Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
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News from the Week of 21st to 27th of March 2010
Obama Declares Afghan War 'Absolutely Essential'; Insists America Will Never Abandon Conflict (27 March 2010)
Underscoring his administration's commitment to continue the already eight and a half year long occupation of Afghanistan, President Barack Obama made a surprise visit today and delivered a speech declaring the war 'absolutely essential.'
Citing 9/11, President Obama insisted that continuing the conflict makes all Americans safer, and assured the troops that "everyone" knows the importance of the continued occupation of the landlocked nation.
He also threw water on the notion that the war might come to an end any time soon, saying "the United States of America does not quit once we start on something." He reiterated his confidence that the US would ultimately prevail.
But despite pledging to give the troops a clear mission and a clear goal, and insisting that they would "get the job done," he didn't make it at all clear what exactly this job was. His only hint at any mission beyond endless conflict was a reference to al-Qaeda in the region, though administration officials have repeatedly conceded that there are virtually no al-Qaeda members left in Afghanistan, and have not been in some time. Yet momentum and a sufficiently hawkish administration suggests the conflict will continue to find enemies wherever it can and continue indefinitely.
President Obama Makes Surprise Afghanistan Visit Bagram AFB; FULL 20 MIN SPEECH (Video)
PAM COMMENTARY: This is the video of Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan on 28 March 2010. See comments from the above article by antiwar.com. Also, there's no "R" in the second syllable of "persevere"!
The mainstream press mostly cheerleads the war, and I was particularly offended by MSNBC's Mike Viqueira who said there were actually "some on the left who are still anti-war."
"STILL" antiwar -- as though we'll eventually come around to LOVE the war, if only we could be as blissfully ignorant (or sold out) as Mike Viqueira and the other pro-war nuts in the mainstream media...
Biblical plagues really happened say scientists
Researchers believe they have found evidence of real natural disasters on which the ten plagues of Egypt, which led to Moses freeing the Israelites from slavery in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, were based.
But rather than explaining them as the wrathful act of a vengeful God, the scientists claim the plagues can be attributed to a chain of natural phenomena triggered by changes in the climate and environmental disasters that happened hundreds of miles away.
They have compiled compelling evidence that offers new explanations for the Biblical plagues, which will be outlined in a new series to be broadcast on the National Geographical Channel on Easter Sunday.
Archaeologists now widely believe the plagues occurred at an ancient city of Pi-Rameses on the Nile Delta, which was the capital of Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Rameses the Second, who ruled between 1279BC and 1213BC.
Derailed train removed; fuel cleanup continues
A crane barge this morning helped removed a train that was dangling off the edge of a canal bridge in Centerville after it derailed early Friday.
The barge arrived on scene shortly after 12:30 a.m. and lifted the train so another could pull it back onto the track just before 2 a.m., according to a Coast Guard news release. Officials inspected the locomotive for safety issues before moving it just before 4 a.m.
Cleanup and repair work continues at the spot where the train, owned by the Chesapeake & Albemarle Railroad, barely avoided plunging into the Intracoastal Waterway early Friday morning. The train derailed on a trestle in the Centerville area of the city about 5 a.m., and the locomotive spent the rest of the day hanging over the water. The fuel tank ruptured, sending about 1,700 gallons of diesel into the water. By Friday afternoon, about 550 gallons had been removed.
No one was hurt, but the Coast Guard closed a section of the waterway between the Great Bridge Lock and Centerville Turnpike and began cleaning up the fuel. Environmental cleanup crews worked through part of the night, cleaning up 70 percent of the spilled fuel, according to the Coast Guard news release. Enough had been cleared by 9:20 a.m. for the Coast Guard to reopen the waterway with speed restrictions.
Mystery mummies -- another big show at the Bowers
The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana has been scoring one blockbuster show from China after another. Two years ago its �Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China�s First Emperor� boasted the largest foreign loan of the famous life-sized statues from Xian. The efforts paid off -- the exhibition attracted 300,000 visitors, with admission prices topping at $27. The Bowers now hopes to approach that record with an exhibition opening this weekend, �Secrets of the Silk Road: Mystery Mummies of China� (through July 25), which features 150 artifacts from burials found around the vast Taklamakan Desert in northern China.
The stars of the exhibition are two remarkably preserved mummies (one from the 18th century BC, the other from the 8th century BC) and the elaborate trappings of Yingpan man (3rd-4th century). For nearly two decades, major American museums � including the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County � have tried to borrow these celebrated artifacts found in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. However, the central government put a ban on their export because of political sensitivities.
On one hand it seemed awkward for Beijing that the early inhabitants of this disputed region appeared to be non-Han. The 200-some mummies found there have been identified as Caucasoid, with long noses and light hair. Meanwhile, the local Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, did not like the idea of sending their ancestors on exhibition. However, says Dr. Victor Mair, a University of Pennsylvania professor and consultant to the Bowers exhibition, these Caucasoid peoples predate both Uyghur and Han Chinese presence .Bowers president Peter Keller and board member Anne Shih had long known about the mummies. "I just thought we absolutely had to have them for a really great exhibition of this kind," says Keller.
Eight years ago Shih took a trip to Xinjiang to see the mummies; she was told there was no way they could be loaned abroad. At the end of 2008 she attended the opening of a Silk Road exhibition at the National Museum of History in Taipei. Museum officials from Xinjiang told her that perhaps things were loosening. Three months later, Keller and Shih went to Xinjiang to select items from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology. They drafted an agreement and sent their request to Beijing. In June the request was approved. �I was so happy,� says Shih. �I�d been working on this for 10 years, but I never gave up.�
Ford to sell Volvo to China's Geely for $1.8 bln [R]
BOSTON (MarketWatch) -- Ford Motor Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!f/quotes/nls/f (F 13.55, +0.13, +0.97%) on Sunday said it has reached an agreement to sell Volvo Car Corp. to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China for $1.8 billion. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter, Ford said in a press release. Ford will not retain any ownership in Volvo.
Final Votes in Congress Cap Battle on Health Bill
The reconciliation bill makes numerous revisions to many of the central provisions in the measure adopted by the Senate on Dec. 24, including changes in the levels of subsidies that will help moderate-income Americans afford private insurance, as well as changes to the increase in the Medicare payroll tax that will take effect in 2013 and help pay for the legislation.
The bill also delays the start of a new tax on high-cost employer-sponsored insurance policies to 2018 and raises the thresholds at which policies are hit by the tax, reflecting a deal struck by the White House and organized labor leaders. It also includes changes to close the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage known as the doughnut hole, and to clarify a provision requiring insurers to allow adult children to remain on their parents� insurance policies until their 26th birthday.
Many of the changes were intended to address the concerns of House Democrats, as well as to bridge differences between the original House and Senate bills and to incorporate additional provisions sought by Mr. Obama.
The bill also included a broad restructuring of federal student loan programs, a centerpiece of Mr. Obama�s education agenda.
Help! I�ve Been Taxed and I Can�t Get Up [WRH]
Like many of you, the passage of the healthcare bill wasn�t met with the popping of champagne in my house. I found myself chanting �Uncle Sam, Uncle Sham� as the day wore on. Higher taxes and other major changes are headed our way. And yet, I think there�s something in the bill that�s even more dastardly.
If you�re a supporter of the bill, you�d point to its benefits: Poor adults will get Medicaid. Low-income families will get federal subsidies to buy insurance. Small businesses may get tax credits. Kids will be able to stay on the parents� policy until they turn 26. Seniors get additional prescription drug coverage. People with pre-existing medical conditions can�t be denied or dropped.
While no one is really against any of those things, the elephant in the room (or boa constrictor in the bed) is how those things are going to be paid for. Here�s how: the �wealthy� will pay higher taxes; businesses with 50 or more employees will have to insure them or pay a penalty; individuals will have to pay a fine if they don�t buy insurance; premiums will rise for many who already have insurance; and seniors with Medicare Advantage policies could lose those plans or pay more to keep them.
Regardless of how you feel about the bill, the fact is that taxes are going up, and not necessarily just on the �wealthy.� The healthcare plan will cost $940 billion over the next decade, almost $100 billion a year.
I haven�t read the 2,407-page bill (almost twice as long as the Gutenberg Bible), but there are plenty now who have. Here�s a summary I compiled, from various sources, that outlines the tax ramifications of what is now the law of the land.
Politicians use health care law to court donors
Washington - The fund-raising pitches started rolling out this week even before the president signed a landmark health care measure into law.
In e-mails to supporters, Republicans began asking donors to help them fight against "ObamaCare" immediately after Sunday's historic vote in the House. Democrats weren't far behind, vowing to stand strong against the "special interests" who want to go back to the "status quo" on health care.
Whatever their take on the new health care law itself, political operatives on both sides agree on this: The issue can attract significant campaign donations.
"For fund raising and highly engaged partisans, it's a good issue for both sides right now," said Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
PAM COMMENTARY: I don't see how donors would want to help either party. The Democrats just sold out to the insurance industry, so who are people going to turn to -- war mongering Republicans? The last time Americans forgot how bad it was under Republicans, we got stuck with George W. Bush for eight years. Now we're stuck with someone carrying on the Bush policies -- even the most radical such as threatening Iran -- but he can actually speak English and doesn't appear to be as dumb as Bush. Same policies, though! That's the trick. Same crap, better salesman.
History Channel - ROCKETDYNE (Video) (FLASHBACK) [R]
Rocketdyne � November 14, 2006 � World's 1st nuclear meltdown in 1959 in Simi Valley, CA. Story covered by The History Channel.
PAM COMMENTARY: This nuclear accident was mentioned on the Rense radio show this week, and so I thought I'd link to a video on it here.
A Look at Arne Duncan�s VIP List of Requests at Chicago Schools and the Effects of his Expansion of Charter Schools in Chicago [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We�re also joined by Pauline Lipman, professor of education and policy studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Could you talk about the significance of this list and also the battle of parents in Chicago to get into these elite schools in the city?
PAULINE LIPMAN: Yes, good morning. I�m really glad that Azam has done this story, because it provides some evidence for what we�ve pretty much known on the ground all along. And as you said, I think that what it reveals is a bigger scandal. The larger scandal is that Chicago has basically a two-tiered education system, with a handful of these selective enrollment magnet schools, or boutique schools, that have been set up under Renaissance 2010 in gentrifying and affluent neighborhoods, and then many disinvested neighborhood schools. So parents across the city are scrambling to try to get their kids into a few of these schools. So instead of creating quality schools in every neighborhood, what CPS has done is created this two-tier system and actually is closing down, as you said, neighborhood schools under Renaissance 2010 and replacing them with charter schools and a privatized education system, firing or laying off, I should say, certified teachers, dismantling locally elected school councils, and creating a market of public education in Chicago, turning schools over to private turnaround operators. And this is, in the bigger, bigger scandal, this is now the national agenda under the Obama administration for education.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And amazingly, Arne Duncan doesn�t have that much of a�he�s not an educator by trade, to speak of. Could you talk a little bit about his background?
PAULINE LIPMAN: Yeah, not only is he not an educator by trade, I mean, he was a functionary in the Daley administration. But because Chicago is under mayoral control of schools, which is another part of Obama�s and Duncan�s national agenda under the federal stimulus Race to the Top funds, because of that, what we have is exactly a school system that is led at the top by virtually no educators. There is only one educator in a high position. The board are all appointed by Daley. They are all bankers or corporate heads. The CEO of schools before Duncan, Paul Vallas, was in Daley�s budget office. The new CEO, Ron Huberman, ran the Chicago Transit Authority. So we have a school system that, as a whole, is led by corporate managers, not by educators. And in fact, that�s revealed in the fact that there�s basically no research that supports any of the interventions that they�ve made under Renaissance 2010. And there�s a good deal of research that demonstrates that it has been damaging to students and to communities and has not improved their education.
A possible new link in human lineage -- all from a little finger
DNA from a 40,000-year-old pinkie finger, belonging to a child and found in a cave in Siberia, indicates that the bone is from a previously unknown family of human relatives that lived among Neanderthals and modern humans, German researchers reported Wednesday.
The discovery, if confirmed by research already underway, would mark the first time that an entirely new species of hominid has been identified solely on the basis of DNA sequencing, the team reported online in the journal Nature. It also suggests that other currently unknown species could be similarly identified.
With the recent, and still controversial, discovery of the Hobbit-like species Homo floresiensis that survived in Indonesia until about 13,000 years ago, the evidence now indicates that at least four species of human-like creatures walked the Earth at the same time. The finding suggests that "40,000 years ago, the planet was more crowded than we thought," wrote evolutionary biologist Terence A. Brown of the University of Manchester in an editorial accompanying the report.
The new species shared a common ancestor with both modern humans and Neanderthals about 1 million years ago, based on the DNA sequences, according to the team led by anthropologists Johannes Krause and Svante P�o of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. That is about 500,000 years older than the last common ancestor shared by Neanderthals and modern humans.
Storm of allegations against the Catholic Church
Key events in sexual abuse cases involving the Catholic Church during the reigns of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Louisiana priest Gilbert Gauthe pleads guilty to molestation charges involving 11 boys, drawing national attention to clerical sex abuse for first time.
Allegations surface that the Rev. James Porter of Diocese of Fall River, Mass., molested children in five states in the 1960s and 1970s. He pleads guilty the next year to 41 sex assault counts.
Organic: What it means on different products
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the National Organic Program, says organic is a "production philosophy," adding that an organic label does not imply a product is superior. Moreover, some nutrition experts say, there's no need to eat organic to be healthy: Simply choose less processed food and more fruits and vegetables.
To compare the nutrient density of organically and conventionally grown grapes, researchers would have to have matched pairs of fields, including using the same soil, the same irrigation system, the same level of nitrogen fertilizer and the same stage of ripeness at harvest, acknowledged Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at the Organic Center, a pro-organics research institution.
Last summer, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a comprehensive review concluding that organic and conventional food had comparable nutrient levels.
The study outraged some members of the organic community, who criticized the study for not addressing pesticide residues, a major reason people choose organic. Nor did the study address the effect of farming practices on the environment and personal health.
PAM COMMENTARY: I don't know if I believe this. Often I can feel the difference when I eat organic, which seems to imply there is a nutritional difference. Or perhaps that's just GMO vs. non-GMO. But for some reason, I feel better and don't feel that I need to eat as much when I eat organic.
Monsanto GM-corn harvest fails massively in South Africa [R]
South African farmers suffered millions of dollars in lost income when 82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) failed to produce hardly any seeds.The plants look lush and healthy from the outside. Monsanto has offered compensation.
Monsanto blames the failure of the three varieties of corn planted on these farms, in three South African provinces,on alleged 'underfertilisation processes in the laboratory". Some 280 of the 1,000 farmers who planted the three varieties of Monsanto corn this year, have reported extensive seedless corn problems.
Urgent investigation demanded
However environmental activitist Marian Mayet, director of the Africa-centre for biosecurity in Johannesburg, demands an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods, blaming the crop failure on Monsanto's genetically-manipulated technology.
Willem Pelser, journalist of the Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport, writes from Nelspruit that Monsanto has immediately offered the farmers compensation in three provinces - North West, Free State and Mpumalanga. The damage-estimates are being undertaken right now by the local farmers' cooperative, Grain-SA. Monsanto claims that 'less than 25%' of three different corn varieties were 'insufficiently fertilised in the laboratory'.
