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News from the Week of 29th of May to the 4th of June 2011
WikiLeaks Cables Reveal "Secret History" of U.S. Bullying in Haiti at Oil Companies' Behest (3 June 2011)
DAN COUGHLIN: Yeah, no, it's so important what Ha� Libert�nd WikiLeaks have done, shedding light on what the U.S. does in Haiti. People don't understand about the dominant role that the U.S. plays there. It's the fourth-largest U.S. embassy anywhere in the world. The U.N. mission in Haiti today is the third-largest U.N. mission anywhere in the world. Haiti plays a pivotal role, despite its small size, in world history.
And what these oil documents show, and especially from a U.S. perspective, when we in the United States, in our workplaces, in our homes, in our community groups, were raising money for Haiti -- we send money for earthquake victims, we send money for hurricane relief, we -- some of us, with our churches, go on missions to Haiti to build, to help build the country. But what we realize, in these cables that Ha� Libert�as released, along with WikiLeaks, is that in fact the main obstacle to development in Haiti today is Washington, is the U.S. embassy, is what they do to undermine development. And in this particular case with the oil deal with Venezuela, it was Chevron and Exxon Mobil working with the U.S. embassy to prevent an oil deal that had dramatic benefits for the Haitian people, $100 million a year for the Haitian government to spend�
AMY GOODMAN: For the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, they would save $100 million a year?
DAN COUGHLIN: It's not just the $100 million a year, which is huge for Haiti. It's 10 percent of the Haitian government budget that they used for things like hurricane relief, for schools, for hospitals. The cables themselves admit that. It's not, quote-unquote, "corruption." It's for direct support of the people. But�
JUAN GONZALEZ: And this was because Ch�z was offering the oil at 40 percent off the world market price?
DAN COUGHLIN: That's right. The deal is, you get a certain�you only have to pay 40 percent of the cost of the oil upfront.
Can a Mormon presidential candidate win over the Republicans' evangelical base? (3 June 2011)
"I came today not to give a political speech," former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. told the crowd in a downtown Washington ballroom Friday, "but simply to introduce myself and my family."
There was, however, nothing simple about it. The audience he was addressing consisted of hundreds of politically oriented Christian conservatives. Huntsman, who is expected to announce soon that he is running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is a Mormon.
The message that Huntsman, who is largely unknown nationally, seemed to be delivering to the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition was this: My values are no different from yours.
The other Mormon in the race -- former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is presumed to be the early front-runner -- also addressed the group. But where Huntsman made overt references to God, Romney made none. Instead, he emphasized economic themes: unemployment, declining home prices, debt, foreclosures.
Criminal case against Edwards is thin (3 June 2011)
The criminal case against John Edwards on misuse of campaign funds will be a challenge for federal prosecutors, experts in campaign finance and corruption said.
Most cases related to campaign finance are hard for prosecutors to win, said Joseph Sandler, a lawyer in Washington with much experience in campaign finance and election law. "In the best of circumstances, to successfully prosecute a campaign finance case is not easy," he said. "It's a complex area of law, and it's difficult to explain and understand."
Yet public disapproval of Mr. Edwards's extramarital affair while he posed on the campaign trail as a "devoted family man," as the indictment put it, seems to have predisposed many observers to hope that he can be found guilty, whatever the law states.
A blogger at Above the Law, a Web site devoted to legal topics, noted the indictment and added, "Life can seem pretty unfair sometimes. This isn't one of those times."
Jaycee Dugard's disturbing account of captivity (3 June 2011)
For 18 years, Jaycee Dugard never said her own name. And, she said, she never tried to flee from Phillip Garrido, the predator who used a stun gun to abduct her from her South Lake Tahoe bus stop at age 11.
At first, Dugard told an El Dorado County grand jury, the threat of being shocked again kept her in line - that and the lock on the shed where she was stashed.
Garrido had a temper, and he would fire up the stun gun so Dugard could hear the "zappy noise." There were dogs, too, in her backyard prison outside Garrido's home near Antioch.
Years later, she felt trapped, not knowing how she could make money to support two young daughters - now teenagers - fathered by Garrido. Ultimately, she convinced herself she was performing a greater good, feeding the compulsions of a fiend who might not need to steal another child.
Why jobs no longer top Washington's agenda (3 June 2011)
"Where are the jobs?"
