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News from the Week of 21st to 27th of February 2010

Kentucky Senator Bunning Repeatedly Blocks Unemployment Benefits Extension, Tells Dem "Tough S**t"; Kentucky's Unemployment Rate is 10.7 Percent
Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, is single-handedly blocking Senate action needed to prevent an estimated 1.2 million American workers from prematurely losing their unemployment benefits next month. As Democratic senators asked again and again for unanimous consent for a vote on a 30-day extension Thursday night, Bunning refused to go along. And when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection, Politico reports, Bunning replied: "Tough s**t."

Bunning says he doesn't oppose extending benefits -- he just doesn't want the money that's required added to the deficit. He proposes paying for the 30-day extension with stimulus funds. The Senate's GOP leadership did not support him in his objections.

And at one point during the debate, which dragged on till nearly midnight, Bunning complained of missing a basketball game. "I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00," he said, "and it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year.

The unemployment rate in Kentucky is 10.7 percent.

The stakes are enormous: provisions of last year's stimulus bill that allow extra weeks of unemployment benefits and COBRA health coverage are set to expire on Feb. 28. State workforce agencies have already sent out letters informing recipients that they'll be ineligible for extra "tiers" of benefits starting next month. The National Employment Law Project estimates that 1.2 million people will prematurely lose benefits in March.

Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the NELP, said that even when Bunning is eventually thwarted and the extension is passed, state governments will still have to deal with the extra administrative costs of shutting down and restarting the extended benefits programs.

PAM COMMENTARY: What a monster. That's how messed up the Senate is. One guy -- from a small state that deals with its own unemployed by exporting them to large cities -- can hold up unemployment benefits for millions (and cost the states a fortune going back and forth with notices). I think Kentucky should have to support all of the homeless from New York and California that this will cause -- after all, those states take in all the people from Kentucky who go to find work there when Kentucky's miniscule economy can't provide for them.

8.8-magnitude earthquake hits central Chile
A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, killing at least 78 people, collapsing buildings and setting off a tsunami.

A huge wave reached a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast, said President Michele Bachelet.

Tsunami warnings were issued over a wide area, including South America, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia and many Pacific islands.

"It has been a devastating earthquake," Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma told reporters.

Bachelet said the death toll was at 78 and rising, but officials had no information on the number of people injured. She declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile.

Governor Paterson quits poll race amid scandal
The Governor of New York, David Paterson, has ditched his bid for re-election this November following revelations that a senior aide had been accused of domestic abuse.

Governor Paterson's campaign had been officially launched for only a week when questions emerged about reported attempts by the state police to persuade the victim of the abuse to drop all complaints against the aide, David Johnson. Worse, the Governor himself had spoken by phone with the woman on the eve of a court appointment she failed to attend.

Mr Paterson, who is registered blind, moved into the Governor's mansion in Albany only after his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned after admitting that he had regularly visited prostitutes.

The Governor's decicison will be welcomed by Democrats nationally. Party officials � and the White House � had been fretting for months that he would be a disastrous candidate, and that one of the most important governorships might be lost to a Republican in an election year that is already looking deadly for Democrats.

Governor Paterson confirmed his decision at a press conference in Albany with his wife alongside him. "I have never abused my office � not now, not ever," he said. But he added: "I am being realistic about politics ... I cannot run for office and try to manage the state's business at the same time."

PAM COMMENTARY: Awww.... Despite the supposed scandal, I doubt that New York will ever elect such an honest, unsold man for governor.

Patriot Act extension passes House and Senate [BF]
Wednesday evening, the Senate passed a one year extension of the Patriot Act. Similar to the initial passing of the Act, there was no debate. Because this was a voiced vote, there is no record for accountability. A convenience for many members, it potentially avoids the embarrassment should their constituents wish to hold them accountable for the decision come November�s elections. An irony that speaks volumes, considering the stir this legislation has caused within the American public, for nearly a decade.

Thursday, the House sent Obama legislation that would temporarily extend the three expiring provisions for one year. Both the House and the Senate are working on long term renewals of the Act. The differences between the proposed bills are subtle. The Senate bill would reauthorize all authorities, while the House bill proposes eliminating one of the three provisions set to expire Sunday. Known as the �lone wolf� provision, which authorizes the government to �track a target without any discernible affiliation to a foreign power,� the exclusion of such powers would limit the intrusive nature of the Act a bit. However, according to Main Justice, it appears they have never used this provision anyway.

With both Congressional bodies pushing for an extension, it is only a matter of time before Obama signs the legislation. This one year extension will reinstitute the Patriot Act in full. Besides the �lone wolf,� the other two provisions set to expire were:

�Roving surveillance,� which means interception of communication can be utilized regardless of where a person travels. Previously, a wiretap was granted for a specific line at a specific location.


�Business (and library) records,� which refers to NSLs (National Security Letters) used to request personal paperwork on a person under investigation. Thanks to the Act, these NSLs can now be used on American citizens without their knowledge and without probable cause. They also contain a �gag order� preventing the investigated citizen from knowing about it. In fact, a felony can be issued if the party requested to provide the information (say, your banker or librarian, for instance) informs the person under investigation.

The overlapping violations to our constitutional rights, in just the above highlights of the Act, are astonishing. Poorly defined electronic surveillance is a clear invasion of privacy, which is the overall intention of our Bill of Rights. Reuters reported last month that the FBI has collected over 2,000 phone records under the pretense of terrorism, which it turns out, did not exist. While deciphering legislation in order to address their constitutionality is sometimes difficult, the term �gag order� immediately calls to mind our 1st Amendment guarantee of free speech. The right to search the property of citizens without previously required warrants, knowledge of the citizen being searched or even probable cause surely calls to mind our 4th Amendment right, guaranteeing our protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The violation of these two Amendments is enough to concern the public.

However, the most frightening aspect of the Act is surely the authority to detain witnesses as terrorist suspects indefinitely. (Obama reaffirmed such actions, calling it �prolonged detention� to soften the evident civil liberty violations presupposed.) Initially intended for non-citizens, the public quickly learned that the definition of �enemy combatants� is nebulous at best. This is a clear violation of our 6th Amendment right to fair trial, a right that has evolved over centuries since the inception of the Magna Carta (which introduced habeas corpus, the right to appeal an unlawful imprisonment).

South Park's "Free Willzyx" Episode
PAM COMMENTARY: South Park is always crude, tasteless, and kind of silly, but the recent whale news reminded me of this old episode. It's a spoof on the old film "Free Willy."

Glenn Greenwald: Dems Hiding Behind Filibuster to Justify Political Inaction on Public Option [DN]
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, they�re the fact that senators ended up saying that in private meetings with the White House, it was made clear to them that the public option was not something that was a priority for the White House and that they would end up happy to see it gone. Health insurance lobbyists were coming in and out of the White House. And the reason they didn�t end up vigorously opposing healthcare reform was because there would be no competition for the private health insurance industry in the form of the public option. And, of course, the final bill didn�t have a public option, and the White House did nothing to support it.

But what�s most incredible was that the excuse that they gave to progressives was that the reason that we couldn�t have a public option was because there were fifty Democratic senators, or fifty-one Democratic senators, who supported it, but there weren�t sixty, and because of the filibuster rule, sadly, the public option just couldn�t get into the bill, and there was just nothing the White House could do, as much as the President wanted that to happen.

