Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
Don't forget to check the fun links of the month page!
News from the Week of 28th of March to 3rd of April 2010
This week's links were interrupted by tax season, and will be caught up later. - PR
Obama to allow off-shore oil drilling in new areas
WASHINGTON � Reversing a ban on oil drilling off most U.S. shores, President Obama announced an expansive new policy on Wednesday that could put new oil and natural gas platforms in waters along the southern Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and part of Alaska.
The first tract of land eligible for drilling -- just off Virginia's coast -- holds an estimated 130 million barrels of crude, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That's barely enough to satisfy America's energy needs for six days, at current consumption levels of 19.5 million barrels a day.
Yet Obama said his announcement Wednesday was part of "broader strategy" that includes more investment in nuclear power plants, as well as an initiative the administration plans to unveil today to dramatically tighten fuel standards for cars.
The measures "will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy," he said.
Reaction swift as Obama clears way for drilling off Va. coast
Business groups cheered. Environmentalists booed. And the governor and many Virginia lawmakers smiled, if cautiously.
Opinions abounded across the state on Wednesday after President Barack Obama endorsed oil and natural gas drilling at least 50 miles off the Outer Continental Shelf of Virginia.
While pushing for more alternative-energy development as well, the president said drilling might be allowed off the North Carolina coast and along other Southern states.
But he first called for seismic testing and other studies in the South Atlantic to see if ample energy resources are there and can be tapped safely. Such research could take several years to complete.
State's medical malpractice fund has negative balance
Madison � The state's medical malpractice fund closed its books with negative net assets for the past two fiscal years after legislators and the governor drained $200 million from the fund to shore up the state budget, a new audit says.
The shaky economy and record claims against the fund also contributed to the poor condition of the account, says the report released Tuesday by the Legislative Audit Bureau.
To balance the state budget in 2007, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and the Legislature pulled $200 million from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, which is used to pay medical malpractice victims. They said the account could afford to give up the money because of a surplus, but the fund has performed poorly since then, auditors said.
"We Are Tearing Down Our Mountains": Photojournalist Antrim Caskey on West Virginia�s Fight Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
ANTRIM CASKEY: Well, coal in West Virginia is a mono economy, and it basically controls and has infiltrated every level of the power structure, from the governor to the courts all the way down. And your viewers may be familiar with Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, who basically purchased the state Supreme Court seat for Brent Benjamin several years ago. The ensuing controversy over that situation was a refusal on Benjamin�s part to recuse himself from certain cases where the opposing side thought he was biased, because Blankenship gave him $3 million to help him get elected to the state Supreme Court. And that�s how they do it in West Virginia. They elect these judges to the Supreme Court.
So when you have�when an industry has such a firm grip on the employment, on the power structure, on everything, you see it reflected, and you see it reflected in Judge Burnside's orders. This temporary restraining order that was issued against us is overbroad. It enjoins arguably the entire world. You're probably enjoined, according to Judge Burnside. Is that fair? Is that just?
AMY GOODMAN: Enjoined from doing what?
ANTRIM CASKEY: Enjoined from supporting the campaign, enjoined from�enjoined from acting in concert with us against Massey Energy. It technically could draw you into this legal action that they are putting against us.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are the people who are protesting the mountaintop removal?
ANTRIM CASKEY: Well, this is so wonderful. The people who are protesting mountaintop removal range in age from eighteen to eighty-one. It's a broad and deep movement that includes local people who have been radicalized by the mountaintop removal operations in their backyard or in their neighborhood. It includes college students. We have a plethora of college students from places like Oberlin and Michigan and Vermont and Washington. And it includes journalists, like myself, who are committed to the story and committed to seeing justice. It's an incredible, incredibly strong movement that over the past almost five years I've really seen grow and strengthen. It�s been pretty rewarding to see that.
State, feds pledge to work together after wolf kills
Miscommunication between agencies is being blamed for the deaths of four research wolves that were shot and killed after venturing outside a federal preserve in northeast Alaska.
A five-hour meeting among state and federal wildlife officials was held Tuesday to discuss how state biologists aboard a helicopter shot the wolves on March 17 despite seeing that two of the animals were wearing research collars.
The wolves comprised the entire Webber Creek pack. They were killed during the state's aerial predator control program near the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The program aims to remove wolves from the Fortymile caribou herd calving grounds and reduce predation on moose.
"Our department had a protocol in place to avoid this situation, but unfortunately, in this case, it didn't work," said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd, who attended the Anchorage meeting by teleconference.
LA DA meets actress who claims Polanski sex abuse
Los Angeles County prosecutors have met with a British actress who claims she was sexually abused by director Roman Polanski in his Paris apartment when she was 16 _ years before she appeared in one of his movies.
Charlotte Lewis, 42, said Friday that the filmmaker abused her "in the worst possible way" sometime in the 1980s.
Lewis provided no evidence to support her claims, and her attorney, Gloria Allred, did not permit her to answer questions during a news conference in her office.
However, Allred said the woman provided evidence to a police detective and officials from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. She refused to provide specifics and also refused to answer questions about whether her client's allegations involved drugs or rape.
Sex infection gonorrhoea risks becoming "superbug"
LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - The sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea risks becoming a drug-resistant �superbug� if doctors do not devise new ways of treating it, a leading sexual health expert said.
Catherine Ison, a specialist on gonorrhoea from Britain�s Health Protection Agency said a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Manila next week would be vital to efforts to try to stop the bug repeatedly adapting to and overcoming drugs.
�This is a very clever bacteria. If this problem isn�t addressed, there is a real possibility that gonorrhoea will become a very difficult infection to treat,� she said in a telephone interview.
Gonorrhoea is a common bacterial sexually-transmitted infection and if left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.
PAM COMMENTARY: Has anyone tried a zapper on that?
Bodies of 21 infants, fetuses dumped in China river
BEIJING - Two mortuary workers were detained and two senior hospital staff were sacked in eastern China after the bodies of at least 21 infants and foetuses were found in a river, state media reported Tuesday.
At least eight bodies had tags indicating they were from the hospital of Jining Medical University in Shandong province, Xinhua news agency reported.
Authorities were quoted by Beijing News saying the corpses could have been those of aborted foetuses or babies who had died of illness. They were found on the outskirts of the city of Jining.
Xinhua quoted a spokesman for the city government as telling reporters that two mortuary workers had been sacked in connection with the incident and were in police custody.
No room for Canadian content rules online, Google warns MPs
Google Inc. (GOOG-Q507.970.440.09%) has a message for MPs � don�t try to regulate the net.
A Commons committee that includes grey-haired MPs who candidly admit to knowing little about YouTube, let alone the latest web trends, has launched a wide-ranging study of �new media.� They got a clear warning yesterday that Canadian content rules have no place online.
The Heritage Committee plan to meet Thursday to narrow the focus of their study. Members acknowledged they are not sure where this review will take them, so they invited Google Inc. to suggest the possible issues they should explore and the witnesses they should hear from.
Large Hadron Collider rewards scientists watching at Caltech
Only minutes after the first recorded collision, at 3:58 a.m., physicists from various specialties were taking a look at the resulting photos, the first in what promises to be a flood of data from the two beams of protons smashing into each other at a total energy level of 7 trillion electron volts.
Based on experiences with other colliders, it could have taken days for the first collision to occur. Instead, the first collision came only hours after a few failed attempts.
"There were cheers in all the control rooms," said Caltech physicist Harvey Newman. "As soon as we get the data, we're analyzing it. . . . It's been a long time coming."
The $10-billion, nearly 17-mile-circumference collider will test for particles much smaller than protons, not to mention dark matter, other dimensions, supersymmetry and other theories in particle physics, researchers said.