In Washington, it's a question that Republicans brandished like a sword during the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency and one that Democrats used when the GOP took control of the House of Representatives in January.
For both parties heading into another campaign, the question remains the same, and the answers aren't any closer. While there are plenty of ideas about job creation, political realities make implementation unlikely.
So a softening of the economy -- reflected in Friday's dismal jobs data from the Department of Labor -- doesn't mean Congress will pass a new stimulus program. Deficits and debt dominate the Washington agenda, not new ways to create jobs.
PAM COMMENTARY: Amazing since the #1 issue to voters is jobs and the economy.
Children of divorce score worse in math, social skills (2 June 2011)
Kim compared the progress of children whose parents were going through a divorce with youngsters from stable families. He found that developmental problems continued after the divorce.
"This study reveals that these negative impacts do not worsen in the post-divorce stage, although there is no sign that children of divorce catch up with their counterparts, either," Kim explained.
He added that math studies were particularly sensitive to impact of divorce.
"Reading is not that cumulative. But with math, you must understand previous things to develop. For example, if I do not understand that one plus one is two, then I cannot understand multiplication."
Brain scan shows mark of bomb blasts, study finds (1 June 2011)
Soldiers with traumatic brain injury caused by a blast may have abnormalities in the white matter of their brain -- an important brain cell communication center -- that cannot be seen on ordinary brain scans, U.S. researchers said Wednesday.
They said it is not yet clear whether the hidden injuries affect brain function or play a role in traumatic stress injuries.
Using an imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging, researchers at Washington University of St. Louis studied 63 injured soldiers who had been evacuated to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from Iraq and Afghanistan after being exposed to different types of blasts.
They found abnormalities in 18 out 63 patients diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury from blasts, but not among 21 control subjects who were injured in other ways.
Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder and the Destruction of American Childhood (30 May 2011) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the biology of addiction?
DR. GABOR MATÉ: For sure. You see, if you look at the brain circuits involved in addiction -- and that's true whether it's a shopping addiction like mine or an addiction to opiates like the heroin addict -- we're looking for endorphins in our brains. Endorphins are the brain's feel good, reward, pleasure and pain relief chemicals. They also happen to be the love chemicals that connect us to the universe and to one another.
Now, that circuitry in addicts doesn't function very well, as the circuitry of incentive and motivation, which involves the chemical dopamine, also doesn't function very well. Stimulant drugs like cocaine and crystal meth, nicotine and caffeine, all elevate dopamine levels in the brain, as does sexual acting out, as does extreme sports, as does workaholism and so on.
Now, the issue is, why do these circuits not work so well in some people, because the drugs in themselves are not surprisingly addictive. And what I mean by that is, is that most people who try most drugs never become addicted to them. And so, there has to be susceptibility there. And the susceptible people are the ones with these impaired brain circuits, and the impairment is caused by early adversity, rather than by genetics.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, "early adversity"?
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the human brain, unlike any other mammal, for the most part develops under the influence of the environment. And that's because, from the evolutionary point of view, we developed these large heads, large fore-brains, and to walk on two legs we have a narrow pelvis. That means -- large head, narrow pelvis -- we have to be born prematurely. Otherwise, we would never get born. The head already is the biggest part of the body. Now, the horse can run on the first day of life. Human beings aren't that developed for two years. That means much of our brain development, that in other animals occurs safely in the uterus, for us has to occur out there in the environment. And which circuits develop and which don't depend very much on environmental input.
When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don't develop the way they ought to. It's that simple. And unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics rather than on the environment, which, of course, is a simple explanation. It also takes everybody off the hook.
PAM COMMENTARY: He raises many good points, worth a read of the entire article.
Jill Abramson to be first woman to lead New York Times (2 June 2011)
NEW YORK -- Among the bookcases and posters in Jill Abramson's office at the New York Times is a blown-up black-and-white photo of the newsroom, circa 1895, in which a group of men huddle around a desk occupied by a woman named Mary Taft.
"She looks like the boss," said Abramson. Not quite -- Taft was the paper's second female reporter. On Thursday, the 57-year-old Abramson was named the first woman to head the Times' newsroom in its 160-year history.
Abramson's appointment was part of a sweeping and symbolic series of changes at the newspaper, which is both a journalistic leader and one that reflects its industry's deepening financial crisis.
