Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 15th to 21st of January 2012
Video: 6 Bizarro Ads From the Colbert Super-PAC (21 January 2012)
Last week Stephen Colbert announced that he was exploring a bid for "president of the United States of South Carolina" in advance of the state's Republican primary on January 21. News organizations quickly pointed out that he'd missed the deadline to get on the ballot and that write-in votes were not permitted.
But that didn't stop the pro-Colbert super-PAC Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow (now headed by Jon Stewart) from getting into the action. It released an ad endorsing GOP dropout Herman Cain, who's still on the South Carolina ballot.
Check out that ad and five others produced by the Colbert super-PAC as part of its surreal civics lesson.
Before endorsing Cain, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow enlisted John Lithgow (who played a serial killer on Dexter) to narrate an ad about "Mitt the Ripper" killing corporations (which, you'll recall, he thinks are people).
Few think a Gingrich win in South Carolina will lead to nomination (21 January 2012)
But even if Gingrich wins South Carolina, political analysts are not convinced that he can sustain the type of consistent campaign needed to wrest the nomination from Romney.
"I think what it's going to mean is that South Carolina won't pick the (Republican) nominee for the first time in years, because I really don't see (Gingrich) winning the nomination,'' said Danielle Vinson, chairwoman of the political-science department at Furman University in South Carolina.
"He's always been good at catching the attention, dropping the verbal grenade in the room that will make a great story, and get the folks who agree with him really excited,'' Vinson said. "But the day-to-day Newt Gingrich wears on people.''
William J. Green, a Republican consultant in Pittsburgh, said, "South Carolina is unique; it's more conservative than Florida,'' which holds its primary on Jan. 31.
"It certainly makes him more competitive,'' Green said. "But Romney is better financed and better organized in (Florida). I think Romney would have a leg up because of his organizational skills and money, so I don't think a loss in South Carolina's going to interrupt that.''
An Honest Voice Enters the GOP Race: AFSCME (21 January 2012)
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has entered the Republican presidential race, and the public-employee union could be a serious contender.
AFSCME, which has been a key player in the struggle to defend state and local workers against the anti-union juggernaut launched by newly elected Republican governors and legislators, has long been at odds with Newt Gingrich. When the former House Speaker decided that the fundamental challenge facing the American economic system was the persistence of child-labor laws, AFSCME pushed back with a muscular campaign that asked: "Really, Newt?"
Challenghing the speaker's proposal that school janoitors be replaced with "poor children," AFSCME launched a national campaign that got thousands of Americans to sign a statement that said:
"The US outlawed child labor because it denied children the chance at a real education and allowed employers to exploit children -- and because children were often injured or killed on the job. That's why labor unions fought to pass laws outlawing child labor and protecting all workers. And the people you want to fire and replace with kids? A lot of them are parents. That job puts a roof over kids' heads, food on the table, and provides them with health care and the chance to get an education. That job is the only thing between a kid and poverty. Firing someone's mom and hiring the kid for less money isn't exactly the 'process of rising.' It is, in fact, the process of falling. It is the process of exploiting and destroying working families. The fact that you don't get that makes you not only out of touch, but utterly unqualified to serve in any elected position, let alone President of the United States. Newt, 'You're Fired!'"
Accused war criminal Taylor 'worked with CIA' (21 January 2012)
He stands accused of funding rebels who hacked the arms off small children, smuggling blood diamonds, keeping sex slaves and torturing his opponents, but former Liberian President Charles Taylor also had another career - providing information to US intelligence agencies, according to information obtained by the Boston Globe newspaper.
Today, Taylor is jailed in The Hague as the first former African leader to face international prosecution from the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. In the 1990s, he was allegedly responsible for wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, which killed more than 250,000 people.
"It's an intriguing development," Will Reno, a professor at Northwestern University who studies political violence in Africa, told Al Jazeera. "Was the US still supporting him when he was responsible for all of these human rights abuses? Did the US contribute to that?"
While the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon's spy arm, confirmed its agents and CIA agents worked with Taylor in the 1980s, they would not reveal details of the relationship on national security grounds.
CIA collaboration with New York Police Department was never legally approved (21 January 2012)
The top lawyer at the CIA never approved sending one of its officers to help the New York Police Department create a domestic spying program, raising the possibility that the agency may have violated a ban on domestic spying.
Last August, the Associated Press reported that the CIA had violated that prohibition when it "played a key role in transforming the New York Police Department's intelligence unit into a cutting edge spy shop dedicated to gathering information on Muslims."
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly insisted in October that the arrangement was legal under a 1981 presidential order, which allows the CIA to provide local law enforcement with "specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel," provided the guidelines are spelled out in advance and the agency's general counsel approves of the arrangement.
The AP is now reporting, however, that according to intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, neither of those things was done in 2002 when then-CIA director George Tenet sent a veteran officer to set up "spying programs that transformed the NYPD into one of the nation's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies."
U.S. appeals ruling against dolphin-safe tuna labels (21 January 2012)
"Our decision to appeal the WTO ruling in this case demonstrates the commitment of the United States to our dolphin-safe labeling measures," she said.
The WTO had found that Washington was overly restrictive in trying to protect dolphins.
Under the US measures, producers of tuna products -- whether foreign or domestic -- have the option of labeling tuna products that meet the standards of the US provisions as "dolphin safe."
One such standard is "that the label cannot be used if dolphins are purposefully chased and encircled in order to catch tuna. This fishing method is harmful to dolphins," the US trade office said.
Mexico argues that the measures violate trade rules by limiting access to the US market for Mexican tuna.
But Washington insists that some Mexican fishing vessels use the proscribed method of throwing nets around dolphins to catch tuna.
Hatteras beach drivers will have to pay fee, watch video (21 January 2012)
Starting next month, a drive onto the beach at Cape Hatteras National Seashore will require more than a capable vehicle and a little sense of adventure.
Motorists also will need to buy a permit.
The National Park Service announced Friday that rules designed to limit beach access and protect the environment will require drivers to pay between $90 and $150 for an annual permit, with a weekly permit going for about one-third of that. Visitors also will be required to watch a seven-minute educational video at one of the designated visitor centers.
In addition, the Park Service is making 26 miles along the 67-mile-long seashore permanently off-limits as of Feb. 15, when the new rules kick in. It's the first permanent ban of stretches of beach in the park.
The restrictions come after years of debate that have pitted locals who cherish a restriction-free tradition against environmental groups that sued in 2007 to force the Park Service to better protect turtle and bird nesting habitats.
Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart engaged to be married (21 January 2012)
Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped at the age of 14 from her bedroom at knife-point and held captive for nine months, is engaged to be married.
A spokeswoman for 24-year-old Smart revealed she got engaged last week and would be getting married in the summer.
Her future husband has not been officially identified, but has been reported to be a Scotsman named Matthew Gilmour.
Wedding gift registers at Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma list an entry for Elizabeth Smart and Matthew Gilmour in Utah on July 1, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Ohio AG: More victims possible in Craigslist serial murder case (21 January 2012)
Mike Dewine discussed his concerns during a press conference Friday to announce the indictment of Richard Beasley, who will face 28 felonies, including nine counts of aggravated murder. Each of those nine counts carries a possible death penalty.
Beasley is accused of luring four men into the woods with the promise of a job via a bogus Craigslist post. The bodies of two men have been recovered in Noble County; a third was found in Akron. A fourth man was wounded and escaped.
Beasley will be arraigned Jan. 25 in Akron. He is currently jailed on unrelated charges. Beasley has denied involvement in the murders.
Dewine and Summit County Prosecutor Sheri Bevan Walsh told reporters that they do believe other men may have viewed and answered the bogus ad.
TSA agent accused of selling stolen property from luggage on Craigslist (21 January 2012)
Police arrested a TSA worker at Miami International Airport after investigators say he stuffed goods from passengers' luggage inside a hidden pocket in his work jacket.
Michael Pujol, 33, was arrested Thursday after an iPad he is accused of stealing was traced to a Craigslist sale. He was charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. His wife, Betsy Pujol Salazar, also was arrested and faces the same charges.
Pujol has been suspended from duty. The couple were released Friday on bond. A Feb. 17 trial date has been set.
Miami-Dade Detective Steve Kaufman said Pujol's secret pocket was large enough to conceal a device as big as a laptop.
PAM COMMENTARY: The airlines themselves are the biggest offenders. Back when I was willing to fly, one airline representative told me that it was good that I'd had luggage tags on my bag. If I hadn't, she told me, they would've sold the bag, even if I could identify the bag's contents, even if the contents inside had my name on them. I've never seen an industry so eager to seize and then sell its customers' belongings for a quick buck.
First-ever movie of comet's death plunge into sun (21 January 2012)
Seeing the comet's fiery plunge in such a detailed way let scientists learn a lot about it. This comet made it to within 62,000 miles (about 100,000 kilometers) of the sun's surface before evaporating. In the last 20 minutes of its existence when it was visible to NASA's SDO,, it had broken up into a dozen or so large chunks with sizes between 30 to 150 feet (10 to 45 meters) across. They were embedded in the comet's "coma" -- the tenuous cloud surrounding the comet -- of approximately 800 miles (1,200 km) across, and followed by a glowing tail of about 10,000 miles (16,000 km in length).
Scientists said the movie shows the comet's coma and tail -- not its core. They said the light in the tail pulses, getting dimmer and brighter over time. The team speculates that the pulsing variations are caused by successive breakups of each of the individual chunks that made up the comet material as it fell apart in the sun's intense heat.
The image above is from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), which discovered Comet C/2011 N3 before its plunge into the sun. The comet is that graceful arc on the right. Comet C/2011 N3 is from a fascinating group of sungrazing comets known as the Kreutz comets. They have been observed since the late 1800s and which are believed to be fragments of a single large comet that broke up several centuries ago.
By the way, as I write this, there is a coronal mass ejections (CME) -- or expanding cloud of solar materials -- headed toward the Earth, from a storm on the sun's surface on January 19, 2012. It might affect satellites in orbit, and your cell phone service might be less than stellar today. It is a popular misconception is that sungrazing comets cause solar flares and CMEs. There is no connection between the two events. The sungrazer comets -- in fact all comets -- are tiny in contrast to the sun. Comet C/2011 N3, for one, is typical of the sungrazing comets. It is now known with certainty to be less than 100 meters across. Meanwhile, the sun is roughly 1,390,000,000 meters.
PAM COMMENTARY: I played the embedded movie link a few times, and only saw what looked like a momentary streak on a couple of those plays.
Occupy San Francisco protest leads to arrests, brief shutdown of Wells Fargo bank headquarters (21 January 2012)
All in all, Friday's big Occupy movement attempt to shut down San Francisco's Financial District was a mixed success for the protesters who led it - and something of a relief for those who had feared it.
Occupy San Francisco organizers mustered several hundred participants for their all-day protest against economic inequality, and as they marched throughout downtown staging rallies and skits and civil disobedience, they did manage to slow traffic and force a couple of businesses to shut down, including the headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank.
Unlike some major Occupy actions last year on both sides of the bay, nonviolence prevailed - although tensions between police and protesters flared after night fell as activists briefly occupied the vacant Cathedral Hill Hotel on Van Ness Avenue. Two officers were injured by thrown objects there, and at least five people were arrested before the demonstration ended around 11 p.m.
Nineteen people were arrested during the daytime actions, all but one when they refused to move while blocking Wells Fargo's doors.
UW bird flu scientist to stop research for 60 days (21 January 2012)
A UW-Madison scientist whose bird flu research has prompted an international debate over biosecurity, bioterrorism and censorship said Friday he would stop the research for 60 days to allow for more discussion of the need for the work.
Yoshihiro Kawaoka and a Dutch scientist doing similar research said they would halt studies on bird flu viruses that can spread easily in the lab among ferrets -- and thus, possibly humans.
"We realize organizations and governments around the world need time to find the best solutions for opportunities and challenges that stem from the work," they said in a statement released Friday by the journals Nature and Science.
Thirty-seven other scientists signed the statement in support.
NZ police cut way into mansion to make Internet fraud case arrest (21 January 2012)
A police official said on Saturday that dozens of officers, backed by helicopters, forced their way into the mansion, nestled in lush, rolling farmland, after Dotcom refused them entry, a scene more reminiscent of a James Bond movie than the usual policeman's lot in rural New Zealand.
"Despite our staff clearly identifying themselves, Mr Dotcom retreated into the house and activated a number of electronic-locking mechanisms," said Detective Inspector Grant Wormald from the Organized & Financial Crime Agency New Zealand.
Officers broke the locks and Dotcom barricaded himself into a safe room which officers had to cut their way through to gain access.
"Once they gained entry into this room, they found Mr Dotcom near a firearm which had the appearance of a shortened shotgun," he said. "It was definitely not as simple as knocking at the front door."
Blacks Face Bias in Bankruptcy, Study Suggests (20 January 2012)
Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to wind up in the more onerous and costly form of consumer bankruptcy as they try to dig out from their debts, a new study has found.
The disparity persisted even when the researchers adjusted for income, homeownership, assets and education. The evidence suggested that lawyers were disproportionately steering blacks into a process that was not as good for them financially, in part because of biases, whether conscious or unconscious.
The vast majority of debtors file under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, which typically allows them to erase most debts in a matter of months. It tends to have a higher success rate and is less expensive than the alternative, Chapter 13, which requires debtors to dedicate their disposable income to paying back their debts for several years.
The study of racial differences in bankruptcy filings was written by Robert M. Lawless, a bankruptcy expert and law professor, and Dov Cohen, a psychology professor, both with the University of Illinois; and Jean Braucher, a law professor at the University of Arizona.
South Sudan: Juba Shuts Down Oil Pipeline to North's Export Port (21 January 2012)
The African Union is sponsoring talks between the two countries but Sudanese Foreign minister Ali Ahmed Karti on Wednesday dampened hopes of a quick deal by dismissing the South's criticism of its move as "childish."
Mr Karti said his country would continue to take a share of oil from South Sudan to compensate for what it calls unpaid transit fees and said an oil deal was unlikely without an agreement on border and security issues.
On its part, South Sudan said plans were underway to build a pipeline to transport its oil through Uganda and Kenya to reduce over-reliance on Sudan's infrastructure.
According to a South Sudan official, Japanese Toyota company had been on the ground carrying out a feasibility study, and work could begin soon.
Sally Mauk: After years of work, odds of rape still too high (20 January 2012)
Going from a small town to a large university was scary, and like most college freshmen I was half excited, half ill with anxiety. My first class had more students than my entire high school, and the tenured professor teaching it was my first real exposure to academic intimidation. Having a good dorm roommate was going to be crucial to my first-year survival.
I lucked out. C. was an easygoing, cheerful Californian, who kept her half of the room tolerably tidy, and had study habits similar to mine. We were different enough we weren't going to be close friends, but alike enough to make the living arrangement a nice haven from the rest of the hectic college world.
Christmas break that year I went home to visit my parents, and C. went on a ski vacation to Colorado. When she came back, she wasn't the same person.
She spent the first week back alternately crying and sleeping, and skipping class. She said she was sick, possibly with mono. Another week passed, and if anything, she was getting worse. Finally, worried she was going to flunk out and I was going to lose my good roommate, I confronted her and asked what was really going on.
Advertising spending online expected to surpass print this year (20 January 2012)
U.S. online advertising spending is expected to grow 23.3% to $39.5 billion this year, pushing it ahead of total advertising spending in print newspapers and magazines, according to an eMarketer report.
Meanwhile, print advertising spending is expected to fall to $33.8 billion in 2012 from $36 billion last year, the market research company said.
"Advertisers' comfort level with integrated marketing is greater than ever, and this is helping more advertisers -- and more large brands -- put a greater share of dollars online," said David Hallerman, eMarketer's principal analyst.
The 2012 estimates come after a robust year for U.S. advertising in 2011. eMarketer said online ad spending grew 23% to $32.03 billion last year while total ad spending rose 3.4% to $158.9 billion.
No radioactive threat expected from Japan's tsunami debris (21 January 2012)
A half dozen large buoys suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms have appeared near Yakutat at the top of Alaska's Panhandle and may be among the first debris from Japan's devastating tsunami last year.
As more debris shows up, there's little need to be worried that it will be contaminated by radiation, state health and environmental officials said Friday.
They have been working with federal counterparts to gauge the danger of debris, including material affected by a damaged nuclear power plant, to see if Alaska residents, seafood or wild game could be affected.
"From what we found from the data that is available, the answer is no," said Kristin Ryan, environmental health director for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. "There is no concern to us that there's any radiation impacts in Alaska, to our environment, that we should be worried about at this time."
PAM COMMENTARY: They don't know that for sure.
Legendary blues singer Etta James dies at 73 in California (20 January 2012)
She scored her first hit when she was just a teenager with the suggestive "Roll With Me, Henry," which had to be changed to "The Wallflower" in order to get airplay. Over the years, she'd notch many more, carving a niche for herself with her husky, soulful voice and her sassy attitude, which permeated her songs.
