Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
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News from the Week of 28th of February to 6th of March 2010
Despite 935 documented lies, Rove book insists Iraq war was justified; Blames Democrats for Katrina aftermath
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the book in advance of its March 9 release.
In 2008, the AP reported that a study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
The study -- posted on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism -- counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.
Adams of Natural News launches letter-writing campaign in support of herbalist Greg Caton
To support Greg Caton's bid for freedom, NaturalNews is organizing a letter-writing campaign that seeks to inform the presiding Judge of just how many people support Greg Caton's work and website (www.AltCancer.com).
This letter-writing campaign is being initiated as a courteous, supportive effort to lend support to Greg Caton during his hearing. It is not some sort of effort to bombard the Judge with hate mail or anything resembling that. In fact, if you choose to participate in helping Greg Caton, please keep your letters polite and professional. I've included my own letter to the presiding Judge below as an example.
PAM COMMENTARY: Caton is the herbalist who was kidnapped from Ecuador, apparently because elements of the US government didn't feel like waiting for extradition procedures (if the country would have extradited Caton, which is questionable). See flashback below for details.
FDA accused of international kidnapping, illegal detention of prominent Ecuadorian herbalist (FLASHBACK)
Speaking via phone from Ecuador on Saturday, Caton's wife Cathryn said that the FDA finally explained its reason for her husband's abduction during Florida court proceedings. The FDA claimed that Greg Caton violated his supervised probation under a 2003 plea of selling "unapproved drugs."
"Selling unapproved drugs" is a charge usually filed against herbalists who sell herbs and also make claims about the herbs' medicinal properties. The FDA does not allow medicinal claims about food or herbal products by those who also sell them. No actual "drugs," in the traditional sense of the term, were involved in the 2003 Caton case.
Cathryn Caton said that Caton's company Alpha Omega Labs (AltCancer.com) had been selling herbal products after Caton's release in the US, but that the herbs were sold from Ecuador where herb sales are legal along with information on their medicinal properties. In fact, Caton had moved his company to Ecuador specifically because he could continue working with herbal remedies without restrictions on the information provided to customers.
At issue is whether Caton's herb sales in Ecuador would violate Caton's probation in the United States. This legal issue could not be addressed in Ecuador, as Caton was seized before his court date there. It is possible that Caton's abduction was meant to preempt such legal precedent from being set on this matter.
Stark pressured out of Ways and Means Committee chairmanship
When President George W. Bush vetoed a bill to expand health insurance for children, Mr. Stark exploded.
�You don�t have money to fund the war or children,� said Mr. Stark, an early opponent of the Iraq war. �But you�re going to spend it to blow up innocent people, if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement.�
Those comments nearly got Mr. Stark censured in the House. More recently he was found to have applied for a state tax exemption for his Maryland home even though he was still a legal resident of California.
But 3,000 miles away, where his district is stacked with liberals who share his outrage, his words barely caused a ripple. A lack of respect for decorum when addressing Republicans is hardly the kind of thing to get a man in trouble in Hayward or Fremont.
PAM COMMENTARY: This article tries to ridicule Stark for his outspoken nature. But Stark is a solid anti-war Democrat, and no doubt didn't fit in with Dems who have sold out to the "defense" industry.
Pentagon shooter was 9/11 Truther: Washington Post portrays beliefs as "from the radical left"
By Joby Warrick and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 6, 2010; A01
The setting was seemingly random: an outer gate at the Pentagon at evening rush hour. But John Patrick Bedell's violent rampage Thursday made him only the latest in the growing ranks of the disaffected and disturbed to take aim at a symbol of official Washington.
The shooting contained jarring echoes of other recent attacks, from last month's plane crash at an IRS building in Texas to the shooting last June of a museum guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in the District. Although the circumstances differ greatly, all were acts of rage by men who blamed their personal misfortunes on what they perceived to be sinister forces within the government.
All three also appear to have drawn ideological nourishment from the same well: online communities of like-minded people who validate and amplify extreme views. Today, more than in recent years, such communities are tapping into a broad undercurrent of anti-government discontent fueled by economic recession, joblessness and concern over the growing federal deficit, according to experts who have studied the phenomenon.
For Bedell and others like him, Washington and its institutions are an irresistible target -- the "ultimate symbol of power for the powerless," said Jerrold Post, a professor of political psychology at George Washington University.
PAM COMMENTARY: News flash to the reporters and out-of-touch professor they dusted off to make their talking points -- MOST Americans don't believe the government's story on 9/11 anymore, and 9/11 truth is really a MAINSTREAM view. The shooter wasn't "radical right" or "radical left" as they were trying to portray him. He was just a regular, everyday, pissed off American, and they've had several such people attacking them lately. So rather than admit this could be normal backlash for years of lying, killing, and corruption, the Pentagon's response was telling -- even as the cops outside of their front door were getting shot up, they still couldn't take any responsibility, or admit that any wrongdoing on their part may have contributed to the situation. Instead, they responded with their usual barrage of obvious propaganda from media whores. Surely that will make everyone feel better...
Vaccines 'are making our dogs sick as vets cash in'
Vaccines given to dogs are making them ill, a pet charity claimed yesterday.
Profit-hungry drug companies and vets are 'frightening' dog owners into inoculating their pets more often than necessary, according to Canine Health Concern.
Some puppies have developed conditions including autism and epilepsy after a raft of injections, it warns.
Catherine O'Driscoll, from the charity, said: 'We are not anti-vaccination. What we are saying is that currently our pets are receiving far too many.
Unlike Health Care, When It Comes To Nukes, Cost Is No Object
The lead story in Saturday's Washington Post, about the nuclear weapons decisions facing President Obama, runs longer than 1,300 words, but five a reader won't find are "cost," "dollars," "money," "debt," or "deficit." A reader would also search in vain for any talk of a "fiscal crisis" or a need to balance nuclear weapons priorities with available revenues.
That same reader, of course, rarely has to venture past the first sentence of a health care reform story to find that the subject is a "trillion dollar overhaul." Occasionally, it's noted that the trillion dollars is spread over ten years.
One particular decision that Obama faces is whether to continue what's known as the "triad" - three independent ways the United States developed to annihilate the Soviet Union. Warheads can be delivered with bombers, from submarines or with intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The military developed ICBMs in the '50s and '60s, recognizing that bombers would soon be obsolete and too easy to defend against. But the bomber squadrons have their own internal and industry defenders and have never been phased out. Each leg of the triad costs tens of billions of dollars per year to maintain.
Spanish police arrest ringleaders who infected 13m PCs with credit-card stealing virus
Spanish police have arrested three men accused of masterminding one of the biggest computer crimes to date, which created a network of 13million virus-infected computers.
The virus, named the Mariposa botnet, stole credit card numbers and other personal details from infected machines.
Mariposa had infected machines in 190 countries in homes, government agencies, schools, more than half of the world's 1,000 largest companies and at least 40 big financial institutions. 'It was so nasty, we thought "We have to turn this off. We have to cut off the head,"' said Chris Davis, CEO of Defence Intelligence Inc, which discovered the virus last year.
Defence Intelligence along with the Spanish firm Panda Security did not say how much money the hackers had stolen from their victims before the ring was shut down two days before Christmas last year.
Fake drug scam hijacks UK college websites
UK academic institutions have unwittingly become the accomplices of criminals selling fake drugs online.
A security firm has discovered many organisations using the .ac.uk domain are unknowingly pushing customers to websites offering the fake pills.
The scam exploits software flaws to piggyback on the computing resources of the colleges and universities.
Researchers at security company Imperva believe "thousands" of organisations may have fallen victim.
Charlie Crist's downsized U.S. Sugar deal under siege
It started out so big, so bold and with so much promise for healing the River of Grass that environmentalists proclaimed it the holy grail of Everglades restoration.
But 20 months after Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled his $1.75 billion bid to buy out the U.S. Sugar Corp., the grail is at serious risk of slipping away -- rather, what's left of it.
Crist remains confident his landmark land buy will survive. ``It's a done deal,'' he told The Miami Herald. ``It's got to be done.''
Others, even supporters like Drew Martin, Everglades chairman for the Sierra Club, are less certain. ``There is no question it's hanging by a thread,'' he said.
With revenues evaporating like Lake Okeechobee on a summer day, South Florida Water Management District leaders are balking at bankrolling even the whittled-down first phase approved nine months ago: $536 million for 72,800 acres of citrus groves and sugar fields, with options on 107,500 more.
Iceland votes 'no' to debt deal for collapsed bank
Icelanders blew whistles and set off fireworks in the capital as referendum results Sunday showed they had resoundingly rejected a $5.3 billion plan to repay Britain and the Netherlands for debts spawned by the collapse of an Icelandic bank.
Voters in the tiny Atlantic island nation defied both their parliament and international pressure to display their anger at how their nation was being treated.
"This is a strong 'No' from the Icelandic nation," said Magnus Arni Skulason, co-founder of a group opposed to the deal. "The Icelandic public understands that we are sovereign and we have to be treated like a sovereign nation � not being bullied like the British and the Dutch have been doing."
Despite the vote, all three governments promised to work on a new agreement between Britain, the Netherlands and Iceland, which is depending on international assistance to help drag itself out of an economic morass.
Myths That Make It Hard To Stop Campus Rape
There's a common assumption about men who commit sexual assault on a college campus: That they made a one-time, bad decision. But psychologist David Lisak says this assumption is wrong --and dangerously so. Lisak started with a simple observation. Most of what we know about men who commit rape comes from studying the ones who are in prison. But most rapes are never reported or prosecuted. So Lisak, at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, set out to find and interview men he calls "undetected rapists." Those are men who've committed sexual assault, but have never been charged or convicted.
He found them by, over a 20-year period, asking some 2,000 men in college questions like this: "Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?" Or: "Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn't want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn't cooperate?"
About 1 in 16 men answered "yes" to these or similar questions.
It might seem like it would be hard for a researcher to get these men to admit to something that fits the definition of rape. But Lisak says it's not. "They are very forthcoming," he says. "In fact, they are eager to talk about their experiences. They're quite narcissistic as a group � the offenders � and they view this as an opportunity, essentially, to brag."
What Lisak found was that students who commit rape on a college campus are pretty much like those rapists in prison. In both groups, many are serial rapists. On college campuses, repeat predators account for 9 out of every 10 rapes. And these offenders on campuses � just like men in prison for rape � look for the most vulnerable women. Lisak says that on a college campus, the women most likely to be sexually assaulted are freshmen.
Christmas day crotch bomber tied to Israel, FBI
The Christmas Day �terrorist� is the latest in a series of staged incidents meant to make The Clash of Civilizations appear plausible and �the war on terrorism� rational.
The storyline does not hold together. Not even a little bit. As usual, the source of this media-fueled fear campaign traces directly to Tel Aviv�with a supporting role by the FBI.
How did a young Nigerian Muslim without a passport �slip through� security at Amsterdam�s Schiphol airport? Not only did his itinerary feature an illogical travel route, he paid cash for a high-priced last-minute ticket and boarded without checked baggage. How?