Smoke linked to stronger, thicker plant growth
In 2004, researchers established that chemicals known as butanolides -- now named karrikins after karrik, an Australian aboriginal word for smoke -- were inducing fire-responsive plants to germinate after a blaze.
In the latest study, researchers identified precisely what the chemicals do to Arabidopsis thaliana, a common North American weed whose 30,000 genes have been mapped. The scientists found that exposing the plants to karrikins, derived from burning plant cell walls, activated a handful of genes associated with light sensitivity.
Given that a seed below ground receives a different quality of light after a fire -- the protective canopy is burned away, and the soil is blackened, bending the light into redder territory -- the researchers exposed plants to a different spectrum of light and measured whether exposing the plants to karrikins made a difference.
"If you grow plants in low light, they generally grow tall and spindly because they're searching out for more light, but they're less robust," said lead author Steven M. Smith, a molecular biologist at the University of Western Australia.
But when exposed to karrikins, the first stems that the plants grew were 25% to 30% shorter than their unexposed counterparts and the first leaves that emerged were about 50% larger and more robust, Smith said.
"Our President Is Deceiving the American Public": Pentagon Papers Whistleblower on President Obama and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
ANJALI KAMAT: And Dan Ellsberg, what�s your assessment of the counterinsurgency strategy that the Obama administration is pushing, that General Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal are pushing?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: I�m very familiar with that theory, because that�s what I was working in in Vietnam for so many years, the counterinsurgency theory, strategy theory. My job was to evaluate its, quote, "progress," which meant lack of progress, total stalemate, total lack of progress in Vietnam. And to that end, I visited thirty-eight of the forty-three provinces of Vietnam and reported stalemate, which McNamara heard and understood, even while the word �progress� was the word to be used, just as Obama was talking about progress.
What it ignores is that the recruiting tool of our adversaries there is predominantly the presence of foreign troops. And when we add more foreign troops, we are sustaining that recruiting tool. And for every enemy trying to eject foreigners from his country that we kill, and especially his families, the wedding parties, and the funeral parties after we�ve hit the wedding parties, all of those recruit more people in a way that will�assures us that, contrary to what President Obama is saying, we will not prevail. When he does say we aren�t going to quit, in the short run, at least, he�s right, unfortunately. We have many years ahead of us.
I believe, by the way, that that applies to Iraq, as well, that I believe that our president is deceiving the American public�I don�t say that lightly�in the same way that all of his predecessors deceived us with respect to Vietnam, including the ones I served, which included Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Specifically, when he says in his State of the Union message that we will�he will get all troops, not just combat troops, but all troops, out of Iraq by the end of 2011, I believe that�s false and that he knows that�s false, and he has no real plan or intention of removing American bases manned by American military personnel, not just mercenaries, ever. By his second term or the second term of his successor, whoever that is, I think we have a future of 30,000 to 50,000 Americans in Iraq indefinitely. And I�m talking about the lives of our children, in terms of actual planning.
Investigation: Scandal of danger chemical in baby bottles
Boots and Mothercare are selling baby bottles made with a chemical that scientists fear may cause breast cancer, heart disease, obesity, hyperactivity and other disorders, The Independent can disclose.
The behaviour of Britain's biggest infant-products retailers contrasts with that of manufacturers, who have quietly stopped putting bisphenol A, or BPA, into baby bottles "to allay parents' fears", amid peer-reviewed studies in medical journals associating it with serious health problems in laboratory animals.
Canada and three US states, Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin, have banned BPA in baby bottles and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it is concerned about its impact on babies and young children, and supports its removal from infant-feeding products.
US oil company donated millions to climate sceptic groups, says Greenpeace
A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.
The environmental campaign group accuses Kansas-based Koch Industries, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.
Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48m (�31.8m) to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008. From 2005-2008, it donated $25m to groups opposed to climate change, nearly three times as much as higher-profile funders that time such as oil company ExxonMobil. Koch also spent $5.7m on political campaigns and $37m on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.
In a hard-hitting report, which appears to confirm environmentalists' suspicions that there is a well-funded opposition to the science of climate change, Greenpeace accuses the funded groups of "spreading inaccurate and misleading information" about climate science and clean energy companies.
KBR on Trial - At Last
Five years after alerting authorities that she was gang-raped in Iraq, KBR/Halliburton employee Jamie Leigh Jones will finally get her day in court.
On Wednesday, after fighting tooth-and-nail in the lower courts to keep the case from going to trial, KBR announced that it was dropping its Supreme Court appeal in the case. (The company actually withdrew its petition to the court on March 11, according to KBR spokesperson Heather Browne. This was less than two weeks after it was awarded a new $2.3 billion logistics contract by the Army.) Jones, who says she was raped by coworkers and then imprisoned in a shipping container for three days by KBR staffers who wanted to keep her complaint quiet, had been barred from pursuing her sexual harassment case in the courts by a provision in her employee contract: The fine print said all such issues must be resolved via the company's own binding arbitration process.
I first reported on the case for The Investigative Fund, in partnership with The Nation, as part of an expose on the rash of rape and sexual harassment allegations lodged against Halliburton, KBR, and its subsidiaries. One Houston firm alone was representing more than fourteen women with similar rape or harassment complaints. But Jones, like the other women, was hit with a double-whammy of obstruction.
First, there was the contractual requirement that Jones pursue her complaint in an extralegal Halliburton dispute-resolution program implemented in 1997 under then-CEO Dick Cheney. Instead of taking their case to the US courts, employees agreed, before they were hired and shipped to Iraq, that all disputes would be resolved via the clandestine arbitration process.
Second, the US Justice Department is charged with pursuing criminal investigation of US defense contractor employees in Iraq, but seems disinclined to do so. Even though the alleged rapes took place in Iraq, they occurred on the quasi-US soil of a military base. That means the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction act and the Patriot Act's special maritime and territorial jurisdiction provisions put the US Department of Justice in charge of prosecutions.
But the DOJ wasn't being very aggressive in its pursuit of these crimes. At the time of Jones's rape, approximately 180,000 American civilians were working for defense contractors there--a small city of people--and the DOJ had not convicted a single one in a violent crime.
Obamacare Not Such a Good Deal for Kids and Young Adults
�Insurance companies wasted no time after the bill was passed to unearth a loophole that allowed them to deny coverage to children with pre-existing illnesses for the next four years,� writes Sahil Kapur for Raw Story.
Unearthed? They knew it was in the bill all along because they wrote it.
�If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost,� said William G. Schiffbauer, an attorney who represents insurance companies.
Rest assured. Obama and crew �are working to bridge the gap.� Maybe they would have bridged it if they had read the bill. Nancy Pelosi said they�d have to wait for it to pass before they could read it, though.
Next up, young adults. �Health insurance premiums for young adults are expected to rise about 17 percent once they�re required to buy insurance four years from now,� according an analysis produced by Rand Health.
Scientists stumped as bee population declines further
The decline in the US bee population, first observed in 2006, is continuing, a phenomenon that still baffles researchers and beekeepers.
Data from the US Department of Agriculture show a 29 percent drop in beehives in 2009, following a 36 percent decline in 2008 and a 32 percent fall in 2007.
This affects not only honey production but around 15 billion dollars worth of crops that depend on bees for pollination.
Scientists call the phenomenon "colony collapse disorder" that has led to the disappearance of millions of adult bees and beehives and occurred elsewhere in the world including in Europe.
Man accused in Craigslist killing gives DNA sample
BOSTON�A former Boston University medical student charged with killing a masseuse he met on Craigslist has turned over a DNA sample to prosecutors.