Well, now you have a situation where everybody is talking about doing healthcare reform through reconciliation, where only fifty votes, not sixty votes, are required. And what does the President do? He immediately, when he finally unveils his first bill, excludes the public option from the bill, even as he says we�re going to use a process that will only require fifty votes. And you even saw Senator Jay Rockefeller, who spent the year pretending to be so devoted to the public option that he said he will not relent in ensuring that it gets passed, that there is no healthcare reform without a public option, now that it can actually pass and become a reality, he turns around and says, �I�m not inclined to vote for it in reconciliation.�

This is what Democrats do. They use the filibuster rule as an excuse to their supporters to justify their inaction. They�ve been doing this for years. And now that the sham is exposed, because they�re really going to pass healthcare reform with fifty votes, they just turn around and so blatantly say, �Well, actually, we�ve been telling you all year we have fifty votes for a public option. Even now that we only need fifty votes, we�re still not going to do it.� It�s really quite extraordinary.

...AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney and blogger for Salon.com. As we talk about the healthcare debate and other issues, I want to read you a quote from Quentin Young, the national coordinator of the National Health�Physicians for a National Health Program. He was talking about the fact that PNHP was not invited to this bipartisan healthcare summit. He said in this quote, �Similarly, requests from Reps. Dennis Kucinich [of Ohio,] Anthony Weiner of New York and Peter Welch of Vermont that single-payer advocates be included in the meeting have apparently gone unanswered.� There is a lot of hoopla over this being bipartisan. That isn�t to be confused with representing different options.

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, first of all, one of the things that�s most amazing is that single payer and the public option both poll infinitely better than the healthcare bill itself, than the Senate healthcare bill that the President is advocating. And despite that, what you see all the time when they talk about bipartisanship is shifting the terms of the debate onto, essentially, the right-wing playing field to accommodate Republican views, which basically means there should be no healthcare reform, and excluding views that are to the left of anything that is essentially a conservative idea. And so, Anthony Weiner and Dennis Kucinich have both been the leading�two of the leading participants in the healthcare debate from the very start, but because they want to move the healthcare debate into the area that�s actually popular, which is providing either single payer or at least a robust public option, they�re excluded from the start. And this is the Democratic White House excluding anything to the left of conservative ideas in defining what the scope of the debate is. And, of course, that�s something that happens in issue after issue.

Houstonians lead campaign donors; Texans send millions to races out of state, and most of it is going to Democrats
Texas is considered a solidly Republican state by political professionals and pundits alike � but don't tell that to Democrats on Capitol Hill.

A Houston Chronicle analysis of congressional campaign contributions in the 2010 election season found that Texans are shipping millions of dollars to out-of-state candidates this year, and most of the recipients are Democrats.

Eight of the top 10 non-Texas recipients of Lone Star State political money are Democrats. Overall, Democrats are receiving about 60 percent of the $6,823,766 in Texas money headed to Senate and House candidates in other states, according to Federal Election Commission filings through Feb. 10.

Houston, the top political exporter, sends about two-thirds of its campaign cash to Democrats.

Thaksin Shinawatra stripped of half his fortune for abuse of power
Thailand's supreme court today stripped the country's exiled former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra of more than half his seized assets, worth nearly �1bn.

In an eight-hour judgement, the full bench of the court found Thaksin guilty on five counts of corruption. The nine justices agreed that the former leader had deliberately hidden his wealth and had masked his ownership of shares in his family-controlled telecommunications company, Shin Corp.

The court also found that Thaksin's government pursued policies that enriched his family's companies, including through loans to countries such as Burma.

The verdict was delivered under extraordinary security, with more than 20,000 armed riot police and soldiers on the streets of Bangkok. The judges were driven to the court in bulletproof vans while schools and offices near the court complex were closed.

Ford to add 757 jobs at Windsor engine plant (Canada)
Ford�s engine plant in Windsor is expected to get more than 700 new jobs over five years.

The Ontario government says it will contribute up to $81.2 million towards the plant, building on an earlier investment of $17 million that helped reopen the shuttered plant in 2008.

The initiative will allow Ford (NYSE:F) to introduce new manufacturing technology and will also establish a research and development centre.

To date, Ford has invested $590 million in the plant, which will now build a fuel-efficient engine to be used in the Mustang.

The announcement will help offset some of the 1,500 jobs that will be lost when Ford closes its assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ont., in 2011.

Court motion in TVA ash spill wants suits combined
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Attorneys for people seeking damages from the Tennessee Valley Authority's coal ash spill have asked a federal judge in Knoxville to consolidate the pending cases.

Among the dozens of attorneys, Elizabeth Alexander of Nashville said the motion is "just a way to streamline" the case for those seeking damages, and Rhon Jones of Montgomery, Ala., said in an e-mail statement that it shows a "new level of unity" among plaintiffs.

The Thursday court filing asks to consolidate the cases for "all purposes, including discovery, class certification and trial."

Doritos ads represent sick, demented nature of junk food companies and their products
(NaturalNews) Junk food advertising has reached a new low with the recent Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" ads which portray Doritos consumers as violent murderers who will kill fellow human beings to get a bag of Doritos.

One Doritos ad portrays a man backing out of a parking lot when his car strikes an innocent person who drops a bag of Doritos and falls to the ground behind the car. Rather than trying to help the innocent victim, this man throws his car into reverse and drives over the victim, killing him with the vehicle and stealing the bag of Doritos.

The message? Doritos are so valuable that it's okay to kill people just to score a bag.

A second Doritos ad shows two loser-looking gym bums being attacked by an insane junk food ninja who uses Doritos chips as throwing stars to murder the guy who stole his bag of Doritos. The message here? Doritos are so valuable that it's okay to kill others to defend your snack.

FBI, US Attorney Investigating Penn. School District�s Computer Spying on Young Students [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Mike Walker, your response? That was the school official explaining how fantastic their software is.

MIKE WALKER: Well, I said there was very compelling evidence that they were using it. That�s the evidence. And it�s exactly like he described. When a computer wasn�t checking in, when it was reported stolen or missing or they didn�t know where it was, they could schedule commands for the computer to pick up the next time it checked in. So when it checked in, if it came�if it checked into the school�s central server and there were commands waiting for it to start taking pictures, it would start taking pictures.

And what�s really interesting about that story that he just related is mistakes happen. They didn�t know where these computers were. And it�s important for people to understand, when these computers were activated, if they were reported missing, it would start taking pictures wherever they woke up. Even if they were stolen and they were in the bedroom of a kid who stole it, they were going to start taking pictures the moment they woke up. And after that search was conducted, then when the administration looked at the pictures, they were going to be able to find out whether that search was appropriate or not.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Mike Walker, don�t you think that, given these features and this software that�s installed in these computers, that the school district had a responsibility to alert the parents of these students, at minimum, to say, �Hey, we�re giving you these computers, but you should know that these computers have these kind of features,� and then the parents could decide whether they wanted to accept them on that basis?

