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 13th to 19th of June 2010
This week's links will be caught up later. - PR
Where Gulf Spill Might Place on the Roll of Disasters (18 June 2010)
The professors also note the impossibility of ranking such a varied list of catastrophes. Perhaps the worst disaster, they say, is always the one people are living through now.
Still, for sheer disruption to human lives, several of them could think of no environmental problem in American history quite equaling the calamity known as the Dust Bowl.
�The Dust Bowl is arguably one of the worst ecological blunders in world history,� said Ted Steinberg, a historian at Case Western Reserve University.
Across the High Plains, stretching from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakotas, poor farming practices in the early part of the 20th century stripped away the native grasses that held moisture and soil in place. A drought that began in 1930 exposed the folly.
Alberta boasts biggest dinosaur graveyard in world; Coastal floods may explain rich fossil beds (18 June 2010)
CALGARY - Scientists in Alberta say they've uncovered the largest dinosaur graveyard in the world and unlocked the mystery of why so many fossils are found in the province.
A 2.3-square-kilometre bonebed containing thousands of bones belonging to a horned dinosaur called the Centrosaurus was found near Hilda, about 50 kilometres north of Medicine Hat, according to David Eberth, a senior research assistant with the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
The site, he said "is really ugly looking. The bone bed is actually exposed, it's very patchy and exposed in outcrops along the beautiful landscapes along the South Saskatchewan River."
The dino graveyard was actually discovered in the late '90s. However, publications confirming the discovery will be published this month.
Lieberman Introduces Bill Targeting Internet Freedom [Infowars] (18 June 2010)
�For all of its �user-friendly� allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets,� said senator Joe. �Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies � cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals.�
The �technoignoramus Liarman and his fellow kleptoplutocrats,� as Scott Evans describes them, are attempting to scare the plebs into accepting this First Amendment destroying legislation � not that it matters because, as Jim DeMint has revealed, these corporate and bankster commissars pass legislation in secret without the consent of the plebs they supposedly represent.
Cybersecurity is simply another stratagem contrived by the government to shut down the free flow of information. In a non-bizarro world where globalist control freaks would not be allowed to run roughshod over to Constitution and the Bill of Rights, network security would be the responsibility of the owners of those networks.
The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act was introduced by Lieberman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). It follows a similar bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) which would allow the federal government to unilaterally �order the disconnection� of targeted websites. Rockefeller opined at the time we would all be better off if the internet was never invented.
PAM COMMENTARY: You know, companies pay IT security guys the big bucks to secure their servers. If they don't, then whose fault is that?
And for those who wonder why I use Paypal on my sites instead of programming my own shopping cart, it's because Paypal handles the online transaction security in exchange for a small percentage of sales. That's how a small vendor makes sure that financial transactions are secure -- by using software programmed by a company that can afford good security analysts. Sometimes criminals are able to get through, but if security is set up properly it's pretty hard, and to say that the internet is wide open to such attacks is an exaggeration, probably for a political agenda.
Microsoft opens center for reports of identity and data theft (18 June 2010)
In a major step to slow cybercrime, Microsoft on Thursday launched a coalition that will serve as a clearinghouse for reports about caches of stolen data stashed all across the Internet.
Malicious programs crafted to swipe your financial and personal data have come to saturate the Internet � so much so that security researchers routinely ferret out computer servers used by cybercrooks to hoard stolen data. Until now, there was no specific process for reporting such discoveries.
The Internet Fraud Alert center � spearheaded by Microsoft and managed by the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance (NCFTA) � will serve as a reporting hub. Stolen payment card numbers and online banking account logons will be routed to the issuing banks. The institutions will then decide whether to alert customers, suspend the accounts or pursue legal remedies.
Stolen Social Security numbers, birthdates and other personal data will be archived offline by the NCFTA and made available, as needed, to law enforcement.
Coast Guard moving to capture oil closer to shore (18 June 2010)
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Friday that about 2,000 private boats will be more closely linked through a tighter command and control structure to direct them to locations less than 50 miles offshore to skim the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, the Associated Press reports.
Estimates of the oil being siphoned from the leaking well are growing. More than 1.2 million gallons was sucked up to containment vessels Thursday, Allen said.
Who's in charge of BP's Gulf oil spill response? Chairman says CEO on way out, others say no (18 June 2010)
BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg told Britain's Sky News television on Friday that CEO Tony Hayward is on his way out as the company's point man on the Gulf oil spill crisis. He said Hayward "is now handing over the operations, the daily operations to (BP Managing Director) Bob Dudley."
Other company officials insisted, however, that Hayward was still the man and that the switch had already been announced and isn't immediate.
Navy head Ray Mabus navigates Gulf recovery (18 June 2010)
Then, upon taking office as the nation�s youngest governor in 1988, Mabus uttered six words that would come to haunt his brief political career: �Mississippi will never be last again.�
It was the ambitious slogan of a 39-year-old reformer, swept into office on a change-minded platform, aimed at improving the state�s literacy and employment rates, which have frequently been among the worst in the country.
But Mabus struggled to find the funds to pay for his reforms. �With each succeeding year, those national indices would come out, and the state was, indeed, last. After two or three years of that festering, his opponents were reminding him that he couldn�t move the needle fast enough to change things before reelection,� said Sid Salter, a Mississippi political reporter and columnist who has chronicled the state for decades.
In the 1991 reelection campaign, Mabus faced an anti-affirmative-action, conservative populist named Kirk Fordice, who hammered on Mabus�s Ivy League bona fides in an effort to portray him as out of touch with the state�s problems. Mabus�s painful lack of ease in retail politics was easily portrayed by Fordice as Harvard-born aloofness. Despite his lineage as the son of a timber farmer in tiny Ackerman in central Mississippi, Mabus got tagged with the image of an elitist who could not connect with ordinary folks.
PAM COMMENTARY: I'm still a little spooked by Mabus' last name exactly matching Nostradamus' third and therefore biblical antichrist. And we all thought that Bush was the third antichrist, with the long red-tailed comet coming early in his term, and the starting of the long wars and all...
China's stimulus spending created infrastructure projects that may not be needed (18 June 2010)
BEIJING -- In late 2008, with the financial crisis rippling through the global economy, China's leaders embarked on a two-year, $586 billion spending program to try to stave off a recession and keep the Chinese economy growing.
Unlike in the United States -- where President Obama's large stimulus plan became the subject of protracted congressional wrangling and was shaped to include tax cuts and aid to states -- Chinese leaders followed a simple mandate: Spend and build.
Forget the tax cuts; in China, it was infrastructure, infrastructure and more infrastructure.
China was already awash in big-ticket construction projects. The stimulus allowed China to speed up some projects, begin digging on others and extend the building boom to less-developed areas in the country's west and north. The result, 18 months after the stimulus was introduced, is an astonishing frenzy of building -- highways, subways, airports, bridges, high-speed rail lines and even new cities constructed, literally, in the middle of nowhere.
Tom Engelhardt on "The American Way of War: How Bush�s Wars Became Obama�s" [DN] (18 June 2010)
TOM ENGELHARDT: What I mean is that in the Cold War, which we�ve largely forgotten at this point, the Soviet leaders made a kind of a basic miscalculation. They mistook military power for global power. They poured all their money functionally into their military. They got stuck in Afghanistan, very much like us, for ten years. In the meantime, their budget deficits were going up. They were growing�their indebtedness to other countries was growing. Their infrastructure was beginning to crumble. The very society they had built was beginning to crumble. And when the Red Army came out of Afghanistan�it limped out in 1989, after a decade�it basically returned to a country that didn�t exist, because within two years the Soviet Union collapsed.
In Washington, this caught everybody by surprise. Everybody expected the Cold War to go on and on. When American leaders saw this happen, they declared victory. The world was without an enemy at this point. And they�in one of the more striking decisions, I think, that�s been made in many, many years, they decided then to follow the Soviet path. And they began�and they put the so-called peace dividend in a ditch, and they began to pour money, successive administrations, as we know, up through the Bush administration into today, into the American military, while budget deficits rose, indebtedness rose, infrastructure crumbled, and the society began to�you know, began to weaken. Now, the United States is not the Soviet Union. It was always by far the more powerful country. And it isn�t today the Soviet Union in 1989 or 1991. But it is striking that our leaders, in declaring victory, decided to go down, in essence, the Soviet path, which was the path to implosion.
Minorities hit harder by foreclosure crisis (18 June 2010)
Minority homeowners have been disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis and stand to lose homes at a faster pace than white borrowers in the future, according to a report released Friday by a nonprofit research group.
The study by the Center for Responsible Lending found that whites made up the majority of the 2.5 million foreclosures completed between 2007 and 2009 -- about 56 percent -- but that minority communities had significantly higher foreclosure rates.
While about 4.5 percent of white borrowers lost their homes to foreclosure during that period, black and Latino borrowers had 7.9 and 7.7 percent foreclosure rates, respectively. That means that blacks and Latinos were more than 70 percent more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure during that period, the study found.
Overall, blacks lost about 240,020 homes to foreclosure, while Latinos lost about 335,950, according to the study, which analyzed government and industry data on millions of loans issued between 2005 and 2008 -- the height of the housing boom.
Feds charge 1,200 people in mortgage fraud crackdown (18 June 2010)
Reporting from Orange County, Washington and New � Seeking to show victories against the kind of ground-level fraud that contributed to the housing crash, federal authorities said Thursday that they had filed criminal charges in recent months against 1,200 mortgage brokers and others accused of cheating banks and borrowers of $2.3 billion.
White-collar crime experts said the size and scope of what the government presented Thursday � dubbed Operation Stolen Dreams � represented an unprecedented crackdown on mortgage fraud.
First-time home-buyer credit may vanish soon (18 June 2010)
Time is running out to qualify for California's first-time home-buyer tax credit.
The state Franchise Tax Board has received applications claiming about 80 percent of the funds allocated for the credit. Although it's hard to predict, tax board spokeswoman Denise Azimi says the credit could be gone within a few weeks.
In March, the Legislature approved $100 million in state tax credits for first-time home buyers who purchase a new or existing home in California. To qualify, the buyer must close escrow after May 1 and before the $100 million runs out.
The credit is 5 percent of the purchase price or $10,000, whichever is less, spread over three years. To make full use of the credit, the buyer would have to owe at least $3,333 in California income taxes in each of those three years.
Wal-Mart's price cuts leave soda makers flat (18 June 2010)
It's unclear how long Wal-Mart's soda promotions will last. Industry insiders say it could be months.
The cuts could put the retailer in a fundamental conflict with big beverage companies, which worry that ultra-low prices could jeopardize eight or nine years of work to get consumers to accept higher prices. That effort was meant in part to produce gains for the bottlers who make and distribute soft drinks.
Analysts say the new low prices could train shoppers to look for deep discounts before parting with their money.
"Giving away 24-packs is not in the interest of the industry," Bill Pecoriello, CEO of Consumer Edge Research, said at a Beverage Digest conference in New York this week.
PAM COMMENTARY: They should be grateful that people are willing to buy their products at all. I think it's smarter to spend money on something healthier.
Anadarko blasts BP for 'reckless actions' (18 June 2010)
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Anadarko Petroleum, a minority partner in the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico, blamed BP for "reckless" behavior, seeking to distance itself from the worst oil spill in US history.
"The mounting evidence clearly demonstrates that this tragedy was preventable and the direct result of BP's reckless decisions and actions," Anadarko chief executive Jim Hackett said in a statement issued late Friday.
Anadarko, which owns 25% of the Macondo well where the Deepwater Horizon rig was drilling, signed a contract saying that it would pay a quarter of the costs associated with the well, unless BP is found guilty of gross negligence.
"BP's behavior and actions likely represent gross negligence or willful misconduct and thus affect the obligations of the parties under the operating agreement," Hackett said.
On April 20, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers, and the well is now spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
BP adding piers to marina in which Plaquemines President Billy Nungesser has ownership share (18 June 2010)
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who has become a national symbol of frustration by decrying BP's and the federal government's efforts to clean up the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, has an interest in a Port Sulphur marina that is being refurbished on the oil company's dime.
Myrtle Grove Marina is half-owned by Pointe Celeste Inter Vivos Trust, an entity from which Nungesser made less than $5,000 in 2009, according to his personal financial disclosure forms filed with the state Ethics Administration. The trust includes seven other companies, records show.
BP has been using the marina as a staging ground for its cleanup efforts since May 22, marina manager Leona Squarsich said Thursday. To handle the extra 20 to 40 vessels using it daily, BP has begun outfitting it with new piers, she said.
BP spokesman Steve Rinehart confirmed that the company had a contract with Myrtle Grove Marina.
Shifting winds slow oil drift toward Florida coast (18 June 2010)
NAVARRE BEACH -- Tourists watched schools of fish swim not far from BP workers combing mostly tar-free sands at the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on Friday, a day of reprieve from tides bringing tar patties to some of the most pristine beaches of Florida's Panhandle.
``It's a bit of a rollercoaster watching the news,'' said Alabama visitor Mike Sanborne, 33, as he stared at the fish below. ``One day, it's here -- one day it's not. You just got to come out fishing and get what you can for as long as you can.''
A day earlier pie-size tar patties washed up on Okaloosa County shores Thursday, beaching Panhandle swimmers as cleanup workers turned to nighttime hours to pluck splotches of weathered oil off some of the state's most pristine coast.
Federal forecast models, meantime, had been showing the mass of light oil increasingly edging eastward -- away from Louisiana and along the Panhandle shoreline in an ominous omen for the weekend at a time of increasing tar ball landings.
Facebook revenue neared $800 million in 2009; Rapid growth may lead investors to press for public share offering (18 June 2010)
SAN FRANCISCO �Facebook�s financial performance is stronger than previously believed, as the Internet social network�s explosive growth in users and advertisers boosted 2009 revenue to as much as $800 million, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
The company also earned a solid net profit, in the tens of millions of dollars last year, one of the sources said.
That growth in profit and revenue underscores how Facebook is increasingly making money off its 6-year-old service, which ranks as the world�s largest Web social network with nearly half a billion users.
That sort of performance is likely to whet the appetites of investors keen for a public share float, despite the company�s insistence that an IPO is not a near-term priority.
Uh-oh: SpaghettiOs with meatballs recalled (18 June 2010)
Recalled are certain lots of three varieties of the pasta product often consumed by children: SpaghettiOs with Meatballs, SpaghettiOs A to Z with Meatballs, and SpaghettiOs Fun Shapes with Meatballs (Cars).
The USDA said there are no reports of illnesses associated with the product and Sanzio said the company has received no customer complaints to date.
The recalled products have �EST 4K,� as well as a use-by date between June 2010 and December 2011 printed on the bottom of the can. The products were manufactured between December 2008 and June 2010 and distributed to retail establishments nationwide.
Farmland protection program turns into penny ante game (18 June 2010)
In urban areas, the recent funding cut might sting. In rural counties with vast swaths of farmland, it's a body blow.
"It's a very blatant slap in the face," said Colusa County Supervisor Kim Dolbow Vann. "It's the state saying, 'Not only are we not going to support this great conservation program, we're leaving you a penny for a tip.' "
Last year, her county north of Sacramento received $870,000 in Williamson Act funds. This year, it will take in $24.38.
The cuts have prompted some counties to discuss opting out of the program, a process that can take 10 years. Dropping out means that farmers will assume greater tax burdens and perhaps be under increased pressure to sell their land.
U.S. carries out first firing squad execution in 14 years for Utah murderer (18 June 2010)
But there was an unmistakably 21st century twist to his final minutes when Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff used micro-blogging site Twitter to announce he had given the final approval for the execution.
"I just gave the go-ahead to Corrections Department to proceed with Gardner's execution," Shurtleff tweeted shortly before Gardner was shot. "May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims."
Firing squads were outlawed by Utah in 2004 but the ban was not retroactive, allowing Gardner the freedom to opt for the gruesome method instead of lethal injection during a hearing in April.
