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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012

News from the Week of 29th of January to 4th of February 2012

Bradley Manning: US general orders court martial for WikiLeaks suspect (4 February 2012)
A US army officer has ordered a court martial for Bradley Manning, the soldier charged in the biggest leak of classified information in American history.

Military district of Washington commander Major General Michael Linnington referred all charges against Manning to a general court martial on Friday, the army said in a statement.

The referral means Manning, 24, will stand trial for allegedly giving more than 700,000 secret US documents and a classified combat video to WikiLeaks for publication. He faces 22 counts, including aiding the enemy, and could be imprisoned for life if convicted of that charge.

A judge yet to be appointed will set the trial date.
[Read more...]

Karl Lindemann: Because of His Awful Civil Liberties and National Security Record, I Will Not Vote For Obama (4 February 2012)
Domestically, Obama has waged a war on governmental transparency since being sworn in. He has overseen the conviction of six individuals with the charge of espionage and aiding the enemy for leaking information to a journalist. This is twice as many as all other presidents in history combined. Many of those charged leaked damning information regarding atrocities committed by high-ranking U.S. officials, such as John Kiriakou and Wikileaks mole Bradley Manning. Concurrently, individuals such as Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, implicated in the Haditha Massacre in which 24 Iraqi civilians were murdered, are all but acquitted. As Mazahir Hussein put it, "Bradley Manning should've really considered committing some war crimes instead of exposing them." Accordingly, Obama has decided to get in bed with ultra-paranoid U.S. intelligence officials, who begin shaking in their boots at the mere mention of transparency, instead of holding real perpetrators accountable. [Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Obama does seem to go along with a lot of things that Bush did... but I chose this article for its critique of how Bradley Manning's case is being handled.

Appeals court vacates ruling on scrutiny of Walker recall signatures (4 February 2012)
The [Wisconsin] state election agency will not be required to aggressively comb through hundreds of thousands of recall signatures in search of Adolf Hitlers and Daffy Ducks after all, following a ruling Friday by the state Court of Appeals.

However, Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said the board would continue to search for, and strike, "obviously fictitious" names, with or without the ruling.

The decision reverses a lower court's order that required the GAB seek out duplicate and blatantly phony recall petition signatures, a labor-intensive process that officials said could substantially prolong the validating process.

United Wisconsin, the organization formed to recall Gov. Scott Walker, turned in about 1.9 million recall signatures last month, targeting Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators.
[Read more...]

Embattled Wisconsin Governor Walker says he will meet with John Doe prosecutor (4 February 2012)
Gov. Scott Walker said Friday evening that he will be "voluntarily meeting" with the prosecutor leading the secret John Doe investigation that has already brought charges against some of his top aides.

He did not say when the meeting with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm would take place.

In a statement issued through his campaign, Walker also announced that he had hired two high-powered criminal defense attorneys, Mike Steinle and John Gallo, but said he would use no public money to cover the costs.

"I have already said that I would be happy to sit down with the people looking into these issues and answer any additional questions they may have," Walker said. "To make that point clear, last year, my representatives voluntarily contacted Mr. Chisholm's office to arrange a time to discuss any outstanding issues. I will be voluntarily meeting with Mr. Chisholm."
[Read more...]

Heart-wrenching testimony kills Virginia abortion regulation (3 February 2012)
The bill would have banned abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is when anti-abortion activists claim a fetus gains the sense of touch. The science behind that claim, however, is still in question.

Because of Schleifer's testimony, lawmakers on the Senate committee deadlocked in a 7-7 vote. One Republican, Sen. Mark Obenshain, abstained.

Despite the proposed 20-week restriction's failure, the Virginia Senate still approved a regulation which will require women to undergo a medically unnecessary trans-vaginal sonogram before an abortion can be performed. A similar law was passed last year in Texas, but its legality is still in question.

"Fetal pain" bills have swept conservative-leaning states in recent years, with more than 16 legislatures considering the enhanced regulations of women's health. In Virginia, abortions are already banned after 25 weeks.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Another bill to add to Virginia Republicans' festival of anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-poor, anti-voter legislation this week.

GOP candidates shy away from Nevada housing crisis (4 February 2012)
Their story is typical in Nevada, which has the nation's highest unemployment and foreclosure rates, and where 58 percent of the homes are underwater - worth less than what the lender is owed. Nationally, 22 percent of homes are underwater.

Vegas tourists don't see
The Hethertons' story could be told in Stockton or Oakland or other parts of the nation where many Americans are looking for work and clinging to their homes. But it's particularly acute in the part of suburban Las Vegas that tourists rarely see.

It's the Vegas where pawnshops are busier this time of year because people need money to pay their taxes, and where homeless tent cities spring up after dark and vanish at daylight.

This Vegas has not been a major part of the political dialogue this week, as the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination visit the state. While he was in Nevada last fall, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is far ahead in pre-caucus polls, said it would not be a good idea to "try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom."

Callous comment
Barbara Buckley, executive director of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, said Romney's comment was callous. "I thought it sounded like he really didn't live in the real world," said Buckley, who was the first woman to be Nevada's Assembly speaker.
[Read more...]

Degradation of the Republican Party on display in Las Vegas (4 February 2012)
At a rally Wednesday night, Romney said President Barack Obama isn't really one of us: "It is what made us who we are -- these innovators, these pioneers, these builders. It's in your DNA. We share it, whether literally or figuratively. We share this spirit. I don't think President Barack Obama understands that. I don't think he has the feeling of this American spirit that drives us to be successful and innovative and to create ..."

Yeah, Obama doesn't know what it is to buy a company, load it up with debt, fire a bunch of workers, walk away richer and pay an effective federal income tax rate of 14 percent. That's the American "spirit" right there.

Of course Obama doesn't get this, but I wish Romney would come out and say why: As Trump informed us last year, Obama's not a real American; he's a foreigner. A Kenyan socialist. Or maybe an Indonesian Muslim schooled in a Madrassa.

Earlier Thursday I saw a tired and deflated Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, try his hand as the underdog. God love America, where you can be a former speaker of the House who had a gig on Fox News and made millions of dollars from large corporations -- not as a lobbyist, though! -- and still call yourself "anti-establishment."

At Xtreme Manufacturing in the central valley, Gingrich said his campaign was people power vs. money power, like he's Cesar Chavez or something. Gingrich was no more than a couple miles from the Venetian, whose owner, Sheldon Adelson, and his wife have given Gingrich at least $10 million for his sputtering campaign.
[Read more...]

D.A.: Homeless serial murders suspect may have previously killed 2 others (3 February 2012)
SANTA ANA -- Prosecutors on Friday announced that two new murder charges are being filed against Itzcoatl Ocampo, suspected of stabbing four homeless men to death, a day after the leader of the serial killings task force acknowledged that he is tied to the October slayings of a Yorba Linda mother and her son.

The additional murder charges against Ocampo, 23, were announced shortly after charges were dropped against Eder Herrera, a 24-year-old Yorba Linda man who spent more than three months in custody, accused of stabbing his mother and brother to death in October.

Ocampo is now suspected in a half-dozen murders. While authorities believe the four homeless victims were strangers to Ocampo, they say he knew the Yorba Linda woman and her son.

"This case has now expanded from murdering random, vulnerable strangers to murdering people he knew," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said. "It is chilling to know that these murders took place two months before the murders of four homeless men began."

Eder Herrera was originally charged with the double murder until detectives in the Orange County serial killings task force developed evidence that shifted the focus to Ocampo.
[Read more...]

Federal Appeals Court: Katrina Survivors Can't Sue U.S. Over Trailers (27 January 2012)
NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Mississippi and Alabama residents cannot sue the U.S. government over formaldehyde-laden trailers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided when Hurricane Katrina made thousands of homes uninhabitable, the 5th Circuit ruled.

Agreeing with the August 2010 decision of a federal judge, the federal appeals court said the plaintiffs, representing 10,000 residents, lack subject-matter jurisdiction to sue since FEMA provided the trailers at no cost to residents and under no obligation.

In 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes along the Gulf Coast. The Federal Emergency Management Agency contracted private businesses to immediately construct and provide thousands of travel trailers to give residents as temporary shelter until other housing became available.

FEMA trailers were available at no cost to residents for use as temporary emergency housing from September 2005 until May 2009. Applications for receiving the trailers notified residents that the units were intended for temporary use and that applicants were required to accept alternative housing options as they became available.

Seven months in, FEMA began receiving complaints from trailer occupants about formaldehyde odors inside the units. Formaldehyde is a chemical substance commonly found in construction materials such as plywood, particle board, home furnishing and fabrics. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, it is a known human carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as a probable human carcinogen.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: This appeared on Natural News on 2/4, but the earlier source article was more thorough. I suspect that the plaintiffs will appeal again.

iBooks Author update: Apple doesn't own you after all (3 February 2012)
Is iBooks Author awesome again?

Apple's new publishing program, released just a few weeks ago, seemed like a really cool piece of software that would make it possible for people to create an iBook complete with all kinds of interactive functionality, with very little coding know-how.

But because of some funky wording in the End User License Agreement, some people worried that Apple was claiming ownership to any content created using its software.

Well, Apple updated the language of its EULA on Friday to make it clear that the content you create using iBooks Author is all yours if you want to turn it into a paper book or sell it as a non-iPad friendly e-book. But if you plan to distribute it for a fee, in the .ibook format, Apple is going to be involved.
[Read more...]

Facebook 'makes it harder for brands to advertise for free' (4 February 2012)
Since filing for its initial public offering earlier this week, which could see the company become worth $100bn, speculation has been mounting as to how the social network will ramp up its profits to please shareholders.

"Over the past couple of years, Facebook has started to make it more challenging to appear in the 'News Feed'," eMarketer Inc. analyst Debra Williamson told The Wall Street Journal.

"If Facebook wants to derive more revenue from big brand advertisers, they want to be in that 'News Feed' where everybody's eyeballs are."

Last year, as Facebook added more sections to the site, advertiser's free brand page updates started getting overshadowed in users' news feeds according to the article.
[Read more...]

What happens when an uncontacted tribe meets 'civilisation'? (4 February 2012)
Margarita Mbywangy has spent her life fighting for the right to exist. At the age of five, she was kidnapped and sold into domestic slavery, removed from her family and the hunter-gather way of life that her Ache tribe had practiced in eastern Paraguay for millennia.

Ms Mbywangy spent the next 13 years known only as Margarita -- the name chosen by her new "mother" who insisted she was her daughter, but never hugged her, didn't send her to school and made her cook and clean for the family. She looked and felt different; people in the street called her "Indo" -- a derogatory term used to insult Paraguay's indigenous people -- but she had no identity papers, just a name.

This part of her story is by no means extraordinary. In the 1960s and 1970s many indigenous children in Paraguay were kidnapped and their parents killed by government forces and farmers who wanted to develop the acres of forest, their ancestral land, where they lived a nomadic life, trying to avoid the threats of the "civilised" world.

By 1976, all the Ache had been forcibly resettled on small areas of designated land where they had to swap hunter-gathering for agriculture in order to survive. Many died trying to defend themselves and the forest; many more died from new diseases such as flu because they had no immunity to these common conditions. The land was sold to farmers, roads were built and the valuable timber harvested. Only 36 families survived the slaughter. The government was accused of genocide.
[Read more...]

Vegetarian school lunches would be healthy choices (4 February 2012)
I was delighted to read the new USDA guidelines requiring schools to serve meals with twice as many fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, less sodium and fat, and no meat for breakfast. The guidelines were mandated by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Barack Obama in December 2010 and will go into effect with the next school year.

The new guidelines offer a welcome change from USDA's tradition of using the National School Lunch Program as a dumping ground for meat and dairy surpluses. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of American children are consuming excess fat, only 15 percent eat recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, and one-third have become overweight or obese. These early dietary flaws become lifelong addictions, raising their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

In recent years, Hawaii, California, New York, and Florida legislatures asked their schools to offer daily vegetarian options, and most school districts now do. The Baltimore public school system offers its 80,000 students a complete weekly break from meat.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Excess fat isn't the only problem...

Monosodium glutamate linked to obesity (FLASHBACK) (14 August 2008)
Chinese and U.S. researchers suggest monosodium glutamate, or MSG, use is linked to greater body weight.

Dr. Ka He of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health and colleagues studied more than 750 Chinese men and women, ages 40 to 59, in three rural villages in China. A majority of the study participants prepared their meals at home without commercially processed foods, but 82 percent used MSG in their food.

The researchers said they chose study participants in rural Chinese because they used very little commercially processed food, but many regularly used MSG in food preparation.

Those who used MSG were divided into three groups, based on the amount used.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, found the one-third who used the most MSG were nearly three times more likely to be overweight than non-users.
[Read more...]

Spam maker Hormel to treat its pigs better (4 February 2012)
Do happier pigs make for better Spam?Hormel Foods Corp., which makes the gelatinous canned meat, is betting yes.

The Minnesota company said this week that it will stop using gestation crates by 2017. The crates, which are often so small that the pregnant hogs they house can't move, will also be disavowed within five years by McRib pork provider Smithfield Foods Inc.

Seems like nowadays, with more consumers interested in the origin of what they eat, food purveyors and restaurant chains are taking care to highlight fresh, healthy -- and presumably well-treated -- fare.

Hormel keeps 54,000 breeding pigs at facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming, according to animal advocacy group the Humane Society. The group also used the opportunity to pressure other meat producers such as Tyson, Triumph and Seaboard to institute similar gestation crate phaseouts.
[Read more...]

Feds spend $1.8 million defending Stevens prosecutors (3 February 2012)
The federal government spent about $1.8 million on private lawyers for the prosecutors accused of misconduct in the botched prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. A Justice Department spokesperson told USA Today that it's customary for the government to help employees defending themselves against charges arising from their work duties.
"Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the department has paid about $1.6 million since 2009 to private lawyers representing the six prosecutors targeted by that court investigation. It also paid $208,000 to defend three prosecutors from a separate finding that they had committed civil contempt of court. ...

"The department spent the money while its internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility, is investigating the prosecutors' handling of the case. The department did not pay the outside lawyers representing its prosecutors in that probe, which is ongoing."
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Stevens is gone now, but the case against him was justified regardless of supposed prosecutor misconduct. Since when is it OK for a company to add an entire floor to a Senator's house?

Renewable energy costs are starting to come down (4 February 2012)
The price of renewable power contracts signed by California utilities more than doubled from 2003 through 2011 but has now started to plunge, according to a long-awaited state report issued Friday.

The report is the most detailed accounting yet of the costs of California's push to use more solar, wind and geothermal power. Until now, most of those costs have remained hidden from the public. The California Public Utilities Commission, which issued Friday's report, has for years published quarterly updates on the number of contracts signed but has never before included the costs.

A state law passed in 2002 and expanded in 2006 required California utilities to get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010, a goal that has since been expanded to 33 percent by 2020. The law set off a scramble among the utilities to sign contracts with companies building wind farms and solar power plants.

As a result, contract prices rose steadily as the deadline loomed, according to Friday's report. In 2003, the utilities paid an average of 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour for renewable power contracts. By 2011, the average reached 13.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

But it is starting to tumble.
[Read more...]

Nuclear plant offers no timetable on leak fix (4 February 2012)
Inspectors at the San Onofre nuclear plant will have to wait until the middle of next week to enter a reactor and search for a radioactive steam leak.