MIKE WALKER: I think they had a responsibility to inform. And my personal opinion on the subject is, is I think they had a responsibility not to build the feature into the software at all, or to deploy software that did this, because the purpose of theft-tracking, of finding a computer and finding out who�s using it, can be fulfilled utterly by taking pictures of what�s being done on the screen and by the remote IP address tracking functionality that�s already in the computer. There are several highly effective computer-loss tracking mechanisms, like Computrace, that work that way that don�t take pictures. I think that�s a big leap in technology and one that shouldn�t have been made.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike, you cover your camera on your computer?

MIKE WALKER: I�ve had tape over my webcam since I bought my computer. And almost everyone I know that I work with does the same thing.

Ahmed Chalabi's renewed influence in Iraq concerns U.S.
BAGHDAD -- Ahmed Chalabi, the onetime U.S. ally, is in the limelight again, and his actions are proving no less controversial than they did years ago.

On the eve of Iraq's parliamentary elections, Chalabi is driving an effort aimed at weeding out candidates tied to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. Chalabi is reprising a role he played after the U.S.-led invasion -- which many critics believe he helped facilitate with faulty intelligence -- and, in the process, is infuriating American officials and some Iraqis, who suspect his motive is to bolster his own political bloc.

Chalabi, a Shiite, has defended the work of the commission he is leading as legal and crucial during a period of transition to Iraq's first sovereign government. But his reemergence on the political scene has rankled U.S. officials and fueled concerns that Sunnis and other secular Iraqis will be marginalized.

Some Iraqi and U.S. officials think Chalabi might have his eyes on the ultimate prize, however unlikely he can attain it.

"Even if it kills him, he's going to stay in Iraq to try to become prime minister," said Ezzat Shahbandar, a Shiite lawmaker from a competing slate who has known Chalabi for more than 20 years. "This issue is the only tool he has, because he has nothing else going for him."

19 killed in fireworks blast in southern China
An explosion triggered by residents setting off fireworks to celebrate the Lunar New Year tore through a village in southern China, killing 19 people and wounding more than 30 as the country neared the end of its biggest holiday.

The blast late Friday in the southern province of Guangdong was the deadliest of the 15-day Lunar New Year, which ends Sunday. Fireworks are a large part of the celebrations, especially at the beginning and end of the holiday, despite public safety campaigns.

China's public security ministry has said fireworks-related accidents killed 11 people and injured more than 1,800 throughout the country during the first week of the holiday.

A police official in Puning city confirmed Friday night's explosion and said police were investigating. State media reported 19 were dead.

Agribusiness exec pleads not guilty in tomato racketeering case
Reporting from Los Angeles and Sacramento - Former SK Foods owner Frederick Scott Salyer pleaded not guilty Friday to federal racketeering and corruption charges for allegedly directing a decade-long scheme to quash competition, pay bribes and sell tomato products at inflated prices.

The agribusiness executive, who entered his plea in a federal courtroom in Sacramento, is charged with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, as well as conspiracy, obstruction of justice and four counts of wire fraud.

Salyer remained in federal detention without bail. But U.S. Magistrate Edmund F. Brennan agreed to continue the hearing next week in order to allow the defense team to question an FBI agent whose report concluded that Salyer was a flight risk and should not be freed on bail to await trial.

Prosecutors opposed releasing Salyer. They contended that he had spent months living in southern France, moving money into overseas banks and making plans to flee extradition in connection with the charges.

Killer-whale death at SeaWorld opens debate; The gruesome death of a trainer in Orlando, the latest in a string of attacks by captive orcas, seemed certain to rekindle discussion over using them at theme parks
Naomi Rose, a senior scientist for the Humane Society of the United States, which has campaigned at marine parks, said Tilikum's reputation was well known and that SeaWorld specifically forbade trainers from entering the orca's tank.

``He clearly has some sort of issue with people in the water with him,'' she said of the orca.

Rose and many marine mammal activists believe the stress of life in a tank is acute for orcas, large animals that roam deep waters in close-knit pods.

``They're moody,'' she said. Rector, who has campaigned for years to free Lolita, a female orca that has spent nearly four decades in captivity at the Seaquarium in Miami, says it leaves them ``demented.''

Lolita, Rose said, has not been linked to any serious attacks on trainers, but its old tank-mate, Hugo, died of a cranial bleeding in 1980 that activists blamed on the orca ramming its head against the sides of a small tank.

SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau dies in killer-whale attack
"It was terrible," Sobrinho said. "It's very difficult to see the image."

Witnesses who watched the attack while eating at the "Dine with Shamu" show � a poolside buffet where trainers demonstrate their connection with the animals � told the Sentinel a female trainer was petting a killer whale when it grabbed her and plunged into the water.

It reappeared on the other side of the tank and leapt up holding the woman, they said.

Within minutes, an alarm sounded, and security workers escorted the spectators out. Some people were screaming, and children were crying, Sobrinho and Oliveira said. The scene was more orderly at "Dine with Shamu."

Several spectators said the animals had been agitated during a 12:30p.m. show, playing or fighting with one another and refusing to obey commands to splash the crowd, a staple of the program.

PAM COMMENTARY: The perspective from Orlando's local paper.

Judge OKs detention of 2 men Bush panel cleared
WASHINGTON -- A federal judge Wednesday ruled that the Pentagon can continue to hold indefinitely at Guant�mo two Yemeni captives whom the Bush administration cleared for release two years ago.

The decisions bring to 11 the number of such cases that the government has won. In 32 other cases, judges have ruled that the Pentagon did not have sufficient evidence to hold the prisoners and have ordered that the detainees be released. Four of those are still at Guant�mo.

The one-page orders by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler upholding the detentions of Suleiman Awadh Bin Agil al Nahdi, 36, and Fahmi Salem al Assani, 33, did not include her reasoning. That will be released after her full ruling is declassified after a security review.

In a twist, a Bush-era parole-style panel notified both Nahdi and Assani in February 2008 that the Pentagon's Administrative Review Board had approved their transfer home to Yemen. The notification is part of the federal court record. Those release decisions were suspended a year ago after President Barack Obama took office and set up a task force review of his own. It is not known what the Obama task force decided in either the Nadhi or Assani case.

Bloom Energy unveils 'power plant in a box'
Bloom Energy Corp., one of Silicon Valley's most secretive startups, unveiled on Wednesday its long-awaited "power plant in a box," a collection of fuel cells that the company says can provide clean electricity to homes, office buildings - even whole villages in the developing world.

The Bloom Energy Server, a smooth metal box the size of a pickup truck, can generate electricity from multiple fuels while producing relatively few greenhouse gas emissions. With government subsidies factored in, power from the server costs less than power from the grid.

Unlike other fuel cells, Bloom's is made mostly of sand, with no platinum or other precious metals thrown in as catalysts. And unlike solar panels and wind turbines, each server can produce the same amount of energy day and night for years on end, according to the company. The process is twice as efficient as burning natural gas.

"This is not when the sun shines, this is not when the wind blows - this is base load, nonstop," said K.R. Sridhar, Bloom's co-founder and chief executive officer. The server, he said, could change the energy industry in much the same way that cell phones changed communications, decentralizing the generation of power.

2 companies propose wind farms off Virginia Beach
Federal regulators have received leasing proposals from two Virginia companies seeking to develop offshore wind farms capable of supplying clean energy to hundreds of thousands of homes.