Gardner had spent 25 years on death row for gunning down an attorney in a failed bid to escape from a court room in 1985 during a murder trial. His case had renewed debate about use of the death penalty in the United States and divided family and friends of his victims.
Loved ones of lawyer Michael Burdell, shot dead by Gardner in his botched escape attempt, have said they were against his execution because Burdell opposed the death penalty.
After more than 30 years, FDA has yet to issue final regulations for sunscreens (18 June 2010)
The Bee Gees were topping the charts with "Saturday Night Fever," the first test-tube baby had just been born and gas cost 63 cents a gallon when the Food and Drug Administration began writing regulations for sunscreens.
Thirty-two years later, the agency has yet to issue its final regulations.
That means sunscreen manufacturers are not legally required to prove that their products meet advertising claims such as "waterproof," "broad-based" or "lasts all day," or that they offer a specific sun-protection factor, or SPF.
In fact, several public health and consumer groups have taken issue with the SPF claims made by some sunscreen manufacturers, saying that the products offer less protection than advertised. At least nine class-action lawsuits have been filed against sunscreen makers, alleging false advertising.
PAM COMMENTARY: There are controversies over the effectiveness of sunscreens, and their toxicity. I prefer the old-fashioned way of tanning -- gradually building up a tan by slowly increasing the amount of time spent in the sun each day. That also gives the body a chance to make its own Vitamin D.
Drugmaker faces uphill fight in plan to market �female Viagra� (18 June 2010)
A pink pill that acts on brain chemicals has helped women with low sex drive, its German manufacturer said on Friday, arguing for the first U.S. approval of a drug to boost women�s libido.
Officials of privately held drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim aimed to convince an expert panel, over the doubts of government reviewers, that the pill offered meaningful benefits to women who want a medical option to increase their sexual desire.
The once-a-day pill called flibanserin is the latest attempt at a female counterpart to Pfizer Inc�s Viagra, the blockbuster blue pill for men. In clinical studies, Viagra and other male impotence pills have failed to help women.
Boehringer is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval to sell the pill by prescription for premenopausal women with a persistent, bothersome and unexplained lack of sex drive.
FDA panel unanimously backs new 'morning after' pill (18 June 2010)
An emergency contraceptive pill that is effective for five days after unprotected sex earned the unanimous endorsement of a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel Thursday.
If the FDA follows its outside advisers' recommendation, which it typically does, ulipristal acetate would become the second "morning-after pill" on the U.S. market.
The other emergency contraceptive pill, Plan B One-step, which contains the hormone levonorgestrel, is approved for use up to three days after unprotected sex.
While only girls younger than 17 need a prescription to buy Plan B One-step, women of all ages would need a prescription for ulipristal. Scientists say both pills work by inhibiting ovulation.
US FDA OKs Sanofi-Aventis prostate cancer drug (17 June 2010)
The agency approved the intravenous drug despite a small but heightened risk of death from side effects.
Like other chemotherapy drugs, Jevtana reduced white blood cell counts and will require careful monitoring of patients to minimize side effects, Sartor told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
Other side effects include anemia, reduced levels of platelets in the blood, nausea and fatigue.
The company study tested 755 men who were randomly assigned to receive the drug plus a steroid, or another chemotherapy drug plus a steroid. The study found that the drug reduced the risk of death by 28 percent overall.
PAM COMMENTARY: Notice that the "control group" (if you can call it that) received another cancer drug. I've heard about trials like this -- such methodology is used to eliminate the possibility that people might be more likely to survive if they do nothing at all, or if they use some of the more effective treatments from alternative medicine.
F.C.C. Moves to Expand Role in Broadband (17 June 2010)
WASHINGTON � The Federal Communications Commission voted 3 to 2 on Thursday to move toward giving itself the authority to regulate the transmission component of broadband Internet service, a power the commission�s majority believes is central to expanding the availability of broadband.
The vote formally begins a period of public comment on an F.C.C. proposal to overturn a previous commission ruling that classified broadband transmission as a lightly regulated information service.
The proposal would designate broadband transmission as a telecommunications service, which, as with telephone service, would make it subject to stricter regulation.
The commission has said it intends to exempt broadband service from most of the regulatory options it has under the stricter designation, keeping only those regulations that are necessary �to implement fundamental universal service, competition and market entry, and consumer protection policies.�
Bypassing BP stations won't KO oil giant (17 June 2010)
But boycotting BP gas stations does not hurt the oil company's coffers much, at least directly. BP doesn't even own the 11,000 BP-branded stations in the United States. The company started getting out of the retail gas-selling business a couple years ago. In fact, all big oil companies did because it wasn't profitable enough.
And because oil is a globally traded commodity, there is no easy way to confirm which exploration company is responsible for that tank of gas you just bought, regardless of what the signage over the pump says.
So, whose bottom line are you hurting with your personal BP boycott? BP gets a little from being a franchise owner, although a BP spokesman would not say how much. Largely, it's independent service station owners who suffer.
If sales volume drops and BP gets stuck with unpurchased gasoline, it can quickly and easily wholesale the excess to stations that sell gas without a brand name, experts said.
PAM COMMENTARY: I have mixed feelings about the boycott, because the company will need money to pay for cleanup costs and claims. Driving them out of business probably only means that another oil company will buy them out down the road, although it is possible that the buyer would be more responsible in its drilling practices.
BP Begins 'Flaring' Oil in the Gulf (17 June 2010)
BP has been capturing oil on surface ships since June 3, when the company cut the bent riser pipe and lowered a containment dome over the ruptured well. Since then, it has managed to divert around 15,000 barrels of oil a day.
But 15,000 barrels is about as much as one ship can handle, said Toby Odone, a BP spokesman. On Wednesday, BP announced that oil and gas was flowing through a second containment system that transports oil, a ship known as the Q4000, which can burn off the material.
"We don't have the processing capability so there's no way to store [the oil]," he said. "You need to process it when it comes out of the sea."
The oil must be separated from gas and water on the surface, and the gas flared. Odone admitted that burning the oil isn't ideal. "We would prefer to be able to reuse that oil somehow," he said, but offered that it's better than letting the crude flow into the Gulf.
Health agencies worldwide call for tough safety rules for window blinds (17 June 2010)
OTTAWA � Health Canada and two other safety agencies have come together to demand stronger standards for window coverings which have been blamed for the strangulation deaths of a number of children worldwide, but Canadian consumer groups say the measures are ineffective because they remain voluntary.
Health Canada, the U.S. Consumer Product Commission (CPSC) and DG Sanco (the European Commission's health and consumer directorate general), represent 29 countries and announced Thursday they are urging manufacturers to create an international set of safety standards to reduce deaths and injuries caused by window coverings.
Health Canada says this is the first time the three agencies have united in a demand for stronger safety standards for a specific product.
However, consumer groups say any changes concerning corded window coverings are voluntary in Canada � until the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, which is before Parliament, passes.
Canadian Supreme Court: Access to information not a constitutional right; Long-awaited decision leaves Canada behind other countries (17 June 2010)
�Canada, in the 1980s . . . was a trailblazer in access to information laws,� he said in an interview. �Now we are behind. We are out of step.�
The case pitted privacy commissioners, media and civil liberties organizations against the federal government and seven provinces, which argued access to information was a privilege, not a right.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Rosalie Abella, who wrote Thursday�s decision, said the ability to obtain government documents might be constitutionally protected in certain cases, if those seeking access can show suppressing the information would prevent �meaningful commentary� on public issues.
But countervailing considerations could also work against releasing information, they said.
A Conversation with Blago in the Can (17 June 2010)
I'm washing my hands, reaching to get the paper towels, look up, and who's standing next to me? Rod Blagojevich.
Rod says, "Hi! How are you, Jim?"
I tell him I am doing well and I extend my hand to shake his. He has the courtesy to wash his hands first.
He asks me about my radio show and I ask about his. He tells me that his radio show is on hiatus.
Palin adds oil to the fire (17 June 2010)
He pressed the former Alaska governor, considered well-versed in energy issues, to explain what she�d do to plug the gusher several kilometres beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico that has defied all human efforts to stop it for the past two months.
�The Dutch,� said Palin, who insisted the Obama administration was refusing help from foreign governments. �They are known, and the Norwegian. They are known for ... for dikes and for cleaning up water and for dealing with spills.�
In fact, it was noted following her interview, many foreign nations are contributing to the efforts to combat the gusher, including the Norwegians and the Dutch, although in the early days of the spill, when oil giant BP was wildly underestimating the extent of the spill, their offer to help was declined.
�There are foreign vessels out there right now,� Ken Wells, president of the Offshore Marine Services Association, said recently. Reports to the contrary, Wells added, are �misleading and misinformed.�
Alaska pipeline will close for maintenance (17 June 2010)
Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. says it will close the trans-Alaska pipeline for maintenance for 36 hours starting Saturday morning. At Pump Station 1, an incoming Kuparuk pipeline connection will be rerouted to a new line above ground.
At Pump Station 4, piping to an unused legacy pump house will be disconnected and two large valves used to receive the cleaning and inspection devices commonly known as "pigs" will be replaced.
At Pump Station 9, an electric power substation will undergo annual inspection and maintenance. Projects also are planned for Pump Stations 5 and 7 and at the Valdez Marine Terminal.
Alyeska conducts line shutdowns annually. They coincide with producers' routine maintenance on the North Slope.
YouTube adds online editing tool (17 June 2010)
WASHINGTON - YouTube users can now edit their own videos online. The Google-owned video-sharing site added an online editing tool this week that allows YouTube users to combine multiple videos, shorten a video or add soundtracks from songs in the AudioSwap library.
The newly created video can be published to YouTube directly from the editing site.
To edit a video, a user drags a thumbnail of the video they want to edit into an empty timeline. The video can then be trimmed or other videos added to make it longer.
YouTube users can only edit videos they have uploaded themselves and not the videos of other users.
The new video editor is located at youtube.com/testtube.
Recipe for Green Tires: Plants, Not Petroleum (17 June 2010)
A century later, the research laboratories at several tire makers are making progress toward reversing the trend of increased petroleum content. One of the first to pursue this path was Sumitomo Rubber Industries, which has a global alliance with Goodyear in the Dunlop brand, for the Enasave tire it introduced in Japan in 2006. Among other changes, Sumitomo engineers substantially reduced the amount of petrochemicals by cutting the amount of synthetic rubber in half, to 11 percent of the tire�s composition from about 22 percent.
A company spokesman, Masatoshi Hayashi, said that the replacement material was a chemically modified natural rubber, chosen to offset the tendency of tires with a high natural rubber content to have poor traction in braking and cornering. To overcome this problem, the engineers altered the rubber chemically to produce a rubber compound with better grip in hard driving.
Sumitomo also cut back the amount of carbon black filler (usually produced from oil, coal or charcoal) in the Enasave�s tread compound while increasing the amount of fuel-saving silica filler, Mr. Hayashi said. Vegetable processing oil was substituted for its petroleum equivalent, and the compounds were reinforced with fibers made from plant cellulose.
Sumitomo has continued development. In 2008, the company introduced a prototype Enasave tire using ingredients that were 97 percent nonpetroleum-based, and by 2013 it hopes to market a new tire line that contains no petrochemicals at all.
New jobless claims up as layoffs persist (17 June 2010)
WASHINGTON � The number of people filing new claims for jobless benefits jumped last week after three straight declines, another sign that the pace of layoffs has not slowed.
Initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 472,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the highest level in a month and overshadowed a report that showed consumer prices remain essentially flat.
On Wall Street, the stock market shook off the disappointing report and managed a slender gain after being in the red for much of the day.
The rise in jobless claims highlighted concerns about the economic rebound - especially after a report this week said home construction plunged in May after government tax credits expired.
Employment data raises new doubts about state�s recovery; State lost 7,900 private-sector jobs in May despite a surge in government hiring (17 June 2010)
Wisconsin's economy continued to struggle in May as the state lost 7,900 private-sector jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis and only managed to offset the declines with a surge of new hires by federal, state and local government agencies, according to state employment data released Thursday.
Casting new doubts on the durability of the state's recovery, private-sector hiring fell for the second time in three months after adjustments to smooth out seasonal fluctuations such as the start of school vacations. It also coincides with criticism in Washington and elsewhere over costly government stimulus spending to compensate for the jobs annihilated in the recession.
"The drop in private-sector jobs reveals the headwinds still facing the Wisconsin economy," said Marquette University economics professor Abdur Chowdhury.
The unemployment situation brightens, however, when the disparity between government payrolls and private-sector activity is ignored. Adjusting for seasonal factors, the state unemployment rate fell to 8.2% in May from 8.5% in April.
BP acknowledges it never followed blowout preventer law, blames MMS (17 June 2010)
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a letter Thursday that he became concerned when he read in The Times-Picayune that the Minerals Management Service official in charge of reviewing BP's application for the Macondo well was not aware of a regulation requiring oil companies to certify that their blowout preventers can cut drill pipe to shut off a flowing well under specific conditions.
Also, in his letter Thursday, Grassley called attention to an internal BP document that estimated that the leak at the bottom of the Gulf could be spewing 60,000 barrels a day in a worst-case scenario. BP publicly estimated the spill was far smaller -- as small as 5,000 barrels a day -- and stuck to lower estimates until government scientists finally got more data and estimated recently that the spill could be 60,000 barrels a day. Grassley said he didn't know the date of BP's private estimate, but demanded to know when it was created and added that "Americans have a right to know that BP made these estimates, the date these estimates were determined and why they were not disclosed at that time."
The estimates are critical, not only for understanding how much oil needs to be cleaned up, but also because fines BP would ultimately have to pay under anti-pollution laws are based on how many barrels get spilled.
On the issue of the blowout preventer's capabilities, Grassley asked BP to show that it is in compliance with the Code of Federal Regulations Chapter 30, Section 250.416(e), which requires oil companies to provide the Minerals Management Service with proof that the massive safety devices they use to close off wells are "capable of shearing the drill pipe in the hole under maximum anticipated surface pressures."
The company responded that it applies for permits to drill oil wells "in accordance with the process prescribed by MMS officials," but goes on to say that it was not "MMS practice" to require anyone to comply with that particular section of the law.
Oil-eating microbes a possible solution (17 June 2010)
One scientist compares them to the yellow chompers in the Pac-Man video game -- hungry, single-minded little microbes fueled by the same fertilizer that farmers use on soybeans, gobbling hydrocarbons from the oily waters, marshes and shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
Can the naturally occurring microbes help clean up the oil spill?
Yes, experts say. At least in part, with some risk.
Officials are taking note. Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday visited a Sarasota company that sells microbes that eat oil. BP says it's open to using them. And the federal government this week is contacting its pre-approved list of more than a dozen companies to see how quickly they can ramp up production.
Children don't come cheap; Report finds cost of raising kids up 22 percent from 1960 (17 June 2010)
The grand total for middle-income parents raising one child from birth to age 17 is $222,360, which doesn't include college tuition, according to the recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2009 Expenditures on Children by Families report.
That's 22 percent higher than the 1960 inflation-adjusted cost of $182,857.
"Annual child-rearing expense estimates ranged between $11,650 and $13,530 for a child in a two-child, married-couple family in the middle-income group," the report's abstract says.
"We currently spend more than that on day care alone," said Carlo Hontiveros, an associate director for SNL Financial in Charlottesville, Va. Eight months ago, he and his wife, a physical therapist, welcomed their first child, Mia. "Mia currently attends what we feel is the best day care facility in the region."
PAM COMMENTARY: Just an average, can vary depending on the parents' circumstances and decisions.
Panel Demands NASA Documents to Support Budget (17 June 2010)
The Obama administration has proposed replacing NASA�s current return-to-the-moon plans with research on new space technologies and an initiative to enlist commercial companies for launching people into orbit.
