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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012

News from the Week of 5th to 11th of February 2012

Embattled Wisconsin Governor Walker plans to use part of mortgage settlement for state budget (10 February 2012)
Wisconsin plans to use about $26 million of its $140 million share of a national mortgage settlement to help plug the state's budget hole -- a move Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Friday called "unconscionable."

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's office made the decision in consultation with Gov. Scott Walker to use most of the $31.6 million paid directly to the state to balance the budget rather than to help the thousands of Wisconsin residents who have lost their homes to fraudulent mortgage practices.

Local homeowner advocates also were reeling from the decision Friday. "I'm disappointed that the much-needed funds will not be used as intended for programs that are on the front lines, working with homeowners who are trying to save their homes from foreclosure," said Ellen Bernards, a nonprofit financial educator and co-chair of the Dane County Foreclosure Prevention Taskforce.

Walker said Thursday that the foreclosure crisis had a "direct impact on the economy," lowering tax collections. The $26 million from the settlement will help defray that fiscal damage, the governor said.

A new projection released Thursday shows the state faces a $143 million budget shortfall by July 2013, due in part to lower-than-expected tax revenues.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: He's already on his way out, and apparently doesn't care what people think of him once he's gone.

Nelson Mandela banknotes to be issued by South Africa (11 February 2012)
South Africa is to issue a complete set of banknotes bearing the image of its first black president, Nelson Mandela.

Mr Mandela, now 93, was released from prison on 11 February 1990 after 27 years in prison.

President Jacob Zuma said the banknotes were a "humble gesture" to express South Africa's "deep gratitude".

Mr Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his campaign against white minority rule (apartheid). He was elected president the following year.
[Read more...]

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi cheered by crowds in Kawhmu (11 February 2012)
Crowds of cheering supporters in rural Burma have turned out to welcome opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her first campaign stop ahead of by-elections scheduled for April.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is standing in the constituency of Kawhmu, was released from house arrest shortly after parliamentary elections in 2010.

Her party won a landslide victory in elections in 1990 but was never allowed by the military junta to take power.

In all, 48 seats are being contested.
[Read more...]

Bill C-51 could allow police to view Canadians' web-surfing habits (11 February 2012)
The Conservative government plans to introduce a law next week that will allow police to better monitor web surfing habits of Canadians and to track them with electronic surveillance.

Entitled "an Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and others Acts," the law would require Internet service providers to install equipment that would allow them to monitor and preserve the Internet surfing activities of their customers. The providers could then be asked by police to collect and preserve web surfing data of anyone suspected in engaging in criminal activity.

Known as the Lawful Access law, it would also make it easier for law enforcement authorities to activate tracking mechanisms within cellular phones so they can know the whereabouts of suspected criminals. If they're suspected of being international terrorists, the law would allow such tracking to go on for a year, rather than the current 60-day limit, according to a previous incarnation of the law introduced last year.

In recent months, Open-Internet lobbyists and privacy advocates, including the privacy commissioner of Canada have been warning the Conservative government not to adopt this bill, saying it is a serious infringement of civil liberties.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Easy access to records is always abused. Women get murdered by crazy ex-boyfriends that way. At least with warrants, somebody has to be accountable to a judge, and there's a paper trail.

Rupert Murdoch moves to reassure Sun staff after arrests (11 February 2012)
In an internal memo to staff, Tom Mockridge, chief executive of the title's parent company News International, said he had received a "personal assurance" from Mr Murdoch that he plans to continue to own and publish The Sun.

Five top journalists, including Geoff Webster, the newspaper's deputy editor, were detained earlier today on suspicion of making illegal payments to police officers and other officials before being released on bail.

For the first time, the arrests broadened beyond payments to police, with a Ministry of Defence employee and a member of the Armed forces held by police before also being bailed to a date in May.

The development suggests Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden, set up to investigate illegal payments to police officers, is now focusing on a wider range of alleged illegal activity than previously thought.
[Read more...]

Komen backlash leaves Race for the Cure scrambling to limit damage (10 February 2012)
Every month, somewhere in America, people swath themselves in pink, lace up their running shoes and take part in the Race for the Cure, the world's largest and most successful breast cancer awareness and fundraising event. Since the first race in Dallas in 1983, 1.6 million participants have pounded round the 5km courses in a series which now spans four continents.

But now there are growing fears that the race series, and the millions of dollars it raises, may be one of the most visible casualties of the backlash that has engulfed the organisation that runs it, the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation, since it decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood, the country's leading reproductive healthcare provider -- a decision, critics say, that was made under pressure from anti-abortion activists. Planned Parenthood is a target of pro-life lobbies because some of its clinics offer abortions.