She takes over a newspaper that has doubled down on its journalism in tough economic times, resisting the cuts to staff and budgets that other papers have chosen as advertisers and readers migrate to other, mostly digital sources of news.
Feds: Bus company should not have been operating (1 June 2011)
The Sky Express bus that crashed Monday morning and killed four should not have been on the road at all, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
In April, the bus service was given an "unsatisfactory" rating, which allows the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to place a carrier out of service, according to a press release from the Department of Transportation.
But Sky Express appealed the decision, which allowed the company to continue transporting passengers.
"Following Tuesday's horrific bus crash in Virginia, I have directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to end its practice of extending the appeals period for unsafe motorcoach companies," LaHood said in a news release.
Google says hackers based in China accessed U.S. officials' Gmail accounts (1 June 2011)
Google said Wednesday that hackers based in China gained access to hundreds of Gmail accounts, including some belonging to senior U.S. government officials and military personnel. The personal Gmail account of one Cabinet-level official was compromised, an official with knowledge of the breach said.
The hackers allegedly used a "phishing" campaign to trick users of the popular e-mail service into revealing their passwords, which allowed the perpetrators to monitor incoming and outgoing messages.
Vast quantities of e-mail content were accessed, according to two people with knowledge of the breach. They said the FBI was notified last week and that there was some debate within Google about whether to publicize the incident, because to do so could foreclose investigative options.
Google said the targeted attack appeared to originate from the Chinese city of Jinan and also hit the Gmail accounts of journalists, Chinese political activists and South Korean and other Asian officials. Google determined that its users were attacked by phishing schemes, typically e-mails that trick the recipient into surrendering personal information or clicking on links that infect the computer with a virus.
U.S. economy: Manufacturing slowdown the latest sign the recovery is faltering (1 June 2011)
The U.S. economic recovery is faltering, and Washington is running out of ways to get it back on track.
New reports Wednesday showed a steep slowdown in the manufacturing sector and weak private-sector job creation in May. The grim news comes on the heels of other recent indicators -- falling home prices and consumer spending -- that reflect an economy slowing to a limp this spring.
The data dash the sunnier expectations that many analysts had entering the year; many forecasters had expected economic growth of 3.5 to 4 percent in 2011.
Instead, the U.S. economy appears to be settling back into a pattern of growth near its long-term trend rate of 2.5 to 3 percent. That rate of growth is enough only to accommodate a rising population and higher worker productivity, not to put the millions of jobless back to work -- keeping unemployment mostly stuck at its current rate.
Study links cellphones to possible cancer risk (1 June 2011)
Cellphone users may be at increased risk for two types of rare tumors and should try to reduce their exposure to the energy emitted by the phones, according to a panel of 31 international scientists convened by an agency within the World Health Organization.
Studies so far do not show definitively that cellphone use increases that risk, said the authors of the consensus statement issued Tuesday by the WHO. But "limited" scientific evidence exists, they said, to suggest that the radiofrequency energy released by cellphones may increase the risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer, and acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous tumor of the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain.
Both are rare: In the U.S., about 10,000 to 12,000 people develop a glioma each year and about 3,000 develop acoustic neuroma tumors. The risk roughly doubles after a decade of cellphone use, according to some studies. But the number of cellphone users worldwide -- there are an estimated 5 billion cellphones -- means a potential cancer link should be taken very seriously, said Dr. Jonathan Samet, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine and the chairman of the panel that issued the report.
"What we have here is a warning from a public health point of view," Samet said. "We have half the world's population already using cellphones, and people are using them younger and longer. We clearly need to keep track of this."
BT Toxin from GM crops found in human blood: Study (11 May 2011) [R]
Till now, scientists and multinational corporations promoting GM crops have maintained that Bt toxin poses no danger to human health as the protein breaks down in the human gut. But the presence of this toxin in human blood shows that this does not happen.
Scientists from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, have detected the insecticidal protein, Cry1Ab, circulating in the blood of pregnant as well as non-pregnant women.
They have also detected the toxin in fetal blood, implying it could pass on to the next generation. The research paper has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Reproductive Toxicology. The study covered 30 pregnant women and 39 women who had come for tubectomy at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke (CHUS) in Quebec.
None of them had worked or lived with a spouse working in contact with pesticides.