PAM COMMENTARY: This story is from last year, but Rense.com linked to it recently and so I'll flashback to it here.
Ecuador journalist convicted of insulting official
QUITO, Ecuador � A district court judge convicted a newspaper editorial writer Friday of insulting the head of the Ecuador government's National Financial Corp. and sentenced him to three years in prison.
Emilio Palacio, who works for the newspaper El Universo, also was ordered to pay legal costs of $10,000.
The case centered on an Aug. 27 editorial that made fun of official Camilo Saman for supposedly sending bodyguards to the newspaper to complain about a news story. While a group of people did show up objecting to the article, Saman's guards were not there.
Gutemberg Vera, the lawyer representing Saman, praised the court's action. "A journalist can say whatever he wants, but if you insult, but if it offends, as it was by Mr. Emilio Palacio, he must be punished," Vera said.
Hospital superbugs kill 48,000 patients a year
(NaturalNews) A new study just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that an alarming number of Americans are dying in the hospital from two infectious diseases: sepsis (also known as systemic inflammatory response syndrome, it causes widespread inflammation and blood clotting and can lead to organ failure and death) and pneumonia. But the victims of these health problems weren't originally hospitalized because of these illnesses. Instead, they were in the hospital for other reasons. In fact, some were healthy and simply having an elective procedure. Yet they ended up dead.
The reason? These unfortunate patients became fatally ill from hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) caused primarily by both the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs and downright sloppy infection control by hospital medical staff.
Researchers with Extending the Cure (a project examining antibiotic resistance based at the Washington, D.C., think-tank Resources for the Future) conducted the largest nationally representative study to date to document the human and economic toll taken by two hospital-acquired infections that should be preventable, sepsis and pneumonia. Both conditions are caused by an array of pathogens, including the dangerous superbug dubbed Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterial infection that has become highly resistant to many antibiotics. The researchers found that these germs are frequently being spread by sloppy infection control in hospitals.
The infections can result in longer hospital stays, serious complications and death. What's more, in 2006 alone they caused health care costs to soar by $8.1 billion and took the lives of 48,000 people, according to the new study.
Last defendant in Iraq killings ready for trial
Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich entered military court thinking charges against him in a case involving the deaths of 24 Iraqis - some children - would be dismissed. He left resigned to being court-martialed in the biggest criminal case against U.S. troops to arise from the Iraq war.
"I'm actually happy to see that there is a trial date and that this will be over soon," he told reporters. "At least this is the beginning of the end."
A military judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, on Friday refused to dismiss charges against the former squad leader, saying defense attorneys failed to show that two generals who oversaw the case were influenced by a top aide who was disqualified under military policy from giving advice because he had investigated the killings on a previous assignment.
Wuterich, 30, is one of eight Marines initially charged with murder or failure to investigate the killings that occurred after a roadside bombing that killed a Marine. Six have had charges dropped or dismissed, and one was acquitted.
Wuterich's trial is scheduled for Sept. 13 on reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter in nine of the 24 deaths and other crimes in the November 2005 shootings in the town of Haditha.
Labor Struggle in Boron: Union Workers in CA Town Locked Out by Mining Giant Rio Tinto After Stalled Contract Talks [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Craig, can you take us around the world with the company, with Rio Tinto? What�s happening in China, in Indonesia? This is not just one place that this is all happening.
CRAIG MERRILEES: Yeah, Rio Tinto is a global Goliath, and the workers there in Boron are the Davids in this struggle. The company has operations that span the entire globe. And historically, the company has done business with some of the most repugnant regimes in world history. They collaborated with Francisco Franco�s Fascist Spain. They worked with the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. And more recently, they�ve been working with repressive, bloody regimes, working with military militias that have been repressing local citizens, and in some cases those military groups that they�ve been working with, and some say supporting, have engaged in murder and terrible forms of intimidation. There are currently struggles underway in Papua New Guinea, for example, where those residents had questions and concerns about the mining practices of Rio Tinto, and some of them paid for those criticisms with their lives. And those citizens have come forward and filed suit in US federal court. So there are very, very serious human rights violations taking place across the globe, as well as positive responses from workers who see what Rio Tinto has been doing in their countries, see what the families are doing here in Boron to stand up. So, workers from South Africa, workers from Australia, workers from Turkey, workers from across Europe have come to Boron to show their solidarity and to let the families know that they�re not alone, that this is a problem that has become more than just about a small community in the Mojave Desert. It�s become a worldwide problem with corporations that are out of control and trying to take advantage of working families everywhere.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Terri Judd, you�re a third-generation borax miner. And this mine is one of the major sources of borax in the world for many other countries. Could you tell our viewers and listeners what is the borax used for? And what do you specifically do every day when you�re on the job?
TERRI JUDD: Well, specifically what I do, I�m a loader operator in the mine department. My primary job is I run a LeTourneau-1350 front-end loader, and I actually mine the ore out of the ground, load it into haul trucks to be sent to the crusher to the primary processing plants. And borax is found�we primarily make borax and boric acid. Boric acid, you can find in any bug killer that you purchase over the counter. They use it in lumber to treat the wood we use on our houses now to prevent termite infestations. And borax itself is found in almost any product that you have in your home, from plastics to Corning, to the heat tiles on the space shuttle.
Leaked CIA Report: �Apathy Key To War,Obama A Great War Salesman� [WRH]
I use twitter as a means to broadcast an array of thoughts,ideas and also to publicize articles in regards to imperialism,colonialism,anti-Zionism etc.
I happen to follow @jeremyscahill the breakthrough journalist who is the author of Blackwater.
Today Mr.Scahill began tweeting about a CIA Report which states that �apathy key 2 US war, Obama is great war salesman,use Afghan women more 2 sell war.�
�Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing� the war, encouraging European troop involvement�
Thanks to Mr.Scahill I have the leaked CIA Report to publish on Political Theatrics...
Losing breast not always best for cancer patients
New research suggests that women with gene mutations that predispose them to breast cancer might not pay a huge price in survival if they choose to preserve their breast instead of having it removed.
In a small study that observed women with BRCA gene mutations and different types of cancer and treatments, patients had two to four times greater risk of a cancer recurrence if they had only the cancerous lump removed instead of the whole breast.
However, their survival rates after 15 years appeared roughly similar, although this type of study cannot prove that one treatment is as good as another.
Results were presented Friday at a breast cancer conference in Barcelona.
Airport Worker Caught Ogling Image of Woman on Naked Body Scanner [AJ]
Outrage was growing today over the abuse of naked airport body scanners after it was revealed that a Heathrow worker perved over a naked image of a female colleague after she passed through one of the devices, before commenting, �I love those gigantic tits�.
Jo Margetson, 29, reported John Laker, 25, to the police after she had entered the x-ray machine by mistake and Laker took the image before making lewd comments.
One of the most important aspects of this story which the media has completely failed to mention is the fact that, despite a barrage of propaganda on behalf of the government claiming that the images produced do not show sensitive areas of the body in detail, the fact that Laker was clearly able to distinguish Margetson�s breasts proves once again that the scanners do show crisp details of genitals and other sensitive body parts.
As we have exhaustively emphasized, the body scanners do allow airport workers to see intricate details of your body � penis length, breast size, implants, piercings, including crystal clear naked shots of your children. The fact that authorities initially lied and denied this was the case as part of the agenda to hastily install scanners after the staged Christmas bombing incident was clearly a case of mass public deception and one of the primary reasons why the scanners need to be removed now.
Juan Gonzalez: NY Pays 230 �Consultants� $722M Per Year for Computer Project 7 Years Behind Schedule [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you have the front page story in the New York Daily News today.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. It�s about a�well, you could call New York�s version of Boston�s Big Dig, only it�s in cyberspace, that the city has been�is spending now up to more than $722 million, ten times what it originally started to spend, to create a new computerized payroll system. This is happening all around the country, as cities are increasingly going to computerization of government services. The only problem is that this project is seven years behind schedule, ten times the cost, and the city is paying over 200 computer consultants an average pay right now of $400,000 a year�
AMY GOODMAN: Each?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Each, including eleven of them that I found in city records through a FOIA who are being paid over $600,000 a year�$670, $650, $630�all to design a system that is far from complete and is only covering about a third of the city workers. It�s a payroll system where they were going to have workers, for instance, punch in with biometric hand scanners when they come in in the morning, at lunchtime, to supposedly to avoid city workers punching in for other workers and, in essence, stealing time.
PAM COMMENTARY: I might know one of the database guys maintaining their old, outdated system until this project is completed...
I worked at a company that used fingerprint scanners, and they just didn't work very well. I'd be stuck outside in the hallway -- the company paying me all the while to fight with their machine -- scanning my finger hundreds of times before the computer would finally let me in. A badge is much quicker and cost effective, even if it takes a few minutes every so often for an employee who forgets a badge. At least they're not waiting a few minutes EVERY SINGLE TIME as the scanner demonstrates its inability to ID their fingerprints.
I've also programmed payroll/invoicing systems, and they can take a long time if the company wants a lot of unique features. For a company to need such a large team as this, and the project to take years -- it seems they've gone overboard with their features. I've programmed elaborate systems with some incredible features -- all by myself -- when I've had more than a year or two to work on them. Basically the payroll person had to enter the hours, and the system did everything else. Normally extravagant features aren't used unless they save a company money somehow -- paying a programmer $100k this year, for example, might cut down on payroll department overtime for several people over the next five years, which could save much more than 100k. Other than such a money-saving scenario, huge projects like this are a huge waste of money, but the IT field is full of cases like this. I've mopped up after many of them myself. Some companies have huge IT departments that are nothing but multiple programmers working on programs of questionable value. That's what happens when management doesn't understand the IT field, and doesn't have an IT manager looking out for their bottom line.
Deciding Who Will Lead a Health Care Leader
Emboldened by the January victory here of another Republican, Senator Scott Brown, Mr. Baker has been raising record sums, much of it from the health care industry, and has drawn nearly even with Mr. Patrick in recent polling.
As Mr. Baker gains standing, the governor has worked to remind voters of his opponent�s role in an industry roundly vilified by the Obama administration. He asserted in an interview in his office that Mr. Baker had done little to control escalating premiums during his tenure at Harvard Pilgrim.
�It is actually somewhat dismaying the number of people who stand on the sidelines and root for failure, who could lift a finger, but don�t, to help,� Mr. Patrick said of Mr. Baker. �You have to make powerful interests mad if you want to change the status quo. And I have never, ever seen any evidence from Charlie of a willingness to do that.�
Mr. Patrick said his emergency measures would bring quick relief to individuals and small businesses as the state tries to spur its recovery. He said the price controls would be a bridge until the legislature could consider a second phase of restructuring.
PAM COMMENTARY: With my interest in alternative medicine, of course I have looked into insurance companies' aversion to cheaper, more effective treatments from alternative medicine. The most credible theory on why the insurance industry continues to support mainstream medicine, and occasionally chiropractic care, is because insurance companies are heavily invested in the very medical-pharmaceutical industry driving their insurance costs up. Because insurance companies make a substantial amount of their money from investing premiums, they'd rather lend credibility to the system yielding crazy investment returns than merely contain costs. They choose to contain costs by denying care and restricting coverage, not by paying for less expensive and more effective from alternative medicine. Otherwise you'd see reimbursement for zappers, and coverage of "experimental" treatments from alternative medicine that are known to work for a large number of people.
Catholic Church accuses abuse victims of smear campaign
The Vatican on Thursday defended its decision not to defrock a Wisconsin priest accused of sexually assaulting as many as 200 deaf boys from the 1950s to the 1970s and denounced what it called a "despicable" attempt to smear Pope Benedict XVI and his aides.
But Wisconsin advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse suggested the Vatican's handling of the case involving Father Lawrence Murphy - and revelations on similar cases in Europe - provide evidence of an institutional coverup that spanned decades and continents.
"We are finally able to get this where we believe it belongs, and that's at the Vatican's doorstep," Mark Salmon of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said at a Thursday morning news conference outside the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's headquarters.
Murphy is believed to have molested as many as 200 deaf boys in his 25 years at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, luring many of his victims through the confessional.
How food contributes to global warming
Want to save the planet? Check what's at the end of your fork.
From production to consumption to waste, the world's food system accounts for a hefty slice � about 33 per cent � of what's heating up the planet, says Anna Lapp�n her book, Diet for a Hot Planet, to be published April 10. She argues that we need to radically change how food is produced and what we eat.
Lapp�s co-founder of the Small Planet Institute, a non-profit research network, and was named one of Time magazine's "Eco Who's Who."
She is the daughter of Frances Moore Lapp�author of the 1971 bestseller Diet for a Small Planet about the environmental and social impact of food choices.
States fighting healthcare law don't have precedent on their side
Reporting from Washington - Lawsuits from 14 states challenging the constitutionality of the new national healthcare law face an uphill battle, largely due to a far-reaching Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that upheld federal restrictions on home-grown marijuana in California.
At issue in that case -- just like in the upcoming challenges to the healthcare overhaul -- was the reach of the federal government's power.
Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy joined a 6-3 ruling that said Congress could regulate marijuana that was neither bought nor sold on the market but rather grown at home legally for sick patients.
They said the Constitution gave Congress nearly unlimited power to regulate the marketplace as part of its authority "to regulate commerce."
Cars pulled from Alaska auto graveyard
When Anchorage had to dispose of thousands of cars and trucks damaged in a powerful 1964 earthquake, it dumped them off a 350-foot bluff near the outskirts of town.
The car dumping didn't end there.
Over the years, the bluff remained a convenient place to get rid of stolen or unwanted vehicles, as evidenced by the 2006 Dodge amid the heap of crumpled, rusted car frames and muffler pipes poking out at odd angles.
But now an effort is under way to pull some of the more than 2,000 vehicles from the bluff and clean up the wildlife refuge below that was established in 1971. So far, workers have removed 60 to 70 cars, 2,000 tires and about 25 tons of other debris in an all-volunteer effort that began 2-1/2 years ago.
Former Cold War foes US, Russia to slash nukes
WASHINGTON --The U.S. and Russia sealed the first major nuclear weapons treaty in nearly two decades Friday, agreeing to slash the former Cold War rivals' warhead arsenals by nearly one-third and talking hopefully of eventually ridding a fearful world of nuclear arms altogether.
President Barack Obama said the pact was part of an effort to "reset" relations with Russia that have been badly frayed. And at home the agreement gave him the biggest foreign policy achievement of his presidency, just days after he signed the landmark health care overhaul that has been his domestic priority.
Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will sign the agreement April 8 in Prague, where Obama gave a major speech on doing away with nuclear arms one year ago. The city is the capital of the Czech Republic, a former Soviet satellite and now a NATO member.
If ratified by the Senate and by Russia's legislature, the reductions still would leave both countries, by far the world's largest nuclear powers, with immense arsenals --and the ability to easily annihilate each other. Together, the United States and Russia possess about 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Payday lending generated $75,000 in political donations in 2009
Madison � Payday lending representatives put nearly $75,000 in political coffers last year as they tried to fend off efforts to regulate their industry, a record for a nonelection year.
The industry also shifted the focus of its giving from Republicans, whom it traditionally backed, to Democrats, who took over the state Legislature last year, according to the report from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The group lobbies for limiting special-interest money in campaigns.