But it was her jazz-inflected rendition of "At Last" that would come to define her and make her legendary. The song, which starts with sumptuous strings before James begins to sing, was a remake of a 1941 standard. James made it her own, and her version became the new standard.
Over the decades, countless brides have used it as their song down the aisle, and it has been featured in car commercials and films like "American Pie," But perhaps most famously, U.S. President Barack Obama and the first lady danced to a version of "At Last" at his inauguration ball.
But the tender, sweet song belied the turmoil that James -- born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles -- would endure for much of her life. Her mother -- whom she described in her 1995 autobiography "Rage to Survive" as a scam artist, a substance abuser and unstable -- was a fleeting presence in her life during her youth.
She never knew her father, although she had been told that he was the famous billiards player Minnesota Fats. When she was older, she met him and asked about the rumor. He wouldn't confirm or deny it: as James recalled, he simply told her: "I don't remember everything. I wish I did, but I don't."
The Guardian's Etta James obituary (20 January 2012)
She was born Jamesetta Hawkins to 14-year-old Dorothy Hawkins and an unknown white father, although James maintained he was the pool shark Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, and was raised at first in Los Angeles by adoptive parents. From the age of five, she sang gospel in the local church and later acknowledged the influence of the choirmaster, Professor James Earl Hines.
When Jamesetta's adoptive mother died, Dorothy reappeared and took her 12-year-old daughter to San Francisco. Dorothy was a hustler and showed no inclination to change her lifestyle. "She was never there when I got off from school," James recalled, "so I could pretty much do what I wanted to do ... drinking, smoking weed." Violence and substance abuse were now constants in James's life and she would maintain a difficult, combative relationship with her mother across many decades.
James formed a vocal trio, the Creolettes, with two teenage friends. They auditioned for the maverick R&B band leader Johnny Otis. He was so impressed with James's voice and her songwriting skills that he offered to take her to Los Angeles the following day to record Roll With Me Henry. She agreed, lied to him that she was 18 and, when he demanded her mother's signed consent, went home and forged it -- Dorothy was then in prison.
Roll With Me Henry was retitled The Wallflower -- Modern Records decided the original title was too explicit -- and Otis renamed his protege Etta James. The song reached No 1 on the R&B charts (while Georgia Gibbs's bland cover went to No 1 in the pop charts). The follow-up, Good Rockin' Daddy, reached No 12 in the R&B charts in November 1955.
PETA wants bank to donate O.J.'s house after foreclosure (20 January 2012)
PETA wants O.J. Simpson's house.
To set up a "Meat Is Murder" museum, of course.
In a letter addressed to Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's CEO, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked if the bank would either donate or sell the house to the animal rights group for a "nominal sum" once the bank completes the foreclosure it's pursuing on Simpson's home.
S. Sudan to halt oil production over dispute with Sudan (20 January 2012)
Sudan's announcement came after talks led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki failed to bridge the two sides' positions. South Sudan said Sudan's seizure of the oil, which customers already had paid for, was unjustified because South Sudan had continued paying regular transportation and processing fees.
Benjamin said the date of the shutdown was a "technical issue" contingent only on the oil minister making sure that the process limited environmental damage.
Oil experts and diplomats long have warned that stopping the flow through the pipeline could render it unusable in the future, since South Sudan's oil is a particularly dense blend, known as Dar, that would settle and clog the tube. That technical problem also has made it difficult for Sudan to block oil exports without the possibility of destroying its only remaining link to the southern fields, which it still hopes to benefit from.
South Sudan plans to get around this obstacle by flushing the tube with water, said a diplomat familiar with the issue who wasn't authorized to speak on the record.
Sudan: 'They Bombed Everything That Moved' - Aerial Military Attacks On Civilians and Humanitarians in Sudan, 1999 - 2012 (18 January 2012)
Since inaugurating hostilities in South Kordofan on June 5, 2011, Khartoum's Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) military aircraft have been engaged in relentless, widespread, and systematic attacks on civilian targets throughout the state, particularly in the Nuba Mountains. Similarly, since fighting began in Blue Nile on September 1, 2011, bombing has been relentless, widespread, and systematic.
Many hundreds of civilians have been killed or wounded, although even a broadly approximate census has no real authority; judging from the character of reports and the geographic dispersion of the attacks, the figure is more likely to be in the thousands.
Most consequentially, aerial attacks have displaced many hundreds of thousands of civilians from South Kordofan (chiefly into Unity State in South Sudan) and Blue Nile (chiefly into Ethiopia, and Upper Nile in South Sudan). The UN figure of 417,000 displaced first promulgated in mid-December 2011 is almost certainly low, since much is excluded from the data sets available (the January 11 estimate of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North [SPLM/A-N] is over 700,000 within Blue Nile and South Kordofan). Many of the displaced are unable to travel the distances required to escape the violence, and have stayed in areas not controlled by Khartoum's forces, but which are inaccessible and highly vulnerable. They remain subject to aerial attacks, and have often fled at least some distance from their homes and lands. And the flow of refugees is unceasing: the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reported that relief organizations in mid-December estimated that "at least 1,000 refugees are arriving daily in South Sudan's Upper Nile State" (December 14, Doro, Upper Nile). There are also reports of large groups of people who have had to halt in their flight to safety, but have so far not been registered or provided for.
Many more are fleeing South Kordofan into Unity State, and this number now exceeds 35,000 refugees (Reuters [Khartoum], December 13, 2011). The total refugee population in South Sudan and Ethiopia almost certainly exceeds 100,000 (the estimate for year-end by the UN High Commission for Refugees on November 28). Again, the estimate of the SPLM/A-N is much higher. A large majority do not enough food and clean water, or access to primary health care. And those displaced from Abyei by Khartoum's May 21 military seizure of the contested region--some 110,000 Dinka Ngok--remain in South Sudan, unable to return to their homes and lands, and living in very poor conditions.
If you publish with iBooks Author, does Apple 'own' you? (20 January 2012)
This week Apple announced a new textbook App called iBooks 2, as well as iBooks Author, a new book publishing app that allows normal people with little to no coding know-how to create impressive ebooks complete with photo galleries, video, 3-D images and other super cool graphic elements.
Nothing too controversial there, right? Wrong. By Thursday afternoon, tech bloggers began to complain about a clause in iBook Author's End User Licence Agreement that restricts how resulting ebooks can be sold, and by Friday the torrent of anger reached a fever pitch.
Here's the offending statement as it appears in the iBooks Author "About" box: "IMPORTANT NOTE: If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a "Work"), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple."
In other words, Apple invites you to use its publishing software to do some really cool stuff that most of us could never dream of doing on our own, all for free. Just know that if you decide to sell what you've made, Apple will most likely get a cut of the profits.
Ahead of South Carolina Primary, GOP Candidates Employ Race-Baiting Tradition to Win Southern Vote (20 January 2012) [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: That's an excerpt from an ad from Newt Gingrich's campaign. We continue with Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News, joining us from Charleston, South Carolina, and Kevin Alexander Gray, civil rights activist and community organizer in Columbia, South Carolina. Kevin Alexander Gray, your response to some of these clips that we've been playing?
KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY: You know, I saw the ad. I see the ad every time I turn on my TV almost. I saw the--both debates. Both of them were probably one flaming cross short of being a Klan rally. The fact that Newt Gingrich would also talk about Andrew Jackson knowing how to deal with his enemy, and Andrew Jackson was known as "the extermination president" for all the Native Americans he killed, and people cheered that. So, as a South Carolinian, it was quite embarrassing to watch. But, you know, we live in the profoundly racist country, and this is a profoundly racist state. Yet, we can never seem to find any racist.
Obviously, what Newt Gingrich said is patently racist, because, first of all, the majority of people on food stamps aren't black people. And Newt Gingrich is aiming at that large racist vote in South Carolina. You heard them cheer this idea that black folk somehow were standing in line for food stamps or black folk are standing in line to take something that belongs to white folk. That's the slander of the racist, that black folk are lazy and are less--have less morals and don't have the work ethic that the rest of the country or the rest of the people have. So, he'll benefit from it. Whether or not it can lead him to winning the White House, I don't think it's going to work. I think it's going to serve to organize and energize his opposition's base supporters. So, you know, Newt can go on with this kind of racism instead of talking about how do we solve the problems of this country and how do we solve the economic problems of the black community.
Now, that being said, there is a lot of frustration with the White House, because when President Obama came into office we had a housing crisis, now we have a profound job crisis. Now, that is a fact. From the time Barack Obama came into office, black unemployment was around, what, 10 percent. Now it's 16 percent. So, you know, we still have to be able to talk about the fact that we have massive unemployment, almost a depression in the black community. But surely, surely, the history of Newt Gingrich and this kind of rhetoric is racist. And it's so funny, because in the early part of Barack Obama's presidency, I can remember Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton meeting with the President because they both support this idea of school choice and expanding the charter school system in America.
Kucinich proposes public financing to overturn Citizens United ruling (19 January 2012)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced a constitutional amendment to the U.S. House on Thursday that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission.
The court held that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people and that money was a form of speech.
"Because of the decision by the Supreme Court majority in the Citizens United case, more money was spent on campaigns in the 2010 election than has ever been spent in a mid-term election," Kucinich said. "Because of the Citizens United case, more money will be spent in the 2012 elections than has ever been spent in an election in the history of our country. Because of the Citizens United case, American democracy has been put up on the auction block."
A number of other Members of Congress, including Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have proposed constitutional amendments to overturn the Citizens United ruling. Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Michael Bennet of (D-CO) have also introduced less ambitious constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states the authority to regulate the campaign finance system.
SOPA and PIPA Part of Effort to Domesticate Politically Incorrect Internet (20 January 2012) [AJ]
The Megaupload takedown is dominating headlines, but there is something the incident has overshadowed -- large internet corporations and government have censored political websites for years as part of a plan to domesticate the internet.
Censorship of the internet is not simply for the Chinese. On Thursday, Paul Joseph Watson pointed out the hypocrisy of Google as the transnational corporation shouldered its way into the limelight by opposing SOPA while enforcing SOPA-like policies of its own, blacklisting legitimate websites from its news aggregator and following government orders to remove material from its search results and You Tube.
Watson notes that Google has delisted both Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com -- the flagship websites of nationally syndicated talk show host Alex Jones -- from its popular news website and news search engine. Google News is a content aggregator that allows users to search thousands of news sources for relevant stories.
Google has memory holed these two websites from its news portal for political reasons and not because they are insignificant and draw paltry traffic. In fact, Infowars.com is a major news source that gets more traffic than MSNBC.com and many other corporate media news websites.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom back in court Monday (20 January 2012)
The four men appeared in the North Shore District Court late this afternoon as the FBI began extradition proceedings.
They are the brains behind an operation that is alleged to have cost copyright holders more than $US500 million in lost revenue.
Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz in Germany, founded the company and is a Finnish citizen, resident of Hong Kong and now New Zealand.
The other three on the dock included Dutch programmer in charge Bram van der Kolk - who is also a New Zealand resident.
And two other Germans, chief marketing and sales officer Finn Batato and chief technical officer Mathias Ortmann.
They have been remanded in custody to appear in court again on Monday.
Tariq Ali: Obama's Expansion of Af-Pak War "Has Blown Up in His Face" (20 January 2012) [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Tariq, I'd like to ask you about this whole trend of the relations with allies in the region, not just in terms of the huge tension between the U.S. and the Pakistani military, but the front page of the New York Times today, a lead article about the growing tension between the Afghan army and the U.S. military, to the point that Afghan soldiers trained by the U.S. are repeatedly attacking and killing U.S. soldiers.
TARIQ ALI: Well, the reason for this, Juan, I mean, I've pointed this out several times, that the insurgents in Afghanistan, like all guerrillas, have said to their supporters, "When you're offered free training, if they want to try and recruit you into their army, do it. Go and learn how to do it." And they've infiltrated the Afghan army and the police force. And the United States is very well aware of this, which is why now serious negotiations are taking place with the insurgents to try and find some solution in Afghanistan. But this has been going on for ages. And it will carry on, because it's a traditional way of resistance when your country is occupied. You take the weapons of your enemy. You use them against them. You infiltrate the enemy's security services. And the Afghans have done all that.
AMY GOODMAN: This relation between the U.S. and Afghanistan--if the Afghanistan war comes to an end, does that mean Pakistan will not be getting the billions of dollars that it's been getting as it plays both sides?
TARIQ ALI: Once the United States decides to withdraw from Afghanistan--
AMY GOODMAN: Which it hasn't.
TARIQ ALI: --and the likelihood is that this will be sooner rather than later--the money will stop, of course. I mean, given the economic crisis here, it's impossible to justify spending so much on military armaments and supplying the Pakistan army. The question is, will they do to the Egyptian army, as well? Both these armies are heavily dependent on U.S. funding.
Tepco Drills Hole in Fukushima Reactor -- Finds Nuclear Fuel Has Gone Missing; Cold Shutdown ... or Escape of Hot Fuel?
(20 January 2012) [AJ]
I noted last month in connection with Tepco's announcement of "cold shutdown" of the Fukushima reactors:
If the reactors are "cold", it may be because most of the hot radioactive fuel has leaked out.
The New York Times pointed out last month:
"A former nuclear engineer with three decades of experience at a major engineering firm ? who has worked at all three nuclear power complexes operated by Tokyo Electric [said] 'If the fuel is still inside the reactor core, that's one thing" ?. But if the fuel has been dispersed more widely, then we are far from any stable shutdown.' "
Indeed, if the center of the reactors are in fact relatively "cold", it may be because most of the hot radioactive fuel has leaked out of the containment vessels and escaped into areas where it can do damage to the environment.
Cancer-Riddled Wind River Reservation Fights EPA Over Uranium Contamination (20 January 2012)
It's stories like these that prompted tribal officials to contact Folo Akintan, senior epidemiologist for the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council and acting director of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center and ask her to lead an epidemiological study of the area. "One community member told me about seeing creatures with defects," she says. "They saw a frog with more than four legs, they saw a snake with two heads, and so I had to tell them, 'Scientifically, you have to take pictures to get this.' So I gave them cameras and said, 'Start taking pictures.'?"
Akintan also took a tour of the area. "By the time we went around that neighborhood, I could count on one finger how many [of the deceased] didn't die of cancer," says Akintan. "Practically all of them [who are over 50] had died of cancer or have cancer right now, and that was quite alarming."
Over the next two years Akintan will collect scientific data to prove or disprove the stories that go back over 50 years. In 1958 Susquehanna-Western started processing uranium and vanadium ore in the Wind River Reservation using sulfuric acid to extract the elements from rock. The mill closed in 1963 but its sulfuric acid plant is still in production. But when the Susquehanna-Western mill closed, they left behind massive piles of contaminated materials commonly known as tailings. "Those tailings sat uncapped and unlined from the early 1960s until they were removed in the late 1980s in an uncontrolled manner," says Sam Vance, an environmental scientist and tribal program manager with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "During that time, with the natural processes of rainfall, snow accumulation and snow melt, water percolated through those tailings and drove contaminants--uranium included--down into the ground and ultimately into the water table in that area."
This happened at dozens of sites across the nation, with a good portion of them on Indian land. In 1988 the Department of Energy (DOE), the regulatory agency responsible for the site, found that soils, surface water and shallow groundwater were all contaminated with uranium, radium and thorium and started removing the materials from Wind River to a new storage location about 60 miles away in the Gas Hills area of Wyoming. The DOE then announced that its job was done and that the site would clean itself up naturally. "We chose flushing--or natural attenuation--as the remediation strategy at Riverton," explains April Gil, Riverton site manager for the DOE. "I've got no doubt that that area is safe to live in. The surface aquifer is contaminated, but I believe that the flushing strategy the Department of Energy has adopted will eventually result in the contamination going back [down]."
Prescription abuse has deadly consequences for youths (20 January 2012)
An estimated 22 percent of American high school seniors report they have misused prescription amphetamines, tranquilizers, sedatives or narcotics, according to the annual Monitoring the Future survey released last month.
And though that rate has remained stable since 2007, it's no reason to relax, said Pinellas County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Szido, supervisor of a multiagency pharmaceutical drug task force.
Narcotics investigators used to deal almost exclusively with people abusing illicit drugs, Szido said. Now, it's likely four prescription drug abusers will be arrested for every person busted for illegal substances such as marijuana or heroin. And many started abusing drugs as teens, he said.
"Someone who is abusing prescription drugs at that age is doing it recreationally. And at those ages, you're affecting the chemical balance of who you are," Szido said. "When you are 18 or 19, you're just starting to live."
Alcohol and marijuana remain the top drugs of choice for American teens. The survey, conducted since 1975 by the University of Michigan, reports 64 percent of high school seniors report drinking alcohol; 36 percent tried marijuana.
Norovirus on rise: how to avoid it or manage symptoms (20 January 2012)
Norovirus can also be transmitted in foods like oyster or shellfish, but Madoff said he hasn't seen any food related outbreaks so far this season. Instead, the highly contagious virus seems to be spreading from person to person due to poor hygiene -- such as not washing hands properly after changing a sick individual's diaper or after cleaning up vomit, which also contains the virus.