They were all consuming typical Canadian diet that included GM foods such as soybeans, corn and potatoes. Blood samples were taken before delivery for pregnant women and at tubal ligation for non-pregnant women. Umbilical cord blood sampling was done after birth.
Cry1Ab toxin was detected in 93 per cent and 80 per cent of maternal and fetal blood samples, respectively and in 69 per cent of tested blood samples from non-pregnant women. Earlier studies had found trace amounts of the Cry1Ab toxin in gastrointestinal contents of livestock fed on GM corn. This gave rise to fears that the toxins may not be effectively eliminated in humans and there may be a high risk of exposure through consumption of contaminated meat.
Germany in the dark over mystery killer bacteria (1 June 2011)
Germany remained in the dark on Wednesday over the origin of a killer bacteria that has left at least 16 dead, triggered the threat of a lawsuit and virtually shut down imports of vegetables across Europe.
German scientists and health officials have identified the virulent E. coli bacteria responsible for the outbreak, which has mainly affected northern Germany, but were unable to say what caused it or who was responsible.
In Madrid Spain threatened to sue Hamburg for damages after the German city pointed to Spanish cucumbers as the source of a outbreak.
"We do not rule out taking action against the authorities who called into question the quality of our products," Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told Spanish radio.
Prescription drugs worth millions to dealers (1 June 2011)
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Prescription drug abuse, now the fastest-growing drug problem in the country, has created a ballooning street market for highly-addictive pain relief, anxiety and depression drugs.
Given the money involved, it's no wonder.
Here's a sampling of the street prices for a single tablet of some commonly trafficked drugs, compared to their retail prices:
--Oxycontin: $50 to $80 on the street, vs. $6 when sold legally
--Oxycodone: $12 to $40 on the street, vs. $6 retail
Germany decides to shut down all nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of Fukushima (30 May 2011)
Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed through measures in 2010 to extend the lifespan of the country's 17 reactors, with the last one scheduled to go offline in 2036, but she reversed her policy in the wake of the Japanese disaster.
"We want the electricity of the future to be safe, reliable and economically viable," Merkel told reporters on Monday.
Germany's energy supply chain "needs a new architecture," necessitating huge efforts in boosting renewable energies, efficiency gains and overhauling the electricity grid, she added.
"We have to follow a new path," Merkel said.
Jonestown memorial unveiled after 32 years (30 May 2011)
It took 32 years and a last-minute court ruling, but on Sunday hundreds of Jonestown families could finally say goodbye.
"My children, they are no longer unidentified and unclaimed," said Juanell Smart, who lost her four children, mother and uncle at the mass suicide in Guyana in 1978. "To them, I say: 'I am sorry it has taken so long. It should have happened a long time ago.' "
In a brief service filled with hope, tears and hugs at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, a group of Jonestown survivors unveiled four simple, gray, granite panels chiseled with the names of all 918 people who died at Jonestown, the spiritual encampment established by San Francisco minister Jim Jones in the jungles of Guyana.
The panels are the first significant memorial to the Jonestown tragedy, in which Jones coerced his followers in the Peoples Temple to drink cyanide-laced punch as he was coming under increasing scrutiny for abusive behavior. The event was one of the largest mass suicides in history.
Positive signs in an anemic U.S. recovery (30 May 2011)
In contrast to the unconstrained spending of the past, U.S. consumers are building up their savings at rates not seen in years. They're also doing more to pay down credit cards and other debt. Higher savings rates and lower debts tend to slow economic growth in the short term but stimulate it in the longer term. And future growth based on personal savings and smaller debts is less likely to produce dangerous bubbles.
Even if some consumers are tempted to return to their old ways, new federal regulations and tougher standards that the nation's banks have imposed on credit card applicants and other borrowers are creating pressure to curb debt and save more.
Also, the continuing refusal of most lenders to write down soured home mortgages -- and the failure of government programs to help significant numbers of homeowners -- have kept foreclosures high. Painful as that is for tens of thousands of Americans, many economists say neither the housing market nor other important sectors of the economy can recover until the country works off the burden of bad mortgages.
There are still an estimated 3.6 million home borrowers who are in foreclosure or at least 120 days behind in payment.
David Stockman, Reagan economist, on debt spree (29 May 2011)
Q: What similarities do you see between the situation in Washington in the 1980s and the situation now?
