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News from the Week of 7th to 13th of March 2010

Bluefin tuna, overfished oceans top agenda of UN wildlife protection conference in Doha
DOHA, Qatar - A contentious battle between Asia and the West over the fate of the Atlantic bluefin tuna prized by sushi lovers overshadowed a United Nations conference that opened Saturday in the Gulf state of Qatar.

The 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, was discussing new proposals on regulating the trade in number of plant and animal species, including an all-out ban on the export of Atlantic bluefin that has been particularly opposed by seafood-loving Japan.

Raw tuna is a key ingredient in traditional dishes such as sushi and sashimi, and the bluefin variety - called "hon-maguro" in Japan - is particularly prized.

But global stocks of bluefin are dwindling, especially in the Atlantic, and governments around the world are increasingly supporting a complete trade ban to let the fish recover. About 80 per cent of the species ends up in Japan.

8 who've been patients at Cudahy hospital contract Legionnaires' disease
Eight people who have been to Aurora St. Luke's South Shore in Cudahy over the past three to four weeks have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, a form of pneumonia caused by waterborne bacteria, according to state health officials.

None of the cases has been fatal, although all eight people have been hospitalized for treatment, said Seth Foldy, state health officer. Five have been released, and three remained in the hospital Saturday afternoon, he said.

Foldy said he did not know the patients' conditions and could not release their names or details such as ages or genders.

All the cases have occurred in residents of Milwaukee's south suburbs. No cases have been reported in the city, he said.

Hospital officials were working Saturday to notify more than 1,000 people who visited the Cudahy facility between Feb. 24 and March 10 to let them know about the outbreak, said Bruce Van Cleave, chief medical officer for Aurora Health Care. People who were in the building during that time and who have symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose or chest pain should contact their doctors and notify them of the possible exposure, he said.

PAM COMMENTARY: I wonder if anyone has tried a zapper on Legionnaires' disease.

Thousands rally at State Capitol to kill health care bill (Minnesota)
Dozens of times, the crowd members, a combination of Republicans, social conservatives and Tea Partiers, chanted, "Kill the bill! Kill the bill!" urged on by a half-dozen speakers.

The headliner and clear crowd favorite was Republican Sixth District Rep. Michele Bachmann, who said Democrats "are spending us into bondage we can never dig ourselves out of."

Gazing out over the flag-waving, sign-wielding crowd, she said: "This is awesome. This is our country. We own it!"

Bachmann and other speakers urged listeners to vent their outrage to Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation in the days leading up to the final vote on the bill, potentially within a week.

PAM COMMENTARY: Washington never seems to come up with a bill that isn't a mandate to spend more on its big lobbyists. The bill they're trying to pass now would force the uninsured to buy insurance (which could cost 15k per year or more), except for those with fairly low incomes. At the same time, the bill doesn't restrict the rising cost of health care or insurance. It pretty much just mandates a continuation of huge medical-pharmaceutical industry profits, while legally forcing the uninsured to give a huge portion of their incomes to insurance companies.

Mystery Substance Found in Chinese Fluoride Added to Massachusetts Water [AJ]
Fluoride is added to the water most of us drink because the government believes it�s a safe and inexpensive way to prevent tooth decay.

However, Team 5 Investigates found the Amesbury Water Department pulled fluoride from its system amid concerns about its supply from China.

Department of Public Works Director Rob Desmarais said after he mixes the white powder with water, 40 percent of it will not dissolve.

�I don�t know what it is,� Desmarais said. �It�s not soluble, and it doesn�t appear to be sodium fluoride. So we are not quite sure what it is.�

Story on Mystery Substance Distracts from Fact Fluoride is a Deadly Killer [AJ]
The �investigative� team at WCVB TV in Boston ran a story yesterday about an unknown substance in fluoride imported from China. �Team 5 Investigates found the Amesbury Water Department pulled fluoride from its system amid concerns about its supply from China,� the news station reported. �Department of Public Works Director Rob Desmarais said after he mixes the white powder with water, 40 percent of it will not dissolve.� Desmarais said the residue clogs his machines and makes it difficult to get a consistent level of fluoride in the town�s water.

In the video report below, WCVB mentions melamine in food products and the heavy metal cadmium in toys imported from China while completely ignoring the larger and more important issue � fluoride is an extremely dangerous toxin that kills.

�Fluoride is added to the water most of us drink because the government believes it�s a safe and inexpensive way to prevent tooth decay.�

Fluoride does not prevent tooth decay. According to numerous studies, water fluoridation actually increases tooth decay. The AMA and others fallaciously claim that fluoride added to over 62% of U.S. water supplies reduces tooth decay. However, no less than six studies from dental journals show it does not and, in fact, may increase the likelihood of dental cavities.

Exposure to fluoride often results in dental fluorosis. Large numbers of U.S. young people � estimated up to 80 percent in some cities � now have dental fluorosis, the first visible sign of excessive fluoride exposure. Dental fluorosis consists of damage to tooth-forming cells, leading to a defect in tooth enamel. It is also an indicator of fluoride damage to bones.

PAM COMMENTARY: The first time people hear this kind of thing about fluoride, they wonder whether to believe it. But it's all true, the only debate is whether the motive is the cheap disposal of a toxic byproduct of the chemical fertilizer and nuclear industries by dumping it into the public water supply, or rather the deliberate poisoning of the public to keep them ill and submissive, perhaps using more pharmaceutical products to deal with the added health problems.

Conyers's wife sentenced to three years in prison
Monica Conyers, the wife of veteran Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to 37 months in prison.

Mrs. Conyers (shown here in the hat), a former Detroit City Councilwoman, was sentenced to 37 months and two years of supervised probation after being convicted last year of bribery charges.

A federal judge sentenced the former councilwoman despite her having tried to withdraw her guilty plea in the case, the Detroit Free Press reported. Prosecutors had sought a sentence as long as four years.

Conyers pled guilty to accepting bribes to influence a key city council vote on a contract for disposal of sludge and waste.

Clive Stafford Smith: The spooks are being sold down the river; MI5 is at fault over torture, but its bosses refuse to be blamed for the decisions of politicians (UK)
The past month has seen a parade of spies going public. Mostly, they seem intent on insisting how little they know about the terrible goings-on in the world. First, it was the MI5 director general, Jonathan Evans, writing in the Telegraph. "We did not practise mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf."

Last week, it was the turn of Evans's predecessor, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller. "It wasn't actually until after I retired that I read that, in fact, [Khalid Shaikh Mohammed] had been waterboarded 160 times," she told a parliamentary meeting.

Evans carefully shifted tenses, and thereby said nothing that was remotely relevant to the pending criminal investigation. Nobody has ever intimated that the British tortured Binyam Mohamed. Rather, the allegation is that they stood by and watched while the Americans did the abuse. Evans carefully refrained from saying "nor did we collude in torture" � because we did.

Likewise, Manningham-Buller said absolutely nothing of significance. We know she did not read about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's waterboarding until after her left her job � she retired on 20 April, 2007, and the truth did not emerge until a year later. Nobody has ever made the remotest suggestion to the contrary: she set up a straw man and shoved him back down.

PAM COMMENTARY: The "because WE did" phrase seems to take credit for what British spies did. I'd never take credit for any government agent's behavior. If they want to torture people, they're on their own. How many governments really do what their people want, anyway?

3 held in terror inquiry freed; Irish police don't identify them
Three people were released from Irish custody today, after being arrested as part of an investigation into a conspiracy to kill a Swedish cartoonist who made fun of the Prophet Mohammed.

Irish authorities would not say whether Jamie Paulin-Ramirez of Leadville was among those free to leave the country.

Ramirez was among a group of seven people � four men and three women � arrested Tuesday in Ireland.

An Irish police spokesman said today that two women and one man were released late Friday after cooperating with Irish authorities this week.

"They could all be rearrested again," Tony Connaughton, a spokesman for the Garda, the Ireland police, said.

PAM COMMENTARY: I haven't seen anything definitive to prove whether this was a real plot, or just another cover story to expand "terrorism" charges to regular white Americans in order to set the precedent for "disappearing" US citizens as "terrorists." That's why they bothered to set blatantly unconstitutional legal precedent in the Jose Padilla case.

U.S. Woman Held in Plot Is Released, Family Says
LEADVILLE, Colo. -- An American woman whose family feared that she may have become a radicalized Muslim was detained in Ireland last week in connection with a plot to assassinate a Swedish cartoonist.

But her relatives said Saturday night that they had learned that the woman, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, 31, had been released.

"She's definitely been released," said George Mott, 51, Ms. Paulin-Ramirez's stepfather. But he said that the family was still concerned because they had not heard from her and did not know whether she had regained custody of her 6-year-old son, Christian.

Ms. Paulin-Ramirez's mother, Christine Mott, 59, said in a tear-filled interview at her home here that she had learned Thursday that her daughter was being held by Irish officials and that Christian was in state custody.

"I am terrified for my daughter," Ms. Mott said. "And that baby is my heart."

Toyota was asked in 2007 to consider installing software to prevent sudden acceleration
Federal regulators in 2007 asked Toyota Motor Corp. to consider installing software to prevent sudden acceleration in its vehicles after receiving complaints that vehicles could race out of control, company documents show.

Yet the automaker began installing the safety feature, known as brake override, only this January after a widely publicized accident involving a runaway Lexus ES that killed four people near San Diego.

Safety regulators acknowledged late last week that they pressured Toyota anew last fall to consider the override software in the wake of that crash, which set off a chain of events leading the company to issue nearly 10 million recall notices worldwide.

Brake override -- software that automatically drops a vehicle's throttle to idle when both the brake and accelerator pedals are depressed simultaneously -- is designed to stop a car even if its engine is accelerating. Lawmakers and safety experts have questioned whether sudden acceleration is responsible for at least 56 deaths and hundreds of injuries in Toyota and Lexus vehicles over the last decade, and since late January have been scrutinizing the automaker's response to the issue.

At least 3 dead, a dozen injured in major B.C. avalanche
At least three people are dead and more than 12 others injured after a powerful avalanche struck Boulder Mountain in Revelstoke, B.C., Saturday afternoon.

About 200 people were gathered on the mountain's turbo bowl to watch the annual Big Iron Shootout, an unsanctioned snowmobile event, when the avalanche struck at about 3:30 p.m.

Police have confirmed three people have died and a dozen people have suffered injuries of varying degrees, but RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said Saturday evening an unknown number of people remain unaccounted for.

"Certainly what we do realize that there is a potential for more injuries or deaths," he acknowledged. "We are trying to get a better handle as to how many people were able to get off of the mountain."

Navy hospital ship Comfort returns from Haiti
When the Comfort arrived at Haiti's Port-au-Prince harbor Jan. 20, the floating hospital was greeted by a queue of helicopters filled with broken bodies.

Before the anchor dropped, patients began filling the ship. The injuries - singed flesh, bones fractured beyond recognition, discolored wounds - were like nothing the Comfort's medical staff had seen before. Ten days later, they had treated 540 critical patients.

Now, nearly two months later, with Haiti's most critical patients stabilized, the Comfort has returned, this time to a happier greeting. When the Red Cross emblazoned on front of the ship appeared through the fog at Norfolk Naval Station on Saturday morning, a crowd waved flags and signs proclaiming the crew as heroes.

The Comfort brought roughly 700 military and civilian crew members home. Most had converged on the ship from across the Eastern seaboard in the days after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12. By Jan. 16, the crew of Navy, Army, Air Force and civilian personnel were en route to help. Some arrived later.

Ventura: Huffington Post censored his post about 9/11
Former Minnesota governor and one-time professional wrestler Jesse Ventura has run afoul of the Huffington Post's no-conspiracy-theory policy, and he's not happy about it.

"I can't believe the Huffington Post today will practice censorship," Ventura says in astonishment. "I've got news for them. ... I won't ever write for 'em again."

Ventura had posted an item on Tuesday which took note of a recent conference at which "more than one thousand architects and engineers signed a petition demanding that Congress begin a new investigation into the destruction of the World Trade Center skyscrapers on 9/11." He also quoted a few paragraphs from his new book, American Conspiracies, to explain why some of those experts see signs of controlled demolition.

The item was featured on the front page of Huffington Post when it first went up, but after a few hours it vanished. All that appears now at its original location is an editor's note saying, "The Huffington Post's editorial policy, laid out in our blogger guidelines, prohibits the promotion and promulgation of conspiracy theories -- including those about 9/11. As such, we have removed this post."

The note is followed by three pages of comments, enthusiastically arguing the pros and cons of controlled demolition and other 9/11 theories, that were posted during the couple of hours before the entry was deleted and comments were closed.