"Washing hands frequently and cleaning contaminated surfaces like toilets and sinks is one of the most important things people can do to avoid spreading the virus," said Madoff. Use a bleach-based cleaning agent and wear gloves if possible and launder soiled sheets in hot water.
Sick individuals should also avoid preparing food for others while they have symptoms and, if possible, for at least two days after their symptoms resolve when they're likely still contagious.
While there's no specific treatment for norovirus, "rehydration is important for infected people," according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. "They must drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost through vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, fluid may need to be given intravenously."
St. Petersburg, Russia Refuses to Approve Anti-Fascist Activists Commemorative Rally
(18 January 2012)
St. Petersburg, Russia - The city authorities have refused to authorize an annual anti-fascist march and rally in memory of the slain anti-fascists Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova due to be held on Thursday, Jan. 19, allowing only a "picket" on the largely deserted Ploshchad Sakharova on Vasilyevsky Island.
Human rights lawyer Markelov and journalist Baburova were shot dead in downtown Moscow on Jan. 19, 2009, and the date has been marked with vigils and rallies across Russia since then. Other anti-fascists, such as Nikolai Girenko, Timur Kacharava, Ivan Khutorskoi and Alexander Ryukhin, who were also killed by neo-Nazis, are commemorated too.
Stefania Kulayeva, the program director of Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, said City Hall refused to issue a permit on purely technical grounds, just as it did last year.
According to the law on public assemblies, applications must be submitted to the authorities from 15 to 10 days before the event, but because of New Year and Christmas celebrations, City Hall was closed from Jan. 1 through Jan. 9.
PAM COMMENTARY: Sadly, this happens across the U.S. all the time -- notice that "sound amplifying equipment" is an issue. New York City has similar rules, which led to the arrest of talk show host Alex Jones at a 9/11 truth rally there. That's why "Occupy Wall Street" protesters have to use the "human microphone" technique at some of their rallies -- a crowd yells what the speaker just said without sound equipment, phrase by phrase, so that the larger crowd beyond earshot of the speaker can hear the speech.
Google Power Delays PIPA Vote (20 January 2012)
Google flexes its power and Congress listens.
Although the mighty Mountain View-based search company didn't go dark to protest the Stop Internet Piracy Act on Wednesday, it started a petition that drew 4.5 million people signatures of those who oppose the measure.
About 48 hours later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed next week's scheduled vote on SOPA's little, but equally controversial, sister PIPA.
And the Internet action had a direct impact on Reid's decision.
"In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday's vote on the Protect IP Act," Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday.
Hundreds of thousands in Seattle without power -- and it could be a while (20 January 2012)
Hundreds of thousands of Puget Sound residents were expected to begin a second day in the cold and dark Friday, victims of an icy storm that lingered over Western Washington, killing an Issaquah man and leaving a spaghetti of downed power lines that repair crews will be restringing into next week.
More than a quarter-million homes and businesses in Pierce, Thurston, King and Snohomish counties were without electricity late Thursday even as snow and freezing rain continued to fall from a storm that had been predicted to ease earlier in the day.
For many, the usual concerns about a slippery commute quickly faded to far more fundamental worries -- staying warm key among them -- as falling trees and broken branches pulled down power lines from Camano Island to Olympia.
Forecasters were predicting light snow and freezing rain into Friday morning before giving way to warmer temperatures and rain later in the day.
Exxon reaches $1.6M settlement with state for Yellowstone River pollution (20 January 2012)
BILLINGS - Exxon Mobil agreed Thursday to pay $1.6 million in penalties to the state of Montana over water pollution caused by a pipeline break last summer that fouled dozens of miles of shoreline along the scenic Yellowstone River.
Montana Department of Environmental Quality director Richard Opper said the penalties in the case mark the largest in the agency's history.
The Texas oil company will pay $300,000 in cash and spend $1.3 million on future environmental projects, according to a copy of the document obtained by the Associated Press.
Also Thursday, Exxon increased its estimate of how much crude spilled into the river during the July 1 accident near Laurel to 1,509 barrels, or more than 63,000 gallons.
That's up from earlier estimates of 1,000 barrels spilled - a number that Gov. Brian Schweitzer had disputed as too low. Schweitzer said Thursday that the settlement and revised spill estimate came only after the state pressured Exxon to be more accountable in the aftermath of the spill.
As fire closes in, Biden just getting warmed up (20 January 2012)
"Did the fire marshal really say to go?" he asked the agents, who nodded emphatically. The audience, growing nervous themselves, started to chatter.
By this point the fire had exploded to nearly 3,000 acres, consumed several homes and forced the evacuation of a nearby elementary school. Most of the students at Galena had already left after taking morning final exams.
The fire was still several miles away, but high winds continued its spread. The highway out of the fire area was clogged with traffic.
However, Biden couldn't leave without reminding the audience of the original theme of the Obama campaign. Thus, he launched into five minutes on how optimistic he is about the future of America and what makes the country great.
Gingrich skips first campaign stop in S.C. due to low attendance (20 January 2012)
Charleston, S.C. -- Newt Gingrich skipped his first scheduled campaign stop Friday, just a day before Republican primary voters are set to go to the polls.
The former Georgia congressman was expected to start making his closing arguments to GOP primary voters here at 9 a.m. at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
Nathan Naidu, a campaign aide, referred to the sparsely attended event in the College of Charleston's TD Arena and said the campaign would move to its next scheduled campaign stop at Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital.
"The campaign and the organizers have discussed that -- based on attendance -- we are going to spend more time at the Children's Hospital," Naidu said.
Babies moved out after third death at Belfast's Royal Hospital (20 January 2012)
A neonatal room at a hospital in Northern Ireland is being emptied after
three babies died from an infection, medical staff said.
A bacteria called pseudomonas caused the deaths at the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast, and other vulnerable babies have been swabbed for signs of it.
The area where they were being treated will undergo deep- cleaning after the remaining three patients have been moved.
A helpline has been established for worried relatives.
The bacteria can cause infections in the chest, blood and urinary tract.
High court throws out Texas election map (20 January 2012)
The justices ordered the three-judge court in San Antonio to come up with new plans, but did not compel the use of maps created by Texas' Republican-dominated state Legislature. Only Justice Clarence Thomas said he would have gone that far.
Controversy over the maps arose from redrawing political boundaries based on results of the 2010 census that found that Texas had added more than 4 million new residents, mostly Latinos and African-Americans, since 2000. The minority groups complained they were denied sufficient voting power by Republican lawmakers who sought to maximize GOP electoral gains in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
Texas will have 36 seats in the next Congress, a gain of four districts. A divided court in San Antonio drew maps that differed from the Legislature's efforts, giving Democrats a chance to prevail in three or four more congressional districts. Republicans now represent 23 of the 32 current districts.
The high court said the judges appeared in some instances not to pay enough attention to the state's choices. The judges made mistakes in their plans, particularly in altering district lines for state legislative and congressional seats in parts of the state where there is no allegation of discrimination on the part of the Legislature, the high court said.
Wisconsin election agency to ask for more time to verify Walker recall petition signatures (20 January 2012)
MADISON (WSAU) The state elections' agency plans to go to court next week to ask for more time to review the estimated 1.9-million recall signatures submitted against six officials. But director Kevin Kennedy is not ready to say how much extra time will be sought beyond the 31 days allowed by law. Kennedy answered questions about the process yesterday during a public interview at the Marquette Law School in Milwaukee.
Right now the petition signatures are being scanned into computers -- and a database will be formed to make it easier to check for false-and-duplicate signatures. Kennedy said workers are testing the new software that checks the signatures -- and the agency believes it will work. Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney says the scanning of petitions for four state Senate recall elections should be completed today. But Magney said it would take longer to enter the signatures against Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.
Thousands more signatures were submitted than the numbers required to order recall elections. And Kennedy said it's possible that the checking process will end once it's obvious there are enough valid signatures to call each election. He says those kinds of decisions cannot be made until they're into the process. As Kennedy put it, "This is a whole new ball game."
PAM COMMENTARY: The number of signatures is so overwhelming that this seems like a stall tactic.
Wisconsin recall webcam so boring it's mesmerizing (20 January 2012)
You know you live in a state consumed by politics when a webcam showing bureaucrats silently shuffling around a nondescript room feeding papers into a scanner attracts tens of thousands of viewers.
Such is the case in Wisconsin.
The cam, featuring a live look at the guarded, secret location where petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker and five other Republicans are being housed and processed, has its own account on Twitter and a growing cadre of followers who've attached nicknames to the workers, pointed out when people mug for the camera and generally mock the entire process.
Exclusive: Gingrich Lacks Moral Character to Be President, Ex-Wife Says (20 January 2012)
Marianne described her "shock" at Gingrich's behavior, including how she says she learned he conducted his affair with Callista "in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington."
"He always called me at night," she recalled, "and always ended with 'I love you.' Well, she was listening."
All this happened, she said, during the same time Gingrich condemned President Bill Clinton for his lack of moral leadership.
She said Newt moved for the divorce just months after she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, with her then-husband present.
"He also was advised by the doctor when I was sitting there that I was not to be under stress. He knew," she said.
Gingrich divorced his first wife, Jackie, as she was being treated for cancer. His relationship with Marianne began while he was still married to Jackie but in divorce proceedings, Marianne said.
PAM COMMENTARY: People who were around during the Clinton years already knew what Gingrich was like.
The video on this page starts without readers taking action, so be ready to pause it if you don't want the noise.
Murdoch's News Group refuses to admit, but finally pays damages "as if" the phone-hacking scandal were true (20 January 2012)
The judge read out a section from the confidential court papers detailing the cover-up allegations made by hacking victims against the company's executives and directors. It included the charge that the company "put out public statements that it knew to be false", that it had "deliberately deceived the police" and had destroyed evidence of wrongdoing including "a very substantial number of emails" as well as computers.
NGN refused to admit the allegations but agreed that damages paid to the victims could be assessed "on the basis of the facts alleged".
Earlier it emerged that while the company refused to admit its former directors and senior executives had presided over a cover-up, it agreed that "aggravated damages" could be calculated "as if" the allegations that they lied, obstructed police and destroyed evidence were true. The Murdoch subsidiary said it had made the concessions solely for the purpose of "the interest of the prompt and efficient determination" of the claims against it.
Tamsin Allen, a lawyer at Bindmans, who acted for John Prescott, and Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Denis MacShane, said it was surprising that News Corporation had agreed to the admissions on this basis. "You'd expect an organisation with the resources of the Murdoch empire to fight these sorts of allegations."
Anonymous takes down DOJ, FBI, Universal Music, RIAA, MPAA websites in response to MegaUpload news (20 January 2012)
Anonymous has been quiet for the last few weeks, but today, in response to the US Governments' sudden and unexpected move to take down MegaUpload, the group launched a denial of service attack on the Department of Justice website, rendering it unusable for the last hour.
To many, it appeared that the website had crumpled under the amount of users accessing the site after the news of the MegaUpload arrests and takedown, but it appears there may be more to the story.
According to The Next Web, while the "official" Anonymous Twitter account hasn't taken the blame for the attack, the Swedish branch has. Chatter is all over the #OpPayBack hashtag about the "success" of the attack and that the group took down the Department of Justice in just 15 minutes of the news breaking.
Does this mean Anonymous is back? If so, it could be in a big way. This is the first time the group has made a direct attack (and admitted it) on a US Government site, meaning the FBI is likely to respond swiftly.
PAM COMMENTARY: FBI? Swift? I've never seen those two words together in a sentence before. Maybe he means TV's version of the agency.
New Zealand: Copyright accused denied bail (20 January 2012)
Judge David McNaughton remanded the men in custody until Monday morning for a bail application.
The arrests today, carried out by the Organised & Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ) and New Zealand Police, follow a US request to arrest individuals for the purpose of extradition.
The FBI is investigating a group of people it describes as the `Mega Conspiracy' who allegedly operate Megaupload.com, an internet website that offers file hosting and distribution services. This site has been accused by the US Department of Justice of reproducing and distributing infringing copies of all types of copyrighted works, including movies, TV programmes, music, software and books.
The department and the FBI said seven individuals and two corporations had been charged in the US with running an international organised criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy through Megaupload.com and related sites.
They allege it generated more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds and caused an estimated harm to copyright holders believed to be more than US$500m.
The action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the US and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime.
Federal indictment claims popular Web site Megaupload.com shared pirated material (20 January 2012)
Seven executives, including Megaupload's founder, were indicted. But Swizz Beatz, who is listed on some sites as the company's chief executive, was not charged. Beatz, a musician, is married to singer Alicia Keys. Although the music and movie industries are among those most harmed by piracy, numerous celebrities have endorsed the Megaupload site, including Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and rappers P. Diddy and Will.i.am.
Megaupload was estimated at one point to be the 13th most frequently visited site on the Internet, according to the indictment. The site claims to have about 50 million daily visits.
Justice Department officials said Thursday that the timing of its indictment had nothing to do with a debate this week on Capitol Hill over legislation that takes aim at online piracy.
Nevertheless, the federal action angered hackers, escalating a growing battle between Washington and the Web's power brokers, both legitimate and illicit.
Internet companies say the proposed legislation would give too much power to law enforcement to shut down Web sites, and some cited the Justice Department's actions on Thursday as evidence.
New Definition of Autism Will Exclude Many, Study Suggests (19 January 2012)
Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests.
The definition is now being reassessed by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the first major revision in 17 years. The D.S.M., as the manual is known, is the standard reference for mental disorders, driving research, treatment and insurance decisions. Most experts expect that the new manual will narrow the criteria for autism; the question is how sharply.
The results of the new analysis are preliminary, but they offer the most drastic estimate of how tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis. For years, many experts have privately contended that the vagueness of the current criteria for autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome was contributing to the increase in the rate of diagnoses -- which has ballooned to one child in 100, according to some estimates.
The psychiatrists' association is wrestling with one of the most agonizing questions in mental health -- where to draw the line between unusual and abnormal -- and its decisions are sure to be wrenching for some families. At a time when school budgets for special education are stretched, the new diagnosis could herald more pitched battles. Tens of thousands of people receive state-backed services to help offset the disorders' disabling effects, which include sometimes severe learning and social problems, and the diagnosis is in many ways central to their lives. Close networks of parents have bonded over common experiences with children; and the children, too, may grow to find a sense of their own identity in their struggle with the disorder.
Catalina Island fox makes astounding comeback (20 January 2012)
The Catalina Island fox has made one of the most remarkable recoveries known for an endangered species, rebounding in just 13 years from near extinction brought on by a distemper epidemic, wildlife biologists announced Wednesday.
The number of foxes has reached 1,542, surpassing the population of about 1,300 seen before the animals were ravaged by the disease that scientists believe was introduced by a pet dog or a raccoon from the mainland that hitched a ride on a boat or a barge.
"We're beyond proud," said Ann Muscat, president and chief executive of the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. "It's a testament to what hard work, passion, money and the resiliency of nature can accomplish."
The animals' growing presence is evident across the island in "scent advertisements" -- clumps of telltale scat -- left on boulders, retainer walls, barbecues and picnic tables. But despite their growing number, Muscat said, "we can't relax. These furry treasures are still just one infected dog or raccoon away from extinction."
Predators may block Alaska sea lion recovery (20 January 2012)
Alaska's endangered Steller sea lions could have trouble recovering because so many juveniles are being eaten by killer whales and sharks, according to findings of a six-year study published this week.
Researchers at Oregon State University and the Alaska Sealife Center started tracking 36 juvenile Steller sea lions in 2005. By November, 12 had died, a death rate that's not exceptional, OSU marine mammal expert Markus Horning said Thursday.
"What is different is the number of animals that have apparently died by predation," he said.
Eleven sea lions were confirmed dead by predators, and the other may have been but could not be verified by data collected.
Predators last month killed two more young sea lions in the study, Horning said.
America's Dirty War Against Manufacturing (Part 3): Carl Pope (20 January 2012)
Why do we have such a difficult time recognizing that, as Liveris puts it, individual companies (or states) cannot compete effectively with nations such as China, India or Germany?
There are at least two reasons. First, for the Tea Party and its financial backers, like the Koch brothers, weakening the federal government is ideologically more important than strengthening the national economy; if a unified, competitive national economy requires a strong, powerful federal government, the trade-off is not worth it to them. Second, the political leaders who shape federal economic policy are responsive to the sectors that have mastered lobbying -- oil, agribusiness, finance and drug companies. Manufacturing for decades has been left to take care of itself.
Yet the notion of a strong economy without strong manufacturing is a fantasy. "We cannot remain the world's engine of innovation without manufacturing activity," the president's National Science Board reported this month. The number of high- tech manufacturing jobs in the U.S. declined 28 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the report. It attributed the "erosion" of U.S. leadership in part to investment in education and research by Asian governments.
