tower and turbine unit about every two months, and expects to sell more in the spring.

Most of his customers live on farms and ranches, but he also installed a turbine at Bismarck State College this summer.

�It won�t totally cut out your bill. No matter how big the turbine is, the wind doesn�t always blow,� Mariner said. But with power generation capacities around 2.4 kilowatts an hour, it will take out a chunk of electricity expenses.

Using the natural methods of 'biomimicry' to fix Cleveland's Cuyahoga River
The Cuyahoga shipping channel is lined on each side with steel bulkheads -- a century-old, manmade containment system that keeps the soil of the riverbank from eroding into the river and also keeps the river within its banks during times of flooding.

But the channel has also been historically unfriendly to plants and fish. Not only is it the location where much of the industrial pollution of the past was poured out, but the steel walls lining the river can't support the plant life necessary for fish to use as food and shelter as they swim upstream to spawn.

While the Cuyahoga water quality has improved dramatically -- bringing parts of the river to the brink of being given a clean bill of health by the EPA -- the steel walls remain an obstacle to recovery in the lower river.

PAM COMMENTARY: It has been a major environmental effort to revive the Cuyahoga, a river that famously caught fire in 1969 and several other times. An Ohioan who was previously a co-worker of mine claimed that Standard Oil (the Rockefellers' old oil company, later Amoco, Exxon, etc.) would dump untreated kerosene into the river. At the time, jet fuel wasn't in enough demand to create a good market for kerosene, and kerosene was considered a waste byproduct of refining oil. (The invention of the light bulb had cut the need for lamp kerosene late in the previous century, thankfully cutting down on house fires from kerosene lamps.)

I haven't been able to find any documentation to back up his claims of major kerosene pollution, although several stories refer to similar things as common knowledge, for example one article mentions the 1969 fire was touched off by railroad sparks hitting "kerosene-laden oil floating on top of the river". That's the kind of thing often known to locals, maybe some employees at Ohio industrial plants, but rarely makes it into the newspapers unless, usually years later, there's legal action or the government is using taxpayer dollars to clean up industry's toxic waste.

However, even if one company provided the most volume of flammable substances, it's clear that oil and other industrial waste is spilled into the Cuyahoga by many industries even today. The Cuyahoga played a major role in the "Death of Lake Erie," and is blamed for many environmental problems in the lake. Here is the series on the river (and a few recent articles) from Cleveland's newspaper "The Plain Dealer":

After the flames: The story behind the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire and its recovery
Life slows down but carries on under the cold waters of the Cuyahoga River
Feds sue Akron to enforce Clean Water Act and to stop city from polluting Cuyahoga River
U.S. EPA commends Cuyahoga cleanup -- but won't take river off list of polluted waters
Investigators blaming oil spill from sewer pipe for gull kill on Cuyahoga River (see video)
Third oil spill on Cuyahoga River investigated
Public gets first look at lakefront development plan
Sanimax, an oil recycler, tied to Cuyahoga River spill that killed hundreds of gulls in June
Army Corps of Engineers wants Cuyahoga River-dredging disposal site built off East 55th Street
Public is invited to join the discussion over whether to remove Ohio 82 dam
Land around Blossom goes to Cuyahoga Valley National Park if Obama signs bill
Change is in the air for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority
Sluggish economy creates competition for sewer district projects
Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority board hires interim CEO, lays off four managers
Cleveland Planning Commission OKs development of port land
Cleveland Planning Commission approves first phases of lakefront development work -- with stipulations for port

Pirate claim: $4M paid to release Chinese ship
MOGADISHU, Somalia � A band of Somali pirates split a $4 million ransom to release a Chinese cargo ship and 25 sailors after two months in captivity, one of the hijackers said Monday.

The EU Naval Force said the bulk carrier De Xin Hai was released outside of Hobyo, Somalia, on Sunday. The crew and ship are in good condition, the force said.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said the ship and crew were now under the protection of a Chinese naval fleet after an early morning rescue. It did not give further details about the rescue.

The De Xin Hai was the first Chinese vessel to be hijacked since China deployed a three-ship squadron to the Gulf of Aden last year, joining Britain, India, Iran, the U.S., France and other countries in anti-piracy patrols.

Family: Mousavi nephew's body taken from hospital
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A relative of Iran's opposition leader says the body of the leader's nephew has been removed from a hospital without the family's permission, a day after he was slain in an anti-government protest.