Full Text of Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009 [R]
Chaotic management of prisons in the United State also led to wide spread of diseases among the inmates. According to a report from the U.S. Justice Department, a total of 20,231 male inmates and 1,913 female inmates had been confirmed as HIV carriers in the U.S. federal and state prisons at yearend 2008. The percentage of male and female inmates with HIV/AIDS amounted to 1.5 and 1.9 percent respectively (http://www.news-medical.net, December 2, 2009). From 2007 to 2008, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in prisons in California, Missouri and Florida increased by 246, 169, and 166 respectively. More than 130 federal and state inmates in the U.S. died of AIDS-related causes in 2007 (http://thecrimereport.org, December 2, 2009). A report by the Human Rights Watch released in March 2009 said although the New York State prison registered the highest number of prisoners living with HIV in the country, it did not provide the inmates with adequate access to treatment, and even locked the inmates up separately, refusing to provide them with treatment of any kind. (www.hrw.org, March 24, 2009).

While advocating "freedom of speech," "freedom of the press" and "Internet freedom," the U.S. government unscrupulously monitors and restricts the citizens' rights to freedom when it comes to its own interests and needs.

The U.S. citizens' freedom to access and distribute information is under strict supervision. According to media reports, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) started installing specialized eavesdropping equipment around the country to wiretap calls, faxes, and emails and collect domestic communications as early as 2001. The wiretapping programs was originally targeted at Arab-Americans, but soon grew to include other Americans. The NSA installed over 25 eavesdropping facilities in San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Chicago among other cities. The NSA also announced recently it was building a huge one million square feet data warehouse at a cost of 1.5 billion U.S. dollars at Camp Williams in Utah, as well as another massive data warehouse in San Antonio, as part of the NSA's new Cyber Command responsibilities. The report said a man named Nacchio was convicted on 19 counts of insider trading and sentenced to six years in prison after he refused to participate in NSA's surveillance program (http://www.onelinejournal.com, November 23, 2009).

After the September 11 attack, the U.S. government, in the name of anti-terrorism, authorized its intelligence authorities to hack into its citizens' mail communications, and to monitor and erase any information that might threaten the U.S. national interests on the Internet through technical means. The country's Patriot Act allowed law enforcement agencies to search telephone, email communications, medical, financial and other records, and broadened the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting foreign persons suspected of terrorism-related acts. The Act expanded the definition of terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which law enforcement powers could be applied. On July 9, 2008, the U.S. Senate passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008, granting legal immunity to telecommunication companies that take part in wiretapping programs and authorizing the government to wiretap international communications between the United States and people overseas for anti-terrorism purposes without court approval (The New York Times, July 10, 2008). Statistic showed that from 2002 to 2006, the FBI collected thousands of phones records of U.S. citizens through mails, notes and phone calls. In September 2009, the country set up an Internet security supervision body, further worrying U.S. citizens that the U.S. government might use Internet security as an excuse to monitor and interfere with personal systems. A U.S. government official told the New York Times in an interview in April 2009 that NSA had intercepted private email messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by U.S. Congress the year before. In addition, the NSA was also eavesdropping on phones of foreign political figures, officials of international organizations and renowned journalists (The New York Times, April, 15, 2009). The U.S. military also participated in the eavesdropping programs. According to CNN reports, a Virginia-based U.S. military Internet risk evaluation organization was in charge of monitoring official and unofficial private blogs, official documents, personal contact information, photos of weapons, entrances of military camps, as well as other websites that "might threaten its national security."

The so-called "freedom of the press" of the United States was in fact completely subordinate to its national interests, and was manipulated by the U.S. government. According to media reports, the U.S. government and the Pentagon had recruited a number of former military officers to become TV and radio news commentators to give "positive comments" and analysis as "military experts" for the U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to guide public opinions, glorify the wars, and gain public support of its anti-terrorism ideology (The New York Times, April 20, 2009). At yearend 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a bill which imposed sanctions on several Arab satellite channels for broadcasting contents hostile to the U.S. and instigating violence (http://blogs.rnw.nl). In September 2009, protesters using the social-networking site Twitter and text messages to coordinate demonstrations clashed with the police several times in Pittsburgh, where the Group of 20 summit was held. Elliot Madison, 41, was later charged with hindering apprehension of the protesters through the Internet. The police also searched his home (http://www.nytimes.com, October 5, 2009). Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said the same conduct in other countries would be called human rights violations whereas in the United States it was called necessary crime control.

PAM COMMENTARY: I don't have enough time to read this entire multiple page document, but what I've seen so far seems accurate. Of course, the unspoken context is justification of the Chinese system by implying that the US has been on a bad downhill slide and isn't so great anymore -- a sort of "race to the bottom" expose

11 Siberian tigers die at zoo in China
BEIJING � Eleven rare Siberian tigers have died at a wildlife park in a startling case that activists say hints at unsavory practices among some zoos and animal farms in China: They are overbreeding endangered animals in the hopes of making illicit profit on their carcasses.

The deaths of the tigers occurred in the past three months at the zoo in China�s frigid northeast, officials and state media said yesterday. Reports said the tigers starved to death, having been fed nothing but chicken bones, while a zoo manager said unspecified diseases killed the animals.

Either way, the animals had been ill-kept and ill-fed. The Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo has struggled financially, even withholding pay from staff, said a woman in charge of corporate planning there who would only give her surname, Wang. The zoo had been up for auction for some time without any bidders, she said.

�You can do the math: one tiger eats 22 pounds of beef per day and there are at least 30 of them now, and there are lions, elephants, and other animals, too,�� Wang said. �The zoo has been taking money from the staffers� salaries to feed the animals.��

The food bill for the tigers ran to about $1,320 a day � nearly half the food allowance the zoo gets from the local government to care for all the animals, Wang said.

The deaths underscore conflicting signals in China�s attempts to save its dwindling number of tigers. While extensive conservation efforts are under way, animal protection groups say zoos and wildlife parks may be deliberately breeding more animals than they can afford, hoping to sell off the carcasses onto a black market where tiger parts fetch a high price for use in traditional medicines and liquor.

Let soldiers drink for 'stress relief'?
At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services military personnel panel, Webb asked defense and service officials about mental health issues facing deployed service members and, in particular, about a recent Military Times investigation into the military's use of anti-depressants and other drugs for treating mental health issues.

The reported increase in prescription drug use and self-medication by deployed troops "is, quite frankly, astounding to me," Webb said, adding that it is a clear indicator of the overall fatigue of combat troops who are not getting enough time between deployments.

"We do have a really stressed force," said Webb, who also is a former Navy secretary.

One thing worth investigating, Webb said, is whether a ban on alcohol consumption in the war zones -- which he said is primarily a nod to host-nation sensitivities -- should be lifted.

PAM COMMENTARY: I have a better idea -- end the wars. Why aren't those wars over, anyway? What do the Democrats think they were elected to do? How much longer are they going to carry the economy-ruining torch of Bush's oil wars?

Ontario to review five deaths in listeriosis investigation
OTTAWA � An investigation into listeria-contaminated deli meat in Ontario will now include the review of five deaths, the province said Saturday.

The deaths will be examined for any possible links to the latest recall of meat from Siena Foods Ltd. � a recall that took place Saturday � said a spokesman with the province�s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Some of the recalled products may have been distributed nationally, however the deaths being examined took place only in Ontario.

Spokesman Andrew Morrison said the deaths are not linked to two previously recalled meat products from Siena Foods Ltd. Those meats were matched, through a �genetic fingerprint,� to two non-fatal listeriosis cases in the province.

Power company relocates osprey nest alongside Yellowstone River to save avian family
BILLINGS - A power company has removed an osprey nest from atop one of its power poles and erected a 60-foot platform next to the Yellowstone River in hopes of enticing the osprey to use that as a nesting area instead.

Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative last week put up the platform with the support of the Yellowstone Audubon Society, as well as state and federal agencies.

Last year the osprey raised two young in the nest atop the power pole.

The nest was one of 30 that Audubon Society members counted from Big Timber to Billings.

Society member Monty Sullins says the group wants to work with power companies and landowners to reduce hazards for osprey and relocate problem nests.

Super-soft toilet paper flushing Canada�s boreal forest down the toilet: critics
Canwest News Service - Many Canadians believe that when it comes to their behinds, only the softest and strongest toilet paper will do.

But some environmentalists are raising a stink that the public�s determination to use the fluffiest and most comfortable bathroom tissue is contributing to climate change by literally flushing some of Canada�s most pristine and ancient forests down the toilet.

The vast majority of bathroom tissue is made from virgin wood fibre, meaning that new trees are cut down to produce the millions of rolls of toilet paper, says John Bennett, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada.

According to Bennett, the biggest source of trees used for the production of toilet paper is Canada's boreal forest -- often called an environmental wonder because of its vastness and ability to naturally capture global-temperature-raising carbon dioxide.

Tarpley: Virtual Flag Terrorism Next Threat (Video) [AJ]
Government�s new Cold War predicated on vast exaggeration of what you can do with a computer, says Webster Tarpley.

PAM COMMENTARY: If this is too slow to load, click on the picture to get the original video link and try watching it from there.

Charisa Coulter back in Idaho from Haiti: 'God has really blessed me with peace'
Charisa Coulter said she's happy to be home in Idaho after more than a month in detention in Haiti.

"God has really blessed me with peace," she said as friends and family with flowers and balloons greeted her about 8:40 p.m at Boise Airport.

Coulter is the ninth member of a 10-person volunteer group connected to Meridian's Central Valley Baptist Church to return to the United States. The group was detained on Jan. 29.

Her homecoming came weeks after she was detained by Haitian authorities for trying to take 33 children across the border to the Dominican Republic without proper paperwork.

The tax war goes online
Is the Internet everywhere or is it nowhere?

This question will strike many readers as a navel-gazing exercise in post-modern existential inquiry, prompting reflections on the 21st-century meaning of location (is an IP address really an address?) and space (is cyberspace actually "space"?). But thanks to Amazon.com, it's become a question about more concrete and imminent issues like budget deficits and tax fairness.

Following a 70 percent earnings increase last quarter, the company this week terminated its business relationships with its Colorado affiliates. The move was a response to new Colorado legislation compelling online retailers to either collect the sales taxes that every other business collects, or at least disclose that customers must pay the levy to the state themselves.

The bill was pragmatic, seeking to raise much-needed revenues as Colorado's infrastructure and schools buckle under a $2 billion budget shortfall. But Amazon, indifferent to such emergencies, reacted with punitive petulance, sending a deliberate message to lawmakers in every other state: Make us play by the same tax rules as other businesses, and your state will be punished, too.

PAM COMMENTARY: You'd think Amazon could come up with something automated to handle this -- isn't their software how they made it to the top in the first place?

Composite Sketch Released: Woman Jumps off Cliff to Escape Attacker on Malibu Hiking Trail
Deputies say the suspect took the victim's keys and her white 2004 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Authorities would not identify the woman because the suspect attempted to sexually assault her.

Officials say the stolen Land Cruiser has California "Yosemite" plates, with license plate number 6CHF554.

The suspect described as a "transient-type" Caucasian male with no front teeth, wearing a black leather jacket and blue jeans, and not wearing shoes.

KTLA: Woman Jumps Down High Cliff to Escape Violent Attacker-- Jim Nash reports (Video)
PAM COMMENTARY: This reporter walks you through the terrain of the attack.

Why Japan Keeps Fighting the Whale Wars
But it's been decades since Japan could be described as impoverished, and a 2008 survey found that 95% of Japanese either eat whale meat very rarely or not at all. The fishing company that owns Japan's whaling ships estimated that annual per capita consumption from their catch might amount to less than four slices of sashimi a year. If Japanese whaling � which is allowed under the international ban only in very small scale, as "scientific research" � ended tomorrow, your average salaryman in Osaka would barely notice.

And yet, the whale wars continue -- and even seem to be worsening. In January a vessel belonging to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a group that tries to disrupt Japanese whaling on the high seas, was badly damaged in a collision with a Japanese whaling ship. On Mar. 12, the Japanese Coast Guard in Tokyo arrested Peter Bethune, a member of Sea Shepherd, after he tried to board a whaling ship without permission in February. Yet Sea Shepherd -- the subject of the popular Animal Planet reality show Whale Wars -- isn't holding back. "Nothing is going to keep us from trying to save whales," says Laurens de Groot, a deckhand on the Sea Shepherd. "We're not going to stop."

But neither is Japan. In part, the Japanese may be protecting their right to whale as a stand-in for a separate issue that they actually care about: fishing for bluefin tuna. Japanese eat an estimated 80% of the world's catch of the sushi species, which many scientists believe is in danger of being fished out of existence. If Japan holds the line on whaling, the argument goes, it would send a signal that limits on bluefin tuna aren't up for debate either.

We'll see if that message gets through. At the meeting of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), beginning Mar. 13 in Doha, the E.U. and U.S. will push for a ban on international trade in the bluefin. Japan has already said it will oppose the ban, but Tokyo faces an uphill battle. "A ban is the only possibility to prevent a total collapse of this species," says Sergei Tudela, Atlantic bluefin tuna expert for the World Wildlife Fund.

But there is more than just fish politics and food culture at stake for Japan when it comes to whaling. Even though few Japanese ever sit down to a plate of whale sashimi, they still resist viscerally the idea that the international community could force Japan to stop whaling. A country that arguably never returned to full sovereignty after World War II � its constitution greatly limits its military, and U.S. armed forces are still based throughout Japan � can get tired of the world telling it what to do. As one Japanese chef told me at that whale festival in 2005: "If other people don't want to eat whale, that's fine. But we should be allowed to do what we want." A side of national pride makes a blubbery dinner go down a lot easier.