Wisconsin is the only state that does not regulate payday loans, which can cost borrowers 500% or more in interest per year.
Most of the campaign money went toward campaign committees controlled by legislative leaders.
Minn. boy who fled state to avoid chemo turns 14
A Minnesota boy who once fled the state with his mother to avoid chemotherapy for cancer has reason to celebrate.
Daniel Hauser of Sleepy Eye had his 14th birthday Friday, and family spokesman Dan Zwakman says he remains in remission.
Daniel was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last year and stopped chemotherapy because it made him sick. He and his mother fled the state before returning and complying with a court order to resume treatment.
Zwakman says Daniel is living a quieter life on the family farm now and has grown nearly a foot in the past few months. But he says Daniel's hair has lost its bright red color, and the family thinks the chemo is why he needs glasses.
Zwakman says Daniel is on a high-nutrition diet to make sure his cancer doesn't return.
Lemonade to ward off kidney stones
Q: The other day, someone wrote asking about kidney stones. To cut down on kidney stones, I drink several glasses of lemonade a week.
A: There is some scientific basis for your observation. Doctors often prescribe potassium citrate to disrupt kidney-stone formation. Lemonade also contains citrate, and some research shows that lemonade therapy reduces the rate of kidney-stone formation (Journal of Urology, April 2007).
Three or four glasses of lemonade per week are probably not enough to do much good, however. Studies of "lemonade therapy" have used 1 to 2 quarts of unsweetened or low-sugar lemonade daily.
Seals dying due to lack of sea ice: DFO
GATINEAU, Que. � Lack of sea ice in the Gulf of St Lawrence this year has led to a large number of seal pup deaths, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Friday.
Harp seals are probably familiar to most Canadians from images of the annual seal hunt. The animals need ice on which to give birth and feed their young. This year's absence of suitable ice means harp seal pups have been washing up on shore all along the Gulf, in Eastern Canada. People have been advised not to try to rescue the pups, which can weigh up to 30 kilograms, the department said.
According to the Fisheries Department, this year's predicted die-off will not affect long-term population levels. Because seals have long lives and females can have up to 15 pups in their 30- to 40-year lifespan, the lack of seals reaching maturity this year will not have a big impact, the department said. Still, DFO said it will be keeping an eye on ice conditions so it can plan future conservation measure is needed.
The seal hunt, which runs from November to may, will remain open this year, but timing and location could change due to the smaller number of pups.
3-year-old bitten by baby rattlesnake at OC school
Authorities say a 3-year-old Orange County boy is in stable condition at a hospital after being bitten by a baby rattlesnake.
Tustin Unified School District spokesman Mark Eliot said Friday that the boy was bitten during a lunch break this week at Ladera Elementary School where he attends preschool.
Eliot says the boy picked up the baby rattlesnake next to a trash can near the playground. He dropped it, reached down to pick it up again and was bitten.
A teacher's aide saw it happen and threw a trash can over the snake.
Spice packs recalled over salmonella concerns
OTTAWA � Flavour packages provided at some Little Caesars stores in Ontario have been recalled due to concerns some of the ingredients might have been contaminated with salmonella, but company officials stress that none of the pizzas they sell are affected.
Little Caesars Spice Paks, which were available to customers at the pizza chain's franchises in part of southern Ontario, contained black pepper that could be tainted with the food-borne bacteria.
Blue Line Foodservice Distribution of Farmington Hills, Mi., has voluntarily recalled all of the remaining packets.
No illnesses have been reported in connection with the packages. A spokesman for Little Caesars emphasized that the company's pizzas do not contain the black pepper, and that the action was taken out of "an abundance of caution."
Salmonella poisoning can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and in severe cases, death.
Bermas On Russia Today: Are Feds Planting Terrorists? [AJ]
Defense attorneys say an alleged plot to bomb New York synagogues was hatched and directed by a federal informant. They said the informant badgered the defendants until they got involved in the plot and the 4 men are also saying the FBI tried to bully them into targeting planes.
PAM COMMENTARY: As usual, it seems all or most "terrorist" attacks are orchestrated to support a political agenda.
Nuclear Labs Raise Doubts Over Viability of Arsenals
In a challenge to the White House, the nation�s nuclear weapons laboratories have warned Congress that federal programs to extend the life of the nation�s aging nuclear arsenal are insufficient to guarantee the viability of the weapons for decades to come.
The warning, which implicitly endorsed the idea of creating an expensive new generation of more reliable nuclear warheads, has no direct bearing on the new arms control agreement reached this week by the United States and Russia.
Rather, it addresses a long-simmering debate on what steps the United States should take to ensure confidence in the destructive capacity of its shrinking nuclear arsenal.
President Obama came into office vowing to end a Bush administration initiative to build a new generation of nuclear arms. In a speech last month to the National Defense University, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. praised the labs for maintaining the arsenal and promised an additional $5 billion over the next five years to support that work.
Congress OKs Final Changes to Healthcare Overhaul [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: So Obama is out on the campaign trail campaigning for the plan. He was interrupted in his speech in Iowa yesterday by a member of the audience who shouted, �What about the public option?� Does he now sign what the House and Senate have just passed?
RYAN GRIM: Right, he�ll sign that into law, and that will become the law of the land. And the main argument that Democrats have been using for why they wouldn�t have a vote on the public option these last few weeks is that it could upset the applecart and the entire reform effort might be put in jeopardy by it. And there might even be something to that. But the second that he puts his signature on this reconciliation bill, then healthcare reform is law. It�s over. So any fight that you have over the public option subsequent to that isn�t going to upset what they�ve already done. So there�s really no argument that they have left for why not go forward with it.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the jobless bill, that they go off now into recess, but Senator Coburn has stopped, as of April 5th, a number of jobless benefits that Americans could get.
RYAN GRIM: There was an amazing scene in the Senate yesterday. After the Senate pushed through its reconciliation package, fifty-six Democrats, they held a press conference just across the hall from the Senate floor, where they were all patting each other on the back and celebrating the great achievement, as the bill was being written up and sent over to the House. At that very second, there were no Democrats on the Senate floor. Tom Coburn goes in and starts a�and asks for unanimous consent to take the floor, takes the floor, and starts into a speech about unemployment. He introduces his own legislation regarding unemployment.
Harry Reid finally comes back into the chamber and says, �Senator Coburn, how long do you plan on talking?� He said, �Oh, I�ve got another forty-five minutes left or so.� And then it just devolved into chaos. Ultimately, he was able to block the unemployment extension from going through, and now Congress has two weeks of recess. Now, Democrats are saying when they come back after this, they can do it retroactively. But as of now, there are a lot of people that are in limbo as a result of the shenanigans last night.
'Green' light bulbs can pose hazard
In 2007, the Electrical Safety Authority issued a product safety alert about compact fluorescent lights because of increasing reports from consumers about what happens to the bulbs when they reach "end-of-life failure."
"When CFLs fail they may emit smoke, an odour, or a popping sound, and the plastic base may become discoloured, charred or deformed," the ESA stated.
The ESA cited certification agencies who advised such signs of failure do not present a hazard for approved products.
But the safety alert added: "ESA is concerned that it can be difficult for consumers to distinguish between what is normal and what may be a precursor to fire or some other hazardous condition."
F.D.A. Says Millions Got Unapproved Heart Pills
Doctors in the United States wrote more than four million prescriptions last year for nitroglycerin tablets, heart drugs placed under the tongue to reduce the chest pain angina or to stop a heart attack.
But the majority of the drugs sold had not been approved for sale, nor had their safety and effectiveness been vetted, by the Food and Drug Administration.
And many doctors, who discovered only last week that pharmacies were giving their patients unproved heart tablets, now say they have no way of knowing whether patients have suffered unnecessarily as a result.
�If it�s not approved and no one has tested it, we can�t be sure that it�s safe and effective,� said Dr. Harry M. Lever, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic. If patients with angina took substandard or ineffective nitroglycerin tablets, Dr. Lever said, their pain might not subside and the problem could potentially progress to a heart attack.
The priest who abused deaf boys for 24 years
Father Lawrence Murphy was a man with charm and social skills. Small of stature, he was a lively, sociable, charismatic Irishman, who also had the rare ability to communicate fluently in sign language. Watching him conduct a service with his hands is said to have been more moving than if words had been spoken.
He was the mentor and spiritual guide to hundreds of vulnerable boys � and one thing they learnt from him is that there are some disgusting individuals in the adult world who gratify their sleazy appetites without a thought for others. Father Murphy was a predatory paedophile whose crimes were all the more revolting for the helplessness of his victims. The pupils at St John's School, St Francis city, Wisconsin, were deaf. This was a boarding school, so there was no escape at nights from the vile priest who had power over them.
Anyway, he was the only adult many of them could communicate with. They were given no sex education, so they had no way of understanding what he was doing. Some may have thought they deserved this treatment.
Steven Geier was taken to St John's at the age of eight, after a high fever made him deaf. He was crying as his parents left, and it was Fr Murphy who offered comfort then, only to abuse him later. Mr Geier also witnessed about a dozen other boys being abused.
Ottawa joins the war on photography, sketching [AJ]
Mekki sez, �The city of Ottawa has launched a security campaign funded by Transport Canada (federally) that asks people to report any �suspicious behaviour�, which includes photographers and sketchers. They explicitly list �An individual taking photos or pictures [...], drawing maps or sketches� as things to report. My friend Sarah Gelbard teaches in the Architecture department at Carleton University in Ottawa. She had her students do a project on transit in the city last year. They all went to transit stations and took reference pictures to help plan out their projects. Security stopped and questioned several of them. And this was before this new campaign. I�m afraid what might happen now if people started calling in the �suspicious behaviour� of students taking photos of a transit station.�
Good to see the Anglo-American stupid creeping up to Canada. I suppose if terrorists were precision bombers who had to place their charges to the millimetre in order to succeed, this would make sense, but given that no one�s ever shown that terrorists attacks involve carefully photographing the attack-site (as opposed to simply walking up to it, finding a likely spot, and blowing up), this is simply a good way of absorbing police/security time that could be spent chasing actual bad guys.
D.A. on verge of mass drug-case dismissals
(03-26) 15:36 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco prosecutors told judges Friday that they could not "ethically go forward" with 46 narcotics trials because of evidence problems arising out of the scandal at the Police Department's drug-analysis lab - signaling that the district attorney is likely to dismiss nearly all 750 pending drug cases in the city.
"Based on what the district attorney's office knows about the issues within the narcotics division of the crime lab, we cannot ethically go forward with this prosecution," Assistant District Attorney Nancy Tung told a judge overseeing a case that was serving as a test of how much police and prosecutors had to disclose to defense attorneys about problems at the drug lab.
Prosecutors dropped that test case, a cocaine-sales trial, after having been deluged with 1,500 pages of police files about the lab that a spokesman for the district attorney called "troubling" and said pointed to possible larger problems in the Police Department.
Prosecutors are legally required to give up any evidence that could clear a defendant, and the judge in Mario Bell's cocaine-dealing case, who reviewed the papers in private, said Thursday that many of the police files could be relevant in Bell's trial. Now that his case has been dropped, however, the documents will not be given to his attorney.
Montreal shop claims soap made from Holocaust victims
MONTREAL � A vendor�s claim that soap for sale in his Montreal trinket shop is made from the corpses of Second World War victims was greeted Friday with both outrage and ridicule.
But Montreal police said they are investigating after B�nai Brith League for Human Rights lodged a complaint under a Criminal Code ban on violating human remains.
The story surfaced after a CBC radio reporter disclosed that a curio shop on St. Laurent Blvd. was selling a bar of soap allegedly made from the fat of Holocaust victims.
The light brown bar was inscribed with a swastika and enclosed in a glass case with a card that said it was from Poland, around 1940, according to CBC.
Gaffe on detainees file exposes role of politics, ex-colonel says (Canada)
An apparent slipup in the federal government�s censoring of Afghan detainee documents shows Ottawa is using its black marker to hide potentially embarrassing information, a military and information law expert says.
Under pressure from opposition parties, the Harper government made public 2,600 pages of heavily censored records on the detainee controversy this week. It insisted that civil servants, not Conservative staff, decided what to keep secret � only withholding information judged to be injurious to national security.
But in one instance, a description of rebellious activity by detainees is apparently blacked out in one portion of the 2,600 documents but inadvertently disclosed in another section. It�s presumably the result of diverging censorship decisions by separate officials.
The sentences in question describe how detainees began testing and challenging their Canadian captors in early 2008. Prisoners are held in a short-term Forces detention facility before being transferred to Afghan authorities.
Supreme Court stops execution of convicted killer in Texas
Reporting from Washington - With just an hour to spare, the Supreme Court blocked the Wednesday evening execution in Texas of convicted murderer Hank Skinner, who maintains his innocence and who has sought DNA testing of key evidence for a decade.
The justices issued a stay of execution and said they wanted more time to consider Skinner's appeal. It will probably be several weeks before the court decides whether to hear his case.
Last year, the court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution does not give convicts the right to demand DNA testing of crime-scene evidence. The case, however, did not involve a prisoner facing execution.
Skinner had sued the county district attorney seeking DNA tests on semen and skin samples as well as two bloody knives and a man's windbreaker, all taken from the scene of a triple homicide in the north Texas town of Pampa 16 years ago.
EPA proposes blocking West Virginia mountaintop mine
WASHINGTON � The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed to halt the largest mountaintop mine in Central Appalachia, saying the project would pollute drinking water and harm wildlife in mountain streams, and that the damage to the mountains would be irreversible.
Despite the strong language, however, the EPA's action only begins another lengthy process about the controversial mine. In the end, the agency could prohibit the mine altogether or allow it to continue with restrictions.
The EPA found that mining the coal at Spruce No. 1 in Logan County, West Virginia, would fill six valleys, bury more than seven miles of streams, destroy 2,278 acres of forest and pollute water in adjacent streams.
The proposed veto of the mine's permit is a rare step in three decades of mountaintop mining in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. This is the first time the EPA has proposed to veto a mine that already had received a permit. It's the 12th time it used the veto power for any project since the Clean Water Act of 1972 became law.
Downstream water users warned of cow carcasses in Yellowstone River
BILLINGS - During a winter storm in January, when the temperature plunged to 26 below and the wind was blowing, a group of cows seeking shelter went over a bank and broke through ice on the Yellowstone River in Rosebud County.
All of the 52 Angus cows belonging to the Schiffer Ranch Co. drowned.
The carcasses are now washing up on sandbars along an 11-mile stretch of river from Rosebud to Hathaway, prompting reports to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. A few carcasses have turned up on a sandbar by a highway rest stop near Hathaway.
Joe Schiffer, who ranches with his family by Rosebud, said he's willing to retrieve the carcasses if he can get to them safely. So far, nobody has called him with the location of any of the cows, he said.
Police chief decapitated in northern Mexico town
The windshield and driver's door of the patrol car had "C.D.G.," an acronym for the Gulf drug cartel, written in blood, photos showed.
The border state of Nuevo Leon, where Agualeguas and General Trevino are located, has seen an upsurge in violence that authorities say is the result of a turf battle between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas, the cartel's former hit men.
The slayings came a day after Mexican marines on patrol in the Nuevo Leon town of Cerralvo came under fire after ordering a convoy of gunmen traveling in six vehicles to stop. Six of the assailants were killed.