Reza Mousavi said Monday that the body of his brother, Ali Mousavi, was taken from a Tehran hospital, possibly by authorities seeking to deter mourners from organizing more protests around his funeral.

The slain man is the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Tehran residents say Internet access has been severely restricted since Sunday's deadly unrest, and Iranians have been unable to see opposition Web sites. Cell phone and text messaging services have been sporadic.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Opposition activists said Iranian security forces rounded up at least seven prominent activists on Monday, stepping up a crackdown on the country's pro-reform movement a day after eight people, including the nephew of the chief opposition leader, were killed in anti-government protests.

The bloodshed, some of the heaviest in months, drew an especially harsh condemnation from one opposition leader, who compared the government to the brutal regime that was ousted by the Islamic Revolution three decades ago.

Senate Fails To Confirm Some Of Obama�s Key Progressive Nominations [BF]
But the Senate also rebuffed six other nominations, including Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen and Department of Labor Solicitor Patricia Smith � both of whom tout solid progressive credentials. The Washington Post reports:

The Senate did not take a formal vote Thursday on any of the officials, but Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said, �They ran into opposition.�

As head of the OLC, Johnsen would lead the same office which, under Jay Bybee�s command in the Bush administration, gave sanction to the use of torture. Johnsen was a fierce outspoken critic of the so-called �torture memos,� writing, �We must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power.�

Johnsen was criticized by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) for lacking the �seriousness and necessary resolve to address the national security challenges we face.� Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) expressed concern over her �outspoken pro-choice views.� And Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) registered his opposition to Johnsen without offering an explanation.

PAM COMMENTARY: Why don't they just come out and say it? If she doesn't torture people, then they don't want her. The one good point is that the Obama administration tried to get a decent person through this time.

Thailand deports thousands of Hmong refugees
BANGKOK -- Thailand on Monday began to deport back to Laos more than 4,000 ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers, defying intense pressure from the United Nations, the United States and human rights groups who say the deportees could face persecution upon their return.

After days of preparation, 5,000 troops and officials entered the Hmong camp in Thailand's central Petchabun province early in the morning to begin moving the asylum-seekers onto buses that would take them over the border, a process that a military official said might take 24 hours.

Col. Thana Charuwat, the officer in charge of the operation, said that 2,100 of the camp residents had agreed to leave voluntarily and that the army was trying to persuade the rest. But the Thai government has blocked media and international access to the camp and mobile telephone signals in it, making it difficult to independently confirm that information.

The migrants say they are at risk from persecution by the Laos government if they return there. Many were soldiers or family members of soldiers -- the so-called "forgotten allies"-- who decades ago fought in a secret army set up by the United States to combat the communist insurgents who eventually took over the country in 1975.

Indian tribes buy back thousands of acres of land
Native American tribes tired of waiting for the U.S. government to honor centuries-old treaties are buying back land where their ancestors lived and putting it in federal trust.

Native Americans say the purchases will help protect their culture and way of life by preserving burial grounds and areas where sacred rituals are held. They also provide land for farming, timber and other efforts to make the tribes self-sustaining.

Tribes put more than 840,000 acres � or roughly the equivalent of the state of Rhode Island � into trust from 1998 to 2007, according to information The Associated Press obtained from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act.

Those buying back land include the Winnebago, who have put more than 700 acres in eastern Nebraska in federal trust in the past five years, and the Pawnee, who have 1,600 acres of trust land in Oklahoma. Land held in federal trust is exempt from local and state laws and taxes, but subject to most federal laws.

Three tribes have bought land around Bear Butte in South Dakota's Black Hills to keep it from developers eager to cater to the bikers who roar into Sturgis every year for a raucous road rally. About 17 tribes from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma still use the mountain for religious ceremonies.

Collateral Damage; Navy Sonar Causes Whale Deaths, Strandings (FLASHBACK)
Scientists arrived to gather tissue; after the necropsies, the whales were buried on the beach. �It�s curious to have three different kinds of whales strand, and a number of possible causes are being examined. Sonar is certainly one of them,� said Connie Barclay, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

On the day the strandings began, several Navy ships conducted submarine-hunting exercises off North Carolina�s Outer Banks, using loudspeakers to send mid-frequency sonar sound waves across ten or even a hundred miles of ocean. Sonar devices can locate an enemy�s sophisticated, almost-silent diesel submarines by, ironically, making a deafening noise�sometimes above 230 decibels, as loud as a Saturn V rocket blasting off. (Underwater noise of only 120 decibels�a level billions of times less intense�has been known to disrupt whale behavior.)