Chinese minister insists Google obey the law
BEIJING -- China's top Internet regulator insisted Friday that Google must obey its laws or "pay the consequences," giving no sign of a possible compromise in their dispute over censorship and hacking.

"If you want to do something that disobeys Chinese law and regulations, you are unfriendly, you are irresponsible and you will have to pay the consequences," Li Yizhong, the minister of Industry and Information Technology, said on the sidelines of China's annual legislature.

Li gave no details of Beijing's talks with Google Inc. over the search engine's January announcement that it planned to stop complying with Chinese Internet censorship rules and might close its China-based site.

"Whether they leave or not is up to them," Li said. "But if they leave, China's Internet market is still going to develop."

As largest-ever U.S. probe of RX drug abuse conducted in Va. problem worsens
George's conviction in January for drug distribution was part of a federal crackdown that is the largest investigation of prescription drug abuse in U.S. history. Since 2002, the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria has convicted 170 people of selling, prescribing or ingesting painkillers, with 10 more scheduled to plead guilty in coming weeks.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Cotton Candy, has snared seven doctors, 11 nurses and a county prosecutor. One doctor pleaded guilty to demanding sex for drugs; a nurse shot up Dilaudid outside an emergency room. Another defendant burned down her flower shop to get insurance proceeds for pills.

Yet for all the effort, prescription drug abuse continues to worsen in Northern Virginia and throughout the Washington region as demand for painkillers rises among teenagers and others, according to federal and local investigators.

"We're seeing remarkable increases in Percocets sold on the street, a tremendous increase in Vicodin. Oxy is off the charts," said Loudoun County Sheriff's Deputy Cuno Andersen, a member of the Cotton Candy task force.

24: Is it all over for Jack? President Bush and his cronies were big fans � but rising costs and falling audiences may mean that time has finally run out for the TV thriller
But shifting public attitudes towards America's overseas adventures have left the programme feeling less in tune with the public mood, particularly outside the US, where it was widely (and very profitably) syndicated.

On Thursday, Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, even sparked controversy in a speech where she blamed the gung-ho attitudes fostered by the show for contributing to America's mistreatment of terror suspects.

"One of the sad things," about US policy, she said, "is that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush all watched 24." The former spy chief added: "The Americans were very keen that people like us did not discover what they were doing."

Yet the biggest factor contributing to the show's potential demise is almost certainly cold, hard cash. Normally filmed in Los Angeles, it is hugely expensive to make, and its cost per episode is rising thanks to growing wage demands from staff and stars, and expensive on-location shoots.

At the same time, audiences are down to below nine million from a peak of 14 million five years ago.

PAM COMMENTARY: I never watched the show, but I read news reports saying that the show used torture and tried to glorify torturing people as necessary and even heroic. No wonder Bush and Cheney liked it -- it made their crimes seem slightly less treasonous.

UK 'ignoring' systemic evidence of torture among asylum seekers
Torture survivors seeking sanctuary in Britain are being wrongly held in government detention centres, despite independent medical evidence supporting claims of brutal violence against them in their home countries.

According to Home Office guidelines, in cases where there is evidence that a person seeking asylum has been tortured they should be detained only in "exceptional circumstances". But medical charities that carry out hundreds of independent assessments of torture survivors every year have accused the government of routinely ignoring their reports, with victims held in detention centres until their asylum claims are heard � and, in almost every case, rejected.

Sonya Sceats, a spokeswoman for one charity that carries out medical assessments for the government, told the Observer: "It's very clear there is a systemic and increasing problem here. The corollary of their dismissal of independent medical evidence is that the protection [asylum] claim is invariably rejected and this means a survivor of torture is at risk of being returned to further torture or at risk of detention."

The allegations come in the wake of strong criticism last week of the UK Border Agency, which was condemned for failing to investigate claims of mistreatment by failed asylum seekers in abuse allegations up to July 2008. Ministers now plan to review the use of force against asylum seekers by British security guards after a Border Agency report on abuse conceded that serious injuries were suffered by detainees who had been handcuffed or physically restrained.

Tips Pour in After Release of Serial Killer's Rodney Alcala's Photos
SANTA ANA -- Authorities have gotten an "overwhelming" response after releasing more than 100 photos of women and children they fear may have been victimized by convicted serial killer Rodney Alcala.

The photographs, taken in the 1970s, were found in a storage unit Alcala kept in Seattle, Washington, along with earrings that belonged to Robin Samsoe, the 12-year-old girl Acala was convicted of kidnapping and murdering in 1979.

Authorities believe the photos may have been trophies for Alcala, who worked as a freelance photographer and used photography to get close to his victims.

Many of the photos released by the Huntington Beach Police Department show women or young girls in the nude or engaging in sex acts, many of them appearing to be unconscious.

Most of the subjects in the photos have never been identified.

Police determined Friday that two female minors in the pictures, taken in the 1970s, are alive and well.

PAM COMMENTARY: Before digital photography, film photographers used to keep collections of photos like that for their portfolios. (These days portfolios are often online, but this photographer was from the days before digital cameras and the internet existed.) The calls confirming that at least some of the women are OK would indicate that these were probably a part of his portfolio collection.

Finding Morgan�s Killer
Criminal profiler Pat Brown told Fox News that the disposal of the body strongly suggests that Harrington�s killer is familiar with the area. In my opinion, I believe it is too soon to make such an observation.

When trying to ascertain how a particular event occurred, it is important to reconstruct a scene that enables detectives to walk in the shoes of the perpetrator. Judging by the totality of the circumstances, as well as my training in criminal investigative analysis (more commonly known as profiling), Morgan Harrington�s killer(s) is probably a troubled individual who has fantasized about committing sexual homicide. As I noted in my e-magazine expose, The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee�s North Side Strangler, in many instances, these fantasies persist and grow ever stronger until the point of action.

Here is one scenario.

Imagine the would-be killer trolling for possible victims, which he probably has done a dozen times before. A heavy metal concert is taking place on a large college campus that is bound to produce a target rich environment of attractive co-eds � the kind of women that, in a typical social setting, would never give the killer so much as the time of day. He is probably driving a van or an SUV with heavily tinted windows. Having run through this scenario in his head a hundred times before, he is on the lookout for the perfect victim: a woman isolated and slightly inebriated. The perpetrator � and their may be more than one � is hoping to find a woman whose inhibitions may be numbed by na�t�nd/or alcohol. He finds this woman thumbing for a ride on Copeley Road. As she jumps in, the driver checks his mirrors for possible witnesses, and believes he�s in the clear.

Jeff Rense announces Sightings.com is back up and running [R]
PAM COMMENTARY: Jeff made the announcement on Friday's show.

Japan arrests anti-whaling activist
New Zealand anti-whaling activist Pete Bethune has been arrested after his Japanese captors delivered him to customs officials in Tokyo Harbour this afternoon.

Bethune was the Sea Shepherd skipper of the sunken boat the Ady Gil when he tried to board a Japanese whaling ship last month to arrest its captain for ramming his boat.

Authorities in Japan are now expected to spend the next few days deciding whether to charge Bethune with offences which carry a potential jail term.

The Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Hirotaka Akamatsu, has sent out a clear message to the world about its right to continue whaling in international waters.

Lonely death of Juanita Goggins, trailblazer of US civil rights
The neighbours knew Juanita Goggins only as an elderly recluse with no friends and a family that was rarely seen.

Goggins was so private that she instructed a neighbour who delivered groceries to leave them at the door, ring the bell and go away before she emerged. She spurned offers of home help from the local authorities even though she was evidently finding it increasingly difficult to look after herself.

So the residents of her South Carolina community were saddened, if not entirely shocked, to hear that the 75-year-old woman had frozen to death in her own home and that her body went undiscovered for nearly a fortnight.

But in the days before her funeral today, they were surprised to learn that at one time Goggins had been a trailblazing politician and civil rights activist who shook up South Carolina's exclusive politics as the first black woman elected to the southern state's legislature.

Malibu Jogger jumps off California cliff to flee attacker
Authorities say a man tried to sexually assault a Southern California jogger who escaped by jumping off a cliff and sliding about 100 feet down a steep hillside.

Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Derek Sabatini says the woman was taken to a hospital Friday with cuts and bruises from the fall in Malibu.

She told deputies she had finished a run at about noon at Point Dume State Beach and was standing at the edge of a cliff when she was grabbed from behind. She says she and the man struggled for several minutes before she was able to break away. That's when the woman ran and jumped off the cliff.

Deputies say the suspect then escaped in the woman's Toyota Land Cruiser.

A search for the suspect is under way.

PAM COMMENTARY: I wonder if the same predator had anything to do with the Mitrice Richardson disappearance last year.

Clinton rebukes Israel over East Jerusalem plans, cites damage to bilateral ties
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rebuked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday about the state of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, demanding that Israel take immediate steps to show it is interested in renewing efforts to achieve a Middle East peace agreement.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley described the nearly 45-minute phone conversation in unusually undiplomatic terms, signaling that the close allies are facing their deepest crisis in two decades after the embarrassment suffered by Vice President Biden this week when Israel announced during his visit that it plans to build 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem.

Clinton called Netanyahu "to make clear the United States considered the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship and counter to the spirit of the vice president's trip," Crowley said. Clinton, he said, emphasized that "this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America's interests."

U.S. gave Israel green light for East Jerusalem construction [WRH]
Based on Biden's reaction, it seems that he (and, presumably, his boss) has decided that it is better to leave with a few sour grapes than to quarrel with the vineyard guard. In his speech at Tel Aviv University, he said he appreciated Netanyahu's pledge that there would be no recurrence. But what exactly does that mean? That next time he comes, the Planning and Building Committee will be asked to defer discussion of similar plans until the honored guest has left?

With the media storm dying down, Netanyahu can breathe a sigh of relief.

In a sense, the uproar actually helped him: To wipe the spit off his face, Biden had to say it was only rain. Therefore, he lauded Netanyahu's assertion that actual construction in Ramat Shlomo would begin only in another several years.

Thus Israel essentially received an American green light for approving even more building plans in East Jerusalem.

Biden might not know it, but the Palestinians certainly remember that this is exactly how East Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood began: Then, too, Netanyahu persuaded the White House that construction would begin only in another several years.

Why Bibi Humiliated Biden [AJ]
Netanyahu sensed a political advantage, and he�s pressing it. Martin Indyk, former American ambassador to Israel, explains Netanyahu�s remarkable decision to taunt his country�s most important ally.

What happened to Vice President Biden this week in Jerusalem was egregious but hardly new. Right-wing governments in Israel have regularly embarrassed high-level U.S. officials by making announcements about new settlement activity during or just after their visits. But it usually happens to secretaries of state. It infuriated James Baker, confounded Condoleezza Rice, and appalled Madeleine Albright.

When I served as Albright�s ambassador in Israel, during Bibi Netanyahu�s first term as Prime Minister, he announced a major extension to an existing West Bank settlement as she departed Israel after one of her efforts to move the peace process forward. When she heard the news, she called me on an open line and shouted: �You tell Bibi that he needs to stop worrying about his right wing and start worrying about the United States.�

Greece debt: EU agrees bailout deal
The eurozone has agreed a multibillion-euro bailout for Greece as part of a package to shore up the single currency after weeks of crisis, the Guardian has learnt.

Senior sources in Brussels said that Berlin had bowed to the bailout agreement despite huge resistance in Germany and that the finance ministers of the "eurozone" � the 16 member states including Greece who use the euro � are to finalise the rescue package on Monday. The single currency's rulebook will also be rewritten to enforce greater fiscal discipline among members.

The member states have agreed on "co-ordinated bilateral contributions" in the form of loans or loan guarantees to Greece if Athens finds itself unable to refinance its soaring debt and requests help from the EU, a senior European commission official said.

Other sources said the aid could rise to �25bn (�22.6bn), although it is estimated in European capitals that Greece could need up to �55bn by the end of the year.

Study: Median Wealth for Single Black Women: $100, Single Hispanic Women: $120, Single White Women: $41,000 [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, for instance, when you point out the fact that it�s $100 in net wealth for African American women, $120 for Hispanics, $41,000 for white women, single white women, how does that compare to men?

MARIKO LIN CHANG: Right. Well, one of the most shocking findings of this report is that women of color own only a penny for every dollar of wealth owned by their corresponding men of color, of their same race. And in comparison to white women, women of color own only a fraction of a penny for every dollar of wealth owned by white women.

So one of the things that this report is showing us is that we�ve really missed a lot of information about the situation for women of color, because their situation, with respect to wealth, is not identical to men of color and is not identical to women. They face a double wealth disadvantage of being both a person of color and a woman.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicole Mason is also with us in New York. Nicole, the Forbes 500 richest people has just come out. Talk about that in relation to this report.