ICTS International, the security screening company at Schiphol, was founded by former members of Shin Bet, Israel�s civil security agency, and Israeli executives in charge of El Al security. ICTS had already proven its expertise in mounting this type of operation.
In December 2001, Richard �The Shoe Bomber� Reid �slipped through� ICTS security at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Huntleigh USA, an ICTS subsidiary, shared responsibility for security at Logan International Airport in Boston where hijackers for two of the four 911 jets �slipped through� airport security. It gets better.
End of the 'killer spy' 007 era; Dubai fallout 'dooms' secret hits [WRH]
Some believe the fallout -- the killers whose faces and aliases were made startlingly public, their movements gone from state secrets to YouTube favorites -- could mean a permanent change in the murky world of espionage.
The hit team got into the Persian Gulf city undetected, pulled off the highly complex killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, and escaped unscathed: mission accomplished, or so they must have thought.
But then, the photos on their doctored passports were released by Dubai police and published worldwide. So were their 26 aliases, more than half of which turned out to belong to real-life dual nationals living in Israel, whose Mossad agency is widely assumed to have been behind the killing.
Israel saw several of its important friends, including Britain, Ireland and Australia, express displeasure with the killing and the abuse of their passports.
Terry Pattar, a security consultant for IHS Jane's in London, said the details that became public "might represent an unexpected operational risk that had not been planned for."
New York police chief quits amid widening scandal
Mr Corbitt said intense and "unacceptable" media scrutiny over the scandal was a factor in his departure.
He said: "Any individual who is criticised constantly feels that pain. And in most cases there is some way to fight back. But in public service there is not. I'm not an elected official, I'm a public servant.
"I'm a cop. And a good cop. So to continue to face that pressure, and even pressure from my family, the media showing up in my driveway - that's unacceptable. So for my own health and for my own sanity it's the right thing to do."
PAM COMMENTARY: I've seen several shrill TV "news" broadcasts where Paterson's baseball tickets "scandal" was portrayed as "serious," and talking heads speculate on how much longer Paterson can last with such "serious" charges. Now they're harassing officials out of office, no doubt hoping it'll put pressure on Paterson to quit.
9/11 Radio Transmissions of WTC 2 Firefighters [WRH]
This wma file is an extract from the The Complete Firefighters Tape and it contains the final transmissions made by firefighters located in the aircraft impact area of WTC 2 (floors 77 and 78). Floor 78 was officially being ravaged by an 800�C inferno at this time.
The transmissions document that only isolated pockets of fire were reported by the firefighters, so where was the all-consuming inferno?
Also of note is the fact that these transmissions were made seconds before WTC 2's collapse. There were supposedly massive structural failings occurring in this section of the building at this time...
...yet no mention is made of this. The firefighters should have been screaming "the building's coming down, everybody get out!", instead they are calmly preparing to move up to the 79th floor.
Underwater Plate Cuts 400-Mile Gash
The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile early Saturday morning occurred along the same fault responsible for the biggest quake ever measured, a 1960 tremor that killed nearly 2,000 people in Chile and hundreds more across the Pacific.
Both earthquakes took place along a fault zone where the Nazca tectonic plate, the section of the earth�s crust that lies under the Eastern Pacific Ocean south of the Equator, is sliding beneath another section, the South American plate. The two are converging at a rate of about three and a half inches a year.
Earthquake experts said the strains built up by that movement, plus the stresses added along the fault zone by the 1960 quake, led to the rupture on Saturday along what is estimated to be about 400 miles of the zone, at a depth of about 22 miles under the sea floor. The quake generated a tsunami, with small surges hitting the West Coast of the United States and slightly larger ones in Hawaii and other parts of the Pacific. A 7.7-foot surge was recorded in Talcahuano, Chile.
Jian Lin, a geophysicist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said the quake occurred just north of the site of the 1960 earthquake, with very little overlap. �Most of the rupture today picked up where the 1960 rupture stopped,� said Mr. Lin, who has studied the 1960 event, which occurred along about 600 miles of the fault zone and was measured at magnitude 9.5.
Mail-order brides offer traditional marriage roles?
Three to six months worth of e-mails, a 14-day visit to Russia, and a new wife.
That's the promise of Mark Scrivener, a Martensville, Sask., man who on Jan. 1 this year opened a Canadian branch of the Volga Girls mail-order bride service.
Though available for 10 years via the Kentucky-based head office, Scrivener is providing Canadaspecific services to men looking for a wife who is a little bit more "out of the box."
Of those single men he's counselled, he says "most men would rather have a cup of coffee and a sandwich ... than a $4,000 pay-cheque a month brought to them," and those foreign women signed up for his service are willing to provide just that. "They are more traditional in a marriage. They still don't mind pulling up their roots and probably not pursuing their career and maybe pursuing a family. Being a stay-at-home mother," Scrivener said.
Obama advisers set to recommend military tribunals for alleged 9/11 plotters
President Obama's advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal, administration officials said, a step that would reverse Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s plan to try him in civilian court in New York City.
The president's advisers feel increasingly hemmed in by bipartisan opposition to a federal trial in New York and demands, mainly from Republicans, that Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators remain under military jurisdiction, officials said. While Obama has favored trying some terrorism suspects in civilian courts as a symbol of U.S. commitment to the rule of law, critics have said military tribunals are the appropriate venue for those accused of attacking the United States.
If Obama accepts the likely recommendation of his advisers, the White House may be able to secure from Congress the funding and legal authority it needs to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and replace it with a facility within the United States. The administration has failed to meet a self-imposed one-year deadline to close Guantanamo.
The administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the president's legal advisers are finalizing their review of the cases of Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators. Asked about the process, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that "no decisions have been made."
Privately, administration officials are bracing for the ire of disappointed liberals and even some government lawyers should the administration back away from promises to use civilian courts to adjudicate the cases of some of the 188 detainees who remain at Guantanamo.
PAM COMMENTARY: So, only "liberals" would be concerned with constitutional rights or human rights? This seems to be a continuation of the Bush administration's pattern of eroding Constitutional rights -- especially attacking the Bill of Rights (not the part that gives them power, of course), so that they can turn the US into a police state.
CNN's Sourcing on "Anthrax Killer" Continues to Cook the Story
It is absolutely stunning that CNN has chosen to air an interview with Jean Duley by Joe Johns on "Knowing the Anthrax Killer." The anthrax killer being Bruce Ivins, the military scientist who reportedly committed suicide as the FBI was closing the case on 2001 anthrax letter, with Ivins being the sender.
Why is it so stunning?
Because the press already relied on using Duley as an "expert" on Ivins' mental state at the time of his death, only to later back off of her when they found out she is as unreliable of a source as they come given her repeated DUIs, drug charges and the complaint filed by her ex-husband for battery.
See Glenn Greenwald's post with documentation ("Additional Key Facts re: The Anthrax Investigation") on this and my post ("Making Ivins Crazy").
The press also repeatedly referred to Duley as a psychologist or a psychiatrist, while in all actuality she was a social worker. Ironically, one who deals with addiction issues. Yet, you'll see her offer her own brand of psychoanalysis in the interview below.
The question I'm asking CNN is why they revived this obviously (and inexcusably) unreliable source? I'll update you if I get a response.
PAM COMMENTARY: See flashback to a CREDIBLE source on the anthrax attacks below...
(FLASHBACK) Professor Francis Boyle on Alex Jones show - anthrax attacks were an inside job, and used to pass the "Patriot" Act, part 1 of 6 (video) [AJ]
Francis Boyle interview on anthrax (YouTube video), part 2 of 6
Francis Boyle interview, part 3 of 6
Francis Boyle interview, part 4 of 6
Francis Boyle interview, part 5 of 6
Francis Boyle interview, part 6 of 6
PAM COMMENTARY: Here is a very brief excerpt from the YouTube interview above -- for a longer transcript (although not complete), see one of my old archives pages from late September '09:
ALEX JONES: And then, by the way, the FBI agents that blocked the anthrax and the 9/11 investigation -- even before -- they all got record cash bonuses. And those that tried to stop the attacks -- they got demoted.
FRANCIS A. BOYLE: Right, the people who were in charge of the cover-ups on both 9/11 and the anthrax have all been promoted, which indicates they've done what their masters wanted them to do. And I think the reason why -- you know, eventually, if we can unravel who is behind the anthrax attacks, we're going to find out who really was behind 9/11. And that's why they're so desperate to cover everything up and lie about it.
ALEX JONES: I know you have a lot of gravitas sir, and so you like to very be careful about what you say. But do you think a person of interest (who) needs to be looked at is this Philip Zack person, or is he another red herring?
FRANCIS A. BOYLE: I really don't know much about Mr. Zack, just what I've read in the public record.
But certainly at the top of everyone's list should be Mr. Patrick (William C. Patrick III), who did this type of work for the CIA, and Ken Alibek (Alibekov), who did this type of work for the Soviet Union. Indeed, Alibek has made statements in the public that are inconsistent and simply not true. Alibek was brought over here by the CIA, so he's on their payroll. And Patrick was on the payroll. So I would, you know, certainly identify them as the top of the list.
ALEX JONES: That's right, Alibek wrote about and was over an "accidental" release, remember, in the Soviet Union on that --
FRANCIS A. BOYLE: Sverdlovsk, right.
ALEX JONES: Was it the Kamchatka peninsula?
FRANCIS A. BOYLE: Right. Well no, Sverdlovsk, which is in Central Russia.
ALEX JONES: But what was the other one?
FRANCIS A. BOYLE: But you have to understand that it's just not Fort Detrick here that could have done this. The culture from what I can see came from Fort Detrick. But again, assuming any of this information coming out is correct, 25% of it came from Fort Detrick and 75% of it came from the Dugway Proving Ground run by the Army, and with the CIA and Battelle working there.
So my guess is that the culture itself came from Fort Detrick, and then it was shipped out to Dugway to be weaponized. That is, to turn it into a trillion spores per gram, the aerosolization, the adding on the silica covering which involved nanotechnology, and then the electrostatic charges.
ALEX JONES: How ridiculous is it --
FRANCIS A. BOYLE: So I believe it was weaponized at Dugway. I don't believe it was weaponized at Fort Detrick per se. So we have a team of people here, working on this. It's not simply a question of one, or two, or three people.
15,000 S.F. workers given layoff notices
Emotions ranged from disbelief to despair to downright anger Friday as 15,000 San Francisco city workers received pink slips. But Mayor Gavin Newsom reiterated that his controversial plan to rehire them under shortened workweeks would wind up saving thousands of jobs.
Newsom ordered the layoff notices be sent to most of the city's 26,000 workers and said the overwhelming majority of them will be hired back within two weeks to work 37.5 hours a week instead of their current 40 - meaning they'll see a 6.25 percent cut to their paychecks.
The plan will save $50 million in the city's general operating fund, which has a $522 million deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year. It will save another $50 million in departments that don't receive general fund money like the port and airport.
Bob Muscat, head of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, also is chairing the Public Employee Committee, comprised of many unions working together to come up with a counterproposal.