Temperatures were still too hot -- 105 degrees Fahrenheit -- inside the southernmost of two reactors on Friday for crews to start work inside, said Jennifer Manfre, a spokeswoman for plant operator Southern California Edison.

That reactor was shut down Tuesday for an indefinite length of time after air radiation alarms sounded at a turbine deck building.

Small traces of radioactive gas from the leak may have reached the atmosphere without endangering workers or residents near the oceanfront power plant 45 miles north of San Diego, according to nuclear regulators.

In a separate incident last week, during routine maintenance inside the northern dome, a contract worker fell into the reactor pool without any apparent injury.
[Read more...]

Occupy D.C. camp raided by police (4 February 2012)
Four protesters were arrested and some tents and debris were cleared during a pre-dawn raid on the Occupy D.C. encampment in McPherson Square Saturday.

U.S. Park Police on horseback and on foot with riot gear swept into the park around 6 a.m. Several blocks downtown were closed for the raid, characterized as "further enforcement" of a no-camping crackdown that began Monday.

Despite the show of force, the relations between police and protesters remained largely peaceful. As police swept into the camp before sunrise, protesters didn't resist but shouted "Wake up!" and chanted.

But four people were arrested when they refused to leave an area in the center of the park where workers were trying to clear tents, bedding and debris.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: When DC attacks free speech, they do it more gently because their town's business is the Constitution. Then they hope that they won't be sued later, with all of the civil rights lawyers in town.

TSA recruits hot dog vendors, parking lot attendants to watch out for terrorists at Super Bowl (4 February 2012)
(NaturalNews) The terrorists are everywhere, including at the most popular American sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl. This is the view of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), at least, which recently announced that it has recruited parking lot attendants, ticket takers, and hot dog vendors to spot terrorists at the upcoming February 6 game in Indianapolis, Ind., as part of its "First Observer" citizen spying program.

InfoWars' Paul Joseph Watson reports that Government Security News announced the news in a recent report, noting that "over 8,000 stadium vendors, parking lot attendants, shuttle bus drivers, and other transportation professionals received the [TSA's] First Observer training for detecting and assessing indicators and planning tactics of potential terrorist activities" (http://www.gsnmagazine.com/node/25577?c=federal_agencies_legislative).

Also making their appearance in and around Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium will be the infamous TSA "Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response" (VIPR) teams. Reports indicate that these teams, which were created as a Gestapo-type internal checkpoint force for illegally detaining and searching American citizens, may also be present at parking facilities nearby the stadium, as well as near mass transit stations and general aviation facilities (http://www.infowars.com).

The TSA describes its First Observer program as a recruitment tool that snags truck drivers, school bus drivers, and other transportation professionals to spy on citizens and report "suspicious" activities to Big Brother (http://www.firstobserver.com/aboutus.php). The agency actually set up illegal internal checkpoints last fall along interstates throughout Tennessee as part of the program's inaugural launch (http://www.naturalnews.com/033961_TSA_security_checkpoints.html).
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: People are more likely to be victims of petty crimes and natural emergencies at large events, which is why most event planners already have extra police and ambulances waiting to respond to emergencies quickly. Whenever that many people come together, someone's car will be stolen, someone will choke on food, someone will even have a heart attack. But a terrorist attack? Incredibly rare and unlikely.

Homs 'massacre' leaves 260 dead (4 February 2012)
The Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya television channels showed footage of dozens of bodies and scenes of chaos as tweets claiming to be by residents said the city "is bleeding" under heavy bombardment, one counting "366 explosions tonight so far."

Al-Jazeera said witnesses spoke of nail bombs raining down and incessant shelling, while one resident, Danny Abdul Ayem, reported "non-stop bombardment ... by tank shells and mortar bombs."

A medical student told Al-Jazeera the local hospital was struggling to cope.

"There is a lack of blood, a lack of oxygen ... there is danger in the streets," he said. "We are overwhelmed. We have opened the mosque next door" to receive wounded people, he said.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I can't possibly link to everything that's happening in the Middle East these days or my page would be nothing but foreign news, some of it with questionable sources and figures. But this is a big one. Not that other "big ones" aren't just as important...

Occupy the Super Bowl: Indiana's New Anti-Union Law Sparks Protest at Sport's Biggest Spectacle (3 February 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this week, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a so-called "right to work" measure into law, making Indiana the 23rd state to enact similar legislation. The controversial law exempts employees at unionized companies from paying union dues or fees if they so desire. Republicans claim the bill will help Indiana attract new, needed businesses and jobs. Critics say the legislation is an organized attack against labor that will result in lower wages and diminished collective bargaining rights. Following the bill's approval Wednesday, thousands of union workers held a protest march to Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played this Sunday. The National Football League Players Association has also opposed the legislation calling right-to-work a "Political ploy designed to destroy basic workers' rights." DeMaurice Smith recently appeared on Dave Zirin's radio show Edge of Sports Radio. Smith is the executive director of The National Football League Players Association.

DEMAURICE SMITH: We are in lock-step with organized labor. I'm proud to sit on the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO. Why? Because we share all of the same issues that American people share. We want decent wages, you want a fair pension, you want to be taken care of when you get hurt, you want a decent and safe working environment. So when you look at proposed legislation in a place like Indiana that wants to call it something called "Right to Work", but you realize that...

DAVE ZIRIN: A tricky phrase, "right to work".

DEMAURICE SMITH: Very tricky phrase. Let's just put the hammer on the nail. It's untrue. This bill has nothing to do with a right to work. If folks in Indiana and that great legislation---and they want to pass a bill that really is something called "Right to Work", have a constitutional amendment that guarantees every citizen a right to a job. That is a right to work. What this is, instead, is a right to enforce and to ensure that ordinary working people can't get together as a team, can't organize, can't stand together, and can't fight or negotiate with management on an even playing field.
[Read more...]

Britain steps up its claim to the Falkland Islands (4 February 2012)
Britain has told Argentina to go back to its own history books to understand why it can have no claim over the Falkland Islands and why there will be no negotiations on sovereignty as it is demanding.

The details of the Britain's territorial embrace of the islands going back to 1765 and the ejection of an Argentine garrison in January 1833 are laid out in a letter delivered by the British ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, and seen exclusively by The Independent.

The five-page rebuttal to a protest letter distributed by the Argentine government to all the members of the UN General Assembly early last month is more comprehensive than any in the past, diplomatic sources said. The exchange came as tensions between the two countries were escalating even before the arrival on the islands on Thursday of Prince William on a six-week deployment for the Royal Air Force.

The impending 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, as well as the decision in London to deploy the HMS Dauntless, has also been a factor in the deepening diplomatic crisis. Late Thursday a Union Jack was burned outside the British Embassy by demonstrators and the Vice President, Amado Boudou, publicly suggested Britain was stoking the stand-off to distract its own population from domestic problems.
[Read more...]

Virginia House approves bill allowing private adoption agencies to discriminate against gays (3 February 2012)
RICHMOND, Va. -- Legislation that would allow private adoption agencies to deny placements that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, including opposition to homosexuality, sailed through the Virginia House of Delegates by a wide margin and without debate Friday.

The House passed the Republican-backed bill 71-28 a day after rejecting several amendments offered by Democrats aimed at softening the measure. Earlier Friday, the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee endorsed its version of the bill on an 8-7 party-line vote, sending it to the floor for a vote next week. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock and sponsor of the House bill, says it protects religious freedom. Opponents argue that the government, which contracts with dozens of state-licensed child placement agencies, should not sanction discrimination.

The Virginia Board of Social Services in December adopted regulations allowing discrimination by private agencies based on personal factors, including gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and family status. Federal protections against discrimination based on race, color or national origin were not affected.
[Read more...]

Virginia Republicans continue their bizarre dive off the deep end:  Senate panel backs bill to drug test aid recipients (3 February 2012)
A bill that would subject certain welfare recipients to drug testing as a condition of receiving benefits narrowly cleared a Senate committee today.

The bill had failed in committee when the Senate was under Democratic control the past four years.

This time, Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Stephen H. Martin, R-Chesterfield, cleared the GOP-controlled Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee on an 8-7 party line vote -- but not without a fight from testy Democrats.

"Are there any people receiving money from the commonwealth who are tested for drugs other than poor people?" Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, D-Norfolk asked pointedly.
[Read more...]

Virginia's Republican-controlled House panel backs voter photo-ID bill (3 February 2012)
Another bill to tighten voting requirements by requiring photo identification at the polls is working its way through the House of Delegates.

House Bill 569, sponsored by Del. Daniel W. Marshall III, R-Danville, would make a series of changes to existing voting laws, including requiring photo ID and proof of citizenship to register.

The bill would allow for easier sharing of information between the Department of Motor Vehicles, the State Board of Elections and local registrars to make obtaining a photo ID simple, and would also permit the board to issue photo ID cards.

A voter who showed up at the polls without photo ID would have to cast a provisional ballot. Marshall's bill would not take effect until next year, meaning it would not impact this year's elections.

A similar but less stringent measure (House Bill 9) passed the House earlier this week, requiring anyone who shows up at the polls without any identification to cast a provisional ballot. That bill did not, however, require photo ID, meaning a voter registration card or Social Security card would suffice.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY:  Voter ID laws are considered to be a modern-day form of discrimination at the polls.  That's because the lack of means to acquire a state ID disproportionately affects minorities.  There may be further action by the Justice Department as a result, depending on what happens with this particular bill.

Virginia may delay congressional primaries to August, due to DOJ review of its redistricting plan (3 February 2012)
With little discussion, a House committee today advanced emergency legislation that would bump the primary election for state congressional races and the U.S. Senate contest from June to August if a redistricting plan is not approved by next month.

House Bill 736, carried by Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, would automatically move the primary from June 12 to Aug. 21 if the U.S. Department of Justice has not signed off on a congressional redistricting plan by March 20.

Congressional redistricting was supposed to have been completed last year, but the legislature failed to do so due to partisan divides.

The General Assembly last month passed a Republican plan, which is now before the Department of Justice. But lawsuits are pending that would have the courts draw new districts, arguing that the legislature violated the state's constitution by not completing the process last year.
[Read more...]

Virginia's need for a DOJ review comes from its past history of discrimination,  triggering the Voting Rights Act (1 February 2012)
RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Supreme Court has refused to immediately review a lower court's refusal to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the General Assembly's authority to redraw its congressional districts a year late.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he will continue to press for an immediate decision on the lawsuit from the Richmond Circuit Court.

Cuccinelli also said Wednesday that the new map has been submitted to the U.S. Justice Department for approval, and on a parallel track, he has filed a preclearance suit in the federal court in the District of Columbia. According to the attorney general, only one of those two tracks needs approval.

Virginia is one of 16 states required under the 1965 Voting Rights Act to get Justice Department approval of changes in voting practices or procedures.
[Read more...]

Virginia Senate delays one-gun-a-month repeal until Monday (3 February 2012)
The state Senate has put off consideration of the one-gun-a-month repeal and will take it up on Monday.

Two senators were absent today -- Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, and R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath.

The measure had cleared the Senate Courts of Justice Committee Jan. 25 on an 8-6 vote.

In 1993 the legislature approved the one-gun-a-month restriction, advocated by then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, to address interstate trafficking of firearms in Virginia.

Advocates of repeal say the law has so many exceptions -- for people like police officers and owners of concealed weapon permits -- that the law only restricts law-abiding citizens.
[Read more...]

Va. House: Don't fund abortions in cases of fetal deformity (3 February 2012)
Sharply polarized debate over abortion-related issues continued today in the Virginia House of Delegates, which passed a proposal to halt state-funded abortions for poor women in cases where the child is likely to be born with a gross, totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency.

The state spent less than $2,800 on 10 such abortions last year.

Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania County, the sponsor of HB 62, said the state should turn the job over to private charities instead of reaching into the pockets of taxpayers, some of whom oppose all abortions on moral grounds.

Several Democratic delegates voiced impassioned objections to the measure.
[Read more...]

Pre-abortion ultrasound: Too invasive? (3 February 2012)
In a week dominated by abortion debate, foes of ultrasound legislation say that an overlooked aspect of the proposed law is how invasive it will be.

Determining gestational age early in a pregnancy often requires an internal probe rather than a scan over the stomach.

If past state data are a guide, the vast majority of Virginia women who get abortions get them in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when it can be tougher to detect a fetus externally.

Legislation mandating an ultrasound before pregnancy termination is among the measures to curb abortion rights that are finding some success so far in the General Assembly as Republicans wield expanded power.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY:  OK, that's the last of the links on Virginia Republicans' anti-gay / anti-woman / anti-minority binge for the day.  I'm sure we'll see more of their bizarre rampage next week...

Update: Imperial Oil launches $2-billion Cold Lake oilsands expansion (3 February 2012)
CALGARY -- Imperial Oil Ltd. will go ahead with a $2-billion expansion of its flagship Cold Lake oilsands project, adding 40,000 barrels per day of new production to Canada's largest thermal oilsands development.

The Nabiye expansion will tap a further 280 million of reserves at the northern Alberta project, Imperial said on Friday. It will also include a 170-megawatt cogeneration plant to produce steam and electricity and a facility to process the bitumen produced at the site.

The $50,000 per flowing barrel that the project will cost was more than expected by Randy Ollenberger, research analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

"It's a little bit high," said Ollenberger, who noted some cost inflation due to an oilsands industry many fear is getting overheated could have started creeping in, even at project sanctioning.
[Read more...]

Democrats raise new concerns about Keystone XL bill (3 February 2012)
The bill from Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., would strip the State Department of its Keystone XL approval powers and require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the pipeline in 30 days. If FERC weren't to act, the bill would deem Keystone XL approved.

Democrats have noted that FERC itself has testified it has no experience handling border-crossing oil pipelines and they contend Terry's bill would approve the pipeline before identification of a new route in Nebraska avoiding a drinking-water aquifer in the state. But they raised new alarms Friday, when officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers told a House panel the agencies would lose their regulatory and oversight authority over the pipeline.

"[The bill] gives an unprecedented regulatory earmark," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said at a subcommittee hearing that Democrats requested to supplement a previous hearing on the same bill.

Terry's bill is one of a few Republicans have floated in their quest to approve the tar-sands oil pipeline from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries ever since TransCanada was denied a permit on Jan. 18. GOP leaders have mulled wrapping Keystone XL legislation into other must-pass bills, such as a long-term extension of the payroll tax break.
[Read more...]

San Onofre nuclear plant radiation leak, worn tubes raise concerns (3 February 2012)
A week of problems at the San Onofre nuclear power plant has raised new safety concerns among some activists.

Officials of Southern California Edison, which operates the facility and is a majority owner, insist that the plant is perfectly safe, but others say the mishaps are one more sign of problems.

The situation is "further evidence that California should move beyond nuclear power. California should plan for the orderly phase out of ... aging nuclear power plants, including San Onofre, and shift to clean-energy alternatives like energy efficiency and renewable power," Bernadette Del Chiaro, director of clean-energy programs for the advocacy group Environment California, said in a statement.

Nuclear regulation officials said Thursday that extensive wear had been found on tubes inside a unit at the San Onofre nuclear plant.
[Read more...]

San Onofre nuke plant work falls in reactor pool (3 February 2012)
Authorities say a worker fell into a reactor pool at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Diego County last week but he didn't receive a significant radiation dose.

Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander says the man was leaning over to retrieve a flashlight when he lost his balance and fell into the Unit 2 reactor pool on Jan. 27.