Other sectors can't replace the employment and wages of manufacturing. Commodity production no longer generates enough employment -- automation in agriculture and mining has gone too far. Wyoming produces 40 percent of the U.S.'s coal with about 7,000 miners. "Knowledge work" pays well, but draws on a narrow population: How many lawyers and bankers do we need? Facebook Inc. is a remarkable innovator, but it employs only about 3,000 people to serve a customer base of more than 800 million. Personal services, such as restaurants and retail, pay poorly and rely on income streams from other sectors to pay at all.
Henry Ford paid his workers $5 an hour so they could afford to buy his cars. But they also patronized the grocers and carpenters of Detroit. We spent the last two decades paying our grocers and carpenters with cheap second mortgages -- a strategy bound to collapse.
Any attempt at a manufacturing revival should respect Andy Grove's core insight: that manufacturing is attracted to markets, and that employment is sustained by that interaction. The U.S. did not invent the original technologies of the automotive revolution; they were European. The first major American innovation, Charles Kettering's self-starter, didn't emerge until 1912. But the U.S. built the roads and created the markets on which Gottlieb Daimler's and Rudolf Diesel's engine technologies drove to scale.
PAM COMMENTARY: His remarks about the goals of the "Tea Party" are a bit off course and shouldn't be taken seriously. (Note that he's a former chairman of the Sierra Club, and when he talks about the need for more centralized government power, he was probably referring mostly to environmental regulations.)
Americans don't have to tolerate a rollback of civil liberties or a central government power grab in order to encourage manufacturing. In fact, American industry was built with strong civil liberties and a limited role of the government in place. NAFTA and GATT showed that manufacturing declined after the federal government assigned more power to itself and negotiated treaties to change trade policy to favor foreign industry. Those trade treaties were designed to take advantage of "The Supremacy Clause" which supposedly gives special legal status to treaties, although court decisions don't confirm the broad interpretation that treaties can override all U.S. law And of course, in this country, Civil War hero George Custer and the old Native American treaties give us plenty of legal precedent to argue that no treaty really has to be honored by the U.S. (Treaty of Fort Laramie 1868, etc.). Until we give all of that land back, the legal precedent of U.S. treaties being worthless stands!
In fact, the U.S. was able to steal talent from other countries because people didn't want to live in the absence of civil liberties, or under the control of an authoritarian regime. You'll notice that there aren't many, or any, recent news reports of defections to this country based on our "freedoms." Today, almost all immigration to this country is for economic reasons. I'm sure that new immigrants are disappointed with our current economy, but that's why they come here.
Google says 4.5 million people signed anti-SOPA petition today (19 January 2012)
A spokeswoman for Google confirmed that 4.5 million people added their names to the company's anti-SOPA petition today.
Not too shabby.
The petition, which was available via a link from Google's homepage, states that although fighting online piracy is important, the plan of attack described in the SOPA and PIPA bills would be ineffective.
"There's no need to make American social networks, blogs and search engines censor the Internet or undermine the existing laws that have enabled the Web to thrive, creating millions of U.S. jobs," the petition reads. "Too much is at stake --- please vote NO on PIPA and SOPA."
America's Dirty War Against Manufacturing (Part 2): Carl Pope (19 January 2012)
That wasn't all that went wrong in Detroit, of course. A decade ago I met with then-UAW President Steve Yokich to urge him to partner with environmentalists and automakers to develop fuel-efficient vehicles that could compete with those from Japan and Germany. Yokich took me to the window of his office in Solidarity House. Pointing outside, he said, "What do you notice about the parking lot?"
"They're all American vehicles?" I answered.
"Look again. Almost no SUVs. My guys know crap when they make it."
Yokich understood Detroit's ruthlessly short-term business model -- put lots of cheap sheet metal on an outmoded truck chassis and layer on a gargantuan markup. He conceded that Nissan and Daimler would soon start making fuel-efficient, technologically sophisticated SUVs that would steal that market segment, too. Japanese companies were more innovative in part because they enjoyed much cheaper capital; the real interest rate in Japan, suffering through its lost decade, was 0 percent. But for the Big Three, the SUVs being designed in Tokyo and Stuttgart would be "next year's problem."
Bob Lutz, the former head of GM, says it was neither uncompetitive wages nor unions that drove the Big Three into decline. It was a management with its eye focused on the bottom line and the short term. That, he says, is the "creeping malignancy that transformed the once powerful, world-dominating, American economy from one that produced and exported to one that trades and imports."
America's Dirty War Against Manufacturing (Part 1): Carl Pope (18 January 2012)
His dark eyebrows arch as if I were clueless, then he explains the reality of running a fab -- an electronics fabrication factory. "Wages have nothing to do with it. The total wage burden in a fab is 10 percent. When I move a fab to Asia, I might lose 10 percent of my product just in theft."
I'm startled. "So what is it?"
"Everything else. Taxes, infrastructure, workforce training, permits, health care. The last company that proposed a fab on Long Island went to Taiwan because they were told that in a drought their water supply would be in the queue after the golf courses."
So begins my education on the hollowing-out of the American economy, which might be titled: "It's not the wages, stupid."
Manufacturing's share of U.S. employment peaked in 1979 and has since fallen by almost half. Although manufacturing has been a relative bright spot in the dismal economy of the past couple of years, in the last decade, the U.S. lost a third of its manufacturing jobs, with the damage rippling far beyond that base to erode millions of jobs that are dependent on it.
The loss of textile, shoe and toy production to low-wage competitors such as China, and now Cambodia, has devastated a few regions, particularly South Carolina. But the loss of yesterday's manufacturing isn't the really painful part: It's losing tomorrow's manufacturing: automobiles, electronics, metal fabrication, specialty chemicals, appliances and consumer electronics.
Those industries left the U.S. in search not of cheaper workers, but of more supportive governments. If the U.S. lost manufacturing due to high wages (or unions, labor laws, regulation -- the other commonly cited villains), how do you explain the manufacturing success of Germany and Japan? Germany, the world's pre-eminent high-end manufacturing economy, has higher wages, stronger unions and stricter labor laws than the U.S. Japan, too, is a high-wage competitor, yet Toyota Motor Corp. still makes 60 percent of its vehicles there. General Motors Co. makes only about 30 percent in North America.
GM again the world's largest automaker (19 January 2012)
General Motors surpassed Toyota and Volkswagen to reclaim the crown of world's largest automaker with global sales of 9.03 million vehicles in 2011.
That was 11% higher than Volkswagen, which last week reported 2011 global sales of 8.16 million. Toyota has not yet reported its final 2011 sales, but last month the Japanese automaker estimated it sold 7.9 million vehicles globally last year.
Toyota's sales were constrained by production cuts caused my the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan, and later in the year by flooding in Thailand.
GM's 2011 sales rose 7.6% from 2011. Sales in the U.S. led the way for Chevrolet with total vehicle sales of 1,775,812, up more than 13%. China posted record sales of 595,068, up 9.5% from the previous year. Other markets that posted significant year-over-year increases include Vietnam (79%), Russia (49%), Turkey (30%) and Germany (21%).
PAM COMMENTARY: That might be good news, if most of those cars were made in the U.S.
Factories rev up, but hiring doesn't (19 January 2012)
Even if the pace of growth holds up, job prospects for factory workers haven't kept pace with the pickup in factory output. Manufacturing output, as measured by the Fed's industrial production index, has rebounded 14 percent since it bottomed at the end of recession. But employment levels for factory workers are up only 3 percent from the post-recession bottom.
Part of the reason is that big investment in new machines and computers has allowed factory owners to get more output from the same number of workers. But the workers getting rehired aren't necessarily the same ones who were laid off during the recession. Employers who are investing in high-tech manufacturing equipment need more highly skilled workers to run those machines, but they're also paying higher wages. Since the recession ended, the average wage for factory workers has risen by about 4 percent to $23.93 an hour.
Even as some 2.4 million factory workers remain sidelined by the recession, many employers complain they can't find enough skilled workers to fill the new jobs they're creating.
That's forced many U.S. employers to shift high-tech factory jobs overseas. During the past decade, U.S companies moved more than a quarter of their high-tech manufacturing jobs overseas, according to a report this week from the National Science Board. The report found that U.S. high-tech factory jobs fell by 687,000, or 28 percent, between 2000 and 2010.
PAM COMMENTARY: Like so many MS-NBC articles, this one loads slowly...
Keystone pipeline might lead to higher energy prices in the U.S. and energy instability (19 January 2012)
When you put all phases of this project together, what do you have? A direct, major pipeline from the Canadian oil resource to refineries and international shipping services.
Without this pipeline, Canadian oil is available primarily to the North American market. So without the completed pipeline, Canadian oil does provide us some security and price stability.
However, if the pipeline is completed to Houston, that oil will be available to the international market, where the highest bidder gets the oil and those buying and selling have no regard for U.S. security or price stability.
Some have said Canada will sell its oil to China if Keystone is not built. Well, building a 30-inch pipeline across the Canadian Rockies to West Coast ports would make the construction of the Alaska pipeline look like a walk in the park.
White House kills Keystone pipeline plan, but open to new route (19 January 2012)
"This outcome is one of the scenarios we anticipated. While we are disappointed, TransCanada remains fully committed to the construction of Keystone XL," Girling said.
TransCanada said it would complete a proposal for a new pipeline route by September or October.
But Kerri-Ann Jones, an assistant secretary of state, told reporters there was no guarantee of a speedy decision on a new Keystone XL proposal.
"If TransCanada comes in with a new application, it will trigger a completely new process," Jones said in a conference call with reporters.
PAM COMMENTARY: A lot of the comments to this article suggest that Canadians should refine the oil and use it themselves, which makes a lot of sense.
Louisiana coastal restoration spending plan proposed (19 January 2012)
Louisiana would spend $923 million on hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects during fiscal year 2013, including $161 million to pay part of the state's share of the upgraded New Orleans area hurricane levee system, and $23 million toward the Morganza to the Gulf levee protecting Houma, according to a draft plan presented to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on Wednesday.
The annual spending plan is highly dependent on two sources of money: $367 million already set aside by the Legislature for levee and restoration projects from 2008 and 2009 state budget surpluses, and a less-sure $267 million the state expects to receive from "early restoration" payments by BP for damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill under the federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment process.
The plan document points out that the BP money is still speculative; BP has so far committed to an early restoration payment of $1 billion, of which Louisiana is guaranteed only $100 million.
But Drue Banta, an attorney leading the state's damage assessment team, said the state expects to receive between $400 million and $600 million of the early money. She said the state expects the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the federal Interior Department to spend the lion's share of similar $100 million payments promised to each as federal trustees, and a large share of another $300 million that NOAA and Interior will get for state-proposed projects.
In Bain deals, Romney gave stock to Mormon church (19 January 2012)
Tax analysts said the donation method used by Romney and Bain generally worked like this:
Romney was eligible to invest in the stock of companies that were being restructured by Bain. Romney and other Bain investors usually were able to purchase the stock at very low prices.
Through the years, such stock may appreciate in value, sometimes considerably.
The analysts said that if Romney and others at Bain got a stock cheap and eventually donated it to a church or charity without cashing in the stock, then they could get two tax benefits.
First, they would not have to pay capital gains tax on the appreciated value of the stock, which they would have to do if they sold the stock and either pocketed or donated the proceeds.
Second, they might be able to deduct all, or at least part of, the value of the donated stock from their taxable income.
Iowa's 2012 GOP caucus count remains unresolved (19 January 2012)
There are too many holes in the certified totals from the Iowa caucuses to know for certain who won, but Rick Santorum wound up with a 34-vote advantage.
Results from eight precincts are missing -- any of which could hold an advantage for Mitt Romney -- and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday.
GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, although not all the changes affected the two leaders. Changes in one precinct alone shifted the vote by 50 -- a margin greater than the certified tally.
The certified numbers: 29,839 for Santorum and 29,805 for Romney. The turnout: 121,503.
"Alert Iowa citizen" started scrutiny of the Iowa race: "The tragic tale of Edward True and James False" (19 January 2012)
That we got a heads up at all about bogus media results was due to an alert Iowa citizen, Edward True, who captured evidence of the 20-vote misreport in his Appanoose County precinct. That people like Edward True were stationed all over Iowa capturing results before they hit the state Republican Committee tabulation was due to Black Box Voting, where the need to do this was explained, and to radio hosts and sites like Bradblog and Facebook, where the word went out.
Mainstream media then began its next act of theatre: They started spinning the false result that THEY THEMSELVES announced as -- instead of their own foolishness -- "making Iowa look foolish".
But if we're looking for truth, here's what we will find: The mistakes saw light of day because the Iowa caucus was conducted in open public meeting allowing citizens to watch ballots as they were hand counted.
At least it WAS an open system, until the Republican State Committee pitched the bizarre idea that some precincts might never be reported in the final certified result, and the media failed to bay like bloodhounds tracking the truth.
But there is some good news in this: It's great that public citizens are starting to understand their role in the "neighborhood watch" component of election integrity.
Ron Paul proposes bill to repeal indefinite detention provision (18 January 2012)
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced legislation to the U.S House on Wednesday that would repeal Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
The $662 billion defense spending bill contained controversial provisions, Sections 1021 and 1022, that required terrorism suspects to be detained by the military without trial, regardless of where they were captured.
Proponents of the bill claimed it merely clarified existing law, but human rights advocates and others said the provisions were unconstitutional and allowed the military detention of American citizens without trial.
"This is precisely the kind of egregious distortion of justice that Americans have always ridiculed in so many dictatorships overseas," Paul said on the House floor. "A great man named Solzhenitsyn became the hero of so many of us when he exposed the Soviet Union's extensive gulag system. Is this really the kind of United States we want to create in the name of fighting terrorism?"
Lisa Nowak: Records sealed in NASA astronaut's love-triangle arrest (19 January 2012)
Records of former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak's arrest in Orlando live in cyberspace but an Orange County judge has sealed her criminal case forever.
Judge Marc Lubet closed the case to public view in December, nine months after declining Nowak's initial request to do that. The order was final on Dec. 12, according Karen Levey, chief of court administration's due process services.
In 2007, Nowak, then 43, drew international notoriety when she arrested outside Orlando International Airport on charges of attacking a woman she believed was dating her former lover, another NASA astronaut, records show.
She was convicted of attacking Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman with pepper spray in an airport parking lot. Nowak had driven about 900 miles from Houston to confront Shipman, then 30, for dating Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein, records show.
PAM COMMENTARY: People can't Google it? People can't find the original documents on TheSmokingGun.com?
Astronaut Nabbed In NASA Love Triangle Murder Plot (FLASHBACK) (6 February 2007)
FEBRUARY 6--Here are the Florida police reports detailing the arrest of NASA astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak, who is facing charges that she allegedly plotted the murder of a female rival for the affection of astronaut William Oefelein.
Nowak, a 43-year-old mother of three, was arrested early Monday after attempting to attack Colleen Shipman, a 30-year-old Air Force captain, in a parking lot at Orlando International Airport.
According to the Orlando Police Department reports, Nowak drove 900 miles from Houston to Florida when she learned that Shipman (whom Nowak believed was 'involved' with the 41-year-old Oefelein) would be arriving there by plane. Nowak, who told cops that she only wanted to speak with Shipman, was wearing a wig and trench coat when she tried to accost Shipman at the airport. After dousing Shipman with pepper spray as she sat in her car, the disguised Nowak fled, but was apprehended at a nearby bus stop. Before her arrest, police reported, Nowak had disposed of her trench coat, wig, and a BB pistol in an airport trash can. A subsequent search of Nowak's auto and handbag turned up other incriminating evidence, including a steel mallet, a new folding knife, e-mails from Shipman to Oefelein, and handwritten directions to Shipman's house.
Nowak was first charged with attempted kidnapping, battery, destruction of evidence, and attempted burglary. Prosecutors added the attempted murder rap today and filed a new charging affidavit detailing the felony charge. When Detective William Becton asked why she needed all the weapons in her possession, Nowak said she only planned to scare Shipman. 'When I mentioned to Mrs. Nowak that I figured she had come to Orlando to kill Ms. Shipman, Mrs. Nowak said that she was never going to hurt Ms. Shipman,' wrote Becton, who noted that Nowak could not provide a 'reasonable explanation' for possessing the weapons. The police reports list the arrestee's 'business & occupation' as 'NASA/Astronaut' and her work address as 'Johnson Space Cnt.' Nowak's Orange County Sheriff's Office mug shot is shown above.
New York's Indian Point Nuclear Reactor Unit 2 Back Online After Pump Leak Shutdown (19 January 2012)
Normally, these kinds of seal repairs are done during refueling shut downs, but as plant operators saw the leakage slowly climb to five gallons per minute, from the usual two gallons per minute, the decision was made to shut down the 1,000 megawatt plant for repair.
"Nuclear reactors don't shut down very often, they usually average less than once a year, but it is not unusual for this to occur," said Diane Screnci, spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant ran for 230 consecutive days before the shutdown.