Tainted dips sold in Quebec, food agency says
O'Connor refused to forecast whether this could be the start of a potential avalanche of food recalls all related to a common food additive, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), which is used in a wide range of products but produced by only a handful of big suppliers. HVP is added to many foods - including dips, salad dressings, chips, sauces, hotdogs, soups and frozen dinners - in order to give them a meaty or savory flavour.
The culprit in this instance is all HVP produced since last September by Basic Food Flavors of Las Vegas. A recent inspection of the company's main plant by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found traces of salmonella on the processing equipment. If ingested, the bacteria can cause everything from nausea to deadly infections in people with weakened immune systems. To date, no illnesses linked to the contaminated HVP have been reported in either Canada or the United States.
American authorities have issued recalls on 56 products containing the affected HVP additive. The recalls in Canada have to date been limited to the two types of veggie dip and a variety of potato chips sold under the Hawaiian Kettle brand name. The latter product is only distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, O'Connor said.
The CFIA has said that the risk of illness is much lower for products that are processed or cooked after purchase. This is because salmonella can be destroyed when foods are heated to a safe internal temperature, CFIA spokesman Guy Gravelle told Canwest News Service. Products that come ready-to-eat, like dips and chips, carry a higher risk, he explained.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry wins GOP primary
Polls closed at 8 p.m. local time, but sprawling Texas has two time zones, Central and Mountain, meaning residents in and around El Paso continued to vote for an hour after polls in the rest of the state were closed.
The grudge match between Perry and Hutchison had been building for years. Hutchison portrayed Perry as lazy and corrupt. Perry painted his opponent as a reckless pork-barreler out of touch with her home state.
But the race was not the ideological referendum -- pitting the conservative purity of Perry against Hutchison's relatively moderate stance -- that had been anticipated.
Part of that reflected the change in the political climate over the last year. The visceral anger against Washington was a gift to the governor, who relentlessly pounded Hutchison as a Beltway insider representing everything -- bailouts, government mandates, red ink -- that Texas conservatives despise.
"It definitely has made it more difficult for me," she said in the waning days of the contest. "I didn't think that anyone could turn my success in producing results for Texas into a negative."
PAM COMMENTARY: Perry -- the same ex-governor who tried to force the new HPV vaccine (known for side effects like fainting, blood clots, paralysis, and death) on Texas schoolgirls. That was overturned by the Texas legislature -- see flashback below.
Reluctant governor yields on HPV shots; Calling a veto useless, Perry chides legislators for opposing his vaccination order (FLASHBACK May 2007)
Critics of Perry's order countered that it was the governor who mishandled the issue from the start by not consulting with senators and representatives before issuing his Feb. 2 executive order. Only three of 181 lawmakers voted against the bill rescinding his order.
"All the governor would have had to do is talk to us and he would have seen that we would have embraced a program where there was an opt-in instead of an opt-out," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Perry's order that all sixth-grade girls be inoculated against HPV before entering school next year would have allowed parents to opt out their daughters. But the author of the bill overturning Perry's order, Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, said it's much better to allow parents to decide what's best for their daughters.
"This drug has not been properly studied to know the impact on 11-year-olds and what the long-term impact might be on those young girls' fertility," Bonnen said.
Sea Shepherd ships searched by Australian authorities
Australian police conducted searches Saturday on two anti-whaling vessels that recently clashed with Japanese ships in the Antarctic Ocean in an attempt to obstruct their annual catch, police and activists said.
Federal police with search warrants boarded the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, ships belonging to the activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, as the result of a "formal referral from Japanese authorities," a spokesman said on condition of anonymity in accordance with police policy. He gave no further details, including on what basis the warrant was issued.
The search took place in Hobart, Tasmania -- an Australian island lying off the southeast corner of the mainland -- where the ships docked Saturday after returning from their pursuit of Japanese whalers in their annual three-month hunt for the sea mammals. The hunt is conducted in the name of research, although some of the whale meat is then sold in Japan.
Jeff Hansen, Australian director of Sea Shepherd, said police had confiscated logbooks, video footage, charts and laptops and had interviewed some of the crew.
He said police would not reveal the reason for their search, and the group had no idea what the Japanese complaints could be.
"We're sort of hoping that they do bring on some sort of investigation or charges," Hansen said. "We'd love to see something get into the courts because the reality is ... [the Japanese] have been the aggressors this year. We'd love to get it in the courts and get their illegal activity into the courts as well."
Canada opposes U.S. effort to ban polar bear trade
A cross-border battle is looming over polar bears, the Arctic giants that provoke passionate reactions in both Canada and the United States.
The U.S. wants to ban the trade in polar-bear body parts, a proposal that will be considered at a meeting beginning next week of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Canada, the only country allowing the sale of bear skins and trophy hunting of the animals, is trying to defeat the proposal.
The looming dispute over the species that environmentalists have made a sentinel of climate change is already taking on a no-holds-barred intensity.
Animal rights activists in the U.S. just issued a study claiming that stalking the big carnivores for trophies is a marginal economic activity benefiting only a handful of people, and asserting that widespread hunting of the animals is only a recently adopted part of Inuit culture. Inuit who organize trophy hunting, it suggests, are violating their culture's tradition of respect for animals.
�Nuclear material dropped by Israeli jets� [WRH]
In a closed-door debate by the IAEA�s 35-nation board of governors, Syria reiterated its assertion that the uranium traces came with munitions Israel used to destroy the complex.
IAEA head inspector Olli Heinonen replied that the chemical composition, size, shape and distribution of the traces made it extremely unlikely they were a type of uranium sometimes used in munitions as a hardening agent, diplomats present said.
Rather, he said, they were traces of processed uranium -- which after further treatment could be used for nuclear fuel.
In response, Syrian Ambassador Bassam Al-Sabbagh suggested Israel might have contaminated the site with uranium particles dropped by air during or right after the airstrike, participants in the meeting told Reuters. �The IAEA should verify the nature of the material dropped by Israel ... There were planes that overflew the site and we don�t know what it was that they dropped. I�m not just talking about munitions,� Al-Sabbagh was quoted by diplomats as saying.
�The core of the problem is an aggressive act committed by the Zionist regime,� Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said. He blamed Western powers for the IAEA focusing �on the minor issue of a few uranium particles.�
Federal Judge Says Rumsfeld Can't Duck Trial [WRH]
Federal Judge Wayne Andersen in Chicago refused Friday to drop a suit against former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld filed by Americans who were working as civilians in Iraq in 2006 when, they allege, they were locked up and tortured by American forces � Donald Vance for three months and Nathan Ertel for one.
"Plaintiffs are not now, and never have been, terrorists or enemies of the United States," says Vance and Ertel's suit against Rumsfeld and the United States government. "To the best of their knowledge, Plaintiffs were never even legitimately accused of being the same."
Nevertheless, the suit continues, they were held and abused, and "officials at the highest levels of of the United States government have endorsed just such abuses. In particular, Defendant Donald Rumsfeld devised policies that permit the use of torture in interrogations and the detention of Americans without just grounds and effectively without access to a court to seek habeas." These policies authorized a "series of measures...crafted in secret and without resort to the democratic process [that] effectively suspended certain very basic human and civil rights for those whom the officials target."
Attorney Mike Kanovitz of the Chicago firm Loevy & Loevy, which represents the plaintiffs, says Vance, who's from Chicago, and Ertel were employees of Shield Group Security and were reporting back to the FBI in Chicago about illegal payments they believed were being made by the security firm to Iraqi sheiks. Kanovitz said American officials in Iraq weren't interested in what the two men had to say, so Vance got in touch with the FBI during a visit home.
Their suit says SGS became suspicious and eventually they were arrested by American military forces, placed in solitary confinement, and interrogated repeatedly by military personnel using physically and mentally coercive tactics authorized by Rumsfeld. These included "threats of violence and actual violence, sleep deprivation and alteration, extremes of temperature, extremes of sounds, light manipulation, threats of indefinite detention, denial of food, denial of water, denial of needed medical care, yelling, prolonged, solitary confinement, incommunicado detention, falsified allegations and other psychologically-disruptive and injurious techniques."
According to Entertainment Weekly, Sarah Palin and Mark Burnett (of Survivor fame) are pitching a "TV docudrama" to major television networks this week in Los Angeles following her appearance on The Tonight Show. EW reports one insider said that the show will be "a planet-Earth-style" look at Alaska, referring to the magnificent BBC/Discover Channel documentary, and one executive quipped, "She�s pitching a sequel to Commander in Chief," referring to the ABC drama starring Geena Davis as the first female president. Read more here. The Hollywood Reporter reports that "Palin and her family would be followed on-camera in the show," and that one network executive described the show as "'Planet Earth' meets Alaska meets her family." A source close to the former governor told Politico that despite rumors that the show will be a reality series centering on the Palin family, it will be "about the people, geography, wildlife and wonders of Alaska." Read more here. Whatever ends up coming out of these negotiations, we're really hoping for "Survivor: Akun."
In a related story, E! Online reports that while Palin was in L.A. this week, she and Bristol, and an "entourage" of about 20 stopped by an Oscar gift suite benefiting the Red Cross. According to a press release, Palin reportedly donated over $1,700 at the event and plans to give the Oscar swag she picked up to charity. It was a good day for charity, then; she and her crew were "like locusts" according to one vendor. Palin stocked up on free Bloom facial products, and snagged free jewelry, watches, food, and 40 free pairs of headphones. E! also learned from one annoyed source that Palin insisted that the gift suite be opened two hours early for her crew and that once arriving, pictures and interviews weren't allowed. Read more here.
Privacy, Civil Liberties Groups Sound Alarm over Expanded Role for National Security Agency in Cyber Security [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what were Einstein 1 and 2?
LILLIE CONEY: They were documents that were drafted about the non�well, the civilian government network, so if you�re looking at the Department of Education website or you�re looking at the Department of Agriculture�s website and a number of other agencies that are considered to be federal government civilian agencies, if visiting those sites, the objective was to protect government networks from cyber attacks or anything that might prevent those sites from being up and available and running. So anyone visiting those sites would be monitored, screened, or a series of ways to identify whether the person is engaging in some activity that may pose a threat to these websites, sort of like building a fence around government agency websites and then checking who goes in and who goes out, which is something very different from the way the internet has worked in the past.
AMY GOODMAN: Lillie Coney, your organization and Ralph Nader wrote a letter to President Obama about deploying full-body scanning devices at the nation�s airports. What�s your concern?
LILLIE CONEY: Whole-body imaging technology is a whole new way to screen individuals. What we�re looking at with these technologies is that it can�the way they work, they can penetrate the outer layers of clothing and take a very detailed image of what someone looks like without their clothing. These technologies are not regulated. The privacy policies that are put in place are at the discretion of the agency, which in fact the agency could change at their own discretion at any time.
So what we�re looking at are three things: one, looking at whether these�how the decision to reach regarding purchasing these systems, what the rationale was for trying to use that as a primary screening device, instead of what was initially announced by the agency, that it would only be used for secondary screening; and then the health issues that may be a part of using these systems on the general population; and then the third thing, establishing privacy protections that are not governed by the agency but are built in, from the beginning of the process to the end, that create transparency, oversight and accountability over the information that this agency might collect as it relates to the use of whole-body imaging.