The pool's more than 20 feet deep and holds water that circulates through the reactor core.

Alexander tells the North County Times ( http://bit.ly/w9FzZx) that the worker, who's employed by a private contractor, was wearing a life preserver. He received 5 millirems of radiation.
[Read more...]

Offshore wind farm farther away, closer to reality (3 February 2012)
Prospects for wind turbines churning out clean energy off the mid-Atlantic coast got brighter Thursday when federal officials unveiled safe areas where energy companies might build wind farms off Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

The U.S. Department of the Interior said it has completed environmental studies in these zones in the Atlantic Ocean, finding them clear of significant conflicts with fishing interests, shipping traffic, military training and marine life, including whales, dolphins and migratory birds.

Virginia's designated area encompasses 112,799 acres of open water, located due east of the Virginia Beach resort strip. Would-be wind developers now are free to inform federal officials of their interest in setting wind turbines on leasable space between 23.5 nautical miles and 36.5 miles from shore.

Being that far away, any future spinning turbines would not be visible from local beaches.
[Read more...]

Canadian Police arrest 60 suspects, rescue 22 victims in massive child porn sweep (2 February 2012)
The sweep also identified 22 underage victims, all in Ontario, and removed them from dangerous situations.

That alone is reason to celebrate, police said.

"The 60 people who are arrested, that's good," Naylor said. "But it's the 22 kids that aren't being victimized today that were being victimized yesterday. That's what makes my heart feel good."

And with advancing technology police say their investigators are getting faster and smarter at keeping up with offenders.
[Read more...]

Anonymous hacks into phone call between FBI and Scotland Yard (3 February 2012)
Hackers from the group Anonymous have broadcast a private conference call between the FBI and Scotland Yard exposing details of an international cybercrime investigation, the FBI has confirmed.

The FBI and Scotland Yard admitted that the security of the call had been breached.

Investigators can be heard discussing their joint inquiry into a cybercrime investigation going through the British courts, and linked to investigations in New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Ireland.

It is understood the breach occurred at the US end of the call. As the news broke, Anonymous began taunting the FBI, asking if it was curious about how the group could keep reading the bureau's internal communications.
[Read more...]

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, at Tulane, pledges results from NOPD revamp (3 February 2012)
Once a federal civil rights attorney himself, Holder was unapologetic for the Obama administration's use of the Voting Rights Act to challenge the South Carolina voter identification law and to block several redistricting plans for local and state jurisdictions, including recent maps drawn by East Feliciana Parish authorities.

While federal courts have upheld many voter ID laws, Holder noted that in-person vote fraud "is not seen often" in the United States. "The need for photo ID laws is a solution in search of a problem," he said.

He said he questions the motive of such laws, which he said disproportionately affect students, other young voters, older voters and poorer voters, all individuals who are least likely to have state-issued photo identification. Holder said he will continue to direct his department to examine state voting changes closely for "discriminatory purpose and effect," a key standard of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And he dismissed the push, heard often from congressional representatives of states still subject to federal clearance of all election laws, that the act is no longer needed. Holder noted that the law was renewed with bipartisan support and signed by President George W. Bush less than a decade ago.

Holder's use of the Voting Rights Act, however, has not pleased everyone in his party. The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus urged Holder unsuccessfully last year to block the newly redrawn maps for the state House and Senate. Holder's agency found the districts in full compliance with the law, which does not necessarily require the maximum number of majority-minority districts.
[Read more...]

Cooked eggs recalled in California, 33 other states (3 February 2012)
Cooked eggs are being recalled in California and 33 other states over concerns about possible listeria contamination.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it has not received reports of illness, but listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.  In healthy people, listeria can cause high fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Michael Foods of Minnetonka, Minn., is recalling eggs in brine sold in 10- and 25-pound pails for institutional use under the brand names Columbia Valley Farms, GFS, Glenview Farms, Papetti's, Silverbrook and Wholesome Farms, the FDA said.

None of the eggs were sold directly by Michael Foods to consumers, but they might have been used in products sold by retailers, such as prepared salads, officials said.
[Read more...]

"Gasland" Director Josh Fox Arrested for Trying to Film Congressional Hearing on Natural Gas Fracking (2 February 2012) [DN]
JOSH FOX: Good morning, Amy and Juan. And certainly, hi to John Fenton. Nice to see you.

Well, basically, I was there to report on a story that I've been following very closely for three-and-a-half years. John and his fellow people from Pavillion, I've been documenting their cases of water contamination for three years, and it's featured in the first film, Gasland. We continue to feature that in Gasland 2. So, this was a crucial hearing for us to tape, because what was going on there was a clear and brazen attack on the EPA and on the meticulous three-and-a-half-year investigation that took place in the small town of Pavillion, Wyoming, to expose a link between fracking and groundwater contamination. And this is the first case in which EPA has come out and said, at least in this last 10 years, that the likely cause of groundwater contamination was fracking.

And what was apparent to us was that this was going to be an attack on science from within the science and technology committee, that they had a panel that was stuffed with gas industry lobbyists, that there was--this was actually a way of trying to dismantle this EPA report. We wanted to be there to show that that was what the agenda was. We wanted to report on what happened. I was not interested in disrupting that hearing. It was not a protest action. I was simply trying to do my job as a journalist and go in there and show to the American people what was transpiring in that hearing, so that down the line, as we know there will be a lot of challenges mounted to that EPA report--and frankly, to the people in Pavillion, who have been sticking up for themselves and demanding an investigation into the groundwater contamination--and to make sure that people could view that in a larger forum than usually happens.
[Read more...]

Megaupload users offered help to recover data (2 February 2012)
"EFF is troubled that so many lawful users of Megaupload.com had their property taken from them without warning and that the government has taken no steps to help them," said Julie Samuels, a lawyer for the group.

"We think it's important that these users have their voices heard as this process moves forward."

The EFF said it was working with Carpathia Hosting, one of Megaupload.com's storage contractors on ways to help users retrieve legitimate photographs, videos and other files.

"Carpathia does not have access to any data for Megaupload customers. [But] we support the EFF and their efforts to help those users that stored legitimate, non-infringing files with Megaupload retrieve their data," said Brian Winter, Carpathia's marketing chief.

The EFF has set up a website, Megaretrieval.com, which invites American Megaupload.com users to get in touch for legal assistance.
[Read more...]

Why Mitt Romney is 'not concerned' about the poor (2 February 2012)
And not caring for the poor is consistent?

Romney presents a confusing critique of President Barack Obama and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Put aside for the moment that Occupy Wall Street is generally very critical of President Obama, and especially of his appointees like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (who switched from Republican to independent in order to serve under Obama, but did not switch his politics) and former economic adviser Larry Summers. Romney clearly has no idea what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about, if he thinks that the tens of thousands protesting, often facing police violence and risking arrest, are there because of envy. It is, as Lauer put it in his question, about fairness.

In the same New Hampshire speech, Romney said President Obama "wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society". Curious words from a man who salted $3m into a Swiss bank account. His hastily-closed UBS bank account stands out as its own form of European entitlement. Coupled with investments in tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, Romney's effective tax rate was 13.9% in 2010, a fraction of the 35% paid by average middle-class American families that he claims to care so much about.

As Romney campaigns across his 1% nation under God, he moves from Florida, the state with the highest foreclosure rate, to Nevada, the state with the highest unemployment rate. Expect him to increasingly care, if not for the very poor, then for the votes they will likely cast against him.
[Read more...]

State Department jacks up passport fees, imposes $450 fee to renounce US citizenship (2 February 2012)
WASHINGTON - U.S. citizenship is priceless to some, worthless to others. But now the State Department has a dollar figure: U.S. citizenship is worth $450.

At least that's what it will cost you to renounce it.

Under new consular fees published Thursday in the Federal Register, the cost of processing a formal renunciation of U.S. citizenship skyrocketed from $0 to $450. The announcement locks in fee hikes that had been proposed in 2010 and instituted on an interim basis.

The State Department doesn't say how or why it calculated the cost. Citizenship is free for most Americans who are accorded the privilege at birth. The department says only that it "has decided that the renunciant should pay this fee at the visit during which he or she swears the oath of renunciation."

It's also getting more expensive if you want to keep your U.S. citizenship and need a passport to prove it. The application fee for a passport is jumping by 27 percent, from $55 to $70 with a 100 percent increase, from $20 to $40, in the passport security surcharge.
[Read more...]

Portland to pay $1.2 million to settle civil rights suit in Aaron Campbell shooting (1 February 2012)
The city of Portland has agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle a federal civil rights  lawsuit brought by the family of Aaron Campbell, who was shot to death by Portland police two years ago.

Civil rights attorney Tom Steenson said the $1.2 million Campbell settlement is "the most that the city's insurer has ever paid out'' stemming from a lawsuit against the Portland Police Bureau.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams issued an apology to his family, and wrote on his Facebook page:

"As Mayor of the City of Portland, I would like to personally apologize to Aaron Campbell's family, particularly to his mother, Marva Davis, and his four children. Today's settlement does not erase the Campbell family's pain, nor does it bring back their father, son, brother, and cousin--and for that, I am very sorry."
[Read more...]

McGill asbestos study flawed, epidemiologist says (2 February 2012)
A major 40-year study on asbestos safety completed by a group of scientists at McGill University is flawed, lacks transparency and contains manipulated data says Dr. David Egilman, a professor at Brown University, health activist and longtime industry critic.

The study, which followed the health of 11,000 miners and mill workers in Quebec between 1966 and the late 1990s, is used by the Chrysotile Institute -- a lobby arm funded by, overseen and closely associated with both Liberal and Conservative governments -- to promote the use of asbestos overseas.

According to Egilman, as the dangers of asbestos became better known in the 1960s, the industry decided to do its own research and hired Dr. John Corbett McDonald at McGill University's School of Occupational Health. Industry documents obtained by CBC News showed it wanted to conduct research similar to that in the tobacco industry, which stated that "Industry is always well advised to look after its own problems."

"Doubt is their product. They just need to have a little doubt in the dialogue. OK? And doubt allows you to go in and say, OK, maybe they're right, maybe we're right, but nobody's sure," says Egilman, who has been investigating the dangers of asbestos for over two decades.
[Read more...]

Report says Northern Gateway pipeline will create 'price shock' across Canada (2 February 2012)
Enbridge forecast a $2 to $3 annual increase in the price per barrel of crude in its pipeline application to the joint National Energy Board-Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel.

Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway said the company can't comment in detail about the report because it is evidence tabled before the NEB-CEAA at its ongoing pipeline hearings, but it will get a chance to rebut the report in September.

Stanway confirmed, though, the projected price increase in the application.

"The price of oil in Canada is estimated to increase $2 to $3 per barrel as a result of market diversity and exposure to global pricing," he said. "That's correct, but that is taken into account in our estimation of an overall benefit of about $270 billion to the Canadian economy."
[Read more...]

Canadian environment ministers to unveil strategy on monitoring tar sands (2 February 2012)
The panel report said the province should work with Ottawa to ensure there is no duplication of effort. Other recommendations included the creation of a publicly accessible system and increasing input from First Nations.

Oilsands monitoring has been a controversial issue in the province with government officials denying claims of environmental impacts and rejecting scientific reports that slammed the existing industry-funded monitoring system.

University of Alberta water scientist David Schindler and colleagues published a study in August 2010 saying the oilsands industry increases the amount of pollutants in the Athabasca River, contrary to claims made by industry and government. His and other studies prompted the creation of both federal and provincial panels aimed at improving environmental monitoring in the oilsands.

Panel chair Hal Kvisle, former president of TransCanada Corp., said recently the most pressing issues have to do with Alberta's reputation rather than any acute environmental concern.
[Read more...]

Woman wins big after suing Honda over Civic's poor fuel economy (2 February 2012)
LOS ANGELES -- A Southern California woman took Honda to small-claims court and won in a big way.

Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan ruled Wednesday that the automaker misled Heather Peters about the potential fuel economy of her hybrid car and awarded her $9,867 -- much more than the couple hundred dollars cash that a proposed class-action settlement is offering.

"At a bare minimum Honda was aware ... that by the time Peters bought her car there were problems with its living up to its advertised mileage," Carnahan wrote in the judgment.

Honda disagrees with the judgment rendered in the case and plans to appeal the decision, company spokesman Chris Martin said in a statement.
[Read more...]

Yoga instructor on preventing yoga injuries: Avoid these 5 mistakes (2 February 2012)
"I've actually hurt my shoulder washing the dishes," said David Magone, a yoga instructor who teaches workshops at Exhale in Boston. But, he added, he's seen his fair share of yoga injuries in both beginners as well as in experienced practitioners who push their bodies beyond their limits.

Avoiding these five common mistakes can go a long way, Magone said, to preventing yoga injuries.

Mistake #1: Practicing yoga every day. Yoga is a strength-building activity, Magone said, so you need to give your muscles a chance to recuperate and recover from those microtears that occur after every workout. "I recommend doing yoga every other day and supplementing with a cardiovascular workout [running, biking, swimming] on days you don't do yoga," said Magone. "Otherwise your muscles will be exhausted and you're likely to get sloppy and injure yourself."

For those avid yogis who don't want to skip a day away from their postures, Magone recommends focusing on three different sets of postures -- each working a different set of muscle groups -- on consecutive days such as hips on Mondays, back bends on Tuesdays, standing poses on Wednesdays, and then repeating the cycle for the rest of the week.
[Read more...]

California public utilities commission OKs SmartMeter refusal - for a price (2 February 2012)
The opt-out program approved Wednesday requires PG&E customers to pay a one-time fee of $75, plus monthly charges of $10, to hold on to their old meters. PG&E initially wanted $270 up front and $14 per month.

Low-income customers enrolled in the CARE program (California Alternate Rates for Energy) will face an initial fee of $10 and a monthly charge of $5.

The fees infuriate SmartMeter opponents, who say wireless signals from the devices have made them ill, with symptoms including insomnia, heart palpitations and painful ringing in the ears. Paying extra to protect their health, they say, amounts to extortion. They want the entire $2.2 billion SmartMeter program scrapped.

"I'm going to have to leave my house because of you," Sudi Scull of San Francisco told the commission after the 4-0 vote, which prompted shouts of anger from a crowd gathered in the commission's hearing room. Scull said she doubts she could convince her neighbors to pay the opt-out fees, meaning she would still be exposed to transmissions from their meters.
[Read more...]

Virginia Senate passes bill requiring women to undergo ultrasound before abortion (2 February 2012)
RICHMOND -- The Virginia Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would require women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, the first of several legislative measures this year that are expected to dramatically alter abortion law in the state.

Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Senate had rejected similar legislation each year for the past decade, arguing that the bills' intent is to discourage women from the procedure. But now that the body is more conservative, abortion and other social legislation are back to the forefront.

Republicans, in control of both chambers for only the second time since the Civil War, are looking to pass a slew of bills in the 60-day session that take on abortion. They include banning the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, requiring that insurers that cover abortions also offer policies that do not, and giving rights to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Another bill, which will be debated in the House of Delegates on Thursday, would end state subsidies for poor women to abort fetuses that have serious birth defects.

The House has been pushing the abortion legislation for years but only now has sympathetic partners in the Senate and the governor's mansion.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY:  Virginia has restricted its state representatives to very short annual sessions and low salaries, and Virginia law only allows its governor one consecutive term.  The legislature is only in session for a couple of months (or less) each year, unless the governor calls a special session.  