The Navy maintains that the sonar training had nothing to do with the whale strandings, but it has been forced to acknowledge such problems in the past. In 2000, 16 whales, of three species, beached themselves along a 150-mile stretch of the Bahamas; whales and porpoises have also come ashore and died on five different occasions on the Canary Islands, as well as along the coasts of Greece, Spain, and Alaska. Each time, sonar exercises were being conducted by the U.S. Navy or NATO forces nearby. In a 2004 report, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission found that the evidence linking Navy sonar and whale strandings �appears overwhelming.� In November, a U.N. report concurred that increased naval military maneuvers and sonar are harming the ability of 71 types of whales, dolphins, and porpoises to communicate, navigate, and hunt.

Nor, as once thought, does the sonar simply misdirect the animals to beach by interfering with their echolocation. Scientists have detected severe lesions in organ tissue, bleeding in the brain and from the ears, and indications that the whales have been literally shaken apart by the intense sound. The journal Nature has reported that the victims of one mass stranding exhibited strange gas bubbles in certain organs. This has led researchers to conclude that the whales may have suffered a kind of decompression sickness similar to �the bends,� known to kill human divers who surface too quickly. Pilot whales and dwarf sperm whales dive more than 1,000 feet deep to feed off the slopes of the continental shelf such as those off of North Carolina. The whales at Cape Hatteras may have panicked and come up too fast.

PAM COMMENTARY: After reading the "Scientists so far have been unable to explain why whales become stranded" line in yesterday's story below, I had to dig up one of the many old stories on how Navy sonar kills whales. I don't know if that's what happened in the case below, but it's usually the cause.

An interview with Earthwatch-supported scientist Ken Balcomb reveals the physical damage sustained by whales that died in the Bahamas following Navy sonar tests. (FLASHBACK)
Earth Watch Institute: The evidence you and your colleagues have found in stranded whales points to something else going on than mere hearing loss. What you're saying is a bit different from other folks who claim that LFAS disrupts cetaceans' sensitive hearing and therefore disorients them. You're claiming there's actual physical damage-hemorrhaging-around ears and brain.

Ken Balcomb: Yes there's actually hemorrhaging going on. It isn't an auditory injury per se. It affects the ears, but this pressure damage is not related to whether or not the whales have temporary threshold shift in their hearing [a hearing loss]. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) says these injuries are survivable-and they are, but only with hospitalization. And whales don't have that option.

Earth Watch Institute: So what's actually happening?

Ken Balcomb: Think of resonance in an air chamber: A sound vibration produces an acoustic pressure wave that goes through an air chamber, expanding and contracting a millimeter or a micron or so if that vibration is not in resonance. But if the sound wave is in resonance, it will expand and contract many times that. An air chamber, like a whale's lung or a fish's swim bladder, shrinks in volume the deeper the animal goes. It's just like squeezing a balloon; the harder you squeeze, the smaller it gets. At the same time, since the air chamber is getting smaller, its resonance frequency will increase. So will any sound wave's amplitude when it is in resonance. Aside from potential auditory trauma from underwater sound, we have been concerned about the other potentially damaging resonance effects from the resonance of underwater sound, such as had been previously reported in U.S. Navy studies: vertigo in immersed laboratory animals, hemorrhage in lungs, liver. That is exactly what we have seen in the beaked whales that stranded.

Earth Watch Institute: Why are beaked whales apparently hypersensitive to sound waves?

Ken Balcomb: All the dolphins are jaw-hearers-they hear through the lower jaw. The fat of the lower jaw connects directly to the earbone. Now the beaked whales have a lot more of that fat plus they have an acoustic, reflective surface on the inside of the mouth, so that basically they're not losing any of the energy of the incoming sound. They've developed an anatomical gain in their hearing so that, overall, I believe they're twice as sensitive to sound as delphinids and other odontocetes are. Beaked whales are deep-diving squid-eaters. Bottle-nosed beaked whales routinely go 500 to 1,500 meters, and studies of beaked whales in Japan and elsewhere clocked them going deeper than 1.5 kilometers. They may compete with sperm whales for the deep diving record.