The seal is about a foot in diameter, and is part of one of four coolant pumps which circulate 90,000 gallons of water per minute over fuel rods to create steam and generate electricity. The coolant pump is contained in what's called the "primary loop," a loop of pipes which have direct contact with radioactive material. The primary loop recirculates the same water over and over again, and does not come into contact with Hudson River water.
Hudson River water is pumped through the "tertiary loop," which does not have contact with radioactive material. The plant sucks about 2.5 billion gallons of water per day out of the Hudson River, and then returns it to the water way.
PAM COMMENTARY: While more informative than the AP article circulating on the same story, this is a very slow-loading article, probably because of so many ads...
Faces of the forgotten: Heartbreaking plight of 64,000 black women missing across America; 40 per cent of all missing persons are black (19 January 2012)
A renewed campaign to highlight hundreds of missing African-American women has been launched amid ongoing criticism that less attention is given to their cases by authorities and the media.
According to the National Crime Information Center, nearly 40 per cent of those who have disappeared, often in suspicious circumstances, are black. However critics allege that public attention mainly focuses on white women who have vanished.
According to the Black And Missing Foundation, most women disappear in the states of New York, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland and Florida.
A total of 273,985 minorities were reported missing in the United States (out of 692,944 for all races) as of December 2010.
The foundation has teamed up with a TV network to make a series, Find Our Missing, telling the stories behind the women's disappearances.
Newt's ex-wife unloads on camera; ABC News Network debates "ethics" of airing before South Carolina primary (19 January 2012)
Marianne Gingrich has said she could end her ex-husband's career with a single interview.
Earlier this week, she sat before ABCNEWS cameras, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
She spoke to ABCNEWS reporter Brian Ross for two hours, and her explosive revelations are set to rock the trail.
But now a "civil war" has erupted inside of the network, an insider claims, on exactly when the confession will air!
ABCNEWS suits determined it would be "unethical" to run the Marianne Gingrich interview so close to the South Carolina Primary, a curious decision, one insider argued, since the network has aggressively been reporting on other candidates.
More Than Cranes Are Whooping Over the Keystone Pipeline XL Decision (19 January 2012)
The President made the right decision on the Keystone pipeline XL today. House Republicans forced the arbitrary deadline of February 21 and there was really only one legal way to answer. Since the State Department hasn't finished its environmental review of the pipeline and requests for alternative routes that bypass sensitive lands and habitats are not on the table yet--that would be a NO.
Many organizations have done great work in educating the public about the dangers of the proposed 1700-mile pipeline and it has paid off. Earthjustice has been working to protect the vulnerable habitats and endangered creatures that are being harmed right now at the open pit mines of the tar sands in Alberta, the source of the fossil fuel that currently courses through two existing pipelines that crisscross our country.
Earthjustice filed a Pelly petition in September of 2011 with the U.S. Department of the Interior, asking Secretary Ken Salazar to investigate Canada's destructive tar sands mining and examine how the mining is hampering international efforts to protect endangered and threatened species. The petition documents how tar sands mining and drilling in Alberta are harming threatened woodland caribou and at least 130 migratory bird species, including endangered whooping cranes.
The Pelly petition called for the Interior Department to promptly investigate and determine whether tar sands activities are violating treaties that protect endangered and threatened species. The response so far has been silence.
Wildlife Icon Makes Top Ten List - New Concerns for Whooping Cranes (19 January 2012)
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Whooping cranes have landed on a new list highlighting 10 species deemed at risk because of fossil fuel development, storage and transportation. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would run along the bird's migratory path. Although President Obama's rejection of the project permit on Wednesday is considered a victory by conservationists, the company has announced it will reapply.
Wildlife biologist Jan Randall, professor emeritus of biology at San Francisco State University and a fellow of the California Academy of Science, served on the scientific advisory board that selected the 10 species. She says the Keystone pipeline inevitably would bring toxic waste ponds, spills and power lines - all of which would be bad news for whooping cranes.
"They're threatened where they reproduce, they're threatened in their winter grounds, they're threatened where they migrate. There are all kinds of threats along the way."
Other species on the list, which comes from the Endangered Species Coalition, include greater sage grouse, the Arctic's bowhead whale and speckled eider, and a flower that only grows on oil-shale soils.
The bottom line is that people, plants and animals are getting the short end of the stick from the fossil fuel industry, which continues to enjoy record profits, Randall says.
Osteoporosis Patients Advised to Delay Bone Density Retests (19 January 2012)
"Bone density testing has been oversold," said Steven Cummings, the study's principal investigator and an emeritus professor of medical epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
The study followed nearly 5,000 women ages 67 and older for more than a decade. The women had a bone density test when they entered the study and did not have osteoporosis. (In a separate national study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 percent of women over age 65 did not have osteoporosis.)
The researchers report that fewer than 1 percent of women with normal bone density when they entered the study, and fewer than 5 percent with mildly low bone density, developed osteoporosis in the ensuing 15 years. But of those with substantially low bone density at the study's start, close to the cutoff point for osteoporosis of fewer than 2.5 standard deviations from the reference level, 10 percent progressed to osteoporosis in about a year.
Dr. Margaret Gourlay, the study's lead author and a family practice specialist and osteoporosis researcher at the University of North Carolina, said she and her colleagues were surprised by how slowly osteoporosis progressed in women.
The Sopa blackout protest makes history (19 January 2012)
Wednesday 18 January marked the largest online protest in the history of the internet. Websites from large to small "went dark" in protest of proposed legislation before the US House and Senate that could profoundly change the internet. The two bills, Sopa in the House and Pipa in the Senate, ostensibly aim to stop the piracy of copyrighted material over the internet on websites based outside the US. Critics -- among them, the founders of Google, Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, Tumblr and Twitter -- counter that the laws will stifle innovation and investment, hallmarks of the free, open internet. The Obama administration has offered muted criticism of the legislation, but, as many of his supporters have painfully learned, what President Barack Obama questions one day, he signs into law the next.
First, the basics. Sopa stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act, while Pipa is the Protect IP Act. The two bills are very similar. Sopa would allow copyright holders to complain to the US attorney general about a foreign website they allege is "committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations" of copyright law. This relates mostly to pirated movies and music. Sopa would allow the movie industry, through the courts and the US attorney general, to send a slew of demands that internet service providers (ISPs) and search engine companies shut down access to those alleged violators, and even to prevent linking to those sites, thus making them "unfindable". It would also bar internet advertising providers from making payments to websites accused of copyright violations.
Sopa could, then, shut down a community-based site like YouTube if just one of its millions of users was accused of violating one US copyright. As David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer and an opponent of the legislation, blogged:
"Last year alone, we acted on copyright takedown notices for more than 5 million webpages. Pipa and Sopa will censor the web, will risk our industry's track record of innovation and job creation, and will not stop piracy."
Study suggests ancient Peruvians 'ate popcorn' (19 January 2012)
A new study suggests that people living along the coast of northern Peru were eating popcorn 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Researchers say corncobs found at an ancient site in Peru suggest that the inhabitants used them for making flour and popcorn.
Scientists from Washington's Natural History Museum say the oldest corncobs they found dated from 4700BC.
They are the earliest ever discovered in South America.
Costa Concordia: investigators probe role of young Moldovan woman on cruise ship (19 January 2012)
Ms Cemortan was interviewed by a journalist from The Sunday Telegraph on Saturday at the Hilton Hotel in Rome's Fiumicino airport, as the thousands of passengers who escaped from the ship started to fly home.
She offered a staunch defence of the captain's actions, saying he had saved lives by steering the stricken ship towards Giglio's tiny harbour and grounding it close to the shore.
"Look at how many people are alive because of him. It's a tragedy that people are missing, but he saved over 3,000 people on that ship because of his actions," said Ms Cemortan.
She claimed that Capt Schettino was still on the bridge at 11.50pm.
Kodak files for bankruptcy (19 January 2012)
Kodak has filed for bankruptcy in a bid to survive a liquidity crisis after years of falling sales related to the decline of its namesake film business as digital cameras have taken over the market.
Eastman Kodak Co, the photographic film pioneer, which had tried to restructure to become a seller of consumer products like cameras, said it had also obtained a $950m, 18-month credit facility from Citigroup to keep it going.
"The board of directors and the entire senior management team unanimously believe that this is a necessary step and the right thing to do for the future of Kodak," chairman and chief executive Antonio M Perez said on Thursday.
Kodak and its US subsidiaries had filed for Chapter 11 business reorganisation in the US bankruptcy court for the southern district of New York, the company said.
PAM COMMENTARY: I'm sure the economy didn't help matters, either.
Zappos, Amazon hit by lawsuit after a hacker attack on the online shoe retailer (19 January 2012)
Attorneys for plaintiff Theresa D. Stevens of Beaumont, Texas, are seeking class-action status on behalf of 24 million customers for what the lawsuit alleges was a violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
"There's no question there's been a breach here. Passwords had to be changed," said Ben Barnow, a Chicago-based plaintiff's lawyer working with Mark Gray of Louisville in the case.
Barnow said he feared the pilfered personal data could be sold by the hacker.
"I think it's clear this type of information is for sale," he said. "The risk is hanging out there."
The civil negligence lawsuit seeks unspecified millions of dollars in compensatory and exemplary damages for emotional distress and loss of privacy, along with a court order for the company to pay for customer credit monitoring and identity theft insurance and periodic audits to ensure customer data is secure.
Canada's cancer rate on the rise: Statscan (19 January 2012)
The five-year prevalence rate for all cancers at the beginning of 2008 was 1,490 for every 100,000 people. Prostate cancer had the highest prevalence rate at 610 cases per 100,000, while rates for thyroid, cervical, laryngeal and liver cancers were considerably lower at 53.1, 32.5, 10 and 6.2, respectively.
The five-year prevalence rate for all cancers rose 2.1 per cent per year from 1997 to 2008.
Aging was responsible for about half of the average annual increases in five-year cancer prevalence rates, according to Statistics Canada. For instance, prevalence of prostate cancer, one of the most common types of cancer, rose substantially in large part because the population is getting older.
But prevalence of the prostate cancer also rose among men younger than 70, which could be the result of more screening.
Rig shortage, bad economy cuts North Sea drilling to eight-year low (19 January 2012)
DRILLING activity in UK waters has fallen to its lowest level since 2003 due to a lack of oil rigs and the knock-on effects of the 2008-9 recession, according to a report published today.
The number of exploration wells sunk on the UK continental shelf (UKCS) fell by 34 per cent year-on-year in 2011, worse than the 12 per cent fall for north-west Europe as a whole.
Drilling projects can take several years to plan and so decisions taken following the financial crisis have only now trickled down, according to analysts at accountancy firm Deloitte, which compiled the report.
They warned the effects of Chancellor George Osborne's surprise North Sea tax hike in last year's Budget won't be felt until the end of this year.
B.C. First Nation cancels pipeline deal with Enbridge (19 January 2012)
British Columbia's Gitxsan Nation has rescinded its agreement with Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline.
The profit-sharing deal with Enbridge, which would reportedly have paid the Gitxsan $7 million over 30 years, was rejected Tuesday by a vote of 28-8 in a meeting of its leaders.
A Gitxsan Nation spokesman couldn't be reached for comment.
The company said Wednesday it plans to keep working with the Gitxsan in relation to the project, as well as with other first nations groups, he added, citing "more than 20 groups who in recent weeks have fully executed and endorsed equity participation agreements."
After the agreement was announced in Vancouver on Dec. 2, some Gitxsan members blockaded the nation's treaty office as part of a community backlash against Hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick who'd backed the deal.
Depression drugs 'causing falls' (18 January 2012)
The risk of having an injury-causing fall was three times higher in residents taking SSRIs compared with those not taking the drug, and this risk rose further if the patient was being given sedative drugs as well.
Dr Sterke said that these risks needed to be taken into account when assessing whether anti-depressants were required.
She said: "Physicians should be cautious in prescribing SSRIs to older people with dementia, even at low doses."
Professor Clive Ballard, from the Alzheimer's Society, said it was "worrying" that such a commonly prescribed anti-depressant was causing increased risk.
Suspect in serial killings appears in court (18 January 2012)
SANTA ANA -- With his parents, brother and uncle watching from the front row, the suspect in a brutal string of slayings of four homeless men appeared on TV monitors Wednesday morning at the Orange County Jail as he faced a judge on four counts of first-degree murder.
Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, of Yorba Linda, said "Yes, your honor" twice in a clear, strong voice as his arraignment was postponed until Feb. 17.
As he appeared briefly before Judge Donald F. Gaffney, Ocampo's leg shook as he sat and stared straight ahead in a wire holding cage. He stood up straight when the judge asked him if he understood his rights, a mustard-colored jail jumpsuit covering his 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckus made an appearance, along with Senior Deputy District Attorney Susan Price, who will prosecute Ocampo. Gaffney ordered that Ocampo, whose family has retained private defense attorney Randall Longwith, remain held without bail.
"The Operators": Michael Hastings on the Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan (18 January 2012) [DN]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Michael Hastings, you also talked in your book about the impressions or the perspectives that American soldiers have of the Afghans. Can you say a little about that?
MICHAEL HASTINGS: Yeah, it's this incredible report that originally the Wall Street Journal had broken, and it didn't get too much attention. But essentially, there was a report done by the U.S. military and NATO in Afghanistan that showed how American soldiers viewed Afghan soldiers and how Afghan soldiers viewed American soldiers. And what you saw was this extreme, extreme level of distrust, a complete misunderstanding, you know, between cultures. And the reason that report was even done was because there were so many incidents of Afghans, our Afghan allies, killing Americans. They called it "fratricide."
So, you know, it's really hard to kind of get the full impact of it. I mean, I have page after page. I sort of did it just to sort of really, really hit it home, you know, people complaining about how--Americans complaining about how the Afghans smell, Afghans complaining that the Americans are, you know, doing disgusting things in front of their women. You know, but it's one of the things--you know, Americans complain that the Afghans are cowards, and the Afghans complain that the Americans are cowards. So there's this complete lack of understanding between two sides. And why that's important is that our entire strategy that they've been pushing--by "they" I mean the Pentagon and the generals over there--is based on this idea that each American soldier is going to become this kind of sociologist, diplomat, anthropologist, killer.
5 whooping cranes apparently spending the winter in south-central Kansas (18 January 2012)
GREAT BEND, Kan. -- Wildlife officials say five whooping cranes are spending the winter in south-central Kansas.
The five endangered birds have been on private land surrounding the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms State Wildlife Area.
Dan Severson, Quivira's refuge manager, said in a news release Tuesday that the birds include a family of three, one juvenile crane and a single adult.
The birds usually stop in Kansas on their way to the Texas coast, but these birds appear to be settling in.
Whooping crane migration effort remains stalled in Russellville (16 January 2012)
RUSSELLVILLE, Alabama - A flock of juvenile whooping cranes remain grounded here after efforts Sunday to lead their migration from Wisconsin to two Florida wildlife refuges failed, The Times Daily reported.
Ultralight aircraft pilots tried to lead the birds from the Russellville Municipal Airport Sunday, but the cranes kept breaking off from the pack, the newspaper said. The pilots gathered the birds and returned them to their crates.
The migration effort had been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration in December, but the FAA granted the pilots a waiver last week.
Organizers file more than 1 million signatures to recall Wisconsin Governor Walker (18 January 2012)
Organizers of the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday filed what they said were more than a million signatures, a number that nearly matches Walker's vote total from 2010 and almost doubles the number of signatures needed to trigger another election.
United Wisconsin, the organization formed to recall the governor, said it turned in about 1.9 million signatures to the Government Accountability Board, a tally that includes 845,000 signatures to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and more than 21,000 apiece for Republican Sens. Pam Galloway of Wausau, Van Wanggaard of Racine and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls. Earlier in the day, the group working to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, filed 20,600 signatures.
"The collection of more than 1 million signatures is a crystal-clear indication of how strong the appetite is to stop the damage and turmoil that Gov. Walker has caused Wisconsin," said Ryan Lawler, United Wisconsin co-chairman. "In the dead of Wisconsin winter, an army of more than 30,000 Wisconsin-born and -bred volunteers took to the streets, the malls, the places of worship and dinner tables to take our state back."
This would be the first statewide recall election in Wisconsin history, and only the third gubernatorial recall in U.S. history, if at least 540,208 signatures against Walker are found to be valid.
PAM COMMENTARY: See the original article for a breakdown of signature numbers -- about 1 million were collected to recall the governor, 845,000 to recall the lt. governor, and smaller numbers to recall certain state senators. Those are incredible numbers for a state with only about 4.3 million people of voting age.
Wikipedia and Google join anti-piracy bill protest (18 January 2012)
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has voluntarily suspended its website for 24 hours. The English version of the website became inaccessible at 5am GMT on Wednesday morning. Instead of a database of more than 3.8 million articles, visitors are greeted with an open letter encouraging them to contact Congress in protest.
Google joined the protest against two proposed pieces of legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act. The search engine blacked-out its logo on the US version of its website and added a link encouraging Americans to oppose the bills.