Philip Markoff has pleaded not guilty in the April 14 fatal shooting of Julissa Brisman, of New York City, and the armed robbery four days later of a Las Vegas woman, both at Boston hotels. He has also been charged in an alleged attack on a stripper in Warwick, R.I.
Last month, a Boston judge granted a request from prosecutors -- over the objections of his lawyer -- to take DNA from an oral swab of Markoff.
On Monday, Markoff's lawyer said he has complied with the order.
The judge ruled that Markoff's sample could only be compared to biological evidence seized by investigators in the case.
The Strange Case of Kristopher Sickles and the Hutaree Militia
Adam Gadahn is the American media spokesman for al-Qaeda and widely regarded as an intelligence operative. Gadahn is the first American charged with treason by the U.S. government since 1952.
Alex characterized Pale Horse�s video effort as an �art project� intended to draw attention to himself and the Ohio Militia. During the interview, Sickle described himself and the Ohio Militia as legitimate and not part of a disinformation or intelligence operation designed to discredit the larger militia movement. See the video below.
According to the Irregular Times, however, there is a darker and more perverse side to Kristopher Sickles. He is not a constitutionalist or mainstream militia member. �For Kristopher Sickles, who used the Hutaree pseudonym �Pale Horse,� Christianity served as a perfect combination of righteous indignation and an excuse to behave in inexcusable ways. In particular, Sickles found in Christianity an excuse to kill people.�
Sickles released a film in 2009 he had written and directed entitled Dement Incarnate. The main character of the film is a serial killer who is depicted reveling in the slaughter of a young child. Sickles created a MySpace page on the film.
PAM COMMENTARY: This is clearly an opinion piece, and I don't mean to imply that enough evidence is presented to draw conclusions on any militia member's mental health status. However, the article does raise good questions as to whether the mentally ill are again being incited, exaggerated, or exploited for political gain in the "war on terror."
Moscow bombings blamed on Chechnya's Black Widows
The two women suspected of blowing themselves up on the Moscow metro are believed to belong to a legion of women recruited by separatist Chechen rebels, known in Russia as the Black Widows.
The ominous nickname highlights the loss of male relatives � usually husbands or brothers � that push these women to commit the suicide bombings and mass hostage-takings that were a hallmark of Chechnya's earlier separatist campaigns.
They gained notoriety when images of Chechen women dressed in black chadors, their waists and chests adorned with bombs, flooded Russian television screens during the three-day Moscow theatre hostage crisis in October 2002 that left 129 people dead.
The siege marked the start of a two-year campaign that saw the Russian capital attacked repeatedly. The strategy proved to be a powerful psychological weapon, as well as tactically successful, since women better managed to avoid the scrutiny of the Russian police.
Shaun Walker: Was the motive for Moscow attacks revenge?
Russia has fought two wars in Chechnya, and in recent years has trumpeted the peace and stability brought to the province under the Kremlin-backed hardman Ramzan Kadyrov. Despite allegations of brutality and torture made against Mr Kadyrov's forces, the situation in the republic is ostensibly fairly stable, with only infrequent terrorist attacks. In neighbouring Dagestan and Ingushetia, however, attacks on police and local officials occur on a daily basis. Analysts put the violence down to a potent mix of Islamic fundamentalism, local separatism, a reaction against the brutality of authorities across the region, and endemic corruption.
Despite the rumbling unrest across Russia's south, the authorities have succeeded in keeping terror away from Russia's major cities. But in recent months, the separatists have announced several times that they planned to hit the Russian heartland. The Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for a bomb that derailed the Nevsky Express train travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg last November, and in February warned that "the war is coming to their cities".
Russians will hope that yesterday's bombings are an isolated incident, but it is difficult to judge just how much capacity the rebels have to launch more attacks. Mr Kadyrov has claimed on many occasions that the insurgency has been wiped out and that only a few "bandits" remain in the mountains. However, analysts say that while the Chechen fighters have indeed been severely weakened, the brutal policies of Mr Kadyrov, coupled with high levels of corruption and poverty in the North Caucasus, make fertile ground for attracting new recruits.
Last week, a top Russian army official estimated that there are around 500 separatist fighters operating in the North Caucasus. The fighters are constantly on the move, hiding out in the mountainous terrain of Chechnya and its neighbouring republics, or finding shelter with sympathetic families. In recent years, their statements have shifted from localised, separatist concerns to more overtly Islamist, jihadi rhetoric.
Canada gets cold shoulder at Arctic meeting
OTTAWA � Canada took a kicking as it hosted a five-nation Arctic summit that left three other countries and the Inuit that live at the top of the world out in the cold.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a stinging rebuke and left the summit early, chiding Canada for not including all those �who have legitimate interests in the region.�
Presumably that would include Sweden, Finland, Iceland and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, representing the indigenous people of the North.
Those four, plus the five countries gathered in Gatineau � the U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark � make up the long-established Arctic Council, which many fear is being undermined by this new group.
UWM Student Arrested for Argument with Professor
MILWAUKEE - A video posted online of a University of Wisconsin Milwaukee student being arrested during class is going viral.
It happened on Monday during an anthropology class.
A witness and UWM officials say it began with a student, 24-year-old, Robyn Foster, arguing with her instructor over their last exam.
Foster felt a question was worded poorly, and she questioned it. The instructor told her to talk to her about it after class, but Foster argued with her, saying she wanted to talk about it now.
The police report suggests this argument lasted more than 15 minutes.
PAM COMMENTARY: I have no idea why the situation was escalated to the local police, other colleges handle situations like this all the time.
Arrest made in Ciudad Juarez killings
(CNN) -- The Mexican military has arrested a suspect in the killings this month of three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, police and federal spokesmen said Monday.
The arrested man is Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, municipal police spokesman Jacinto Seguro said.
According to Juarez newspaper El Diario, the suspect also was sought in connection with at least one other homicide: the killing of Zapata Reyes, a member of the rival Mexicles gang.
Valles de la Rosa reportedly has U.S. ties, having been charged with 10 counts related to drug trafficking in the United States, local media said. The suspect is a resident of la colonia Partido Romero in Ciudad Juarez, the media said, adding that he may rent a place in El Paso.
EPA to intensify its study of BPA; Agency to designate it as a 'chemical of concern'
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it is intensifying its look at how BPA affects the nation's wildlife and water supply and will designate the compound as a "chemical of concern."
The action plan is part of a growing effort by federal regulators to more carefully scrutinize the effects of the chemical. Bisphenol A is found in the lining of most food and beverage cans.
The move by the EPA comes after a three-year investigation by the Journal Sentinel found that government agencies relied heavily on industry scientists to assess BPA's safety, ignoring hundreds of independent studies that found the chemical caused harm.
In February, the Journal Sentinel revealed that eight days after chemical industry lobbyists met with Obama administration officials, the EPA delayed action on regulating the chemical more aggressively.
The Senator Goes Home [R]
�Really, I�ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,� says the senator.
�I�m sorry, but we have our rules.�
B.C. firm guilty of polluting orca waters
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. � The owner of a barge that tipped three years ago and spilled logging equipment into a small Vancouver Island bay � famous for its pebble beaches where orcas come to rub � has been found guilty on pollution charges.
In a decision released Monday, provincial court Judge Brian Saunderson found Ted Leroy Trucking guilty of six pollution charges stemming from the August 20, 2007, incident in Robson Bight.
In a trial last October, the court heard that three inspections found the company's barge was in poor condition when it took on water, tipped and spilled 11 pieces of logging equipment, including almost 20,000 litres of oil and fuel, into the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve in Johnstone Strait.
The judge said the company was negligent at best and "more likely, wilfully blind" to the fact that the barge was unseaworthy.