Apex Wind Energy Inc. of Charlottesville is proposing to lease 116,000 acres for an undetermined number of wind turbines with the potential to generate up to 1,500 megawatts of power.

Seawind Renewable Energy Corp. of suburban Richmond envisions building 240 turbines to generate enough power for more than 250,000 homes annually, according to a company statement.

Both wind farms would be located 12 miles off of Virginia Beach.

In Kazakhstan, the race for uranium goes nuclear
TAIKONUR, KAZAKHSTAN -- The dry steppe stretches to the horizon in all directions from this remote outpost in southern Kazakhstan. But peeking out of the sandy soil, amid the sagebrush and desert shrub, are thousands of wells arranged in geometric patterns, each extracting radioactive treasure.

These desolate fields sit above one of the world's largest deposits of uranium, and with nuclear energy in a renaissance, a rough-and-tumble battle is underway for access to them.

The race echoes the geopolitical jockeying to control Central Asia's rich reserves of oil and natural gas -- a variation on Rudyard Kipling's Great Game, complete with corporate intrigue, a disgraced spy chief and an alleged plot by the Kremlin to keep this former Soviet republic under its thumb.

Leading energy and mining firms from Russia, China, Japan, France and Canada have already invested billions here. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, is seeking to leverage its ore into a larger role in the global nuclear industry and has taken a stake in the U.S.-based nuclear giant Westinghouse.

Argentina appeals to UN over Falklands oil drilling
Argentina last night intensified its diplomatic offensive against Britain's oil exploration off the Falkland Islands by taking the case to the United Nations.

The Argentinian foreign minister, Jorge Taiana, spelled out Buenos Aires's demands in a meeting in New York with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, just a day after mobilising Latin American and Caribbean support.

Taiana told reporters afterwards that Ban was not happy that tensions had worsened because of Britain's decision to start drilling and was willing to continue his "good offices" mission.

The minister said the meeting was "very cordial, positive" but did not say if Ban had agreed to pressure London over the islands' sovereignty. The secretary general made no immediate comment.

'Widespread fraud' in California's smog test program; State aims to make major changes after finding that nearly a third of older cars fail roadside smog checks within a year of passing at test stations.
Nearly a third of older-model cars stopped for roadside smog tests in Southern California failed them, despite having received a passing grade at inspection stations within a year, a state audit has found.

The results of those surprise inspections of 6,000 models manufactured before 1996 have led law enforcement officials to crack down on unscrupulous stations, step up fines and file more criminal charges.

Legislation introduced in the California Assembly this week would allow the state to bar low-performing test stations from conducting smog checks.

"We found widespread fraud in the program," said Leo Kay, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, which is sponsoring the bill.

PAM COMMENTARY: I'm sorry, but does anyone else think there's something wrong with this story? How often do people get tune-ups? It's every year in warmer climates, sometimes twice in colder ones as people prepare for winter. And they're talking about older cars? Isn't it natural for them to need another tune-up after about a year?

FBI raids 3 auto parts suppliers in antitrust probe
(AP) The FBI raided the U.S. offices of three auto suppliers to Toyota and other manufacturers as part of an antitrust investigation, the agency said Wednesday.

Agents raided offices of Denso, Yazaki North America and Tokai Rika on Tuesday evening.

Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said in a statement that the department's antitrust unit is investigating automotive electronics suppliers: "The antitrust division is investigating the possibility of anti-competitive cartel conduct. We are coordinating with the European Commission and other foreign competition authorities."

Denso spokeswoman Julie Kerr says the company's Southfield, Mich., office that was searched oversees operations in North and South America. She declined to offer details but said the investigation is unrelated to Toyota's recent recalls.

Killer whale kills trainer
ORLANDO, Fla. � A SeaWorld killer whale seized a trainer in its jaws Wednesday and thrashed the woman around underwater, killing her in front of a horrified audience. It marked the third time the animal had been involved in a human death.

Distraught audience members were hustled out of the stadium immediately, and the park was closed.

Trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was one of the park�s most experienced. It was not clear if she drowned or died from the thrashing.

A former contractor with SeaWorld told the Orlando Sentinel that the whale, Tilikum, is typically kept isolated from SeaWorld�s other killer whales and that trainers were not allowed to get in the water with him because of his violent history.

There were conflicting accounts of the attack. The sheriff�s office said Brancheau slipped or fell into the whale�s tank, but at least one witness said the animal leaped from the water and dragged the woman in.

PAM COMMENTARY: You know, we all like to see whales and other animals at zoos and parks, or in the wild (as long as they're not attacking us), but it's really cruel to imprison them for the entertainment of humans. In the wild, orcas normally eat fish, but they also kill and eat other large species, including seals, porpoises, even OTHER WHALES -- that's why they're also called "KILLER whales." They're natural carnivores and a top predator in the ocean. What's going to happen when you confine them to a small space and force them to do tricks for their fish? I know that zoos also serve a conservation purpose, and nurture a love for animals among children, but still... Let's see if PETA has anything immediate to say on this tragic situation...

Captive Whale Kills One More SeaWorld Trainer
Earlier this afternoon, another trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando was killed after being pulled into the tank by an orca named Tilikum (or Telly, for short). According to a witness, the whale, who has been involved in two previous fatal incidents involving human beings and who our captive wildlife director, Debbie Leahy, describes as "12,300 pounds of sheer rage," leapt out of the tank and grabbed the trainer by the waist, pulled her into the water, threw her around like a rag doll, and then held her underwater until she drowned. SeaWorld officials canceled the dolphin and whale shows for the rest of the day, but SeaWorld remains open (have they no shame?!) and will continue to exploit and abuse these captive animals despite the many horrific injuries and deaths of trainers and animals that have occurred throughout the theme park's history.

PETA has long been asking SeaWorld to stop taking wild, ocean-going mammals from their families and ocean homes and confining them with no semblance of a life to an area that, to them, is the size of a bathtub. No wonder these huge, intelligent animals, like the beaten elephants in the Ringling Bros. circus, lash out after being forced into subservience and forced to perform stupid circus tricks for their food for so long. For years, PETA has been calling on SeaWorld to switch to hugely popular robotic replacements like those used in the amazing "Walking With the Dinosaurs" exhibit. The public needs to stand up now against this cruelty and stop patronizing aquariums and whale and dolphin shows. Please join us in saying, "Enough!"

PAM COMMENTARY: I'm not sure that people would want to see robots, but certainly PETA raises some good points.

Joe the Plumber says John McCain 'screwed up my life'
"I don't owe him ****," Sam Wurzelbacher � Joe's real name � told a US radio reporter when asked about Mr McCain. "He really screwed up my life, is how I look at it."

Mr Wurzelbacher was thrust into the international spotlight when Mr McCain made repeated reference to him during one of the televised presidential debates. The two men had met days before and Mr Wurzelbacher had voiced fears about likely tax increases if Barack Obama were to become president.

But the unexpected notoriety caused him instant problems, with reports the next day that he practised plumbing without a licence.

Mr Wurzelbacher has no illusions about Mr McCain's motivations. "McCain was trying to use me," he told Scott Detrow, the reporter. "I happened to be the face of middle Americans. It was a ploy."