In particular, the House committee is looking for information about an expensive lifeboat spacecraft for the International Space Station that President Obama announced in April. The lifeboat is a stripped-down version of the Orion capsule that NASA has been developing to take astronauts to the International Space Station and later the Moon.
In February, as part of its budget request for the 2011 fiscal year, the administration announced it wanted to cancel Orion along with the rest of the moon program known as Constellation. Two months later, Mr. Obama shifted course somewhat and said that the Orion would continue, but in a truncated form to evacuate people from the space station in an emergency.
Gov. Bobby Jindal chastises Coast Guard over oil spill barge stoppage (17 June 2010)
Gov. Bobby Jindal chastised the Coast Guard today for stopping 16 barges equipped with vacuums to siphon oil for an unnecessary inspection Wednesday.
"The last 24 hours have been incredibly frustrating," Jindal said at a news conference at Fort Jackson in Buras, following an aerial tour of oil-fighting efforts on the coast.
Calling for "more urgency" in the federal government's response to the growing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, Jindal described how it took calls to the White House to clear the way for the barges to commence with cleaning up surface oil today.
"Twenty-four hours were lost unnecessarily," he said. "That's thousands of gallons of oil that could have been sucked up if they had been allowed to do their jobs."
Republican Backpedals From Apology to BP (17 June 2010)
�I�m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,� Mr. Barton said in his opening statement. �I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown � in this case a $20 billion shakedown.�
Democrats, smelling blood in an election year, sought to make Mr. Barton an exemplar for Republican ties to �Big Oil.� House Republican leaders, fearing that trap, rushed to contain the damage.
Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican whip, summoned Mr. Barton and he �was told to apologize, immediately, or he would lose his spot, immediately,� a senior aide said. �We�ll see what happens going forward.�
When Mr. Barton soon did issue a statement of contrition, Mr. Boehner�s office also distributed it, for added effect. Then Mr. Boehner, Mr. Cantor and another party leader, Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, together publicly rebuked their colleague.
Great Lakes mayors seek review of disaster plans; Gulf spill prompts letter to U.S., Canadian officials (17 June 2010)
In remarks Thursday morning at the Pfister Hotel downtown, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Gary Doer, Canadian ambassador to the United States, touched upon similar priorities for preserving the Great Lakes, mentioning efforts to curb invasive species and to prevent the siphoning off of water to other regions.
Both also pointed to the oil spill in the Gulf to warn against the dangers of poor planning for a disaster in the lakes.
There is no oil drilling in the Great Lakes.
Barrett noted his opposition to proposals for gas and oil drilling in the lakes while he served in Congress in the 1990s and said the Gulf disaster shows why the arguments for drilling are "shallow." Doer said the Gulf spill has policy implications, and that the group must re-examine its emergency response plans should a disaster strike the Great Lakes.
Fire crews called to Valero refinery for second time (17 June 2010)
Fire crews tonight were called to the Valero refinery in Benicia for the second time today for an incident in which steam mixed with a byproduct of the refining process, sending a plume of smoke into the air.
"There was a big column of brownish smoke coming up ... probably 200 feet in the air," Benicia Fire Marshal Ray Iverson said. "Smoke and vapor."
Iverson said the incident was reported at 8:51 p.m. He said the byproduct, which he identified as petroleum coke, mixed with steam, creating the cloud.
A similar incident occurred at the refinery this morning, slightly injuring several employees. None had to be hospitalized and they all returned to work afterward, refinery spokeswoman Susan Fisher-Jones said.
With Rumored Manhunt for Wikileaks Founder and Arrest of Alleged Leaker of Video Showing Iraq Killings, Obama Admin Escalates Crackdown on Whistleblowers of Classified Information [DN] (17 June 2010)
AMY GOODMAN: Birgitta J��r, can you tell us about Julian Assange, the Wikileaks project, that we played on Democracy Now! the videotape of the attack in New Baghdad several years ago that he acquired? You were a part of that project, which was put together, the video, released from Iceland.
BIRGITTA J�SD�TIR: Mm-hmm. Well, it�s probably one of the most difficult projects I�ve helped with, because of the content of it. What we basically did was that we�I helped bring together the volunteers, and I co-wrote the script. And the most difficult task in that project was actually to go through every second of this video to take out the stills, and particularly when you knew who the people were that were blown apart in this hideous war crime.
And we did decide to send out to Baghdad to fact-check everything in that video before we released it, to make sure that they could not say that this was falsified in any fashion. And we sent out some of our best investigative journalists to New Baghdad, despite the fact there was�the voting was going on, and it was incredibly dangerous. Nobody had been in that area since the shooting. And then I saw on Democracy Now! a video that a journalist or a documentary filmmaker had filmed the day after.
So I think the most important element about that story is that it showed that the witnesses, the people on the ground, had all along been telling the truth. But the media usually always takes the side of the military reports. And this is, of course, an everyday occurrence in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. So I think it is important that we bear that in mind.
Jeremy Scahill on Blackwater Owner Erik Prince�s Rumored Move to UAE and Obama Admin�s Expansion of Special Forces Operations Abroad [DN] (17 June 2010)
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, the expansion of special forces? We just have about a minute.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, yeah. The Obama administration has dramatically expanded the use of special forces across the world, not just in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. US Special Forces are operating in seventy-five countries around the world. And Obama took Bush-era authorizations. There was an al-Qaeda network execute order that was issued in 2003 that was a favorite of the neocons that basically said US special forces can operate anywhere around the world, as long as they say they�re hunting al-Qaeda. Obama now has taken that order and pushed it beyond what the Bush people even did.
Many of these missions are small-scale US special forces attaching themselves to foreign militaries or friendly forces in nations around the world. But there�s also a task force that McChrystal used to head that used to be classified as Task Force 714. It recently was renamed, my sources tell me. And they�re the ones carrying out unilateral direct actions, the assassinations for the Joint Special Operations Command. And as Daniel Ellsberg talked about, this administration has allowed JSOC to maintain a hit list that includes US citizens, not just the CIA. What�s happened is here is that McChrystal represents the rise of the dark side, and Obama has taken a man that was used to operating with no accountability on the dark side of the US national security apparatus and made him the commander of the entire war in Afghanistan with carte blanche to do what he wants in that region. The combination of him and David Petraeus, who�s Cheney�s general, means that you have the dark side now essentially running the US military.
Helen Thomas: an Appreciation [Infowars] (16 June 2010)
The propagandists for the Israel Lobby, who occupy the Wall Street Journal editorial page while pretending to be journalists, are determined to remove Helen Thomas from the annals of journalism. In case you have already forgotten, a few days ago the distinguished career of Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old doyen of the White House Press Corps, was ended by the Israel Lobby, which made an issue about her opinion that immigrant Jews should leave Palestine and go back to their home countries.
The White House Correspondents� Association fell in line with the demands of the Israel Lobby, and the cowardly president of the organization added the association�s disapprobation to that of the neoconservative cabal.
Having removed Helen Thomas from the journalism scene, the Israel Lobby is now working with its agents on the Wall Street Journal editorial page to eliminate the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society of Professional Journalists.
A nonentity in the world of journalism, James Taranto, apparently is associated with the Wall Street Journal editorial page, although Wikipedia reports that he was incapable of graduating from journalism school at California State University, Northridge. On a Wall Street Journal web site, Taranto writes: �We�ve been calling Thomas �American journalism�s crazy old aunt in the attic� for years,� and he asks who would now accept the Helen Thomas award after Ms. Thomas revealed she really was crazy by criticizing Israel.
PAM COMMENTARY: Helen Thomas is an amazing lady, and I was glad to meet her during one of her book signings in August of 2007. I do have a few of her books -- signed, of course, such as "Watchdogs of Democracy," where she was also "crazy" enough to criticize the lapdogs who pose as journalists in DC.
WikiLeaks Founder to Release Massacre Video [Rense] (16 June 2010)
After several days underground, the founder of the secretive website WikiLeaks has gone public to disclose that he is preparing to release a classified Pentagon video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan last year that left as many as 140 civilians dead, most of them children and teenagers.
In an email obtained by The Daily Beast that was sent to WikiLeaks supporters in the United States Tuesday, Julian Assange, the website�s Australian-born founder, also defends a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist who is now under arrest in Kuwait on charges that he leaked classified Pentagon combat videos, as well as 260,000 State Department cables, to WikiLeaks.
�Mr. Manning allegedly also sent us 260,000 classified US Department cables, reporting on the actions of US Embassy�s [sic] engaging in abusive actions all over the world,� Assange said in an email. �We have denied the allegation, but the US government is acting as if the allegation is true.�
American officials have said they are eager to determine the whereabouts of Assange, who canceled an appearance last Friday in Las Vegas, to discourage him from releasing any more classified information on his website, which is nominally based in Sweden and promotes itself as a global resource for whistleblowers. As recently as two weeks ago, Assange, who first gained global notoriety as a computer hacker, was in his native Australia.
In April, his website posted a copy of a classified Pentagon video of a 2007 American helicopter attack in Baghdad in which a dozen people were killed; that video is also believed to have been leaked by the Army intelligence analyst, Specialist Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland.
PAM COMMENTARY: Another abuse of the secrecy classification system -- classifying a video to hide incriminating evidence. Then, even worse, attacking the messenger.
BP starts burning oil from ruptured well (16 June 2010)
NEW ORLEANS -- BP began burning oil siphoned from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday as part of its plans to more than triple the amount of crude it can stop from reaching the sea, the company said.
BP said oil and gas siphoned from the well first reached a semi-submersible drilling rig on the surface of the Gulf around 1 a.m.
Once that gas reaches the rig, it will be mixed with compressed air, shot down a specialized boom made by Schlumberger Ltd. and ignited at sea. It's the first time this particular burner has been deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP officials previously said they believed the burner system could incinerate anywhere from 210,000 gallons of oil to 420,000 gallons of oil daily once it's fully operational. Work to optimize the new system was still ongoing, and the company did not say how much oil it has burned so far.
Schwarzenegger, some unions cut pension deal (16 June 2010)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut a deal with four public employee unions Wednesday on new labor contracts that will reduce state contributions to employee pensions and scale back worker pay, Capitol Weekly reports.
"The proposed agreements include increasing the retirement age for new hires, boosting the workers� contribution to [the Public Employees' Retirement System) and using three-year top-pay formula instead of one year to calculate pension levels. All the changes -� and others -� had been sought by Gov. Schwarzenegger as part of his pension-reform efforts to help balance the red-ink state budget," Capitol Weekly said.
"They contain roughly a 5% pay cut and approximately a 5% increase in the worker�s contribution to the state pension program, said Terry McHale, a lobbyist who represents the firefighters and the Highway Patrol officers.
"The four bargaining units are CDF Firefighters Local 2881, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP); the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Bargaining Unit 19 representing the health and social services professionals; and the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (CAPT)."
Spain: the new crisis in Euroland (16 June 2010)
Brussels diplomats have been at pains to send out feel-good signals ahead of a summit in which Europe's leaders are supposed to take the first steps towards more disciplined and co-ordinated, control of national finances. Those reforms are meant to restore confidence in the euro and underpin the �750m EU and IMF safety-net, created last month for euroland countries that lose the confidence of the financial markets.
However, it is proving hard to shake off persistent market fears about Spain, which, if it needed a lifeline, would swallow up a large part of the emergency fund. Worryingly for the EU, the doubts about Spain � whether real or driven by speculation � are eerily similar to the gradual seeping away of confidence that sent Greece into a financial death spiral in March and April. The Spanish government's cost of borrowing hit a new record yesterday. The interest rate gap, or spread, between 10-year Spanish bonds and their German equivalents, rose by more than 0.10 of a point to 2.23 percentage points.
A senior Spanish banker, Francisco Gonzalez, chairman of the BBVA financial services group, confirmed that foreign private banks were now refusing to provide liquidity to their Spanish counterparts. "Financial markets have withdrawn their confidence in our country," he said. "For most Spanish companies and entities, international capital markets are closed."
As a result, the European Central Bank is said to have provided record amounts of liquidity to Spanish banks in recent days. The closure of bank-to-bank credit to Spanish institutions recalls to some market commentators the ripple of crisis through the global financial system after the fall of Lehman Brothers in the Autumn of 2008.
Docs trying to find test to predict MS (16 June 2010)
At present doctors have no way of picking up MS before symptoms develop and patients are frequently diagnosed quite late.
But now a team of Israeli doctors and scientists have found "chemical markers" on blood that will lead to a test for the disease.
Professor Anat Achiron, of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Medicine, has uncovered a way of detecting MS years before the illness hits sufferers.
"We are not yet able to treat people with MS to prevent the onset of the disease but knowledge is power," said Professor Achiron.
PAM COMMENTARY: Would that "chemical marker" be mercury? Aspartame? Cholesterol? Or any of the other "chemicals" that may be causative agents?
Internet 'kill switch' proposed for US [Rense] (16 June 2010)
A new US Senate Bill would grant the President far-reaching emergency powers to seize control of, or even shut down, portions of the internet.
The legislation says that companies such as broadband providers, search engines or software firms that the US Government selects "shall immediately comply with any emergency measure or action developed" by the Department of Homeland Security. Anyone failing to comply would be fined.
That emergency authority would allow the Federal Government to "preserve those networks and assets and our country and protect our people," Joe Lieberman, the primary sponsor of the measure and the chairman of the Homeland Security committee, told reporters on Thursday. Lieberman is an independent senator from Connecticut who meets with the Democrats.
Due to there being few limits on the US President's emergency power, which can be renewed indefinitely, the densely worded 197-page Bill (PDF) is likely to encounter stiff opposition.
TechAmerica, probably the largest US technology lobby group, said it was concerned about "unintended consequences that would result from the legislation's regulatory approach" and "the potential for absolute power". And the Center for Democracy and Technology publicly worried that the Lieberman Bill's emergency powers "include authority to shut down or limit internet traffic on private systems."
PAM COMMENTARY: Legislation with the obvious potential for abuse.
Fairfax man returning from Yemen stranded in Cairo after landing on no-fly list (16 June 2010)
A Fairfax County man returning home from Yemen has been stranded in Egypt for six weeks after being told he was on a no-fly list.
Yahya Wehelie, 26, said Wednesday that after landing at the airport in Cairo in early May, he was told he would not be able to board his connection to New York and would have to go to the U.S. Embassy for an explanation. Embassy officials later told Wehelie and a younger brother with whom he was traveling that they would have to wait for FBI agents to arrive from Washington.
Since then, Wehelie said in a phone interview, he has spoken with the FBI 10 times and submitted to a polygraph test. He said his attorney has advised him and his family not to discuss the FBI's questions, but they appear to have centered on suspected American radicals living in Yemen.
Civil liberties groups say the case is part of an emerging pattern in which American citizens are barred from flying to the United States so they can be questioned overseas by U.S. agents without counsel. The Council on American-Islamic Relations cited Wehelie's case and that of other Americans stranded abroad in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. this week.
CIA papers: US was caught off-guard in Korean War (16 June 2010)
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. � The CIA on Wednesday released a massive amount of documents dealing with the Korean War, some of which point to the young agency's failure in the late 1940s to understand crucial events on the Korean peninsula in the run-up to the conflict.
One CIA analysis said "American military and civilian leaders were caught by surprise" when North Korean troops moved south across the 38th Parallel in June 1950.
"Only the intercession of poorly trained and equipped US garrison troops from Japan managed to halt the North Korean advance at a high price in American dead and wounded," the report said.
That document, "Two Strategic Intelligence Mistakes in Korea, 1950," also describes how U.S. military and civilian leaders were caught off-guard four months later when the Chinese "intervened in massive numbers as American and UN forces pushed the North Koreans back."
Reformed Klansman plays leading role in Gulf cleanup (16 June 2010)
Klan contacts recruited Malvaney, who was working in construction, to help overthrow the government of Prime Minister Eugenia Charles on the Caribbean island of Dominica in 1981. He was promised $3,000 in pay, according to a book about the failed coup, "Bayou of Pigs."