For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path
�There are very few professional photographers who, right now, are not hurting,� said Holly Stuart Hughes, editor of the magazine Photo District News.
That has left professional photographers with a bit of an identity crisis. Nine years ago, when Livia Corona was fresh out of art school, she got assignments from magazines like Travel and Leisure and Time. Then, she said, �three forces coincided.�
They were the advertising downturn, the popularity and accessibility of digital photography, and changes in the stock-photo market.
Magazines� editorial pages tend to rise or fall depending on how many ad pages they have. In 2000, the magazines measured by Publishers Information Bureau, a trade group, had 286,932 ad pages. In 2009, there were 169,218 � a decline of 41 percent. That means less physical space in which to print photographs.
Feds backed intelligence assets similar to Michigan Militia
�This is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society,� Andrew Arena, FBI special agent in charge, told the newspaper. �The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States.�
The Department of Homeland Security has worked closely with the Southern Poverty Law Center, long a source of conspiracy theories about militias.
In 2004, the FBI revealed the SPLC was involved with government operative and convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the Aryan Republican Army at Elohim City. McVeigh�s contact at Elohim City was Andreas Carl Strassmeir, a former German intelligence officer. Peter Langan, the son of a retired U.S. Marine intelligence officer and said to be the leader of the Aryan Republican Army, was a government informant.
Radio talk show host and racist firebrand Hal Turner recently admitted in federal court that he worked for the FBI as a �National Security Intelligence� asset. �Turner also claims the FBI coached him to make racist, anti-Semitic and other threatening statements on his radio show, but the newspaper also found many federal officials were concerned that his audience might follow up on his violence rhetoric,� the Associated Press reported in November, 2009.
Rothschilds Bring In an Outsider to Run the Show
LONDON � More than 200 years ago a German banker, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, sent his five sons to different European cities to guarantee the survival of what became one of the most prominent banking dynasties.
This month, his great-great-great-grandson David de Rothschild, a baron, took an equally unusual step to ensure the future of the family-owned firm: For the first time, he passed some responsibilities of running Rothschild to someone outside the family.
Rumors were ripe for some years in the banking industry about whom Baron David, 67, would appoint as his successor to run the group of financial advisory and wealth management companies. The Rothschild family is not short of younger family members, but only the baron�s 29-year old son, Alexandre, is currently working at the firm and considered by himself and the family as too young to take over from his father.
Baron David said he felt it was time to rethink the bank�s management structure, especially because he wanted to focus more on clients and less on managing the firm�s 950 bankers, who are known for their free-wheeling, entrepreneurial spirit and tenacious relationship-building skills � even wining and dining clients at the family�s vineyards, like Ch�au Lafite in the Bordeaux region of France.
U.S. Bank hit with $27 million verdict
U.S. Bancorp, Minnesota's largest bank, should pay $27 million for infringing patents related to digital checks owned by closely held DataTreasury Corp., a jury said Friday.
The trial is the first of three on DataTreasury's infringement claims that may lead to more than $1 billion in damages against the banking industry, including $868.7 million sought from Bank of America Corp., the largest U.S. bank by assets, and $100 million from Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. home lender.
The patents relate to the imaging of checks, their transmission and their storage in a central repository. More than 3.9 billion check images were shared or exchanged last year, according to Viewpointe, a New York-based company that processes and stores the digital images for banks, saving them the cost of transporting and storing paper checks.
Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent
Myriad Genetics, the company that holds the patents with the University of Utah Research Foundation, asked the court to dismiss the case, claiming that the work of isolating the DNA from the body transforms it and makes it patentable. Such patents, it said, have been granted for decades; the Supreme Court upheld patents on living organisms in 1980. In fact, many in the patent field had predicted the courts would throw out the suit.
Judge Sweet, however, ruled that the patents were �improperly granted� because they involved a �law of nature.� He said that many critics of gene patents considered the idea that isolating a gene made it patentable �a �lawyer�s trick� that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result.�
The case could have far-reaching implications. About 20 percent of human genes have been patented, and multibillion-dollar industries have been built atop the intellectual property rights that the patents grant.
�If a decision like this were upheld, it would have a pretty significant impact on the future of medicine,� said Kenneth Chahine, a visiting law professor at the University of Utah who filed an amicus brief on the side of Myriad. He said that medicine was becoming more personalized, with genetic tests used not only to diagnose diseases but to determine which medicine was best for which patient.
PAM COMMENTARY: Patenting genes for "individualized" treatment at high cost has always been questionable.
If we�re well, we simply don�t need medicine; James Le Fanu accuses pharmaceutical companies of fuelling the demand for 'lifestyle� drugs .
The therapeutic revolution of the post-war years ranks amongst the most impressive of all human achievements. So dramatically successful has been the assault on disease that it is almost impossible to imagine what life was like back in 1945, when there were no drugs for tuberculosis or schizophrenia or rheumatoid arthritis, or indeed for virtually any illness that a doctor encountered; a time before open heart surgery, transplantation and cures for cancer. These and a multitude of similar developments have been of immeasurable benefit in freeing people from the fear of illness and untimely death.
Yet, as Professor Joan Busfield from Exeter University argues � in a paper, �A Pill for Every Ill�, in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine this month � there is something very peculiar going on to account for why, over the past two decades, the Health Service�s drugs bill should have exploded, with little evidence of any measurable improvement in the nation�s heath.
From �4billion a year in the early 1990s, the cost of NHS prescriptions had topped �10billion by 2006, is now in the region of �18billion, and is expected to soar to �24billion by the middle of this decade. During this time, Professor Busfield points out, the average number of prescriptions issued per head of population has doubled to 16 per year. Millions of the healthy young and middle aged seldom see a doctor, so this can only mean that many, especially in the older age group, must currently be taking a fistful of drugs every day.
All drugs will have adverse effects in some people, so this vogue for polypharmacy will have been paralleled by the problem of iatrogenic (or doctor-induced) illness � as epitomised by Derrick Baxby from Liverpool, who discovered on leaving hospital after a coronary that he was expected to take seven drugs a day. He read the leaflet that came with each and calculated they offered him 130 side effects. �All could cause nausea and vomiting,� he writes in the British Medical Journal. �Most could cause kidney or liver problems; five, rash or itching; four, diarrhoea or constipation; four, headaches and four chest pain or palpitations.�
PAM COMMENTARY: There were outstanding cures for cancer prior to the 1950s, just as there are today. Modern medicine is financially motivated, suppressing cures in favor of expensive "disease management."
Google says mobile services now partly blocked in China
On Sunday, Google updated a page that has been tracking the status of its services in China to indicate that its "Mobile" service there is now partially blocked.
The precise nature of the block was not clear from Google's status page. In response to an inquiry, company noted that the availability of its services fluctuates regularly, and that it was too early to confirm if the block would be persistent, or whether it was related to the feud with China.
For users located in China, the block might have meant a service disruption for any or all of the features the company provides to users of Google-powered phones, including the mobile version of its search, e-mail, mapping and social networking services.
Of the 12 services listed on the status page, the "Mobile" category is the only one that has changed since Google posted the status page last Monday. (In fact, the Mobile category was not originally listed on the page). All other services either began blocked or began unblocked, and their status has not changed.
Economist Dean Baker: Banks Could Be Big Winners of President Obama�s Foreclosure Prevention Program [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about exactly what the plan is, who it will help and who it won�t help.