Even with restricting its government so much, Virginia still seems to have trouble limiting the harm that its government causes its people.  In this case the legislature chose to spend its limited time on abortion grandstanding, rather than doing anything to help the underreported unemployment problem in the state.  

Facebook IPO filing has a downside, too (2 February 2012)
For all the concern surrounding Google's behavior today, it's hard to dispute that the founders started with fairly exalted goals - organizing the world's information - and then wrapped a breathtakingly successful business model around them.

With Facebook, it almost feels like the other way around. After Facebook's early success at Harvard, its founders spotted a great business opportunity and showered us with platitudes about "openness" and "connection."

Its young engineers focus their considerable talents on collecting and analyzing reams of personal information to improve the odds you'll click on ads. And it doesn't stop when you leave the site, thanks to "like" and "share" buttons that follow you around the Web.

"Facebook continues to expand its platform and its offerings and, as a result, develops enormous, enormous warehouses of data around their customers and users that are invaluable to advertisers," said Rebecca Lieb, an Altimeter Group analyst focused on digital advertising.

The precise ad targeting enabled by that information is why Facebook now claims nearly 30 percent of online display advertising, having long since blasted past the runner-up in the category, Yahoo, according to ComScore.
[Read more...]

Facebook has outage less than a day after filing paperwork for IPO (2 February 2012)
Talk about bad timing.

Facebook seemed to be having operational issues on Thursday, less than 20 hours after filing paperwork to allow the company to go public this spring, in an IPO that is expected to fetch somewhere between $75 and $100 billion.

On Twitter, another popular social media platform, people immediately began commenting on the unfortunate timing.

"The world is ending... I mean Facebook is down :/" Kim Randall tweeted.
[Read more...]

Health law delivers $2.1 billion in savings on drugs for seniors (2 February 2012)
In the first full year of the new healthcare law, 3.6 million people in the government Medicare program saved $2.1 billion on prescription drugs in 2011, the Obama administration announced Thursday.

The savings are one of the first tangible benefits of the sweeping overhaul that the president signed in March 2010.

The law's biggest changes, including the guarantee that all Americans can get health coverage even if they have a preexisting condition, do not go into effect until 2014.

And Obama and his allies have been laboring to rally support in the face of persistent public skepticism that the law will actually help millions of beleaguered consumers struggling with rising medical bills.

The Medicare prescription drug provision is designed to gradually phase out a gap in coverage for pharmaceuticals that was included in the Part D program when it was created under President George W. Bush.
[Read more...]

Shetland oil drilling contract agreed (2 February 2012)
Oil giant BP has announced a multimillion-pound contract with a specialist offshore engineering firm for the second phase of a massive project off the Shetland Islands.

Subsea 7 will produce new pipelines for the Clair Ridge drilling project where the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet.

The second phase of the giant Clair field forms part of £10 billion being spent on four projects by BP and its partners Shell, ConocoPhillips and Chevron over the next five years.

At their peak, the projects are expected to provide 3,000 oil and gas supply jobs and play a part in sustaining the more than 3,500 jobs in BP's North Sea operations.

The latest contract, which includes a 14km (8.7 mile) gas pipeline, is worth around £63 million.
[Read more...]

Arizona hits Amazon with $53 million tax bill (1 February 2012)
A little more than a year after Texas slapped Amazon.com with a $269 million tax bill, Arizona appears to be joining the national debate over whether the Seattle-based Internet retailer should collect sales taxes from its customers.

Amazon disclosed Wednesday it received a bill from Arizona in November for $53 million, what the state says the company owes in unpaid transaction taxes -- Arizona's version of a sales tax -- for nearly a five-year period.

"The State of Arizona is alleging that we should have collected a transaction tax that is similar to a sales tax on applicable transactions during those years," Amazon said in its annual 10-K regulatory filing. "We believe that the assessment is without merit and intend to vigorously defend ourselves in this matter."

The period for which Arizona is seeking unpaid taxes, plus interest, is March 2006 through December 2010. Amazon has four distribution centers in Arizona, putting its total footprint in the state at more than 4 million square feet.
[Read more...]

Grassley investigates FDA monitoring of whistleblowers (1 February 2012)
A senior Senate Republican has launched an investigation into the Food and Drug Administration's secret e-mail monitoring of scientists who warned that unsafe medical devices were approved over their objections, saying whistleblowers often are treated "like skunks at a picnic."

In a five-page letter released Wednesday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) demands that FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg disclose who authorized the monitoring, how many employees were targeted and whether the agency obtained passwords to their personal e-mail accounts, allowing their communications on private computers to be intercepted. Grassley also wants to know whether the monitoring is still going on.

The letter came in response to Monday's Washington Post report on a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington last week by six current and former FDA scientists and doctors. They allege that the government violated their constitutional privacy rights by monitoring personal communications on Gmail they said were lawful.
"I write to express my concerns over your agency's treatment of whistleblowers as a result of their disclosures to Congress, and specifically disclosures to my office," Grassley, ranking member on the Finance Committee, told Hamburg. "Whistleblowers ... are often treated like skunks at a picnic."
[Read more...]

Oil spreads from wreck of ship off Italy coast (1 February 2012)
A large crack also appeared Wednesday between two large glass panels that formed part of the roof of the massive ship. The film was spreading from a separate part of the ship, apparently the stern.

The ship contains about 500,000 gallons (2,400 tons) of heavy fuel and other pollutants, and fears have grown that those chemicals could damage an environment that is home to dolphins, whales and other marine life.

Authorities are hoping to pump fuel from the ship, but due to bad weather the effort was being suspended again Wednesday. Floating barriers placed around the ship to protect the water were lifted by winds, allowing the oily film from the ship to spread throughout the bay.

The Italian Port Authority said the leak consisted of a thin sheen of hydrocarbons. However, Civil Protection, the agency overseeing the rescue effort, said that for now there doesn't appear to be reason for alarm, noting that over a week ago there was also a leak of a small amount of diesel and lubricants that turned out not to be serious.
[Read more...]

Cops break up Occupy Miami camp (1 February 2012)
Scores of police swept through the downtown location of Occupy Miami Tuesday night, ejecting several dozen demonstrators and arresting a few of them while shutting down the protest camp after three and a half months.

The police, wearing riot gear and banging batons on their plastic shields as they advanced, cleared demonstrators from within half a-dozen blocks of the camp site, on a lawn just west of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center. They also tore down tents and makeshift dwellings left on the site.

The operation was carried out almost completely without violence, though some of the demonstrators said one of their number was clubbed when caught up in an advancing police line.

Six Occupy Miami protesters refused to leave, staying inside a flimsy barricade of plywood and old mattresses. Police detained them briefly, but when they were offered a last chance to walk away without being arrested, they did.
[Read more...]

500-plus sex-abuse claims filed against Milwaukee archdiocese as deadline looms (1 February 2012)
More than 500 people have filed sex abuse claims in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy in advance of today's 4 p.m. deadline. It is the largest number of claims among the eight Catholic dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection since 2004 in response to sex abuse allegations, and on par with a Jesuit bankruptcy that covered five states.

Victims and their attorneys called the numbers staggering and just the tip of the iceberg, noting that statistically only a small percentage of sex abuse victims come forward.

Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski said the church had cast a wide net for victims in compliance with the court's instructions, and had no expectations regarding the numbers that would come in. He reiterated Archbishop Jerome Listecki's assertion that it would seek to bar all claims it is not obligated to cover under bankruptcy law, regardless of whether the abuse occurred.

Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley will consider the first of the archdiocese's motions for summary judgment objecting to three claims from the 1970s and '80s involving two priests and a choir director at a hearing Feb. 9. The archdiocese argues they should be thrown out because they were filed beyond the statute of limitations, involve a victim who received a prior settlement and a perpetrator it says was not a direct employee of the archdiocese.

Victim attorneys have characterized the trio of motions as a test case that, if successful, the archdiocese will use to bar the vast majority of claims in the bankruptcy.
[Read more...]

Senegal: Four Die in Anti-Wade Protests (1 February 2012)
Four people have died in demonstrations since Senegal's Constitutional Court last week ruled that Abdoulaye Wade could run for re-election as president.

A man in his thirties became the latest victim when he died in hospital on Tuesday, according to reports from Suma Assistance, the medical facility where he was being treated. He was injured when a police vehicle drove into a crowd. Police has since denied responsibility for the death of the young man.  

Professor El Hadj Niang, a medical doctor and president of a civil society movement, said in a radio broadcast that police action had been "criminal". He testified that he saw police shooting at an ambulance while he was trying to evacuate a 30-year-old woman who had been shot in the leg.

The protests were authorised by the interior minister and included most other presidential aspirants, both those whose candidature had been approved and others whose applications to stand had been rejected.

The demonstration started at about 3pm and by 7pm the crowd, made up mostly of people of voting age, was already leaving. But at about 7:20pm a crowd of determined youths tried to make their way to the presidential palace. When they were met by heavily-armed troops, there was an exchange of stones and teargas and a young coffee seller was shot in the leg.
[Read more...]

"The House I Live In": New Documentary Exposes Economic, Moral Failure of U.S. War on Drugs (1 February 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: We return to my conversation about the so-called "war on drugs" with director Eugene Jarecki. His film, The House I Live In, won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary this past weekend at Sundance Film Festival. I spoke with Eugene, along with the woman who helped to raise him, one of the film's main characters, Nannie Jeter. I asked him about the costs of the drug war.

EUGENE JARECKI: You know, we've spent, in the years of the drug war--the drug war, as we know it today, started in 1971, when Richard Nixon called it a "drug war." We had had drug laws in this country going back to the 1800s, which we go into in the film a little bit. But it was Nixon who made it a war. And when you make something a war, what comes with that are all the problems that wars bring: profiteering, corruption, fear mongering, victims, aggressors, an industrial sector that emerges.

Just like the weapons business, what we discovered is there is a giant and sort of secret network of people in this country. It's not even that secret. It's just secret if you don't realize it's there. But there's this vast spectrum of people. You know, when you put a prison in a town, that prison needs food facilities, so somebody's got to make the food. And this isn't just about jobs. It's about companies that then service these institutions. You need laundry service. You need phone service. We went to a trade show, for example, where we saw, as if we were looking at people who were selling like plumbing hardware, people selling all the stuff you need to make a bigger, better, stronger, tougher prison.
[Read more...]

Chrysler posts 1st annual net profit since 1997 (1 February 2012)
DETROIT -- Higher sales of Jeeps and other new vehicles propelled Chrysler to its first annual net income since 1997, capping a pivotal turnaround that many thought would never happen.

The U.S. automaker, now privately held and majority owned by Italy's Fiat SpA, earned $183 million last year, reversing a $652 million loss in 2010, its first full year out of bankruptcy protection.

Just three years ago Chrysler was close to running out of cash and heading for the auction house. But a government-funded bankruptcy cut debt and expenses, and Chrysler spent last year rolling out 16 new or revamped models to boost sales. Now the company is expanding into small cars and adding jobs.

Chrysler expects an even better 2012, despite a sluggish and uncertain economy. The company, which sells most of its vehicles in the U.S., predicts it will make about $1.5 billion this year and increase revenue 18 percent.
[Read more...]

Sugar is so toxic that it should be controlled like alcohol, report says (1 February 2012)
Sugar is so toxic it should be controlled like alcohol, according to new report that goes so far as to suggest setting an age limit of 17 years to buy soda pop.

It points to sugar as a culprit behind many of the world's major killers -- heart disease, cancer and diabetes -- that are now a greater health burden than infectious disease.

A little sugar "is not a problem, but a lot kills -- slowly," says the report to be published Thursday in Nature, a top research journal.

Over the eons sugar was available to our ancestors as fruit for only a few months a year at harvest time, or as honey "which was guarded by bees," says the report by Dr. Robert Lustig, a noted childhood obesity expert at the University of California, and two U.S. colleagues specializing in health policy.

Now it is added to "nearly all processed foods." In developing countries, sugary soft drinks are often cheaper than potable water or milk, they say, noting that over the past 50 years, consumption of sugar has tripled worldwide.
[Read more...]

Pfizer recalls a million packets of birth control pills (1 February 2012)
In a terrifying bit of news for women trying to avoid pregnancy, Pfizer Inc. is recalling roughly a million packets of birth control pills that may have inaccurate tablet counts that could also be out of sequence.

Though the mistake won't cause health risks, Pfizer said in a statement that "the daily regimen for these oral contraceptives may be incorrect and could leave women without adequate contraception, and at risk for unintended pregnancy."

Packs of Lo/Ovral-28 and generic Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol pills, labeled under the Akrimax Pharmaceuticals brand, are supposed to have 21 "active" pills with contraceptive hormones and seven "inert" placebos.

But Pfizer said this week that the balance of active to inert tablets in some packs may be inaccurate and that the pills may have been inserted out of order.
[Read more...]

Occupy protesters assemble at Oregon Capitol, plan to protest idea of corporations as people (1 February 2012)
SALEM -- About 80 Occupy demonstrators from Portland, Eugene, Corvallis and other towns converged at the Oregon state capitol this morning, hoping to send a message to legislators: Pass laws on behalf of people, not corporations.

"We are calling on them (legislators) to follow their hearts," said Kristen Potter, a registered nurse from Albany. "Don't follow the money. Don't get your education from corporations."

Protesters said they planned to attend committee meetings and visit legislators this afternoon to advocate for, among other things, a state law that establishes corporations are not people.

They also said they are concerned about whether Oregon legislators are introducing bills, similar to those introduced in other states, that they say benefit corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, environmental protections and health care.
[Read more...]

Ulcer drugs 'link to fractures' (1 February 2012)
Women who take certain ulcer drugs have a small increased risk of hip fractures in later life, particularly if they smoke, US research suggests.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found a link between long-term use of proton pump inhibitors and bone fractures in smokers.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are used to treat heartburn, reflux and ulcers.

A UK expert said the absolute risk was small but gave women another reason not to smoke.
[Read more...]

Leak at nuclear reactor may have vented (1 February 2012)
Small traces of radioactive gas from a leak at the San Onofre nuclear plant may have reached the atmosphere, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday.

A reactor at the nuclear plant 45 miles north of San Diego was shut down on Tuesday when evidence emerged of a leak in a radioactive steam pipe in the plant's recently replaced generator.

Air extractors apparently carried small traces of radioactive gas from the generator area to an unsealed auxiliary building outside the reactor dome, setting off radiation alarms, said NRC spokesman Victor Dricks. The leak and possible escape of gas poses no danger, he said.

"If there was any radiation that escaped from the auxiliary building it would not pose any danger to the workers on site or to the public's health and safety," Dricks said. "It would have been a small fraction of the natural background radiation."

Evidence of a leak caused officials to shut down the southernmost of two reactors late Tuesday.
[Read more...]

Occupy Fairbanks loses toilet but continues protest (1 February 2012)
Occupy Fairbanks protesters say they plan to continue their Wall Street protest into the spring.
The decision comes after the borough had their chemical toilet removed from Veterans Memorial Park last month, and after the group has clashed repeatedly with the borough over camping in the park.

Like the national Wall Street group, the Fairbanks protesters cite a wide range of reasons for devoting long hours in very cold weather to keep the protest alive and visible. Some common themes are concerns about income inequality and civil liberties.
[Read more...]

Canadian firm Osisko halts Argentina mining project (31 January 2012)
The protesters say mining of the Famatina mountain would require a million litres of water a day and the use of cyanide to extract precious metals.