PAM COMMENTARY: Those full-body scanners have also been criticized for using a type of wave that causes genetic damage and cancer.
Coal ash problems spread; Wastewater from landfill going all over Southeast
CHATTANOOGA - More than a year after the Kingston coal ash spill created one of the worst environmental disasters of its kind in U.S. history, the problem is seeping into several other states.
It began Dec. 22, 2008, when a retaining pond burst at a coal-burning power plant, spilling 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash across 300 acres into the Emory River and a shoreline community near Knoxville. It was enough ash to cover a square mile 5 feet deep.
While the Tennessee Valley Authority's cleanup has removed much of the ash from the river, the arsenic- and mercury-laced muck or its watery discharge has been moving by rail and truck through three states to at least six different sites. Some of it may end up as far away as Louisiana.
At every stop along the route, new environmental concerns pop up. The coal-ash muck is laden with heavy metals linked to cancer, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering declaring coal ash hazardous.
More men file workplace sex harassment claims
WASHINGTON � Jonathan Pilkington's boss wouldn't take no for an answer.
During more than two years as a food runner at an upscale steak house in Scottsdale, Ariz., Pilkington says his male supervisor groped, fondled and otherwise sexually harassed him more than a dozen times.
�It was very embarrassing,� Pilkington said. �I felt like I had to do something because the situation was just so bad.�
Now Pilkington, a married father of two, is the star witness in a federal lawsuit against Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and one of a growing number of men claiming they are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Cash-Strapped States Delay Paying Income-Tax Refunds
This year, more Americans and businesses may be asking: Where's my tax refund?
That's because cash-strapped states such as North Carolina, Alabama and Hawaii have been forced to slow down issuing income tax refunds to individuals and businesses because of a lack of funds in their budget.
Kansas has hinted that a delay might be possible, and processing paper refunds in Iowa has slowed because the state doesn't haven't enough employees to get them processed faster.
Another state, New York, is still considering whether they'll follow the likes of Hawaii and delay refund payments.
Canada wanted Afghan prisoners tortured: lawyer
Federal government documents on Afghan detainees suggest that Canadian officials intended some prisoners to be tortured in order to gather intelligence, according to a legal expert.
If the allegation is true, such actions would constitute a war crime, said University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran, who has been digging deep into the issue and told CBC News he has seen uncensored versions of government documents released last year.
"If these documents were released [in full], what they will show is that Canada partnered deliberately with the torturers in Afghanistan for the interrogation of detainees," he said.
"There would be a question of rendition and a question of war crimes on the part of certain Canadian officials. That's what's in these documents, and that's why the government is covering up as hard as it can."
Breast cancer survivor credits vitamin D for recovery
Rhonda Abrams sees the sun in a new light. For years she was afraid of it. Skin cancer had killed her mother at the age of 49.
The sun became her mortal foe and Abrams protected herself by wearing hats and long sleeves, seeking shade whenever possible.
But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45, Abrams started to reconsider her ideals and decided she had been misguided in her fears.
By hiding from the sun, she deprived herself of an important vitamin she now credits as being pivotal in her recovery from cancer: The sunshine vitamin, D.
E-mails: Navy dogs in 'deplorable' conditions with contractor
The task probably seemed innocuous enough when a small team of U.S. Navy personnel accepted it last fall. They would trek out to a private security contractor in Chicago to pick up 49 dogs, then transport them to a nearby military base.
But what they found when they arrived was shocking, according to internal Navy e-mails: dirty, weak animals so thin that their ribs and hip bones jutted out.
The dogs were supposed to have begun working months earlier to sniff out explosives at Navy installations across the country, including several in Hampton Roads. At least that was the plan when, for the first time, the Navy decided to hire an outside contractor to supply K-9s and handlers to help protect dozens of its bases and ships.
But when the dog-handler teams showed up for work last spring, they couldn't find planted explosives during military certification tests, according to the Navy. So the bases sent them back to the contractor, Securitas Security Services USA.
Liz Cheney says terrorists have no rights. Also, you're a terrorist.
It can be argued that when Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol accused nine lawyers in Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department of being the "al-Qaida Seven," working in the "Department of Jihad," they were simply exercising their First Amendment right to say anything that would get them on a talk show. This is, after all, America. The right to cynically accuse someone of being a terrorist is protected under the Constitution.
You would think, however, that when Cheney and Kristol launched their execrable "Keep America Safe" Web ad, they would have been very, very careful with their words. In the ad they accuse seven Justice Department lawyers and two colleagues--all of whom had represented Guantanamo detainees--of being members of the Department of Jihad. A screen shot of Osama Bin Laden and a creepy voice-over asks of these attorneys, "Whose values do they share?" Thanks to people like Kristol and Cheney, people take accusations of this sort very seriously. The Justice Department reports being swamped with panicked phone calls since the ad started running this week. In 2010, calling someone a Bin Laden-loving jihadist isn't just meaningless partisan hackery.
Ten years ago, these were just words. Ten years ago, someone accused of being a terrorist had recourse to the same panoply of rights as everyone else. Ten years ago, an accused terrorist still had the right to a trial, for instance. But thanks to people like Liz Cheney and her dad, the Sixth Amendment right to a "speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury" is gone, once you've been branded a terrorist. Just ask Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. After 9/11, once you're branded an enemy combatant, you can be held for years without any of your constitutionally protected rights, including the right to be told of the charges against you or to confront the witnesses against you. Thanks to people like Cheney, those alleged to be members of al-Qaida are stripped of their Sixth Amendment right to prove they are not.
But that's not all. Ten years ago, if you labeled someone a terrorist, he had an Eighth Amendment right to be free from torture, since the very idea of "cruel and unusual punishment" was anathema, even for our enemies. But thanks to people like Liz Cheney and the brave souls at the Bush Office of Legal Counsel, it's OK to torture terrorists these days. As long as you're pretty sure they're terrorists. This is good news for the Cheney way of thinking, because it means that you can abuse a possible terrorist into admitting that he actually is a terrorist without all that fact-finding necessitated by a criminal trial.
But there's even more. Ten years ago, if some paranoid hysteric accused you of being an al-Qaida sympathizer or a jihadist, you could find a lawyer to help you make the case that you were not. But in the ever-expanding war on the Bill of Rights being waged by Liz Cheney, once you're designated a terrorist, you lose your Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Because just by representing you--even if you're acquitted�your lawyers become terrorists, too!
PAM COMMENTARY: What kind of parents would teach their daughter to be so evil? I wonder if the girl really wanted to be a right-wing propagandist, or if she's only humoring her father until she gets her cut of his will.
Leading Education Scholar Diane Ravitch: No Child Left Behind Has Left US Schools with Legacy of �Institutionalized Fraud� [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: --strengthening the content of the education, not the bells and whistles and the structures for measurements, but that that was actually defeated and that Lynne Cheney had something to do with that. Could you talk about that, bring us some of that history?
DIANE RAVITCH: Right. Well, when I went to work for the Department of Education, I came in as a Democrat, and I thought, somewhat naively, that education was somehow a nonpartisan issue. And so, I came in to work on the idea of promoting arts education, science education. And in the department--part of the department I was in, we gave grants to different professional associations of educators to develop voluntary national standards of the arts, science, history, geography, economics, civics, lots of different areas. We wanted people, educators across the country, to say this is what an education is, this is what all American children should have. It was not a race to the top. It was based on the idea of equal educational opportunity means that all children get these wonderful things.
But I think, within the Bush administration, the more important dialogue that was going on, that I was just very peripheral to, was the idea of school choice, vouchers, charter schools, and then also accountability. And where the Democrats and the Republicans began to make common cause was around this theme of accountability. And what accountability ultimately meant, not just in the Bush administration, but in the Clinton, and now in the Obama--in the, you know, next Bush and then this administration, accountability means who should be punished. If the scores don�t go up, who should be punished? Teachers. Teachers should be punished. The unions should be demonized.
But you asked me about Lynne Cheney. The reason that Lynne Cheney gets into this conversation is that she was the one who saw that the history standards were--you know, she attacked them. And there got to be a huge national brouhaha back in 1994, 1995, about whether the history standards were politically correct. And it caused such an uproar in the press with--you know, the right-wing talk-show hosts jumped all over it, and then you had people on the left defending it. Congress and the administration just said--and this was in the Clinton administration years. They said, �Let�s not touch this whole idea of standards. Let�s just stick with basic skills.� And that�s how we today have inherited this legacy of the only thing you�re allowed to really talk about is reading and math, don�t touch science, the arts. They�re all too controversial. You might get into an argument over evolution if you try to talk about science.
PAM COMMENTARY: More demands from the Cheney family that truth won't get into the hands of the masses.
Thousands of Students Taking Part in National Day of Action to Defend Public Education [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Ananya Roy, in terms of the impact of these tuition increases�I think it�s about 171 percent now in the past few years in the University of California system�what has been the impact in terms of the student body, the students that you are now teaching versus those a few years ago, in terms of the class and racial opportunities for higher education?
ANANYA ROY: Well, the impact is quite immediate. We are seeing students struggling to get into classes, to keep up with those classes. We�re seeing students holding down multiple jobs while they�re trying to get through school. We�re seeing students trying to finish their college education in a shorter amount of time, and yet their inability to get into all of the classes they need makes that more difficult. So we�re really looking at a generation that is facing great frustration, that they graduate from college with a crushing burden of debt, and that faces a general condition of hopelessness.
I think there�s some very important questions here also about whether the University of California system will be able to maintain these twin mandates of access and excellence. We�re clearly seeing an erosion of access. Now, these are not new issues. Students of color have been fighting around these issues for quite awhile in the UC system and more broadly in California, that the doors of the public university have never been open for all. So we see this as a struggle to not only save the university, but to also transform it, to make those issues of access and opportunity, central to the struggle, visible to all.
N.Y. Rep. Massa to step down next week
On Wednesday, On Politics reported here that Massa planned to leave Congress after his term ended this year. In a conference call with reporters this week, Massa cited a recurrence of cancer, which he had previously battled in 1996, as the reason for his departure.
But an ethics cloud has been building around the congressman since then. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said his office had been made aware of "allegations of misconduct" against Massa in early February and that Hoyer directed the complaints to the ethics committee.
The Associated Press reports that Massa's resignation comes as the ethics committee was reviewing a harassment complaint by a male staff member who reportedly felt uncomfortable in a situation with Massa that had sexual overtones.
Regarding the allegations, Massa said, "There is no doubt in my mind that I did in fact, use language in the privacy of my own home and in my inner office that, after 24 years in the Navy, might make a Chief Petty Officer feel uncomfortable.
The five-year race to save India's vanishing tigers
The poachers perch on the rough platforms they have built in the trees about 15 feet above the forest floor, waiting patiently for the tiger to come. They have been searching the forests of India's Ranthambhore reserve for days, following the pug marks and other tell-tale signs. When they found the fresh kill, they knew it would only be a matter of time before the tiger returned to eat. Working quickly, they placed their traps on the path, scattering small stones across the dry sandy soil, knowing that tigers hate to walk on them and will pick their way around if they can.