PAM COMMENTARY: The "Tea Party Movement" may have had good intentions to start, but as with most "conservative" movements, it eventually seemed to be co-opted by Republican Party operatives. A lot of the new "movements" coming from the right are nothing more than the Republican Party throwing on a fresh coat of paint to spruce up the old (really old) image, as they try to get younger people interested in their pro-corporate/oil/pharma agenda.

Professional Heart Attack Victim Dick Cheney and the Modern Heart Attack
In 1984, Cheney underwent open-heart surgery to bypass blockages in four coronary arteries--an operation that was becoming one of the most common types of surgery. On two later occasions, doctors have placed stents in his coronary arteries to relieve blockages--a sign that his atherosclerosis continued to progress.

In 1989, when Cheney was nominated to be Secretary of Defense, he disclosed he was taking medication to lower his cholesterol. Again, that was an increasingly common prescription at the time, reflecting large studies showing that cholesterol-lowering medication can prevent heart attacks and death among people with known coronary disease.

Two weeks after the 2000 election, Cheney awoke with chest and shoulder pain that signaled his fourth heart attack. At the time, doctors revealed that Cheney's heart was weakened -- its output was below normal. That undoubtedly reflected the damage from successive heart attacks.

In 2001, when he was vice president, Cheney suffered episodes of rapid heartbeat called ventricular tachycardia--a common condition among people whose hearts have been scarred by heart attacks. To prevent a "sudden death" heart attack, doctors installed a device that had come into common use by that time, an implantable defibrillator. It detects abnormal heart rhythms and when necessary delivers a jolt of electricity to shock the heart back into normal rhythm.

Cheney has also suffered problems with his leg arteries, which can be a sign of atherosclerosis. He has gout, which can be related to obesity. And he has had episodes of fluid retention in his feet and lungs, which can reflect some degree of heart failure-- a weakening of the heart that is common in heart attack survivors.

The former vice president's spokesman has described his latest heart attack as "mild." He is said to have undergone coronary angiography to check for new blockages in his heart's blood supply, but he and his doctors have not said whether he has had additional angioplasty or stents.

PAM COMMENTARY: It's just his bad mass-murderer-of-history karma back in town to kick his butt. The grim reaper didn't claim him this time, probably because no one on the other side really wants Dick Cheney.

I thought the "health" history in this article was interesting -- it seems to indicate a complete lack of self-discipline in Cheney's personal life. Quite a contrast from the amount of work he accomplishes to make money for himself, while also killing other people both here and abroad with enthusiasm. It seems Cheney (and everyone else on the planet) would have been better off if he had stayed out of politics, perhaps staying at home and eating organic salads. Time for another (cartoon) flashback -- cover your eyes if you can't stand unattractive men in their underwear. Note that Ariel Sharon (also appearing in this old cartoon) has already died from his own obesity-related health problems...

Copyright 2005 by Alan Groening (contact the artist for licensing)

Oshkosh gets new Army order
The Defense Department has ordered nearly 1,500 new Oshkosh Corp. all-terrain vehicles for use by the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, the company said Tuesday.

The $640 million award from the Army to deliver 1,460 mine-resistant ambush protected - MRAP - all-terrain vehicles is a continuation of a contract the company won in June 2009.

That contract called for as many as 10,000 of the vehicles to be built.

Oshkosh said Tuesday that it has so far received contract awards valued at more than $4.74 billion to build 8,079 of the vehicles. The company is also supplying spare parts kits and additional support.

China imposes new rules for personal websites
Reporting from Beijing - In a move that will give the government new powers to police the Internet, China will require individuals seeking to establish personal websites to verify their identities with regulators and have their photographs taken.

The order lifts a ban on registering personal sites that was issued in December as part of a campaign to crack down on Internet pornography.

To apply, an individual must visit his or her local Internet service provider's office, submit an identification card and pose for a photograph. Applications will then be sent to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for review.

The new requirements add another layer of oversight in a country that is already deeply criticized for having some of the world's strictest Internet controls. Regulators have also discussed requiring stricter identity verification to purchase mobile phones and leave comments online.

ENVIRONMENT: Tsunami of E-Waste Could Swamp Developing Countries
"Recycling electronics is very complex. A mobile phone will be made up of 40 to 60 different elements," Kuehr said.

Gold is one of those valuable elements, but the informal recycling commonly done in China and India nets only 20 percent of that gold. In total, gold worth hundreds of millions of dollars in mobile phones alone is never recovered, he says. That figure quickly climbs into the billions of dollars of valuable metals that are not recovered when all products with a plug or battery are considered.

Mining and refining new metals like silver, gold, palladium, copper and indium and others have major environmental impacts, including considerable emissions of greenhouse gases, the report notes. And some materials are becoming scarce and therefore far more expensive.

Developing vibrant national recycling schemes is complex and simply financing and transferring high-tech equipment from developed countries is unlikely to work, according to the report.

It says China's lack of a comprehensive e-waste collection network, combined with competition from the lower-cost informal sector, has held back state-of-the-art e-waste recycling plants.

Israel 'stole Palestinian heritage'
Furious Palestinians have clashed with Israeli soldiers and accused Israel of "cultural genocide" after the country's government claimed a sacred tomb in the occupied West Bank as a national heritage site.

The burial site of the biblical patriarch Abraham, which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, is located in Hebron, which was yesterday shut down by a general strike in protest at the move as Israeli troops clashed with local youths. One soldier was reported lightly wounded as Palestinians threw stones and bottles and troops fired tear gas and stun grenades. Israel has also placed the believed tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel, in occupied territory in Bethlehem, on the heritage list.

Palestinian MP Hanan Ashrawi, a secular nationalist and former spokeswoman for peace negotiators, said that Israel's move "completes a whole programme of theft".

"It's stealing the land, stealing our resources and now our cultural and historical heritage," she said. "It points to a mentality of cultural genocide. It's been a mosque and been sacred to Palestinian Muslims for centuries. They have to respect that."

Please don't jail my favorite bartenders
I recently had a beautiful cocktail at one of my favorite restaurants, lovingly crafted by the bartender using house-infused liquors. I won't tell you which one because I don't want him carted off to jail.

The above sentence is a bit of an exaggeration, maybe, but it's not far from the truth. The California Alcoholic Beverage Control is cracking down on people who "adulterate" spirits by making limoncello and infusing spirits with herbs or fruit. Reportedly, agents have been in San Francisco recently sniffing out these grievous lawbreakers.

It's ironic, the budget may be near the busting point, but the ABC still has resources to crack down on restaurants. In the last couple of weeks a team of enforcers have cited at least four restaurants in the Bay Area, making them pour out their creations.

Kevin Westlye, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, gave his membership warnings in a recent newsletter. I asked for names of who had been cited, so I could talk to the restaurants involved, but they all wanted to remain anonymous. One thing you don't want to do if you're in the restaurant business is to piss off the ABC.

Unemployment Benefits Plan In Senate Slammed By Advocates: 'A Disaster For Everybody'
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to introduce a bill later this week to push back by an extra 15 days the eligibility deadline for extended unemployment benefits. But advocates for extending unemployment benefits say that the two-week extension will be "a disaster for everybody."

The problem is that even though Congress will likely push back the deadline before extended benefits expire at the end of the month, state unemployment agencies still have to send out letters to benefits recipients informing them that they will be ineligible for the next "tier" of benefits starting after Feb. 28. Without an extension, more than 1 million people will run out of unemployment benefits in March, according to the National Employment Law Project.