C. NICOLE MASON: Well, I think this is really important, especially on the�the Forbes report was released on the�right after the Insight report. And what we found is that there are 300�nearly 300 new billionaires that made the Forbes list. And what I find very interesting is, in these hard economic times when people are struggling to make ends meet, we can have 300 new billionaires and be celebrating that as some sort of accomplishment.

And it also brings to light the ever-widening gap between people who have wealth and continue to accumulate wealth, because it�s something that continues to happen over time, and continue to build, and those who do not. In these hard economic times, they have very little assets to pull on and continue to lose ground.

London link to $50bn Lehman cover-up
Britain's financial centre faced fresh embarrassment yesterday after it emerged that London played a crucial role in Lehman Brothers concealing debts of up to $50.4bn (�33.2bn) in the run-up to its collapse.

The failed investment bank approached a London law firm over plans to use a controversial accounting trick � known internally as "Repo 105" � to temporarily conceal the liabilities.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers, the biggest of the financial crisis, sparked near-global panic with even relatively conservative figures talking of "meltdown" and "armageddon". Its demise raised serious questions about lax regulation of banks in the City.

Experts urge caution over uranium mine
Experts from Canada, the Netherlands and New Mexico came to Hampton Roads on Friday to deliver a warning about a proposed uranium mine 140 miles away in Pittsylvania County: Be careful, be vigilant.

The five scientists and academics urged local leaders to be concerned about the mine, which would be the first one in Virginia, given the site's proximity to wetlands and streams that eventually drain into Lake Gaston - a key drinking water supply for Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

Toxic and radioactive contamination that can result from such mining "is never a malicious intent," said Gordon Edwards, a longtime researcher with the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. "It's really about limits of technology. We still don't know how to deal with all of these issues."

He said modern operations in Canada, a major supplier of uranium globally, have made great strides in recent years to better protect the environment and human health. But, he stressed, there are still problems.

Virginia Beach has hired its own consulting firm to study the potential risks to Lake Gaston of upstream mining, and the National Academy of Sciences is about to embark on an 18-month risk analysis for the state.

Authorities seek help identifying people in serial killer's photos
(CNN) -- Hoping to solve numerous cold cases, authorities on Thursday released more than a hundred photos of unidentified women and children found in a storage unit that belonged to a serial killer who appeared on "The Dating Game."

Investigators are trying to determine if some of the people in the pictures were victims of Rodney Alcala, 66, who was convicted in February of murdering a child and four women between November 1977 and June 1979.

A jury this week recommended a death sentence for Alcala, who appeared on the popular dating show in 1978 as Bachelor No. 1.

"We balanced the privacy concerns of those depicted in the decision to release these pictures," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement. "Although we hope that the people depicted are not victims, we believe the release may help solve some cold cases and bring closure to victims' families."

Nigerian Survivors: 'They herded us into one place and started chopping with machetes...'
Many of the black-clad women in mourning who marched the dusty streets of Jos this week carried messages of peace.

Some called for justice for those murdered, others for an end to the violence that has shattered the city and set the whole of Nigeria on edge. But one woman had a different message. Her banner read: "God hears when we cry. Be warned." Her warning was being heeded yesterday in a city now strictly segregated between Muslims and Christians.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew is manned by hundreds of police and soldiers, who have carved up the city with impromptu barricades. Some neighbourhoods have their own people keeping watch. Sporadic gunshots have been heard most nights since the massacre. Almost a week has passed but there is no single truth about what actually happened in Jos; about who has died and how many have died; and about how the city, once known for tourism, has become a byword for sectarian slaughter.

Climate change 'makes birds shrink' in North America
Songbirds in the US are getting smaller, and climate change is suspected as the cause.

A study of almost half a million birds, belonging to over 100 species, shows that many are gradually becoming lighter and growing shorter wings.

This shrinkage has occurred within just half a century, with the birds thought to be evolving into a smaller size in response to warmer temperatures.

However, there is little evidence that the change is harmful to the birds.

Details of the discovery are published in the journal Oikos.

PAM COMMENTARY: Have you noticed that PEOPLE seem to be smaller than a generation ago? Look at the size of most people in their early 20s or younger, and then at people in their 40s or older. I always wondered if it had to do with our over-processed foods or pollution. I'd also wonder if environmental degradation, as in more toxic chemicals and depleted soils, have to do with the decrease in bird size as well.

Zimo: To avoid rattlers in the backcountry, think like a snake
Lundburg said common sense will go a long way toward preventing bad experiences for snakes and humans.

• Don't walk around your camp in bare feet.

• Don't put your hands in places where you don't know what might be living there.

• Don't set up camp in the middle of rocky areas or near debris, piles of driftwood or downed timber.

• It's easy to avoid snakes if you think of things from the snake's point of view. Snakes don't like to be exposed and away from some kind of shelter.

They can't live in temperatures that are too cold or too hot. They like rocky areas, especially close to streams, which is the perfect habitat for them and their prey animals.

US official indicates new policy of engaging with Myanmar to push reform is failing
YANGON, Myanmar - Washington's new policy of engagement with Myanmar's military government appears to be failing, a senior U.S. official indicated Friday, noting the junta's decision to bar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from upcoming elections.

This week the government unveiled election laws that prevent the detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate from running for office or even voting in the polls and greatly weaken her National League for Democracy. The date of the elections has not been announced.

The United States recently modified its strict policy of isolating the junta in the hope that increased engagement would encourage change. However, the Obama administration has said it will not lift sanctions on Myanmar unless its sees concrete progress toward democratic reform � notably freeing Suu Kyi and letting her party participate in elections.

"The U.S. approach was to try to encourage domestic dialogue between the key stakeholders, and the recent promulgation of the election criteria doesn't leave much room for such a dialogue," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

Hormone replacement therapy now linked to cataracts
(NaturalNews) For decades, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was pushed by the medical establishment as a kind of youth elixir that offered all sorts of remarkable benefits. Take the hormones Big Pharma concocts from pregnant horses' urine and chemicals and middle-aged and older women would supposedly have better sex lives, fewer wrinkles, protection from heart attacks and no more hot flashes. Only, it was all a huge myth.

In fact, as the years passed and rates of breast cancer soared in women who took HRT, the truth began to be revealed. HRT didn't protect health at all. In fact, it caused breast and ovarian cancer (http://www.naturalnews.com/027617_HRT_drugs_ovarian_cancer.html), upped heart attack risk and was even linked to brain shrinkage (http://www.naturalnews.com/025371_women_brain_health.html).

Now it turns out there's yet another danger from HRT. New research headed by Birgitta E. Lindblad, MD, of Sundsvall Hospital in Sweden and just published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provides evidence that taking HRT causes cataracts. This is no minor potential side effect, either, because vision problems can be devastating. The eye's lens becomes cloudy and stiff when a cataract develops, sometimes making it difficult to read, drive or even see facial expressions clearly.

CIA may have dosed entire French village with LSD [WRH]
A 50-year mystery over the 'cursed bread' of Pont-Saint-Esprit, which left residents suffering hallucinations, has been solved after a writer discovered the US had spiked the bread with LSD as part of an experiment.

An American investigative journalist has uncovered evidence suggesting the CIA peppered local food with the hallucinogenic drug LSD.

In 1951, a quiet, picturesque village in southern France was suddenly and mysteriously struck down with mass insanity and hallucinations. At least five people died, dozens were interned in asylums and hundreds afflicted. For decades it was assumed that the local bread had been unwittingly poisoned with a psychedelic mould. Now, however, an American investigative journalist has uncovered evidence suggesting the CIA peppered local food with the hallucinogenic drug LSD as part of a mind control experiment at the height of the Cold War.

The mystery of Le Pain Maudit (Cursed Bread) still haunts the inhabitants of Pont-Saint-Esprit, in the Gard, southeast France. On August 16, 1951, the inhabitants were suddenly racked with frightful hallucinations of terrifying beasts and fire.

Part II: Michelle Alexander on �The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness� [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Michelle Alexander, �no excuses.� Can you respond to President Obama?

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Well, I think, you know, a major point that is often lost in debates about the so-called underclass, you know, poor African Americans who are trapped in racially segregated ghettos, the point that�s often missed is that huge percentages of the people residing in those communities have been branded felons, and therefore discrimination is perfectly legal against them. You know, employment discrimination is perfectly legal. Most job applications, ranging from Burger King clerk to accountant, ask whether you�ve been convicted of a felony. And studies show that, you know, about 70 percent of employers say they won�t even consider hiring someone who�s been convicted of a drug felony.

Public housing is off-limits to you if you have been convicted of a felony. For a minimum of five years, you are deemed ineligible for public housing once you�ve been branded a felon. Discrimination in private housing market�s perfectly legal. So here you are, recently released from prison, having been branded a felon for engaging in precisely the kind of drug activity that�s ignored in middle-class white communities. You�re branded a felon. You can�t get a job. And then public housing is off-limits to you? Where are you expected to sleep? So an aunt or grandmother takes you in.

Now, let�s say you�re one of the lucky few who manage to get a job. Well, up to 100 percent of your wages can be garnished�that�s right, up to 100 percent of your wages can be garnished�to pay the cost of your imprisonment. Increasing numbers of states are requiring former prisoners to pay back the cost of their imprisonment, pay back court costs, court processing fees, even the cost of their representation, even if they�ve been assigned a public defender, and back child support. You�re required to pay back all of the accumulated child support that you incurred while you were in prison. So up to 100 percent of your wages can be garnished, even if you�re one of the lucky few who manage to get a job after being branded a felon. What is the system designed to do? The system is designed to send you right back to prison, which is, in fact, what happens to the vast majority of people who are released. About 70 percent of former prisoners are returned within three years. And the majority of those who are returned are returned within three months, because the obstacles, the legal barriers to just surviving on the outside, are so great. I�m often�you know, people often say to me, �Well, I know somebody who is a felon and who managed to get a job. You know, it�s possible to get a job,� they say. Well, it may be possible, but what kind of job? Why is it that, you know, our young kids, young black and brown kids, are expected to be locked into low-wage jobs for life, if they�re lucky enough to get them, but kids in other communities are given the opportunity to go on to college, to compete for a full range of job opportunities? During the Jim Crow era, the problem wasn�t that black people couldn�t get jobs; it was that they were locked permanently in a lower tier of jobs. And that�s the reality. That�s the reality.

For us to tell young African American kids in ghetto communities, �Your destiny is in your own hands,� that may be an inspirational message, but for many of them it may turn out to be a lie, because the rules and laws that govern ghetto communities today and the war that is being waged there ensures that a large majority of black and brown boys in those communities will be branded felons and then relegated to a permanent second-class status for life.

Violence and abuse rife in food factories
Thousands of workers in Britain's lucrative food industry are being subjected to widespread mistreatment and exploitation, including physical and verbal abuse and degrading working conditions, according to an inquiry published today.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it has uncovered significant evidence of abuse among producers supplying Britain's big supermarkets. The inquiry includes reports from meat factory workers who say they have had frozen burgers thrown at them by line managers, and accounts of pregnant women being forced to stand for long periods or perform heavy lifting under threat of the sack.

It also contained reports from women with heavy periods and people with bladder problems on production lines being denied toilet breaks and forced to endure the humiliation of bleeding and urinating on themselves.

One-fifth of workers interviewed, from across England and Wales, reported being pushed, kicked or having things thrown at them, while a third had experienced or witnessed verbal abuse.

The sacred and sublime in Ethiopia
King Lalibela is said to have ordered the construction of the churches after receiving news that Jerusalem, a Christian city at the time, had been captured by the Muslim armies of Saladin. Having visited the Holy Land in his youth, he commissioned the structures in homage to the city as he remembered it. The result was something uniquely Ethiopian: 11 churches carved vertically into rock faces, each in a deep quarried pit and connected by tunnel to the next.

We reach the most spectacular of them, Bet Giorgis, just before dusk. Unlike the other churches, you approach it from above, descending a small hill to the deep trench where its cruciform roof emerges spectacularly from shadow. The entire building has been carved in the shape of a cross. Ten metres below, the church steps provide a kind of visual echo, rippling outward from the foreshortened walls.

Bet Giorgis is so perfectly formed that it seems to have been freed from the rock rather than carved out of it. Little is known about the actual construction of the buildings. Academics estimate that tens of thousands of labourers would have been needed to excavate the site; Nega tells me the people of Lalibela believe it is the work of angels.

Winnie Mandela, newspaper feud over blistering interview
On Friday, Madikizela-Mandela denied the interview ever took place.

"I did not give Ms. Naipaul an interview. It is therefore not necessary for me to respond in any detail to the contents of a fabricated interview," Madikizela-Mandela said in a statement released by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

"I will in the coming days deal with what I see as an inexplicable attempt to undermine the unity of my family, the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the high regard with which the name Mandela is held here and across the globe," the statement continued.

That prompted a quick rebuke from the Evening Standard.

"Nadira Naipaul is a distinguished journalist who visited Winnie Mandela at home and spoke to her at length about her experiences," the paper said in its own release.

"Nadira and her husband, the writer Sir V.S. Naipaul, are photographed with Winnie Mandela and this picture was printed with the article."