The tiger pads forward, guided by the stones into the trap, which springs shut with a snap. The poachers have fashioned the device from old car suspension plates; there are no teeth, because a damaged pelt will fetch less money. In pain and desperate to free itself, the tiger thrashes around. Another foot catches in another trap, then a third.
The poachers watch to make sure it cannot free itself, then edge down to the ground, still cautious, because a male Bengal tiger can weigh up to 500lb (227kg) and a female 300lb (136kg) and a single blow from those claws could kill a man. One man carries a bamboo stick into which he has poured molten lead to give it more weight. The other has a spear on the end of a 10ft pole. As the tiger opens its mouth, the poacher with the spear lunges forward, stabbing between its open jaws. As the blood starts to flow, he stabs again and again. His colleague smashes the tiger over the head with the stick.
When it is over, they draw their heavy iron knives and set to work to skin it. They leave the paws intact; they are too fiddly to waste time on out in the open. Half an hour later, they are gone, melting away unchallenged into the jungle, once more eluding the forest guards.
Fish and Game director wants expanded wolf hunting
Elk numbers in the Lolo Zone peaked in the 1980s with a population of about 16,000. Biologists attribute the large herds to open fields created by large wildfire in the early part of the 20th century.
But the open fields began filling with brush and young trees, reducing elk habitat and causing elk numbers to decline, and then plunge after the severe winter of 1996-1997.
Fish and Game responded by restricting elk hunting and allowing more bear and mountain lions to be killed, which Groen said caused elk numbers to pick up.
"Then wolves took over and became the leading cause of Lolo elk deaths," Groen said. "It wasn't until May of last year the state could finally manage wolves. By then, the balance of elk and wolves in the Lolo Zone was completely out of whack."
The agency set a harvest limit of 27 wolves in the Lolo Zone and 17 in the Selway. But through Friday, 11 wolves in the Lolo Zone had been killed by hunters and seven in the Selway.
Forest Service slowly embraces Tester plan to log 10,000 acres a year for 10 years
One of the most contested parts of Sen. Jon Tester's Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is the plan to log 10,000 acres a year for 10 years.
When he testified on Tester's bill on Dec. 17, Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman told a congressional subcommittee "the bill would create unrealistic expectations on the part of communities and forest products stakeholders that the agency would accomplish the quantity of mechanical treatments required."
He also said the bill "in particular includes levels of mechanical treatment that are likely unachievable and perhaps unsustainable. The levels of mechanical treatment called for in the bill far exceed historic treatment levels on these forests."
In a visit to Missoula Feb. 5, Tester acknowledged that demand was causing some "heartburn" in the U.S. Forest Service. But he insisted the agency needs to change how it manages timber.
Frustrated Icelanders vent rage in referendum
Icelanders were deciding whether to approve the payment of $3.5 billion to Britain and $1.8 billion to the Netherlands as compensation for funds that those governments paid to around 340,000 of their citizens who had accounts with the collapsed bank Icesave, an Icelandic Internet bank that offered high interest rates before it failed along with its parent, Landsbanki.
"This result is no surprise," Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said. "Now we must turn to the task of finishing the negotiations on Icesave."
The debt owed to Britain and the Netherlands is a small sum compared to the massive amounts spent to rescue other victims of the global meltdown -- $182.5 billion was paid out to keep U.S. insurance giant American International Group Inc. alive -- but many taxpayers in the country say they can't afford to pay it.
The deal would require each person to pay around $135 a month for eight years -- the equivalent of a quarter of an average four-member family's salary.
Six Navy skippers sacked since Jan. 8
Graf also has been accused on the Web site of endangering sailors' lives by engaging the Cowpens in a "drag race" with a destroyer, the John S. McCain, near Okinawa, Japan.
The inspector general's report confirmed that the race had taken place last year but concluded that allegations Graf had endangered the Cowpens were "unsubstantiated."
The six commanding officers the Navy has fired since Jan. 8 represent an unusually high number for the service. A total of 55 commanding officers were dismissed for cause from 2005 to 2009, an average of 11 a year, according to statistics supplied by the Navy.
Lt. Justin Cole, a Navy spokesman, said that fewer than 1 percent of the service's approximately 1,500 commanding officers are relieved each year but added that the spate of firings so far in 2010 was not part of a planned crackdown or policy change.
Toyota disputes critic who blames electronics
Toyota Motor Corp. plans Monday to try to undercut suggestions that its electronics systems caused the sudden acceleration problems that led to the recall of more than 8 million vehicles.
The automaker plans an event in which it will seek to debunk a critic who claims faulty gas pedals did not cause the sudden acceleration.
Toyota will aim to duplicate the scenario created by David W. Gilbert, a professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Gilbert told Congress on Feb. 23 that he was able to recreate sudden acceleration in a Toyota vehicle by manipulating its electronics.
The company is calling in the director of Stanford University's Center for Automotive Research to try to refute the claims. Toyota said Stanford professor Chris Gerdes will show that the malfunctions Gilbert produced "are completely unrealistic under real-world conditions and can easily be reproduced on a wide range of vehicles made by other manufacturers."
Torture memos resemble Clarence Thomas' way of thinking
Thomas' consistent record of dismissing claims of prison brutality, most of them joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, shows that Yoo's view of torture was not that of a rogue lawyer. Instead, it represents a strain of conservative thinking that looks back in history to define cruelty and torture, rather than toward what the court has called the "evolving standards of decency."
Over two decades, Thomas and Scalia have repeatedly dissented when the court ruled for prisoners who alleged they were subjected to cruelty. They include an inmate who was handcuffed to a "hitching post" and forced to stand shirtless for seven hours in the hot summer sun of Alabama. Another involved an inmate from Louisiana who was repeatedly punched in the mouth by a guard.
According to Thomas, this harsh treatment did not qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. "Judges -- not jailers -- impose punishment," he wrote.
The two justices explained that the word "punishment" as it was used in the English Bill of Rights in 1689 referred to judges imposing punishment for a crime. Prison guards do not impose "punishment" even if they mete out cruelty, they said.
Wisconsin woman loses fingers to zoo bear
A Wisconsin woman remained hospitalized Saturday after her fingers were bitten off Friday by a bear at a Manitowoc zoo.
Police say Tracy Weiler, 47, of Manitowoc, passed barriers and warning signs at the Lincoln Park Zoo and was trying to feed two Asiatic black bears around 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Capt. Scott Luchterhand told the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter that one of the bears bit off her thumb and forefinger and parts of her middle and ring fingers.
Weiler, of Manitowoc, was rushed to a hospital in Green Bay, about 40 miles north of Manitowoc, and later transferred to Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, he said.
States try to ban credit checks on job seekers; Financial history can pose another hurdle for many desperately seeking work
ANNAPOLIS, Md. � It's hard enough to find a job in this economy, and now some people are facing another hurdle: Potential employers are holding their credit histories against them.
Sixty percent of employers recently surveyed by the Society for Human Resources Management said they run credit checks on at least some job applicants, compared with 42 percent in a somewhat similar survey in 2006.
Employers say such checks give them valuable information about an applicant's honesty and sense of responsibility. But lawmakers in at least 16 states from South Carolina to Oregon have proposed outlawing most credit checks, saying the practice traps people in debt because their past financial problems prevent them from finding work.
Wisconsin state Rep. Kim Hixson drafted a bill in his state shortly after hearing from Terry Becker, an auto mechanic who struggled to find work.
Poverty is hitting the suburbs with more sting
In a startling shift, Twin Cities suburbs now have more poor people than the core cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Job losses, foreclosures and disappearing insurance coverage have pushed requests for food stamps, medical assistance and emergency housing aid to record levels. Homeless numbers are rising. Food shelves are scrambling to meet demand.
It's a trend mirrored in suburbs across the nation, where a recent study found that suburban poverty has grown five times faster than it has in big cities.
Worst hit are single moms and unskilled workers whose finances were shaky before the economy dipped. But financial stress reaches well into the middle class.
TennCare cuts hit many: Knox quadriplegic, 14, among those who wouldn't be covered
NASHVILLE - Gov. Phil Bredesen proposes shrinking overall TennCare spending by another $860 million in the coming year, and Ashley Manes is, indirectly, one small part of that plan.
The 14-year-old Knoxville girl, a quadriplegic whose life depends on a ventilator and multiple medications because of a traffic accident 10 years ago, has been deemed ineligible for continued TennCare coverage, according to Joe Manes, her father.
The governor's newest round of proposed TennCare reductions comes on top of previous cuts, some of which were offset in the current year by federal stimulus money. When that money is gone, the program's spending will be $1.2 billion lower next year than it was last year.
The reductions proposed by the Bredesen administration include new caps on coverage - no more than $10,000 per year for hospitalization, for example - and no more than eight visits to an office for treatment in a year. There is also a 7 percent cut in payments to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other providers.
Canada opposes U.S. effort to ban polar bear trade
A cross-border battle is looming over polar bears, the Arctic giants that provoke passionate reactions in both Canada and the United States.
The U.S. wants to ban the trade in polar-bear body parts, a proposal that will be considered at a meeting beginning next week of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Canada, the only country allowing the sale of bear skins and trophy hunting of the animals, is trying to defeat the proposal.
The looming dispute over the species that environmentalists have made a sentinel of climate change is already taking on a no-holds-barred intensity.
Animal rights activists in the U.S. just issued a study claiming that stalking the big carnivores for trophies is a marginal economic activity benefiting only a handful of people, and asserting that widespread hunting of the animals is only a recently adopted part of Inuit culture. Inuit who organize trophy hunting, it suggests, are violating their culture's tradition of respect for animals.
Evaro Hill residents say wells polluted by Highway 93 construction
EVARO � For 25 years, Dennis and Janet Elliot have drawn their water from a well that sits close to Evaro Road.
The well, 500 feet from Highway 93 and 120 feet deep, has long delivered what they believed was sweet, clean water that nourished the family.
Which is to say that several generations of Elliots have drunk it, bathed in it and used it to clean their clothes.
But for the past year, ever since the widening of Highway 93 was in full bloom, the Elliots haven�t been drinking their water. Their grandkids, who live in another house on the same property, don�t even bathe in it.
�We can�t drink the water because it�s not safe, and it�s not safe because something that happened during this project made it that way,� said Elliot, a big man who worked for Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. for 18 years and spent 28 years as a volunteer firefighter. �I feel like the state has been pretty cavalier in their lack of concern for our safety.�
A Top Paterson Aide Quits
In the latest upheaval for the Paterson administration, the governor�s communications director, Peter E. Kauffmann, resigned Thursday afternoon.
�As a former officer in the United States Navy, integrity and commitment to public service are values I take seriously, � Mr. Kauffmann said in a statement. �As recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position.�
The tenure of Gov. David A. Paterson has become imperiled by revelations that he and his administration intervened in a domestic violence episode involving a top aide and by accusations by a state ethics panel that the governor lied about his acceptance of free tickets to a World Series game.
While Mr. Kauffmann did not elaborate further and declined to comment beyond his statement, the commission�s report suggests that testimony Mr. Kauffmann gave during the ethics panel�s investigation had revealed significant inconsistencies with Mr. Paterson�s account of how he acquired the tickets, leading the commission to conclude that Mr. Paterson had lied during his testimony.