The plot's ringleaders had planned to transform the impoverished island through drugs, gambling and offshore banking, but their plot was exposed and the would-be mercenaries were arrested in New Orleans as they prepared to set sail with, among other things, rifles, handguns, dynamite and a Nazi flag.
Malvaney pleaded guilty to a violation of the federal Neutrality Act and received an indeterminate sentence under youth provisions of federal law. He said he was shuttled around the federal prison system but served most of his 1 1/2 years in Englewood, Colo.
"You realize quickly it's not the place you want to be," Malvaney said. "Prison was a life-changing event." Malvaney didn't think so much about how he got there as he did about how he would live differently when he left.
Bourbon Street music curfew enforcement draws complaints (16 June 2010)
Now, eight years later, the To Be Continued band is a fixture near the corner of Bourbon and Canal streets, where they play a few nights a week along the side wall of the Foot Locker store, with the store's massive referee as their backdrop.
But band members say that the New Orleans Police Department's sudden enforcement of an 8 p.m. music curfew threatens their longtime gig at Bourbon and Canal streets -- a spot so steady they sometimes refer to the corner as "the club."
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas noted that 8th District officers were merely being responsive to "numerous complaints from residents of the French Quarter" when they told the band to stop playing or risk a court summons. But band members say that silencing them won't make the already-noisy corner much quieter and could eliminate some of the last live jazz from the city's most famous tourist strip.
No one has been ticketed or summoned, said NOPD spokesman Bob Young. But on Tuesday night, band members were asked to sign their names and dates of birth on documents that acknowledge the musicians received a notice that begins "(e)ffective immediately, the New Orleans Police Department will be enforcing the below-listed ordinances." One ordinance prohibits street entertainment between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on the entertainment district segment of Bourbon Street, from Canal to St. Ann streets. The other bars anyone from playing musical instruments on "public rights of way" between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.
Sea life gathering near shore may be fleeing spill (16 June 2010)
GULF SHORES, Ala. -- Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water just off the Florida coast. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep into marshes, never to be seen again.
Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange -- and troubling -- phenomena.
Fish and other wildlife are fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast. But that is not the hopeful sign it might appear to be, researchers say.
The animals' presence close to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the animals could easily get devoured by predators.
"A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist.
Cold and rain kills 600 endangered penguins (16 June 2010)
Around 600 African penguins, already an endangered species, have perished in a sudden cold snap on a South African island. The birds died in cold and wet weather over the past two days at Algoa Bay in Eastern Cape province, South Africa National Parks (SanParks) said today.
A spokeswoman for South Africa National Parks said the cold was not unusual at this time of year but had combined with rain and windchill to deadly effect for the penguins on Bird Island. "The age of the chicks, between a few weeks and two months, makes them vulnerable," she said. "They are only covered with down feathers."
It was common for a third of a penguin population's chicks to die in such weather conditions, she added.
The African penguin was only this month declared an endangered species by the The International Union for the Conservation of Nature because of its declining population across South Africa.
Fading data could improve privacy (16 June 2010)
The research project carried out by Dr van Heerde from the Centre for Telematics and Information Technology (CTIT) at the University of Twente looked into ways to change the way databases manage information about users and customers.
The ability of those databases to gather information tempts companies and organisations to hoard information just in case it proves valuable, Dr van Heerde told BBC News.
The dangers of having data about us stored more or less permanently in many different places around the web have been proved many times when that information is leaked by accident or design, said Dr van Heerde.
"People make mistakes, people can be bribed," he said. "You cannot protect this data, you cannot be sure it's not been disclosed, privacy policies are simply too weak."
Instead of simply refusing to use services that gather data, Dr van Heerde believes it would be better for people to surrender data knowing that there was a policy that determined how it degraded over time.
Southern Ohio pastor says lightning-struck Jesus statue will rise again (16 June 2010)
This Jesus drew crowds, and coverage. Some saw it as a sign from God. Others condemned it as a graven image. More than a few couldn't say much of anything because they were rendered speechless at the sight of it.
The statue also was the backdrop for mischievous photographers.
One photo on the Web, for example, showed students spelling out Ohio by using Jesus for the "H." Another showed two women high-fiving Jesus.
The statue earned numerous nicknames, including Touchdown Jesus and Quicksand Jesus, and inspired a song titled "Big Butter Jesus" after comedian Heywood Banks saw the statue on his way to a gig in Dayton. Banks thought the statue looked like one of those butter sculptures at a county fair.
Cleveland students help bring U.S. Brig Niagara into Cleveland for 2010 Cleveland Tall Ships Festival preview (16 June 2010)
"I love heights," said Maiya once she was back on deck. "The sails are really heavy, but once they were tied up, we could enjoy the view." The students, part of a 24-person novice crew, were part of Project YESS (Youth Empowered to Succeed Through Sailing), a Rotary Club of Cleveland program geared to students who are judged at risk by school counselors because of financial reasons, learning differences or behavioral difficulties.
The Niagara often hosts day trips for students, but this was its first overnight excursion with kids, said Billy Sabatini, the Niagara's chief mate. "I don't think we've ever had 14 students at once who are raring to go. They were phenomenal."
Students and crew maneuver canvas sails and hand-stinging hemp ropes just as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's crew did. On the trip from Erie, about 45 people slept below the deck on hammocks so close together that rolling over risked waking someone else.
Perry's immortal command, "Don't give up the ship," fluttered on a flag that flew on the Niagara along with a 15-star American flag.
FDA: 'Female Viagra' falls short in boosting women's sex drive (16 June 2010)
WASHINGTON (AP) � The first pill designed to boost the female sex drive failed to make a significant impact on libido in two studies, federal health regulators said, though some women did report slightly more sexually satisfying experiences.
The Food and Drug Administration is considering Boehringer Ingelheim's drug flibanserin for premenopausal women who report a lack of sexual desire, a market that drugmakers have been targeting for more than a decade since the blockbuster success of Viagra in men.
The search for so-called "female Viagra," has proved elusive though, with many drugs abandoned after showing lackluster results.
On Friday the FDA will ask a panel of experts to weigh in on the safety and effectiveness of Boehringer's drug. The agency is not required to follow the group's advice, though it often does.
'More and more rules' on pregnancy (UK) (16 June 2010)
The Changing Parenting Culture conference next week is to explore the emergence of what it sees as new, often contradictory rules shaping pregnancy and pregnancy planning.
These include the role of stress in pregnancy, amid conflicting reports on the impact of the way a mother feels on the wellbeing of the growing foetus.
Some studies have suggested that stress in pregnancy can cause anything from physical abnormalities to behavioural problems.
Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong, professor of sociology at Princeton University, will argue that maternal emotions are being "medicalised".
"To the list of pregnancy prescriptions and proscriptions comes another mandate: be happy, be calm. Pregnant women are exhorted to avoid stress and to moderate their emotions in order to produce a healthy baby.
"Yet the evidence behind this recommendation is exceedingly weak."
Ultrasounds to be required for abortions (Louisiana) (16 June 2010)
BATON ROUGE -- Women seeking abortions in Louisiana will be required to get an ultrasound first, even if they are a victim of rape or incest, under a bill that received final legislative passage today.
Senate Bill 528 by Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, was sent to the governor's desk with a 79-0 vote of the state House. Gov. Bobby Jindal supports the measure.
Supporters of the proposal said they hope the ultrasound dissuades some women from getting an abortion at the handful of abortion clinics in Louisiana, by giving them more information about their pregnancies.
"This is a bill that empowers women," Broome said in committee testimony, adding that at least 15 other states have a similar requirement.
Opponents said requiring a procedure that might not be available at a free clinic nearby will make it more difficult and costly for women to get abortions. No one spoke against the proposal on the House floor Wednesday.
PAM COMMENTARY: As if Louisiana doesn't have enough problems.
WikiLeaks Founder Has Massacre Video (16 June 2010)
After several days underground, the founder of the secretive website WikiLeaks has gone public to disclose that he is preparing to release a classified Pentagon video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan last year that left as many as 140 civilians dead, most of them children and teenagers.
In an email obtained by The Daily Beast that was sent to WikiLeaks supporters in the United States Tuesday, Julian Assange, the website�s Australian-born founder, also defends a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist who is now under arrest in Kuwait on charges that he leaked classified Pentagon combat videos, as well as 260,000 State Department cables, to WikiLeaks.
American officials have said they are eager to determine the whereabouts of Assange, who canceled an appearance last Friday in Las Vegas, to discourage him from releasing any more classified information on his website, which is nominally based in Sweden and promotes itself as a global resource for whistleblowers. As recently as two weeks ago, Assange, who first gained global notoriety as a computer hacker, was in his native Australia.
In April, his website posted a copy of a classified Pentagon video of a 2007 American helicopter attack in Baghdad in which a dozen people were killed; that video is also believed to have been leaked by the Army intelligence analyst, Specialist Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland.
Court: Israelis suspected in 'Nigerian scam' can be extradited to U.S. [Rense] (16 June 2010)
The seven Israelis suspected of scamming tens of millions of dollars from U.S. pensioners in a so-called "Nigerian scam" can be extradited to the United States to face trial there, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Wednesday.
The seven, arrested by Tel Aviv police in July 2009, have been charged by American prosecutors for a serious of legal violations, including conspiracy to commit fraud. Some of the defendants also face money laundering charges.
The defendants are suspected of building a sophisticated crime network to defraud elderly American pensioners. Over four years, the network netted tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains.
The defendants, all in their 20s and 30s, allegedly phoned American pensioners, told them they had won the lottery and asked them for a fee of several thousand dollars for the transfer of the prize money, which in fact never existed.
The investigation that uncovered the network was conducted in conjunction between Israeli and U.S. law enforcement agencies.
9/11 workers attend NYC forum on health settlement (16 June 2010)
"It is a gamble that, in my opinion, is not worth waiting for," he added. "And you have waited long enough."
Feinberg had been scheduled to appear in person at the town hall, but he had to change his plans after President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the 64-year-old would oversee a fund to pay victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Asked by audience members how he would balance his responsibilities to the Gulf fund and his role in the settlement, Feinberg promised that he had the time.
"If your claim is rejected, or if you believe that you are entitled to a better claim, a more generous payment, than what has been authorized, I will review that claim," he said. "No amount of other work will prevent me from remembering my obligations."
Thousands of Sept. 11 first responders, many of them with devastating health problems related to the environmental hazards caused by the terrorist [sic] destruction of the World Trade Center, are weighing whether to accept the $713 million settlement.
Sen. Brown pushing for bill that includes extension of unemployment insurance (16 June 2010)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the Senate prepares to vote on the American Jobs Act, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) discussed provisions that will help small businesses expand and hire workers.
The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 (Extenders Bill) would provide critical tax cuts and support for American workers through the end of this year.
"We know that small business lending is critical to our economic recovery. Yet, the small business owners I meet all share the common concern that banks are not lending," Brown said. "We need to close loopholes that give tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas. And we need to extend critical tax incentives that help small business expand and hire new workers. Our economy will not fully recover until every Ohioan looking for work can find a job. That's why the American Jobs Act is so important."
With more than 98,000 Ohioans unemployment insurance benefits set to expire by the end of June, passage of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes is even more critical.
Tester proposes end to extra $25 in unemployment benefits (16 June 2010)
HELENA - Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Wednesday he is trying to end a temporary $25-a-week extra unemployment benefit for jobless Americans that's been in place for 16 months because of growing national concern about the federal deficit and debt.
He made the proposal in an amendment this week.
"The whole idea is it's really saving $6 billion in taxpayers' money without yanking the carpet out from Americans looking for work," Tester said in a telephone interview.
The $25-per-week additional payment to regular unemployment benefits was part of the 2009 federal stimulus act and has been extended four times since then.
PAM COMMENTARY: What "growing concern about the federal deficit" is that -- the one manufactured by the Republican Party? It never seems to appear when they're dumping trillions into wars that nobody wanted, or bank "bailouts" for their big contributors. And since when do the unemployed -- never given enough to meet all of their bills -- NOT need the extra $25? You can tell Tester isn't up for reelection this year.
Michigan's May jobless rate dipped to 13.6% (16 June 2010)
Michigan�s unemployment rate, long the highest in the nation, dropped back to 13.6% during May.
That marked a four-tenths of a percentage point improvement from April�s rate, a drop that might mean better days ahead for the state�s battered labor markets.
�So far in 2010, Michigan�s labor market has stabilized, and some key economic indicators have displayed modest gains,� said Rick Waclawek, director of the state�s Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. �This is in sharp contrast to 2009, a year marked with severe monthly job losses and consistently rising unemployment.�
PAM COMMENTARY: These are the same people who the Senate says won't need the unemployment extension any longer, or that cushy $25 a week extra bonus.
FCC Votes to Reconsider Broadband Regulations (16 June 2010)
Over the objections of the agency's two Republican commissioners, the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to begin taking public comments on three different paths for regulating broadband. That includes a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to ''common carrier'' obligations to treat all traffic equally.
Genachowski's proposal is a response to a federal appeals court ruling that cast doubt on the agency's authority over broadband under its existing regulatory framework.
The chairman's plan has the backing of many big Internet companies, which say it would ensure the FCC can prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over broadband connections to determine what subscribers can do online.
''There is a real urgency to this because right now there are no rules of the road to protect consumers from even the most egregious discriminatory behavior by telephone and cable companies,'' said Markham Erickson, executive director of the Open Internet Coalition. The group's members include Google Inc., eBay Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and online calling service Skype Ltd.
Ford: Hybrids will rule electric fleet (16 June 2010)
By 2020, Ford expects that between 10% and 25% of its volume will in some way run on advanced batteries compared with about 2% today, Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of global electrification, said at the Automotive News Green Car Conference Wednesday in Novi.
Of those vehicles with batteries, 70% will be hybrids, another 20% to 25% will be plug-in hybrids and the rest will be all-electric vehicles. Gioia noted that the range is wide because there remain unanswered questions about the access to, and affordability of, electrified vehicles.
Hybrids will dominate, she said, because the infrastructure -- charging stations, technologies to strengthen and customize usage of the electric grid -- are in a nascent stage.
Moreover, hybrids -- while more expensive than gas-only powered vehicles -- will be more affordable than plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, which need larger lithium-ion batteries. The cost of lithium-ion batteries remains high, but will come down, Gioia said.
More wild horses make move to Flathead's Wildhorse Island (16 June 2010)
Ever since local Indians kept herds here - and out of reach of rival tribes - horses have been a part of Wildhorse's history.
Today, all but a handful of the island's 2,164 acres - 99 percent - are owned by the people of Montana, and managed as a primitive state park by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The state's management plan calls for five wild horses to mingle among the large populations of bighorn sheep and mule deer that also call the island home.
"Five is somewhat of an arbitrary number," says Jerry Sawyer, who manages all the state parks on Flathead for FWP, "but we wanted enough to maintain the namesake of the island."
Canadians don't want Queen, even if she's done great job (16 June 2010)
According to the poll and not surprisingly, the strongest voices favouring abolishment of the monarchy in Canada come from Quebec, where eight in 10 people believe ties to the monarchy should be cut when the Queen's reign ends, but 53 per cent think she has done a good job in her role as monarch.
On a national level, the Queen's approval rating is at 73 per cent.
"Find me a politician who has that approval rating," Rowe quipped.
As for what would replace the Queen, a majority of Canadians surveyed in the poll said they would prefer a republic system where the Governor General would become the elected head of state.
"Right now, our Governor General can't act as the constitutional referee," said Tom Freda, director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic, pointing to the fact the Michaelle Jean approved both of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's requests to prorogue Parliament. "It's not appropriate to have the prime minister appoint our head of state � and she does act as our head of state . . . Some dinosaurs in Ottawa and the Monarchist League are inhibiting the democratic evolution of the country."
Widow scammed while trying to fight fraud against elderly (16 June 2010)
A short while later, the man called back and told her that a check of her bank accounts showed that someone indeed had tried to access her money. She was shaken by the thought of a criminal taking her savings, and the caller preyed on her vulnerability and kind-heartedness.