U.S. Tightens Missile Shield Encirclement Of China And Russia
So far this year the United States has succeeded in inflaming tensions with China and indefinitely holding up a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia through its relentless pursuit of global interceptor missile deployments.

On January 29 the White House confirmed the completion of a nearly $6.5 billion weapons transfer to Taiwan which includes 200 advanced Patriot anti-ballistic missiles. Earlier in the same month it was reported that Washington is also to provide Taiwan with eight frigates which Taipei intends to equip with the Aegis Combat System that includes the capacity for ship-based Standard Missile-3 interceptors.

The Aegis sea-based component of the expanding U.S. interceptor missile system already includes Japan, South Korea and Australia, and with Taiwan added China would be justified in being apprehensive.

On February 28 the U.S. House and Senate foreign affairs committees permitted the �sale to Taiwan of missiles, helicopters and ships valued at about $6.4 billion� despite weeks of protests from China. �The U.S. Defense Department wants to sell Taiwan the most advanced Patriot anti-missile system�.The system, valued at $2.8 billion, would add to Taiwan�s network of 22 missile sites around the country�.� [1]

Taxi Drivers Gouged Riders Out of Millions, New York Says
About 3,000 New York City taxi drivers routinely overcharged riders over two years by surreptitiously fixing their meters to charge rates that would normally apply only to trips outside the five boroughs, according to the city�s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The drivers' scheme, the commission said, involved 1.8 million rides and cost passengers an average of $4 to $5 extra per trip. The drivers, officials said, flipped switches on their meters that kicked in the higher rates, costing New York City riders a total of $8.3 million. The 1.8 million fares represent a tiny fraction of a total 360 million trips over the 26-month period in question.

Agency officials said, however, that they were alarmed enough that they immediately ordered the companies that manufacture the meters to create a system to alert riders when the higher rates are being charged.

That is likely to be done through the digital screens facing the back seats of the cabs.

Caterpillar may build new U.S. excavator plant
Caterpillar currently only produces two excavator models at a facility in Aurora, where it also produces wheel loaders, soil and landfill compactors, wheel dozers and components. The company also produces excavators in Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Indonesia, Japan and Russia.

If the company decides to build a new plant, that plant would manufacture the two models now made in Aurora as well as several additional excavator models now produced in Japan and exported to the United States, it said.

"Hydraulic excavators are a core machine family made by the company and are widely used in applications around the world. If finalized and approved, the new U.S.-based factory would be the primary North American source for excavators," the company news release said.

Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan said that out of the 2,300 employees at the Aurora plant, 250 are dedicated to the assembly of excavators, and others also do other work on the machines. That assembly number could double as the company would significantly increase its U.S. excavator production, perhaps tripling it.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich Takes on Democratic Leaders with Insistence on Public Option, Call for Afghan Withdrawal [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you talk about the pressure that the members of the Progressive Caucus received on this issue and the pressure that you�ve received in recent weeks?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Listen, I�m out in my district all the time. You know, I�ve held town hall meetings in my district on healthcare over the years. I spoke to the Democratic annual dinner for Cuyahoga County on Sunday, and I laid my program out in exactly what I�you know, why I feel the way I do about this bill. And people listen.

I think pressure comes when you�re not really sure where you stand. Pressure comes when you�re willing to try to cut a deal for the sake of making a deal. You know, I�m ready to listen to the White House, if the White House is ready to listen to the concerns about putting a public option in this bill. I mean, they can do that. You know, they�re still cutting last-minute deals. Put the public option back in. Make it a robust public option. Give the people a chance to really negotiate rates with the insurance companies, where�from the standpoint of having a public option. But don�t just tell the people that you�re going to call this healthcare reform, when you�re giving insurance companies an even more powerful monopoly status in our economy.

I think that these questions are important to be asked. I have not�I�ve never been intransigent. I�ve always been able to try to find a way to work things out. But, you know, it�s a two-way street. The White House has a responsibility to produce a bill that is worthy of supporting. And you can�t say it�s taking a step in the right direction if what you�re doing is taking a step towards increasing privatization of the healthcare system.

Rapid Rise in Seed Prices Draws U.S. Scrutiny
During the depths of the economic crisis last year, the prices for many goods held steady or even dropped. But on American farms, the picture was far different, as farmers watched the price they paid for seeds skyrocket. Corn seed prices rose 32 percent; soybean seeds were up 24 percent.

Such price increases for seeds � the most important purchase a farmer makes each year � are part of an unprecedented climb that began more than a decade ago, stemming from the advent of genetically engineered crops and the rapid concentration in the seed industry that accompanied it.

The price increases have not only irritated many farmers, they have caught the attention of the Obama administration. The Justice Department began an antitrust investigation of the seed industry last year, with an apparent focus on Monsanto, which controls much of the market for the expensive bioengineered traits that make crops resistant to insect pests and herbicides.

The investigation is just one facet of a push by the Obama administration to take a closer look at competition � or the lack thereof � in agriculture, from the dairy industry to livestock to commodity crops, like corn and soybeans.

Long-term use of osteoporosis drugs linked to hip breaks
A popular group of drugs prescribed to slow bone loss may be putting some patients at an increased risk of hip fractures if taken for more than five years.

Two new studies show the bones of some post-menopausal women who take bisphosphonates (Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax, Reclast) to ward off osteoporosis can stop rejuvenating and become brittle after long-term use.

"That's the paradox," says Melvin Rosenwasser, chief of orthopedic trauma surgery at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. "These drugs are good drugs. They strengthen bone and protect you from fractures for a while. But in some people they can become deleterious after a period of time."

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the issue of long-term bisphosphonate use but has not seen the new studies, says spokesman Elaine Bobo.

PAM COMMENTARY: Well, this side effect is old news, but it's good to see the mainstream media paying attention to the problem at some point.

Attorneys seek clemency, ask McDonnell to step aside
Citing a potential conflict of interest, attorneys for a condemned man have asked Gov. Bob McDonnell to let someone else decide whether next week's scheduled execution should take place.

In their request for clemency filed last month but made public Thursday, attorneys for Paul Warner Powell say McDonnell's court pleadings as attorney general hindered their case. They ask that at least the initial clemency decision go to "an individual or entity that does not have a conflict."

McDonnell disputed the claim Thursday and said he expects to announce his decision on whether to grant clemency on Friday.

The decision to grant clemency is discretionary and rests exclusively with the governor. McDonnell said he would make his decision based on arguments presented by Powell's attorneys.

"I know that regardless of what happened in the Attorney General's Office that I can make a fair and impartial decision based on what's been presented in the petition," McDonnell said in an interview.

Deal could pay $657M to sickened WTC responders
After years of fighting in court, lawyers representing the city, construction companies and more than 10,000 ground zero rescue and recovery workers have agreed to a settlement that could pay up to $657.5 million to responders sickened by dust from the destroyed World Trade Center.

The settlement was announced Thursday evening by the WTC Captive Insurance Co., a special entity established to indemnify the city and its contractors against potential legal action as they moved to clean up the site after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The deal, which still must be approved by a judge and the workers themselves, would make the city and other companies represented by the insurer liable for a minimum of $575 million, with more money available to the sick if certain conditions are met.

Most if not all of the money would come out of a $1 billion grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Bruce Ivins' attorney calls for case to be re-opened [WRH]
"There's not one shred of evidence to show he did it," Paul F. Kemp, Ivins' attorney, told AOLNews.com.

Kemp said he doesn't not believe the 92-page summary released on Feb. 19 by the Justice Department that officially closed the case against Ivins. The report states the Ivins, acting alone, had the wherewithal to create anthrax spores of the concentration and purity of the mailed anthrax.

According to Kemp, repeated denials of sending the letters were made by Ivins. Additionally, Ivins' fellow scientists insisted that Ivins would not be capable of making the type of mailed anthrax with the equipment that was available to his at the Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.

Joining Kemp in questioning Ivins' guilt is Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who called last week for a congressional investigation into the anthrax probe.

Reid's wife and daughter sent to hospital after car accident
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's wife and daughter were in a serious car accident Thursday afternoon on Interstate 95 in Fairfax County, and police said they were treated at an area hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Police said the Reids' van was rear-ended and crushed by a fully loaded tractor-trailer while driving in heavy traffic.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Landra G. Reid, 69, and Lana Reid-Barringer, 48, of McLean, were driving northbound on I-95 at about 1:10 p.m. in a 2005 Honda Odyssey van in stop-and-go traffic when Reid-Barringer began to stop for traffic ahead of her. A tractor-trailer loaded with rolls of plastic behind her did not stop and pushed the van into another car.

That car in turn hit a third car.

Geller said the van was crushed on both ends.

How Obama spent his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize
Today, Obama's White House announced what charities will get his 2009 prize money. It's an almost perfectly balanced list of PC beneficiaries. Here they are:

�These organizations do extraordinary work in the United States and abroad helping students, veterans and countless others in need,� said President Obama. �I�m proud to support their work.�

$250,000 to Fisher House: Fisher House is a national non-profit organization that....

...provides housing for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers.

$200,000 to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund: In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, President Obama asked former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to create the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund to raise funds for long-term relief efforts in Haiti.

CDC says genital herpes is still a 'serious health threat' [R]
"This study serves as a stark reminder that herpes remains a common and serious health threat in the United States. Everyone should be aware of the symptoms, risk factors and steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of this lifelong and incurable infection," said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

Women and African-Americans have the highest rate of genital herpes infections. According to the study, one in five women is infected with the herpes virus. The infection rate was almost twice as high among women -- nearly 21 percent -- than among men, at 11.5 percent.

For African-Americans, the prevalence of infection was 39.2 percent -- more than three times that of whites, at 12.3 percent. Black women are most affected by the disease, with an infection rate of 48 percent.

Fenton said the high rates of herpes among African-Americans is most likely contributing to the high rate of HIV in that community. In fact, statistics show that people with herpes are two to three times more likely to get HIV if exposed.

Liz Cheney accused of McCarthyism over campaign against lawyers
Not long after the Twin Towers fell, Dick Cheney declared the death of more than two centuries of American tradition. "It will be necessary for us to be a nation of men, and not laws," he said.

The then vice-president did his best to follow through by riding roughshod over the constitution and international laws by promoting torture, indefinite detention without trial and support for secretive military tribunals in which defendants were stripped of many of their rights.

Now Cheney's daughter, Liz, has taken up the cudgel by heading what some are describing as a McCarthyite campaign to purge the government of lawyers who dared to defend men, and even a child, accused of terrorism. The lawyers drew particular ire by sometimes defeating in court the Bush administration's attempts to declare itself beyond the law.

Liz Cheney and her organisation, Keep America Safe, have dubbed lawyers who acted on behalf of accused terrorists, and who now work for the department of justice, the "al-Qaida seven". The group has rebranded the justice department the "department of jihad".

Starving sea lion pups wash up on Calif. beaches
Marine mammal experts say dozens of hungry and sick sea lion pups have washed up on Southern California beaches this winter and many have died at rescue centers.

Veterinarian Richard Evans said Thursday that the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach has treated 27 skinny pups since December, but only 11 have survived.

Evans says nine of the 12 pups now at his center are in critical condition, "just skin and bones."

Rescuers say the El Nino ocean warming makes the sea lions' prey, squid and fish, scarce.

Evans says the last influx of starving sea lions came in 1998, which was also an El Nino year. The same weather pattern has been blamed for sickening hundreds of California brown pelicans.

Teacher likely killed by wolves, troopers say
Alaska State Troopers today said a woman found dead in Chignik Lake early this week was most likely killed in a wolf attack, and state authorities are on their way there to try to capture or kill the animals.

Candice Berner, 32, appeared to have been killed Monday evening during a run along a remote road outside the community on the Alaska Peninsula, according to troopers. An autopsy this morning determined the cause of death was "multiple injuries due to animal mauling," troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in a statement.

Based on interviews with biologists and villagers in Chignik Lake, troopers concluded wolves were the animals most likely responsible, she said.

The state Department of Fish and Game wanted to conduct DNA testing to help study the incident, but troopers are convinced it was a wolf attack, troopers director Col. Audie Holloway said.

Fishermen likely to see limited salmon season
There will be at least limited ocean salmon fishing this year, according to almost all of the options laid out Thursday by the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The 14-member council meets at this time every year to mull plans for the fishing season, an emotionally fraught process that is highly anticipated by fishing industry workers all along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

Federal biologists predicted that 245,000 fall run chinook salmon will swim up the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems later this year to spawn, more than six times the number that returned last fall.

"Fishermen should be relieved to have something this year," said Peter Dygert, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries service. "It's not going to be an economic bonanza, but it will be something."

Regents OK big hikes in tuition at ASU, UA, NAU
Arizona's three state universities got the go-ahead Thursday to enact steep tuition increases in the fall and warned that they could ask students later this year to pay more out of pocket if the state budget picture darkens.

As an alternative, the schools say they would make drastic cuts in faculty, programs and financial aid.

University officials maintain that voter approval of a May ballot measure that would temporarily raise the state sales tax by 1 cent per dollar is critical to their economic stability. Without it, they say, the state Legislature will be forced to cut their budgets by tens of millions of dollars.