And the shortness of the extension guarantees that, in two weeks, workforce agencies will once again have to prepare to send out letters and Congress will once again scramble for another extension.

"Unemployment offices are really really going to have a huge problem," said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the NELP. "They can't handle this two-weeks-at-a-time stuff. It keeps them in a constant state of flux. This is going to create more work for them when they can least afford it."

After Decades-Long Wait, US Navy to Study Health Effects of Water Contamination at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina. [DN]
JEROME ENSMINGER: My daughter Janey, as Barbara had mentioned before or earlier, that she was the only one of my four children that was conceived while we lived at Camp Lejeune. Subsequently, Janey was diagnosed when she was six years old with acute lymphocytic leukemia. We watched her die a little bit at a time for nearly two-and-a-half years, until that fateful day in September of 1985 when she finally passed away.

Well, from the date of her diagnosis until a day in August of 1997, I always had this nagging question about why did this happen. Why did this happen to my daughter? Why did she have to go through this hell? And I never thought that I was ever going to get an answer to that nagging question. And one evening in August of 1997, I was walking in the living room from the kitchen with a plate of spaghetti to sit down and watch the evening news, and as I walked into the living room, the reporter on the television stated that ATSDR had completed their public health assessment for Camp Lejeune, and the chemicals that had been found in the drinking water�and they incorrectly stated from 1968 through 1985�were linked to childhood cancer, primarily leukemia. Well, I�m here to tell you, I dropped my plate of spaghetti on the living room floor. And, you know, I got a glimmer of hope at that time that I may get an answer to that nagging question. And ever since that time, I have been active in getting all the rest of these people an answer to that nagging question that they may have.

So�and I�d like to point out one thing, that the 1957 date through 1987 is for the Tarawa Terrace housing area only. That was determined through ATSDR�s water modeling effort there. ATSDR is currently modeling the water systems at Hadnot Point, which is commonly referred to as Mainside, where most of the Marines that were stationed at Camp Lejeune would have been, and also their Holcomb Boulevard water system, which back in the �80s, early to mid-�80s, there were eight different drinking water systems aboard the base.

Hamilton: Albertan oil veteran pumping up 'nitrogen grid'
The problem with today's electricity system is that, for the most part, power must be consumed when it's generated. In other words, supply and demand must be carefully balanced. Every electron that's produced and put onto the transmission system, whether from uranium, coal or wind, must be used somewhere along the grid or else the whole system can crash.

This gets tricky when dealing with the wind, which doesn't necessarily blow when we need it. Large-scale energy storage can solve this problem by absorbing supply when it's not needed and releasing it when we do. But batteries are too expensive today, and other options � such as compressed-air storage in salt caverns � are largely limited by geography.

It's here where McConnell's oil and gas experience fuelled his imagination. He knew that North America had an oil and gas pipeline network stretching thousands of kilometres, and that these pipelines � some of them not in use � were capable of holding highly compressed gases.

What if, initially, unused portions of this pipeline network could be used to hold compressed nitrogen, an inert gas that represents more than three-quarters of the air we breathe? And instead of capturing wind energy and converting it into electricity for the grid, what if we could build special wind turbines that convert the wind into hydraulic energy that's used to compress nitrogen and inject it into a common pipeline?

The idea is that the pipeline would become a big battery consisting of compressed nitrogen � that is, a nitrogen grid. At various points along the pipeline where electricity is needed, special generators would tap into the compressed gas and produce electricity as the nitrogen is released and rapidly expands.

Honda makes a big drive into solar power
Honda, the automotive giant, set the land speed record for solar-powered vehicles when it won the World Solar Challenge in 1996. Its Dream racer, an odd-looking vehicle shaped like a cuttlefish, covered 1,870 miles across the Australian outback at an average speed of 56mph. It took just under 34 hours.

For dedicated petrolheads it was not the most inspiring event. The Dream was covered with 4,500 photovoltaic tiles but was, as its named implied, not a commercial vehicle. Yet the experience marked the beginning of a big industrial undertaking for the Japanese giant � how to design a better solar panel. Today, the carmaker is churning out 230,000 panels a year from its first solar plant, called Honda Soltec.

They are not for a spruced-up version of the Dream; rather, these are designed for the roofs of houses and industrial buildings.

This is more logical than it may seem. Solar panels comprise one part of the system that Honda hopes will be created to make a new generation of zero-emission, hydrogen-powered cars.

The company is unique among carmakers in that it already has an energy business. It makes generators for the home that use a tiny engine burning natural gas to provide domestic electricity and heating. Honda�s Home Energy Station, a newer prototype, would also be able to produce hydrogen, which could be used to run a fuel-cell car, such as its FCX Clarity.

Toyota says it has received two subpoenas regarding car defects
Reporting from Washington - Toyota said Monday that it has received two federal subpoenas, including one from a New York grand jury, indicating that its deepening political and regulatory problems involving the safety of its vehicles have now expanded to include potential criminal and securities investigations.

The automaker said it received a subpoena from the federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York Feb. 8, requesting "certain documents related to unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles and the braking system of the Prius." The subpoena was issued to both the company and its subsidiaries.

A second subpoena on Feb. 19 was issued by the Los Angeles office of the Securities and Exchange Commission to Toyota Motor Corp., the Japanese parent organization, and Toyota Motor Sales USA, the Torrance-based sales arm for North America. That subpoena was "seeking production of certain documents including those related to unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles and the company's disclosure policies and practices," the company said in a brief statement.

The units "intend to cooperate with the investigations and are currently preparing their responses," the company said.

Va. Senate OKs coast drilling royalties for roads
The Senate has passed a piece of Gov. Bob McDonnell's highway funding plan to direct royalties paid to drill for oil and gas off the Virginia coast to transportation.

Monday's 21-19 vote completes legislative passage and sends the measure to McDonnell, who campaigned for it a year ago in his run for governor.

The Senate narrowly rejected Sen. Dick Saslaw's bid to reroute the revenue to the state's cash-starved general fund.

The bill won't provide relief to highway underfunding soon, though. Federal law now bans offshore drilling off the East Coast.

Even if it were legalized immediately, it would take years for drills to be built and yield money.

PAM COMMENTARY: The inside joke is that in Virginia, the man who is now governor (the Pat Robertson prot� Bob McDonnell) promised during his campaign to pay for transportation from offshore oil royalties. (This was much better than the Democrat's plan, he said, which was to raise the gasoline tax a little.) So even if Virginia has oil off of its coast, even if Congress approves drilling there, and even if Virginia's beach communities don't stop such projects to protect their tourist trade, it would take YEARS for such revenue to become available. In other words, no transportation relief for northern Virginia, unless it's begged from the Feds. Oh wait, Northern Virginians ARE the Feds...

Disbar The Torture Lawyers Now [BF]
Torture is illegal under both United States and international law. The Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, and it states that treaties signed by the U.S. are the �supreme Law of the Land� under Article Six. The Geneva Convention and The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment both prohibit torture and have been signed by the United States. These laws provide no exception for torture under any circumstances. Moreover, the United States Criminal Code prohibits both torture and war crimes, the latter which includes torture. The Army Field Manual prohibits the use of degrading treatment of detainees.