"He told (my mother) that these people scam women who are widows and asked, 'You're a widow, aren't you?' " the victim's daughter said. "Then he asked her if he could count on her help catching these thieves."
The woman's husband had died about two months ago. In fact, the couple would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary this week.
The caller directed the woman to go to her bank at Mayfair Mall and withdraw $5,800. That money would actually belong to the bank, he promised, and no funds would be withdrawn from her account because the tellers were all in on the sting.
Drug firms banished from medical talks (16 June 2010)
There's a good way to figure out when a drug company plans to introduce a new product.
When pharmaceutical company scientists show up at medical meetings to give talks about diseases that most people never have heard of - disorders such as female sexual dysfunction or cardio metabolic syndrome - it is likely that a new drug is coming, said James Stein, a cardiologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
But such talks, which Stein and others say can be used to create a buzz for new drugs, may be coming to an end.
The ongoing controversy over drug industry influence in continuing medical education has taken a sharp twist: Pharmaceutical industry employees will not be allowed to make medical education presentations later this year at the one of the largest medical meetings in the world, the American Heart Association's annual Scientific Sessions.
Justice: Blackwater case should have gone forward (16 June 2010)
There was more than enough untainted evidence to justify a trial for five Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad, the Justice Department told a federal appeals court.
In court papers seeking to reinstate criminal charges, the department asserted that some of the evidence tainted by immunized statements in the case was harmless and did not justify scuttling the manslaughter charges against the guards.
In December, a federal judge dismissed the case against the security guards, who had opened fire on a crowded Baghdad street. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
In the filing released Wednesday by the appeals court, the government said the judge who dismissed the charges lost sight of the key question of whether the defendants' testimony given under a grant of immunity from prosecution was actually used against them.
FCC set to reconsider broadband rules Thursday (16 June 2010)
WASHINGTON�Federal regulators are reconsidering the rules that govern high-speed Internet connections. It's a bitter policy dispute that could be tied up in court for years.
The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday to begin taking public comments on three different paths for regulating broadband. One of them is a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally.
The plan has the backing of big Internet companies that want to be sure the FCC can prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over broadband connections to determine what subscribers can do online. The idea faces stiff resistance from the broadband providers.
California man killed by bee attack identified (16 June 2010)
Authorities have identified a man killed by hundreds of bee stings in Encinitas north of San Diego.
The county coroner's office says the victim of Wednesday's attack was 54-year-old Marco Tulio Lazaro.
Encinitas Deputy Fire Chief Scott Henry says the man was operating a backhoe to clear brush when he was attacked by bees.
Lazaro ran about 200 yards to an outhouse in an attempt to escape. Henry says firefighters found him in full cardiac arrest.
Loss of rain forest leads to malaria spike, UW researchers find (16 June 2010)
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon can lead to malaria epidemics years later, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The findings are some of the most detailed yet to link environmental changes with the spread of disease.
The work, published Wednesday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, combined malaria case reports with high-resolution satellite imagery from a remote, sparsely populated region of tropical Brazil about half the size of Rhode Island.
For every square kilometer of forest cut down, the number of reported malaria cases spiked by 50%, the study found.
Roundtable: NOLA Environmental Attorney Monique Harden, Sierra Club Exec Director Michael Brune and Leading Scientist Amory Lovins on the BP Oil Spill and the Way to a Green Energy Future (16 June 2010)
AMY GOODMAN: Amory Lovins, the reality of what it means to live off the grid or in a different kind of grid, there�s so little discussion in this country, that people don�t know where to begin. Why don�t we begin where you are right now: in your house? And is it Aspen, right in Aspen, Colorado? Tell us how you built your house.
AMORY LOVINS: No, actually, it�s that valley. It�s in Old Snowmass, Colorado, valley with more elk than people. And we�re at 7,100 feet up in the Rockies, where it can occasionally go to minus-47 F. You can get frost any day of the year. You can get thirty-nine days of continuous cloud in midwinter, so it�s not a reliably sunny place. And yet, just off to my right is a tropical jungle, where we�re ripening banana crops thirty-three through thirty-five with no heating system, because the house is so well insulated in passive solar design that it didn�t need one. And it was $1,100 cheaper upfront not to put one in. So I then reinvested that money in saving about 99 percent of the water heating energy and 90 percent of the electricity. If I didn�t make electricity with solar, my electric bill for 4,000 square feet would be five bucks a month. And all of the extra cost of that efficiency in 1983 paid for itself in the first ten months. Today�s technologies, which we�ve just retrofitted, are a lot better. And the key is what we call integrative design, so we get any benefits from each expenditure. The arch, for example, that holds up the middle of my house, does twelve different things, but I only pay for it once. And I can tell you, it�s really fun to sit there munching your tropical fruit while a blizzard�s outside and know that you�re not using any fossil fuel, you�re not stealing from your kids, you�re a net exporter of energy to the grid, and it had great economics.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, wait a second. When you say a "net exporter of energy to the grid," explain what you mean.
AMORY LOVINS: I have solar panels on the roof that make more power than the building uses, so we actually run our meter backwards most of the year, and on average for the whole year. It�s really fun to watch your meter run backwards. And, in fact, we designed the new renovations the last few years specifically to take as much coal-fired power as possible off the grid. Now�
Stabenow: Review Great Lakes drilling policies (16 June 2010)
WASHINGTON � U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan asked President Barack Obama today to work with the Canadian government to ban any new oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes.
In her letter to Obama, Stabenow noted that the U.S. has a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes, but Canada has what she called �extensive� oil and gas operations in their section of Lake Erie.
�The Canadian oil and gas operations have not had an accident since 1959. However, I believe that the events in the Gulf Coast demonstrate that we must remain vigilant because a catastrophic accident could happen at any time.�
She�s asking Obama to work with the Canadian government to review existing operations and ban new ones.
Smoked meat recalled over Listeria fears (16 June 2010)
OTTAWA � The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Quebec-based Lesters Foods Ltd. are warning the public not consume some Lesters brand Montr� Smoked Meat pouches because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
Smith's Quality Meats is recalling the meats as a precautionary measure, the food safety agency said in a news release.
The products have been distributed in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.
There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.
The affected product is sold in 2 x 100 gram packages bearing UPC 0 57730 01098 4, establishment number 289 and a best before date between July 16 and July 24 inclusive.
Some early cancer overtreated; few want to wait (15 June 2010)
It is an unthinkable notion for an American generation raised on the message that early cancer detection saves lives, but specialists say more tumors actually are being found too early. That is raising uncomfortable questions about how aggressively to treat early growths � in some cases, even how aggressively to test � along with a push for more of the informed-choice programs such as the one Soviero used.
"The message has been, 'Early detection, early detection, early detection.' That's true for some things but not all things," said Dr. Laura Esserman, a breast cancer specialist at UCSF. She helped lead a study, reported last week, that found mammography is increasing diagnoses of tumors deemed genetically very low risk.
"It's not just all about finding any cancer. It's about being more discriminating when you do find it," she added.
Today's cancer screenings can unearth tumors that scientists say never would have threatened the person's life. The problem is there aren't surefire ways to tell in advance which tumors won't be dangerous � .just some clues that doctors use in prescribing treatment.
PAM COMMENTARY: The medical industry pushes early testing because they can make money from treating people who don't really need it.
"I Love the US Republic, and I Hate the US Empire": Johan Galtung on the War in Afghanistan and How to Get Out (15 June 2010)
AMY GOODMAN: Johan Galtung, you dedicate this book, your latest book, The Fall of the US Empire�And Then What?, "to a country I love, the United States of America." You write, "You will swim so much better without that imperial albatross around your neck. Drown it before it drowns you, and let a thousand flowers blossom!" How�
JOHAN GALTUNG: I mean every word of it. I can even tell you that when I give talks about this, many places in the US, I put hand on heart and say, "I love the US republic, and I hate the US empire." You see, to many people, this doesn�t make sense. It�s called anti-American. No, no, no. I�ve had, I�ll tell you, people coming up to me saying that that remark relieved them of an enormous problem, namely, "I have so much difficulties with our foreign policy, our economic penetration, our cultural arrogance, our political maneuvering and arms twisting, and yet I love my country." And what I try to say is that these are two different things, and the albatross is around your neck. Get rid of it. Give it up. Do the following four things. Very quickly.
Economically, trade for mutual benefit, fine, but equal benefit. And that means to examine the impact of your economic deals down to the last bottom, not only in a third world country, but maybe also in your own. Maybe you need some retraining of your economists to do that.
Militarily, pull your bases back. Eight hundred in 150 countries is madness. And instead of all that, conflict resolution, conflict resolution, conflict resolution. There are so many places in the US now where the young generation is being trained in it. They�re doing brilliant steps forward. A Department of Peace was suggested by Dennis Kucinich, and I think about sixty-four congressmen and women are behind it, something like that. A brilliant conception. And I�ll tell you one thing. If the US had that one and even permitted it to shine, as the famous castle up on the hill, all the love for the US around the world would return. It would be just fabulous.
Now, third thing, politically, no more arms twisting. Negotiation with the cards on the table, no threats, no nothing. No secret call by the US ambassador to UN, or whatever it is, to call in somebody and tell them that "if you do this and that, if you insist on this as your bargaining position, we will do something," and so on. I know so many such stories.
Point four, get down from the idea of having a separate mandate from God, even a mandate to kill. The word is dialogue. The word is simply to say we have something that we can contribute�and do you have from this marvelous, generous country. But others also have something. For instance, it seems that the Muslims have some good ideas about banking, like not lending more than 30 percent of your capital. Well, if your upper limit is 2,400 or something like that, then you�re a little bit high. And if that limit is considered too high and is abolished in 2004, and the sky is the limit, down it came. And it�ll come down again. US is today probably heading for a rather important crash and, in all probability, for a major devaluation of its currency.
Well, let us leave that aside. Let us just say a new economic relations to other countries; conflict resolution instead of bases and invasions and interventions and Special Forces all around the world; negotiations with open cards, without tricks; and dialogue. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. All of the Americans I know very well, and many of them Jewish Americans, have extremely good talents for this. Why couldn�t that be more the tone and the tenor of US policy?
Why everything we know about the dark side of the universe may be wrong (15 June 2010)
Graduate student Utane Sawangwit and professor Tom Shanks of Durham University in England examined data from a satellite probe that studies heat left over from the Big Bang. In research published by the society this month, they found mistakes in the way the data were read.
Scientists have long estimated that 74 per cent of the universe is composed of dark energy and 22 per cent is dark matter, with the rest normal matter � even while admitting there�s no proof, and no one is even sure what dark energy and dark matter are.
�That theory makes many scientists uncomfortable because of our lack of understanding of what dark energy and dark matter are,� Sawangwit told the Star.
By using new methods to measure the �ripples� in the Cosmic Microwave Background created by the heat, he and Shanks answer that problem by saying that mysterious substances just aren�t there.
Federal Judge Cites Voting Rights Act to Rig Election in New York State (15 June 2010)
�Voters in Port Chester, 25 miles northeast of New York City, are electing village trustees for the first time since the federal government alleged in 2006 that the existing election system was unfair,� reports the Associated Press. �Although the village of about 30,000 residents is nearly half Hispanic, no Latino had ever been elected to any of the six trustee seats, which until now were chosen in a conventional at-large election. Most voters were white, and white candidates always won.�
In order to fix the problem created by democracy in action, the federal government has cited the Voting Rights Act to fix the election. �Federal Judge Stephen Robinson said that violated the Voting Rights Act, and he approved a remedy suggested by village officials: a system called cumulative voting, in which residents get six votes each to apportion as they wish among the candidates. He rejected a government proposal to break the village into six districts, including one that took in heavily Hispanic areas.�
Judge Stephen C. Robinson was not nominated by a liberal Democrat. It was George W. Bush who picked him on March 5, 2003, thus revealing once again there is little difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes down to the federal government mandating what the states do.
Robinson is not breaking new ground here. As of November 2009, more than fifty communities in the United States use cumulative voting, all resulting from cases brought under the federal Voting Rights Act. This is the second time Port Chester has rigged the vote in order to make the result palatable to a demographic the federal government has declared as special.
PAM COMMENTARY: This actually sounds like they're giving people 6 votes each because there are six trustees, rather than allowing people one vote each and choosing the six with the most votes. Although I wouldn't say that this system deserves the title of "rigging" the election, it is something to be debated for the type of legal precedent that it sets, and so I'm including it here.
Analysis: Obama's oil spill speech reflects new battle plan (15 June 2010)
WASHINGTON � For President Obama, the Oval Office address Tuesday night was about more than the oil spill.
His ability to project more command, competency and compassion in response to the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico� and the eventual success of the administration's actions � will have repercussions for his ability to do anything else, from pushing legislation on energy and jobs to holding down Democratic losses in the midterm elections.
So his tone was unyielding toward BP and his language almost military, calling the current effort a "battle we're waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens."
In his first address from the Oval Office, a forum presidents reserve for the most consequential of messages, he promised a skeptical nation that he would marshal government resources to guarantee the Gulf coast recovers.
Oil estimate raised to 35,000-60,000 barrels a day (15 June 2010)
(CNN) -- Government scientists Tuesday increased the estimate of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico to between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day, up to 50 percent more than previously estimated. That translates into 1.5 million gallons to 2.5 million gallons per day.
The government's previous estimate, issued last week, was 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day.
The change was "based on updated information and scientific assessments," and was reached by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and Chair of the National Incident Command's Flow Rate Technical Group Marcia McNutt, the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center said.
"The improved estimate is based on more and better data that is now available and that helps increase the scientific confidence in the accuracy of the estimate," it said.
PAM COMMENTARY: I doubt that any of the current estimates are high enough.
Ad for a Dish Detergent Becomes Part of a Story (15 June 2010)
But Dawn does have its fans in the scientific community, including the International Bird Rescue Research Center.
The center was founded after two oil tankers collided in San Francisco Bay in 1971 and 7,000 birds were covered in oil. Volunteers tried cleaning them with a combination of mineral oil and corn meal. All but 300 birds died.
Over the years, founders of the organization looked for a better solution. They tested nail-polish removers, paint solvents and other compounds before settling on Dawn in 1978 as the best product for the job.
While other dish detergents were good, Dawn had the right ratio of �surfactants� � cleaners that cut oil � to be effective yet not irritate the birds and other animals like otters and seals.
Organizers also liked that it was readily available at any store and that it did not hurt animals� ability to whisk away water.
PAM COMMENTARY: NOTE: If you click the link above, it might open to an annoying video advertisement from the New York Times that you need to close before reading the article. I normally try to find alternatives to sites with aggressive ads, but this particular article was written by the Times.
Afghanistan Mineral Riches Story Is War Propaganda (15 June 2010)
In a story the Times ran on Sunday, the newspaper pointed to an �internal Pentagon memo� as its source, noting that U.S. officials now believe Afghanistan could become the �Saudi Arabia of lithium�.
The article claims that �a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists� has also recently discovered huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt and gold, that could transform Afghanistan into one of the most important mining centers in the world.
The idea that this information is new, however, is manifestly ludicrous.
In an interview with Politico, a retired senior U.S. official notes that anyone with a memory span longer than a goldfish will realise the supposedly �new discovery� is anything but that:
�When I was living in Kabul in the early 1970�s the [U.S. government], the Russians, the World Bank, the UN and others were all highly focused on the wide range of Afghan mineral deposits. Cheap ways of moving the ore to ocean ports has always been the limiting factor,� the official said.