PAM COMMENTARY: More from a scientist on how Navy sonar causes whale deaths and strandings.

125 pilot whales die on NZ beaches, 43 saved
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Some 125 pilot whales died in New Zealand after stranding on the beach over the weekend - but vacationers and conservation workers Sunday managed to coax 43 others back out to sea.

Rescuers monitored the survivors as they swam away from Colville Beach on North Island's Coromandel peninsula, and by Monday morning they were reported well out to sea.

Department of Conservation workers and hundreds of volunteers helped re-float the 43 whales at high tide. The volunteers covered the stranded mammals in sheets and kept them wet through the day.

"Some 63 pilot whales stranded ... but it looks pretty good, we've got 43 live ones," Department of Conservation ranger Steve Bolten said as the pod swam out to sea.

Bolten said one of the whales may have been sick, or their sonar may have led them into the shallow harbor and they couldn't find their way out again.

Death Toll Rises to 10 as Clashes in Iran Intensify
BEIRUT, Lebanon � Iranian police opened fire into crowds of protesters on Sunday, killing at least 10 people and setting off a day of chaotic street battles that seemed poised to deepen the country�s civil unrest, witnesses and opposition Web sites said.

The nationwide protests, on the holiday commemorating the death of Hussein, Shiite Islam�s holiest martyr, were the bloodiest and among the largest since the uprisings that followed Iran�s disputed presidential election last June, witnesses said. Hundreds of people were reported wounded in cities across the country, and the Tehran police said they had made 300 arrests.

The Iranian authorities� decision to use deadly force on the sacred Ashura holiday infuriated many Iranians, and some said the violence appeared to galvanize more traditional religious people who have not been part of the protests so far. Historically, Iranian rulers have honored Ashura�s prohibition of violence, even during wartime.

Confirmed? "Sharp dressed man" aided Northwest flight "Christmas Bomber" Umar Mutallab onto plane without passport. Who was involved, why don't we know about this other suspect? [WRH]
Haskell said he and his wife were sitting on the ground near their boarding gate in Amsterdam, which is when they saw Mutallab approach the gate with an unidentified man.

Kurt and Lori Haskell are attorneys with Haskell Law Firm in Taylor. Their expertise includes bankruptcy, family law and estate planning.

While Mutallab was poorly dressed, his friend was dressed in an expensive suit, Haskell said. He says the suited man asked ticket agents whether Mutallab could board without a passport. �The guy said, 'He's from Sudan and we do this all the time.'�

Mutallab is Nigerian. Haskell believes the man may have been trying to garner sympathy for Mutallab's lack of documents by portraying him as a Sudanese refugee.

The ticket agent referred Mutallab and his companion to her manager down the hall, and Haskell didn't see Mutallab again until after he allegedly tried to detonate an explosive on the plane.

Northwest Bomb Plot 'Oddities'; Bogosity reaches critical mass! [WRH]
In 2008, the ACLU estimated the US 'No Fly List' to have grown to over 1,000,000 names -- heck, even Cat Stevens and the late Senator Ted Kennedy were on it -- and it continues to expand. But, suspected terrorist Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was curiously able to obtain military-grade high explosives --80 grams of PETN (Gee, where'd he get that?) -- managed to escape airport security and detonate his underwear bomb!

In April 2009, American authorities reportedly refused an Air France flight from Paris to Mexico entry into US airspace because a left-wing journalist writing a book on the CIA was on board. Hernando Calvo Ospina, who works for Le Monde Diplomatique and has written on revolutionary movements in Cuba and Colombia, figured on the US authorities' 'no-fly list.' Air France said the April 18 flight was forced to divert to the French Caribbean island of Martinique before continuing its journey (telegraph.co.uk).

Got it? Write a book critical of the CIA -- you cannot fly. Carry explosives (allegedly from Yemen) on board when the US is trolling for an excuse to invade and occupy Yemen for its oil -- yes you can! The US needs false flags to provide cover for illegal invasions and occupations. The 9/11 terrorist attacks (aka inside job, six ways to Sunday) worked well for the US government; the security-industrial complex made billions and US corporaterrorists were able to negotiate the wholesale theft of Iraq's oil.

Hackers' attacks rise in volume, sophistication
Security experts describe the typical hacker of 2009 as more sophisticated, prolific and craftier than ever. If anything, criminals will be remembered by the sheer number of attacks they unleashed upon the Web.