Despite this well-established law, under the Bush administration, torture was authorized by George Bush and kept secret using classified designations. The White House requested legal memoranda to support its use of torture and it received those authored by a host of attorneys, including John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Stephen Bradbury. Attorneys who advised, counseled, consulted and supported those memoranda included Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff, Alice Fisher, William Haynes II, Douglas Feith, Michael Mukasey, Timothy Flanigan, and David Addington.

Several of these memoranda have recently been released, and clearly demonstrate that these attorneys conspired to violate laws against torture and that their actions resulted in torture and death. Accordingly, these attorneys must be held accountable. We have asked the respective state bars to revoke the licenses of the foregoing attorneys for moral turpitude. They failed to show �respect for and obedience to the law, and respect for the rights of others,� and intentionally or recklessly failed to act competently, all in violation of legal Rules of Professional Conduct. Several attorneys failed to adequately supervise the work of subordinate attorneys and forwarded shoddy legal memoranda regarding the definition of torture to the White House and Department of Defense. These lawyers further acted incompetently by advising superiors to approve interrogation techniques that were in violation of U.S. and international law. They failed to support or uphold the U.S. Constitution, and the laws of the United States, and to maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers, all in violation state bar rules.

FDA relied heavily on BPA lobby; Regulators actively reached out to industry, e-mails show
As federal regulators hold fast to their claim that a chemical in baby bottles is safe, e-mails obtained by the Journal Sentinel show that they relied on chemical industry lobbyists to examine bisphenol A's risks, track legislation to ban it and even monitor press coverage.

In one instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's deputy director sought information from the BPA industry's chief lobbyist to discredit a Japanese study that found it caused miscarriages in workers who were exposed to it. This was before government scientists even had a chance to review the study.

"I'd like to get information together that our chemists could look at to determine if there are problems with that data in advance of possibly reviewing the study," Mitchell Cheeseman, deputy director of the FDA's center for food safety and applied nutrition, said in an e-mail seeking advice from Steven Hentges, executive director of the trade association's BPA group.

The FDA relied on two studies - both paid for by chemical makers - to form the framework of its draft review declaring BPA to be safe.

Peanut allergy to be treated � with peanuts
CHILDREN are to be given a little of what does them harm in the biggest trial of immunotherapy for peanut allergy ever to be conducted.

The �1 million British study follows earlier research indicating that peanut allergy can be overcome � with peanuts.

Gradually building up tolerance with small amounts of peanut protein appears to dampen down the potentially fatal allergic reaction.

Now the idea is to be tested for the first time on a large scale with 104 British children aged seven to 17 suffering from peanut allergy.

Their "medicine" will be increasing doses of peanut flour added to yoghurt.

California regulator finds Blue Cross violations
Poizner said he was filing official accusations with the state's Office of Administrative Hearing alleging the policy handling violations. That will trigger hearings on whether the insurer should be fined.

"Complaints just keep coming in and increasing over time. When it gets into the hundreds, it gets my attention," Poizner said at a state Capitol news conference. "It's only when a health care company doesn't take corrective action or is belligerent or uncooperative with us that we take this type of action, and that's the case with Anthem Blue Cross."

The 732 violations include allegations of 277 failures to pay claims in 30 days, 143 failures to respond quickly to regulators during complaint investigations, 66 instances of misrepresenting facts or insurance policies to consumers, 25 failures to pay interest on claims, 21 failures to pay or contest a claim within 30 days, 22 unreasonably low settlement offers, and 178 other miscellaneous delays and claims violations.

"As the largest insurer in California, our responsibility is to pay the many millions of claims on behalf of our members each year fairly, fully and promptly," company spokeswoman Binns said in a written statement. "While this review represents a small fraction of those claims, it is nonetheless very important to us to make sure we take any corrective action that may be necessary."

Peter Hallward on �Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment� [DN]
PETER HALLWARD: So, it was generating, you know, more than half�it was, by far, the largest supplier of coffee, sugar, you know, the big commodities at the time, also hardwoods, various other things. And it generated more revenue for France in the 1780s than all of the North American colonies combined. So it was really an extraordinarily lucrative, very concentrated wealth generator in the eighteenth century.

And it worked because you had a very brutal system of exploitation. Five�about five�almost half-a-million slaves, a very small number of white plantation owners, a few people in the middle. And this system worked to extract just vast amounts of profits. It was really exceptionally brutal by�even by colonial standards. It meant�the death rate was so high that by the time the Haitian slaves rose up against the system in 1791, most of the slaves that participated in that rebellion were born in Africa. You know, they never managed to create a system like they did in the southern United States, where the slave economy was self-replicating, where you could basically grow your own slaves locally. And this meant that the original security problem in Haiti, the plantation system, where you maintain order by, you know, simply massive, brutal levels of violence, had to be redesigned after the revolution, because the revolution was successful and the people who won that revolution were determined to avoid a return to the plantation system.

So in Haiti, really unlike most other places in the world, certainly among like most of Latin America, the tendency towards the concentration of big farms and the expropriation of small holdings and of peasant farms didn�t really happen in Haiti, which meant that small farmers were able to hold onto their farms, resisted tendencies that pushed them�that would have pushed them in other places into slums in the cities, where they would have been exploited, basically, in factories and so on. That happened much later in Haiti, and it only happened to a relatively limited extent.

So you then have to look at, well, how did that�and basically, in the twentieth century, there have been a couple of key episodes that allowed that process to accelerate a little bit and generated new security problems.

All Officers Are Acquitted in Mineo Abuse Trial
Acquitting all three men on all counts, the jurors rejected Michael Mineo�s claims that Officer Richard Kern repeatedly rammed a baton between his buttocks, therefore making the charges that two other officers helped him cover up the abuse irrelevant.

�It�s been a long road and it�s finally over, thank God,� Officer Kern said afterward. �I�ll finally get a good night�s sleep. I�m glad the system works.�

The verdict came after just one full day of deliberations in a trial that had lasted four weeks. Mr. Mineo�s lawyers promised to push forward with a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against the city, and to ask federal prosecutors to consider charges that his civil rights were violated.

�It�s not over,� said Mr. Mineo, who was not in court when the verdict was read but spoke to reporters afterward. �I ain�t even surprised. I kind of had a feeling it would turn out this way. If you want to commit a murder, join the N.Y.P.D. and you get cleared off.�

PAM COMMENTARY: I didn't hear all of the evidence and can't say for sure what happened here, but why would the officer let the guy off with outstanding warrants? It makes me wonder if he was ashamed of someone seeing the condition of the man if taken into the police station.

Poland admits role in CIA rendition programme; Warsaw air control service confirms that at least six CIA flights landed at disused military air base in northern Poland in 2003
The Polish authorities have for the first time admitted their involvement in the CIA's secret programme for the rendition of high-level terrorist suspects from Iraq and Afghanistan, it emerged today.

After years of stonewalling, Warsaw's air control service confirmed that at least six CIA flights had landed at a disused military air base in northern Poland in 2003.

"It is time for the authorities to provide a full accounting of Poland's role in rendition," Adam Bodnar, of the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, said.

"These flight records reinforce the troubling findings of official European inquiries and global human rights groups, showing complicity with CIA abuse across Europe."