Nearly 18,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an assault on cartels after taking office in December 2006.
Bank of America to reduce mortgage principal for some borrowers
Amid increasing government pressure to stem foreclosures, Bank of America Corp. said Wednesday that it would offer to erase as much as $3 billion in principal owed by thousands of severely delinquent borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth.
The bank's plan is by far the most ambitious and systematic effort by a major lender to help homeowners avoid foreclosures while continuing to make loan payments. Unlike previous initiatives, this one will be geared toward borrowers who are so far underwater that they are unlikely to be helped by a government housing relief plan.
If successful, the plan could become a model for other lenders, experts say, and could also help the still-fragile housing market from being walloped by a new wave of foreclosures.
"I think this is a strong signal to the industry about the importance of principal reduction in a loan modification program," said Paul Leonard, California director of the Center for Responsible Lending, an advocacy group.
Criminal investigation launched after officer seen kicking men in video
There will be a criminal investigation into a Victoria police officer's actions after a video was posted on YouTube showing him kicking two young men outside a nightclub this weekend.
"The images are distressing and the reaction on an emotional level is one of shock," Victoria police Chief Jamie Graham told a news conference Wednesday as the video went viral on the Internet.
The 56-second video � viewed more than 60,000 times on YouTube by mid-afternoon � was shot early Sunday morning under the dim illumination of street lights.
It shows three Victoria police officers scrambling to make arrests after, according to police, a group of men, age 19 to 27, got into a bloody brawl which reportedly included one man being kicked in the head by bar patrons until he lay unconscious.
WikiLeaks Monitored by U.S., Icelandic Authorities Over Pentagon Murder Video [AJ]
Employees of whistleblower site Wikileaks claim to be monitored and maintained by employees of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Icelandic authorities. The occasion would be a video, which an air of Americans to see.
On April 5 to Wikileaks at a meeting of the National Press Club in Washington a video showing an attack by the U.S. Air Force. It would involve a murder carried out by the Pentagon. The staff of the site also draw on information from CIA aircraft have as supporting evidence.The staff of the site also draw on information from CIA aircraft have as supporting evidence.
Wikileaks claims on Twitter regarding the upcoming screening to be at work. Employees would be monitored by the U.S. and Icelandic authorities. These are photos and videos taken of the employees, an employee is 22 hours would be arrested and tried to get the video.
Employees would be monitored by the U.S. and Icelandic authorities. These are photos and videos taken of the employees, an employee is 22 hours would be arrested and tried to get the video.
Adviser found dead after Ponzi probe started; Flamborough businessman at centre of $40 million lawsuit discovered in home on day of case hearing
RCMP investigators are probing the affairs of a financial adviser who was discovered dead last week and is the subject of a court case alleging he bilked dozens of southern Ontario investors out of more than $40 million.
The RCMP's Integrated Market Enforcement Team in Toronto has been investigating Robert John Mander since February, said Sgt. Marc LaPorte, the force's spokesman for Ontario.
The team is "currently assessing their next investigational steps as the result of Mander's recent death," he said. Mander was the head of E.M.B. Asset Group Inc. in Oakville, incorporated in 2008, according to court documents.
Hamilton police were called to Mander's house on Stonebury Pl. in Flamborough on March 17.
Check all groceries, police warn, amidst concerns of copycat tampering
Police are warning Calgarians to closely inspect their groceries following another rash of food tampering -- just a week after charges were filed in a similar case.
Three Sobeys stores in the city's south have now been hit. Metal items were found by customers in two kaiser buns and an avocado. Police worry that if such food tampering continues, someone could be seriously injured.
Among several possibilities, police say, is the prospect this was the work of a copycat.
That's because these latest incidents come on the heels of several cases of food tampering that occurred at the Oakridge Co-op this year.
Aviation pioneer Elinor Smith dies in Palo Alto
Elinor Smith, who was considered one of the youngest and most daring pilots in the 1920s when she set a number of flying records, has died. She was 98.
Smith died Friday at a nursing home in Palo Alto, said her son, Patrick Sullivan of Santa Cruz.
She became a licensed pilot just after her 16th birthday, Sullivan said. At age 17, she became an instant celebrity when she flew under all four of New York's East River suspension bridges.
Sullivan said his mother set the women's solo flying endurance record in 1929 during a 13 1/2 hour flight. She set an even longer mark just three months later when she flew solo for 26 1/2 hours.
1 in 3 breast cancer cases may be avoidable; Exercise, diet, alcohol consumption play role in disease, researchers say
BARCELONA, Spain - Up to a third of breast cancer cases in Western countries could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more, researchers at a conference said Thursday, renewing a sensitive debate about how lifestyle factors affect the disease.
Better treatments, early diagnosis and mammogram screenings have dramatically slowed breast cancer, but experts said the focus should now shift to changing behaviors like diet and physical activity.
"What can be achieved with screening has been achieved. We can't do much more," Carlo La Vecchia, head of epidemiology at the University of Milan, said in an interview. "It's time to move on to other things."
La Vecchia spoke Thursday at a European breast cancer conference in Barcelona. He cited figures from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which estimates that 25 percent to 30 percent of breast cancer cases could be avoided if women were thinner and exercised more. The agency is part of the World Health Organization.
Feds alter policy on gays in military
The procedures unveiled yesterday add up to the biggest change in the policy that gays and lesbians cannot serve openly in the military since it was passed by Congress in 1993.
The new guidelines raise the level of officer entitled to initiate an inquiry into a case and the level of officer authorized to order a dismissal. They also seek to discourage false allegations and overheard comments or hearsay by requiring that third-party testimony be given under oath, and make any statements gay service personnel make to their lawyers, doctors, psychotherapists or clergy confidential.
�I believe these changes represent an important improvement in the way the current law is put into practice � above all, by providing a greater measure of common sense and common decency to a process for handling what are difficult and complex issues for all involved,� Gates said at a Pentagon news conference with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
An estimated 13,000 service personnel have been discharged from the military for homosexuality since 1993.
Rep. Dingell Admits Obamacare Will Eventually �Control the People� (Video) [AJ]
�It takes a long time to do the necessary administrative steps� to control the people.�
Montreal General Hospital 'urged us to let her go'; Family alleges woman's health issues were dismissed because of her advanced age
MONTREAL � When Donata Pesce learned she had an inoperable brain tumour last June, her doctor told her she had about a year to live.
Pesce, 78, died three months later � not from the tumour, but from acute respiratory distress.
She was asphyxiated by the vomit in her oxygen mask.
Only three weeks earlier, Pesce was dancing till dawn at a wedding, her daughter, Luisa Frattaroli, said.
FDA Allowing Mentor to Drop Women From Study & DeLauro Letter To FDA
Less than one year after approval, FDA allows company to change study requirement Washington , D.C. � Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn. � 3), as part of an on-going effort to ensure that science � and not corporate interests � informs decisions within the Food and Drug Administration, sent a letter to Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, FDA Commissioner, seeking information regarding a change in a mandatory post-market requirement for silicone breast implants.
Earlier this year, Mentor , a manufacturer of silicone breast implants, announced that the FDA approved an amendment to the company's Post Approval Study Protocol that eliminated a mandatory requirement that each patient receiving silicone breast implants be enrolled into a study.
The FDA approval of silicone breast implants last November was based on a number of conditions that the manufacturers were to follow, and those conditions already appear to be changing less than on year after their approval.
"If true, this raises serious policy questions regarding the FDA's post marketing approval process," DeLauro stated. "This also raises serious questions about the FDA's ability and willingness to conduct the new post-market safety measures that were recently enacted in the new Prescription Drug User Fee Act.
PAM COMMENTARY: I found this link on the
humanticsfoundation.com web site, a great resource for breast implant dangers.
U.S., Russia agree to slash nuclear arsenals
Reporting from Washington - American and Russian officials have reached a deal to slash their nuclear arsenals after eight months of unexpectedly tough negotiations, sources close to the talks said Wednesday.
President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who ordered the negotiations begun last July, still must sign off on details of the agreement, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.
The two leaders are expected to sign a treaty next month in Prague, Czech Republic.
The accord will replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, and will set limits on the number of long-range deployed nuclear warheads, as well as the number of nuclear-capable bombers and missiles.
Social Security to See Payout Exceed Pay-In This Year
The bursting of the real estate bubble and the ensuing recession have hurt jobs, home prices and now Social Security.
This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, said that while the Congressional projection would probably be borne out, the change would have no effect on benefits in 2010 and retirees would keep receiving their checks as usual.
The problem, he said, is that payments have risen more than expected during the downturn, because jobs disappeared and people applied for benefits sooner than they had planned. At the same time, the program�s revenue has fallen sharply, because there are fewer paychecks to tax.
Boy, 4, killed by sled dogs in Nunavut
IQALUIT � Sled dogs attacked and killed a four-year-old boy in a remote Nunavut village this week, according to police.
RCMP officers in the town of Pangnirtung responded to a call Monday morning reporting that a boy had mauled by three dogs who had broken free from chains.
The unnamed child was taken to the local health centre for treatment, where he was pronounced dead.
The three animals, all part of an area sled team, were later "located and put down by a local."
Sunk by global warming? Wave goodbye to this disputed island
Reporting from New Delhi - Global warming appears to have finally resolved a dispute that gunboats never could: An island midway between India and Bangladesh that became a catalyst for military threats in the 1980s is now submerged under the rising sea.The Bay of Bengal island, which India called New Moore Island and Bangladesh referred to as South Talpatti, has ceased to exist, the Jadavpur University's School of Oceanic Studies declared this week.
Sugata Hazra, director of the program, said he started looking at satellite imagery recently after reading news reports that the island, which peaked at 1.3 miles long and 1.1 miles wide, was actually becoming larger. Close examination failed to reveal anything. He then checked with local fishermen.
"They confirmed the island had gone sometime back," he said. "We raised the alarm that we'd better take stock of how much loss is occurring."
The tiny island was first noticed after a severe cyclone in the early 1970s. Both countries soon laid claim amid speculation that there might be oil or natural gas beneath its sandy shores.
More Propaganda On Breast Implant Bombs [AJ]
Female homicide bombers are being fitted with exploding breast implants which are almost impossible to detect, British spies have reportedly discovered.
The shocking new Al Qaeda tactic involves radical doctors inserting the explosives in women�s breasts during plastic surgery -- making them �virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines.�
It is believed the doctors have been trained at some of Britain�s leading teaching hospitals before returning to their own countries to perform the surgical procedures.
MI5 has also discovered that extremists are inserting the explosives into the buttocks of some male bombers.
PAM COMMENTARY: Very unlikely -- it would give the would-be bomber no access to the device once implanted.
China moves appear to target Google
On Monday, Google redirected traffic from its Chinese search engine, Google.cn, to an unfiltered site in Hong Kong, a less-regulated special administrative region of the nation. The move made good on a promise the Mountain View Internet giant made on Jan. 12 to stop censoring search results in China, after revealing that it and dozens of other U.S. businesses were victims of intricate cyberspying that originated there.
Chinese government firewalls quickly disabled searches for controversial topics from the mainland to the Hong Kong site, Google.com.hk, or blocked links to certain results, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Under apparent government pressure, China Mobile, the country's largest cellular communications company, was expected to remove Google's search engine from its service, the newspaper said, citing business executives close to industry officials.
Likewise, China Unicom has halted the rollout of a mobile phone that runs on Google's Android platform while Internet portal Tom.com ceased using Google technology in its search engine.
Study: One-third of Americans use library computers
A third of Americans -- about 77 million people -- use public-library computers to look for jobs, connect with friends, do their homework and improve their lives, according to a University of Washington study released Thursday.
The study results confirm what public libraries have been saying as they compete for public dollars to expand their services and high-speed Internet access: Library use by the general public is widespread -- and not just among poor people.
But researchers found that those living below the federal poverty line -- families of four with a household income of $22,000 or less -- had the highest use of library computers. Among those households, 44 percent reported using public-library computers and Internet access during the past year.
Among those aged 14-24 in poor households, 61 percent used public-library computers and Internet for education purposes, though young people were the biggest users of library computers among all demographics groups.
Internet Filters; A Public Policy Report (PDF file)
Every new technology brings with it both excitement and anxiety. No sooner was the Internet upon us in the 1990s than anxiety arose over the ease of accessing pornography and other controversial content. In response, entrepreneurs soon developed filtering products. By the end of the decade, a new industry had emerged to create and market Internet filters.
These filters were highly imprecise. The problem was intrinsic to filtering technology. The sheer size of the Internet meant that identifying potentially offensive content had to be done mechanically, by matching �key� words and phrases; hence, the blocking of Web sites for �Middlesex County,� �Beaver College,� and �breast cancer��just three of the better-known among thousands of examples of overly broad filtering. Internet filters were crude and error-prone because they categorized expression without regard to its context, meaning, and value.
Some policymakers argued that these inaccuracies were an acceptable cost of keeping the Internet safe, especially for kids. Others�including many librarians, educators, and civil libertarians�argued that the cost was too high. To help inform this policy debate, the Free Expression Policy Project (FEPP ) published a report in the fall of 2001 summarizing the results of more than 70 empirical studies on the performance of Internet filters. These studies ranged from anecdotal accounts of blocked sites to extensive research applying social-science methods.
Nearly every study revealed substantial overblocking. That is, even taking into account that filter manufacturers use broad and vague blocking categories�for example, �violence,� �tasteless/gross,� or �lifestyle��their products arbitrarily and irrationally blocked many Web pages that had no relation to the disapproved content categories. For example:
� N Net Nanny, SurfWatch, CY BER sitter, and Bess blocked House Majority Leader Richard �Dick� Armey�s official Web site upon detecting the word �dick.�
� SmartFilter blocked the Declaration of Independence, Shakespeare�s complete plays, Moby Dick, and Marijuana: Facts for Teens, a brochure published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
PAM COMMENTARY: This is the best piece of serious research I've seen on censorship in this country under the guise of CIPA internet filters, by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. (I love the graphic on the front of the pamphlet, showing how Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" would be filtered down to the clam shell if subjected to CIPA criteria.) This brochure even includes problems I'd described on my site, in fact they contacted me for more information before it went to publication. (It was no fault of the librarians, who seemed just as surprised as I was -- it was the fault of their software vendor.) See page 71 for a reference to my site.
PresidentMoron.com -- One of the sites censored by CIPA filters (FLASHBACK)
Wednesday, September 24, 2008, 06:42 PM - Jay O-Three WARSHINGTON - President MORON has just tried to convince Americans that Wall Street Investment Bankers need a Seven Hundred Billion Dollar bail out. YAWN MCLAME has suspended his campaign and is rushing back to WARSHINGTON because somehow, after missing two hundred and fifty floor votes in a row in the Senate, he has become convinced that the input of an ancient invertebrate will be necessary to engineer this heist of public funds. The same Banana Republicans -- who describe universal healthcare as socialism -- are suddenly lining up at the trough for some socialized capitalism because your health doesn't matter, but their bank accounts do. This hands-on-MBA-President MORON who failed to protect us from known terrorists, who failed to find any Weapons of Mass Deception, who is losing two wars at once (one of them to a dead guy), who fails again and again to help the victims of natural disasters, who has failed to create a single job in eight years, who has steered the strongest economy in the world into a ditch, and, who has never once put the needs of the country ahead of the greed of his cronies, is trying to stampede Congress into another panic-based boondoggle. While Investment Bankers are stealing your home through forclosure, they are demanding that you bail them out of their self-inflicted meltdown with your tax dollars. That's right, not one dime for homeowners, hundreds of billions of dollars for greedy bankers.