PAM COMMENTARY: What I find offensive is that they're trying to force Paterson from office based on baseball tickets. I mean, he's not owned by big corporate interests, he's not giving away lucrative contracts to buddies in organized crime, he's not even having hookers sent to his room. Trying to get his aide out of a domestic violence charge is a genuine concern, but was probably a hasty reaction based on panic. But baseball tickets? I only wish that New York was capable of electing such an honest governor. Obviously the big boys don't want him there, or they wouldn't be giving him so much trouble.
FDA warns of salmonella risk from common flavor enhancer
Thousands of types of processed foods -- including many varieties of soups, chips, hot dogs and salad dressings -- may pose a health threat because they contain a flavor enhancer that could be contaminated with salmonella, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.
Salmonella was detected in one lot of hydrolyzed vegetable protein made by Basic Food Flavors Inc. as well as inside the company's Nevada manufacturing facility, according to the FDA. Basic Food Flavors is one of only a handful of companies that makes hydrolyzed vegetable protein, but its customer list is extensive.
The FDA has posted on its Web site a list of products being recalled by manufacturers. The list contained 56 products as of mid-afternoon Thursday and is expected to balloon. It can be found at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/HVPCP/.
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is widely used by food processors to boost flavor in ways similar to monosodium glutamate. A company that bought the tainted protein from Basic Food Flavors notified the FDA after it found salmonella in the lot, according to federal officials.
Chilean Earthquake Toll Passes 800; Aid Yet to Reach Many Devastated Areas [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Many Chileans have complained that
scores of deaths could have been avoided had the government responded faster. The earthquake set off a tsunami a few hours later that killed many who survived the quake.
Despite the devastation, many say the human and economic costs could have been a lot worse, given the size of the earthquake, one of the strongest ever recorded in history. In fact, scientists say the 8.8-magnitude quake was so powerful it slightly shifted the earth�s axis and shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. At a briefing at UN headquarters in New York, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Chief for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg said the disaster could have been far worse.
CATHERINE BRAGG: Yes, the country is very well prepared. It has one of the strongest building codes. But at the same time, I don�t think any country can be prepared for an 8.8-magnitude earthquake totally adequately. It is, I think, if I�m not mistaken, the fifth most severe earthquake ever recorded in human history. So, no matter how prepared you are, there are going to be repercussions from something as big as this.
It is true that there are some hospitals that are damaged, some that have collapsed. That�s why the government is asking for field hospitals to be put in�as their very targeted requirements that they have asked the international community to help with, because they do determine that it is an area that is needed.
2 Pentagon police officers shot
WASHINGTON (AP) � A gunman coolly drew a weapon from his pocket and opened fire at the teeming subway entrance to the Pentagon complex Thursday evening, wounding two police officers before being shot and critically wounded, officials said.
The two officers suffered grazing wounds and were being treated in a hospital, said Richard Keevill, chief of Pentagon police.
The suspect, believed to be a U.S. citizen, walked up to a security checkpoint at the Pentagon in an apparent attempt to get inside the massively fortified Defense Department headquarters, at about 6:40 p.m. "He just reached in his pocket, pulled out a gun and started shooting" at point-blank range, Keevill said. "He walked up very cool. He had no real emotion on his face." The Pentagon officers returned fire with semiautomatic weapons.
Of the suspect, the chief said, "His injury is pretty critical."
Exclusive: RNC document mocks donors, plays on 'fear'
The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on �fear� of President Barack Obama and a promise to "save the country from trending toward socialism."
The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how �ego-driven� wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and �tchochkes.�
The presentation was delivered by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, a source at the gathering said.
In neat PowerPoint pages, it lifts the curtain on the often-cynical terms of political marketing, displaying an air of disdain for the party�s donors that is usually confined to the barroom conversations of political operatives.
Oxford hospital suspends heart surgery after four children die (UK)
A hospital has decided to suspend heart surgery on children after four have died in the past three months.
The John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford said the move was precautionary. There would be an external investigation into the reasons for the deaths, since such a spate was unusual, the hospital said.
The children had congenital heart problems, and had been receiving care for some time before their operations. The hospital added that it alone haddecided to hold an investigation.
In the meantime the parents of 26 children awaiting heart surgery at the John Radcliffe would be contacted and those scheduled for operations would be offered them elsewhere.
Education should accompany prostate screening, new guidelines say
New guidelines for prostate cancer screening issued Wednesday emphasize that physicians should better educate men about both the risks and benefits of using the PSA test for screening.
They also call for cutbacks in the use of digital rectal exams to find tumors and recommend the end of mass prostate-screening programs at health fairs and other sites.
The revised guidelines issued by the influential American Cancer Society come on the heels of several studies suggesting that large numbers of tumors identified by PSA screening are inconsequential and that biopsies and treatment produce more harm than those tumors would.
Because of such findings, the new guidelines emphasize the importance of physicians explaining both risks and benefits to the patients more fully so that each man can make an informed decision about whether to get tested.
Doyle signs bill limiting BPA use; Baby bottles can't be made with chemical
Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill into law Wednesday that bans BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups for children age 3 and younger, making Wisconsin the third state to do so.
The law, which takes effect in June, prohibits the manufacture and wholesale of those items. It also requires that such bottles and cups be labeled "BPA Free."
Wisconsin's action is the latest in a growing movement to rid children's products of the chemical.
"It seems to me that if there's a question of (safety), the balance we should strike is on protecting our children," Doyle said. "We must continue our proud and progressive tradition of passing laws to keep our citizens safe."
Rove Admits Bogus Iraq WMD Led to Invasion [AJ]
Karl Rove, the White House adviser whom George W. Bush called his political �architect,� admits in a new memoir that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq severely damaged the Bush presidency � and he suggests the war might not have occurred had Bush actually known the truth.
Of his own role, Rove writes that his biggest mistake was not pushing back against claims that the president had led the country into the Iraq war under false pretenses.
If Bush had known about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, Rove questions whether the United States would have gone to war, according to an excerpt quoted by the New York Times. �Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D., I doubt it,� Rove writes. �Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change and deal with Iraq�s horrendous human rights violations.�
From New York to Liberia, Investigative Journalist Greg Palast Tracks Vulture Funds Preying on African Debt [DN]
GREG PALAST: So who are these vultures? Vultures collect on debts of the poorest nations. But they never lent these poor countries any money at all. So how did these American speculators get their hands on Liberia�s debts?
We�ve come to the offices of Greylock Capital, big players in the industry. Greylock CEO Hans Humes tells us how he ended up with some of Liberia�s debts.
HANS HUMES: I ended up buying a lot of the loans that we had in Liberia when I called one of the banks that was going through a merger thirteen, fourteen years ago, and I said, �Hey, by the way, you were a lender to this African country.� And the guy said, �No, I�m not.� A couple days later, he said, �You know what? You�re right. We found this box in this warehouse that had files for all these loans. Do you want to buy all of them?�
GREG PALAST: The reason Hans and other speculators were able to buy up Liberia�s debt dirt cheap was war. In the �80s and �90s, Liberian warlords were chopping the country into bloody pieces, killing one in ten Liberians. Humes and others were willing to wait until peace could be restored. But for some vultures, Liberia�s misery was an opportunity.
Four thousand five hundred miles away from the mayhem, they file a lawsuit in this courthouse in New York City. Now, Liberia didn�t really have a government. It was run by a bunch of warlords under UN sanctions. Not surprisingly, Liberia doesn�t show up in the courthouse, and they lose automatically, when the judge issues this default judgment requiring the nation to pay $23 million.
Who was behind this lawsuit? The key figure is Eric Hermann, the owner of vulture fund FH International. And here he is, at a chandelier-lit gala.
Hermann refused several requests to be interviewed, so we went to his office to ask why he sued war-torn Liberia. But his office seemed to have vanished.
The Military-Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy [WRH]
A PhD economist told me:
War always causes recession. Well, if it is a very short war, then it may stimulate the economy in the short-run. But if there is not a quick victory and it drags on, then wars always put the nation waging war into a recession and hurt its economy.
You know about America's unemployment problem. You may have even heard that the U.S. may very well have suffered a permanent destruction of jobs.
But did you know that the defense employment sector is booming?
Political Prisoner Ernst Zundel Released [R]
This morning at 2:45 EST, I received a phone call from our British friend, Lady Michele Renouf, who told me:
"We have him in the car! All is well! Here he is..." and I could exchange a few happy words with my husband.
Ernst assured me that his release went smoothly and that he would call me a bit later with additional details.
Half an hour later I received a fax from his lady attorney, Alexandra Rittershaus, who told me:
"Ernst is in freedom. A few people were (at the prison gates), but everything went peacefully. I did not have an opportunity to talk to him, but he looked happy."
PAM COMMENTARY: When I was a guest on the Jeff Rense radio show years ago to promote my vegan cookbook, I was bumped to the last hour of the show because Ernst Zundel had been deported under suspicious circumstances. It seemed that the US government had manipulated his immigration status so that Zundel could be deported to a country where questioning anything to do with the holocaust was illegal. Zundel had questioned the existence of gas chambers at a certain Nazi prison camp, and to someone like me with a degree in history that�s not a scary idea -- we'd just consider him to be a "revisionist." If he could prove his case to the academic community, then his theory could gain acceptance, but it's rare for even accomplished academics to come up with strong enough evidence to do that.
I can think of a couple of revisionist theories that have gained popularity through the years, although I can't remember the revisionists� names offhand -- one examination of financial records showed that King Louis XVI (the king who was beheaded in France along with his "let them eat cake" wife Marie Antoinette) had spent about 50% of French revenues on the American Revolution. In other words, Ben Franklin was really doing his job getting money for the states, more money than the French could afford apparently. After much suffering by the French, Louis was beheaded, partly for helping us buy our freedom from England. Another theory that gained acceptance was that the population decline during the bubonic plague wasn't as great as originally thought, partly because of population growth elsewhere replacing some of the loss. I remember our professor joking that one day someone would say there was a population INCREASE during the plague, and everyone laughed. That's the nature of revisionism. Everyone can say what they want, but few theories have enough evidence behind them to gain widespread acceptance.
In the case of Zundel, even if what he said was true -- and it could be -- the holocaust was still bad enough. I don't know why people feel threatened by Zundel. Rather, I feel threatened by Zundel�s imprisonment. As I've said here before, part of the reason governments like to restrict speech on unpopular ideas is because it sets legal precedent to restrict speech in many other ways later. It�s a gradual process, but the ultimate goal of most governments is to make criticism of the government illegal, one of the many characteristics of tyranny.
James Bond gadgets: real, Canadian, and for sale; Historian fights to keep WWII spy-school collection in Canada
A dagger lipstick, poison gas fountain pen and revolver in a hollowed-out book are among the �James Bond toys� included in a collection of wartime artifacts that a Durham Region historian is working furiously to save.
The privately owned collection, which includes articles from the top-secret Camp X spy training school, is up for sale � asking price $1 million � and in danger of leaving Canada, says Lynn Philip Hodgson.
�It is the only one of its kind in the world. There is nowhere else to see Camp X artifacts,� says Hodgson, who has spent half his life uncovering the spy school�s secrets.