"I don't know what we would have to do," Arizona State University Provost Elizabeth Capaldi said, in reference to the university's response in the event of a failed sales-tax vote. "It is possible that we would have to have an additional surcharge, and that would be awful."

Brain scan can read people's thoughts: researchers
WASHINGTON (AFP) � A scan of brain activity can effectively read a person's mind, researchers said Thursday.

British scientists from University College London found they could differentiate brain activity linked to different memories and thereby identify thought patterns by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The evidence suggests researchers can tell which memory of a past event a person is recalling from the pattern of their brain activity alone.

"We've been able to look at brain activity for a specific episodic memory -- to look at actual memory traces," said senior author of the study, Eleanor Maguire.

"We found that our memories are definitely represented in the hippocampus. Now that we've seen where they are, we have an opportunity to understand how memories are stored and how they may change through time."

PAM COMMENTARY: If you follow news articles and interviews on mind control, the government already uses computers that are way beyond this.

Stock Up on Incandescent Light Bulbs: In Fact, Buy a Lifetime Supply of Them [AJ]
Our government�s�Green Revolution� is another covert attack on our collective health and environment, largely using their mythical global warming hoax to do so.

The new Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs are a perfect example of this kind of subterfuge. While claiming these new CFL bulbs will reduce carbon emissions,�our� Congress passed legislation stating these new light bulbs must completely replace our everyday incandescent light bulbs by 2014, without telling us of the serious dangers to health and environment, that these mandated bulbs pose.

Most of these new CFLs will make people sick, by emitting radio frequency radiation that contributes to dirty electricity, that can cause migraines, dizziness, nausea, confusion, fatigue, skin irritations, and eye strain.

But far more importantly, CFLs are loaded with deadly mercury, one of the most toxic elements on Earth. In fact, all CFL bulbs contain � at least � four to five milligrams of mercury, about 200 times the amount of mercury in a flu vaccine shot. There is enough mercury in each CFL bulb to contaminate 6,000 gallons of clean water. To break one of these CFL bulbs is to risk ruining the health of one�s entire family, or office staff, with enough released atmospheric mercury to best require the expensive, professional services of a Haz/Mat Removal Team.

Rep. Kennedy Denounces Mockingbird Media Over War [AJ]
The House has voted down a resolution to pull troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year. After three hours of debate by a miniscule number of antiwar Democrats, the House voted 356 to 65 to reject the withdrawal proposal. Five Republicans joined 60 Democrats in support of pulling out while 189 Democrats and 167 Republicans were opposed.

The resolution was introduced by Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich. His resolution would have invoked the War Powers Act to force the withdrawal of American troops within 30 days.

The War Powers Act was passed in 1973. It was a feeble attempt to reign in the executive. �Does the President assert � as the kings of old � that as Commander in Chief he can order American forces anywhere for any purpose that suits him?� asked then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after Nixon illegally sent bombers to Cambodia in violation of the Constitution.

Under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war. Congress has not officially declared war since World War 2. The wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other conflicts declared by the executive are violations of the Constitution.

In the mid-1970s, after Nixon�s fall from grace for attempting to cover-up Watergate, Congress passed the War Powers Act, eliminated the draft, demanded oversight of the CIA, cut the budget for the Pentagon�s Special Operations Forces, and curtailed the ClA�s paramilitary capabilities. �The lesson of Vietnam is that we must throw off the cumbersome mantle of world policeman,� said then senator Edward Kennedy.

On Wednesday, Kennedy�s nephew, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, went on the floor of the House to denounce the ongoing war in Afghanistan and skewer the corporate media�s role in its perpetuation.

PAM COMMENTARY: I think Patrick Kennedy is actually the late Ted Kennedy's son, not his nephew. RFK Jr. would be Ted's nephew, but he's not in Congress.

Plan will send some Bonner mill toxic waste to Missoula landfill, worst out of state
Most of the 65,000 tons of toxic soil that Stimson Lumber Co. will extract this fall from the banks of the Blackfoot River will be trucked 12 miles to the Missoula landfill.

"I would guess they'd have 25 to 30 trucks a day, just doing cycles," Keith Large of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality told the Missoula County commissioners Thursday morning.

The nastiest stuff taken when Stimson removes a lagoon and PCB-laced cooling pond and berm from its shuttered mill at Bonner will be shipped out of state, probably by train, to a federal site that's equipped to handle it.

But the soils that fall at the lower end of the contamination scale for polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are receiving just as much attention as the public weighs in on a $6.5 million cleanup plan that Stimson agreed to last month.

Endangered status for loggerheads pushed
The U.S. government intends to reclassify the loggerhead sea turtle, a common visitor to Virginia waters, as an endangered species along the East Coast.

The marine creature, which can weigh up to 250 pounds and measure 3 feet long, has been protected as a threatened species since 1978. Yet its nesting activity from Virginia to Florida - especially in Florida - continues to decline significantly, prompting the government to seek stricter controls.

Two federal agencies announced their recommendations this week after a yearlong investigation of loggerhead trends worldwide.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service urge that loggerheads be separated into nine populations, seven of which should be deemed threatened and two endangered - one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast.

Hundreds pack raw milk hearing in Eau Claire
Eau Claire � Hundreds of raw milk advocates packed a legislative hearing Wednesday, demanding the right to buy and sell unpasteurized dairy products that some claim have powerful health benefits but that detractors call dangerous.

Bills in the state Legislature would allow consumers to buy raw milk and other dairy products directly from farms and exempt farmers from liability if someone becomes ill from pathogens in the milk.

Advocates say the dairy state's handling of the issue will send an important signal to the rest of the country. With the exception of limited, incidental sales, state law prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk to the public because it could carry bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.

Raw milk advocates want the law changed, saying consumers should be able to decide whether the health benefits of drinking unpasteurized milk outweigh the risks.

ACLU sues over violence at Idaho Correctional Center
BOISE, Idaho � The American Civil Liberties Union sued state prison officials and a private company Thursday, claiming violence is so rampant at the Idaho Correctional Center that it's known as "gladiator school" among inmates.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit against Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America in U.S. District Court in Boise.

The lawsuit says Idaho's only private prison is extraordinarily violent, with guards deliberately exposing inmates to brutal beatings from other prisoners as a management tool.

The group contends the prison then denies injured inmates medical care to save money and hide the extent of injuries.

Feds: Montco woman "JihadJane" led Net death plot
AS AUTHORITIES tell it, Colleen R. LaRose wasn't joking on June 20, 2008, when she posted a comment on YouTube using the screen name "JihadJane" and saying that she was "desperate to do something somehow to help" suffering Muslims.

Instead, LaRose, 46, formerly of Pennsburg, Montgomery County, and a U.S. citizen, was about to embark on a plot to recruit terrorists and commit murder in Sweden, according to federal prosecutors.

Authorities unsealed an indictment yesterday alleging that LaRose and five unindicted co-conspirators recruited men and women over the Internet to be terrorists in South Asia and Europe and to finance terrorism.

A Department of Justice spokesman wouldn't confirm that the case was related to a group of people arrested in Ireland earlier yesterday on suspicion of plotting against a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog.

But a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said LaRose had targeted the Swedish cartoonist and had online discussions about her plans with at least one of the suspects in Ireland.

PAM COMMENTARY: After watching decades of bogus government ops, I'd say "Jihad Jane" is just too made-for-TV catchy, too memorable. It sounds like a name cooked up by a focus group in a think tank somewhere, assigned to marketing the next black op, And the story of how she got to where she is now doesn't seem to be there (or perhaps they haven't come up with it yet). But let's assume for the sake of argument that this woman is for real, and it's not just a ploy for the government to expand its definition of "terrorist" to average white Americans in its march to destroy habeas corpus and our civil rights. She'd still be the government's fault -- that's what happens when you try to equate wars with religious beliefs. Government propaganda via the mainstream media has convinced many regular people in America that Bush's old oil wars are in fact a fight between Islam and Christianity. So of course a few fanatics are going to believe that and try to jump in on the fight. That's one of the reasons that our country's founding fathers legally SEPARATED the government from religion -- they were already familiar with states that adopted official religions and the frequent religious wars that raged and ruined nations because of it.

Winner: Paterson to call special election
Gov. David Paterson will call for a special election to replace former U.S. Rep Eric Massa, state Sen. George Winner Jr. said Tuesday.

Winner said he asked Paterson Tuesday afternoon if he was going to call for a special election during the governor�s visit to the Republican Senate Conference.

�He said �yes, shortly,�� Winner said.

Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Paterson, would not confirm the governor would soon call for a special election.

Naked shower rows, tickling staff at birthday parties, and 'the son of the devil's spawn': The bizarre row gripping the White House
A Democratic ex-Congressman is smashing a toxic path through Washington with a bizarre series of allegations in the most lurid controversy to hit the Obama administration yet.

Eric Massa quit Congress yesterday amid allegations he sexually harassed a male staffer.

Last night he admitted he had tickled a staffer at a birthday party and said his actions had been misinterpreted.

He has also claimed that he was 'set up' by Democratic leaders because he opposed President Obama's healthcare bill.

PAM COMMENTARY: So far it seems that everything Massa has described is just normal "horsing around." These days, some people are more sensitive and a few might want to complain about it, but in Massa's age group that sort of behavior was fairly typical. The real story here is that Massa thinks these incidents were exploited to pressure him to step down, after it became apparent that he would be voting against the Senate's version of health care reform. The silly behavior is just a side show that the mainstream press has tried to exploit to boost its sagging ratings, and wasn't half as bad as past scandals in Congress. For example, he wasn't trying to get sex from kids via instant messaging, pressuring young pages for sex, or denouncing the DC Madame while being one of her biggest customers, etc.

7 Years After Killing, Family of Slain US Peace Activist Rachel Corrie Heads to Israel for Wrongful Death Suit Against Israeli Gov�t [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: We return now to the family of Rachel Corrie. Seven years after their daughter was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer and five years after filing a civil lawsuit against the Israeli government, the case has moved ahead. Today a district court in Haifa will begin hearing evidence about the circumstances of Rachel�s death.

On Friday, just before they left for Israel, I sat down with Rachel�s family�her father Craig, her mother Cindy, and her sister Sarah�for an in-depth interview about the case. I asked Rachel�s father Craig to lay out the particulars of the court case.

CRAIG CORRIE: This is a culmination, really, of seven years of our family searching for some sort of justice in the killing of Rachel. And we�ve tried to do that through diplomatic means, and we�ve asked for a US-led investigation into Rachel�s killing. We also understand that the Israelis, through Prime Minister Sharon, promised President Bush a thorough, credible and transparent investigation of Rachel�s killing. But, by our own government�s measure, that has not happened. So we�re left with simply a civil lawsuit.

So, we�re accusing the state of Israel of either intentionally killing Rachel or guilty of gross negligence in her killing seven years ago. And so, we�re seeking�the only thing you can seek in a civil case is damages. You know, so it�s really a very small part of the story that�s gone on in our lives. But it�s critical to have our time in court.

Our motivation for that was largely that it is an avenue which we understood we would be able to pursue and get information. So, through the discovery process, we were hoping to get a good deal of information. We have gotten some, but they�ve used sort of secrets of state to keep us, block us, from getting other evidence into court. But we�re going forward, and we�re very hopeful that we will get a fair trial.

'I saw Israeli bulldozer kill Rachel Corrie'
The final moments of Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist crushed to death beneath a pile of earth and rubble in the path of an advancing Israeli army bulldozer, were described to an Israeli court by an eyewitness yesterday.

The parents of the 23-year-old, who was killed by the bulldozer in March 2003, were present to hear the harrowing account on the first day of hearings in a civil lawsuit they have brought against the state of Israel. The country has never acknowledged culpability over Ms Corrie's death.

Richard Purssell, a British activist with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM), said he watched in horror as Ms Corrie was dragged four metres by the bulldozer moving forward at a "fast walking pace".

He told how her fluorescent orange jacket became invisible beneath a pile of earth churned up by the blade of the 56-tonne D9 Caterpillar machine. Mr Purssell explained that he and two other ISM volunteers had been summoned from the Rafah neighbourhood of Tel Sultan earlier in the day to help five activists prevent bulldozers from carrying out what they feared would be the demolition of Palestinian homes. The five, including Ms Corrie, were in the suburb of Hai Salaam, close to the border with Egypt.

Federally Funded �Ticket Blitz� in Virginia [AJ]
A federally funded ticketing blitz in the state of Virginia landed a total of 6996 traffic tickets this weekend. The blitz, dubbed �Operation Air, Land & Speed� coincided with frantic efforts by state officials to close a$2.2 billion budget deficit. Supervisors ordered state troopers to saturate Interstates 81 and 95 to issue as many tickets as humanly possible over the space of two days.