At the same time, the turmoil caused by this fictitious crisis has exposed once and for all the truth that it is speculators that ran up the price of oil. After oil declined in price every day during four successive hurricanes (which had falsely been blamed for the high oil prices along with increased demand in Asia), on the day Hank Paulson started saying the sky was falling, the price of oil shot up by the largest amount ever in a single day. Naked greed knows no shame.
But, now, the wealthy are hurting. Their golden parachutes are becoming tattered. They can't unload their foreclosed properties fast enough. And only draining the treasury of The United States will satisfy their avarice. So buck up, shut up and put up for the greedy. President MORON has failed us yet again, and as always, the only solution is to pay, pay, pay!
PAM COMMENTARY: This was one of several sites I found filtered by software installed on library computers to comply with CIPA, a law mandating that pornography sites be banned for the sake of children using library computers. Obviously, there never was any porno on PresidentMoron.com, or any of the other political satire sites I found blocked by CIPA software. Yet the filter software company decided to block it anyway. Was it because they objected to criticism of the Bush administration, or because the real goal of CIPA was to filter out political dissent using porno as the excuse?
U.S. Supreme Court delays Texas execution
HUNTSVILLE � The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday halted the execution of Henry Skinner just one hour before he was to be put to death for the 1993 murders of his Pampa girlfriend and her two adult sons.
The stay will remain in effect until the high court rules on a second petition filed by Skinner's attorneys asking for a review of an appellate court decision denying a request for DNA testing of bloody knives, material beneath the dead woman's fingernails, rape kit samples and other items found at the murder scene. Skinner's request for testing was denied because it was filed as a civil rights claim.
Lead attorney Rob Owen of the University of Texas' Capital Punishment Center said in his petition for a writ of certioari that seven of the nation's nine federal circuit courts of appeal would have accepted a civil rights claim. Only two, including the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth District, which turned Skinner down, would not.
Skinner expressed surprise at the stay.
Thick as a Brick: Lib Bloggers Blame Militia for Broken Dem Windows [AJ]
It�s more grist for David Neiwert�s mill. �Authorities in Wichita and some other cities across the country are investigating vandalism against Democratic offices, apparently in response to health care reform,� reports The Kansas City Star. �And on Monday, a former Alabama militia leader took credit for instigating the actions.�
�As David Neiwert�s been pointing out for a while, right-wing extremist fury is only growing now that we have a black Democrat in the White House. Now that the health-care bill has actually passed, and the right wing has bought the hysteria that this is an �assault on liberty,� expect this � and worse,� writes Susie Madrak for the lib blog, Crooks and Liars.
Neiwert is the poster child for the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups that work with the Department of Homeland Security to demonize folks who think it is a good idea to follow the Constitution. He writes for the corporate media, including the CIA�s favorite newspaper, The Washington Post, and has made a cottage industry out demonizing patriots. For his diligence, Neiwert received a National Press Club award, a prized trophy for faithful members of the corporate media.
�Mike Vanderboegh, of Pinson, Ala., former head of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, put out a call on Friday for modern �Sons of Liberty� to break the windows of Democratic Party offices nationwide in opposition to health care reform. Since then, vandals have struck several offices, including the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita,� The Kansas City Star continues. The brick had had �some anti-Obama rhetoric� written on it, according to a Dem party functionary.
PAM COMMENTARY: They're taking a few incidents of vandalism and spinning them into propaganda justifying the health care bill. Instead of being honest about the middle class people whose lives will be ruined by a law forcing them to give most of their net income to insurance companies, they're writing off people genuinely harmed by the bill as a bunch of bigoted vandals. Well, if a few of them do throw bricks through the windows, so what? It's only natural for people to rebel when faced with tyranny.
More than 1 million baby slings recalled
LONDON (Reuters) � Scandinavian scientists said on Wednesday they had found no evidence that screening women for breast cancer has any effect on death rates, adding to an already fierce international debate about routine testing.
In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from Denmark and Norway said reductions in breast cancer death rates in regions with screening were the same or actually smaller than in areas where no women were screened.
"Our results are similar to what has been observed in other countries with nationally organized programs," said Karsten Jorgensen of the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, who led the research. "It is time to question whether screening has delivered the promised effect on breast cancer mortality."
A row blew up in the United States in last November after public health officials on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force questioned the value of screening mammograms for women under 40 and suggested raising the annual screening age to 50.
Scientists find breast cancer screening doesn't save lives
More than 1 million baby slings made by Infantino were recalled Wednesday after claims linking them to three infant deaths.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said babies could suffocate in the soft fabric slings. The agency urged parents to immediately stop using the slings for babies under 4 months.
The recall involves 1 million Infantino "SlingRider" and "Wendy Bellissimo" slings in the United States and 15,000 in Canada.
Infantino President Jack Vresics said the company has been working closely with the commission on its sling concerns.
Tester proposes changes to way U.S. traces contaminated meat
At issue is the way the U.S. government tracks E. coli- and salmonella-contaminated meat in cases of food borne illness.
Investigations currently stop at butcher shops and packing plants, but Tester said the real contamination takes place in slaughterhouses where animals are cut open and fecal bacteria from intestines and hides can come in contact with meat. For decades, rules for required testing have made it impossible to trace contamination back to slaughterhouses.
Tester said he will introduce a bill this week to amend the Meat Inspection Act, changing those rules to get to the source of a food illnesses like E. coli. Roughly 73,000 Americans are sickened annually by E. coli, 2,000 are hospitalized and 61 are killed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Medical costs associated with E. coli exceed $405 million a year.
"If nothing changes, we are virtually guaranteed there will be ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls as a consequence of the U.S. Department of Agricultures' unwillingness to trace contamination back to the source," said John Munsell, a former Miles City butcher and advocate for reforming food safety laws.
Making mosquitoes into 'flying vaccinators'
TOKYO � Japanese researchers hope one day to turn blood-sucking mosquitoes into deliverers of vaccines that could instead inoculate millions for free.
A new study shows real promise for turning the reviled insects into heroes by genetically modifying them to make them "flying vaccinators", according to scientists at Jichi Medical University north of Tokyo.
The researchers have already genetically modified a mosquito species so that its saliva contains a protein that acts as a vaccine against leishmaniasis, a sandfly-borne disease that triggers terrible skin sores and can be fatal.
The team confirmed that mice bitten by the transgenic mosquito developed an antibody to the disease, meaning they had built up immunity, said Shigeto Yoshida, the associate professor who has led the research.
PAM COMMENTARY: Projects like that may start out with good intentions, but if the technology became available, I wouldn't be surprised if certain people used it to make people ill in order to sell more drugs.
Police across Canada rolling out armoured vehicles
Numerous law-enforcement agencies across the country have recently acquired armoured vehicles for their tactical operations.
The Ottawa Police Service on Wednesday unveiled their BearCat � sort of like a Hummer on steroids. And RCMP in British Columbia announced this week that they had acquired two six-wheeled, all-terrain vehicles from the Canadian Forces.
Armoured vehicles are also in use in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria and several other municipalities.
Police forces say these bulletproof vehicles � none of which are equipped with any artillery � provide an extra layer of protection for officers when responding to dangerous situations, such as gun calls or high-risk search warrants.
Shifting approaches in the drug war
Some 16,000 people have been killed over the last four years in violence among factions in Mexican drug cartels, but the murders this month of two U.S. citizens in the border town of Juarez helped spur the governments of Mexico and the United States to rethink the ways they combat the problem.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with their counterparts Tuesday in Mexico City, they said they had agreed to reshape the Merida Initiative launched by President George W. Bush to combat drug violence. They decided to focus less on technology and infrastructure -- such as border walls and helicopters -- and more on supporting communities plagued with violence, disrupting trafficking and increasing economic opportunities.
In other words, no longer would the governments rely on a strategy of sending in the Mexican Army to clear neighborhoods and kick in doors. Because that hasn't been working.
President Bush made a similar calculation in Iraq three years ago, and President Barack Obama has done the same in Afghanistan. Each embraced a counterinsurgency strategy that emphasized protecting the local populations above heavy-handed military sweeps. Bush's conversion may have salvaged what appeared to be a lost cause in Iraq; Obama hopes for similar progress in Afghanistan.
Haditha Killings: Last Marine May Not See Trial [AJ]
A legal snafu could clear the way to freedom for the Marine sergeant perhaps most responsible for the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in the infamous Haditha massacre of 2005.
A motion filed by Sgt. Frank Wuterich�s attorneys claims that Gen. James Mattis, who initially leveled charges against Wuterich and seven other Marines, was improperly influenced in legal matters by an aide who was involved in the investigation into the shooting, Col. John Ewers.
According to senior defense counsel Haytham Faraj, court martial law prevents someone involved in the investigation from giving advice on legal matters related to the case.
Bush wipes his hand on Clinton's sleeve after shaking hands in Haiti (Video included) [AJ]
In the video below, George W. Bush demonstrates his utter contempt for humanity. After shaking hands with a victim of the Haitian earthquake, the former two-term president (thanks to rigged voting machines) and notable war criminal wiped his hand on Bill Clinton�s sleeve.
After Katrina, the rapper and record producer Kanye West said: �George Bush doesn�t care about black people.�
It�s far worse than that. George W. Bush, a member of the Nazi-loving Bush crime family, hates and despises humanity. He is a sociopath like so many members of the ruling elite he served while warming a seat in the White House.
As the governor of Texas, it was not enough that Bush presided over a large number of executions. He felt compelled to mock Karla Faye Tucker, a convicted murderer who later led a prison ministry.
PAM COMMENTARY: The implication of many blogs is that Bush doesn't like black people, and so that's why he wiped his hand on Bill Clinton's sleeve after shaking the hands of Haitians. After this video was aired, MSNBC also quoted one of Obama's books, recounting the fact that Bush used hand sanitizer after shaking Obama's hand for the first time. It may be true that Bush doesn't like touching black hands, but it's also possible that the tropical island had made his palms sweaty. Not that it's an excuse for using someone else's sleeve to do the job -- wasn't he wearing his own shirt, or pants that would serve as an emergency hand towel?
George Bush "Picks a Winner" (FLASHBACK) (Video)
PAM COMMENTARY: This isn't the one where he eats the booger -- I have seen footage of both Bush and his wife picking their noses and eating it-- but at least this video was easily found, and good enough for a flashback.
Gordon Brown Picks His Nose Eats Bogies (FLASHBACK) (Video)
PAM COMMENTARY: The British are not to be outdone!
Where Your Lost Luggage Ends Up
(CBS) Ever wonder what happens to the luggage that is unclaimed at the airport?
One percent of bags go unclaimed every year in the U.S., but with nearly 700 million airline passengers it adds up to quite a bit of stuff.
So what happens to all of it?
CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg unlocked the mystery, finding the end of the line for lost luggage. On "The Early Show" Greenberg introduced viewers to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Ala.
PAM COMMENTARY: I don't think it's true that the bags are really "lost." When my bags were lost (their fault, not mine), they told me that they wouldn't have been willing to return them to me if I hadn't attached luggage tags with my name and address -- even if I could identify the contents, or other contents in the bags had my name on them. So I see this whole operation as stealing customers' luggage. (I was also told by an airline that they no longer pay for luggage they've damaged -- after they returned my bags with slashes on the sides and a wheel broken off. Basically they'd ruined my biggest suitcase, and weren't willing to take any responsibility.) More reasons not to fly, if you didn't have enough already.
Patrick Kennedy leaves note for Ted on gravesite: "Dad, the unfinished business is done."
The political odyssey of health care reform in many ways is the story of Ted Kennedy, and as President Obama signed the historic bill into law Tuesday, Kennedy's gravesite was a place of quiet celebration and poignant reflection.
The late senator's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, spent hours Sunday at the simple white cross at Arlington National Cemetery marking where her husband was laid to rest only seven months ago. Ted Kennedy's youngest son, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), visited on Monday morning and left a hand-written note that read: "Dad, the unfinished business is done."
And on a dreary Tuesday morning, dozens of school children and health care advocates paused at Kennedy's tombstone to commemorate the man who for decades made overhauling the nation's health-care system his life's mission.
Kennedy's legacy was not lost on anyone who filled the East Room of the White House for Obama's bill-signing ceremony. Members of Congress wore blue "TedStrong" wristbands in his honor and posed for pictures with Patrick Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy, the senator's niece, sat in the front row, with other members of the storied family. Vicki Kennedy walked into the room with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).
PAM COMMENTARY: Yeah, one day he'll take that note back -- when he figures out they've just rewarded the very profiteers who killed his father. Pam's note to Ted Kennedy's ghost: don't let your kid make a fool of himself -- lead him to the TRUTH.
Good-Bye; Truth Has Fallen and Taken Liberty With It, By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS [R]
There was a time when the pen was mightier than the sword. That was a time when people believed in truth and regarded truth as an independent power and not as an auxiliary for government, class, race, ideological, personal, or financial interest.
Today Americans are ruled by propaganda. Americans have little regard for truth, little access to it, and little ability to recognize it.
Truth is an unwelcome entity. It is disturbing. It is off limits. Those who speak it run the risk of being branded �anti-American,� �anti-semite� or �conspiracy theorist.�
Truth is an inconvenience for government and for the interest groups whose campaign contributions control government.
Truth is an inconvenience for prosecutors who want convictions, not the discovery of innocence or guilt.
Truth is inconvenient for ideologues.
Shame on Republicans and Democrats for Obamacare [AJ]
The Democrats ushered in Obamacare but Republicans laid the groundwork in 2003, and were certainly no heroes in the lead up to this latest big government scheme. (Video)
PAM COMMENTARY: Note that the Medicare drug benefit they mention here, signed into law by Bush during his presidency, benefited Bush's family who had invested heavily in the pharmaceutical industry. That's what the Bush family is all about -- money for them (and a few of their friends), death and suffering for everyone else. Notice the intense looting of the economy just before Bush left office.
The health care bill just signed into law by Obama will actually benefit the same medical-pharmaceutical-insurance industry who killed Obama's mother and made the last days of her life into a living hell. Obama's mother never had to die, nor did his friend Ted Kennedy. The medical industry (with the assistance of the FDA) has been suppressing every viable cancer cure since at least the 1930s. Real cures are banned from the field in favor of lucrative but ineffective "disease management," designed to maximize medical profits over a patient's entire lifetime, not save lives. That's why the party line on all of the big money-making diseases is always "Nobody knows what causes (fill in the blank)." Any doctor claiming to know the causes of these diseases, or mentioning anything that can genuinely cure or benefit its victims is accused of "quackery," and licensed doctors daring to try any such treatments are threatened with loss of their medical licenses or jail. Now Obama is rewarding the very profiteers who designed the death of his mother into their medical profiteering system. How naive. The medical field needs strict oversight and price regulation -- to the point where they're forced to accept real life-saving protocols and technology into their field.
Britain expels Israeli diplomat
Britain has expelled a senior Israeli official from London in the latest fallout from the murder of a Hamas commander at his Dubai hotel in January.