DEAN BAKER: Well, it�s a�first off, I mean, the important thing to understand is everything here is voluntary on the part of lenders, so it sets up a formula where, if lenders reduce principal, in some cases, that the government will issue a new mortgage, or I should say guarantee a new mortgage, at a lower principal. So say someone currently owes $300,000 on a home that we�ll say is worth $250,000. If the bank is willing to issue a new mortgage at, let�s say, $250,000�it�d be a little less, say $240,000�then the Federal Housing Authority will guarantee that new mortgage. So that would mean the person will be paying less than their mortgage each month. In principle, they could come out ahead. But again, in many of these markets, prices are still falling. So let�s say the home�s worth $250,000 today. A year from now it might be worth $225,000. And at that point, the person is again underwater, and the taxpayers are on the hook for the difference. Haven�t helped the person, you�ve helped the bank.
Pace of house flipping picks up
A Chronicle analysis of sales data from MDA DataQuick, a San Diego real estate research firm, shows that house flipping activity - where a home is bought and quickly resold - increased from 2008 to 2009 in several Bay Area ZIP codes.
For instance, the Pittsburg ZIP code 94565 had 52 flip sales in 2009. In 2008, it had 13.
DataQuick defines a flip as a recently purchased home that had previously sold within 21 to 180 days prior. The firm's data do not capture homes bought at auctions.
But other figures show that investor buying at public foreclosure auctions also has boomed.
NASA will join Toyota inquiry
WASHINGTON � NASA and the National Academy of Sciences are joining the government's effort to figure out what caused the sudden acceleration problems that led to Toyota's massive recalls.
NASA scientists with expertise in electronics will help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study potential electronic ties to unintended acceleration in Toyotas. NASA's knowledge of electronics, computer hardware and software and hazard analysis will ensure a comprehensive review, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday.
In a separate study, the National Academy of Sciences will examine unwanted acceleration and electronic vehicle controls in cars from around the auto industry, LaHood said.
The National Academy is an independent organization chartered by Congress.
China: reclaiming its place as an economic superpower
China has probably already overtaken Japan as the world�s second-biggest economy. In the space of some years, it is likely, barring some economic or political disaster, to overtake the United States and become the world�s biggest economy. Here in the UK, and for that matter the US and elsewhere in the Anglophone world, we tend to regard China as this as a great, new, unprecedented superpower. That the world will change irrevocably as it achieves economic pre-eminence.
China, on the other hand, the country�s current economic might is regarded rather differently: as a return to greatness. As this chart from the OECD shows (click to visit their site � it�s a flash graphic), China was by far the biggest economy in the world in Napoleonic era. It was only in the following century and a half that, thanks to atrociously introverted, anti-technology economic policies by successive leaders, and the concurrent leaps from the rest of the world thanks to the Industrial Revolution that the country�s comparative wealth plummeted.
Hard-to-kill snails infest Santa Monica Mountain watersheds
They're nearly always pregnant, like the mythical tribbles of "Star Trek" fame. They pass through gullets of fish unfazed. And they could bring disaster to native bugs, frogs and steelhead restoration efforts in the Santa Monica Mountains.
New Zealand mudsnails have taken over four watersheds in the Santa Monica Mountains and are spreading fast, expanding from the first confirmed sample in Medea Creek in Agoura Hills to nearly 30 other stream sites in four years.
The invasive species, found in many waterways in the U.S. West, the Great Lakes and Canada, reproduces asexually, so "it just takes one to infest a water body," said Mark Abramson, a stream restoration expert for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.
Mudsnails now infest the Malibu Creek, Trancas Creek, Ramirez Creek and Solstice Creek watersheds. They've claimed Malibou Lake, Malibu Lagoon and Cold Creek.
Va. Beach aquarium anticipating rare crocodile sex
Crocodile sex doesn't often grab headlines, but that's exactly what's garnering international attention for the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.
A pair of endangered crocodiles known as tomistomas (pronounced toe-MISS-tuh-muhs) have become more than friends since they went on display last fall in the aquarium's new Restless Planet exhibit. In the past month, all eyes and at least two video cameras have been trained on the Malaysian peat swamp facsimile where Grover and Gloria have been snuggling.
He blows bubbles from his snout to tickle her tummy; she nuzzles his jaw. Sometimes, they hold hands.
"That would be a little crocodile foreplay, if you will," said curator William "Chip" Harshaw. Come June, he is hoping to see a mound of sand on the bank of their pool, with eggs buried inside.
As Obama Visits Afghanistan, Tavis Smiley on Rev. Martin Luther King and His Opposition to the Vietnam War [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Tavis, I want to go to that very place in Dr. Martin Luther King�s speech that he gave at Riverside Church, April 4th, 1967.
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask, and rightly so, �What about Vietnam?� And I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that was Dr. King, April 4th, 1967. A year later to the day, he would be assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Time Magazine called the speech �demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.� But he wouldn�t stop, Tavis Smiley.
TAVIS SMILEY: Yeah, he would not stop. And what�s fascinating, Amy�and I think this will come through Wednesday night, when the special airs on PBS�what will come through is that if you replace the words �Iraq� for �Vietnam,� �Afghanistan� for �Vietnam,� �Pakistan� for �Vietnam,� this speech is so relevant today.
Road runner dinosaur revealed in China
In the journal Zootaxa, a team led by Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences reports, Xixianykus zhangi ('SHEE-shya-nye-kus jong-eye') describes a pint-sized, two-legged sprinter from about 85 million years ago. The fossil's legs, hips and backbone adds to growing evidence that the dinosaur's "parvicursorine" kindred, "represent extreme cursors (runners) among non-avian dinosaurs," says the study.
""The limb proportions of Xixianykus are among the most extreme ever recorded for a theropod dinosaur," says study researcher Corwin Sullivan, also of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a statement. "This doesn't provide a basis for estimating its top speed, but it does show that Xixianykus was a highly efficient runner."
The dinosaur's name derives from Xixia, its region of origin, onyx (Greek for claw) and specific name in honor of paleontologist Zhang Wentang, "who has contributed greatly to the study of paleontology in Henan Province," according to the statement.
The relatively short thigh-bone of the dinosaur, which stood perhaps 20 inches tall, hints that it was a digger, as well as a runner, says the study. Termites dug from the ground with its claws likely made for meals for Xixianykus. "It may sound odd, but digging and running actually work quite well together. Some modern termite eating species travel long distances between colonies of their prey, so as an efficient runner Xixianykus would have been able to follow this pattern," said co-author David Hone of the Chinese academy.
This Antioxidant Can Smash Insulin Resistance and Autoimmune Disease
I first became aware of the alpha lipoic regimen by Dr. Burt Berkson in the late 90's. Early on in his career, while an internist, he was given several patients who were expected to die from hepatitis C. His job was more or less to simply baby sit them in the ICU and watch them die.
But Dr. Berkson was a rebel at heart and he simply couldn't do that. Instead he called an associate at the National Institutes of Health and found out how he could treat them. He learned that alpha lipoic acid had some impressive experimental support. Remarkably, although these patients were expected to die within a few weeks, they all completely recovered!
However not all went well for Dr. Berkson. As he made his superiors look foolish, they simply could not tolerate that so rather than embrace his findings, they actively suppressed the results and made his life miserable for showing them up.
This was a pivotal moment in Dr. Berskson's career and caused him to make choices that eventually led to where he is at now. Since then, Dr. Berkson has lectured all over the world on this topic, and published a study on the use of antioxidants for the treatment of hepatitis C.
PAM COMMENTARY: I've heard good things about alpha lipoic acid from alternative talk show guests, but don't know anyone who has tried it personally, at least so far.
Canadians happier with health-care system, but changes also needed: survey
OTTAWA � Americans may be deeply divided over health-care reform, but Canadians are increasingly content with their own state-run system, says a major new survey done for Health Canada.