�The safety of Virginia�s highways begins the minute a vehicle is put in �drive,�� Virginia State Police Superintendent W. Steven Flaherty said in a statement. �Those split second decisions to choose not to drive drunk, to choose to wear a seat belt and to choose not to speed or drive aggressively really do make a difference in preventing and/or surviving a crash.�

Officers had no trouble delivering the requested number of speeding tickets with a total of 3536 ordinary speeding citations written. In addition, another 717 �reckless driving� tickets were filed, although these most often are simple speeding tickets that happen to carry a fine of up to $2500. Driving as little as 10 to 15 MPH over the limit can qualify for this enhanced punishment. On the other end of the scale, some 310 tickets were handed to drivers who either forgot to wear their seatbelts or made a choice not to do so.

PAM COMMENTARY: A flashback to Virginia's last gubernatorial election... Better not vote for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate -- he might raise the gas tax a few cents! We'll find our transportation money magically, from oil rigs that have yet to be built (if ever), or maybe from the other side of the moon, or maybe from you... Here's your ticket! See your insurance company for the rate increase once we put those extra points on your license... Harassing motorists with tickets to make up budget shortfalls is deplorable.

McDonnell signs offshore energy bills
Gov. Bob McDonnell has added his signature to legislation intended to further his goal of making Virginia the East Coast's energy center.

The bills signed Wednesday endorse federal efforts to develop gas and oil drilling off the Virginia coast, and direct royalties to the state's growing transportation needs. A portion would also go the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to announce his decision soon on whether the government will move forward with the sale of oil and gas leases. The triangular tract 50 miles off of Virginia has an estimated 130 million barrels of oil and 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

2 Marine Corps fighter pilots rescued off SC coast
CHARLESTON, S.C. � Two Marine Corps fighter pilots have been rescued from the ocean off South Carolina after their aircraft went down.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it was notified by the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort at about 5:17 p.m. Wednesday that two pilots aboard a Marine F/A-18D Hornet went down about 35 miles off the coast.

Authorities say two parachutes were spotted, indicating that the pilots had ejected. A Coast Guard helicopter from Charleston rescued the pilots about an hour after the crash.

A Marines news release says the jet suffered dual engine failure during a training exercise.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Christopher P. Evanson says neither pilot needed to be hospitalized.

Feingold gets dig in against Thompson
Sen. Russ Feingold took aim at Republican Tommy Thompson on Monday, questioning in an e-mail to supporters why the former governor was getting so much encouragement from Washington insiders to run against him.

"So you might ask, 'Well why are these people in Washington asking Tommy Thompson to run?' Because he's their friend. Because he does what they want. That's why they're asking him to run."

Feingold added: "I've spent years and years taking on the special interests. And Tommy Thompson spent years taking them on as clients."

Feingold's comments come a day after Republican lobbyist Bill McCoshen appeared on Mike Gousha's "UpFront" show, saying that Thompson was seriously considering a run for the Senate.

PAM COMMENTARY: I don't think Feingold will have any difficulties with a challenge by Thompson -- they're not even in the same league. Feingold stands up against the wars all the time, and is known for his integrity. Wisconsinites who know Feingold's record are proud of him. Thompson may have some admirers among people who are fanatical against welfare, but otherwise feelings about him are mixed.

Tommy Thompson had a lot of problems with his record as governor. I was amazed that Bush wanted him as Health and Human Services Secretary, because Thompson was famous for killing babies with brutal work-fare programs -- both in Wisconsin and those based on that model. (But then again, maybe that's the type of person Bush would like.) Women would get a minimum wage job that couldn't pay for child care or even pay their rent, and their kids would die in hot cars or storage lockers, where they were left to wait for their moms while they worked.

Lots of controversial figures seem to be taken from the state that gave the country Joe McCarthy. Clinton appointed another Wisconsinite to HHS Secretary, Donna Shalala, who was known as one of the administrators in favor of raising tuition and putting enrollment caps on University of Wisconsin -- to limit the number of regular middle class kids who could attend. They wanted to attract more rich foreign kids, and give them classes with fewer kids from the Wisconsin families who actually paid the taxes to fund that University system. It was very controversial at the time -- I was one of many students fighting against it, but of course administrators didn't care about student opinion, and proceeded with the unpopular changes without a second thought.

More Messages Link Senator to Job Effort
WASHINGTON � Previously undisclosed e-mail messages turned over to the F.B.I. and Senate ethics investigators provide new evidence about Senator John Ensign�s efforts to steer lobbying work to the embittered husband of his former mistress and could deepen his legal and political troubles.

Mr. Ensign, Republican of Nevada, suggested that a Las Vegas development firm hire the husband, Douglas Hampton, after it had sought the senator�s help on several energy projects in 2008, according to e-mail messages and interviews with company executives.

The messages are the first written records from Mr. Ensign documenting his efforts to find clients for Mr. Hampton, a top aide and close friend, after the senator had an affair with his wife, Cynthia Hampton. They appear to undercut the senator�s assertion that he did not know the work might involve Congressional lobbying, which could violate a federal ban on such activities by staff members for a year after leaving government.

The e-mail messages also hint at what Mr. Ensign�s office now says was an effort by the Las Vegas firm, a small energy investment business called P2SA Equity, to improperly link Mr. Ensign�s possible assistance to a promised donation.

The F.B.I. and the Senate Ethics Committee are investigating whether Mr. Ensign, in trying to contain the fallout from his affair with Ms. Hampton, conspired to find lobbying work for her husband despite the federal restrictions. They are also examining a $96,000 payment Mr. Ensign�s parents made to the Hamptons.

Press group: 8 reporters kidnapped in Mexican city
Eight journalists have been kidnapped in a Mexican border city in a two-week span in a wave of abductions unprecedented in the Western Hemisphere, the Inter-American Press Association said Wednesday.

The press group said only three of the journalists kidnapped between Feb. 18 and March 3 in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, have reappeared alive.

It said one died of apparent torture, two were released alive and five remain missing.

"The Mexican government must act with urgency and with due force to rescue these journalists alive," said IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre.

Aguirre called the abductions "serious and without precedent in the Western Hemisphere."

The abductions were apparently carried out by drug gangs in the Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas where Reynosa is located.

Number of millionaires is up 16% from 2008
Although millions of households are dealing with job losses or underemployment, the number of millionaires in the U.S. is up 16% over 2008, according to a national survey by the Spectrem Group.

Clearly, the 69% rally in the stock market, which began March 9, 2009, helped restore riches to some of those reeling in 2008.

Households with net worth of $1 million or more -- not including their primary home -- grew to 7.8 million in 2009, Spectrem said.

The previous year, the millionaire population fell 27% as the stock market crashed and the recession took its toll throughout the economy.

Health care costs open $1.7 billion hole in Texas budget
AUSTIN � Lawmakers have been thinking ahead to a massive shortfall, topping $10 billion, that's probably coming when they write the next budget in 2011. But state officials told them Monday that they'll have to fix a hole in the current budget, too.

Rising health care costs have dug a hole of about $1.7 billion, the officials said.

Texas has about 350,000 more poor people on government health insurance than it did last year, and health care costs also are skyrocketing for state employees and prison inmates, several agency heads told the House Appropriations Committee.

"We're running 11 percent ... growth in the Medicaid program," said Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs, referring to the nation's main health care program for the poor. Lawmakers assumed enrollment would grow by only 3.4 percent this year, he said.

McGCSE: Work at McDonald's for two weeks and get equivalent of a B grade exam pass (UK)
Teenagers who complete two weeks' work experience at a McDonald's restaurant will be awarded a qualification worth up to a B grade at GCSE.

Youngsters will be offered the 'certificate in work skills' for completing a ten-day programme which includes flipping burgers, serving customers at the tills and cleaning the dining area.

Schools will be able to count the qualification towards their ranking in GCSE league tables.

McDonald's today becomes the first employer in the country to win accreditation for its work experience programme from an exam board.

More than two extinct species a year in England, report reveals
More than two animals and plants a year are becoming extinct in England and hundreds more are severely threatened, a report published today reveals.

Natural England, the government's agency responsible for the countryside, said the biggest national study of threats to biodiversity found nearly 500 species that had died out in England, all but a dozen in the last two centuries.

The losses recorded compare with a natural rate of about one extinction every 20 years before humans dominated the planet, but are almost certainly an underestimate because of poor records of any but the "biggest, scariest" creatures before the 1800s.

The high rate at which species are being lost is set to continue. Almost 1,000 other species face "severe" threats from the same problems that drove their relatives extinct � hunting, pollution, development, poor land management, invasive species and, more recently, climate change � says the report, Lost life: England's lost and threatened species. This represents about a quarter of all species in the best-studied groups, including every reptile, dolphin and whale species, two-thirds of amphibians and one-third of butterflies and bumblebees. In total, the report records 55,000 known species in England.

Dozens of wrecks found by Baltic Sea pipeline firm
STOCKHOLM-A dozen centuries-old shipwrecks � some of them unusually well-preserved � have been found in the Baltic sea by a gas company building an underwater pipeline between Russia and Germany, Swedish experts said Tuesday.

The oldest wreck probably dates back to medieval times and could be up to 800 years old, while the others are likely from the 17th to 19th centuries, said Peter Norman, of Sweden�s National Heritage Board.

�They could be interesting, but we have only seen pictures of their exterior. Many of them are considered to be fully intact. They look very well-preserved,� Norman told The Associated Press.

Thousands of wrecks from medieval ships to warships sunk during the world wars of the 20th century have been found in the Baltic Sea, which doesn�t have the ship worm that destroys wooden wrecks in saltier oceans.

Rush Limbaugh moving to Costa Rica? (Poll)
"I�ll just tell you this, if this passes and it�s five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented -- I am leaving the country. I�ll go to Costa Rica."

There are a lot of strings attached to that hyperbole, er, promise. IF this happens. IF it's five years from now.

But is he packing his bags already? Last week it became known that Rush is selling his four-bedroom, 4,661-square-foot condo on Fifth Avenue on New York City's Upper East Side. Two of its terraces overlook Central Park.

Interested? Asking price is $14 million.

PAM COMMENTARY: This article has a poll -- cast your vote! Rush should stay or Rush should go...

Rush Limbaugh should maybe read up on Costa Rican health care
I see that radio talker Rush Limbaugh is indulging in one of his patented tantrums, telling listeners that he'll leave the United States if health care reform passes.

"I don't know. I'll just tell you this, if this passes and it's five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented -- I am leaving the country. I'll go to Costa Rica."

I'm sure there are a lot of people whose motivation to pass health care reform just doubled. But, really, there's no need for Limbaugh to go anywhere. If he likes the Costa Rican health care system so much, he should advocate for its implementation. Of course, he'd be advocating for the implementation of government-run, universal health care:

Costa Rica has universal health care, one of the best health systems in Latin America. As always with nationalized health care, expect red tape and long waits, but the quality of Costa Rica's health care is excellent. Private health care is also available, very affordable, and high quality. Many doctors speak English and have received training in Europe, Canada, or the U.S. There are three large, private hospitals that most expatriates use: CIMA hospital in Escaz�inica Biblica in San Jos�and Clinica Cat�a in San Jos�uadalupe.

Statistics from the World Health Organization frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy, often even ahead of Great Britain and the United States, even though the per-capita income of Costa Ricans is about one-tenth that of the U.S. and the U.K. Arguably, one reason for this is the slower pace of living in Costa Rica. And, of course, the healthy, fresh, non-preservative-laden foods found there, and the welcoming tropical climate. Costa Rica just seems to be a healthy place to live.

Make music: Listening is good, but learning to play, or sing, builds brains
Five months after we are conceived, music begins to capture our attention and wire our brains for a lifetime of aural experience. At the other end of life, musical memories can be imprinted on the brain so indelibly that they can be retrieved, perfectly intact, from the depths of a mind ravaged by Alzheimer's disease.

In between, music can puncture stress, dissipate anger and comfort us in sadness.

As if all that weren't enough, for years parents have been seduced by even loftier promises from an industry hawking the recorded music of Mozart and other classical composers as a means to ensure brilliant babies.

But for all its beauty, power and capacity to move, researchers have concluded that music is little more than ear candy for the brain if it is consumed only passively. If you want music to sharpen your senses, boost your ability to focus and perhaps even improve your memory, the latest word from science is you'll need more than hype and a loaded iPod.

You gotta get in there and play. Or sing, bang or pluck.

105,000 Tattoos: Iraqi Artist Wafaa Bilal Turns His Own Body into a Canvas to Commemorate Dead Iraqis & Americans [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Your brother died in Iraq?

WAFAA BILAL: My brother Haji died in 2004 in a direct air-to-ground missile by American plane in our home town of Kufa.

AMY GOODMAN: How old was he?

WAFAA BILAL: He was twenty-eight, was married a year before. And when I received the news, I talked to the family, and they said what happened is he was out on the street when the United States Army was advancing on the city of Kufa, and he was hit.

I was able to go to Iraq last July and know more about what happened. And what happened is Haji, involved in working as a contractor with Americans. When they came in, people would greet them. They thought, well, this is going to free them from the dictator. But the opposite happened. Americans were in their barricades in their camp, leaving Iraq to disintegrate into a chaos. And at the beginning, Haji helped in supplying just some material for building. And as a consequence, he was labeled as a collaborator by Muqtada al-Sadr. So, for one evening, to show good faith to the people of Kufa and Muqtada al-Sadr, he stood in a checkpoint outside Kufa while Americans were advancing. And at that point, that missile came and struck him, and he died on the spot.