Statement by VVA President John Rowan: VVA Supports the Decision by VA Secretary to Declare Various Diseases Presumptive Under Agent Orange/Dioxin Rules and Calls on the President and Congress to Fund AO/D Research Now, and Not Wait for an Army to Die (14 June 2010)
This situation, again, highlights the need for federal funding of additional research into the adverse health impacts on Vietnam veterans, on our children, and on our grandchildren, by respected independent scientific entities outside of the VA. This is just as evident today as it was twenty years ago. The clear need for such research is even more pressing today, given the number of Vietnam veterans who have died well before their time in the last twenty years, and the number who are continuing to die early, because of the ravages resulting from exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin in Southeast Asia.
Lastly, there have been media reports that the amendment to Emergency Supplemental Appropriation by Senator Webb would delay the process, and thus delay the payment of justly due back compensation to affected veterans, pushing off the time when veterans who are owed back compensation actually will receive their entitled compensation. This simply is not the case. Neither action by Senator Webb nor anyone else has thus far caused any action that will slow down the payment of claims as soon as the VA can work though the public rule-making process to get this accomplished.
We urge all affected Vietnam veterans and eligible surviving dependents to file claims for the newly presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange: Parkinson's disease, B Cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease. These diseases bring the total to 14 illness categories that entitle Vietnam veterans?and veterans who served along the demilitarized zone in Korea in 1968 and 1969?to health care and disability compensation. VVA also contends that many Vietnam-era veterans were also exposed in their service elsewhere in Southeast Asia during the war, including in Thailand and Laos, and aboard Navy vessels off the coast of Vietnam, as well as certain military bases located in the continental U.S. and its territories.
There are numerous diseases recognized by the VA as presumptive to exposure to Agent Orange. Additional information about these and other presumptive diseases and long-term health care risks for veterans can be found at the Veterans Health Council web site, www.veteranshealth.org, and in the VVA Self-help Guide to Service-Connected Disability Compensation For Exposure to Agent Orange at www.vva.org/Guides/AgentOrangeGuide.pdf
Does Milwaukee have enough college graduates to thrive? (14 June 2010)
And the benefits don't go just to the well-educated. When the percentage of college-educated workers in an area rises, so do the wages of workers generally - even high school dropouts, researchers have found.
At a time when knowledge is the critical force driving economic prosperity, Milwaukee faces an increasing disadvantage. Person for person, the city's pool of college-educated adults ranks among the very lowest of the country's 50 biggest cities, a Journal Sentinel analysis shows. Milwaukee County fares only a little better.
Not only that, but cities that had the best-educated populations 20 years ago have increased their stock much more than have less-educated places. The result: a self-reinforcing loop that is widening the gap between the leaders and less-favored cities such as Milwaukee.
High levels of education in the suburbs lift the Milwaukee metropolitan area as a whole to average status. But for greater Milwaukee to rise and thrive, some observers say, the city's low level of education must be addressed.
PAM COMMENTARY: I'd question a couple of points made by this article -- namely that the educated need to live within city limits for an urban area to thrive, and that education has anything to do with a city "thriving" in the economy we have now, with many well-educated people just as unemployed as the poorly-educated. However I do agree that it's good to give better opportunities to those deprived of a solid education.
Unfortunately, the UW system decided to start raising tuition radically in the late '80s and early '90s, just after I graduated. They also wanted to place enrollment caps on campuses. This was an effort to solicit more money from wealthy foreign students and out-of-state students who paid higher tuition, rather than subsidize state residents' tuition, even though tax money from state residents' parents were what funded a substantial portion of the UW system. Now the UW system does appear to be loosening some of its restrictions slightly -- although I haven't followed whether this is due to the bad economy luring fewer of the wealthy foreign students they had wanted.
Is Blackwater's Erik Prince Moving to the United Arab Emirates? (15 June 2010)
Sources close to Blackwater and its secretive owner Erik Prince claim that the embattled head of the world's most infamous mercenary firm is planning to move to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Middle Eastern nation, a major hub for the US war industry, has no extradition treaty with the United States. In April, five of Prince's top deputies were hit with a fifteen-count indictment by a federal grand jury on conspiracy, weapons and obstruction of justice charges. Among those indicted were Prince's longtime number-two man, former Blackwater president Gary Jackson, former vice presidents William Matthews and Ana Bundy and Prince's former legal counsel Andrew Howell.
The Blackwater/Erik Prince saga took yet another dramatic turn last week, when Prince abruptly announced that he was putting his company up for sale.
While Prince has not personally been charged with any crimes, federal investigators and several Congressional committees clearly have his company and inner circle in their sights. The Nation learned of Prince's alleged plans to move to the UAE from three separate sources. One Blackwater source told The Nation that Prince intends to sell his company quickly, saying the "sale is going to be a fast move within a couple of months."
Mark Corallo, a trusted Prince advisor and Blackwater spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the allegation that Prince is planning to move to the United Arab Emirates. "I have a policy on not discussing my client�s personal lives�especially when that client is a private citizen," Corallo, who runs his own crisis management and PR firm, said in an e-mail to The Nation. "It is nobody�s business where Mr. Prince (or anyone else) chooses to live. So I�m afraid I will not be able to confirm any rumors."
Drinking coffee may help prevent diabetes (15 June 2010)
Drinking coffee, a lots of it, may help prevent type 2 diabetes, a disease affecting millions and on the rise across the globe, according to a new study published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
It's the caffeine, say scientists from Nagoya University in Japan.
The scientists fed either water or coffee to a group of lab mice, a common stand-in for people in such studies. The coffee consumption prevented development of high-blood sugar and improved insulin sensitivity in the mice. That means lower risk of diabetes.
There were also other benefits from drinking coffee, including improvements in fatty liver, which is a disorder where fat builds up in liver cells, primarily in obese people. That further reduces the risk of diabetes, the scientists said.
Other studies in the lab showed that caffeine may be "one of the most effective anti-diabetic compounds in coffee," according to the scientists.
Finding fake urine a real challenge for drug-testing labs (15 June 2010)
When Kirt Haneberg started running a new kind of drug screening test on construction workers he deals with, he got a big surprise.
The lab wasn�t finding drugs in the urine. It wasn�t finding urine in the samples, either.
Scores of prospective workers were filling collection cups with synthetic urine they bought to slip past employer drug screens. In the first six months of testing � from January through June 2009 � 100 tests showed fake urine out of roughly 1,900 total samples.
�Of the people who were retested within 24 hours, 98 to 99 percent of them came back positive� for drugs, said Haneberg, who manages the Construction Industry Drug-Free Workplace Program. That program gives pre-employment, random and post-accident drug tests to carpenters, bricklayers and masons in Oregon and southwest Washington, offering education and treatment to those who fail a test.
Supreme Court: Torture and Rendition Victim Maher Arar Cannot Sue in US Courts [DN] (15 June 2010)
AMY GOODMAN: Maria LaHood, you�re Maher Arar�s attorney. Tell us what the Supreme Court said.
MARIA LAHOOD: Well, unfortunately, the Supreme Court didn�t say anything. It just completely rejected Maher�s petition for them to hear the dismissal of his case. So, all Maher is asking is�you know, he brought a complaint, the lower courts have rejected that without even letting it go any farther, and we have asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. And they just denied the petition.
AMY GOODMAN: But they�re saying it should be done legislatively?
MARIA LAHOOD: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which is now the decision that stands, said basically that, you know, it interpreted the statute that allows damages for conspiracy to torture with a foreign country�it interpreted that to not apply in this case. So it says Congress needs to fix that. It also refused to imply a remedy for a constitutional violation here. Maher was sent to torture in Syria and also was prevented from going to court to stop it, which Congress specifically legislated people have a right to do. And it basically said that because of reasons of national security, there is no remedy here. So, that�s something that Congress needs to fix.
Documents: BP cut corners in days before blowout (14 June 2010)
In an e-mail on April 16, a BP official involved in the decision explained: "It will take 10 hours to install them. I do not like this." Later that day, another official recognized the risks of proceeding with insufficient centralizers but commented: "Who cares, it's done, end of story, will probably be fine."
The lawmakers also said BP also decided against a nine- to 12-hour procedure known as a "cement bond log" that would have tested the integrity of the cement. A team from Schlumberger ( SLB - news - people ), an oil services firm, was on board the rig, but BP sent the team home on a regularly scheduled helicopter flight the morning of April 20. (my emphasis)
Less than 12 hours later, the rig exploded.
BP also failed to fully circulate drilling mud, a 12-hour procedure that could have helped detect gas pockets that later shot up the well and exploded on the drilling rig.
PAM COMMENTARY: The paragraph claiming that Schlumberger's flight was "regularly scheduled" appeared in a Seattle Times version of the same article, but was apparently removed later when the article was revised. Why? Did Schlumberger call and complain? See the flashback below -- so, who's telling the truth?
Jay Weidner on the Jeff Rense Show - The Implications of the Obama/BP Oil Crisis. (Audio with video splash screen) (FLASHBACK) [Rense] (12 June 2010)
PAM COMMENTARY: This particular video site seems to be a space hog -- you probably won't be able to listen to the whole thing unless you have a gigabyte or two free on your computer. I think this is the June 10th interview where Weidner claims that Schlumberger contractors demanded to be flown off of the BP rig after seeing pressure readings before the blast, but BP refused. Weidner claimed that the Schlumberger contractors then called the home office and had private helicopters fly them off of the rig before it exploded hours later.
Synthetic marijuana ban is on its way to Gov. Bobby Jindal (14 June 2010)
BATON ROUGE -- A bill to outlaw herbal incense products that produce a marijuana-like high when smoked is on its way to Gov. Bobby Jindal's desk for a signature after the Senate approved it unanimously on Monday.
House Bill 173 by Rep. Ricky Templet Jr., R-Gretna, would ban synthetic cannabinoids that are sold over-the-counter in convenience stores and head shops under brand names like "K2," "Spice" and "Mojo." Law enforcement officers told legislators that use of the products has been spreading rapidly in recent months, particularly among teens.
Senators voted 32-0 to approve the bill, which bans the production, use, manufacture or possession of the synthetic substance, and provides penalties similar to those for marijuana.
Will the Cruise Ship Industry Do BP's Dirty Work? (14 June 2010)
After a BP refinery in Texas exploded in 2005, killing 15 workers and injuring scores more, the oil giant paid $1.6 billion in settlements to employees and their families. But the families of the workers killed on BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico probably won't receive a similar windfall. That�s because the Deepwater rig is legally considered an ocean-going vessel, and was more three nautical miles offshore at the time of the accident. As a result, the families of the dead workers can only sue BP and its contractors under a 90-year-old maritime law, the Death on the High Seas Act, which severely limits liability. In some cases, BP could get away with shelling out sums as paltry as $1,000.
Gordon Jones, a mud engineer killed on the Deepwater rig, left behind a pregnant wife who had quit her job to stay home with their two-year-old son. But thanks to DOHSA, the most BP could owe them is the equivalent of Gordon�s salary over his working life, minus what he would have paid out in taxes and personal expenses. So if Gordon made $60,000 a year for the next 30 years, BP could owe the family less than a million dollars.
The math works out even worse for workers without dependents. Jones� brother Chris testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that one of the other Deepwater workers who was killed was single and childless. That means his family would only be entitled to recover funeral expenses under DOHSA. But because his body was never recovered after the explosion, the funeral costs will be lower. BP could end up paying his family as little as $1,000 for their loss.
Chris and his father Keith have pleaded with Congress to fix the law so that any employer can be held accountable for negligence�regardless of whether an employee dies on land or at sea. Last week, Senate Judiciary chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation that would do just that.
Americans get most radiation from medical scans (14 June 2010)
We fret about airport scanners, power lines, cell phones and even microwaves. It's true that we get too much radiation. But it's not from those sources � it's from too many medical tests.
Americans get the most medical radiation in the world, even more than folks in other rich countries. The U.S. accounts for half of the most advanced procedures that use radiation, and the average American's dose has grown sixfold over the last couple of decades.
Too much radiation raises the risk of cancer. That risk is growing because people in everyday situations are getting imaging tests far too often. Like the New Hampshire teen who was about to get a CT scan to check for kidney stones until a radiologist, Dr. Steven Birnbaum, discovered he'd already had 14 of these powerful X-rays for previous episodes. Adding up the total dose, "I was horrified" at the cancer risk it posed, Birnbaum said.
After his own daughter, Molly, was given too many scans following a car accident, Birnbaum took action: He asked the two hospitals where he works to watch for any patients who had had 10 or more CT scans, or patients under 40 who had had five � clearly dangerous amounts. They found 50 people over a three-year period, including a young woman with 31 abdominal scans.
When other radiologists tell him they've never found such a case, Birnbaum replies: "That tells me you haven't looked."
Barataria estuary now ground zero in oil spill (14 June 2010)
Barataria teems with wildlife, including alligators, bullfrogs, bald eagles and migratory birds from the Caribbean and South America. There are even Louisiana black bears in the upper basin's hardwood forests.
Before the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, oyster and shrimp boats plowed through these productive bays as fishermen snapped up speckled trout and redfish within minutes of casting their lines.
Now it resembles an environmental war zone. Many of the bay's nesting islands for birds are girded by oil containment boom, and crews in white disposable protective suits change out coils of absorbents to soak up the sticky mess.
"The whole place is full of oil," said fishing guide Dave Marino. "This is some of the best fishing in the whole region, and the oil's coming in just wave after wave. It's hard to stomach, it really is."
Israel approves Gaza flotilla inquiry, includes Canadian (14 June 2010)
EU members met in Luxembourg to discuss ways Europe could renew its role in helping supervise Gaza's volatile border crossings. Mideast mediator Tony Blair said he hopes Israel will soon ease the three-year-old blockade by allowing commercial goods and reconstruction materials to flow into the Palestinian territory.
Israel has been under heavy pressure to carry out an impartial inquiry into the events of May 31, when naval commandos clashed with activists on board a Turkish ship headed to Gaza. Nine Turkish activists were killed, and dozens of people, including seven soldiers, were wounded.
Israel has rejected calls for an international investigation, saying the United Nations and other global bodies have a long history of bias against the Jewish state.
But in consultation with its key ally, the United States, Israel agreed to add two high-ranking foreign observers to bolster the credibility of the probe: David Trimble, a Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, and Canada's former chief military prosecutor, retired Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin.
Gas tank fire closes two N.C. highways (14 June 2010)
GREENSBORO, N.C. � Two interstate highways were temporarily closed after lightning struck a large gasoline tank early yesterday in North Carolina, officials said.
The closed sections of interstates 40 and 73 through Greensboro were reopened within hours, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said.
The tank�s owner, Colonial Pipeline Co., said the burning gasoline was extinguished by firefighters using special foam, and crews remained on the scene to put out any flare-ups.
Authorities said lightning struck the tank at the Colonial Pipeline tank farm near I-40 shortly after midnight.
Aiming at Rivals, Starbucks Will Offer Free Wi-Fi (14 June 2010)
Starbucks has been squeezed lately by competition from both independent specialty coffee shops, which have long offered free Wi-Fi, and big chains like McDonald�s, which added it this year.
�Starbucks hit back,� said Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, a social media marketing agency, who blogs about working on the go. �They said, �Not only do we have free Wi-Fi, but we�re going to offer this huge raft of digital products you can get while you�re here, and you like our coffee better anyway.� �
Howard Schultz, chief executive of Starbucks, who made the announcement at a conference in New York, described it as a way to bridge the online world and real-world coffee outlets.
Of course, people have been bridging those worlds for years, using coffee shops as pseudo-offices by bringing their laptops and borrowing free Internet connections. But Starbucks has never offered unlimited free Internet access.
Trains with brains: MRL's cleaner engines should cut emissions 90 percent (14 June 2010)
Diesel fumes around the railyard have sickened and irritated some neighbors over the years, but engines should puff much less smoke this coming fall. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization the grant to do the job, and the funds will outfit 34 locomotives with Auxiliary Power Units, or APUs.
"This (device) allows us to shut the engine down ... and lets this little engine run and keep the oil and water circulating and warm," VanWinkle said.
The APUs produce some 90 percent fewer emissions than the main engine, according to a news release from the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants. The machine is cleaner and greener.