A: I think it's dramatically different, a night-and-day difference. (In the 1980s) we had an economy that was encouraging and beckoning to entrepreneurs. I think we have an economy today that's on the edge of insolvency. We'll be dealing with an age of sacrifice, austerity and an age of pain. You have to stop pretending that we're in a normal business cycle.
Q: So what do we do about it?
A: The fall of 2008 and the financial market meltdown was simply a wake-up call that we were in an unsustainable debt spree. The first step is to recognize the new reality we're in, which is not something politicians ever want to do. They certainly do not like to tell people that we have to eat our broccoli and we have a political class in the Beltway that's totally out of shape, incapable of dispensing pain to the electorate. The stimulus spending got totally out of hand. We borrowed money from the Treasury and handed it out to people to spend. The Republicans are just focusing on tax cuts while Democrats are defending their spending and they aren't willing to compromise. You're going to need to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire and, on top of that, find some new revenue sources. Now, we seem to think that we can have 3 percent of GDP deficits forever. It's like a runway, and the airplane is near the end of it. The Republican Party is being reckless in historic proportions, reckless to the extreme.
Q: What about Obama?
A: He's got to stop talking about taxing only the top 2 percent. Tax increases are going to have to include the middle class. On this path we're heading toward class warfare.
PAM COMMENTARY: I don't see how asking more of people who can afford it is "class warfare." Proponents of tax cuts always claim that letting the wealthy keep their money will stimulate investment. Well, maybe, sometimes. But continuous Bush tax cuts have led to one of the worst recessions/depressions ever. So REALITY says that tax cuts for the rich just don't help, in fact they may actually harm the economy.
US goat dairies grow with demand for cheese (29 May 2011)
While the big dairy states of Wisconsin and California have the most dairy goats, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the industry is growing in New England as well.
Some feel it makes sense in Vermont, which has a long history of dairy farming but has seen hundreds of cow dairies go under amid low milk prices and high feed costs. While Vermont remains New England's largest fluid milk producer, it has lost 1,380 dairy farms in the past 20 years.
Nationwide, the number of dairy goats has been slowly but steadily increasing, from nearly 335,000 in 2007 to 360,000 in 2011, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. The growth reflects increases in goat cheese production seen by the American Cheese Society. Last year, fresh goat cheese was the largest category at its annual competition with 139 entries, compared to 2009 when cheddars (from any milk) were king.
Lekberg, 48, still drives a school bus, and his wife works to make ends meet, but he said he's making a profit with the goats, which he wasn't with his cows.
Saudi prince calls for lower oil prices (29 May 2011)
He blamed continuing uncertainty over political stability in the region as well as disruptions in supply tied to unrest in Libya and Bahrain for the current high oil price.
"You're not 100% sure what is going to happen, because you hear once in a while Iran coming and jumping and antagonizing and intimidating the Gulf region," the prince said. "So, there's a worry."
A major investor in the United States, the prince said the country remains a desired investment target because of its stability.
"At the end of the day, the United States is down, for sure, but it is not out," Talal said.
Otters reveal clues to coastal health (29 May 2011)
But other aspects of the three-year, multimillion-dollar project, which includes not only federal researchers but also ones from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seattle Aquarium, the University of Idaho, the University of Wyoming, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the California Department of Fish and Game, involve high-tech analysis as well.
To get a broader sense of the regions' overall productivity, scientists will analyze satellite data to gauge the amount of chlorophyll in the near shore as well as markers in two fish species' ear bones, or otoliths, which are similar to tree rings in terms of charting how fast the fish are growing.
In doing so the research team may also find answers to why some Pacific sea otter populations remain in trouble, while others are either stable or growing. Sea otters used to be abundant throughout the north Pacific Rim, from southern California to northern Japan. But between the 1750s and the turn of the 20th century, the fur trade wiped so many out that only 13 isolated colonies, with a total of 1,000 to 2,000 animals, remained.
Since receiving international protection some of these colonies, including those in the Prince William Sound and in southeast Alaska, are stable. The ones off Washington state's coasts and Vancouver Island are even growing. But others, including a colony in the Alaskan peninsula, and the one here in Monterey Bay, face obstacles. Three of the nine otter populations along the U.S. and Canadian Pacific coast are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
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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