The expulsion came after the British intelligence concluded there was "compelling evidence" that the fake UK passports used by the Dubai hit squad were created by Mossad, the Israeli special operations unit.
"Such misuse of British passports is intolerable," the Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Parliament. "The fact that this was done by a country which is a friend, with significant diplomatic, cultural, business and personal ties to the UK, only adds insult to injury."
In an unusual move last night, the Foreign Office also updated its travel advice for Israel, warning would-be visitors of the perils of passport cloning.
Secrecy surrounds Canada's Afghan wounded
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN�The Canadian military has quietly stopped reporting when soldiers are wounded on the battlefield and will instead deliver annual statistics to the public.
The stark policy shift is described as a deliberate attempt to keep the Taliban in the dark.
The weekend death of Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick in an Edmonton trauma centre brought the directive to the forefront. The 21-year-old was mortally wounded in a previously unreported March 6 roadside bombing.
Fitzpatrick, of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, was on a foot patrol with Afghan soldiers when the blast occurred in the volatile Zhari district, west of Kandahar.
Suu Kyi wants party to boycott Burma election
Burma's detained opposition leader has indicated that she believes her party should boycott a controversial poll planned for later this year � further undermining the credibility of what many believe is a "sham" election.
Aung San Suu Kyi told her lawyer she believed the National League for Democracy (NLD) should not register because a series of restrictions � including the demand that she be ousted from her party � were unjust. "Personally, I would not even think of registering [the party] under these unjust laws," Ms Suu Kyi said, according to her lawyer, Nyan Win, who met her yesterday at the crumbling house in Rangoon where she is under house arrest. "I am not instructing the party or the people. They are free to make their decisions democratically."
The military junta that controls Burma, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), claims that an election planned for later this year will help to move the country towards democracy. Many independent observers believe the election will simply further cement the military within the establishment of the country.
Earlier this month, the junta issued guidelines for the election that made clear that the 64-year-old Nobel laureate would not be permitted to contest the vote because she is under house arrest. The guidelines appeared to suggest that the NLD would have to expel her if it wanted to take part. The party has called a meeting of its senior members for next Monday when it will announce its decision. The statement by Ms Suu Kyi will be hugely influential.
Britain expels Mossad agent over forged passport plot
Tonight the Foreign Office warned British travellers to try to avoid entrusting their passports to Israeli officials.
British sources said there was evidence that the 12 British victims of stolen identity had had their passports temporarily taken away either by Israeli immigration officers or other officials. Clones of those passports were subsequently used by some of the large team sent to kill Mabhouh.
"They found no link to any other country," Miliband said. Without mentioning the Mossad by name, he added that "the government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service".
He said British investigators had interviewed all the passport holders affected, who hold dual British-Israeli citizenship, and "found no evidence to suggest any of those individuals were anything other than innocent victims of identify theft".
Britons queued at Ben Gurion airport as Israeli officials cloned passports
Passing through Israel's Ben Gurion airport, a few miles east of Tel Aviv, is a unique experience no first-time visitor is likely to forget.
It represents the pinnacle of modern aviation security. Baggage is passed through giant, state-of-the-art machines, and travellers � both arriving and leaving � are frequently subjected to lengthy, personal and repetitive questioning by officials, on their ethnic background and that of any local acquaintances they may have made.
It is not at all uncommon for the mostly youthful immigration officers to wander off, passports and tickets in hand, ostensibly to consult with their seniors. Surrendering documents at check-in or at immigration has hitherto been considered a necessary evil for all those travelling in and out of Ben Gurion.
But the evidence that the Israeli state has been taking the information gleaned from these inspections to create cloned identities for its spies introduces a new level of risk to the experience.
Lawsuit challenges bison transfer to Ted Turner
BILLINGS - A coalition of wildlife advocates wants a Montana judge to overturn an agreement that allows dozens of Yellowstone National Park bison to be transferred onto billionaire Ted Turner's private ranch.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Gallatin County asks District Court Judge Holly Brown to declare the animals a public trust and protect them from privatization.
In 2005, the bison were spared from a government slaughter program meant to guard cattle against bison infected with the animal disease brucellosis. The plan was to use the 88 bison to repopulate public lands in the West with new herds.
But Montana officials failed to find them a home. Turner agreed to take care of them in exchange for 75 percent of the animals' offspring over the next five years.
California, in Financial Crisis, Opens Prison Doors; State spends 11% of budget on penal system
LANCASTER, Calif. � The California budget crisis has forced the state to address a problem that expert panels and judges have wrangled over for decades: how to reduce prison overcrowding.
The state has begun in recent weeks the most significant changes since the 1970s to reduce overcrowding � and chip away at an astonishing 70 percent recidivism rate, the highest in the country � as the prison population becomes a major drag on the state�s crippled finances.
Many in the state still advocate a tough approach, with long sentences served in full, and some early problems with released inmates have given critics reason to complain. But fiscal reality, coupled with a court-ordered reduction in the prison population, is pouring cold water on old solutions like building more prisons.
About 11 percent of the state budget, or roughly $8 billion, goes to the penal system, putting it ahead of expenditures like higher education, an imbalance Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to fix.
Indian military to weaponize world's hottest chili
The Indian military has a new weapon against terrorism: the world's hottest chili.
After conducting tests, the military has decided to use the thumb-sized "bhut jolokia," or "ghost chili," to make tear gas-like hand grenades to immobilize suspects, defense officials said Tuesday.
The bhut jolokia was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's spiciest chili. It is grown and eaten in India's northeast for its taste, as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the crippling summer heat.
It has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000.
Park Service seeks to close sport wolf hunting in preserve
The National Park Service is calling for an emergency closure of all sport wolf hunting and trapping in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. John Quinley with the Park Service said there's been an above-average 40 percent drop in the wolf population over the winter.
The losses include four wolves killed last week by state Fish and Game Department agents. Two of those wolves had been collared for tracking.
The Park Service says subsistence hunting will continue but, depending on how public meetings go, sport hunting could be closed for the rest of the season, which runs through May 31.
SC filmmaker: Channels showed porn, not his comedy
Cromer said he stayed up late even though he had to be in court at 8:30 a.m. and in the South Carolina House a few hours later, where he serves as reading clerk. Before the movie came on, Cromer said he heard a voiceover: "Bubba Cromer later tonight does it again with his second feature film 'The Hills Have Thighs.' Deliverance in reverse."
"All my words," Cromer told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I got on my floor and I crossed myself because that was a dream come true."
Then the appointed hour arrived, with a surprising plot twist: "I saw a set of thighs and realized instantly that wasn't my movie."
Instead of his "hysterical Appalachian comedy," it showed the film directed by Jim Wynorski, a longtime cult favorite and director of exploitation films with plenty of skin and risque turns on popular movie titles, such as the "The Da Vinci Coed" and "The Witches of Breastwick."
Don't rush energy tax bill, Democrats warn (Alaska)
The current law taxes oil and gas production together, with gas calculations based on its energy value relative to oil. A bill sponsored by the state Senate Finance Committee would separate gas tax rates from oil tax rates and is intended to do away with a potential issue that could arise if oil prices are high relative to gas. In some scenarios, state revenue could actually fall when gas production starts.
Sen. Bert Stedman, a finance committee co-chair, has maintained the state must act now. Under the existing system, he believes billions of dollars in revenue may be at risk once gas begins flowing through a big line. But House Democrats warn the state could take a multibillion-dollar hit if it were locked into a gas tax with no progressive surcharge and oil and gas prices returned to more normal levels.
Remembering Texas City tragedy
Five years ago an explosion at a BP plant rocked Texas City and killed fifteen people. (Video)
Everglades python deaths fuel debate over snake-control plans
Winter walloped the Burmese python, but not enough to wipe out the most infamous invader of the Everglades, scientists and wildlife managers told a congressional panel assessing efforts to control the exotic snakes.
The Tuesday hearing put some of the first hard numbers on the staggering death toll from a historic cold snap -- nine of 10 pythons equipped with radio tracers in Everglades National Park died, according to one yet-to-be published study.
It also cranked up the heat on a simmering battle over a controversial federal proposal to ban the interstate sale and import of large constrictors. Breeders contend the measure would destroy a $1 billion industry and thousands of jobs.
Shawn Heflick, a conservation biologist from Palm Bay and science advisor to a trade group called the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, said a cold-weather toll he estimated at 70 to 80 percent proved that federal risk assessments suggesting the snake could spread to other states were overblown.
"This population of pythons cannot expand outside of Florida," he said. "This is a Florida problem, not a federal problem."
Clone wars: Mossad's London chief expelled over forged passports
The results of the investigation by the UK's Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) remained under wraps last night, but The Independent understands that the passports of 12 people were cloned after they were taken away from their owners at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv for up to 30 minutes, so that "immigration officials" could carry out "checks".
It is also believed that subsequently, some of the passport holders received telephone calls in the weeks before the Dubai assassination, from officials purportedly seeking to arrange appointments to discuss immigration issues. The officials went on to ask them about upcoming travel plans and when they would not be available.
All but one of the victims have now been issued with biometric passports, which are a safeguard against cloning. The final individual will receive his in the next week.
The Foreign Secretary told the House of Commons that forgeries were of a "high quality". "Given that this was a very sophisticated operation, the Government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service," he said. "Taking this together with other inquiries, and the link with Israel established by Soca, we have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports."
Michael Moore: Healthcare Bill �A Victory for Capitalism� [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: That�s Sicko. And today we�re joined by the director of Sicko, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. His latest film is called Capitalism: A Love Story, and he�s made many others. We spoke to him late yesterday and began by asking Michael for his reaction to the House vote on healthcare reform.
MICHAEL MOORE: I�ve been pretty vocal about this. This bill was never about universal healthcare. It, you know, did a couple of good things that could have been done anytime, I guess, like ending the pre-existing condition rule for children. It doesn�t end it for adults for four years, so you can rack up another, you know, probably 20,000 to 40,000 deaths in the meantime from people who otherwise would have received help had we truly gotten rid of the pre-existing condition thing for all citizens. But six months after the bill is signed by Obama, kids will be able to get coverage from a private, profit-making insurance company.
I mean, I don�t mean to sound cynical, because I understand the importance of this vote. Certainly, had the vote gone down to defeat and the Republicans had won, I would say that it would probably have been near impossible for President Obama to get anything through for the rest of this Congress. So that would not have been a good idea for that kind of paralysis to set in.
The larger picture here is that the private insurance companies are still the ones in charge. They�re still going to call the shots. And if anything, they�ve just been given another big handout by the government by guaranteeing customers. I mean, this is really kind of crazy when you think about it. Imagine Congress passing a law that required every person to buy�I mean, name any product�or watch my next movie. There�s a law that says now that you have to buy a DVD of every Michael Moore film. Woohoo! It�s like, hey, not a bad idea! I mean, I don�t know why�that�s what I�m saying. I don�t know why they�re so upset this week, because this bill is going to line their pockets to an even greater extent.
Norman Finkelstein Responds to Clinton, Netanyahu AIPAC Comments [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: First, respond to what, well, both Secretary of State Clinton and the Israeli Prime Minister said, Secretary of State Clinton actually criticizing Israel. Did that surprise you?
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: It didn�t really surprise me. I think one has to look at the framework of the criticism. There is an international law ruling or opinion on the question of East Jerusalem. In July 2004, the highest judicial body in the world, the International Court of Justice, it rendered what it called its advisory opinion, and it stated unequivocally that East Jerusalem is�and I�m using its words��occupied Palestinian territory.� It�s not a question here of conflicting claims to Jerusalem, let alone an Israeli exclusive right to the East Jerusalem. The law is clear: it�s occupied Palestinian territory, because it was acquired in the course of a war, in the course of the June 1967 war. And under international law, it�s inadmissible to acquire territory by war.
I would want to add that�s the position of all human rights organizations, and it was the position of the Goldstone report. The Goldstone report repeatedly refers to East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory. And Mr. Goldstone, by his own reckoning, is a Zionist, a lover of Israel. But he also respects the law, and the law is clear.
In Health Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality
For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government�s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.
Over most of that period, government policy and market forces have been moving in the same direction, both increasing inequality. The pretax incomes of the wealthy have soared since the late 1970s, while their tax rates have fallen more than rates for the middle class and poor.
Nearly every major aspect of the health bill pushes in the other direction. This fact helps explain why Mr. Obama was willing to spend so much political capital on the issue, even though it did not appear to be his top priority as a presidential candidate. Beyond the health reform�s effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians have called the age of Reagan.
Speaking to an ebullient audience of Democratic legislators and White House aides at the bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday, Mr. Obama claimed that health reform would �mark a new season in America.� He added, �We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.�
PAM COMMENTARY: The law seems more like a fix to prop up the health industry, which has been losing ground to alternative medicine for decades.
What will the overhaul do, and when? The legislation will be implemented over several years.
WITHIN A YEAR
* Provides a $250 rebate to Medicare prescription drug plan beneficiaries whose initial benefits run out.
AFTER 90 DAYS
* Provides immediate access to high-risk insurance pools for people who have no insurance because of preexisting conditions.
AFTER SIX MONTHS
* Bars insurers from denying people coverage when they get sick.
* Prevents insurers from denying coverage to children who have preexisting conditions.
KBR drops rape-case appeal; Franken pleased
WASHINGTON - In a victory for Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, military contractor KBR has decided to drop a Supreme Court appeal in the case of a former company clerk who alleges she was raped by co-workers in Iraq.
KBR's decision represents the first significant legal fallout from the "Franken amendment," which protects defense workers from being forced to accept arbitration after suffering sexual assault, battery or discrimination. The measure became the subject of a testy Senate battle that reverberated in legal circles and in popular culture as the subject of a Jon Stewart rant on cable TV's "The Daily Show."
KBR, which has sought to handle Jamie Leigh Jones' claim out of court, acknowledged Tuesday that its appeal might violate the amendment.
With Jones looking on from the public gallery, the Senate passed Franken's measure last October by a vote of 68 to 30. Even though 10 Republicans sided with Franken, the debate proved to be his first big partisan fight. It left lasting feelings among Republicans who believed that in standing for the merits of arbitration they ended up being vilified as apologists for rape, something Franken said he did not intend.
DeBraska sentenced to 6 months in jail
Bradley DeBraska, a former police detective and longtime president of the Milwaukee police union, was sentenced Tuesday to six months in jail for a crime the judge described as an arrogant and audacious lie.
"This is a temple dedicated to the truth," Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Richard Sankovitz admonished DeBraska. "So when you lie in a courthouse, you commit a sacrilege."
The six-month jail term on felony charges of forgery and identity theft was far less than the maximum possible prison time of 12 years.
A jury convicted DeBraska of the charges in August for creating a bogus memo and signing a former Common Council president's name to it. The memo was later used in a lawsuit that pitted the police union against the city.
Navy warns of possible Cole-like attack in Yemen
In a special advisory, the Office of Naval Intelligence is warning that al-Qaida remains interested in attacking ships along the coast of Yemen and could try the same method used to attack the Norfolk-based destroyer Cole in 2000.
A small boat laden with explosives detonated alongside the Cole, killing 17 sailors. In October 2002, a French oil tanker, the Limburg, was attacked in a similar fashion.