In a blogpost, David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, said that the company was supporting the protest because "we think there's a good way forward that doesn't cause collateral damage to the web".
Craigslist, the popular online classifieds service, has suspended its US sites, while other websites, including Reddit, WordPress, Flickr, Twitpic and hundreds of others have agreed to support the day of action.
PAM COMMENTARY: The Google logo block-out only works if you're not logged onto the site. Log out and take a look -- and if you click on the big black box, it'll click through to a page to help you find your Congressmen, as does Wikipedia. If you click through the Craigslist block-out, they have a page with many good links to help.
Wikipedia editors question site's blackout (18 January 2012)
NEW YORK - Can the world live without Wikipedia for a day? The shutdown of one of the Internet's most-visited sites is not sitting well with some of its volunteer editors, who say the protest of anti-piracy legislation could threaten the credibility of their work.
"My main concern is that it puts the organization in the role of advocacy, and that's a slippery slope," said editor Robert Lawton, a Michigan computer consultant who would prefer that the encyclopedia stick to being a neutral repository of knowledge. "Before we know it, we're blacked out because we want to save the whales."
Wikipedia's English-language site shut down at midnight Eastern Standard Time Tuesday and the organization said it would stay down for 24 hours.
Instead of encyclopedia articles, visitors to the site saw a stark black-and-white page with the message: "Imagine a world without free knowledge." It carried a link to information about the two congressional bills and details about how to reach lawmakers.
PAM COMMENTARY: They won't take their sites down for just anything -- they're only flexing their mega-web traffic muscles to let Congress know that limits on internet freedom won't be tolerated.
Obama administration to reject Keystone pipeline (18 January 2012)
Facing a deadline forced by Republican lawmakers, the Obama administration plans to announce this afternoon it will reject the Keystone XL pipeline, maintaining its position that its route needs to be further studied, according to a Washington Post story.
The Post and POLITICO said multiple sources have confirmed the administration's plan to reject the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline from oil sands fields in Alberta, Canada to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. The Post reported the administration will allow TransCanada to reapply after it develops an alternate route around a critical aquifer in Nebraska's Sandhills.
Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns is expected to make the announcement.
The State Department, which has authority because Keystone XL would cross an international border, postponed a decision until early 2013 to study alternative routes that would avoid a critical aquifer in Nebraska.
Calif. HS student devises another method to shrink cancer tumors (15 January 2012)
Angela's idea was to mix cancer medicine in a polymer that would attach to nanoparticles -- nanoparticles that would then attach to cancer cells and show up on an MRI. so doctors could see exactly where the tumors are. Then she thought shat if you aimed an infrared light at the tumors to melt the polymer and release the medicine, thus killing the cancer cells while leaving healthy cells completely unharmed.
"I think it was more of a -- 'This is really cool, I want to see if it works' -- type thing," she said.
"And when you found out it did..." asked Hartman.
"That was pretty amazing."
It'll take years to know if it works in humans -- but in mice -- the tumors almost completely disappeared.
PAM COMMENTARY: As much as I like to encourage kids at real science, I predict that this technique will eventually show poor results in actually curing human cancer. That's because when you lie to a kid about what causes cancer, and she doesn't have any other information at such a young age to determine that she's been given bad facts, her "cure" will address the lie, not the real cause.
Think about this -- why do people still die of cancer after tumors are removed, even surgically removed with "clear margins"? Maybe this is a good time to bring up the case of my own Aunt Sharon who died a couple of years ago after having a small breast lump. I contacted her with information on what had helped me, just in case she wanted to look into it. But I wasn't a doctor, and she trusted her doctor, who recommended a double mastectomy as a "preventative measure." She went along with the surgery because she was an active lady, even at her advanced age, and she thought that breast cancer wouldn't trouble her again after the operation. Her cancer supposedly wasn't very large or very serious, and she was declared cured after the surgery and other treatments (I think they gave her chemo as well). She died a few months later, bedridden and miserable in a nursing home, of CANCER.
Why is that? Everyone who has studied cancer can tell you why -- cancer "spreads," and it doesn't need a tumor to kill you. Serious lifetime researchers think cancer is caused by the SV-40 virus among other organisms (Hulda Clark et al), and that tumors are the body's desperate attempt to wall off the lethal microbe. I could write an article about all of this, but that would take a while because then I'd have to cover pleomorphism, and how the cancer virus was found to be related to the TB bacteria (Royal Rife et al), but many microorganisms were seen by other researchers and thought to be related to both diseases (Virginia Livingston, Alan Cantwell et al). That's one reason it's so difficult to get rid of cancer -- TB has "L-forms" that are "cell membrane deficient" in an effort to evade the immune system, among other modifications that these organisms undergo to protect themselves. And then there's the whole issue of biowarfare programs using SV-40 because of these characteristics, and of the AIDS virus possibly being developed as a modification of SV-40 (Len Horowitz).
Long story short, cancer is a complex subject that requires more facts than mainstream science will admit to its students. Royal Rife, the big cancer researcher of the 1930s who cured 100% of cancer cases in a small clinical trial using radio waves alone, thought that pH was involved in cancer. Think about that -- a top optics and applied wave technology scientist telling us that what we eat makes a difference.
Although I don't like to break a little girl's heart, I predict this "cure" will flop when used on humans. Their tumors may shrink, but even if the immune system can overcome the poisons and debris from such a method, people will die as with other tumor removal methods. That's because the tumor is a symptom of cancer, not the root cause. The method described here leaves the root cause in place, in fact may even spread the virus and its companion forms more quickly. It is possible that the method could help a few patients if the virus is completely contained within the tumor, and the drug kills enough of the contained virus without also poisoning the immune system.
There is hope, though -- many people already survive cancer using alternative methods. When I had the symptoms of breast cancer, that's what I used. And unlike my Aunt Sharon, I'm still alive to this day, six years later. I've also detailed the protocol I used -- costing a few hundred bucks at most -- on my web site, FREE OF CHARGE TO EVERYONE. There are many "alternative" approaches to cancer, but I thought my readers would want to know what I thought was the best combination of alternative methods -- the protocol that I actually trusted with my own life.
Serial killer suspect looks like 'scared wet cat,' attorney says (18 January 2012)
His attorney, Randall Longwith, said he was finally allowed to see Ocampo on Tuesday afternoon, but only after getting a court order.
Officials "indicate he sleeps most of the day," Longwith said. "He was curled up in a ball under a blanket in underwear, no shirt, no pants. He looked like a wet cat -- a scared, wet cat. It wasn't much conversation."
Prosecutors accuse Ocampo of a "serial thrill-kill spree," outlining each of the killings in graphic detail and saying that the attacks became more furious and violent.
They also allege he had already selected future victims at the time of his arrest.
Journalist Chris Hedges Sues Obama Admin over Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Approved in NDAA (17 January 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: And why not a class action lawsuit, where many people file?
CARL MAYER: Right. Well, the purpose of the litigation is to have a federal court declare this act unconstitutional. And that would apply to everyone.
Chris is an important plaintiff in this, because--you just showed the clip from Mitt Romney. I'm not sure that Mitt Romney has read this bill. The act is so broad and vague that it covers, in its writing, any persons who give, quote, "substantial support to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or," quote, "associated forces," which are incredibly broad, nebulous terms and could capture, within those--their terms, journalists like Chris Hedges, who courageously has gone around the world to interview members of opposition parties, to interview members of terrorist groups, to report the truth. And so, when Mitt Romney says these are people who are in terrorist organizations, that's not how the bill is written. It's written so broadly that it could encompass a journalist like Chris Hedges. It could encompass people who are engaged in free speech and in all sorts of activities that have nothing to do with what Mitt Romney, etc., are talking about.
And so, we filed this action. I filed it in conjunction with my colleague Bruce Afran, who's a professor of constitutional law at Rutgers Law School, another veteran public interest attorney. And what we're asking the court to do is to declare that this law violates not only the First Amendment rights of citizens like Chris to report and to speak about these issues, but also the Fifth Amendment right to due process, because what this--what this bill does is it sends people to military tribunals, and it allows for the indefinite detention of these people. It even allows for the rendition of covered persons, which is not defined in the act, to render these people to foreign countries.
Virginia wants jobs from Pakistan at its Portsmouth Marine Terminal (18 January 2012)
The letter points out that a "logistical bottleneck" has developed in the port of Karachi in Pakistan, where the military equipment is sent for a washing by Pakistani nationals. All the equipment has to be cleaned and pass inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs to ensure that no harmful pests, plants or other materials enter the country.
The equipment is prescreened in Afghanistan by the U.S. agencies and sent to Pakistan for a secondary wash. U.S. agriculture and customs officials have said the Karachi operation is "fraught with problems" with a 10 percent inspection failure rate and concerns that some equipment is stored unprotected, according to the letter, which is signed by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, and Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach.
It warns that the problems could get worse and drive up costs as larger volumes of cargo are shipped out in advance of the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2014.
"The Port of Virginia and its industry partners are prepared to offer a viable alternative which would lower costs, allow more efficient drawdown and provide job opportunities for hundreds of military veterans with the necessary training and expertise," the letter states.
PAM COMMENTARY: What about depleted uranium? What about those "harmful pests, plants or other materials" that weren't removed in Afghanistan? Despite the fact that Virginia desperately needs the jobs, this doesn't sound like the best idea for the environment.
Average Pay at Goldman Sachs: $367,057 (18 January 2012)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. paid its employees an average of $367,057 for 2011, a decline of 15% from a year ago, reflecting the tough times experienced by banks and securities firms since last spring.
The investment bank, known for rewarding its bankers and traders with the highest payouts among Wall Street investment banks, set aside $12.2 billion for compensation and benefits for the full year, down 21% from the $15.4 billion it allocated a year earlier. Last year, Goldman paid employees an average of $430,700.
The company's compensation and benefits disclosure includes salaries, discretionary payouts as well as stock that was previously awarded that is vesting. Although Goldman doesn't break out bonus payments within that figure, the steep decline from a year ago reflects "discretionary compensation that declined significantly more than revenue on a full year basis," a company spokesman said.
Compensation consultants have projected that incentive pay for Wall Street firms could fall roughly 20% to 40% from a year earlier.
BP claims shale oil and gas 'will make US self-sufficient' in twenty years (18 January 2012)
Growth in shale oil and gas supplies will make the US virtually self-sufficient in energy by 2030, according to a BP report published on Wednesday.
In a development with enormous geopolitical implications, the country's dependence on oil imports from potentially volatile countries in the Middle East and elsewhere will disappear, BP said, although Britain and western Europe will still need Gulf supplies.
BP's latest energy outlook forecasts a growth in unconventional energy sources, including US shale oil and gas and Canadian oil sands, plus a gradual decline in demand, that will see North America become "almost totally energy self-sufficient" in two decades.
BP's chief executive, Bob Dudley, said: "Our report challenges some long-held beliefs. Significant changes in US supply-and-demand prospects, for example, highlight the likelihood that import dependence in what is today's largest energy importer will decline substantially."
PAM COMMENTARY: Sounds like a PR piece more than reality. Something to justify the contamination of water wells that comes with fracking.
Crowd hisses at Wisconsin's Governor Walker during appearance at Madison MLK tribute event (17 January 2012)
Protesters hissed and chanted "shame" at Gov. Scott Walker after he read a proclamation at the state's official Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday ceremony in the Capitol rotunda.
Walker spoke briefly Monday afternoon at the event that attracted hundreds of people and featured a gospel choir from Chicago, a youth choir from Madison and a keynote speech from University of Maryland law professor Sherrilyn Ifill.
She elicited loud applause during her comments when she said that King would not have approved of laws requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. Walker signed a photo ID law last year.
Ifill also drew applause when she said King would have stood up for worker rights.
Walker has been targeted for recall after he took on public sector union rights.
Right to work -- for less (15 January 2012)
King, whose legacy is honored nationally next week, often spoke of the link between organized labor and the civil rights movement. He recognized that the cause of freedom needed allies, and that unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the United Auto Workers were key allies in the struggle. The unions shared in that recognition, and do to this day.
Unions from the North were strong enough to provide meaningful support for the civil rights struggle because right-to-work laws had been blocked in the Northern states arrayed around the Great Lakes and into New England. Like the vast majority of states that fought to end slavery in the 19th century, and that elected representatives (Republicans and Democrats) who opposed segregation in the 20th century, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana rejected proposals to limit collective bargaining rights. Democrats and Republicans in these states recognized that strong unions, like strong businesses, were necessary to economic and social progress.
Now, however, Republicans in traditionally pro-labor states have begun to attack the rights of workers and their unions. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich went after public-sector unions, signing laws that took away collective bargaining rights from teachers, nurses, snowplow drivers and, in Ohio's case, firefighters and police officers. Ohio reversed the assault at the polls last November, voting 61-39 percent to overturn Kasich's law, and Wisconsinites are preparing to recall and remove Walker and his cronies.
But even as some states are pushing back against the anti-labor agenda, others are moving to embrace it, as Republican legislatures in Indiana and New Hampshire have taken the lead in trying to pass right-to-work laws in those states. A right-to-work proposal could well end up on Ohio's November ballot, and Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has actively discussed moving to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state.
Third Veterans Affairs board member resigns over power grab by Wisconsin's Governor Walker (17 January 2012)
A third veteran has resigned from a state board in response to Gov. Scott Walker's moves to gain greater control of the Department of Veterans Affairs, including his decision to appoint John Scocos as agency secretary.
Marvin Freedman, first appointed to the state Board of Veterans Affairs by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in 2004, informed Walker on Monday that he was stepping down.
Freedman - a Vietnam vet who earned a Bronze Star - was appointed to a term scheduled to run until 2015.
In his letter to the first-term Republican governor, Freedman criticized legislation that stripped the board of its ability to appoint the veterans affairs secretary, giving that responsibility to the governor.
Walker has defended the changes, saying they will bring more accountability to the department and board. The board has been the subject of much controversy in recent years.
French judge wants to investigate at Guantanamo (17 January 2012)
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- A French judge is seeking U.S. permission to visit the prison camps here to investigate claims by former French inmates that they were tortured, the Associated Press reported from Paris on Tuesday.
The AP reported that it saw a formal international request from investigating judge Sophie Clement to U.S. authorities to see the prison here that Tuesday held 171 captives, none of them now including French citizens. Clement also seeks copies of all documents relating to the arrest and transfer of three Frenchmen held there.
The three men are Nizar Sassi, now 31, Mourad Benchellali, now 30, and Khaled Ben Mustapha, now 40. They were arrested on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in late 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo. They were sent back to France in 2004 and 2005, held for a time for trial and then released.
The men told the judge during questioning in France that they were subject to violence including torture and rape during their detention.
Average age of US vehicles hits record 10.8 years (17 January 2012)
DETROIT -- That clunker in America's driveway has reached a record old age, but there are signs that people may be growing confident enough in the economy to get a whiff of that fresh car scent very soon.
The average age of a car or truck in the U.S. hit a record 10.8 years last year as job security and other economic worries kept many people from making big-ticket purchases such as a new car.
That's up from the old record of 10.6 years in 2010, and it and continues a trend that dates to 1995, when the average age of a car was 8.4 years, according to a study of state vehicle registration data by the based Polk automotive research firm.
However, Polk analyst Mark Seng says that a rebound in sales last year and expected growth for the next couple of years will likely lower the average age of cars as a whole in America. The aging of the American auto fleet has been a big boon for repair shops and companies that sell replacement auto parts.
Serial killings suspect in isolation; family shares Iraq video where he reads "Green Eggs and Ham" (17 January 2012)
On Monday, the family shared a brief video message that Ocampo recorded from Iraq for Father's Day in 2008. Ocampo appeared in fatigues and goggles in a makeshift church, greeted his family in Spanish, complained about the heat and read "Green Eggs and Ham" to his younger sister.
"I'm fine here in Iraq," he says in the message. Toward the end, he wishes his family a happy Thanksgiving, and then corrects himself. "Father's Day. Oh man," he says, and then exhales. "So many things."
Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said over the weekend that investigators are "extremely confident we have the man responsible for the four murders of homeless men in Orange County." He said detectives will ask the District Attorney's Office to file four murder charges against Ocampo.
Ocampo will make his first court appearance on Wednesday.
Serial killing suspect's life unraveled after Iraq (17 January 2012)
But something changed after he returned from a deployment to Iraq in 2008 , those who know him say. Though it did not involve fighting, his job with the Marines' 1st Medical Battalion was a notably grisly one. He was assigned to meet and inspect the wounded -- both friend and enemy -- when they were flown in from combat zones en route to the hospital.
"He came back totally changed," Hays said. "It was almost like he didn't care anymore. He'd get fidgety, he'd start shaking, spacing out. You'd see him staring off."
Jesus Balbuena, Ocampo's roommate at Camp Pendleton after his return from Iraq, recalled that he would "wake up screaming at the top of his lungs twice a week. He would have flashbacks."