Lejeune water probe: Did Marine Corps hide benzene data?
WASHINGTON � Congressional investigators late Tuesday requested detailed documents from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and a private contractor that was involved in the testing and cleanup of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., over the past two decades.

More letters to the Environmental Protection Agency and a second private contractor are expected this week.

Among investigators' questions: why a federal agency charged with understanding the health impacts of the contamination didn't realize until recently that benzene � a fuel solvent known to cause cancer in humans � was among the substances found in drinking water at Camp Lejeune.

For years, the Marines apparently didn't provide documents about the benzene to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which has worked for nearly two decades to understand the contamination and its health impacts, said Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., the chairman of the oversight panel on the House Science and Technology Committee.

Kucinich's Health Reform Dissents Merit Consideration
Long before Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi began talking up health care reform as a top priority for the Democratic Party, Congress and America, Dennis Kucinich was doing so. Indeed, the former Cleveland mayor, Ohio legislator, two-time presidential candidate and now senior U.S. House members has across the past 35 years been one of the country's steadiest proponents of real reform of our broken health-care system.

So Kucinich's questioning of the reform legislation being advanced by President Obama and House Speaker Pelosi is neither casual nor uninformed.

The congressman from Ohio knows the intricacies of the health-care debate as well as any key player in Washington. And he objects to the compromises contained in the measure the president and the speaker are whipping House Democrats to support. "This bill doesn't change the fact that the insurance companies are going to keep socking it from the consumers," says Kucinich, who argues that, "The insurance companies are the problem and they are getting a bailout."

This is not a new complaint from Kucinich. Nor is it an unfounded concern.

Last fall, when the House was debating a better bill than the one Obama and Pelosi are now pushing, Kucinich raised objections that for the most part remain valid.

Reviewing the details of what would become the House version of reform legislation, he asked on the House floor: "Is this the best we can do? Forcing people to buy private health insurance, guaranteeing at least $50 billion in new business for the insurance companies?

PAM COMMENTARY: Kucinich has always been an advocate of single payer government-run health care, and he raises many valid concerns. Frankly, the Senate's version of health care reform being forced on the House right now is a corporate wish list for the insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical industries. (Massachusetts has already proven that forcing people to buy health insurance fuels poverty and buys people substandard policies that don't cover their real needs.) I'd never support it, and consider it to be another example of corporations dictating laws to benefit their own profits.

Healthcare Summit Ends in Deadlock; Single-Payer Advocates Excluded (FLASHBACK) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let�s go to Margaret Flowers, Baltimore pediatrician and congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program, who is definitely in favor of that. Single payer was not a part of yesterday�s discussion. No advocate was there�Dennis Kucinich, not Physicians for a National Health Program. Your group asked to be represented, Dr. Flowers?

DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: We did, because the President had stated that health experts should be involved in this process. And so, we wanted to offer our services as people that do research in this area. And indeed, they quoted several of our studies during the summit.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened? Why wasn�t anyone represented?

DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: Well, you know, this has been a series of�throughout the entire health process, that we�ve been excluded from this discussion. I think it�s pretty basic. It hearkens back to the special interests that have been involved in this process, you know, and we�it�s really interesting to watch this debate, because so many of the areas that the President and Congress are talking about�cost controls, increasing coverage, excluding pre-existing conditions�all of these would be met through a national Medicare-for-All system. But�so we win, you know, on the policy. But there is such a heavy influence from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies that they, I guess, felt threatened by the presence of the single-payer advocates.

AMY GOODMAN: Just looking at a report from the National Journal by Ashlie Rodriguez, who writes, �Health care interests have given $46.6 million in campaign donations since 2005 to [the] 21 lawmakers� at the bipartisan healthcare summit, including Senator Max Baucus, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, and to the summit�s host, President Obama, according to this new report. And �Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that health professionals, political action committees, hospitals and nursing homes, pharmaceutical and health product companies, health services firms, HMOs and accident insurers have given heavily to all summit attendees.� How does that affect this discussion, Dr. Flowers?

DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: You know, we could only imagine that it affects it pretty strongly. And we saw that through the year, is that the members of Congress need to get reelected, and if they speak out against the interests who are funding their campaigns, they�re not going to get that funding. So we continue to see these machinations around the dysfunctional situation that we have and tiny efforts to try to patch it together, and we�re missing the bigger picture entirely, which actually the majority of Americans understand and the majority of physicians understand, that we are very different from other industrialized nations because we do not have a health system, we do not take care of everybody in our country. And we actually could do that. We have a program that�s been working very well for forty-four years now in this country. It�s a model, a model where people can choose which doctor they want to go to. Doctors can choose the treatment for their patients without insurance companies interfering. And it�s also the model that will control healthcare costs and be much more efficient in our healthcare financing. Because we have this system of multiple private, for-profit�or profit-driven, really�insurance companies�their bottom line is not health; it�s profit�we�re wasting a third of our healthcare dollars, over $400 billion a year at this time.

Patients' medical records go online without consent (UK)
Those who do not wish to have their details on the �11 billion computer system are supposed to be able to opt out by informing health authorities.

But doctors have accused the Government of rushing the project through, meaning that patients have had their details uploaded to the database before they have had a chance to object.

The scheme, one of the largest of its kind in the world, will eventually hold the private records of more than 50 million patients.

But it has been dogged by accusations that the private information held on it will not be safe from hackers.

The British Medical Association claims that records have been placed on the system without patients� knowledge or consent.

"Spring Time" by Jackie Matelski, Tabi Starjnski, Leslie Kim and Amanda May (Video)
Starry Night/Scream combo mural by Jackie Matelski PAM COMMENTARY: With Spring coming in the month of March, I chose this short rough animation by UW art students as the "fun link of the month." There's a story behind it. When I walked into a Wisconsin coffeehouse over the holidays, I saw an amazing mural on a wall there. It was a combination of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and Munch's "The Scream," with a red-orange theme and some creative changes. I was impressed, as I'd seen other artists' variations on "Starry Night" (e.g. there's one hanging on the wall at Daddy Maxwell's Arctic Circle Diner in Williams Bay, WI), and had considered eventually painting my own southwestern-themed "Starry Night" for my home. ("Eventually" as in, when I have time, which usually means years from now or never.)

I asked the barista who had painted it, and he pointed to the artist's signature -- a former employee of theirs turned art student at UW, Jackie Matelski. (Now folks, let the girl finish her college education -- don't be harassing her with requests to paint Starry Night variations on your walls... at least not until the summer when she doesn't have classes and could probably use the money.) So I started Googling her name to find any art she may have online. I found a few photos which were OK, and references to her ceramics, but nothing I liked as well as the mural pictured to the right. Also, I found the animation short linked to here which was obviously done for a class at UW. The teacher has uploaded other students' work, like The Route, Space Dance, Lonely, Picnic, Money Does Grow On Trees, Hot Potatoes, 3 Easy Ways to Cut in Line at the Supermarket, and Restless (this one's a little crude). I can't say they're as good as professional animation (hence the need for comedy writers), clearly they're just rough animation -- you can see where erasures were made, the figures are pretty crude, and there's rarely color added. But they're SHORT, a little different, and kind of fun.

Chilean earthquake moved entire city 10 feet, researchers say
The massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile last month moved the entire city of Concepcion -- the closest urban area to the quake's epicenter -- at least 10 feet west, American researchers said Monday.

Chile's capital, Santiago, moved about 11 inches to the west-southwest, while Buenos Aires, all the way across the continent from the quake site, moved about an inch to the west, the researchers said. The cities of Valparaiso and Mendoza, Argentina, both northeast of Concepcion, also moved significantly.

The results were obtained from precise global positioning satellite measurements taken before and after the quake, which occurred off the Maul�oast of Chile, according to earth scientist Mike Bevis of Ohio State University. Since 1993, Bevis has headed the Central and Southern Andes GPS Project, designed to monitor crustal motion and deformation in the region.

The project has detected surface displacements as far away as the Falkland Islands and Fortaleza, Brazil. A map of the movements is available here. Bevis and others are currently in Chile to install more GPS units at sites whose previous locations are accurately known and to monitor continued movement along the fault.

Biden pledges U.S. commitment to Israeli security
Reporting from Jerusalem - Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday began an effort to mend strained ties with Israel, pledging a total U.S. commitment to that country's security and declaring that the bonds between the nations were "unbreakable."

Opening a day of consultations with Israeli leaders, Biden also promoted indirect peace talks, set to begin soon, saying they offered "a moment of real opportunity" in the search for a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

But tensions between the U.S. and Israel were underscored Tuesday by Israel's announcement that it would begin construction on 1,600 new housing units in disputed East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to locate the capital of a future state. Senior Israeli officials said the units in Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood for ultra-Orthodox Jews, had long been in the works.

Biden quickly condemned the Israeli announcement.

"The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks [with the Palestinians], is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel," he said.

Feds to probe cause of runaway Prius in Calif.
Federal officials are sending two investigators to California to determine what caused a Toyota Prius to race out of control on a San Diego-area freeway.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will try to determine what caused the incident.

Driver James Sikes sped along Interstate 8 for 20 minutes Monday before a Highway Patrol officer helped slow down the car.

CHP Officer Brian Pennings says the 2008 Prius was towed to a Toyota dealership in El Cajon � presumably for inspection.

Palin Crossed Border for Canadian Health Care
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- who has gone to great lengths to hype the supposed dangers of a big government takeover of American health care -- admitted over the weekend that she used to get her treatment in Canada's single-payer system.

"We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada," Palin said in her first Canadian appearance since stepping down as governor of Alaska. "And I think now, isn't that ironic?"

The irony, one guesses, is that Palin now views Canada's health care system as revolting: with its government-run administration and 'death-panel'-like rationing. Clearly, however, she and her family once found it more alluring than, at the very least, the coverage available in rural Alaska. Up to the age of six, Palin lived in a remote town near the closest Canadian city, Whitehorse.

Officials at several hospitals in that area declined to give out information on patient visits.

Ex-Edwards Aide Ordered to Jail Over Sex Tape
Former John Edwards aide Andrew Young and his wife Cheri were ordered to spend up to 75 days in jail today over their handling of a purported sex tape allegedly made by the one-time presidential candidate and his mistress, according to ABC affiliate WTVD.

Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones said that he held the Youngs in contempt because he believes they are withholding other items from the court, including, WTVD says, additional copies of the tape.

"There were things told to the court under oath, in affidavits, in testimony that turned out to be inaccurate. Right now, part of me says they didn't tell me the truth before in this court," Jones said, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.

The Youngs were not placed in custody immediately, according to WTVD in Raleigh, N.C.

Is Obama Turning on Goldman Sachs?
As President Barack Obama hits the endgame for health care reform, is he making a ploy to associate price-gouging insurance companies with Wall Street greed? Goldman Sachs recently released a report encouraging investors to buy up shares in two large insurance firms and thereby profit from the industry's soaring premiums. Now, the White House is making that brief the centerpiece of Obama's closing argument for overhauling the health system. It appears that Obama is subtly using the Wall Street titan's toxic reputation to demonize the insurance industry and rally public support for a comprehensive bill.

In a health care speech in Pennsylvania on Monday, Obama delivered a broadside against profiteering insurance firms. As an example of the industry's greed, he highlighted a conference call organized by Goldman Sachs. "An insurance broker told Wall Street investors that insurance companies know they will lose customers if they keep raising premiums," Obama said. But, he added, the lack of competition allows insurers to keep premiums high for their remaining customers. "And they will keep doing this for as long as they can get away with it."

Obama's reference to the Goldman Sachs paper was no isolated incident. The White House press operation highlighted the report in a PR barrage targeting unfair insurance practices. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer called attention to the study in a blog post on Sunday, while deputy press secretary Bill Burton pushed the report in a press gaggle and on Twitter on Monday morning.

The White House's emphasis on the Goldman brief is especially intriguing considering that the administration has previously come under fire for its relationship with the Wall Street investment bank. Goldman Sachs was the single largest private donor to Obama's presidential campaign, and a number of high-ranking administration officials are Goldman alums, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's chief of staff, Mark Patterson. Over the past year, Goldman has been attacked for profiting from everything from AIG's collapse to the Greek financial crisis. But although Obama has recently revved up his rhetoric against Wall Street buck-raking, he has generally trod carefully when it comes to the big financial firms, whose cooperation he needs to pass his financial reform package. Last month, for instance, Obama said that he didn't "begrudge" Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein for taking home a $9 million bonus, noting that some professional baseball players made more money.

PAM COMMENTARY: "...Single largest private donor to Obama's presidential campaign"? That explains a lot...

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


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All original content including photographs © 2010 by Pam Rotella. (News excerpts copyright by their corresponding authors, news organizations, or other copyright holders, and quoted here typically as "fair use" or "teaser" paragraphs to generate interest in the full articles.)