Osisko said Famatina was still only an exploration project, with "no current plan, design or intent for any mining operations".

The company said that the development of the mine was still highly hypothetical, since little was known about the amount, quality and location of its mineral resources.

In a statement published on its website, Osisko said it would prepare an information and consultation programme about the project.
[Read more...]

Jesus statue to stay on federal land in Montana (31 January 2012)
Flathead National Forest officials will let a statue of Jesus remain on a small square of federal land atop the Whitefish Mountain Resort ski area.

Forest Supervisor Chip Weber decided on Tuesday to reauthorize a special use permit for the Knights of Columbus Council No. 1328, which maintains the statue and leases the site. The permit lasts 10 years.

The Jesus statue has stood near the upper end of Chair Two at the ski area since 1955. Last August, a Wisconsin atheist organization challenged the Forest Service permit, arguing it was an unconstitutional state endorsement of religion. The Forest Service initially opted to remove the statue, but suspended that decision for a public review.

"I understand the statue has been a long-standing object in the community since 1955, and I recognize that the statue is important to the community for its historical heritage based on its association with the early development of the ski area on Big Mountain," Weber said on Tuesday. He added the statue's historic value and eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places is in part directly linked to the current physical location of the statue.
[Read more...]

Equipment failure may have caused outage at Byron nuclear plant (31 January 2012)
Officials are investigating what caused a power failure at a nuclear reactor in northern Illinois, but believe they may have traced the problem to a piece of equipment at a switchyard.

After the shutdown Monday morning at Exelon Nuclear's Byron Generating Station, steam was released to cool the reactor from the part of the plant where turbines produce electricity, not from within the nuclear reactor itself, officials said. The steam contains low levels of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, but federal and plant officials insisted the levels were safe for workers and the public.

Exelon Nuclear officials believe a failed piece of equipment at a switchyard at the plant about 95 miles northwest of Chicago caused the shutdown, but they still were investigating an exact cause. The switchyard is similar to a large substation that delivers power to the plant from the electrical grid and from the plant to the electrical grid.

Diesel generators were supplying the reactor with electricity, though it hasn't been generating power during the investigation into what happened. One question is why smoke was seen from an onsite station transformer, though no evidence of a fire was found when the plant's fire brigade responded, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said.
[Read more...]

Gas prices rise, and refinery closures loom (31 January 2012)
Nationally, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.439, up a nickel. The latest average was 33.8 cents above the previous record for the week, set last year, and 77.8 cents higher than the same week in 2010.

Refinery closings were a continuing concern, with the Energy Department noting that the Hovensa refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands would be shutting down.

The closures of Hovensa and two refineries in the Northeast "would collectively cut as much as 50% of current East Coast refining capacity," the Energy Department said in a report last week. In addition, a third Northeast refinery may shut down by mid-2012, the agency said.

Phil Weiss, senior analyst for energy for New York-based Argus Research, said the refinery closings were part of an industrywide move to reduce exposure to low-profit refinery operations. But the practical effect was to leave U.S. motorists with little or no supply cushion should any other refineries have to close because of mishaps or disasters.
[Read more...]

Cuba can't be trusted with oil, Florida says (31 January 2012)
The Cuban government can't be trusted to oversee the safety of oil drilling activity planned 90 miles from the Florida coast, a state official said.

U.S. Coast Guard officials, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Florida lawmakers met to discuss plans for oil exploration in Cuban waters. Spanish energy company Repsol is working with its partners to start drilling for oil off the Cuban coast.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. William Baumgartner, in written testimony, said the United States and Caribbean nations, including Cuba, are party to international conventions on oil spills.

"If a spill occurs within Cuban waters that threatens to impact U.S. waters, shorelines or natural resources, the Coast Guard would mount an immediate response, in partnership with other federal, state and local agencies," he said.
[Read more...]

Occupy Oakland protesters split over violence (31 January 2012)
"When I started to see what was happening Saturday, my heart just broke," Michele Horaney of Alameda, a member of the 99 Percent Solution activist group in the East Bay, said of the Occupy Oakland protest that devolved into an hours-long street battle with police. "There is so much good to be gotten, earned and kept from really solid, sincere efforts to make things change for the better.

"But now," Horaney said, "we've got this group that pretty much just wants to destroy things and make trouble."

Not their fault
For others, though, it's not a matter of protesters committing violence. Any destruction is in reaction to police repression of their efforts to seek economic equality, they say - and if violence happens, it's not really the protesters' fault.

"In any struggle for social justice, the people have been told to shut up and sit down," said Cat Brooks, an active Oakland Occupier. "I believe in a diversity of tactics. If you are fully aware of the risks, then you have to do what you have to do.

"I'm not condoning violence, and I'm not condemning it," she said. "I'm just saying that 99 percent of the time when violence happens, it's police who start it. And you have to do what you have to do."
[Read more...]

Oakland to seek 'stay away' orders against Occupy protesters (31 January 2012)
With more than 400 arrests in the Occupy Oakland protests in recent days and City Hall vandalized, officials will seek "stay away" orders against more than 100 repeat protesters to prevent them from returning.

Mayor Jean Quan told the Oakland Tribune on Monday, in the wake of vandalism and burning of American flags, that the city would seek orders forbidding some protesters from entering Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, and possibly all of downtown Oakland.

Quan also said there has been talk of a counter-demonstration to show public frustration with the movement.

Police arrested about 400 activists during daylong protests Saturday, marking the most heated clash since authorities broke up the movement's encampment in November.
[Read more...]

Occupy D.C. protesters vow to carry on despite camping regulations (31 January 2012)
It had to go, all of it, the bedrolls and blankets and crusty Nalgene bottles, the comfy camp accoutrements that have, over the course of four months, turned McPherson Square into a radical protest experiment, communal living cooperative and REI advertisement.

"Occupy is supposed to mean occupy," says Eric Kovacevic, as he and a companion methodically piled garbage bags full of their assorted stuff -- pillows, clothing, travel-size toiletries -- outside his domed tent. "You know, like [the United States] has occupied other countries."

Kovacevic, 28, came from Minneapolis two months ago to join the Occupy D.C. encampment off K Street NW. On Monday afternoon he was packing up, per orders from the Park Police, who had announced stricter enforcement of the ban on overnight camping. It was a complicated ban. Tents could stay. Tents counted as symbols of political protest. But not the camping equipment inside the tents, which counted as symbols that people were sleeping illegally on government property. Thus, the equipment had to be removed, and the tent flaps had to remain unzipped and the people had to remain awake.

Kovacevic had heard a rumor about alternative sleeping arrangements, like a guy in Virginia who supposedly said he would let the protesters occupy his land. "But that's not really the point," Kovacevic explains.
[Read more...]

After Occupy Norfolk, city weighs public camping ban (31 January 2012)
Occupy Norfolk protesters spent a month camped in a downtown park.

Norfolk's powers that be want make sure that never happens again.

The city manager's office plans to ask the City Council to approve an ordinance that bans overnight camping on public property.

Parks close at sundown, and anyone in one could be arrested on a trespassing charge. But an ordinance that specifically bans camping would help clarify the law, said Lori Crouch, a city spokeswoman.
[Read more...]

Occupy London: evicted protesters criticise bailiffs' 'heavy-handed' tactics (30 January 2012)
Jules Mattsson, the photographer who claims he was punched, told the Guardian the alleged assault was unprovoked. "I went to get a couple of frames of him, and he just hit me." He wrote on Twitter: "I have a right to go about my job covering news without fear of assault."

In video footage apparently taken after the assault is alleged to have taken place, a man said to be the same bailiff is surrounded in his car by protesters who shout at him, hit his windscreen with bottles and attempt to stop him driving away. He then succeeds in moving off with a man apparently still on his bonnet.

One of the protesters, who gave her name only as Anna, said she had hurt her hand when the man drove in her direction. She also claimed that another bailiff had assaulted her. "I'm a photographer; I had one guy smash his fist into my camera. When I wheeled back from that he then ... pushed me back by my face." She added: "The way they were acting was utterly irresponsible."

Rossendales, the private provider whose bailiffs were carrying out the eviction, said they had been appointed by the lawyers of Sun Street Properties, the UBS-owned subsidiary that went to court to evict the activists. In a statement, Alan Smith, the company's high court enforcement and commercial services director, said the protesters had been "verbally abusive" towards his staff and the police.
[Read more...]

Stephen Colbert touts $1 million raised by 'super PAC' (31 January 2012)
Satirist Stephen Colbert's "super PAC" has raised more than $1 million since it was formed last summer, the committee's treasurer said in a letter to the Federal Election Commission.

The letter accompanied required financial filings for 2011, which show that the committee raised $824,305.46 and spent $151,521.01 last year.

The PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, "would like it entered into the record that as of January 30th, 2012, the sum total of our donations was $1,023,121.24," wrote treasurer Shauna Polk.

"Yeah! How you like me now, F.E.C?" Colbert said in a quote that was included in the letter. "I'm rolling seven digits deep! I got 99 problems but a non-connected independent-expenditure only committee ain't one!"
[Read more...]

Calories count, but not where they come from, study (30 January 2012)
The team found no differences in weight loss or fat reductions between the diets.

"The major predictor for weight loss was 'adherence.' Those participants who adhered better, lost more weight than those who did not," Bray told Reuters.

But sticking to a diet is tough, Gardner said. Many of the people who started in Bray's study dropped out, and the diets of those who completed it were not exactly what had been assigned.

For example, the researchers hoped to see two diet groups get 25 per cent of their calories from protein and the other two groups get 15 per cent of their calories from protein. But all four groups ended up getting about 20 per cent of their calories from protein after two years.

"They did have difficulties with adherence, so that really tempers what you can conclude," Gardner told Reuters.

Because many people struggle with dieting, Gardner said, they should select the one that's easiest for them to stick with.
[Read more...]

North Slope jobs increase; nonresidents hired, study finds (31 January 2012)
Starting in December 2008, the oil industry lost 1,700 jobs statewide, or 14 percent of its total work force, over the course of 12 months, Calvin told the committee. Over the next 12 months, it gained back roughly 1,400 jobs.

The last few years have been a "roller coaster" for industry employment, Calvin said. There was a time in 2009 and 2010 where people weren't sure what was happening -- they heard of people losing their jobs and companies sitting idle, but they also heard job numbers were up, he added. "All that's kind of right. ... It was a very, very dynamic environment."

Overall, Calvin said, the oil industry has been "one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy," adding 5,000 jobs since 2004, about 4,000 of them on the North Slope. Monthly employment on the North Slope was at "all-time highs" in November and December 2011, with more than 9,000 jobs.
[Read more...]

Hearings on Hinckley continue (31 January 2012)
Would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jnr has engaged in 'risky' relationships with married and psychotic women and may still pose a risk to society, according to a psychiatrist who is an expert in risk assessment for assassins.

Hearings to determine whether Hinckley should be allowed more free time outside of St Elizabeth's Hospital to visit his elderly mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, is entering its tenth day today.

The 56-year-old tried to kill President Ronald Reagan in March 1981 outside a Washington hotel to try and impress actress Jodie Foster. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has been in mental hospital ever since.

Yesterday, Dr Robert Phillips testified that he is opposed to Hinckley being given more free time from the hospital he has been treated in the last three decades, citing concerns about the risks his relationships with women may cause.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY:  He could be looking at assassination books because that's a part of who he is now.  He may be trying to understand himself or his past, or get an idea of what people think of him now.  Clearly, the man needs to be interviewed by ME to get his perspective on it all!

Japan's population to fall by third in 50 years (31 January 2012)
Japan's government yesterday released stark new evidence that the nation is on the brink of a demographic crisis, forecasting that its population will shrink by 30 per cent in the next half-century, while soaring life expectancy will further burden the state.

The report estimates that by 2060 the number of people in the Asian powerhouse will have fallen from 128 million to about 87 million, of which almost 40 per cent will be 65 or older. The report by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research warns that by 2110 the number of Japanese could plummet to 42.9 million -- a third of the current population -- "if things remain unchanged".

Japan's population began falling in 2004 and is ageing faster than any other on the planet. More than 22 per cent of Japanese are already 65 or older and women will have roughly 1.3 children, well below the population replacement rate. Experts have warned for years that the inverted population pyramid is a harbinger of economic and social disaster, but the institute's prediction is one of the grimmest yet.

The report will also have ramifications for other developed nations grappling with similar logistics of citizens having smaller families and living longer. "This is Japan's biggest problem," said Florian Coulmas, who heads the Tokyo-based German Institute for Japanese Studies. "It affects every aspect of the country's society, economy, culture and polity. Japan is ahead of the rest of the world. That requires adjustments that no other country has had to make in the absence of war, epidemics or famine. But Japanese politics is totally incompetent. The politicians haven't woken up to the fact that this is a national crisis."

Japan's low birthrate is not seriously out of kilter with the rest of the developed world, but the country is unusual among its economic competitors in shunning mass immigration -- roughly 2 per cent of the population is classed as "foreign".
[Read more...]

British Navy's most sophisticated warship deployed to Falkland Islands (31 January 2012)
"It can shoot down Argentine fighters as soon as they take off from they bases," said another Navy source. "This will give Buenos Aires serious pause for thought."

The deployment, expected in late March, comes as Argentina has stepped up its sabre rattling over possession of the islands with a ban on all Falkland registered ships in South American ports.

Tension between Britain and Argentina over the disputed South Atlantic islands has been rising again as the 30th anniversary of the war approaches and British companies drill for oil in waters surrounding the islands.

Jeremy Browne, the British Foreign Office minister responsible for relations with Latin America, is due to visit the islands in June to take part in the commemoration of Britain's recapture of the islands from occupying Argentine troop
[Read more...]

Cape Cod dolphin strandings a mystery (31 January 2012)
BREWSTER -- It's been a bad couple of weeks for dolphins, but the worst is over.

At least 86 common dolphins have stranded along the beaches and marshes of Cape Cod Bay since mid-January. The International Fund for Animal Welfare released 24 back into the open ocean, mostly from beaches in Provincetown.

The last two dolphins turned up on Monday. One was in the Wellfleet marshes and died shortly after it was found. The second swam deep into the marsh at Rock Harbor, between Eastham and Orleans. Volunteers and staff from IFAW guided it back up Rock Harbor Creek and it swam into Cape Cod Bay. Unfortunately, it just traveled parallel to the shore and wound up beached near Crosby Landing in Brewster where it died.

"The second was still swimming in the water," said A.J. Cady, senior program advisor at IFAW. The dolphin had appeared healthy but it never went back to deeper water.

"Out of the others 34 were alive, and 50 were dead total," Cady said. "Of the ones that were alive we were able to release 24. And about 16 were reported (near shore) but we didn't have confirmation on them."
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY:  Often when marine mammals beach and die for "no apparent reason," they've been injured by Navy sonar.

Navy's use of sonar again at issue in federal lawsuit, now in Pacific Northwest (30 January 2012)
A coalition of American Indian and environmental groups is challenging the U.S. Navy's use of sonar in training along the West Coast.

The groups include Earthjustice, several tribes, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC has been tussling with the National Marine Fisheries Service for more than a dozen years over how the Navy conducts training in Southern California waters. This new lawsuit challenges permits for Navy training from Washington state down to California.