On Monday at the North Depot, VanWinkle opened the door of a locomotive already installed with an APU. It's roughly 4 feet by 5 feet, a motor with small tanks and hoses. He said the APU runs on half a gallon of diesel an hour, compared with four or five gallons an hour.
Sex addiction may be caused by neurological damage: study (14 June 2010)
Sex addiction is more than the latest celebrity disorder du jour, but a dysfunction in a critical brain region that controls decision-making, new research suggests.
Dr. Lique Coolen, Canada Research Chair in the Neurobiology of Motivation and Reward, and colleagues have found that rats with a damaged prefrontal cortex become compulsive sex seekers.
Coolen says the prefrontal cortex, located in the front part of the brain, normally acts as a break on self-destructive behaviour.
"We're always very cautious to draw parallels between studies in rodents with human behaviours," she says. But Coolen believes hyper-sexuality doesn't deserve the bad press it has recently attracted.
PAM COMMENTARY: That's if "sex addiction" is a real disorder, rather than the usual marketing invention to sell another type of treatment and drugs.
In Pa., inn�s historic streak might end 14 June 2010
BRISTOL, Pa. � Local lore has it that Continental Army soldiers shot down the sign on the King George II Inn amid the Revolutionary War, prompting its owners to quickly change the name to the Fountain House.
The inn survived the War of Independence but the beleaguered US economy has done what time and antimonarch fervor could not: threatened its status as one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the country. Opened in 1681 as the Ferry House by Samuel Clift, who founded the town, the 16-unit inn is up for sale with an asking price of nearly $1.4 million.
�If they were to close and never open, we�d be losing a great spot of history there,�� said Bristol historian Harold Mitchener. The inn, according to historians, provided a warm supper and comfortable bed for several icons of American history, including George Washington and John Adams.
Owners John and Geri Caparrelli, who bought the property in 2004, said late last month that the restaurant was closing and the 329-year-old inn was on the block, victims of a business downturn during the past three years. �For almost two years, we have been trying to refinance the Inn,�� the Caparrellis said in a statement. �We have approached several local banks as well as financial institutions outside the area with no success.��
At Least 117 People Killed in Kyrgyzstan; An Estimated 80,000 Uzbeks Have Fled [DN] (14 June 2010)
AMY GOODMAN: Let�s go to the map. Describe where Kyrgyzstan is.
SCOTT HORTON: I usually describe it as being slightly to the left of China. So we�re talking about the roof of the world and some of the highest mountain ranges, the Tian Shan region. So it is on the eastern periphery of the Soviet Central Asian region, but facing Chinese Central Asia, about as a remote spot in the world as you can get.
AMY GOODMAN: Right next to the very repressive Uzbekistan.
SCOTT HORTON: All the other Central Asian states are authoritarian states, and Uzbekistan, in particular, is extremely authoritarian. Kyrgyzstan has historically been the strong standout in that regard. Although the Kyrgyz leaders have always been wannabe authoritarians, it�s the Kyrgyz population that hasn�t tolerated that, and they�ve overthrown two presidents now. And political scientist Eugene Huskey describes them, for instance, as natural-born anarchists, because they really resent the idea of strong and repressive central government.
AMY GOODMAN: The US has a base there?
SCOTT HORTON: That�s correct.
Labor protests on the rise in China (14 June 2010)
The recent Beijing performance is just one example of the rising labor activism now evident in China, activism that asserted itself in recent weeks at the factories of Foxconn and Honda Motor. It includes groups like New Labor, yet it also encompasses legal aid and other support networks at scores of universities, law firms focused on promoting worker rights, and countless migrant worker aid associations.
"Civil society organizations are growing more powerful. They will push China to change," says Li Fan, director of the nongovernmental organization World and China Institute in Beijing. Li has worked closely with labor groups as well as those pushing grassroots democracy.
The question is whether these groups can spawn a workers' movement that has the organization and mass to challenge factory owners across the country. Until a few years ago, the Chinese authorities broke up sporadic workers' protests with relative ease: Local officials arrested a few ringleaders, then quickly offered concessions to the rest of the strikers to stop the unrest.
Today's young workers may be harder to corral. China now has 787 million mobile phone users and 348 million Internet users - and migrant workers in their twenties are far more aware of world developments than their parents. The younger generation can follow labor actions as they unfold, whether in China's northeastern Rust Belt or southern Pearl River Delta.
The Unemployed Held Hostage (Editorial) (14 June 2010)
Since June 1, when federal unemployment benefits began to expire, an estimated 325,000 jobless workers have been cut off. That number will swell to 1.25 million by the end of the month unless Congress extends the benefits. The Senate, so far, has failed to act.
Some senators, including Democrats, have balked at an unrelated provision that would begin to close a tax loophole enjoyed by some of the richest Americans. You heard right. Desperately needed unemployment benefits have been held hostage to a tax break for the rich, and the Senate�s Democratic leadership has had to delay and finagle to get its own caucus in line.
State-provided unemployment benefits generally last for 26 weeks, and the federal government picks up the tab after that, provided Congress approves the extensions. There is no disagreement over the need: 46 percent of the nation�s 15 million jobless workers have been unemployed for more than six months � a higher level than at any time since the government began keeping track in 1948.
There is not even any genuine debate about how to pay for extended benefits. An extension through November would cost about $40 billion. But unemployment benefits are correctly considered emergency spending � they are a vital safety net, and the money is crucial to supporting consumer demand in a weak economy � and exempt from pay-as-you-go budget rules.
Stephen Kinzer on the History of BP/British Petroleum and Its Role in the 1953 Iran Coup (14 June 2010)
AMY GOODMAN: And that involved both Dulles brothers�people often fly into Dulles Airport�John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and also Teddy Roosevelt�s grandson.
STEPHEN KINZER: Yeah, history is kind of winking at us from that episode. It�s quite an interesting quirk that Theodore Roosevelt, who essentially brought the United States into the regime change era around the very beginning of the twentieth century, wound up having a grandson who began the modern age of intervention. Bear in mind that Iran was the first country where the CIA went in to overthrow a government. When Teddy Roosevelt was overthrowing governments, there was no CIA. So each of them opened a chapter in the history of American interventionism.
AMY GOODMAN: And why�before we move forward now, why did the US intervene on behalf of a British company, what later became British Petroleum, or BP?
STEPHEN KINZER: There were several reasons for it. Part of it had to do with the desire for transatlantic solidarity. But I really think there were two key reasons. One was that the Americans persuaded themselves that they had to fight communism somewhere in the world. That was the idea with which Dulles and Eisenhower came into power in 1953, that they would no longer stick with the strategy of containment of communism, but they were going to a new strategy of rollback. But once they got into power, they were thinking, "How are we going to roll back communism? We can�t invade the Soviet Union. We�re not going to bomb China."
And here is where the other piece came in. The British were very eager to overthrow Mosaddegh in order to get back their oil company. But when they presented the plan to Dulles and Eisenhower, the agent who they sent to Washington, who has later written his memoirs, did something very clever. He decided it�s not going to work if I tell the Americans, "Please overthrow Mosaddegh so we can have our oil company back." The Americans won�t respond to that. They won�t care enough. They�ll be afraid of the precedent of a government taking over a corporation that produces a resource in a poor country. That�s a bad precedent for John Foster Dulles and Americans, just as much as it is for the British. But what the Americans are really concerned about at this moment in the early '50s is communism, so let's tell them that Mosaddegh is leading Iran toward communism. Now, Mosaddegh was an elderly aristocrat who despised all socialist and Marxist ideas, but that was just a detail. He was able to be portrayed as a person who was weak enough so that later on his fall might produce an attempt by communists to take over in Iran.
So it was this combination of wanting to make sure that the example was not given in the world that nationalist governments could just nationalize companies owned by rich countries, and secondly, anybody who could come into the American scope as being possibly not even sympathetic to communism, but creating a situation in which, after he was gone, there might be instability that could lead to a communist government, would wind up being a target of the US.
Mexico cracks down on self-prescribed antibiotics (14 June 2010)
Reporting from Mexico City � The instructions aren't on any box of medicine, but Mexicans know them all the same: At the first sign of sore throat or fever, race to the pharmacy for antibiotics. Take as you see fit.
Even though the law requires a prescription for antibiotics, pharmacists in Mexico seldom ask for one before handing them over. And they hand them over by the boatload: nearly 2 billion doses of antibiotics a year, enough for two full courses of treatment for almost each of the nation's 110 million people.
Such handy access is easier than schlepping to the doctor or a crowded public clinic. But Mexican health officials fear so much self-medication poses a threat to public health by discouraging real medical care and promoting the development of bacteria that resist treatment by antibiotics.
So, in a big shift, authorities here have announced a crackdown on all the self-prescribed penicillin-popping. Under rules that take effect in August, pharmacies will face tighter oversight and stricter disclosure requirements to make sure they sell antibiotics only to patients with prescriptions. Violators face fines of up to $15,000 and possible closure.
Feds' isotope plans too short-sighted, critics say (Canada) (14 June 2010)
OTTAWA � The global medical isotope shortage, prompted by the shutdown of Canada�s main nuclear reactor, has dragged on for more than a year now but, rather than dwelling on the difficulties, some nuclear-medicine experts are concerned about the future, and the direction the federal government is taking Canada on the isotope file.
The National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River, Ont., which produces 30 to 40 per cent of the global supply of the most commonly used isotope, was shut down in May 2009 because of a leak. The complex repairs to the 50-year-old reactor are expected to be complete by midsummer � and it can�t come back online soon enough for health-care professionals.
For the past year, they�ve been using alternative medical procedures and juggling appointments for patients, trying to keep waiting lists short. Isotopes, which are used in diagnostic imaging and in cancer treatments, must be used within hours of arriving at a facility because of the radioactive material they contain.
Canada has been relying on imports from the handful of other countries that have reactors, and that�s meant an unsteady supply chain that can easily be disrupted, say by a volcanic ash cloud that wreaks havoc on air transportation.
Calif. bill would target spouses who hire hit men (14 June 2010)
The story behind the legislation reads like a movie pitch.
The wife of a Southern California police detective, distraught because she had lost custody of her children, tries to hire a hit man from the Vagos motorcycle gang to kill him.
Instead, gang members alert police, who disguise themselves as biker thugs and secretly tape a conversation with her, leading to the wife's arrest and ultimate conviction for solicitation of murder.
But later on, in divorce court, she is awarded half the couple's property, even though she tried to have her husband whacked. He then calls Sacramento, determined to change the divorce law.
A bill scheduled to be heard Tuesday in a state legislative committee seeks to close what its author says is a loophole in the state's no-fault divorce code. In part, the legislation will specify that spouses who solicit the murder of their husband or wife are not entitled to collect financial rewards in divorce proceedings.
In China, Unlikely Labor Leader Just Wanted a Middle-Class Life (13 June 2010)
SHANGHAI � Tan Guocheng is hardly a self-styled labor leader. Age 23 and introverted, he grew up among rice paddies and orange groves far from China�s big factory towns.
But last month, an hour into his shift at a Honda factory in the southern city of Foshan, Mr. Tan pressed an emergency button that shut down his production line.
�Let�s go out on strike!� he shouted. Within minutes, hundreds of workers were abandoning their posts.
Colleagues described Mr. Tan�s leadership as an uncharacteristic act of courage; Mr. Tan said he simply wanted a pay raise. Regardless, he has helped touch off a wave of strikes at Honda plants and other workplaces in China that are still playing out in surprising and significant ways.
Though Mr. Tan has since been fired by Honda for �sabotage� and moved back to his village, striking workers at another Honda plant less than 100 miles away in Zhongshan marched in the streets on Friday and made a new demand: the right to form an independent labor union.
Egyptian forces beat protesters at demonstration against police brutality (13 June 2010)
CAIRO - Egyptian security forces hit protesters and knocked some to the ground before rounding dozens up at a demonstration Sunday against a police beating that killed a young man a week ago.
The protesters were venting Egyptian anger over the death of 28-year-old Khaled Said in the port city of Alexandria on June 6. Relatives, at least one witness and human rights groups say police beat him to death and pictures of his bloody, disfigured face have been circulating on the Internet. The Egyptian government claims he choked to death on a joint as police were trying to arrest him.
Human rights groups say police torture � including sexual abuse � is routine in Egypt though the government denies it is systematic. Reformers say a three-decade-old emergency law they describe as a central tool of repression by President Hosni Mubarak's regime is to blame. Cases of police brutality rarely result in punishment.
A couple hundred protesters gathered near the Ministry of Justice in the capital Cairo Sunday afternoon, some chanting "Down with Hosni Mubarak" and others holding up signs calling for an end to military rule and the prosecution of the interior minister for Said's death.
Minnesota wildlife managers ask drivers to brake for turtles as they try to cross roads (13 June 2010)
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Why did the turtle cross the road?
Minnesota wildlife managers say it's because turtles are trying to get from their winter homes to their warm-weather nesting areas. And the state Department of Natural Resources is urging drivers in Minnesota to give turtles a brake.
Carol Hall, an agency specialist in amphibians, says many turtles are killed on roads each year, especially during the nesting season.
The agency says drivers who see a turtle on the road should slow down and go around it. The department also says it's best to let turtles cross unassisted. If it's necessary to help, the department says to move them in as direct a line as safely possible.
PAM COMMENTARY: I remember finding a painted turtle at the side of a highway in Minnesota during June of '03. The turtle had apparently been run over, but every time I touched its feet, the turtle would move its rear legs. I didn't know if it could be saved, but I was going to find out.
I drove the turtle to a Minnesota DNR office to ask what I should do (this was wildlife, after all, and I didn't know Minnesota's laws on handling wild animals). Employees there referred me to a local veterinarian. The vet examined the turtle and said that it was too far gone to save -- had lost its eyes and had a lot of other serious head damage, would basically never function on its own again. So he recommended putting the turtle down, and I didn't protest -- there wasn't really any good option. At least that was a more humane death than suffering and dehydration at the side of the road.
Obama steps up pressure on BP for oil spill fund (13 June 2010)
U.S. President Barack Obama is turning up the heat on BP PLC, demanding that London-based company set aside billions of dollars in a reserve account and speed up its compensation plan for Gulf residents.
Mr. Obama, who is under pressure himself for his handling of the Gulf crisis, is travelling to the region Monday and Tuesday before addressing the country from the Oval Office, a prime-time television event aimed at portraying the embattled President as a leader who is taking all actions possible to deal with the crisis.
He will meet Wednesday with BP executives � including BP chairman Carl Henric Svanberg and much-maligned chief executive Tony Hayward � where he will urge them to set aside billions of dollars into an escrow account to cover the economic costs from the blowout, and to establish an independent claims procedure.
At the same time, executives from the top international oil companies � Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and ConocoPhillips Co. � are due to appear at a congressional committee examining the offshore industry, where they will stress their own safety records in the Gulf of Mexico.
Huge disparity in NHS death rates revealed (13 June 2010)
� Death rates in planned vascular surgery for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA � to prevent a burst artery) vary from under 2% in some hospitals to at least 10% in 10 of them. More than 5,000 of the operations are carried out each year � most of them planned admissions in which the patient decides where to go for surgery.
� Patients are less likely to die in the bigger, busier hospital units where surgical teams are more skilled because they do more of the operations. The results strongly suggest that smaller units should close. This presents a major challenge to the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, who has stopped all hospital reorganisation.
The most worrying death rates were at Scarborough hospital in Yorkshire, where 29% of patients scheduled in advance for AAA surgery died in the three-year period from 2006 to 2008. The national average was just over 4%. Scarborough says it has now stopped offering the operation.
Results for planned surgery at several other hospitals also gave cause for concern, including Gateshead on 12.9%, Hull on 9%, Pennine Acute Trust on 8.4% and Leeds on 7.1%. Gateshead and Hull blamed a high number of difficult cases, Pennine argued there had been an issue around the way transferred cases were recorded, which is now resolved. Leeds pointed out that it takes difficult cases and has brought its death rates steadily down.