According to the $90,000 survey of 1,750 adults, 44 per cent rate the state of health care in Canada as good or excellent � an increase of seven percentage points since 2007 and 20 points higher than in 2004.
About the same number rate the state of health care as fair. Just one in nine say it�s poor or very poor, half as many as in 2004.
As well, eight in 10 Canadians who have used the health-care system in the past year say they were satisfied with the care they received.
Conroy's internet censorship agenda slammed by tech giants
But many reiterated their concerns that the policy is fundamentally unsound and would do little to make the internet a safer place for children. Many said the scope of blocked content was too broad and would render legitimate sites inaccessible, while the process of adding sites to the blacklist could be subject to abuse by bureaucrats and politicians.
Google, which today officially stopped censoring search results in China, said it had held discussions with users and parents around Australia and "the strong view from parents was that the government's proposal goes too far and would take away their freedom of choice around what information they and their children can access".
Google also said implementing mandatory filtering across Australia's millions of internet users could "negatively impact user access speeds", while filtering material from high-volume sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter "appears not to be technologically possible as it would have such a serious impact on internet access".
"We have a number of other concerns, including that filtering may give a false sense of security to parents, it could damage Australia's international reputation and it can be easily circumvented," Google wrote.
Internet Filters; A Public Policy Report (FLASHBACK) (PDF file)
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.
Double suicide bombings kill 38 on Moscow subway
Two women suicide bombers killed at least 38 people and wounded dozens more in rush-hour attacks on Moscow's subway today.
The first 23 victims died in an explosion on a train shortly before 8am at the Lubyanka station underneath the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB's successor.
The second explosion hit the Park Kultury station about 45 minutes later killing at least 12 people.
Around 60 more were injured in the blasts thought to have been organised by Chechen rebels.
Couch potatoes swivel to Net while watching TV
While multitasking with the TV and computer has existed for years, researchers are realizing now how intertwined the devices are and how the TV can drive online activity. The Nielsen Co. reported recently that people spend 3 1/2 hours a month watching TV and using the Internet simultaneously, a 35 percent jump from a year ago. The report said 59 percent of people do this at least once a month.
However, Nielsen also reported that TV viewers spent only 3.1 percent of their viewing time online. But it's during big TV events when the use spikes.
During the Academy Awards telecast, 13 percent of viewers spent time on the Web while 14.5 percent of viewers went online during the Super Bowl.
"Everyone was fearful that online or mobile would replace TV, but that's not what is happening," said Matt O'Grady, Nielsen's media product leader for all cross-platform audience measurement products. "We're not seeing cannibalization, we're seeing enhanced usage, and the platforms are supporting each other."
PAM COMMENTARY: Years ago, the Comedy Central show "South Park" displayed a character with 911truth.org on his t-shirt. The logo on his shirt was never mentioned verbally on that show. I happened to be on the internet at the time (TV typically doesn't have anything worth my undivided attention), and so I punched in 911truth.org immediately. I'd seen the URL before, but wanted to see what was on the site for that particular day. The site was down, and continued to be down for hours.
The next day I checked the site again. It was up and working. I e-mailed the webmaster, who replied that the TV show had crashed his site with the large number of people trying to hit it at the same time.
Barack Obama visits Afghanistan for a pep talk with Hamid Karzai
Barack Obama flew back from Afghanistan last night after a surprise visit to thank American and Nato troops stationed there and to press President Hamid Karzai to crack down on corruption.
US military and diplomats have repeatedly said that success on the battlefield against the Taliban would count for little unless the Karzai government begins to win over Afghans by improving governance and reducing corruption.
It was Obama's second visit to Afghanistan, but his first as US president. There was a news blackout on the trip, with reporters being told he was spending the weekend at the presidential retreat, Camp David. The Afghan government was only informed on Thursday.
He spent only a few hours in Afghanistan, all of it under cover of darkness.
Tennessee dog who chewed police car bumper is returned to family
Winston the dog has no problem with people. But he cannot stand police cars, specifically their bumpers.
On March 14, while lying in wait for speeding motorists, a Chattanooga, Tenn., police officer felt his vehicle bouncing around. Soon he realized Winston was attacking the front bumper. A second unit was brought in to document the assault (which can be seen in the video above and here).
The use of a Taser did not stop the animal, but eventually the boxer-bull mix was apprehended and taken into custody at the McKamey Animal Shelter where he was held for two weeks. On Thursday Winston was reunited with his family, the Emerlings, who paid $200 in fees.
City Court Judge Sherry Paty acknowledged that the violent attack did not happen to any people but insisted that the Emerlings take Winston to at least two obedience classes so that this behavior could be quelled before others were injured.
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.
Seniors' prescription drug use on the rise: Study (Canada)
OTTAWA � Nearly two-thirds of seniors in six provinces have prescriptions for five or more drugs, according to a new report on drug use among this country's older residents.
The number of drugs seniors are claiming through their public drug programs has been on the rise, the Canadian Institute for Health Information study indicates.
Of the six provinces studied, 62 per cent of seniors had claims for five or more kinds of drugs � up from 58 per cent in 2002 � and 21 per cent had claims for 10 or more, while another five per cent had up to 15 or more claims.
The study used data from the National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System database in which Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island participate. British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador do not._"Twenty years ago, this would have been an alarmist report and people would have been aghast by the notion that so many patients were on five or 10 medicines at once. Now it's become sort of conventionally accepted," Steve Morgan, associate director of the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia, said of the figures.
AP INVESTIGATION: Death of CIA detainee offers cautionary tale about harsh interrogations
WASHINGTON - More than seven years ago, a suspected Afghan militant was brought to a dimly lit CIA compound northeast of the airport in Kabul. The CIA called it the Salt Pit. Inmates knew it as the dark prison.
Inside a chilly cell, the man was shackled and left half-naked. He was found dead, exposed to the cold, in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002.
The Salt Pit death was the only fatality known to have occurred inside the secret prison network the CIA operated abroad after the Sept. 11 attacks. The death had strong repercussions inside the CIA. It helped lead to a review that uncovered abuses in detention and interrogation procedures, and forced the agency to change those procedures.
Little has emerged about the Afghan's death, which the Justice Department is investigating. The Associated Press has learned the dead man's name, as well as new details about his capture in Pakistan and his Afghan imprisonment.
Russia eliminates 2 time zones; Move aimed at improving communications
MOSCOW�Russia�s president thought the country had too much time on its hands, so on Sunday he eliminated two of its 11 time zones.
The changes mean that Chukotka � Russia�s eastern extreme, just across the Bering Strait from Alaska � is now nine hours ahead of Russia�s westernmost area, the Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. Formerly, there was 10 hours� difference.
As well as eliminating the time zone that previously covered the Chukotka and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky regions in the Pacific Far East, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered that Samara and Udmurtia, two regions in central Russia, should be on the same time as Moscow.
The changes went into effect before dawn Sunday when most of Russia switched to daylight savings time. People in the eliminated time zones didn�t move their clocks an hour ahead.
Guv approves use of eminent domain to take federal land
Fed up with federal ownership of more than half the land in Utah, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert on Saturday authorized the use of eminent domain to take some of the U.S. government's most valuable parcels.
Herbert signed a pair of bills into law that supporters hope will trigger a flood of similar legislation throughout the West, where lawmakers contend that federal ownership restricts economic development in an energy-rich part of the country.
Governments use eminent domain to take private property for public use.
The goal is to spark a U.S. Supreme Court battle that legislators' own attorneys acknowledge has little chance of success.
Marine's dad has to pay protesters' court fees
BALTIMORE -- The father of a Marine killed in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters was ordered to pay the protesters' appeal costs, his lawyers said today.