The Navy highlighted a U.S. Maritime Administration notice dated March 10 that urged all vessels in the area to maintain heightened readiness. It said ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab-al-Mandeb Strait are at greatest risk of attack, particularly in areas with limited maneuverability and while in or near port or at anchor.
The Navy asked merchant vessels to report any suspicious activity.
PAM COMMENTARY: Lately the US government has been trying to whip up support for new wars with Yemen and Iran -- this could be a part of their pre-war propaganda.
Texas vows to fight health care bill in court
AUSTIN � Texas officials are planning to join at least eight other states in filing a constitutional challenge to a new health care reform bill as soon as President Obama signs it into law.
The president is expected to sign the law today while a companion piece of legislation is debated in the U.S. Senate.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the law violates state sovereignty and individual rights by requiring individuals to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
�This is going to be a true battle between those in Washington, D.C., who believe that they have unilateral, complete, unfettered power and those in the states who believe there are limits to congressional power,� Abbott said.
States pledging to file the lawsuit are Texas, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington, according to the Associated Press. Other states are considering joining the lawsuit or filing legislation to seek exemption from the law.
Virginia attorney general ready to challenge health-care law
"I think that having affordable insurance coverage for all Americans, which is one of the goals that the president had from the outset, and working with states as true partners in this effort is kind of a win-win situation," she said in a conference call Monday.
But Virginia's top prosecutor argues that a provision of the health care bill mandating that uninsured citizens purchase coverage or face potential penalties is an "unconstitutional overreach" by federal authorities.
"There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services," Cuccinelli said in a statement Monday.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and nine other Republican attorneys general also intend to file suit to overturn legislation they contend "infringes on each state's sovereignty," McCollum said in a statement.
Florida Republicans take aim at healthcare bill's mandates
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican running for governor, started Monday morning with a promise to join nine other Republican attorneys general from other states to sue over the mandate. Later in the day, Republicans in a House committee passed legislation urging him to sue as soon as President Barack Obama signs the bill into law, which could happen Tuesday.
And in yet another committee Monday, House lawmakers passed a proposed state constitutional amendment, which would need voter approval, to stop the government from directly or indirectly compelling anyone in Florida to buy health insurance.
Called the Florida Health Care Freedom Act, the proposal passed the Health Care Regulation Policy Committee on a 10-3 party-line vote. Republican sponsor Scott Plakon of Longwood said the proposed amendment was designed to stop federal overreach.
``These individual mandates should be offensive to all people who love liberty,'' Plakon said. ``They are anti-freedom, anti-liberty and very likely unconstitutional.''
Michigan plans April 16 showdown over Asian carp
Bid to shut Illinois locks hinges on Supreme Court�s reopening of 1922 case
Stung by a second rejection from the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the Asian carp debate and force Illinois to close Chicago-area shipping locks, Michigan officials said Monday that the most important battle is still to come.
That legal showdown will come April 16, when the Supreme Court will consider reopening a 1922 case that tried to stop Illinois from diverting water from Lake Michigan through the newly built Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal � a vital shipping corridor that effectively linked the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.
With destructive Asian carp steadily making their way up that man-made waterway toward the Great Lakes, Michigan and six other Great Lakes states have asked the high court to reverse decisions that allowed Illinois to operate and maintain the shipping canal.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said, "We will continue to focus on the reopening of the diversion case in April, with the goal of developing an effective plan to protect the entire Great Lakes region from the devastating threat of Asian carp."
China choked by sandstorms as pollution levels rise; Dust and grit affect places as far away as Taiwan
Outside, people scurried along sand-strewn sidewalks, covering their faces with gauzy handkerchiefs or donning surgical masks. There were no immediate reports of illnesses connected to the dust.
In a warning posted Monday on its Web site, China�s Central Meteorological Station urged Beijing�s 22 million people to close doors and windows and safeguard sensitive electronic and mechanical equipment.
China Central Television told viewers to clean out their noses with salt water and remove grit from ears with cotton swabs dipped in alcohol.
In the past decade, Beijing has sought to counter the effects of desertification by planting grasses and billions of trees to hold back the desert, mostly to no avail. Along with bringing pollution, the storms underscore a looming water crisis in the north that the government is seeking to head off with a massive project to pump water from the south.
Pa. man's terror conviction is upheld on appeal
SCRANTON, Pa. � An appeals court has upheld the conviction of a northeastern Pennsylvania man found guilty of trying to help al-Qaida terrorists blow up fuel pipelines and refineries in the United States.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says in an opinion filed Thursday that the issues raised by 51-year-old Michael Curtis Reynolds were "meritless." He had alleged insufficient evidence, misstated facts and false testimony, malicious prosecution and lack of a speedy trial.
Reynolds, formerly of Wilkes-Barre, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in November 2007 after he was convicted of providing material support to terrorists, soliciting a crime of violence and explosives counts.
Reynolds had been arrested after he tried to meet a purported al-Qaida contact near an Idaho motel. He had said he was trying to root out terrorists online.
Would-be renters forced to live with family, friends
The recession may have officially ended last summer, but a new report out Monday shows continued turmoil in housing.
At 7.3 percent, the apartment vacancy rate in the Twin Cities is the highest since 2004 and jobs in housing construction fell below 8,500 -- the lowest since 1992, according to a fourth-quarter housing snapshot issued by the Minnesota Housing Partnership, a St. Paul nonprofit.
So, if renters aren't all rushing to buy homes, where are they going? More families wound up in shelters, the report said. But many others are moving back in with family or shacking up with friends to save on rent, the report suggests.
Homelessness rose in Hennepin County in the fourth quarter, with the county's shelters averaging about 260 families, according to the housing snapshot. That's 12 percent more than a year earlier, and up nearly 70 percent from 2006. Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools reported 4,700 homeless children through December, an increase of 8 percent from a year ago, according to the report.
Tarnished ACORN disbands as funding drops
Chicago - The once mighty community activist group ACORN announced Monday that it was folding amid falling revenue -- six months after video footage emerged showing some of its workers giving tax tips to conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute.
"It's really declining revenue in the face of a series of attacks from partisan operatives and right-wing activists that have taken away our ability to raise the resources we need," ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan said.
Several of its largest affiliates, including ACORN New York and ACORN California, broke away this year and changed their names in a bid to ditch the tarnished image of their parent organization and restore revenue that ran dry after the video scandal.
ACORN's financial situation and reputation went into free fall within days of the video release in September.
Rotarix rotavirus vaccine contaminated, officials say
(CNN) -- Federal health authorities recommended Monday that doctors suspend using Rotarix, one of two vaccines licensed in the United States against rotavirus, saying the vaccine is contaminated with material from a pig virus.
"There is no evidence at this time that this material poses a safety risk," Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told reporters in a conference call.
Rotarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, was approved by the FDA in 2008. The contaminant material is DNA from porcine circovirus 1, a virus from pigs that is not known to cause disease in humans or animals, Hamburg said.
About 1 million children in the United States and about 30 million worldwide have gotten Rotarix vaccine, she said.
Whaling: the great betrayal; Outrage as secret deal set to sweep away international moratorium
The moratorium on commercial whaling, one of the environmental movement's greatest achievements, looks likely to be swept away this summer by a new international deal being negotiated behind closed doors. The new arrangement would legitimise the whaling activities of the three countries which have continued to hunt whales in defiance of the ban � Japan, Norway and Iceland � and would allow commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary set up by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1994.
Conservationists regard it as catastrophic, but fear there is a very real chance of its being accepted at the next IWC meeting in Morocco in June, not least because it is being strongly supported by the US � previously one of whaling's most determined opponents.
Should the deal go ahead, it would represent one of the most significant setbacks ever for conservation, and as big a failure for wildlife protection as December's Copenhagen conference was for action on climate change.
Agreed in 1982, and introduced in 1986, the whaling moratorium was brought in after a prolonged and intense campaign by green pressure groups highlighting the fact that many populations of the great whales had been drastically reduced by over-hunting � blue whales, the largest of all, had been driven to the brink of extinction � and that whaling itself, based on the firing of explosive harpoons into large and intelligent animals, was cruel.
Jackson's doctor collected drug vials before calling 911, witness tells authorities
A security guard for Michael Jackson told Los Angeles police investigators that Dr. Conrad Murray collected vials of medication from the singer's bedroom before the guard called authorities the day Jackson died, a source familiar with the case told The Times on Monday.
The guard's statements mark the latest allegations involving the final moments of Jackson's life and the actions of Murray, his personal physician, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the pop star's death.
Documents obtained by the Associated Press on Monday stated that Alberto Alvarez, Jackson's logistics director,allegedthat Murray had delayed calling 911 so he could collect the vials.
The source, however, presented a somewhat different account of Alvarez's narrative.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak, said Murray collected the vials and an intravenous drip as he was performing CPR on Jackson.
Ban on smoking at parks, beaches moves forward
California lawmakers approved a groundbreaking smoking ban Monday that, if signed into law, will prohibit smoking at nearly all state beaches and parks.
The bill is believed to be the nation's most far-reaching smoking ban in state parks. It aims to cut down on litter, secondhand smoke and forest fires at California's 278 parks and 64 beaches by imposing a $100 fine on people who violate the ban, according to its author, Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach.
The legislation faces one more vote in the Senate before it can be sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not indicated whether he will sign it.
"Unfortunately too many beach visitors are irresponsible with their smoking habit," Oropeza said in a statement. "Our majestic beaches and parks have been marred by cigarette butts for too long."
Manufacturing Consent For Attack On Iran; Hilary Clinton Threatens Iran With "Painful Consequences"
Stating that a nuclear-armed Iran would touch off an arms race in the Middle East and embolden Iran�s �terrorist clientele� to take new actions, Clinton said, �This � is unacceptable to the United States. It is unacceptable to Israel. It is unacceptable to the region and the international community.�
Internet usage overtakes television watching (Canada) [AJ]
For the first time ever, Canadians are spending more time online than they are watching television, according to a new report.
The survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid last fall found that Canadians are spending more than 18 hours a week online, compared to 16.9 hours watching television.
Interestingly, Internet usage and the number of hours watching television have both experienced a rise since last year. Web surfing is up from 14.9 hours last year and television watching rose to 15.8 hours.
Other media, such as newspapers, radio and magazines have all remained relatively stable in the last year.
The survey also found that the age gap in Internet usage is narrowing. On average, 18-34 year olds are spending 20 hours a week online, compared to 18 hours for those over the age of 35.
PAM COMMENTARY: As I've been saying for years, the internet is the best place to get "real news" -- most TV news is pro-war propaganda mixed in with drug ads.
More drug smugglers in Texas using spikes
CORPUS CHRISTI � Drug smugglers are turning to a sharp law enforcement tactic as they try to stop Texas law officers from chasing them.
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Joe Trevino says agents in south Texas have had spikes thrown at their vehicles at least five times this year.
Trevino told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that at least 15 incidents were reported in 2009, in which 33 vehicles were damaged, including 13 civilian cars and trucks. Just one incident was reported in 2008.
Trevino says �these smugglers don�t care who gets hurt.�
HEALTH EFFECTS: Fluoride & the Kidneys [R]
Kidney disease markedly increases an individual's susceptibility to fluoride toxicity.
The kidneys are responsible for ridding the body of ingested fluoride, and thereby preventing the buildup of toxic levels of fluoride in the body.
In healthy adults, the kidneys are able to excrete approximately 50% of an ingested dose of fluoride.
However, in adults with kidney disease the kidneys may excrete as little as 10 to 20% of an ingested dose - thus increasing the body burden of fluoride and increasing an individual's susceptibility to fluoride poisoning (e.g. renal osteodystrophy).
The bone changes commonly found among patients with advanced kidney disease closely resemble the bone changes found among individuals with the osteomalacic-type of skeletal fluorosis. This raises the possibility that some individuals with kidney disease are suffering from undiagnosed skeletal fluorosis.
Arundhati Roy on Obama�s Wars, India and Why Democracy Is �The Biggest Scam in the World� [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Before we go into the very interesting journey you took, you arrive here on the seventh anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. You were extremely outspoken on the war and have continued to be. I remember seeing you at Riverside Church with the great Howard Zinn, giving a speech against the war. What are your thoughts now, seven years in? And how it�s affected your continent, how it�s affected India?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think the--you know, the saddest thing is that when the American elections happened and you had all the rhetoric of, you know, change you can believe in, and even the most cynical of us watched Obama win the elections and did feel moved, you know, watching how happy people were, especially people who had lived through the civil rights movement and so on, and, you know, in fact what has happened is that he has come in and expanded the war. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and took an opportunity to justify the war. It was as though those tears of the black people who watched, you know, a black man come to power were now cut and paste into the eyes of the world�s elite watching him justify war.
And from where I come from, it�s almost--you know, you think that they probably don�t even understand what they�re doing, the American government. They don�t understand what kind of ground they stand on. When you say things like �We have to wipe out the Taliban,� what does that mean? The Taliban is not a fixed number of people. The Taliban is an ideology that has sprung out of a history that, you know, America created anyway.
Iraq, the war is going on. Afghanistan, obviously, is rising up in revolt. It�s spilled into Pakistan, and from Pakistan into Kashmir and into India. So we�re seeing this superpower, in a way, caught in quicksand with a conceptual inability to understand what it�s doing, how to get out or how to stay in. It�s going to take this country down with it, for sure, you know, and I think it�s a real pity that, in a way, at least George Bush was so almost obscene in his stupidity about it, whereas here it�s smoke and mirrors, and people find it more difficult to decipher what�s going on. But, in fact, the war has expanded.
Under Panetta, a more aggressive CIA
The plan was a standard one in the CIA's war against extremists in Pakistan: The agency was using a Predator drone to monitor a residential compound; a Taliban leader was expected to arrive shortly; a CIA missile would kill him.
On the morning of Aug. 5, CIA Director Leon Panetta was informed that Baitullah Mehsud was about to reach his father-in-law's home. Mehsud would be in the open, minimizing the risk that civilians would be injured or killed. Panetta authorized the strike, according to a senior intelligence official who described the sequence of events.
Some hours later, officials at CIA headquarters in Langley identified Mehsud on a feed from the Predator's camera. He was seen resting on the roof of the house, hooked up to a drip to palliate a kidney problem. He was not alone.
Panetta was pulled out of a White House meeting and told that Mehsud's wife was also on the rooftop, giving her husband a massage. Mehsud, implicated in suicide bombings and the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was a major target. Panetta told his officers to take the shot. Mehsud and his wife were killed.
Google raises stakes in China censorship row
Google shut down its search service in the Chinese mainland last night after a two-month standoff with Beijing over online freedom and an alleged intrusion by hackers.
But Chinese authorities attacked the internet giant as "totally wrong" for its decision to shift its Chinese-language offering to Hong Kong.
The move allowed the firm to stop self-censoring the service, although the government's filtering system would still prevent mainland users from seeing the results of many sensitive searches.
Google shocked the industry when it announced in January that it would end four years of self-censorship in China, acknowledging it might mean withdrawal.
Volcanoes helped dinosaurs rule the Earth, say scientists
Volcanoes that spewed out lava and noxious gases for more than half a million years paved the way for dinosaurs to rule the Earth by wiping out their competitors, scientists say.
The environmental devastation wrought by relentless volcanic activity at the end of the Triassic period 200m years ago laid waste to animal species that lived alongside the early dinosaurs, giving them the upper hand in the Jurassic period that followed.