When he talked about his family's slide into financial hardship, Ocampo would weep, Balbuena said.
PAM COMMENTARY: We all knew this would happen to some of the kids sent over there.
Serial-killings victims stabbed up to 50 times (17 January 2012)
The killer of four homeless men stabbed each victim a minimum of 43 times in the upper chest and, for some, the face, with one of the men suffering more than 50 knife wounds, according to a daughter of one of the victims.
Julia Smit-Lozano, of Anaheim said she was told details about the slayings by a prosecutor at the Orange County District Attorney's Office, which is holding a news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday to announce the filing of murder charges against suspect Itzcoatl "Izzy" Ocampo, 23, of Yorba Linda.
Smit-Lozano's father, Paulus Cornelius Smit, 57, was the third victim of what authorities are characterizing as a serial-killing spree. Smit was found stabbed to death in a stairwell behind the Yorba Linda Public Library on Dec. 30.
Smit-Lozano said she was told by a prosecutor that Ocampo stalked her father after seeing him at the library several times. In interviews Sunday, Ocampo's parents and siblings said that Ocampo frequently visited the library, often bringing along his sister, 12. Smit-Lozano said her father suffered more than 50 stab wounds.
Independent panel to probe Japan nuclear disaster (17 January 2012)
REPORTING FROM SEOUL -- A private-sector panel of scientists has been appointed by the Japanese government to conduct an independent investigation into the causes and aftermath of the last year's nuclear disaster at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant.
The formation of the board, made up of critics of nuclear power, is an unlikely step by a central government whose policies, critics say, have often been guided by the quiet but powerful hand of the nation's nuclear industry.
In selecting panel members, Japanese lawmakers ruled out anyone with previous experience in the nuclear power industry and looked for candidates with no ties with the government or the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.
"We will get to the bottom of the case and compile a proposal for the future as we strive to live up to the people's expectations," panel Chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa told a news conference Monday. "We will seek how we can be different from the government panel."
Following their first open meeting, panel members reiterated that they would probe deeper into the country's worst-ever nuclear disaster than the investigation conducted last year by the government and plant operators.
Fuel begins flowing from tanker to Nome (16 January 2012)
Crews on Monday afternoon began transferring 1.3 million gallons of fuel from a Russian fuel tanker to the iced-in Western Alaska city of Nome.
The offloading began near sundown, said Stacey Smith of Vitus Marine, the fuel supplier that arranged to have the Russian tanker Renda and its crew deliver the gasoline and diesel fuel. The process began after crews safety-tested two transfer hoses with pressurized air.
Earlier, crews laid the hoses along a stretch of Bering Sea ice. On Monday, they hooked the hoses to a pipeline that begins on a rock causeway 550 yards from the tanker, which is moored about half a mile offshore, said Jason Evans, board chairman of the Sitnasuak Native Corp.
Sitnasuak owns the local fuel company, Bonanza Fuel, and has been working closely with Vitus Marine. The pipeline leads to storage tanks in town.
Occupy Congress: Could it be politics as unusual? (17 January 2012)
Thousands of Occupy protesters from across the country are expected to converge Tuesday on Capitol Hill to take their message to the halls of Congress, in what some observers say is the movement's overdue moment to engage the American political system.
Protesters already have set up camps in public spaces, taken over foreclosed homes and shut down key shipping ports, but for the most part they have shunned the political system, viewing it as beyond salvation.
The congressional protest -- which falls on the movement's four-month mark and the beginning of a new session of Congress -- appears to represent a strategic shift aimed at winning support of the many Americans disillusioned with the legislative branch.
"Often the complaint that I hear is that, 'you guys are targeting the wrong people.' And so we have that discussion about you know whether or not Wall Street is the source of the problem or really Congress is," said Aaron Bornstein, a 31-year-old neuroscientist and member of the Occupy Wall Street Think Tank, which will hold discussions at the event.
Homeless make up growing number of California welfare recipients (16 January 2012)
Over the last five years, the number of CalWorks families without a permanent place to live has grown by 98%. That's nearly four times the growth of non-homeless families who are also getting assistance.
The increase shows how difficult it is for people on the lower rungs of the financial ladder to improve their situation in the current tough economy, experts say, especially because the average amount that Los Angeles County families get from the state has shrunk from $560 a month three years ago to $490 last October.
"The largest growth has been at that level of need where people are at the ledge of homelessness," said Michael Arnold, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Grants could become even smaller if Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget passes. Brown wants to reduce CalWorks by about $1 billion.
"If some of these safety-net programs are cut, it will push a lot of people to homelessness," Arnold said.
Or, as Glendena Stephens, a caseworker who has been with the county for 45 years, put it: "The rents are so high and the grants are so small, it doesn't leave them with hardly anything. I've never seen anything like it."
Concordia cruise ship disaster: fuel leak fears spark environmental crisis (17 January 2012)
Italy's cruise liner tragedy turned into an environmental crisis on Monday, as rough seas battering the stricken mega-ship raised fears that fuel might leak into pristine waters off Tuscany that are part of a protected sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales.
The ship's Italian operator accused the jailed captain of causing the wreck that left at least six dead and 29 missing, saying he made an "unapproved, unauthorised manoeuvre" to divert the vessel from its programmed course.
Earlier, authorities had said 16 people were missing. But an Italian Coast Guard official, Marco Brusco, said late Monday that 25 passengers and four crew members were unaccounted for three days after the Costa Concordia struck a reef and capsized off the coast of the tiny island of Giglio.
He didn't explain the jump, but indicated 10 of the missing are Germans. Two Americans are also among the missing.
PAM COMMENTARY: I'm sure blaming the captain is their way of saying that they don't want to be sued, but nobody has explained the explosion and power outage that witness accounts in press reports say came before, and may have caused, the wreck. That could bring up questions of maintenance records and the like.
Sopa plans set to be shelved as Obama comes out against piracy legislation (16 January 2012)
Congressional leaders are preparing to shelve controversial legislation aimed at tackling online piracy after president Barack Obama said he would not support it.
California congressman Darrell Issa, an opponent of Sopa, the Stop Online Piracy Act, said he had been told by House majority leader Eric Cantor that there would be no vote unless there is consensus on the bill.
"The voice of the internet community has been heard. Much more education for members of Congress about the workings of the internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal," said Issa.
The news is a major blow for Sopa's backers in Hollywood, who had enjoyed broad support in Congress. But the Motion Pictures Association of America, one of the bill's biggest sponsors, said it would continue to press for new laws. "The failure to pass meaningful legislation will result in overseas websites continuing to be a safe haven for criminals stealing and profiting from America," the MPAA said in a blogpost.
PAM COMMENTARY: We'll see -- often controversial legislation is slipped into other legislation, or brought back long after the battle against it is supposedly won, quietly and suddenly passed late at night so that activists who worked so hard against it won't have time to mobilize.
New San Francisco sheriff faces domestic violence charges (16 January 2012)
New San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi faces domestic abuse charges less than a week after taking office, officials said.
Mirkarimi is charged with misdemeanor counts of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.
The charges stem from an alleged incident on New Year's Eve with his wife, Eliana Lopez, a former Venezuelan TV actress. She told reporters last week that she was not pressing charges and objected to the cases against her husband. The couple have a 2-year-old son.
"Regardless of whether the victim supports a prosecution, it is the state's and my office's obligation to ensure the safety of the victim," District Attorney George Gascon said in a written statement.
Historical Martin Luther King, Jr. mugshots (16 January 2012)
SPECIAL: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in His Own Words (16 January 2012) [DN]
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.
MLK marchers have brief face-off with police (14 January 2012)
Demonstrators marching through downtown Baltimore on Saturday to mark the approaching Martin Luther King Jr. holiday had a brief face-off with the police, but the two sides parted ways peacefully without arrests.
About 50 marchers who were beginning a three-day trek to Washington, D.C., to decry economic and social inequality stopped at about 1 p.m. at the corner of Howard and Lexington streets -- the former location of Read's Drug Store, a landmark in civil rights history. The store was the scene of a sit-in protesting racial segregation by students from what was then Morgan State College in January 1955, months before the Montgomery bus boycott and five years before the more celebrated lunch counter sit-in in Greensboro, N.C.
The police, who had been trying to get the marchers to stay on the sidewalk when they walked down Eutaw Street toward Lexington, kept watch on foot and in several cruisers as the crowd stopped at what is now a boarded-up store and began chanting "No justice, no peace, no racist police." Helena Hicks, 77, who was one of the Morgan students at the 1955 sit-in, took up the bullhorn microphone and began daring the police to try to move her from the center of Lexington Street.
"Ain't nothing here but a bunch of police who got nothing else to do," she said. "I want to see somebody be able to move me."
Advocates fight Utah pet gas chamber after cat survives twice (15 January 2012)
West Valley City - Even before the West Valley-Taylorsville Animal Shelter opened in 2009, animal advocates were pressing officials to drop plans for a carbon monoxide euthanasia chamber. But they were unsuccessful.
After Andrea the cat survived two attempts by shelter workers this fall to fatally gas her, advocates renewed their battle. At the past few West Valley City Council meetings, advocates have lobbied for a ban on the gas chamber, saying injection of sodium pentobarbital is the humane method to use for euthanasia.
During the public comment period at Tuesday's meeting, veterinarian Kay Brown told council members that gas chambers can take up to 30 minutes to end an animal's life, while lethal injection causes unconsciousness within seconds and death within minutes.
"We human beings are responsible for ensuring that an animal's life is taken only with the highest degree of respect and as free as possible from pain and distress," Brown said.
U.K. cancer patients will be pushed into poverty by Government welfare cuts, charity warns (16 January 2012)
Young cancer patients will be pushed into poverty by welfare cuts, a charity warned today.
CLIC Sargent called on David Cameron to abandon changes to Disability Living Allowance that would force them to prove they had been ill for six months instead of three months.
They will also have to prove their illness will last a further six months to be eligible for the new Personal Independence Payment.
Cancer patient Matt Short said: "The thought of not being able to get any financial help for six months or more is appalling. The fact of having to deal with cancer as a young person is hard enough.
Unionist MP's anger as US drops 'Scots-Irish' term from census list (16 January 2012)
DUP MP Gregory Campbell has written to the US Ambassador to object to the removal of Scots-Irish as a distinct ancestry by the USA Census Bureau.
Individuals in the USA who report themselves as Scots-Irish in the American Community Survey will now be included in the 'other groups' category.
The census data will retain distinct categories for Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh.
The Scots-Irish, referred to in the British Isles as Ulster-Scots, are the descendants of those who came to Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century.
Friend's death haunted suspect in homeless slayings (16 January 2012)
YORBA LINDA -- Early last week, Itzcoatl "Izzy" Ocampo showed his father a newspaper story about a suspected serial killer targeting homeless men in the area.
His father, Refugio, lost his home in 2008 and lives out of the cab of a big rig parked in Fullerton.
The elder Ocampo, who once lived under a freeway overpass, turned to his son.
"Don't worry, mijo," he said. "I'll be fine."
Archaeologists discover tomb of female singer in Valley of the Kings (16 January 2012)
Archaeologists from Egypt and Switzerland have unearthed the 1,100-year-old tomb of a female singer in the Valley of the Kings.
It is the only tomb of a woman not related to the ancient Egyptian royal families ever found there, said Mansour Boraiq, the top government official for the antiquities ministry in the city of Luxor,
The Valley of the Kings in Luxor is a major tourist attraction. In 1922, archaeologists there unearthed the gold funeral mask of Tutankhamun and other stunning items in the tomb of the king who ruled more than 3,000 years ago.
Mr Boraiq told reporters that the coffin of the female singer is remarkably intact.
Nigeria restores fuel subsidy to quell nationwide protests (16 January 2012)
The strike began on 9 January, paralysing the country of more than 160 million people. The root cause remains fuel prices: Jonathan's government abandoned subsidies that kept prices low on 1 January, causing prices to spike from $1.70 a gallon (45 cents a litre) to at least $3.50 a gallon (94 cents a litre). The costs of food and transportation also largely doubled in a country where most people live on less than $2 a day.
Anger over losing one of the few benefits average Nigerians see from living in an oil-rich state led to demonstrations across the country and violence that has killed at least 10 people. Red Cross volunteers have treated more than 600 people injured in protests since the strike began, officials said.
Jonathan and other government officials have argued that removing the subsidies, which are estimated to cost $8bn a year, would allow the government to spend money on badly needed public projects across Nigeria, with its cratered roads, little electricity and a lack of clean drinking water for its inhabitants. However, many remain suspicious of government as military rulers and politicians have plundered government budgets since independence from Britain in 1960.
The strike also could cut into oil production in Nigeria, which produces about 2.4m barrels of crude a day and remains a top energy supplier to the US. A major oil workers association threatened on Thursday to stop all oil production in Nigeria at midnight on Saturday over the continued impasse in negotiations. However, the Nigeria Labour Congress said the association had held off on the threatened production halt.
Chevron: Rig catches fire off Nigeria's delta (16 January 2012)
LAGOS, Nigeria - An offshore rig exploring possible deep-water oil and gas fields off Nigeria's coast for Chevron Corp. caught fire Monday, and the oil company said officials were still trying to account for all those working there.
Chevron said it was still investigating the cause of the fire, which occurred near its North Apoi oil platform, and which forced it to shut down.
"We immediately flew out people to the nearby North Apoi platform, and have been helping those needing any medical assistance," Chevron spokesman Scott Walker said in a statement.
The rig is run on Chevron's behalf by contractor Fode Drilling Co., Walker said. Officials with Fode, which has offices in London and Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.
Nnimmo Bassey, who runs an environmental watchdog group in Nigeria, said he had received reports from locals nearby that the fire was an industrial incident.
"Workers were trying to contain the gas pressure and they didn't succeed," Bassey said.
Giant online retailer Zappos says hacker accessed information of 24 million customers (16 January 2012)
Amazon's online shoe shop Zappos.com has revealed the personal information of 24 million customers has been hacked.
The Nevada-based firm said customers' names, e-mail addresses, billing and shipping addresses, phone number, and the last four digits of consumers' credit card numbers may have been accessed.
Full credit card numbers were not stolen, the firm said, because they were stored separately.
The announcement made on the retailer's website last night included the text of an e-mail that Zappos customers will soon receive.
Cyberattacks Temporarily Cripple 2 Israeli Web Sites (16 January 2012)
JERUSALEM - Israel faced an escalating cyberwar on Monday as unknown attackers disrupted access to the symbolically strategic Web sites of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al, the national airline.
A hacker identifying himself as oxOmar, already notorious for posting the details of more than 20,000 Israeli credit cards, sent an overnight warning to Israel's Ynet news outlet that a group of pro-Palestinian cyberattackers called Nightmare planned to bring down the sites in the morning.
The attackers did not break into the sites' operating systems, but used a far simpler tactic: creating an overload of access attempts. Neither the Israeli economy nor flights in and out of the country were endangered, and the sites appeared to be recovering within hours, but the assault left many Israelis feeling vulnerable.
Yoni Shemesh, who is responsible for the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Web site, said that his team had already began preparing for an attack a few days ago and went on high alert after the Ynet report.
New Orleans' traffic camera tickets alienate residents (15 January 2012)
Ryan Holiday and Samantha Hoover moved to New Orleans last summer after falling in love with the city. But that love affair almost died on the vine when the speeding tickets started showing up in their mailbox.
Each day brought a new one, all issued from the city's second-busiest traffic-camera location: Jackson Avenue and Chestnut Street.
Trouble is, by the time Holiday and Hoover got their first ticket, they had already racked up about 15 violations, thanks to the lag time between when a motorist commits an infraction and when he or she can expect to receive a ticket.
"I was not familiar with the city, but I did see the many 'Divided Streets/35 mph' signs, so I assumed that was the posted limit on Jackson," said Holiday, a writer from Los Angeles. "We had no idea we were violating any laws until it was too late. That's over $1,000 we could have spent on local businesses, on ourselves, on fixing up our new place. Instead the city took it, like a bully on our first day of school."
U.K. court case causing delays in renewable energy purchases (16 January 2012)
Cosh said potential customers were "sitting on their hands" and waiting for clarity over subsidies before deciding whether or not to install solar panels.
The UK government sparked anger among many in the industry in October when it announced that changes to "feed-in tariffs" (FIT) -- the amount paid to households and businesses for the power produced by their panels and fed into the national electricity grid -- would be cut in December, rather than in April as previously planned.
Solar panel installers were perplexed because the date set by the coalition government was before the end of its own public consultation on the changes.
That sparked a High Court case, which ruled in favour of campaigners. But the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) is appealing. On Friday, the Court of Appeal in London postponed its judgement on the coalition's pleas.
Crews in Nome harbor prepare to offload fuel from tanker (16 January 2012)
The tanker was moored roughly a half-mile from Nome's harbor after a Coast Guard cutter cleared a path for it through hundreds of miles of a slow journey stalled by thick ice and strong ocean currents.