On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Snyder to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's funeral in 2006. The two-page decision supplied by attorneys for Albert Snyder of York, Pa., offered no details on how the court came to its decision.
Attorneys also said Snyder is struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision adds "insult to injury," said Sean Summers, one of Snyder's lawyers.
The high court agreed to consider whether the protesters' message is protected by the First Amendment or limited by the competing privacy and religious rights of the mourners.
What's up with nanotech?
Nanotech products have begun to enter commercial markets. Components such as nanoparticles and tiny conductive wires called carbon nanotubes are being standardized and mass-produced. New discoveries are being made. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, researchers recently found that carbon nanotubes can not only conduct electricity, but generate it.
�Nanotechnology may have faded from view,�� said Michael Strano, who led the MIT team that made the discovery, �but it has dissolved into a sea of science.��
At UMass Lowell, researchers have built working prototypes of sensors with components smaller than a grain of sand, able to detect chemical weapons, biological weapons, and previously undetectable cracks that threaten the integrity of ceramic body armor. They have also developed a process, similar to ink jet printing, to rapidly apply the sensors to soldiers� equipment.
Congress recently approved a $4 million appropriation for the university to continue its work on what many believe is the great challenge for nanotechnology: developing processes and tools to manufacture nanodevices in high volumes.
PAM COMMENTARY: If most of the uses are military, there�s a question of cost effectiveness for this versus other types of technology, and of course the greater question of when the wars will end and when military spending will be reduced to a peacetime level.
Blinded by science: how DNA evidence can confuse jurors (Australia)
People failed to appreciate the potential for laboratory error or contamination and for DNA to be accidentally transferred, she said.
Also, the concept of ''random match probabilities'' - the likelihood of a coincidental match between the crime scene sample and a person - was poorly understood, and people forgot to consider that in some places the matches were based on only eight points of comparison, while in the US up to 13 points were matched, increasing the reliability.
Last October a burglar's conviction was overturned in Wyong Local Court after the mishandling of samples in the laboratory caused a false match.
Victoria has had problems with contaminated DNA which led to a temporary ban on its use, while South Australian authorities reported a computer glitch but argued it was unlikely to put any convictions in doubt.
Global fuel giant Shell is selling its New Zealand retail and distribution network to a local consortium.
Infratil says it expects to eventually pay about $750 million for Shell's 229 petrol stations and a stake in the New Zealand Refinery, in what it describes as a good deal for a strong business.
The consortium will initially pay $696.5 million for Shell's downstream assets, with the remainder to be settled on Thursday when it calculates the amount of fuel Shell holds at that date.
Shell says the sale is part of a global strategy to get out of retail and concentrate on oil exploration and production.
A Shell New Zealand spokesperson says the sale does not affect its exploration and production activities.
Company seeks first U.S. oil sands project, in Utah
Salt Lake City - An energy company with government approvals to launch the first significant U.S. oil sands project is trying to raise money to build a plant in eastern Utah that would turn out 2,000 barrels of oil a day.
Earth Energy Resources Inc. has a state lease to work a 62-acre pit in Uintah County, where it has demonstrated technology that can extract oil out of sands using a proprietary solvent it calls environmentally friendly.
But first, the Calgary, Alberta-based company says it needs to raise $35 million, and it acknowledged that could be tough because private equity groups turned skittish after the 2008 economic meltdown.
Earth Energy said it is "de-risking" the project to lure investors.
FDA warning spurs push for stricter oyster rules
While no one has died in recent years from eating contaminated oysters plucked from Virginia waters, plenty of shellfish lovers elsewhere have perished because of a dangerous bacteria known as Vibrio.
In 2009, 11 people in other states died from consuming tainted East Coast or Gulf Coast oysters and clams that were served either raw or undercooked, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The fatalities last year were slightly lower than those in 2006 (14), 2007 (16) and 2008 (17). During this time, dozens of others got sick and recovered after ingesting Vibrio, including one case involving Virginia oysters pulled from the James River.
Vibrio - pronounced VIB-ree-oh - comes from the family of bacteria that causes cholera. It is colorless and odorless, and it thrives in warm water but shrinks in cooler temperatures.
Grizzly bears move east from Rocky Mountain Front, prompt community meetings
HELENA - Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks plan to hold three meetings in April in communities east of the Rocky Mountain Front to discuss ways to coexist with grizzly bears.
The bears have been steadily moving east in the last five years in a gradual expansion onto plains traditionally used as grizzly bear summer habitat, said Game Warden Bryan Golie.
"It's their normal habitat, and it's where the bears want to be," he said. "Sometimes they're just cinnamon black bears, but there are more grizzly bears now too. Grizzlies are not a problem, but because of their expansion, it was natural to hold these meetings."
The meetings are planned April 12 in Simms, April 13 in Shelby, and April 14 in Wolf Creek.
The Breakdown: An Unconstitutional Mandate?
Late Sunday night, after a full day of raucous floor debate, the House of Representatives voted to pass a (nearly) finalized version of healthcare reform. On Tuesday, President Obama signed the legislation amidst fanfare, relief and a pitch-perfect obscenity, compliments of the vice president. Since its passage, opponents have been finding all possible avenues to obstruct, delay and derail the newly instated law. Many of these attempts are farcical, but one in particular seems to be gaining traction amongst conservative scholars and lawmakers. As of Thursday, attorneys general from fourteen states have filed suit challenging the healthcare overhaul, particularly the provision known as the individual mandate, as unconstitutional. While the argument has certainly stirred rhetorical fervor, the question remains, does it hold up legally? To answer, this week's The Breakdown With Chris Hayes invites Columbia law professor Gillian Metzger to examine the validity of the constitutionality argument. [Includes audio podcast.]
NKorea accuses South of psychological warfare
North Korea warned the U.S. and South Korea on Monday of deadly consequences for engaging in "psychological warfare" by allowing journalists into the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.
The stern statement was the first from North Korea's military since a South Korean naval ship sank in the tense waters near the Koreas' maritime border under unclear circumstances. It made no mention of the ship, submerged off the South Korean island of Baengnyeong as the mission to rescue 46 missing seamen continued.
The area, just south of the disputed sea border, has been the site of three bloody skirmishes between the foes. However, South Korean and U.S. officials say nothing suggests North Korean involvement in Saturday's sinking.
The exact cause of the explosion that tore a hole into the Cheonan and split it apart may not be clear until the ship is salvaged after the rescue operation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Koss auditor faces lawsuit, questions
There has been no suggestion that the auditors or Koss' senior management had any inkling that millions of dollars were being misappropriated. But the question that likely will be dealt with in courthouses and in law firm conference rooms is whether the auditors should have caught the embezzlement that investigators believe ran for at least seven years.
"Are they responsible? I can't say," said Joel Joyce, a partner at Milwaukee accounting firm Reilly, Penner & Benton LLP. "Do they have a tough row to hoe? Absolutely."
Asked repeatedly for comment on the matter, a Grant Thornton spokesman sent an "off the record" e-mail refusing to discuss it.
The federal indictment charges the embezzlement was committed by Sujata "Sue" Sachdeva, a high-ranking financial executive at Koss who enjoyed immense trust from Michael Koss, the firm's top executive and son of the company founder.
PAM COMMENTARY: I�m not an accountant, but as a database programmer and IT consultant, it�s hard for me to believe that so many people missed what was happening. My experience with top management is that they�re constantly watching the company�s money.