While the year didn't see many technological leaps in the techniques hackers employ, they continued to expand their reach to every corner of the Internet by leveraging social media, infiltrating trusted Web sites, and crafting more convincing and tailored scams.

Although there were a handful of firsts - like the first iPhone worm - most attacks in 2009 were near-identical to tactics used in prior years, changing only in the victims they targeted and their level of sophistication.

One of the most preoccupying trends was personalized attacks designed to steal small and medium business owners' online banking credentials. The scheme was particularly damaging because banks take less responsibility for the monetary losses of businesses than of individual consumers in identity theft cases.

Yahoo Sells All Its Users Private Email Contents to U.S. Agencies for Small Price [R]
(Mathaba) Yahoo isn�t happy that a detailed menu of the spying services it provides to "law enforcement" and spy agencies has leaked onto the web.

After earlier reports this week that Yahoo had blocked an FOIA Freedom of Information release of its "law enforcement and intelligence price list", someone helpfully provided a copy of the Yahoo company�s spying guide to the whistleblower web site Cryptome.org.

The 17-page guide, which Yahoo has tried to suppress via legal letters to the Cryptome.org site run by freedom of information champion John Young, describes Yahoo�s policies on keeping the data of Yahoo Email and Yahoo Groups users, as well as the surveillance and spying capabilities it can give to the U.S. government and its agencies.

The Yahoo document is a price list for these spying services and has already resulted in many people closing down their accounts in protest. However, closing a Yahoo account is not as easy as one might expect: users have reported great difficulty in finding the link to delete their account, and, Yahoo will still keep data for another 90 days.

When the land's worth more than the trees
Over the past decade, investor-owners have used one big advantage as they've quietly replaced traditional forest products companies: They don't pay corporate taxes. This month,Weyerhaeuser, the nation's last major publicly-traded integrated forest products company, announced it will become a real estate investment trust next year.

With timber prices flatlining and real estate values rising, many private forestland owners are shifting their gaze to building homes rather than growing trees. Landowners elsewhere in the country, under pressure to maximize returns, have looked to convert forests into subdivisions and resorts as trees become less valuable than the land they occupy.

The unprecedented change in land ownership raises concerns about the impact on wildlife and natural resources, as well as the increased costs of protecting residents from forest fires. Nationwide, about 1 million acres of forestland are lost to development every year. In the Pacific Northwest, it begs the question: What does the future for forestry look like in a region defined by it?

In timber-dependent towns like Glenwood, the change carries the fear of the unknown. As landowners come and go quickly, their financial decisions could create a patchwork of forests and rural sprawl.

"Without the land, there's nothing here," says forester Jay McLaughlin, who lives in Glenwood. "If we don't keep places like this going, they're going to end up being playgrounds for the rich or turn into ghost towns."

20 years of malpractice data still mostly closed to public
More than 20 years ago Congress created a federal database to track incompetent and unprofessional health-care practitioners.

The database, compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, includes some 460,000 records of malpractice lawsuits whose judgments total $69.7 billion.

It includes information on 23,788 patient deaths, 8,100 major permanent injuries and 3,896 cases that resulted in quadriplegics, brain damage or lifelong care.

But much of the data is closed to the public.

Although the full database is open to hospitals, managed care organizations and state licensing agencies, the public can view only limited information, such as the lawsuit's allegation and the patient's health.

Meanwhile, the doctors' names remain hidden, preventing patients from using the data to look up information on their practitioner.

First case of highly drug-resistant TB found in US
Doctors say Juarez's incessant hack was a sign of what they have both dreaded and expected for years � this country's first case of a contagious, aggressive, especially drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. The Associated Press learned of his case, which until now has not been made public, as part of a six-month look at the soaring global challenge of drug resistance.

Juarez's strain � so-called extremely drug-resistant (XXDR) TB � has never before been seen in the U.S., according to Dr. David Ashkin, one of the nation's leading experts on tuberculosis. XXDR tuberculosis is so rare that only a handful of other people in the world are thought to have had it.

"He is really the future," Ashkin said. "This is the new class that people are not really talking too much about. These are the ones we really fear because I'm not sure how we treat them.

PAM COMMENTARY: How about trying a zapper?