The tanker maneuvered into position Saturday night, and ice disturbed by its journey had to freeze again so workers could create some sort of roadway to lay a hose that will transfer 1.3 million gallons of fuel from the tanker to the harbor in Nome.
On Sunday, workers spent the morning walking around the vessel and checking the ice to make sure it was safe to lay the hose, which will take about four hours, said Jason Evans, board chairman of the Sitnasuak Native Corp.
With the tanker and the Coast Guard ice breaker laying just offshore and poised to deliver the fuel, Evans said the bulk of the mission's biggest challenges were behind the crew, but a lot of work remained.
Still, the final job of transferring fuel from the ship to the town comes with its own hurdles: In addition to waiting for the ice to freeze, crews must begin the transfer in daylight, a state mandate. And Nome has just five hours of daylight this time of year.
Home of suspect in four murders of homeless men searched (15 January 2012)
ANAHEIM -- Investigators searched a Yorba Linda home Saturday morning, the home of a 23-year-old man suspected of stabbing and killing a homeless man Friday night.
The owner of the five-acre property said he was told investigators took shoes, clothing, and a computer belonging to the 23-year-old suspect.
Itzcoatl Ocampo, of Yorba Linda, was seen running and shedding clothes Friday night after a transient was stabbed to death behind a Carl's Jr. restaurant near La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway.
The Friday night death was the fourth time a homeless man was stabbed to death in the area in less than four weeks, and law enforcement officials from four local police agencies and the FBI are looking into Ocampo's connection to all four deaths.
Suspect in O.C. killings of homeless men is an Iraq war veteran (15 January 2012)
A 23-year-old former Marine who some say was distraught after combat service in Iraq has been named a suspect in the serial killings of four homeless men in Orange County.
Itzcoatl Ocampo of Yorba Linda was chased by bystanders Friday after the most recent stabbing death behind a fast-food restaurant in an Anaheim shopping center parking lot. Ocampo remained in police custody without bail Saturday and is expected in court on Tuesday.
"We are extremely confident that we have the man who is responsible for the murders of all four homeless men in Orange County," Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said at a news conference Saturday. Police said they will seek four counts of murder next week.
Authorities did not specify a motive for the killings, which began on Dec. 20 and sent fear through the homeless community. However, a relative and a friend of the suspect described a young man who appeared to be deeply troubled after his return from service in Iraq in the summer of 2010.
UM rape victim comes forward about attack, response from university (15 January 2012)
So she walked up Higgins Avenue to Liquid Planet with a friend who had agreed to walk her home.
Something strange happened at Liquid Planet, but she is not precisely sure what. She wound up with a coffee drink in front of her, with her friend urging her to drink it.
"But there was this other group of guys and they were pointing at me and laughing," she recalled. "When I had that drink, one of them mouthed the word 'roofies' at me."
Roofies is the street name for a drug called Rohypnol, which is more familiarly known as the date-rape drug.
Dormant volcano in central Oregon becomes testing ground for geothermal energy project (15 January 2012)
Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise.
They hope the water comes back to the surface fast enough and hot enough to create cheap, clean electricity that isn't dependent on sunny skies or stiff breezes -- without shaking the earth and rattling nearby residents.
Renewable energy has been held back by cheap natural gas, weak demand for power and waning political concern over global warming. Efforts to use the earth's heat to generate power, known as geothermal energy, have been further hampered by technical problems and worries that tapping it can cause earthquakes.
Even so, the federal government, Google and other investors are interested enough to bet $43 million on the Oregon project. They are helping AltaRock Energy Inc. of Seattle and Davenport Newberry Holdings LLC of Stamford, Conn., demonstrate whether the next level in geothermal power development can work on the flanks of Newberrry Volcano, located about 20 miles south of Bend.
PAM COMMENTARY: That "cheap natural gas" isn't worth it, if they have to contaminate peoples' water wells and cause earthquakes to get it through "fracking."
Pyle: America is hooked on a deadly anti-drug drug (15 January 2012)
One might have thought that Nixon, already up to his armpits in Vietnam and having declared that he would "not be the first president to lose a war," would not have launched another unwinnable conflict. But Nixon, like leaders before and since, could be more interested in appearing tough than in being wise.
Our approach to drug abuse has thus taken on the language of war. The weapons of war. The clothes, the tactics and the success measures of war. And it all makes about as much sense as sending the Pentagon to stamp out diabetes or schizophrenia.
America's drug policy is best understood, not in military terms, but in the language of addiction. Our government is so riddled with classic symptoms of rationalization, denial and paranoia that what is called the drug war would be better understood as the anti-drug drug, a highly addictive substance that, once in your veins, never lets go.
In Ogden on the night of Jan. 4, a multi-agency group of law enforcement officers -- organized, attired, armed and labeled as a "strike force" -- assembled at the home of a former U.S. soldier, knocked on the door and, when there was no answer, entered in their warranted search for, as far as we now know, a little homegrown marijuana.
The ensuing exchange of gunfire claimed the life of Ogden Police Officer Jared Francom, a young and vibrant man with a wife and two small children, described, lovingly, and tellingly, as an "adrenaline junkie." It also left five other officers and the suspect, Matthew David Stewart, wounded.
PAM COMMENTARY: Nixon also announced the war on cancer, and we all know how that's going...
Power blackout could have caused Italian cruise disaster (14 January 2012)
Like all forms of modern mass transport, cruise liners are utterly dependent on complex electronic devices to steer them -- and on electricity to run these systems. Without power, a ship is stricken and with reports suggesting that an explosion occurred in Concordia's engine room shortly before the ship ran aground, early analysis indicates power loss is likely to have been a key factor in the accident.
This point was stressed by Malcolm Latarche, editor of global shipping magazine IHS Fairplay Solutions. Passengers had reported a power black-out and hearing a large blast shortly before the grounding, indicating the vessel could have suffered an engine room explosion, he noted.
According to this scenario, a power surge or "harmonic interference" could have caused a malfunction in the generators feeding the ship's six diesel-electric engines, while back-up systems failed to provide power with sufficient speed. This would have caused the ship to lose navigational power and steering control and to veer off course.
"The systems need to be reset and most of these things have automatic back-up, but it takes time for them to come in," said Latarche, who added that a similar problem had caused the Queen Mary 2 to lose power in September 2010 as she was approaching Barcelona.
When Romney ran Bain Capital, his word was not his bond (Opinion) (13 January 2012)
By bidding high early, Bain would win a coveted spot in the later rounds of the auction, when greater information about the company for sale is shared and the number of competitors is reduced. (A banker and his client generally allow only the potential buyers with the highest bids into the later rounds; after all, you can't have an endless procession of Savile Row-suited businessmen traipsing through a manufacturing plant if you want to keep a possible sale under wraps.)
For buyers, the goal in these auctions is to be one of the few selected to inspect the company's facilities and books on-site, in order to make a final and supposedly binding bid. Generally, the prospective buyer with the highest bid after the on-site due-diligence visit is selected by the client -- in consultation with his or her banker -- to negotiate a final agreement to buy the company.
This is the moment when Bain Capital would become especially crafty. In my experience -- which I heard echoed often by my colleagues around Wall Street -- Bain would seek to be the highest bidder at the end of the formal process in order to be the firm selected to negotiate alone with the seller, putting itself in the exclusive, competition-free zone. Then, when all other competitors had been essentially vanquished and the purchase contract was under negotiation, Bain would suddenly begin finding all sorts of warts, bruises and faults with the company being sold. Soon enough, that near-final Bain bid -- the one that got the firm into its exclusive negotiating position -- would begin to fall, often significantly.
Of course, some haggling over price is typical in any sale, and not everything represented by sellers and their bankers is found to be accurate under close examination. But Bain Capital took the art of negotiation over price into the scientific realm. Once the competitive dynamics had shifted definitively in its favor, the firm's genuine views about what it was willing to pay -- often far lower than first indicated -- would be revealed.
At such a late date, of course, the seller is more than a little pregnant with the buyer. Attempting to pivot and find a new buyer -- which knew it had not been selected in the first place, but was now being called back -- would be devastating to the carefully constructed process designed to generate the highest price. Once Bain's real thoughts about the price were revealed, the seller either had to suck it up and accept the lower price, or negotiate with a new buyer, but with far less leverage.
Needless to say, this does not make for a very happy client (or a happy banker). By the end of my days on Wall Street in 2004, I found the real Bain way so counterproductive that I no longer included Bain Capital on my buyer's lists of private-equity firms for a company I was selling.
Ron Paul: 2012 witnessing the rise of a guru to the downwardly mobile (15 January 2012)
Many of Paul's supporters, though no less ardent, come to him through other apertures. In New Hampshire on Tuesday, Jeff Creem, 44, spent 14 hours holding his Ron Paul sign outside a polling station in Nashua -- all on the merits of Paul's opposition to the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 legislation that encroaches on civil liberties.
"It disgusts me that all the other candidates will talk about the Constitution but when it's inconvenient they will toss it aside and make laws that go against it. Ron Paul may not be polished but he is real. I trust him. And I'm going all out to help."
Exit polling data, together with the anecdotal observations of those of us who watched the first primaries up close, show Paul's appeal is tapping new nerves, with an unlikely mix of Tea Partiers, independents, discouraged Democrats and even Occupy types joining the bandwagon.
Critics mock the very diversity of Paul's followers, suggesting his platform is self-limiting. Progressives, for example, may find nirvana in Paul's anti-war stance -- it's everything they wanted in Obama but never got -- yet the liberal blogosphere is in a fury over Paul's zeal for deregulation, which they perceive as both anti-union and anti-environment.
Seattle police far from alone in excessive-force crackdown (15 January 2012)
Such "pattern and practice" investigations -- so-called because they seek to identify unconstitutional patterns and practices by police -- are on a steep upswing, according to a review of Justice Department statistics.
Experts on race, the law and police accountability say the rise in such cases reflects, in part, a disturbing increase in cases of police abuse across the country that can't be entirely explained away by an aggressive civil-rights-minded attorney general or a change in the political winds.
"There is no question that there is a problem," said Sam Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and the author of more than a dozen books on police accountability, civil rights and police oversight.
"What is happening is that they are addressing it," Walker said, something he says was done only sporadically during the Bush administration, which considered police misconduct a local issue.
The Civil Rights Division, he said, has doubled its number of attorneys since President Obama took office, has moved to complete the few investigations that were under way, and is opening new ones with regularity.
Dorli Rainey, the 84-year-old pepper-sprayed in the face (13 January 2012)
In September 2011, Occupy Wall Street began in Zuccotti Park, New York, when 1,000 people gathered to protest against corporate greed and social inequality. The Occupy movement quickly spread to more than 950 cities and 82 countries. Dorli Rainey, 84, was at an Occupy Seattle protest on 15 November 2011 when a policeman pepper-sprayed her in the face.
I'd come into town to go to a meeting about street safety, ironically. As I got off the bus, I saw helicopters and a lot of police activity. Occupy Seattle had taken over the intersection of Fifth and Pine. I'm a member, so I went over. The police had cordoned it off, so you could not get out even if you wanted to. Now I did hear one policeman say, "You have got to leave the intersection" but there was no warning. It was just: right now, get out, and then the police started pushing their bicycles at the crowd. We were very tightly packed together and there was really no place to move.
Then they started pepper-spraying indiscriminately. I got it full in the face, which is something I don't wish on my worst enemy. I was afraid of falling because people were pushing and there was no way out. Two young men helped me stabilise and finally they got milk and put it all over me to neutralise the effects.
They wanted to take me to the medic tent, but I just took the bus home. The driver said, "What in the world happened to you?" and everyone stared. They had seen me as a regular human being, not as this Halloween mask that sat down next to them. So there was quite a bit of discussion about police brutality on that bus. That was my first reaction: we have just gained more people for our movement. But I was very angry.
Arpaio protesters: 'We want him behind bars' (13 January 2012)
About 100 protesters gathered Friday afternoon in downtown Phoenix to demand the arrest of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"We want him behind bars," said Carlos Garcia, an organizer for Puente, the human rights group that planned the event.
"The Department of Justice said Arpaio is responsible for the worst case of racial profiling they have ever seen," Garcia said. "You can't make a statement like that and not do anything."
Protesters of all ages gathered about 3 p.m. in Cesar Chavez Plaza, near Washington Street and 1st Avenue, just hours after law enforcement officers mourned the death of Maricopa County sheriff's Deputy William Coleman at a Phoenix church.
Two arrested in anti-police protest in Oakland (15 January 2012)
KCBS and Bay City News Service reported that an anti-police march through downtown Oakland
was peaceful Saturday night but resulted in two arrests.
Police estimated about 125 protesters gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza at around 8 p.m. and began marching about an hour later.
KCBS reported that an estimated 100 officers were staged throughout downtown and a smaller group of officers followed the march as it wound through downtown streets for several hours.
One person was arrested for allegedly moving a Dumpster into the street as a barricade, and a second was arrested for interfering with that arrest, police said.
Thousands of horses in U.K. abandoned by owners suffering economic hardship; Charities at capacity and cannot take more animals, many sold as meat to zoos (15 January 2012)
Thousands of horses are being abandoned or tied up and left to starve, many by desperate owners unable to afford the costs of keeping them. A national crisis has seen Britain's biggest horse charities under unprecedented pressure from the sheer number of animals needing their help.
Redwings -- Britain's biggest charity for abandoned horses -- says the situation has reached breaking point. It has seen the number of cases soar from 160 horses in 2009 to 450 last year. So far this month it has taken in up to 10 a day. The charity, which can house 1,200 animals, is now full.
Hundreds of other horses around the country are not so fortunate. Left to fend for themselves, they are savaged by dogs or fall victim to drivers on Britain's roads. The national situation is hard to quantify, but the RSPCA is aware that at least 3,500 horses are left chained or tied up without shelter at any one time. The charity estimates it received more than 7,000 calls in 2011 reporting horses and ponies that had been left tied up -- up 21 per cent on the previous year.
Britain is seen as a nation of animal lovers and thousands are expected to flock to cinemas to see Steven Spielberg's War Horse. But, as the recession bites, owners are increasingly desperate, an IoS investigation timed to coincide with the film's release shows. The Blue Cross animal charity estimates the average cost of keeping a horse has almost doubled in the past five years, from ?3,600 per year to ?6,000.
Website shows how sonar used to track salmon (14 January 2012)
Most people don't know that 40 years ago Alaska pioneered the use of sonar to track salmon runs, or that state fishery managers operate 15 sonar sites on 13 rivers from Southeast to the Yukon.
The goal of making Alaskans more aware of one of Alaska's most important fish-counting tools has been accomplished with the launch of a new online project that lets visitors see three types of sonar in action.
The site explains that traditional tools such as weirs and counting towers can be used to count salmon in clear, narrow streams but not in wide, turbid rivers.
"To gauge salmon runs we can't see we have taken a lesson from one of Mother Nature's fish finding experts. In glacial silt-laden bays and rivers, beluga whales find salmon by emitting high pitched calls and listening for returning echoes. Similarly, we have adopted sonar as a tool to detect salmon not by sight but by sound," it explains.
Patient abuse by nurses extremely rare, experts say (14 January 2012)
Donna Wilson, who works as a professor of nursing at the University of Alberta, said she knows of only one case like it in the course of her 35-year career.
"This is really quite an unbelievable and sad story," she said. "If this is true, this nurse needs to be prosecuted and pay the price. We do not want this happening."
Nursing schools usually weed out unsuitable candidates before they graduate, Wilson said.
In addition, nurses have to undergo a national exam, acquire several references and outlast a probationary period.
On Craigslist, let the seller beware (15 January 2012)
Just one of hundreds of robberies that mar South Florida every year? Sure. But Segal's eye-burning ordeal is also a poignant example of growing trend in violent crime.
Craigslist -- the all-in-one digital destination for those needing an apartment, a new job, a slightly used futon, and even love -- has become fertile ground for crooks in search of easy marks.
"Criminals are like anyone else; they use the tools that are available to them," said Maj. Delrish Moss, a Miami police spokesman. "Right now, we're talking about Craigslist. A few years ago, they used Internet dating. You can use its powers for good, or for bad."
More and more, it's the latter.
Apple joins Fair Labor Association after criticism over factory conditions in Asia (15 January 2012)
Apple made several moves Friday to address working conditions in its suppliers' factories, including an announcement that it had joined the Fair Labor Association.
The association, which was founded in 1999 and is based in Washington, works to end sweatshop conditions in factories around the world.
Apple has faced criticism for its factory conditions in Asia. This week, National Public Radio's "This American Life" ran an adapted version of Mike Daisey's monologue "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," in which he describes the often brutal working conditions he found on visits to Chinese factories.
And Foxconn, an Asian supplier that makes electronics for Apple, Microsoft and Dell, among others, faced a revolt this week when hundreds of workers who make Microsoft Xboxes threatened suicide over lost wages.
Back to Pam's NEWS ARCHIVES
Back to Pam's vegan vegetarian FUN page
Pam's vegan vegetarian cookbook, with vegan vegetarian recipes
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