Palin Tells Constitution-Loving Tea Partiers: We Don�t Need A President Who Is A �Constitutional Law Professor�
The Tea Party movement loves to express its affection for the Constitution. The Los Angeles Times writes, �Adherence to what supporters deem to be a strict interpretation of constitutional principles is a key tenet of the tea party movement.� Yesterday�s Tea Party rally in Searchlight, NV, for instance, was filled with imagery of the Constitution. Protesters carried signs that read �I honor the Constitution� and �What about the Constitution don�t you understand?� Rally attendee Norman Halfpenny, a 77-year old retired Marine Corps veteran, said, �We need to get our Constitution back.�
In her speech at the rally, Sarah Palin of course paid homage to the Constitution. �Our vision for America is anchored in time-tested truths that the government that governs least governs best, that the Constitution provides the path to a more perfect union -- it�s the Constitution,� she exclaimed. And so it�s extremely puzzling that Palin introduced this new attack line against President Obama yesterday:
�In these volatile times when we are a nation at war, now more than ever is when we need a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor lecturing us from a lectern.�
Ironically, the crowd cheered wildly at Palin�s line. Watch it: [Embedded video included in article.]
Key: Government must prove mining is worthwhile
Most New Zealanders will support mining on conservation land if the Government can prove it will benefit the country, Prime Minister John Key says.
Proposals released last week to remove 7058 hectares of protected land from schedule four of the Crown Minerals Act are raising intense debate, and the Government will make final decisions after six weeks of public discussion.
Asked at his post-cabinet press conference today whether the Government might decide not to mine any of the proposed areas, Mr Key said that was "a possibility" but he believed there was potential for the mining industry to expand.
"New Zealand already has extensive mining activities," he said.
UN links Kenya to Somali rebels
Kenya is �a major base� for rebels battling the Somali Transitional Federal Government, a UN report says.
The report also details Kenya�s training of TFG forces � in apparent violation of a UN embargo. It says Kenyans account for about half of all foreigners fighting in Somalia under the banner of al-Shabaab.
Many of these fighters are recruited through a network in Nairobi consisting of �wealthy clerics-cum-businessmen,� the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia says in the March 10 report.
DR Congo massacre uncovered
The Lord's Resistance Army killed about 300 people and kidnapped 250 more in a rampage in the Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009, according to an international rights group and the UN.
The previously undocumented massacre, undertaken over four-days in the remote Makombo area of DRC's northeastern Haute Uele district, was highlighted in reports by Human Rights Watch and the UN on Sunday.
The killings of 321 civilians occurred between December 14 and 17, HRW said in a reportafter documenting the deaths in a visit to the region in February.
The Ugandan anti-government group were said to have abducted 80 children among the 250 people kidnapped.
Junk food could be addictive 'like heroin'
Junk food may be addictive in the same way as heroin or cocaine, according to a study showing that laboratory rats will endure painful electric shocks to satisfy their craving for high-calorie snacks made from sausages, bacon and cheesecake.
Scientists have found that a "caf�tyle" diet of fatty, sugary food results in compulsive overeating among rats and causes neuro-chemical changes to the brain that mimic the sort of alterations in the human brain brought about by addiction to heroin and cocaine.
The findings lend support to the idea that certain types of energy-intensive foods can trigger compulsive overeating and obesity in humans, leading to a form of food addiction that is almost impossible to overcome by dieting.
The researchers found that rats offered junk food quickly became so attached to it that they would endure painful but harmless electric shocks to their feet in order to eat it. They would even prefer to starve themselves rather than eat the "salad bar option" of the typical rodent food eaten by rats that had never had junk food.
Ruling upholds LAX soliciting ban
A California Supreme Court ruling last week that affirmed the ban on the Hare Krishnas and other groups from soliciting donations at Los Angeles International Airport ends a 13-year legal battle. But it won't free travelers from being approached by strangers purportedly representing charities -- yet.
"It doesn't stop (solicitors) from being here," says Sgt. Belinda Nettles, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles Airport Police. "The airport police will not change actions related to solicitors until the ruling is finalized."
For years, travelers have complained of solicitors wandering the halls at Los Angeles International, often targeting foreign travelers. In the last 12 months, LAX police have made 84 arrests for aggressive soliciting, Nettles says.
But last week's unanimous ruling "will provide a more comfortable environment for the hundreds of thousands of airline passengers, employees and visitors who use the airport daily," says Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, which runs the airport. "Solicitors asking our passengers for money creates confusion and increases congestion at LAX."
Video: Sunday's tornado, as seen from I-85
This video of Sunday's tornado funnel was taken using an iPhone outside of Spencer on I-85 south bound about 6:56 p.m.
2 top banks likely to be spared from federal taxes; Experts say status isn�t unique for Bank of America and Wells Fargo
CHARLOTTE, N.C. � This tax season will be kind to Bank of America and Wells Fargo: It appears that neither bank will have to pay federal income taxes for 2009.
Bank of America probably won't pay federal taxes because it lost money in the U.S. for the year. Wells Fargo was profitable, but can write down its tax bill because of losses at Wachovia, which it rescued from a near collapse.
The idea of the country's No. 1 and No. 4 banks not paying federal income taxes may be anathema to millions of Americans who are grumbling as they fill out their own tax forms this month. But tax experts say the banks' situation is hardly unique.
�Oh, yeah, this happens all the time,� said Robert Willens, an expert on tax accounting who runs a New York firm with the same name. �Especially now, with companies suffering such severe losses.�
'Doctor Shock' charged with sexually abusing male patient
A leading Canadian psychiatrist who kept accusations of gross human rights abuses in apartheid-era South Africa hidden has been charged in Calgary with sexually abusing a male patient and is being investigated over dozens of other allegations.
Dr Aubrey Levin, who in South Africa was known as Dr Shock for his use of electricity to "cure" gay military conscripts, was arrested after a patient secretly filmed the psychiatrist allegedly making sexual advances. Levin, who worked at the University of Calgary's medical school, has been suspended from practising and is free on bail of C$50,000 (�32,000) on charges of repeatedly indecently assaulting a 36-year-old man.
The police say they are investigating similar claims by nearly 30 other patients. The Alberta justice department is reviewing scores of criminal convictions in which Levin was a prosecution witness.
Levin has worked in Canada for 15 years since leaving South Africa, where he was chief psychiatrist in the apartheid-era military and became notorious for using electric shocks to "cure" gay white conscripts. He also held conscientious objectors against their will at a military hospital because they were "disturbed" and subjected them to powerful drug regimens.
Lawmakers Face Fallout at Home From Health Vote
The receptions members of Congress received were a contrast to the seething anger visible immediately after the bill passed. Voters were more concerned and engaged than enraged.
Some Democrats who backed the overhaul trumpeted their votes, signaling that they would embrace the bill in their fall campaigns � despite polls so far showing strong public concern.
�A just society is one that shelters the homeless, feeds the hungry, that heals the sick,� Mr. Grayson said, though he will probably face a tough battle in his district.
Opponents of the bill carried their arguments from the halls of the Capitol back to their districts, warning that the new law would increase the deficit, cut access to health care and be the first step toward a government takeover of health care.
PAM COMMENTARY: This is a surprise? "I have this great idea for health care reform -- if you make 40k a year or more, you fork over $15-20,000 a year to the insurance companies. Otherwise, you pay the IRS a big fine at the end of the year for absolutely no benefit to yourself whatsoever. Aren't I brilliant? I'm sure I can count on your vote this November..."
Senator Schumer was on "Meet the Press" Sunday, talking about how his daughter won't have to buy health insurance at $1,200 per month because she can stay on his policy now. But of course he doesn't mention the middle class people forced by the new law to pay that same $1,200 or more per month for insurance, whether they can afford it or not, under the new law's "individual mandate".
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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