The U.S. Navy uses federal waters divided into regions for submarine warfare training, surface-to-air missile practice, and other forms of testing. NRDC's Zak Smith argues that the National Marine Fisheries Service should do more to protect against the threat sonar poses to whales, dolphins, and other animals migrating in the Pacific Ocean.

"We know generally the parameters and time periods when those occur," Smith said. "And putting limitations on where the Navy can use solar just during those time periods could have a huge benefit to those species that migrate from the pacific northwest region through southern California waters."

Smith says migratory whales and dolphins swim between California and that region. He says federal officials must minimize the harm from sonar to marine mammals.
[Read more...]

Snakes blamed for 'severe declines' in Florida wildlife (30 January 2012)
WASHINGTON -- Across southern Florida, rabbits, raccoons, bobcats and foxes have been disappearing at dramatic rates over the past decade, and invasive Burmese pythons are to blame, a US study said Monday.

The big snakes which are native to southeast Asia have been devouring all kinds of wildlife leading to "severe declines" in once common animals, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The United States formally banned the import of Burmese pythons earlier this month, but the study suggests they have already caused enormous damage to the ecosystem in the Florida Everglades with unknown implications for the future.

The research was based on data from surveys in which dead and live animals are counted along roadways.
[Read more...]

The Invisible War: New Film Exposes Rape, Sexual Assault Epidemic in U.S. Military (30 January 2012) [DN]
KORI CIOCA: Coast Guard Investigators. They told me that I was not going to report the rape as rape, because he admitted to having consensual sex with me, although hitting me during it. So, they made me change my statement. They made other petty officers change their statement.

AMY GOODMAN: Other petty officers had said you'd been raped?

KORI CIOCA: They had seen him grab me, touch me, because it got physical. Even before this, he would find ways to touch me or like just--when we were in a hallway, just almost grind up against me, just any kind of vulgar way. And it's like when I would lash out and get upset and get angry, it like turned him on. He thought it was funny. And it almost fueled his fire.

AMY GOODMAN: Kirby Dick, this is not unusual. In the film, you point out 20 percent of all servicewomen have been assaulted while serving.

KIRBY DICK: Yeah, the number may be even higher than that, but yeah. I mean, these are from Department of Defense statistics that we're talking about. I mean, the military has known about this for a long, long time, and they have really--I mean, the problem is, is this perpetrator, this assailant, has probably gone on to do this to other women, probably did it to other women before. I mean, rapists--most rapists are serial rapists. And in the military, when they have the kind of authority that someone above an enlisted person has, they can do exactly what they did with Kori, which is order them into positions, go ahead and rape them, and then they're the ones who are believed, because they have the higher rank.
[Read more...]

Irked by abortion bill, Va. senator adds rectal exams for men (30 January 2012)
The state Senate this afternoon gave preliminary approval for legislation that would require pregnant women to undergo ultrasound imaging before an abortion, but not before rejecting a Democratic senator's attempt to add what she described as " a little gender equity" to the bill.

Democrat Janet Howell of Fairfax County proposed requiring men to undergo a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before getting prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra.

"This is a matter of basic fairness," Howell said.

Senate Bill 484 would require a pregnant woman to undergo ultrasound imaging to determine the gestational age of the fetus, and be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound image, before having an abortion. The proposed law also requires the abortion provider to keep a printed copy of the ultrasound image in the patient's file.
[Read more...]

Study confirms value of close friendships to health (30 January 2012)
Bukowski and his team looked for levels of cortisol in the children as an indicator of stress levels.

Bukowski's participants who were with their best friends showed lower levels of the hormone during stressful situations.

"We knew what the experiences the kids were having through their journals, so we could monitor the cortisol levels of both positive and negative experiences," he said.

The researchers found no discernible gender difference between boys and girls and their best friends.
[Read more...]

Cuban communists OK term limits for party and government officials (30 January 2012)
Cuba's Communist Party Sunday cleared the way for a long-term renovation of its Central Committee that might hint at the island's future leaders, while Raúl Castro issued a strong call for openness within the party and mass media -- but only up to a point.

Closing a first-ever National Conference of the party, Castro as expected also confirmed that party and government officials will be limited to two five-year terms. He and brother Fidel have ruled Cuba since 1959.

Conference delegates also unanimously approved replacing up to 20 percent of the 115 Central Committee members over the next five years, a move that could shine a spotlight on younger leaders that will succeed the 80-year-old Castro.

Overall, however, the two-day conference fulfilled Castro's caution earlier this month that Cubans should not have too many "illusions" about the two-day, closed-door gathering of more than 800 delegates.

Castro spoke several times about the need to support and carry out the ambitious open-market reforms approved in April by a party congress -- its supreme form of gathering -- to rescue the Soviet styled economy from the doldrums.
[Read more...]

The suppressed EPA dioxin report (30 January 2012) [AJ]
Dioxin is the most toxic man-made chemical known regarding damage to health and the environment.  The EPA has withheld a study about dioxin for decades in order to protect large industries that produce dioxin while manufacturing herbicides and pesticides, plastics, chlorine, bleach, and other chemicals.  In addition, industrialized agriculture (Big Ag) has pressured the EPA to withhold the report because dioxin becomes concentrated in animal products like meat, eggs and dairy.

The non-cancer portion of the EPA report is due out by the end of January 2012, with the cancer portion to follow at some unspecified date.

Dioxin is an umbrella term for a class of super toxic chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, liver disease, immune system damage and many other health problems.  There is no safe 'threshold' dose as our bodies have zero defense against dioxin, according to health consultant Jonathan Campbell.

Dioxin has a half life of over 100 years in the environment when it is below the surface or dumped in waterways.
[Read more...]

Commerce Department, siding with SolarWorld, finds 'massive' surge of Chinese solar panel shipments ahead of potential U.S. tariffs (30 January 2012)
Chinese companies have sent a "massive" surge of solar panels into the United States ahead of tariffs requested by U.S. manufacturers, the U.S. Commerce Department said Monday, handing SolarWorld another victory in its trade complaint against China.

The agency's preliminary determination of "critical circumstances" means that if SolarWorld wins its case, tariffs would be imposed retroactively on Chinese products entering the U.S. market. As early as March 2, if SolarWorld prevails in the next U.S. decision on the case, importers would have to begin posting bonds or cash to cover tariffs that could be imposed in a final determination.

SolarWorld Industries America Inc., which employs 1,000 in Hillsboro making solar wafers, cells and panels, leads a coalition of U.S. manufacturers that contends Beijing illegally subsidizes Chinese companies, enabling them to dump products in the United States at unfair prices in an attempt to corner the market. Chinese solar companies, and China's government, deny the charges, which have split the U.S. solar industry, pitting manufacturers against installers and others who benefit from inexpensive panels.

"This is the first time the department has ever applied 'critical circumstances' before a preliminary determination" on a countervailing-subsidies case, said Greg Stanko, a spokesman working with SolarWorld and the manufacturers' coalition. "It confirms our report from last week that the Chinese were pushing product into the U.S. market to avoid tariffs."
[Read more...]

Odyne sells hybrid system for utility trucks in Milwaukee, Chicago (30 January 2012)
Odyne's hybrid propulsion technology can be applied to a new and existing commercial work trucks. Dueco Inc. of Waukesha sold and applied the Odyne system to the seven vehicles under the initiative, which was funded by the federal stimulus package.

"The implementation of this technology in the Wisconsin Clean Transportation Program has resulted in efforts not only to reduce our nation's dependence on petroleum, but to additionally improve air quality and develop statewide economic opportunities," said Lorrie Lisek, executive director of Wisconsin Clean Cities Southeast Area.

Milwaukee County's four Dueco Inc. work trucks will be used to maintain traffic signals and street lights. The hybrid system enables that type of work to done, without relying on the truck's idling engine to power the truck-mounted crane.

Odyne hybrid systems are modular and can be applied to a wide range of new and existing commercial work vehicles. Odyne hybrid systems are sold through a worldwide distribution network. DUECO, Inc., of Waukesha, Wisconsin sold and applied the advanced system to the seven vehicles under the Wisconsin Clean

Last week, Odyne delivered a digger derrick using the hybird system to Commonwealth Edison Co. of Chicago. The hybrid digger derrick was funded in part by a $4 million award ComEd received in federal economic stimulus funding to expand its alternative-fuel fleet.
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Some Occupy D.C. protesters appear set to stay in McPherson Square (30 January 2012)
Just after protesters in McPherson Square erected a large blue tarp over the statue of Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson on Monday afternoon, U.S. Park Police notified the public that long-standing camping regulations at both Occupy D.C. camps were in effect.

Though some protesters had packed up belongings ahead of the noon deadline, which stipulated that all bedding and camping gear be removed from the camps, others were clearly ready to defend their makeshift homes in the four-month-old encampment.

Signs of rebellion included vandalized Park Service fliers outlining the regulations -- "NOT HAPPENING" was scrawled over one -- and a group of protesters huddling under the tarp -- dubbed the "tent of dreams" -- at the fenced-off center of the park. Others loudly told Park Service officers that they were not welcome in the camp as officers took inventory of their equipment.

U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said Monday afternoon that no protesters had been arrested and that he would give no timeline for arrests, including for the 30 or so protesters hunkered down under the blue tarp, though he did say that the protesters were violating park rules.
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Police arrest two Occupy Tampa protesters they say confronted officers (30 January 2012)
TAMPA -- Two Occupy Tampa protesters were arrested Sunday night and accused of trying to fend off police efforts to keep a rally away from busy traffic, authorities said.

Tampa police said they got calls about 8:40 p.m. saying that about 50 protesters were blocking the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and Dale Mabry Highway. The callers said they were concerned the protesters might be struck by traffic. Officers arrived and said most of the protesters left.

But one, Marisol Marouani of Tampa, refused orders to get out of traffic and was arrested after a brief struggle, police said.

Another, Seth Collins of Tampa, approached an officer with clenched fists, police said.
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New Zealand Wellington, Christchurch protesters evicted (30 January 2012)
"It's a very tense atmosphere here up on the City to Sea Bridge, security guards are dismantling tents," she told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking.

"The protestors threw up a bit of a fight at first but seem to be following orders at the moment."

Police have also reportedly started moving in on the Occupy Christchurch site at Hagley Park.

However the evictions this morning don't seem to have dampened the resolve of the protesters.

In an earlier statement, Occupy Wellington said it would continue the occupation despite the council's efforts to remove them, even if it remains continuing the protest without their tents and structures.
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Cactus may offer cure for poisoned Valley cropland (30 January 2012)
The prickly pear cactus may not sound like a trendy cash crop, but it could become a phenomenon among farmers on the arid west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The cactus can grow in the west-side's salty soils, drink briny water and live just fine in very dry times. But the real attraction: As it grows, the cactus slowly absorbs and cleans up a chemical villain in the soil -- selenium.

Selenium in irrigation drainage widely killed and maimed wildlife during the 1980s at Kesterson Reservoir on the Valley's west side. Before that, selenium was known only as an essential natural element in animals and people -- in small doses.

Then The Bee broke the story about mega-doses of selenium causing the disaster and suddenly, the New York Times and "60 Minutes" were on the case. West-side agriculture has been scrambling for a cleanup ever since.

No silver bullet has been found yet, partly because the problem is more than just selenium. West side land also is slowly being poisoned by salts from irrigation water that can't be drained away.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY:  Selenium is needed as a trace mineral.  Several birth defects, including cystic fibrosis, have been linked to a prenatal selenium deficiency.

Last dotterel affected by Rena spill dies (28 January 2012)
The last native New Zealand dotterel kept in captivity after the Rena oil spill has died.

Dotty, a female dotterel, was one of 60 dotterels taken from the wild in October after the container ship Rena struck the Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga.

The ship released 350 tonnes of oil into the sea, killing thousands of birds and leaving several hundred more oiled and in desperate need of help. The endangered dotterels were brought into captivity as a precaution, before the oil reached their habitat.

While most were returned to Maketu Spit late last year Dotty was brought to Massey University in Palmerston North because she had a respiratory infection.

She was one of a number of dotterels suffering from the infection, and several had already died. However Dotty was on a new course of treatment and appeared to be responding well until this week.
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Anatomy of a phishing attempt (28 January 2012)
The cyberscum who seek to pilfer your personal information have many ways to lure victims into their traps, and a favorite is the phishing scam -- bogus emails that link to a rogue site into which the hapless type private data.

The creators of these emails try their best to make them look authentic, and they'll often theme them around news events. For example, shortly after last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, scammers began flooding inboxes with fake charity emails. Anyone who typed credit card information into the site linked from those phishing attempts donated only to the criminals' coffers.

Fortunately, most phishing scams are badly done, and anything more than a cursory glance will make it obvious that they're, well, phishy.

Now it's U.S. tax time, and you're starting to see email scams invoking the Internal Revenue Service. One of these recently landed in some inboxes here at the Mighty Houston Chronicle, and I thought it might be useful to deconstruct it to highlight the telltale signs of a phishing attempt.
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Occupy DC plan to resist Monday noon eviction deadline (30 January 2012)
On Sunday, one protester was stunned by police with a taser for tearing down notices of the deadline.

The Washington DC camps at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza are Occupy's most visible sites after the one in New York was closed in November.

The deadline follows mass arrests and clashes with police at anti-Wall Street protests in Oakland, California.

In Washington, notices handed out by police warned: "If camping violations are observed, individual violators may be subject to arrest and their property subject to seizure as evidence.

"Any temporary structure used for camping also will be subject to seizure as an abatement of a public nuisance."
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California Governor Brown's plan on shelter law stirs backlash (30 January 2012)
Californians love their pets, so it's no surprise that Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to roll back major portions of a state law aimed at protecting stray and abandoned animals from death has sparked outrage.

The fury spread quickly last week after the animal rights group Dog Park Media posted a video of the law's author, former state Sen. Tom Hayden, asking Brown to reconsider the repeal of major provisions of SB1785. The law, passed in 1998, requires shelters to hold dogs and cats for four to six days before they can be killed; to post lost-and-found lists so owners can locate lost pets; and, if they are holding an animal for only four days, to stay open some evenings and weekends to allow owners an opportunity to pick up lost pets after business hours. It also extended protections to animals other than dogs and cats, such as rabbits.

All of those provisions would be repealed to cut spending by millions of dollars under Brown's plan. Shelters could euthanize an animal after just 72 hours, regardless of whether they had been open to the public during that time.

Petition to halt repeal
Over the past week, more than 5,200 people have signed an online petition opposing the rollback. Some supporters of the law also got personal: They launched a Facebook page called "Sutter's Friends," named for Brown's Pembroke Welsh Corgi, which is often photographed with the governor and has his own Twitter feed and Facebook page.
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UK's Big six energy suppliers targeted by protesters against fuel poverty (30 January 2012)
Offices of energy companies, local government and housing providers were targeted by protesters over the weekend in a series of co-ordinated nationwide activities to fight rising fuel prices and the increasing number of people forced into fuel poverty.

Protesters from the Fuel Poverty Action Group organised "Winter Warm Ups" outside offices of the big six firms -- EDF, British Gas, Eon, Npower, Scottish Power and Southern & Scottish Energy -- and at town halls where local councils were accused of not providing decent quality housing and insulation.

British Gas owner Centrica is next month expected to announce profits of £566m for last year. But profits will be down compared with 2010's record figures of £742m after the company revealed it has been losing 1,800 customers a day in the wake of a series of gas and electricity price hikes last year.