Obama Warns Of 'Massive Layoffs Of Teachers, Police, And Firefighters' (13 June 2010)
On Saturday night, the White House released a letter Obama sent to congressional leaders of both parties asking for nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments to fend off "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters" and to prevent a possible double-dip recession.
"We are at a critical juncture on our nation's path to economic recovery," the president warned. "It is essential that we continue to explore additional measures to spur job creation and build momentum toward recovery, even as we establish a path to long-term fiscal discipline. At this critical moment, we cannot afford to slide backwards just as our recovery is taking hold."
Oregon is already sending workers on furlough to save money (13 June 2010)
Forget about visiting the DMV or most other state offices Friday -- they'll be closed.
Oregon state government has scheduled the fifth of 10 furlough Fridays this week. About 26,500 state employees will take an unpaid day off as part of a plan to save money in these lean economic times.
The closures were part of labor agreements negotiated last year. The idea was to save about $2 million each furlough day.
Local Driver and Motor Vehicle Services, Employment, and Human Services offices will be closed, though some of their services will be available online.
Cancer delays leave patients in agony (13 June 2010)
The situation in Edmonton, where some critical patients are being turned away from chemotherapy treatments, is particularly dire.
In Calgary, roughly 10 per cent of patients, particularly those with the worst cases of cancer, have had to wait up to six weeks to be treated.
"We do not ever have a situation where we do not provide an appointment," noted Dr. Peter Craighead, medical director of the Tom Baker. "But sometimes the appointment (wait time) is longer. Obviously sometimes people are frustrated."
The majority of patients are seen within five weeks, although a national target aims for a two-week period.
In the chronically overcrowded Calgary cancer centre, the staffing situation, at least, is expected to ease in August, with more medical oncologists coming on board.
PAM COMMENTARY: All the more reason to learn about alternative cancer treatments.
Teen says train stunt charge unfair (13 June 2010)
The amateur filmmaker and stuntman charged with mischief for jumping on top of a moving train says he is being treated unfairly by police seeking to make an example of him.
Cochrane man Chris Ball, 19, posted a video on YouTube that appears to show him jumping from a highway overpass onto a slow-moving freight train below. The May 17 incident ended with Cochrane RCMP writing him a ticket for trespassing, which resulted in a $300 fine.
But on Friday, the Canadian Pacific Police Service upped the ante and charged Ball with mischief in relation to the incident, and executed a search warrant at the family home where a computer, digital storage devices and a video camera were seized.
Ball thinks it's unfair -- and possibly illegal -- that one police service opted not to charge him criminally while another one did.
U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan (13 June 2010)
WASHINGTON � The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.
The previously unknown deposits � including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium � are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the �Saudi Arabia of lithium,� a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.
The vast scale of Afghanistan�s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.
PAM COMMENTARY: Hmmm... I have to wonder if this discovery really was "previously unknown," or known to certain people before 9/11 (IF ya know what I mean). I'm sure those Pentagon officials and American geologists wandered off in Afghanistan for their own enjoyment, and magically tripped over a big pile of lithium that nobody had dreamed would be located at that exact spot... Either way, the natives will be lucky to see any benefits -- with the US army there, multinational corporations will expect our tax-funded military to protect their new "investment opportunity."
Ceremony to be held for opening of 497th facility at Langley (13 June 2010)
The Air Force will celebrate the opening of a new facility for 497th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group on Wednesday. After more than seven years of preparation, the group is operating in two new buildings at the north end of Joint Base Langley, according to a news release.
The group's mission is to analyze images and signals from unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Predator and Global Hawk. The move, which cost approximately $75 million, consolidated more than 700 personnel who previously operated out of six different facilities around the base.
The new complex boasts an operations center four times larger than the previous setup with twice as many work stations. The group expects to gain more than 400 airmen in the future.
Norfolk Naval Station building gets 'green' roof (13 June 2010)
One of the Navy's first "green" roofs is being built atop the regional legal services office at Norfolk Naval Station, the service announced.
The building was due for a new roof, and the green roof was chosen as part of the Navy's effort to conserve energy. The roof's waterproofing membrane will be covered with vegetation, which better insulates the building and reduces runoff.
The $613,000 project was awarded by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic and is scheduled to be done in December.
S.F.'s buried streams may see the light of day (13 June 2010)
Carved between ocean and bay, the city of San Francisco owes its contours to saltwater in a way few other cities do.
But a new wave of thinking about the city's water future would resurrect some of the long-buried freshwater streams and rivers that once cut through its valleys and burbled along hillsides.
This summer, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will consider long-range plans to unearth hidden creeks within several neighborhood watersheds - most likely in the southeastern sections of the city.
If the projects gain public support, clear environmental regulations and find funding - and those are large "ifs" - San Franciscans could eventually enjoy biking or strolling along streams not visible above ground since the mid-1800s. Similar "daylighting" projects have already uncovered stretches of urban creeks in Berkeley, Portland, Ore., and Seattle, not to mention Frieburg, Germany, Seoul and Zurich.
Wis. business owners mull choices under smoke ban (13 June 2010)
MADISON, Wis. - As Wisconsin's smoking ban approaches, restaurant and bar owners are having to decide if they want to make the investment in their properties that would allow them to continue serving smokers.
The state's indoor smoking ban takes effect July 5, but will continue to allow smoking at bars and restaurants that establish special patio or seating areas outdoors.
A few business owners are making the investment. In Watertown, the city clerk tells the Wisconsin State Journal that he estimates six of the city's 50 bars and restaurants will pay $500 for a special permit to set up a smoking area.
Some other owners say they don't have the space or money and are worried about losing business. Anti-smoking activists say customers will reward businesses with no smoking whatsoever.
Australian oil well blowout foreshadowed Gulf disaster (13 June 2010)
Ever since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank, resulting in the massive oil spill in the Gulf, many have said that it was an unforeseeable event, the result of a complex chain of equipment failures and human errors that could not be anticipated.
Yet last August, an oil well blew out off the coast of Australia, dumping oil into the Timor Sea for 10 weeks and becoming Australia's largest oil spill.
The blowout of Australia's Montara well just eight months before BP's Macondo well began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico would seem to suggest that a catastrophic rig failure and oil gusher are not nearly so implausible.
John Amos, president of SkyTruth, a nonprofit group that uses remote sensing and digital tracking to follow oil spills around the globe, said that Montara and Macondo confirm the worst fears of those who have been concerned about offshore drilling, but the back-to-back nature of the events meant that there wasn't time for any lessons of Montara to have headed off disaster at Macondo.
Singer, sausage businessman Jimmy Dean dies at 81 (13 June 2010)
Jimmy Dean, a country music legend for his smash hit about a workingman hero, "Big Bad John," and an entrepreneur known for his sausage brand, died on Sunday. He was 81.
His wife, Donna Meade Dean, said her husband died at their Henrico County, Va., home.
She told The Associated Press that he had some health problems but was still functioning well, so his death came as a shock. She said he was eating in front of the television. She left the room for a time and came back and he was unresponsive. She said he was pronounced dead at 7:54 p.m.
"He was amazing," she said. "He had a lot of talents."
Cancer link to common heart drugs (13 June 2010)
A class of drugs commonly used to treat heart problems has been linked with a "modestly" increased risk of cancer.
Analysis of published data from all trials of angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) found one extra case of cancer for every 105 patients treated.
The US researchers said the evidence from nine trials should prompt drug regulators to investigate. But they advised people not to stop taking the drugs, but to see their doctors if concerned. The results are published in The Lancet Oncology.
ARBs are mainly prescribed for conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure. They are used by millions of people worldwide.
Dominion gives eels a lift on river trip (13 June 2010)
Before the dam and two others were built at neighboring Lake Gaston and Kerr Lake, eels could swim freely all the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, near Salem and Roanoke.
Along the way, they were fodder for game fish, including striped bass and shad, and were caught by fishermen who sold them for sushi or smoked the eels themselves.
Now, energy giant Dominion Virginia Power has installed two eel ladders at its hydroelectric dam in Roanoke Rapids. It is the first phase in what wildlife experts and conservationists hope will be a fully restored eel highway from the Atlantic Ocean to the Blue Ridge.
Bob Graham, a Dominion biologist, calls the project the "first and biggest eelway passage in the Southeast" - an attempt to retain dams and all they do for humans while also letting nature run its course.
Oil spill disaster: The guilty parties (13 June 2010)
It seems unlikely that no other company than BP was responsible for these failures. Professor Bea does not specify any other company than BP, but he does have harsh words to say about one other organisation, the US regulator in this area. In the summary of his paper, he says: "The information available to me so far indicates that BP plc and the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service failed to properly assess and manage the natural hazards in a prudent manner. Consequently, the public, resources and environment were, and are, being severely punished."
Even now, 54 days into the disaster, no one has any precise figure for the amount of oil leeched into the ocean. Scientists, not normally given to inexactitude, say it could be anywhere between 40m and 109m gallons. The total siphoned off the fractured well is about four million gallons, with the latest cap snaring about 650,000 gallons a day.
We have learnt in the past painful months that there exists nowhere on Earth the technology to immediately sort out such a deep-sea blowout. BP, the US government and the best minds of the energy industry have a problem where they have no alternative but to make up techniques as they go along. The only known solution � a relief well � will not be operational until mid-August.
Risk assessment as an activity gets a pretty bad press these days, but if ever a situation needed one doing it was drilling for oil a mile down on the ocean floor. For what we have learnt the hard way is that, whatever adherence or non-adherence to the present regulations, an enterprise was undertaken for which, if it went wrong, there was no immediate remedy. This is a failure of BP's planning and a failure of regulation.
Vast ocean once covered Mars, say scientists (13 June 2010)
Scientists have revived arguments over whether there was once an ocean on the surface of Mars by claiming that their analysis of existing data supports the hypothesis that water covered much of the red planet's northern hemisphere 3.5bn years ago.
They believe their study of apparent marine deltas and valley networks in the journal Nature Geoscience bolsters the possibility that up to a third of Mars was under about 30 cubic miles of water.
Previous spacecraft investigations have pointed to the possible presence of an ancient ocean, with supporters for the idea that there is still a substantial amount of water under the surface as liquid or ice. Climate change over millions of years might have led to the disappearance of the atmosphere, which would mean that any water on the surface would boil away.
Volcanic activity is among other explanations for apparent gullies, river valleys, flood plains, lakes, seas and other signs of water that have vanished.
Japanese space probe returns to Earth, possibly with asteroid clues into solar system creation (13 June 2010)
ADELAIDE, Australia - A team of scientists flew to the Australian Outback on Monday to recover a Japanese space capsule they hope contains the first-ever asteroid samples that could provide clues into the creation of the solar system.
The Hayabusa explorer returned to Earth overnight after a seven-year, 4-billion mile (6-billion kilometer) journey, burning apart on re-entry in a spectacular fireball just after jettisoning the capsule. It was the first time a spacecraft successfully landed on an asteroid and returned to Earth.
NASA scientist Scott Sandford said it was a relief to watch the re-entry and see the capsule had successfully detached and parachuted to Earth.
Calif. teen sailor thought rescue might take weeks (13 June 2010)
Writing on her blog, Abby Sunderland said she had only hoped for a ship to pass her by within a few weeks.
Instead, a coordinated international response was launched to find the 16-year-old. A French fishing vessel rescued her more than 2,000 miles west of Australia on Saturday, three days after she set off her emergency beacons.
"Everyone on board has been really friendly," she wrote. "They have come a long way out of their way to help me and I am so thankful that they did."
Sunderland's boat, Wild Eyes, was disabled when a wave smashed down its mast and knocked out her satellite communications.
Gulf Oil Spill �Could Go Years� If Not Dealt With [AJ] (10 June 2010)
The Obama Administration and senior BP officials are frantically working not to stop the world�s worst oil disaster, but to hide the true extent of the actual ecological catastrophe. Senior researchers tell us that the BP drilling hit one of the oil migration channels and that the leakage could continue for years unless decisive steps are undertaken, something that seems far from the present strategy.
In a recent discussion, Vladimir Kutcherov, Professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and the Russian State University of Oil and Gas, predicted that the present oil spill flooding the Gulf Coast shores of the United States �could go on for years and years � many years.� 1
According to Kutcherov, a leading specialist in the theory of abiogenic deep origin of petroleum, �What BP drilled into was what we call a �migration channel,� a deep fault on which hydrocarbons generated in the depth of our planet migrate to the crust and are accumulated in rocks, something like Ghawar in Saudi Arabia.�3 Ghawar, the world�s most prolific oilfield has been producing millions of barrels daily for almost 70 years with no end in sight. According to the abiotic science, Ghawar like all elephant and giant oil and gas deposits all over the world, is located on a migration channel similar to that in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico.
As I wrote at the time of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake disaster,3 Haiti had been identified as having potentially huge hydrocasrbon reserves, as has neighboring Cuba. Kutcherov estimates that the entire Gulf of Mexico is one of the planet�s most abundant accessible locations to extract oil and gas, at least before the Deepwater Horizon event this April.
EU biofuels 'need to be certified for sustainability' (13 June 2010)
EU nations are being encouraged to set up certification schemes to ensure biofuels help cut emissions and do not threaten biodiversity.
The plans, outlined by the European Commission, would apply to all types of biofuels, including imported fuel.
The commission said the schemes would deliver substantial CO2 reductions and help protect forests and wetlands.
Environmental groups said the voluntary measures were too weak to halt a "dramatic increase in deforestation".
In Louisiana, it's one damned thing after another: James Carville (13 June 2010)
For decades, massive engineering projects across the country have made us more vulnerable. We lose a football field of land every 38 minutes. Since World War II, we've lost wetlands the size of the state of Delaware. I bet Joe Biden would be screaming on national television too if it was happening on his turf. Or if the Hamptons lost 16,000 acres a year, you bet there'd be a Million Hedge Fund Managers march on Washington to demand action.
We feel ourselves ever more vulnerable due to the nonstop degradation of our wetlands, which serve as our first line of defense against hurricanes and powerful storm surge. Their loss has everything to do with activities across the rest of the country, starting with the deprivation of natural sediment that the Mississippi River should carry to its mouth and dump at the Gulf of Mexico to nourish our barrier islands.
Then the oil companies dredged canals in the marshlands in an attempt to grow an industry that now provides the country with more than 30 percent of its domestic oil and natural gas. Salt-water intrusion killed the marsh. These marshlands provide jobs for tens of thousands of fisherman in an industry that provides over 30 percent of this country's domestic seafood supply.
Add that to the fact that we have not seen a single penny of royalties for oil produced more than six miles off our coast. We assume all of the risk, produce seafood and oil and gas, with none of the reward. Yes, $165 billion of royalties have gone to the federal treasury that could go to help repair this pressing issue.
But there's more.
Many in fishing communities accepting handouts for the first time (13 June 2010)
``The culture is not to ask for help, it's very much about taking care of your own. Many are not used to asking for help or accepting help easily,'' says Natalie Jayroe, president and CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans. ``But we also know that this oil spill has been traumatic. You are talking about fishermen who have just spent money getting their boats in order for the season, then all of a sudden their livelihoods are taken away.''
Almost 48,000 households in the 14 parishes most affected by the spill rely on income from the seafood industry and related businesses. So far, 1,591 residents have applied for emergency food stamps -- known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- at 14 mobile sites set up after the spill, according to the Louisiana Department of Social Services.
Second Harvest reports at least a 15 percent jump in new families requesting services. And more than 7,800 individuals have received emergency services from Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans since May 1, including $140,000 in gift cards and food vouchers, 177 cans of baby formula and 186 packs of diapers.
In part, the strong community response is linked to BP's uneven distribution of monthly claim checks -- criticized as covering only a fraction of fishermen's salaries or expenses -- and its limited hiring of local workers to help manage the cleanup.
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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