Before the rise of the dinosaurs, the animal world was dominated by crurotarsans, ancient relatives of modern crocodiles. But as their populations crashed, early therapods, the group of dinosaurs that includes all meat-eating species from Velociraptor to Tyrannosaurus rex, gained ground and thrived.
More than 200m years ago, most of the land on Earth was locked up in the Pangea supercontinent, but this broke apart when the North American and African tectonic plates parted. The separation of the plates created a basin that became the Atlantic ocean and opened up fissures in the Earth's crust, triggering volcanic eruptions that lasted for 600,000 years.
Montana health insurers' top execs keep making top dollars
HELENA - Top executives at Montana's largest private health insurer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Montana, did not get a bonus in 2009 - but they did see raises ranging from 10 percent to 32 percent on their six-figure salaries.
Down the street at New West Health Services, the state's next-largest health insurer, top executives did receive bonuses for 2009. But their overall compensation increased moderately, if at all.
Yet regardless of who had bonuses and who didn't, executive pay at the state's big health insurers remains generous by Montana standards, in a year when many workers saw pay freezes and increasing premiums for their health insurance.
Blue Cross Chief Executive Officer and President Sherry Cladouhos's 2009 salary was $460,000, or 10 percent higher than her previous year's salary of $418,000.
Supreme Court refuses Assurant's appeal of $10 million award in HIV case
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Assurant Health's appeal of a lower court ruling that awarded $10 million to a South Carolina customer whose health insurance was improperly canceled after he tested positive for HIV.
The lawsuit had exposed Assurant Health's policy of using a computer program and algorithm to identify policy-holders with HIV for fraud investigations that could provide grounds for canceling their coverage.
The policy and the lawsuit were the subject of an investigative story by Thomson Reuters news service last week that has drawn national attention.
Assurant Health, which employs about 1,600 people in Milwaukee, focuses on individual, small business and short-term health insurance policies. The company is a unit of Assurant Inc., which is based in New York.
Ann Coulter gets cold shoulder in Ottawa
For a strident provocateur who's speaking on �Political Correctness, Media Bias and Freedom of Speech,� the University of Ottawa warning � however tepid � was pure oxygen for the fire.
�We, of course, are always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus,� wrote Francois Houle, vice-president academic and University of Ottawa's provost.
After mentioning the Charter of Rights and Canada's free speech laws, Mr. Houle invited Coulter to �educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada� and noted, by example, that �promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges.�
Ms. Coulter is famous for saying �not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.�
She also famously ranted that �the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo.�
After Years of War and Abuse, New Hope for Ancient Babylon
The most immediate threat to preserving the ruins of Babylon, the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is water soaking the ground and undermining what is left in present-day Iraq of a great city from the time of King Nebuchadnezzar II.
It is also one of the oldest threats. The king himself faced water problems 2,600 years ago. Neglect, reckless reconstruction and wartime looting have also taken their toll in recent times, but archaeologists and experts in the preservation of cultural relics say nothing substantial should be done to correct that until the water problem is brought under control.
A current study, known as the Future of Babylon project, documents the damage from water mainly associated with the Euphrates River and irrigation systems nearby. The ground is saturated just below the surface at sites of the Ishtar Gate and the long-gone Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders. Bricks are crumbling, temples collapsing. The Tower of Babel, long since reduced to rubble, is surrounded by standing water.
Leaders of the international project, describing their findings in interviews and at a meeting this month in New York, said that any plan for reclaiming Babylon as a tourist attraction and a place for archaeological research must include water control as �the highest priority.�
For Extinct Monsters of the Deep, a Little Respect
Here is a quick paleontology quiz. Which group of animals included large, air-breathing predators up to 50 feet long that bore live young, dominated their world for more than 100 million years and were ultimately exterminated by an asteroid 65 million years ago?
Did you say dinosaurs? Sorry, wrong answer. But it was a trickier question than it may have appeared.
The correct answer is marine reptiles, which at the time of the last great extinction included mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and pliosaurs. The key clue in my question was �bore live young.� Unlike the dinosaurs, which were terrestrial and laid eggs, marine reptiles were fully aquatic and bore live young. This latter combination was no coincidence.
A look at the health care overhaul bill
Congressional Democrats have released a final version of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul bill in advance of a House vote planned for Sunday. Some features of the legislation, which makes changes to the bill the Senate passed on Christmas Eve:
COST: $940 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
HOW MANY COVERED: 32 million uninsured. Major coverage expansion begins in 2014. When fully phased in, 95 percent of eligible Americans would have coverage, compared with 83 percent today.
INSURANCE MANDATE: Almost everyone is required to be insured or else pay a fine. There is an exemption for low-income people. Mandate takes effect in 2014.
INSURANCE MARKET REFORMS: Starting this year, insurers would be forbidden from placing lifetime dollar limits on policies, from denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions, and from canceling policies because someone gets sick. Parents would be able to keep older kids on their coverage up to age 26. A new high-risk pool would offer coverage to uninsured people with medical problems until 2014, when the coverage expansion goes into high gear. Major consumer safeguards would also take effect in 2014. Insurers would be prohibited from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more. Insurers could not charge women more.
Obama Hails Vote on Health Care as Answering �the Call of History�
WASHINGTON -- House Democrats approved a far-reaching overhaul of the nation�s health system on Sunday, voting over unanimous Republican opposition to provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans after an epic political battle that could define the differences between the parties for years.
With the 219-to-212 vote, the House gave final approval to legislation passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve. Thirty-four Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the bill. The vote sent the measure to President Obama, whose yearlong push for the legislation has been the centerpiece of his agenda and a test of his political power.
After approving the bill, the House adopted a package of changes to it by a vote of 220 to 211. That package � agreed to in negotiations among House and Senate Democrats and the White House � now goes to the Senate for action as soon as this week. It would be the final step in a bitter legislative fight that has highlighted the nation�s deep partisan and ideological divisions.
On a sun-splashed day outside the Capitol, protesters, urged on by House Republicans, chanted �Kill the bill� and waved yellow flags declaring �Don�t Tread on Me.� They carried signs saying �Doctors, Not Dictators.�
A historic look at health care legislation
Pivotal moments in American health care history capped by President Barack Obama's health care law:
_1798: The Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen in 1798 marks the beginning of federal involvement in health care.
_1854: President Franklin Pierce vetoes a national mental health bill on the basis that it would be unconstitutional to regard health as anything but a private matter in which government should not become involved.
_1912: Former President Theodore Roosevelt campaigns as the Progressive Party candidate on a platform calling for a single national health service.
_1920: The Snyder Act of 1920 is the first federal legislation to deal with health care for Native Americans, setting up the beginnings of what became the Indian Health Service.
Public can comment on N.C. wind project plans
If wind turbines were built in the Pamlico Sound, this is what Duke Energy thinks people in Frisco and Buxton would see: sky and water - and barely discerni ble stick shapes.
That visualization was on display at a meeting Thursday that offered the first opportunity to provide feedback about a proposed wind demonstration project in Pamlico Sound.
"This is important for us," said Col. Jefferson Ryscavage, district commander of the Wilmington District of the Army Corps of Engineers, the permitting agency that is overseeing the required environmental review process.
"This is all about what you think you need to tell us."
A partnership between Duke Energy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the project would place up to three large wind turbines in the sound about seven miles west of Avon, nine miles north of Frisco and eight miles from Buxton.
So far, there is no wind energy production off any U.S. coast. But Duke, which has onshore wind farms in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming, sees Buxton as a way to ease into offshore production.
Former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, environmental crusader, dies at age at 90
Udall died of natural causes Saturday at his home in Santa Fe, surrounded by his children and their families, according to statement released through the office of his son, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
Udall, brother of the late 15-term congressman Morris Udall, served six years in Congress as a Democrat from Arizona, and then headed the Interior Department from 1961 through 1968 under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. His son Tom and nephew Mark also became congressmen, then both were elected to the Senate in 2008.
Udall helped write several of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, which protects millions of acres from logging, mining and other development.
"I never lost an argument with the budget people under either Kennedy or Johnson. If you had a new national park or a new policy on wilderness or something on wild rivers ... they'd say, `Go ahead. It's a good idea,'" Udall once said in an interview.
More than 60 additions were made to the National Park system during the Udall years, including Canyonlands National Park in Utah, North Cascades National Park in Washington, Redwood National Park in California and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretching from Georgia to Maine.
Iditarod ends with no dog deaths; RARE OCCURRENCE: More than 1,100 dogs started 1,000-mile race.
It looks to be a first in modern mushing.
As the final teams in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race crossed the finish line Saturday night, race officials said no dogs had died along the 1,000-mile marathon across Alaska.
"To stand there and watch that last team come in, I'll tell you, is the highlight of my veterinarian career," chief race veterinarian Stuart Nelson said after rookie Celeste Davis, the red lantern winner, arrived at the burled arch on Nome's Front Street.
A year without dog deaths is virtually unheard for the Iditarod. Supporters have long argued that the sheer number of dogs -- more than 1,100 started the race this year -- make a death statistically inevitable over the two-week competition.
British military intelligence 'ran renegade torture unit in Iraq'
Fresh evidence has emerged that British military intelligence ran a secret operation in Iraq which authorised degrading and unlawful treatment of prisoners. Documents reveal that prisoners were kept hooded for long periods in intense heat and deprived of sleep by defence intelligence officers. They also reveal that officers running the operation claimed to be answerable only "directly to London".
The revelations will further embarrass the British government, which last month was forced to release documents showing it knew that UK resident and terror suspect Binyam Mohamed had been tortured in Pakistan.
The latest documents emerged during the inquiry into Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker beaten to death while in the custody of British troops in September 2003. The inquiry is looking into how interrogation techniques banned by the Government in 1972 and considered torture and degrading treatment were used again in Iraq.
Lawyers believe the new evidence supports suspicions that an intelligence unit � the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT) which operated in Iraq � used illegal "coercive techniques" and was not answerable to military commanders in Iraq, despite official denials it operated independently.
Political activists call for inquiry after revelations about undercover police (UK)
Political activists have reacted with anger to revelations in last week's Observer that their organisations were infiltrated by an elite undercover unit of the Metropolitan police.
Members of one of the groups demanded a public inquiry after the Observer disclosed that a former member of Special Branch, known as Officer A, had infiltrated far-left organisations in the mid-1990s to gather intelligence about potentially violent demonstrators. He was regularly involved in brutal confrontations with uniformed police officers and activists from the extreme right. On numerous occasions he engaged in violent acts to maintain his cover.
Many activists suspected they were being infiltrated by the state at the time, but it is only now that their suspicions have been confirmed. One target of Officer A, a former student union leader who has asked not to be identified, told the Observer: "I suspected that my phone might have been tapped. I believed that there might have been some police spies at the demonstrations that I attended. But however paranoid I was, I never imagined they would go so far as to invest the level of resources needed to give someone a completely new identity for five years and have them spy on someone like me. It really is astonishing."
Officer A was part of a secret unit of the Met known as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which since 1968 had 10 full-time undercover operatives inside so-called "subversive" organisations to disrupt their ability to create disorder on the streets of London.
PAM COMMENTARY: Notice the "potentially violent" excuse. That lie has been used in the U.S., historically to provide cover for government harassment of political dissidents and activist groups. Illegal spying, provocateurs, and infiltrators were especially used on groups perceived as effective at turning public opinion against corporate interests like the war industry, logging, oil, big pharma, etc.
Idaho's meth war is shifting from homes to highways now that the drug can be made more cheaply in Mexico or border states
But in 2004 and 2005, as federal regulations and new state rules started to limit access to pseudoephedrine-based cold pills, - a key ingredient in meth - the number of labs plummeted. There were just 14 found statewide in 2006.
Nampa police Sgt. Chris Rowe said that in the early 2000s, the department had a special trailer that was constantly in use for cleaning out the hazardous chemicals from meth labs. Rowe, who runs the department's drug unit, said he doesn't know where the trailer is now.
Clandestine labs are few and far between, he said.
"They have fallen off the charts, thank God. Making it is more trouble than it is worth - you might as well go find a meth dealer," said Lt. Jack Catlin, a detective with the Idaho State Police. "Our meth comes from Mexico or down there by the border."
Iceland fears 2nd, even larger volcanic eruption
REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- A volcano in southern Iceland has erupted for the first time in almost 200 years, raising concerns that it could trigger a larger and potentially more dangerous eruption at a volatile volcano nearby.
The eruption at the Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) volcano, located near a glacier of the same name, shot ash and molten lava into the air but scientists called it mostly peaceful. It occurred just before midnight Saturday (2000 EDT, 8 p.m. EDT) at a fissure on a slope -- rather than at the volcano's summit � so scientists said there was no imminent danger that the glacier would melt and flood the area.
TV footage showed lava flowing along the fissure, and many flights were canceled due to the threat of airborne volcanic ash. After an aerial survey Sunday, scientists concluded the eruption struck near the glacier in an area that had no ice.
"This is the best possible place for an eruption," said Tumi Gudmundsson, a geologist at the University of Iceland.
Nonetheless, officials sent phone messages to 450 people between the farming village of Hvolsvollur and the fishing village of Vik, some 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of the capital, Reykjavik, urging them to evacuate immediately.
Britain. A breath of foul air
More than 50,000 people are dying prematurely in the UK every year, and thousands more suffer serious illness because of man-made air pollution, according to a parliamentary report published tomorrow. The UK now faces the threat of �300m in fines after it failed to meet legally binding EU targets to reduce pollution to safe levels.
Air pollution is cutting life expectancy by as many as nine years in the worst-affected city areas. On average, Britons die eight months too soon because of dirty air. Pollutants from cars, factories, houses and agriculture cause childhood health problems such as premature births, asthma and poor lung development. They play a major role in the development of chronic and life-shortening adult diseases affecting the heart and lungs, which can lead to repeated hospital admissions. Treating victims of Britain's poor air quality costs the country up to �20bn each year.
Nearly 5.5 million people receive NHS treatment for asthma, and more than 90,000 people were admitted to hospital as a result of the disease in England in 2008/09. US research has found that the lungs of children who live in highly polluted areas fail to develop fully.
Poor air quality is caused by three key pollutants � nitrogen oxides; particulate matter and ozone � where Britain fails to meet European safety targets.
Wine Country sounds alarm over grapevine moth
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of European grapevine moths are now emerging from cocoons in dozens of vineyards in the heart of the world famous wine-growing region. It is the first time the pest has ever been seen in North America.
"This one is in the pupal stage," said Cooper, Napa County's viticulture farm adviser and the director of the UC Cooperative Extension, as she squeezed out of the fuzz a tiny brownish-green creature. "They spend the winter in a cocoon."
The discovery of the grape-gobbling pest has mobilized vineyard owners, biologists, local, state and federal agricultural officials in a regionwide effort to stop the alien invader. The California Department of Food and Agriculture recently placed under quarantine 162 square miles of land, mostly in Napa County with parts of Sonoma and Solano counties. The idea is to hit the moth hard now as it emerges from its winter dormancy.
"My immediate goal is to make sure it doesn't cause growers any losses this year," Cooper said. "It would be great on top of that if we can eradicate it or suppress it enough so that it is not a problem, but we don't know enough yet to determine whether we can do that."
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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