US investigators 'find author of China's cyber-attack on Google'
Claims that Lanxiang, a high-school level institute that also trains hairdressers, chefs and car mechanics, could have been the source of the attacks was lampooned on the Chinese web. However the school's official website also says the college is home to the "biggest" computer laboratory in the world.

Li Zixiang, the school's party chief, said that an "investigation in the staff found no trace the attacks originated from our school" and denied reports that the school had trained computer scientists who went on to join the military.

However both leaked pieces of information would appear to be aimed at undermining the credibility of Chinese government denials, with researchers adding that US investigators had not found any indication that the institutions' servers had been compromised prior to the attacks.

The author of the computer code that was used to insert spyware via a previously unknown security hole in the Internet Explorer web browser was not personally responsible for the attacks, the Financial Times added, but had posted his work on a known hackers forum.

Interest in China school after Google hack report
BEIJING � A Chinese school accused last week of links to cyberattacks on Google that have strained Sino-US ties has since received a flood of calls from students interested in attending.

The New York Times said attacks on the US Internet giant, which have prompted the firm to reconsider its long-term presence in China, were traced to computers at the Lanxiang Vocational School and Shanghai Jiaotong University.

Both institutions have denied involvement.

But since the report, the Lanxiang school -- located in the eastern province of Shandong -- has reported a spike in enrolment inquiries.

Falkland Islands oil drilling begins; UK government underlines support for exploratory project as shares in group Desire Petroleum soar by 25%
Drilling for oil off the coast of the Falklands Islands began today after months of building diplomatic tensions between Britain and Argentina over rights to the islands and any natural resources that can be extracted from surrounding waters.

The exploration group Desire Petroleum � named after HMS Desire, which claimed to have discovered the islands in 1592 � issued a statement to the London stock market today confirming its Ocean Guardian drilling rig had "spudded", or broken ground, at 2.15pm.

Shares in Desire have climbed more than 25% since the Guardian rig departed from Cromarty Firth in Scotland in November destined for the South Atlantic. They dipped slightly yesterday, down 4.25p at 112.75p.

Underlining the British government's support for the exploratory project, defence minister Bill Grammell today stressed he would take "whatever steps are necessary" to protect the legitimate activities on the islands and in its waters.

"There has been no change whatsoever to our policy and we have no doubt �whatsoever about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, and no change in our support to their legitimate right to develop a hydrocarbon industry within its waters. We do, we have, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the Falkland Islands and our counterparts in Argentina are aware of that."

His comments come after Buenos Aires has sought to ratchet up the diplomatic pressure on exploration in the area, located just 300 miles from the South American mainland. The Argentinian government still disputes British sovereignty despite its ill-fated invasion in 1982 which ended in UK forces reclaiming the archipelago following a seven-week war.

PAM COMMENTARY: That particular war happened to end the famous "dirty war" in Argentina.

Hugo Chavez demands Queen return Falkland Islands to Argentina
He described British control of the islands in the South Atlantic as "anti-historic and irrational" and asked "why the English speak of democracy but still have a Queen".

Mrs Kirchner sought to win new allies in Argentina's claims to the islands when she made a direct appeal for support at a meeting in Mexico of the Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Venezuela and Nicaragua rallied to Argentina's side even before Mrs Krichner's appeal, and it was reported that Brazil was ready to support any resolution backing Argentina's sovereignty claims.

Argentine anger is likely to increase after Desire Petroleum, the British oil company that has towed a rig from Scotland to about 60 miles off the north of the Falklands, announced on Monday it had begun drilling.

Argentina is attempting to hamper oil exploration, insisting last week that all vessels using its ports must now seek permission if they plan to enter or leave British-controlled waters.

Argentina wants other South American countries to impose its transport restrictions to the Falklands but it is unlikely to win support from those closest to the islands such as Chile and Uruguay.

New York Times Publishes Column By War Machine Employee Demanding US Stop Thinking About All The Innocent Afghans Killed And Ramp The F**k Up The Bombing [AJ]
Greenwald :

Does anyone need it explained to them why causing large civilian deaths through air attacks in Afghanistan is not only morally grotesque but also completely counter-productive to our stated goals?


But those bombs and missiles have to be dumped somewhere, so the warehouses and new orders can be filled and re-filled, over and over again.

Python-hunting season set for next month
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Monday announced a special hunting season targeting Burmese pythons on state lands in South Florida March 8 through April 17.

The special season, created by executive order, will allow anyone with a hunting license and a $26 management area permit to take reptiles of concern -- including Indian python; reticulated python; northern and southern African rock python; amethystine or scrub python; green anaconda; and Nile monitor lizard. Hunters may use rifles, pistols or shotguns, but no centerfire rifles. They may not bring reptiles out alive and must report all they kill to the FWC within 36 hours.

Judge Accepts S.E.C.�s Deal With Bank of America
In a ruling that freed Bank of America from some of its legal problems, a federal judge on Monday �reluctantly� approved a $150 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But even as the judge, Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York, approved the settlement, he delivered harsh words for the S.E.C., saying that the agreement was �half-baked justice at best.�

The settlement stems from the bank�s merger with Merrill Lynch, the firm known for its thundering herd of brokers, at the height of the financial crisis. In the months before the deal closed, Bank of America did not tell its shareholders about Merrill�s hefty bonus payouts or the mounting losses that eventually led to a second government bailout of $20 billion.

In a written opinion released Monday morning, Judge Rakoff declared that the evidence showed that the bank failed to adequately disclose the bonuses and the losses, but he said it was unclear if the lack of disclosure resulted from negligence or ill-intent.

A Base for War Training, and Species Preservation
FORT STEWART, Ga. � Under crystalline winter skies, a light infantry unit headed for Iraq was practicing precision long-range shooting through a pall of smoke. But the fire generating the haze had nothing to do with the training exercise.

Staff members at the Army post had set the blaze on behalf of the red-cockaded woodpecker, an imperiled eight-inch-long bird that requires frequent conflagrations to preserve its pine habitat.

Even as it conducts round-the-clock exercises to support two wars, Fort Stewart spends as much as $3 million a year on wildlife management, diligently grooming its 279,000 acres to accommodate five endangered species that live here. Last year, the wildlife staff even built about 100 artificial cavities and installed them 25 feet high in large pines so the woodpeckers did not have to toil for six months carving the nests themselves.

The military has not always been so enthusiastic about saving endangered plants and animals, arguing that doing so would hinder its battle preparedness.

But post commanders have gradually realized that working to help species rebound is in their best interest, if only because the more the endangered plants and animals thrive, the fewer restrictions are put on training exercises to avoid destroying habitat.

IVF may raise risk of diabetes, hypertension and cancer in later life
People conceived through IVF treatment should be monitored for the early onset of high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers before the age of 50, according to a fertility specialist.

While IVF is generally considered to produce healthy babies, doctors have identified subtle genetic changes that may raise the risk of particular medical conditions in later life.

Since the birth of the first test tube baby, Louise Brown, on 25 July 1978, more than three million babies have been born through fertility treatment around the world. The vast majority are still under the age of 30.

The extent to which IVF babies develop more hypertension, diabetes and cancer will begin to emerge over the next two decades as they enter middle age, doctors said.

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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 © 2010 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.)