Anger has been growing as well-publicised falls in the price of wholesale energy have not being passed on to customers. Since peaking last summer, wholesale gas prices have fallen by 31 per cent, while electricity has fallen by 28 per cent.
[Read more...]

One protester tased, arrested at Occupy D.C. (29 January 2012)
Protesters said Park Police had been passing out flyers warning that at noon Monday they will begin enforcing a longstanding ban on camping overnight in the square and Freedom Plaza.

The arrested protester, who is known as "Lash," became angry when police entered his tent on Sunday to give him one of the pink flyers, according to Tracy Keith, 49, a researcher from Raleigh, N.C., who has been in the square for several months.

"He told them: 'Get out of here, get out of my tent. You've already given us enough of these,'" Keith said. He said the protester ripped up the flyer and followed the police around the encampment tearing down other flyers until the confrontation escalated and police forced him to the ground stunned him with the Taser.

Keith said the protester passed out and vomited. Other protesters became angry and demanded that police summon an ambulance. Instead, a police vehicle arrived to transport the protester.
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FDA staffers sue agency over surveillance of personal e-mail (29 January 2012)
The Food and Drug Administration secretly monitored the personal e-mail of a group of its own scientists and doctors after they warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that they believed posed unacceptable risks to patients, government documents show.

The surveillance -- detailed in e-mails and memos unearthed by six of the scientists and doctors, who filed a lawsuit against the FDA in U.S. District Court in Washington last week -- took place over two years as the plaintiffs accessed their personal Gmail accounts from government computers.

Information garnered this way eventually contributed to the harassment or dismissal of all six of the FDA employees, the suit alleges. All had worked in an office responsible for reviewing devices for cancer screening and other purposes.

Copies of the e-mails show that, starting in January 2009, the FDA intercepted communications with congressional staffers and draft versions of whistleblower complaints complete with editing notes in the margins. The agency also took electronic snapshots of the computer desktops of the FDA employees and reviewed documents they saved on the hard drives of their government computers.
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Food stamp bills seek to restrict junk food (29 January 2012)
But Storms noted that the other opponents had been the lobbyists for big business: the Corn Refiners of America, the Florida Beverage Assn., the Florida Petroleum Marketers and the Convenience Store Assn.

"Why is that? Because they know they are raking it in from food stamps," Storms said.

Nationwide, the pushback has come from a rather odd coalition of activist groups and the food industry. In July, a group that included the National Council of La Raza, the Snack Food Assn. and the Frozen Potato Products Institute issued a statement asking the federal government to "preserve food choice" for the poor.

One key objection raised by the coalition -- an objection the USDA echoed in its denial of New York's demonstration project -- is the possibility that further restrictions might lead to further stigma. Feeling ashamed or uncomfortable about being on public assistance, advocates believe, may deter people from signing up for food aid. Alleviating such discomfort is one reason SNAP recipients now use electronic benefit cards similar to debit cards, instead of the old paper stamps, which easily identified shoppers on public assistance.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY:  Despite the fact that my cookbook has no added sugar, I think it's just plain mean to deprive poor kids of a cookie!  What, they can't have dessert until the economy picks up?

"Nearly 400 people were arrested" in California:  Police clash with Occupy Oakland protest (29 January 2012)
(01-29) 10:09 PST OAKLAND -- Oakland police on Saturday fired tear gas and flash grenades at hundreds of Occupy supporters who tried to seize the long-closed Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center as their movement's new home. Nearly 400 people were arrested, police said.

Skirmishes between police in riot gear and demonstrators throwing paint cans and bottles erupted after a peaceful march that brought more than 1,000 of the young movement's supporters to downtown Oakland.

The situation remained fluid well after dark, with police and demonstrators facing off on the downtown's otherwise empty streets. At one point, protesters broke into City Hall and vandalized the ground floor, overturning a model of the city and damaging an exhibit of children's art.

Three officers suffered minor injuries. One woman was shot in the back at point-blank range with a beanbag gun and was hurried away by fellow demonstrators, her condition unknown. Oakland police called for reinforcements from nearby law enforcement agencies.
[Read more...]

Oakland to assess damage after Occupy protests (29 January 2012)
Oakland officials assessed damage to City Hall caused by Occupy protesters while leaders of the movement claimed Sunday that police acted illegally in arresting hundreds of demonstrators and could face a lawsuit.

Mayor Jean Quan was among those inspecting damage caused after dozens of people broke into City Hall on Saturday, smashing glass display cases, spray-painting graffiti, and burning an American flag.

That break-in culminated a day of clashes between protesters and police. Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said nearly 400 people were arrested on charges ranging from failure to disperse and vandalism. At least three officers and one protester were injured.

In a news release Sunday, the Occupy Oakland Media Committee criticized the police conduct, saying that most of the arrests were made illegally because police failed to allow protesters to disperse.

"Contrary to their own policy, the OPD gave no option of leaving or instruction on how to depart. These arrests are completely illegal, and this will probably result in another class action lawsuit against the OPD, who have already cost Oakland $58 million in lawsuits over the past 10 years," the release said.
[Read more...]

Escaped slaves may have lived in Great Dismal Swamp (29 January 2012)
Stories of slaves hiding in the Great Dismal Swamp have been a part of Tidewater lore since Colonial times. Published accounts before the Civil War spoke of maroons - called "sable outlaws" by one writer - who disappeared into the morass.

In the years before the Civil War, the swamp was part of the Underground Railroad that helped African Americans find their way north to freedom.

But for generations, those stories were all that remained of maroon communities; physical evidence didn't exist.

Were the communities real? Where did the maroons live? How did they survive?

Enter Dan Sayers, an archaeologist who is convinced he's solved the mystery.

The plot of high ground deep in the swamp that he's dubbed "the nameless site" holds the key.
[Read more...]

Christmas trees put in Ohio reservoir to lure fish (29 January 2012)
DEERFIELD, Ohio -- Scores of Christmas trees are being repurposed as an underwater attraction for fish in a northeastern Ohio reservoir.

The Record-Courier in Ravenna reports workers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently unloaded scores of trees near Berlin Lake, about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland. The trees are laid in the water in hopes of attracting fish that use them as cover and for spawning and foraging.

The Ohio State University Extension Office says such artificial structures like the ones created by the trees can improve success for fishermen by luring fish to a specific area.
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Inside Congress, no one beats the beet lobby (29 January 2012)
With roughly 500,000 acres of sugar beets planted across Minnesota and North Dakota, American Crystal Sugar is the nation's largest producer of refined sugar through beet farming. It generates 15 percent of the country's sugar supply.

But much of the cooperative's financial success is cultivated in Washington D.C.

American Crystal Sugar has become one of the country's most powerful lobbying groups, doling out cash contributions to lawmakers at levels approaching big-business groups like the American Bankers Association. And it's all for a single objective: To guarantee tariffs and price supports allow sugar beet farmers to make money, even if it drives the cost of sugar above the global market.

"They're considered one of the strongest lobbies there is," said Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association, a candy-makers group which has fought in vain against the sugar program.

Price supports for beet sugar inflate sugar prices for food makers and restaurants, costs the food industry often passes on to consumers in everything from candy and cakes to cereal and soda pop. Some economists estimate that Americans pay at least $1 billion more for sugar a year than they would in an open market.
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Indiana welfare drug testing bill withdrawn after lawmakers included (28 January 2012)
McMillan's bill includes a "tiered" testing system, by which some people can opt out of random testing, but will be tested if the government deems that there is "reasonable suspicion" that they may be engaged in drug use. Testing could be triggered by an applicant's demeanor, arrest or conviction for a crime, or failure to make appointments mandated by the welfare office.

No compelling evidence exists that individuals on public assistance or more likely to engage in drug use or other illegal behaviors and yet Republicans in more than 30 states have attempted to institute a drug testing requirement to receive benefits. Some laws have even attempted to make it impossible to collect food stamps or unemployment benefits without being tested.

The amendment to the Indiana bill was proposed by Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend), who said, "After it passed, Rep. McMillin got pretty upset and pulled his bill. If anything, I think it points out some of the hypocrisy. If we're going to impose standards on drug testing, then it should apply to everybody who receives government money."
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Oil pipeline plan also has foes in Canada (27 January 2012)
The fear of oil spills is especially acute in this pristine corner of northwest British Columbia, with its snowcapped mountains and deep ocean inlets. Oil is still leaking from the Queen of the North, a ferry that sank off nearby Hartley Bay six years ago.

The seas nearby, in the Douglas Channel, "are very treacherous waters," says David Suzuki, a leading environmentalist. "You take a supertanker that takes miles in order in stop - an accident is absolutely inevitable."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada's national interest makes the $5.5 billion pipeline essential. He was "profoundly disappointed" that President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL, at least for now, but also spoke of the need to diversify the oil industry. Ninety-seven percent of Canadian oil exports now go to the U.S.

But the environmental objections toward a pipeline to Texas apply equally to the Pacific pipeline, and the review panel says more than 4,000 people have signed up to testify. The atmosphere has turned acrimonious, with National Resources Minister Joe Oliver claiming "environmental and other radical groups" are out to thwart Canada's economic ascent.

Environmentalists and First Nations (a Canadian synonym for native tribes) could delay approval all the way to the Supreme Court, and First Nations still hold title to some of the land the pipeline would cross.
[Read more...]

Aboriginal Protesters Burn Flag at Australian Parliament (28 January 2012)
On Friday, January 27, the fallout from a contingent of aboriginal protestors of the tent embassy continued as more than 200 of them marched on the Nation's Parliament House and proceeded to burn the Australian Flag according to an article by The Washington Post.

The day before the marchers surrounded a Canberra restaurant where Prime Minister Julia Gillard was, creating a situation where Gillard had to be led away by her bodyguards.

The protests surround what is known as Australian Day, or to aboriginals as the day the British colonists invaded the country.

Unlike the situation on Thursday when things became out of control quick, the protests on Friday were controlled according to an article by the Herald Sun.
[Read more...]

Occupy Oakland: Police arrest 300, officials decry 'illegal activity' while organizers say "thousands of buildings sit empty" to enrich the 1% (29 January 2012)
Police in riot gear faced off with demonstrators Saturday afternoon at a rally near City Hall. Hundreds of protesters then marched toward the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, where they began tearing down the fencing around the auditorium, and police moved to stop them.

By 3 p.m., an area to the west near the Oakland Museum of California was declared an illegal assembly as a thick line of officers attempted to disperse the protesters. Police fired tear gas and flash grenades, and some demonstrators responded by throwing rocks and bottles, according to news reports.

A number of arrests occurred when demonstrators "ignored the dispersal order and assaulted officers," police said. Three officers were reported injured, but no details were released about the injuries.

After demonstrators failed to take over the convention center, dozens ran into the YMCA in the 2300 block of Broadway, where police moved in and began making additional arrests.
[Read more...]

Abu-Jamal moved into general prison population for first time (29 January 2012)
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been moved into the general prison population for the first time since going on death row for the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said Abu-Jamal was moved Friday from the restricted housing unit at the Mahanoy facility in Frackville, Schuylkill County.

In the restricted housing unit, Abu-Jamal had largely been in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day.

Abu-Jamal was convicted of the 1981 shooting death of Faulkner. His death sentence was overturned last year, allowing for his transfer into the general prison population.
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Mumia Abu-Jamal FLASHBACK #1: Mumia Abu-Jamal Spared Death Penalty After Prosecutors Drop 30-Year Bid for Execution (8 December 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: That was former death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Again, prosecutors have decided not to pursue the death penalty in Mumia Abu-Jamal's case. He instead will be given life without parole. Before we turn to Bishop Tutu, Renée Feltz, the significance of not reopening the case in a sentencing hearing?

RENÉE FELTZ: Well, Amy, there were a lot of questionable things about how he was convicted and the evidence that was presented. Many people say the evidence used to convict him was collected by police officers who were later convicted of corruption on other charges in other cases. None of that is going to go before a new jury now.

Now, there's a court of--there's the court, a legal court, a criminal court, and then there's the court of public opinion. And we have to look at some of the politics around this case. Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor, until very recently, 2011, is now a major player in the Democratic Party. And people say that he doesn't want to have some of the dirty laundry in this case be dug up again as he tries to rise higher in the political party. Some people say he even has aspirations to become vice president with President Obama.
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Mumia Abu-Jamal FLASHBACK #2: Former Mafia hit-man Arnold Beverly confesses to killing Officer Faulkner (8 June 1999)
I, ARNOLD R. BEVERLY, state that the following facts are true and correct: I was present when police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed in the early morning hours of December 9, 1981 near the corner of Locust and 13th Streets. I have personal knowledge that Mumia Abu-Jamal did not shoot police officer Faulkner.

I was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner. I had heard that Faulkner was a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area.

Faulkner was shot in the back and then in the face before Jamal came on the scene. Jamal had nothing to do with the shooting.

Before the shooting, I was shown a picture of Faulkner and told that Faulkner was supposed to check something at Johnny Ds (at 13th and Locust) sometime in the early morning hours of December 9.

Two of us were hired for the shooting so that either of us could take the opportunity to make the hit, get the job done, and leave. The other guy gave me a .38 caliber policeman's special and I was also carrying my own .22 caliber revolver.
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Mumia Abu-Jamal FLASHBACK #3: Mumia Abu-Jamal originally a rising star in journalism (31 July 2006)
In the early 1970s, Mumia attended Goddard College in Vermont. At that time the FBI, in yet another attempt to get Mumia, outlandishly tried to frame him up for the murder of the governor of Bermuda and his aide. Fortunately, Mumia was protected by the fact that he had an ironclad alibi. When he returned to Philadelphia in the mid '70s, Mumia took up a career as a radio journalist. And he quickly acquired a reputation for his coverage of police abuse.

As a journalist, Mumia was called the "Voice of the Voiceless." He was described as speaking of the "triumphs and tragedies of poor and oppressed Black and Hispanic people with passion and eloquence--in both English and the Spanish language." He interviewed basketball star Julius Erving, Bob Marley, Puerto Rican independistas, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. He was considered a rising star--his colleagues in the broadcast journalism milieu thought that he was the likely black candidate to get a national spot in TV broadcasting. Philadelphia Magazine (January 1981) declared Mumia one of the "People to Watch in 1981." He was elected president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Black Journalists.

Beginning in 1977 through the summer of 1978, there was a year-long police siege of the MOVE house in the integrated Powelton Village area of Philadelphia. For those of you who don't know, MOVE is a back-to-nature, interracial, communal organization, which believes in armed self-defense and has had some ex-Panthers in their membership. They faced animosity and persecution from the cops and the state. The cop in charge of this siege was none other than Alfonzo Giordano. The siege ended with some 600 cops, led by Stakeout police, shooting up the house and with the brutal police beating of a wounded Delbert Africa, a MOVE member who was a former Panther.

The MOVE group believed in verbally confronting the system, and, as I said, was in favor of armed self-defense. However, they had rendered the guns that they were parading with on the porch of their house inoperable. Following the police attack, nine MOVE members were tried and convicted for the murder of a Stakeout police officer by the name of James Ramp, who was actually killed by police crossfire. MOVE members were sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison. Mumia was outraged by the siege, Delbert's beating and the frame-up convictions. (They are still in prison today.) At his press conference following the cop assault, Frank Rizzo, then the mayor, looked directly at Mumia and declared that a "new breed of journalism" was to blame for Ramp's death and that someday those like Mumia were "going to have to be held responsible and accountable."