Anti-government protests turn deadly in Tehran
TEHRAN -- Security forces opened fire at crowds demonstrating against the government in the capital on Sunday, killing at least four people, including the nephew of opposition political leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, witnesses and Web sites linked to the opposition said.

"Ali Mousavi, 32, was shot in the heart at the Enghelab square. He became a martyr," the Rah-e Sabz Website reported.

In the heaviest clashes in months, fierce battles erupted as tens of thousands of demonstrators tried to gather on a main Tehran avenue, with people setting up roadblocks and throwing stones at members of special forces under the command of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. They in turn threw dozens of teargas and stun grenades, but failed in pushing back crowds, who shouted slogans against the government, witnesses reported.

A witness reported seeing at least four people shot in the central Vali-e Asr Square. "I saw a riot cop opening fire, using a handgun," the witness said. "A girl was hit in the shoulders, three other men in their stomachs and legs. It was total chaos."

PAM COMMENTARY: I hope this riot wasn't incited by "operatives" as an excuse down the road for US military action. I'm sure more coverage of this event will unfold throughout the day. The earlier links were from the first newspapers I found covering this story. The larger news services didn't kick in until later in the morning.

'Mousavi nephew' among Iran dead
The nephew of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is reportedly among eight people killed in continuing clashes between police and protesters.

An aide to the leader said on Sunday that Seyyed Ali Mousavi died after being shot by the police, but the claim could not be independently verified as foreign news organisations are barred by the authorities from covering street unrest.

Iranian state television, however, confirmed that several people were killed in clashes.

Kwanzaa begins with Unity
Black is for the people.

Red is for the struggle.

Green is for the future.

The candles on the Kinara, a tall wooden candle holder that anchors the flaming symbols, tell the story of a culture and a tradition.

"They're more than just candles," said Emanuel Washington, the organizer of an annual Kwanzaa celebration at Jacksonville's Edward Waters College. "They're a representation of where we come from and where we're going. They're little pieces of us."

Red snapper rebounding in Gulf of Mexico, study finds
Government regulators have spent decades tinkering with fishing regulations meant to boost the Gulf of Mexico's ailing red snapper species to no avail, but new scientific data show the latest method may be working for the first time.

After years of piecemeal rules and a federal lawsuit filed by environmental groups, fisheries regulators clamped down on red snapper fishing in 2007, cutting fishing quotas nearly in half from the year before and shortening seasons for recreational anglers. The signature Gulf fish species has been a centerpiece on upscale menus across the country, but its popularity in recent decades pushed red snapper toward the brink of collapse.

The first scientific assessment since then shows that the Gulf's red snapper population, though still overfished, is rebounding from previous years.

The report found that regulators could loosen fishing regulations slightly from the strict ones currently in place. But it points out that sport fishers still exceed their allotted quotas, a source of concern in the scientific and environmental community.

Prevail Against Pests without Pesticides...
The damage caused by reliance on pesticides has resulted in pesticide-related destruction of many natural enemies of pests, as well as the development of pesticide resistance; crop pollination problems and honeybee losses[5]; crop and crop product losses; and bird, fish, bats,[6] and other wildlife losses.

Crop losses caused by pesticides cost farmers and producers approximately $1.4 billion yearly; bird losses due to pesticides ring up at $2.2 billion yearly; and groundwater contamination at $2.0 billion yearly.[7]

Ironically, studies have shown that often less than 0.1 percent of an applied pesticide reaches the target pest, leaving 99.9 percent as an unintended pollutant in the environment.[8]

Over Detroit Skies; Flight passenger gives firsthand account of fire, alleged bomb attempt
Just after they announced that we would be landing I heard two people yelling, screaming, then it grew to a muffled chorus of yells and cries, the words "Fire, there's a fire," drifted back to where I was sitting in economy window seat 38J. I looked at my companion in next seat over, 38I. He was young man in his early 20s, finance major from the University of Ohio who had been studying in Milan. He looked more confused than afraid tilting his head incredulously trying to figure out what was happening. As I recount this I can't even remember his name. Everything up until that point was just so normal and unmemorable. The niceties shared as we sat down. "I work in Uganda starting a solar power business; I'm a student taking a semester abroad." As we listened to the screams I touched his arm and wondered if he was going to be the last person I ever spoke with. My Ugandan cell phone was dead, and probably not going to work in Detroit, so calling my family once last time was not going to happen. I looked out the window and saw nothing but thick white clouds, and water droplets rushing past. The simple fact that there was no escape from whatever was happening quickly set in.