�If it leaves the country � it will go to the States because that�s where the money is � it�s gone for good,� he says, calling such a move disastrous for Canada�s heritage.
Detroit homes sell for $1 amid mortgage and car industry crisis
Banks are selling off properties in the worst neighbourhoods, which are usually surrounded by empty and wrecked housing, for a few dollars each. But even better houses can be had at a fraction of their former value.
Technically, Brumit paid $95 for the land and $5 for the house on Lawley Street � which fitted what estate agents euphemistically call an opportunity.
Brumit said: "It had a big hole in the roof from the fire department putting out the last of two arson attempts. Both previous owners tried to set it on fire to get out of the mortgages. So there's a big hole about 24ft long and the plumbing had almost entirely been ripped out and most of the electrics too. It was basically a smoke damaged, structurally intact shell with a snowdrift in the attic."
Setting fire to houses to claim the insurance and kill off the mortgage is not uncommon in Detroit; a blackened, wooden corpse of a house sits at the bottom of Brumit's street. But it is more common for owners to just walk away from their homes and mortgages.
PAM COMMENTARY: It's not really just a hundred dollars, when you consider thousands or tens of thousands in repairs to make the house usable again, in addition to any back taxes and liens that have to b e paid.
Woodford board OKs wind farm road plans; Gamesa will guarantee quality of roadwork, accepts other conditions (South Africa)
The Minonk and Roanoke projects were introduced to the county in about 2006 and have faced several hurdles along the way. Even after Gamesa secures a special use permit, it still has a long way to go before it can break ground on the project, which has a tentative start date of April 2011.
David Radin, who is based in Gamesa's Chicago office, said the company also has to prove to ComEd that the project will occur so it can make the upgrades to its facilities, which will take about 18 months.
Meanwhile, the Wednesday meeting was the committee's first formal one with new county engineer Jonathan Hodel, whose employment status was finalized only after he began work Feb. 22.
After some disagreement among County Board members over his employment package, Hodel, the former Stark County engineer, accepted the board's offer.
Sorting out current unemployment benefits
The jobless got a temporary reprieve Tuesday night when President Obama signed a bill that extends federal funding for unemployment benefits and Cobra health care premium subsidies for one month.
Last week, the House passed a one-month extension, but the bill got held up in the Senate by Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who wanted Congress to find a way to pay for the $10 billion package. Bunning relented on Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill, and Obama quickly signed it.
As a result, workers who become involuntarily terminated through March 31 could be eligible for the Cobra subsidy, which pays 65 percent of the health care premium for up to 15 months. The previous eligibility deadline was Sunday.
The unemployed also will have roughly one additional month to qualify for certain federal unemployment benefits, which were due to expire at the end of February.
Get used to the gridlock: Long-range road funds lacking
"We've already crossed over the point of not being able to stave off the severe congestion," Farmer said.
"It sounds dire," Aubrey Layne, a Commonwealth Transportation Board member who represents Hampton Roads, said after hearing the numbers. "I think we need to come to the realization that we're going to have to look at alternatives to relieve our congestion.... We're going to have to find a way to leverage those monies."
Layne said the state will need to seek more public-private partnerships to build roads - partnerships that generally require tolls - and to consider more transit options such as light rail, bus rapid transit and high-speed rail, for which there's federal funding.
The grim long-range outlook perpetuates the current state of transportation funding in Virginia. About $4.6 billion has been cut from the state's operating and six-year transportation budgets in the past year and a half because of declining revenue.
The major sources of transportation revenue are the gas tax and portions of the general sales tax and motor vehicle sales tax.
PAM COMMENTARY: Voters made it clear in the last gubernatorial election that Virginians don't want an increase in their gasoline tax, even if that means no money to fix congestion or other transportation problems. The Democrat, Creigh Deeds, said he'd be willing to raise gas taxes to pay for transportation; the Republican Bob McDonnell (the winner) pledged not to raise the gas tax. Rather McDonnell wanted to raise transportation money through a one-time sale of its state liquor stores, and offshore oil drilling revenues. Of course there's currently no drilling off the shore of Virginia, and it's questionable whether enough oil exists there to make drilling worthwhile. Drilling also hasn't been popular with the tourist industry in Virginia, as beach business would be harmed by any oil spills. And the sale of the state's liquor store would permanently end state revenue from that source. These issues were all raised during the campaign, for those who cared to follow the race, so any transportation problems in Virginia are a choice that its voters made.
California man gets eight years for stealing cheese
A California man has been sentenced to up to eight years in prison for stealing a $3.99 (�2.60) bag of shredded cheese in a case critics say shows the need for reform of the state's criminal justice system and the overcrowded state of its prisons.
Robert Ferguson, who prosecutors say has a nearly 30-year record of convictions for burglary and other offences, avoided a life sentence under the state's controversial "three strikes" law after a psychological evaluation deemed him bipolar and unable to control his impulses to steal, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Prosecutor Clinton Parish said Ferguson had spent 22 of the past 27 years behind bars but had failed to show he could obey the law. A judge sentenced him to seven years and eight months in prison, but he could be eligible for parole in three years.
The ruling came amid critical overcrowding in the California prison system, to which years of tough policies, the "war on drugs" and one of the highest US recidivism rates have contributed. The system held 166,569 inmates in August, but remains so overcrowded nearly 8,000 have been sent to prisons outside the state.
"Nothing but rich horse breeders here..." A gallery of slums from Senator Bunning's state of Kentucky
I don't mean to single out individual homeowners, rather I want to show that Senator Bunning's state has plenty of poverty and desperately needs Unemployment benefits, just like everyone else. And as the photos here show, any other aid would be good, too -- perhaps some neighborhood improvement projects...
I drove through the state on Monday and Tuesday, stopping twice to take pictures of dilapidated housing. I didn't have extra time to do interviews, or to hang out at the Unemployment office searching for people on the verge of losing their benefits. Rather, I only wanted to show that Kentucky has slums like every other state. If there were ever an illusion that Kentucky doesn't know poverty, or that people there are all a bunch of rich horse breeders, this gallery will disprove it.
Bunning's abrasive behavior spans careers
Bunning, observers have noted, has a history of being abrasive.
A newspaper in his home state published a scathing editorial Tuesday calling Bunning's block a "callous contempt for the more than one in 10 working Kentuckians whose jobs disappeared in the economic meltdown."
The Lexington Herald-Leader editorial, titled "Bunning's callous grandstanding," said Kentucky has become "accustomed to bizarre, egocentric behavior from Bunning."
In 2006, Time magazine called him one of the nation's five worst senators, noting that "Bunning shows little interest in policy unless it involves baseball."
Gary Greenberg: �Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease� [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: We�re talking to Gary Greenberg, who has written the book Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease. Talk about how the definition has changed over the decades and how we deal with it in this country.
GARY GREENBERG: The definition of depression has been changing since it was first introduced as a medical concept, which was about a little more than a hundred years ago. But the most radical changes have occurred after 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association had suffered a series of embarrassments, including, particularly, the discovery suddenly that homosexuality really wasn�t a disease. And they were forced to grapple with the fact that they�not only were there questions about whether their diseases really were diseases, but doctors couldn�t agree on the same patient what disease that patient had. And so they went to a system of diagnosis that�s purely a checklist. If you meet the criteria, then, regardless of your circumstances, you have the disease. And that�s how depression works.
And so, over time what�s happened is that the diagnosis has gotten increasingly detached from any sense of where it might come from, either within the psyche, as Freud would talk about, or from external circumstances, as more politically minded psychologists would talk about. And that, of course, goes hand-in-hand with the idea that it�s a biochemical illness, because if it�s not being caused by your external circumstances and it�s not being caused by some, you know, childhood trauma, then what�s left? In must be being caused by something inside your brain. And it�s become a brain disease.
AMY GOODMAN: What role do pharmaceutical companies play in this?
GARY GREENBERG: Well, pharmaceutical companies have been very eager to jump on that bandwagon. In fact, in many respects, they�ve originated that idea, or at least spread it through the culture like a virus. Since about 1960, the drug industry has been actively engaged in trying to help first doctors and now patients come�believe that demoralization is really a mental illness.
They�ve done it through very clever marketing. For instance, they distributed 50,000 copies of a book called Recognizing the Depressed Patient to prominent doctors back in the early 1960s, in which the biochemical argument was made for the first time, in the almost entire absence of any findings that supported it. It was like a myth that was being given to the doctors to pass along to their patients, like viral marketing. Now with TV direct to consumer ads, every time there�s an advertisement for Prozac, it�s also an advertisement for the idea that depression is a disease. And I think that�s obviously very beneficial to the drug companies.
FOX�s Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham Fight Healthcare Reform by Mocking the Sick [BF]
Bill O'Reilly and Laura Ingraham, who even O'Reilly considers an "ideologue," talked about the summit on O'Reilly's show Thursday evening, but Ingraham made it clear that she had no sympathetic sentiments and preferred to be snide about the whole event. Referring to the stories Democrats presented of real sufferers of the lack of healthcare reform, Ingraham wrote off Louise Slaughter's constituent by saying she had "won the Olympics of sob stories by saying...[she] had to wear her sister's dentures, okay, it got so bad with the healthcare system." To prove she could, in fact, take her dislike for the disenfranchised a step further, Ingraham continued to say, "You had Harry Reid on the cleft palate with his [constituents] . . . I mean, the whole thing was ridiculous."
While Ingraham prominently features a cross on her chest during most of her television appearances, nothing about her attack on the story of someone with a cleft palate as "ridiculous" sounds remotely Christian. Nor does Ingraham's attempt to make light of an elderly woman in any way resemble a call to aid the literal or metaphorical "orphans and widows" of the world, a movement defined Biblically as "religion clean and undefiled."
Instead, Ingraham's derision came across as a crass attempt at humor used to avoid the substance of the issue, something her conservative colleagues like Glenn Beck and his radio sidekicks continued. Beck himself ridiculed the condition of Slaughter's constituent by saying, "I am wearing George Washington's dentures right now. I'm wearing his teeth right now. Over my teeth." Beck's sidekicks took the attacks a step further, derisively imitating the voice of a two-year-old presumably writing in to President Obama to tell him, "I have no healthcare, Mr. Pwesident, and I have no feet and no tonsils because doctors took 'em out." It seems only a member of Beck's show could find humor in a small child missing body parts. Somehow, he appeared entertained.
Ralph Nader on the GOP Filibuster of Unemployment Benefits Bill, the Collapse of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Proposal, and the Latest Auto Recalls [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Senate Republican Jim Bunning is continuing to filibuster a key spending bill to extend unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of American workers. The blocked bill also affects several governmental agencies, rural television customers and doctors receiving Medicare payments.
At the same time, Senate Banking Committee Chair Christopher Dodd has abandoned an idea proposed by President Obama and favored by consumer groups to create an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency to protect consumers against abuses in mortgages, credit cards and other forms of lending. Dodd is seeking support from fellow Democrats for a Republican proposal now to create a new agency that would be housed within the Federal Reserve.