The siege of the MOVE house and Delbert Africa's vicious beating, captured on news video, came atop a wave of coldblooded street executions by police and exposures of systematic frame-up methods used by the Homicide Division in Philadelphia. This was reported in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series in the Philadelphia Inquirer called "The Homicide Files," upon which a 2001 movie, The Thin Blue Lie, was based. The Inquirer (20 August 1978) editorialized that the "resentments and frustrations" over police violence could take on "dreadful and explosive proportions."

In 1979 the U.S. Justice Department initiated a civil rights lawsuit to put the Philadelphia Police Department in receivership, citing "widespread, arbitrary, and unreasonable physical abuse." The response from the police was immediate. Some 400 off-duty police charged into the Philadelphia Inquirer offices protesting the publication of photos of Delbert Africa's beating. Some 2,000 cops jammed a Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) lodge demanding the ouster of a black cop, Alphonso Deal, who was also head of a North Philadelphia NAACP chapter. When three Stakeout squad members were charged with Delbert Africa's beating, 500 cops marched on City Hall, and the head of the Philly cops' "union" ranted, "They should have killed them all." The Philly police wives' group protested the Justice Department suit and said that they had been gathering evidence since the '70s of a "conspiracy among revolutionaries and radicals to assassinate police." Not surprisingly, the federal civil rights lawsuit was soon dismissed for "lack of jurisdiction."

Mumia sympathetically reported about the MOVE 9 trial, and he exposed their August 1981 frame-up conviction as well as the acquittal of the cops who beat Delbert Africa. Mumia was also there when John Africa, the MOVE leader, was acquitted of federal charges of conspiracy and weapons possession in July 1981. Through all of this, Mumia uniquely was telling the Africas' side of the story. It was during this time that Mumia became a MOVE supporter, wearing his hair in dreadlocks. Nobody wore dreadlocks at that time except for MOVE supporters and people who were followers of Rastafarianism. So it was a big deal that he showed up in these dreads. Everyone could see where he stood. As he increased his vocal and written support for MOVE, Mumia lost his steady radio journalist jobs and took up driving a cab part-time to make ends meet.
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Mumia Abu-Jamal FLASHBACK #4: M.O.V.E.'s summary of the case (29 January 2012)
The Evidence
The prosecution claimed that the shot which killed Faulkner came from Mumia Abu-Jamal's legally registered .38-caliber weapon, contradicting the medical examiner's report that the bullet removed from Faulkner's brain was a .44-caliber. This fact was kept from the jury. Moreover, a ballistics expert found it incredible that police at the scene failed to test Mumia's gun to see if has been recently fired, or to test his hands for powder residue. One of the most damning prosecution claims was that Mumia confessed at the hospital. However, this confession was not reported until nearly two months after December 9th, immediately after Mumia had filed a brutality suit against the police. One of the officers who claims to have heard the confession is Gary Wakshul. However, in his police report on that day he stated, "the Negro male made no comments." Dr. Coletta, the attending physician who was with Mumia the entire time, says that he never heard Mumia speak.

The Witnesses
The star prosecution witness, a prostitute named Cynthia White, was someone no other witness reported seeing at the scene. During the trial of Billy Cook (Mumia's brother) just weeks before Mumia's trial, White gave testimony completely contradictory to what she stated at Mumia's trial. Her testimony at Billy Cook's trial placed someone at the scene who was not there when police arrived. This corroborates the other five witness accounts that someone fled the scene. In a 1997 hearing, another former prostitute, Pamela Jenkins, testified that White was acting as a police informant. Other sworn testimony revealed that witness coercion was routinely practiced by the police. In 1995, eyewitness William Singletary testified that police repeatedly tore up his initial statement--that the shooter fled the scene--until he finally signed something acceptable to them. The following year, witness Veronica Jones came forward to testify that she had been coerced into changing her initial statement that two men fled the scene. Witness Billy Cook, who was present the whole time, has stated very clearly that Mumia is absolutely innocent.

The Sentence
Due to police manipulation of witnesses, fabrication of evidence, and the rights of the defense severely denied, Mumia was found guilty. He was sentenced to death during the penalty phase based solely on his political beliefs. Mumia has been unjustly separated from his family for twenty-two years, with the threat of death looming over his head.

New Witnesses
In 2001, court stenographer Terri Maurer-Carter came forward and stated that in 1982, before Mumia's trial began, she heard Judge Sabo say, "Yeah, and I'm going to help them fry the n****r." He was referring to Mumia. This backs up evidence of judicial bias and racism in Mumia's case. In the same year, esteemed Philadelphia journalist Linn Washington stated that on the morning of December 9th, 1981, he went to the scene to report on it--and no police were present. This backs up prior claims that police didn't handle the crime scene properly.

The Confession
In 1999, Arnold Beverly confessed to killing Officer Faulkner. This confession is validated by a lie detector test administered by eminent polygraph expert Charles Honts. Despite concrete evidence supporting this confession, the Philadelphia District Attorney has refused to investigate, and the courts have not even allowed it to be heard. The injustice continues . . .
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Mumia Abu-Jamal FLASHBACK #5: Top Ten "Fry Mumia" Myths Debunked (Myth #1) (20 July 2007)
While nine MOVE members were railroaded to prison for the death of Officer Ramp, the evidence does not fit. The one bullet that killed Ramp came from behind and had a downward trajectory. Yet Ramp was facing the MOVE headquarters where MOVE members were in the basement and any bullets would have had an upward trajectory and hit him from in front.

Presiding over the kangaroo court that convicted the MOVE 9 was Judge Malmed. Shortly after the trial and conviction of the MOVE 9, Mumia, as an independent journalist, called in to a talk radio show where he asked Judge Malmed, "Who shot James Ramp?" Judge Malmed honestly answered, "I haven't the faintest idea."

In the attack on MOVE the police and Mayor Rizzo claimed that the first shots came from the MOVE headquarters, but the independent eyewitnesses including a number of journalists present, confirm what MOVE members and the physical evidence says, that the first shot came from across the street and not from the MOVE headquarters.

At Mayor Frank Rizzo's victory press conference on the 1978 police attack, Frank Rizzo directly threatened Mumia Abu-Jamal when Mumia asked him a question. Mumia was present as a freelance journalist and asked the gloating Rizzo, "What about the brutality?" Instead of answering Mumia's question Rizzo responded angrily with a threat: "They believe what you write, and what you say, and it's got to stop. And one day, and I hope it's in my career, that you're going to have to be held responsible and accountable for what you do."
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Asbestos: New blow to victims of a shameful legacy (29 January 2012)
The Government has deliberately excluded asbestos from an unprecedented review of the condition of the country's schools because it knows that tackling the risks to schoolchildren and teachers could cost hundreds of millions, critics claim.

Campaigners reacted with fury last night as it emerged a year-long survey of England's 23,000 schools will examine every aspect of buildings -- from classroom decoration to whether fire alarms and toilets are in working order -- but will specifically exclude asbestos, the most serious threat of all to staff and pupils.

An internal Department for Education email, seen by The Independent on Sunday, makes it clear that pressure to include asbestos in the assessment of the state of schools, which begins in April and will be used to inform future funding, had to be resisted due to "cost implications and the fact that asbestos management should already be carried out under existing legal requirements". The memo, dated September 2011, suggests that the survey programme "might well be able to provide some prompts and checks on that wider process, however".

The costs -- and risks -- of removing asbestos mean that authorities have to strike a delicate balance in managing it, and current policy is against removal for its own sake.
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Some doctors try to squelch online reviews (29 January 2012)
The type of agreement Lee signed had become widespread enough that RateMDs.com posted a "Wall of Shame" on its site outing doctors who use "gag orders" to squelch online commentary. Angie's List alerts its users about doctors who use these forms by posting a notice on a doctor's profile. And Yelp said it notifies consumers and refers them to legal resources when a doctor demands that a review be taken down.

Consumer advocates say such agreements could not withstand a legal challenge. Still, they fear that the tactic or similar ones will intimidate consumers and undermine the free-flowing exchange of information on consumer review Web sites.

"It threatens to starve patients of the ability to get the information they need to know to make smart choices," said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law who has a Web site devoted to these types of contracts. "It's a hack on the system."

For Lee, the trouble began with an aching tooth while he was living in New York late last year.

Before treating him, the dental office handed him papers to sign, including an agreement that prohibited him from publishing his views of the dentist online or elsewhere. In exchange, the dentist agreed not to market Lee's patient information to third parties.

"That struck me as strange," said Lee, who now lives in Calvert County. But he signed, forgot about it and paid $4,766 to have an infection drained and his tooth filled, he said. About nine months later, frustrated by the runaround he got when he tried to file an insurance claim, Lee unloaded his grievances about the dentist online.
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Untapped natural gas estimates lowered by 40 percent (28 January 2012)
WASHINGTON -- Just how much natural gas is trapped underground in the United States
The difficulty and uncertainty in predicting natural gas resources was underscored last week when the Energy Information Administration released a report containing sharply lower estimates in the Lower 48.

The agency estimated there are 482 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the United States, down from the 2011 estimate of 827 trillion cubic feet -- a drop of more than 40 percent. The report also said the Marcellus region, a rock formation under parts of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, contained 141 trillion cubic feet of gas. That represents a 66 percent drop from the 410 trillion cubic feet estimate offered in the agency's last report.

The estimates are watched with great interest in Alaska, which has trillions of cubic feet of conventional natural gas on the North Slope but no pipeline to move it to market. As the estimates of natural gas in the Lower 48 soared and prices for gas remained low, efforts to build a pipeline have faltered. Over the last year, Alaska officials have been shifting their focus from a gas line to the Midwest to a project that would liquefy natural gas and ship it to Asia. Either idea, along with a third option, a smaller line to mainly fuel the Alaska Railbelt, are just that -- ideas that may never be consummated.
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Four Murdoch journalists arrested in U.K. police bribery investigation (28 January 2012)
In a statement, News Corp said: "Metropolitan Police Service officers from Operation Elveden arrested four current and former employees from the Sun newspaper. Searches have also taken place at the homes and offices of those arrested. News Corporation made a commitment last summer that unacceptable news gathering practices by individuals in the past would not be repeated."

It is understood that staff and management at the Sun had no warning of the operation. The four Sun journalists arrested were Mike Sullivan, the paper's crime editor; the former managing editor, Graham Dudman; an executive editor, Fergus Shanahan; and Chris Pharo, a news desk executive. They all worked under Brooks, who edited the Sun from January 2003 to September 2009, when she became chief executive of News International.

In 2011 Brooks wrote to parliament's home affairs select committee saying that she had no "knowledge of any specific cases" involving News International reporters paying the police. This was an attempt to clarify comments that she made to the culture, media and sport committee in March 2003 when she declared: "We have paid the police for information in the past."

Paul Farrelly MP, a member of the committee, said: "The law must take its course. We have been clear all along that allegations of criminal behaviour involving journalists extend far beyond phone hacking."
[Read more...]

Homeless slaying victim remembered (28 January 2012)
CYPRESS -- They came to remember Paulus Cornelius Smit, the man they said marched to a different drummer's beat.

He was "Dutch" to some, "Paul" to others, and "Papa" to his daughters.

Among the 75 or so gathered Saturday in the worship hall at SeaCoast Grace Church in Cypress was old friend Bud Winters, with whom Smit ditched classes in high school, going on joy rides "all over hell and back" and frequently getting into trouble.

There was Glenn Smit, who remembered fishing in the middle of the night in Huntington Beach with his older brother, using just cans attached to strings with some frozen peas for bait, and still managing to bring in a haul.
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'Pirate man' recalled as neighborhood character (18 January 2012)
In many ways, Paulus Smit had made the Yorba Linda library his home. It was there that he read his favorite car magazines and daily newspapers and on sunny days, more often than not, sat under one of the magnolia trees. He was not consistently homeless, yet Smit, 57, had become a friendly fixture in the small town, where horse trails run along sidewalks and residents feel connected.

There is a series of wide, wall-lined steps on the side of the sleek, nicely apportioned library. About 4 p.m. on the afternoon of Dec. 30, those steps became a killing ground. Smit was stabbed more than 60 times, becoming the third victim in a series of brutal killings of homeless men in northern Orange County.

On Tuesday, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas announced that Itzcoatl "Izzy" Ocampo, 23, will be tried on four counts of special circumstances murder in four deaths between Dec. 20 and Jan. 13.

"Often these types of victims are preyed upon because the perpetrator does not believe that anyone would care about or miss them," Rackauckas said at a news conference.
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PAM COMMENTARY: I can't believe this, but I may have met the guy. It's hard to tell from a picture of him twenty years later, but the photograph in this article reminds me of a homeless man who was in Santa Monica in the early 90s. That man was panhandling outside of a favorite breakfast spot, and so to get him fed for the morning I asked if he wanted to join me for breakfast. He was actually very friendly, and I enjoyed his company.

Indian tribes join forces to save petroglyph site (28 January 2012)
The Hopi made these engravings during ceremonial pilgrimages from their land to the Grand Canyon to mark the passage into adulthood for Hopi young men.

"They would stop at Tutuveni and camp there, and they would peck their clan symbols on those rocks to mark their participation in that pilgrimage. And they did this for four or five centuries at least," said Wes Bernardini, an archaeologist and professor at the University of Redlands who has been studying Tutuveni for years. "When people from the same clan would visit the site, they would put their symbols next to the previous symbol that somebody had left earlier. There's no other site that we know of like that, that shows these repeated visits.

"It's a very important place."

It is also a place threatened by modern-day vandals who view Tutuveni not as the sacred site and archaeological treasure that it is, but rather a canvas for their own graffiti.
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Kansas tops in new wind power construction (28 January 2012)
Kansas, ranked 14th among states in installed wind generation, is scheduled to see an increase this year of 1,188 megawatts of wind generating capacity -- the most of any state, according to the American Wind Energy Association. That will nearly double the state's existing 1,277 megawatts of installed wind power generation.

Much of the wind power generated in the state remains here because of the aggressive role of Westar Energy in developing or buying wind farms. Dorothy Barnett, executive director of the Climate and Energy Project, said wind power supplies 7 percent of Kansas' electrical demand.

Nationwide, the wind industry is set to install more than 8,300 megawatts this year, up from the 6,810 megawatts installed in 2011.

This will be a big year for wind farm openings as developers race to cash in before a key tax credit expires at end of the year.
[Read more...]

Second giant panda taken off display after being diagnosed with colic (28 January 2012)
Both giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo have been removed from public display after coming down with colic, just weeks after their much-anticipated arrival.

The female Tian Tian was diagnosed with a mild form of the condition on Saturday, while the male, Yang Guang, was removed from the public enclosure two weeks ago after contracting a more serious bout.

A spokeswoman for the zoo said Yang Guang was expected to go back on public view on Monday, with Tian Tian being given at least two days out of the limelight to recover.

The zoo said all visitors with tickets for the panda enclosure had been refunded.
[Read more...]

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Sources (if found on major news boards):
[AJ] - InfoWars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, or other Alex Jones-affiliated sites
[BF] - BuzzFlash.com
[DN] - DemocracyNow.org
[R] - Rense.com
[WRH] - WhatReallyHappened.com


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All original content including photographs © 2012 by Pam Rotella. (News excerpts copyright by their corresponding authors, news organizations, or other copyright holders, and quoted here typically as "fair use" or "teaser" paragraphs to generate interest in the full articles.)