Suddenly a female flight attendant, a middle-aged Asian woman with shoulder length black hair, rushed past our aisle form the front with incredible speed, grabbed something from one of the overhead compartments in the back, and then ran back up the opposite aisle. Later I would find out she was grabbing a fire extinguisher. I was filled with an intense sense of trepidation, the instinct to run was overwhelming, but there was nowhere to run to in this metal tube filled with almost 300 people. All you could do was look around at your fellow travelers, who were doing just what you were doing: trying not to panic, looking around for some clue in the eyes and faces of other passengers if anyone knew what was happening .

Eventually the screams and sounds of struggle subdued. A voice came on the intercom, a male flight attendant who earlier had served me my breakfast and lunch, then collected my trash. In a voice that was struggling to stay calm he said, "Everything is under control! Your federally trained flight attendants have the situation under control. We are now landing. The landing gear is down! Stay in your seats, we are getting ready to land." Suddenly the plane began a sharp descent. The Asian flight attendant came back to where we were and took her seat opposite the first row in the economy area waving her hands in a downward motion for people to stay seated, and then slumping against the wall before strapping herself in.

PAM COMMENTARY: Note that this man was sitting too far back to see what really happened, and his later speculation came from comparing notes with other passengers. However it is supposedly a first-hand account of events that day. Whether he's trying to spin the event in any way, I don't know. At this point I'm assuming he'd be more honest than the mainstream media.

Mousavi nephew killed in clashes: Iran website
TEHRAN -- A reformist website said a nephew of Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi was killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in Tehran on Sunday.

Earlier, the opposition Jaras website said four people had been killed in a second day of violence in Tehran during a Shi'ite Muslim religious festival. Tehran's police chief denied that report.

The Parlemannews website said Ali Mousavi, 20, was killed in clashes on Sunday and his body had been taken to a hospital.

Jaras said unrest also spread to other parts of Iran, including the holy city of Qom, in reports that could not be independently verified.

The events underlined escalating tension in the Islamic Republic six months after a disputed presidential poll plunged the oil producer into turmoil and exposed widening splits within the clerical and political establishment.

Aide: nephew of Iranian reform leader killed
An aide says a nephew of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was killed in fighting between protesters and security forces.

The close aide to Mousavi says the nephew, Ali Mousavi, died of wounds in a hospital on Sunday.

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of reprisals from the government.

A reformist Web site, Parlemannews.ir, also says Mousavi's nephew was killed.

Opposition Web sites and witnesses say security forces fired on anti-government protesters in the capital Sunday, killing at least four people in the fiercest clashes in months.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) � Iranian security forces fired on anti-government protesters in the capital Sunday, killing at least four people in the fiercest clashes in months, opposition Web sites and witnesses said...

Broken pipe floods Reagan terminal
At about the time the break apparently occurred, a man in the baggage claim area spotted something unusual. After glancing around, he said, he "honestly thought they'd put in a waterfall."

Mark Delligatti of Alexandria, who arrived on a US Airways shuttle about 3 p.m., remembered that he first thought: "Isn't that lovely." Then, he said, he saw the water flowing along the floor.

US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said the airline's shuttle ticket counter, baggage carousels and a security checkpoint were "underwater." At 5:45 p.m., he said, the electricity was out.

Although two US Airways flights from Phoenix landed at National on Saturday, Lehmacher said that with the flooding "we couldn't continue to operate" at the airport.

The airline is hoping to operate at National on Sunday, he said, but is "still looking at it."

Brazil Aims to Prevent Land Grabs in Amazon
For the first time, the Brazilian government is formally establishing who owns tens of millions of acres across the Amazon, enabling it to track who is responsible for clearing forests for logging and cattle � and who should be held accountable when it is done illegally.

�The government will finally know whose land it is, and who is responsible for what goes on there,� said Thomas E. Lovejoy, the biodiversity chair for the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment in Washington.

This county in the state of Par�s the worst place for forest destruction in Brazil, and environmentalists say they hope that the new law, approved by Brazil�s Congress in June, will help the government finally enforce its official limits on clearing land.

But it is a huge and messy undertaking. Clear ownership records exist for less than 4 percent of the land in private hands throughout the Brazilian Amazon, government officials said. Here in Par�officials have discovered false titles for about 320 million acres, almost double the amount of land that actually exists, according to federal officials.