The proposal to house the new agency within the Fed follows an earlier idea of placing it within the Treasury Department. The Fed has had consumer protection laws on its books for years, but failed to enforce them in the period leading up to the financial crisis.
According to the Washington Post, the new proposal from Dodd would grant the agency independent funding and a presidentially appointed director, but it would not give the agency authority to enforce those rules.
For more on this and other issues, we�re joined by longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. He�s joining us on the line from his home in Connecticut.
Ralph Nader, we welcome you to Democracy Now! I wanted you to address these two issues. On the one hand, you�ve got the Republican filibuster that could throw hundreds of thousands of people off of their unemployment benefits, as well as COBRA. And you have Chris Dodd backing off of this independent consumer protection agency.
RALPH NADER: Well, it�s just the latest manifestation of the graveyard in Congress known as the US Senate. There are over 100 bills, many of them fairly good, that the House of Representatives have passed, including financial regulation, that are buried in the Senate. And the Senate rules allow one senator, like Senator Jim Bunning, who�s not running for reelection, so he doesn�t have to worry about adverse feedback from Kentucky, to block disbursements for unemployed people, unemployment compensation, and also opens the door to the banking lobby, which, as Senator Durbin of Illinois said a few weeks ago, run the place. That�s what his words. He said, �The banks run the place.�
In coastal Chile, the sea has left little behind
ILOCA, Chile -- The coast of the Maule Region -- 155 miles south of Santiago and lined by small resort towns like El Pe� La Pesca, Rancura, El Buzo, Iloca and Duao -- is now a surrealist landscape.
In those places, the sea changed the geography. Everything was swept away by tidal waves that rose 40 feet and higher.
Chilean television showed military vehicles moving down highways, firemen working on the rubble of what was a large building in Concepci�fires and looting in the big cities. Here on the coast, nobody has seen any of that.
In these places, the lack of communication is such that the residents believe that the disaster hit only them, that they're going through a nightmare that nobody else has suffered.
The Chilean military found itself on the defensive Tuesday, four days after an 8.8 earthquake rattled much of the nation, and three giant waves soaked the coast.
BBC confirms where the axe will fall
The BBC plans to close two radio stations - 6 Music and the Asian Network - the corporation confirmed today in a wide-ranging strategy review.
In a report to the BBC Trust titled Putting Quality First, the corporation said it wants to reprioritise nearly �600 million a year to higher quality content.
It wants to halve the number of sections on its website, close "lower performing sites" and spend 25% less on its online offering.
The closure of teen offerings BBC Switch and Blast! is also recommended.
Bunning again blocks jobless benefits
But Democrats are also reaping political gains by attacking Bunning and his fellow Republicans. All three major cable news networks carried Tuesday�s proceedings live, and two other members of the Democratic leadership, Charles Schumer of New York and Patty Murray of Washington, came to the floor to attack Republicans for blocking the legislation.
�Today we have a clear cut example to show the American people just what�s wrong with Washington, D.C.,� Murray said. �That is because today one single Republican senator is standing in the way of the unemployment benefits of 400,000 Americans.�
Bunning said again Tuesday that he opposed the extension because it would add $10 billion to the budget deficit, and he attacked Democrats for abandoning promises to pay for legislation instead of contributing to a budget deficits projected to hit almost $1.6 trillion this year. Bunning proposes to pay for the extension with unspent money from last year�s massive economic recovery package, but Reid objected.
Democrats want to pass the measure with the unanimous permission of all senators, a common tactic to speed non-controversial measures through the notoriously balky Senate. Otherwise it could take almost a week to slog through the procedural steps required to take up the measure and defeat Bunning�s filibuster.
Bunning is retiring from the Senate at the end of the current session, which gives fellow party members little leverage to try to force him to change his mind. Bunning has been feuding with his home state colleague, GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who privately urged him to retire rather than risk losing the seat to Democrats.
PAM COMMENTARY: That last line is very telling -- "retire rather than risk losing the seat to Democrats."
GOP Sen. Kyl: Unemployment Benefits Make People Not Want To Get A Job
A debate on the Senate floor Monday over unemployment compensation crystallized, at least for a moment, the divide between the two parties in Washington.
Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting "because people are being paid even though they're not working."
Unemployment insurance "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work," Kyl said during debate over whether unemployment insurance and other benefits that expired amid GOP objections Sunday should be extended.
"I'm sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can't argue that it's a job enhancer. If anything, as I said, it's a disincentive. And the same thing with the COBRA extension and the other extensions here," said Kyl.
Unemployment benefits are generally so small that much of it is often used to pay for COBRA health insurance, even when subsidized. The size of the benefits does not generally cover the cost of living and it would be hard to find a single person who would prefer unemployment to having a job so that they could get subsidized COBRA.
PAM COMMENTARY: Apparently Kyl thinks that because he can survive by selling his soul to big drug companies, everyone else can make a living that way, too.
Jerry Brown seeks return to Calif. governor's seat
Democrat Jerry Brown officially entered the California governor's race Tuesday, giving the party an iconic candidate in a contest expected to be the most costly in state history.
The state attorney general, who served two terms as governor in the era before term limits, officially declared his candidacy on his Web site. The announcement has been expected for months, while Brown was quietly raising millions of dollars.
Brown, who will turn 72 next month, is the only serious Democratic contender. His ability to raise money and gain endorsements frightened away other Democrats, including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
After the June primary, Brown will face of one of two wealthy Silicon Valley Republicans in the general election: former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, a billionaire, or state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who also made nearly $1 billion as a high-tech entrepreneur.
Bunning blocks unemployment extension bill again
Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning Tuesday blocked a bill to extend unemployment benefits.
He's been fighting the measure since Thursday, claiming the country doesn't have the money to pay for it.
His one man campaign has become one of the most talked about stories in the country, as hundreds of thousands of unemployment workers wait for resolution.
Tuesday afternoon, those fighting Bunning, and those supporting him, plan to voice their opinions outside the senator's Kentucky offices in both Louisville and Lexington.
"Senator Jim Bunning should know better," Virgil Fugate, an unemployed worker, said. "People are hurting."
Fugate has been looking for a job for over a year, putting him in that target group affected by the senator's decision.
At the Kentucky Job Center in Lexington, panic has set in for some people, according to Workforce Development Manager Jeanne Scott.
"They want to know where their money's at," she said. "I don't know what to tell them. I'm not a politician."
There is also no shortage of people trying to reach the senator's Lexington office. 27 NEWSFIRST called this morning, and the senator's mailbox was full.
Whaling opponents gather for meeting
The Florida gathering cannot alter the 1986 moratorium but can make recommendations to the next full meeting of the IWC, to be held in June in the Moroccan fishing port of Agadir.
Environmentalists have been scathing over the IWC compromise proposal, saying it would effectively undo the 1986 moratorium that is credited with restoring stocks of the giant mammals.
"This would reward Japan for their abhorrent behaviour by legitimising commercial whaling in an international whale sanctuary," Phil Kline, an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace USA, said before the meeting.
Australia and New Zealand have established what they call a Southern Ocean whale sanctuary, which Japan does not recognise.
Democrats rip GOP senator for blocking jobless benefits extension
Washington (CNN) -- Top Democrats tore into one of their Republican counterparts Monday for blocking an extension of unemployment benefits that would provide assistance to millions of jobless Americans.
The Senate adjourned last week without approving extensions of cash and health insurance benefits for the unemployed after Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, blocked the measure by insisting that Congress first pay for the $10 billion package. The emergency measure needed unanimous consent to pass.
Bunning, who is retiring at the end of this year, said he doesn't oppose extending the programs, he just doesn't want to add to the deficit. Democrats claim the bill is an emergency measure that should not be subject to new rules requiring that legislation not expand the deficit.
As a result of the Senate's inaction, many jobless people starting Monday were no longer able to apply for federal unemployment benefits or the COBRA health insurance subsidy.
PAM COMMENTARY: Nice video, CNN tried to confront him on the suffering of the unemployed, but he just yells at them and takes off in the elevator. The Democrats aren't doing enough to get around him, though -- waiting a few weeks to give people their benefits back (which is their current course, apparently) is irresponsible.
Spanish trains to be built at Tower Automotive
Milwaukee's vacant Tower Automotive Corp. plant will be the site of a new factory to build passenger trains for use in Wisconsin, Oregon and possibly other states, Ald. Willie Wade said Monday.
The plant could create "hundreds of jobs," far more than the original projection of about 80 positions, Ald. Bob Bauman added.
Wade confirmed that the Spanish train manufacturer Talgo has selected the Tower site for its new plant. He said Gov. Jim Doyle would announce details at a 10 a.m. Tuesday news conference on the Tower grounds.
Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend declined to comment on the plant site, saying the decision had not yet been announced. A Doyle spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Wisconsin has a $47.6 million deal with Talgo to build two 14-car trains for Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line, with an option to buy two more for a planned extension of that route from Milwaukee to Madison. The federal government has awarded the state $810 million in stimulus money for the Milwaukee-to-Madison route, which will start service at 79 mph in 2013 and reach 110 mph by 2015, plus another $12 million for upgrades on the Milwaukee-to-Chicago route.
But the picture changed when the Oregon Department of Transportation announced Friday that it would be buying two 13-car trains made at the new factory "with a majority of American-made components" for Amtrak's Cascades line, which runs from Eugene, Ore., to Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Catalina Island wild foxes coming back in a big way
The population had crashed to about 100 in 1999, when the conservancy and the Institute for Wildlife Studies launched a $2-million recovery program that includes vaccinations, aerial monitoring and education programs.
A captive breeding program here ended in 2004, the same year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the cat-sized subspecies as endangered. About 950 Catalina Island foxes call the island home, up from 784 at this time last year, according to a recent islandwide trapping effort by conservancy wildlife biologists Julie King and Calvin Duncan.
The foxes are trapped once a year and inspected for illnesses, including an unusual, potentially fatal ear cancer that recently began showing up in older foxes.
The animal's remarkable recovery was spurred, in part, by several years of fluctuations in the weather. An extreme drought in 2007 resulted in the deaths of significant numbers of mule deer, whose carcasses were scavenged by the omnivorous 5-pound foxes. By the time breeding season arrived in 2008, many foxes were literally obese, and females were in such good condition that they were having larger-than-normal litters.
Good rains the past two years triggered an abundance of fruit-bearing cactuses and a population explosion of mice, convenient prey for female foxes to feed to their pups.
Quakes can lead to more quakes, scientists suggest
The deadly earthquake that struck in Chile on Saturday was probably due to stresses built up deep in the Earth's crust by the largest recorded temblor ever recorded in the same coastal nation 50 years ago, scientists proposed Monday as an explanation for the most recent devastating event.
Similar stress from early historic earthquakes in California could well have helped trigger quakes like the damaging Coalinga (Fresno County) temblor of 1983 that destroyed the small city's downtown, they said.
Ross S. Stein, a research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, and Jian Lin, a geologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, are conferring about the latest Chile quake in Stein's office this week, and in interviews Monday they discussed the concept they call "stress triggering."
The monstrous Chile quake in 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5, created strong stress deep in the ground at both ends of the rupture zone, and Saturday's temblor relieved that stress in one lurch, Lin 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