America's most wanted: doctor found living in tent on Mont Blanc
On 21 September 2004, Michelle Weinberger woke up on the 79ft powerboat that she and her husband, Mark, owned as it rocked gently in the waters of a marina on the Greek island of Mykonos.

"I put my hand on his side of the bed, and I remember feeling it empty," she later told the US television channel NBC. Weinberger leapt from bed in alarm to find that her husband had vanished, taking with him his passport and money he had stashed secretly on board.

It was the beginning of a five-year flight from justice that ended this week even more strangely than it began, almost 6,000 feet up in the Italian Alps. Two officers of the paramilitary Carabinieri, led by a mountain guide, trudged up to the southern slopes of Mont Blanc to find one of America's most wanted fugitives living in a tent. He was surviving in temperatures as low as -18C on dried and tinned food and snow he melted on a portable stove.

Dr Mark Weinberger, a 46-year-old ear, nose and throat specialist, was tonight in a secure ward at the Molinette hospital in Turin recovering from a wound he sustained when he tried to take his own life at the Carabinieri station in Courmayeur, below Mont Blanc.

Proposals to ban display of codeine (UK)
Recent figures from the Health Research Board show the numbers seeking treatment for codeine as a main problem drug increased in the past 10 years from 18 in 1998 to 84 in 2008.

The PSI says it will have 10 inspectors and �mystery customers� checking to ensure the guidelines are complied with.

It says codeine-containing products should not be the first line of treatment for pain relief, and customers should be advised of this. Instead, paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen should be used. If pain persists, a codeine-containing product could be taken, but only for a maximum of three days before medical advice is sought.

The PSI says the guidance is intended to assist pharmacists �in meeting their professional and legal responsibilities� in the supply of codeine-containing non-prescription medicines and to assist in securing compliance with relevant legislative and professional obligations under the new Pharmacy Act. It also aims to improve patient safety.

The draft guidance document states that if a pharmacist becomes aware of a suspected abuse/misuse/addiction issue particular to a patient and directly associated with the use of codeine medicines, they should �make all reasonable attempts to ensure that the patient is facilitated in accessing services which will assist in the management of that addiction�.

'Robin Hood' of Las Vegas making dreams come true
"You have been chosen," the voice told the Keglers.

"I'm flying you to Vegas, and I'm going to win your money for you."

What followed seemed like a dream. A stretch limousine to the airport, first-class flights and a Rolls Royce to their 8,000 square-foot suite in the Palazzo hotel. There, Mr Kegler, 48, and his wife, 29, were met by their benefactor, who promptly staked huge amounts of his own money in a marathon card session.

It wasn't plain sailing on the blackjack table, despite his confidence: the Keglers saw him go down hundreds of thousands of dollars before he managed to hit a winning streak and recover.

When he was �24,000 up he quit the table and handed the proceeds to the Keglers in a giant bag of hundred dollar chips. "It completely changed everything," said Mrs Kegler.

Michigan sues to protect Great Lakes from Asian carp
The reversal of the Chicago River a century ago, to send the city's sewage to the Mississippi River instead of into Lake Michigan, was hailed as an engineering marvel. Now Michigan is suing Illinois to potentially re-reverse the river to prevent the movement of voracious, invasive Asian carp into the lake.

The suit, which is going to the Supreme Court, also challenges Chicago's controversial withdrawal of up to 2 billion gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan.

Environmental groups have long called for the ecological separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin to curb the spread of invasive species and to retain Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes basin. It is estimated the Chicago diversion has lowered lakes Michigan and Huron by three inches.

Fiery protests grip Iran's capital
Reporting from Beirut and Tehran � The Iranian capital erupted in massive and fiery protests today as thousands of protesters clashed with security forces on the occasion of an important Shiite Muslim holiday.

A witness told The Times that Iranian security forces have opened fire with live ammunition against unarmed protesters in a central square in the capital.

And an opposition news website reported that at least three protesters have been killed and two injured. The report could not be independently confirmed and a police source denied the reports of deaths in a comment to the pro-government Fars News Agency.

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


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All original content including photographs © 2009-10 by Pam Rotella. (News excerpts copyright by their corresponding authors, news organizations, or other copyright holders, and quoted here typically as "fair use" or "teaser" paragraphs to generate interest in the full articles.)