A week has passed since Komen was forced to reverse that decision and issue a public apology. But that failed to silence the critics, so on Tuesday, Karen Handel, Komen's senior vice-president and the apparent architect of the defunding decision, resigned. Yet that, too, has done little to restore public confidence in the organisation.

The brand that Komen's founder Nancy Brinker has spent 30 years building, promoting and aggressively protecting lies in tatters, tainted by a decision widely perceived as political and which, had it been carried through, would have halted breast cancer screening programmes for uninsured women who would otherwise not have access to such care.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Those big organizations are mostly about raising money. Actually finding a cure would put them out of business.

I used alternative cancer treatments when I had the symptoms of breast cancer.

King, Samantha, "Pink Ribbons, Inc.; Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy." Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006, pp. xx-xxi. (BOOK QUOTE) (2006)
In this vein, one of the central arguments of 'Pink Ribbons, Inc.' is that breast cancer became the 'biggest disease on the cultural map,' in Barbara Ehrenreich's words, not simply because of effective political organizing during the 1980s and 1990s, but because of an informal alliance of large corporations (particularly pharmaceutical companies, mammography equipment manufacturers, and cosmetics producers), major cancer charities, the state, and the media that emerged at around the same time and was able to capitalize on growing public interest in the disease. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), founded in 1985 by Zeneca (now AstraZeneca), a multinational pharmaceutical corporation and then subsidiary of Imperial Chemical Industries, is possibly the most highly visible and familiar manifestation of this alliance. AstraZeneca is the manufacturer of tamoxifen, the best-selling breast cancer drug, and until corporate reorganization in 2000 was under the auspices of Imperial Chemical, a leading producer of the carcinogenic herbicide acetochlor, as well as numerous chlorine and petroleum-based products that have been linked to breast cancer.

The aim of NBCAM from its inception has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. In 2006, the National Breast Cancer Awareness campaign was underwritten by a board of sponsors comprising fifteen organizations, including medical associations such as the American College of Radiology, breast cancer service organizations such as the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, and government agencies such as the National Cancer Institute, 'working in partnership to raise awareness and provide access to screening services.' AstraZeneca underwrites the cost of the promotional and educational materials that make up the 'official' NBCAM campaign and has sole power of approval over any pamphlet, poster, or advertisement used by NBCAM. AstraZeneca's interest in promoting mammography and thereby raising detection rates and increasing sales of tamoxifen is a story widely circulated in activist circles and progressive media but almost entirely ignored in mainstream discourse. And, not surprisingly, AstraZeneca and its allies in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, such as the American Cancer Society, continue to carefully avoid environmental issues, or indeed reference to prevention in general.
[Read more...]

Houston tops magazine's "fattest city" list (11 February 2012)
We all know how San Antonio's portly bellies have made us the fattest city in the nation on more than one list. But, finally, we've gone from fat to fit.

We're last on the list of the 25 most fit cities in the March issue of Men's Fitness magazine, but hey, we'll take it.

Austin came in at 12. In first place is Portland, Ore.

On the flip side of being fit, the publication's "Fittest & Fattest Cities in America" survey claims Houston tops the tubby list.
[Read more...]

Hinckley freedom now in judge's hands (10 February 2012)
During hearings that began in November, lawyers for Hinckley sought longer visits lasting 17-24 days. If they go well, Hinckley would be granted permission to remain away from the hospital full time.

Prosecutors asked that Hinckley's visits be kept to 10 days for now.

"Not once during any one of these [previous] releases has Mr. Hinckley done anything violent or dangerous," Levine argued.

Hinckley has, however, demonstrated deception. Secret Service agents who follow Hinckley when he is away from St. Elizabeths observed him pretend to go to a movie when his mother dropped him off in New Town, then change course and head for nearby Barnes & Noble.
[Read more...]

Deported U.S. Army veteran leads the banished (9 February 2012)
The aircraft's engine hummed. It was the same sound Hector Barajas heard on the countless aviation missions he'd taken when he served in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne division.

"I was ready to parachute out," Barajas said.

This time, however, he didn't have a parachute strapped to his back. Instead, he wore shackles, bound for a country he barely knew, banished from a nation he vowed to die for.

Barajas, a Compton boy who grew up wanting to be G.I. Joe, realized this flight marked the beginning of his deportation from the United States.
[Read more...]

California nuclear power plant has 4,000 tons of radioactive waste stored on site (10 February 2012) [R]
"Southern California Edison has not made a decision on whether we'll apply for renewal," said Edison spokesman Christopher Abel.

The majority of 14 speakers at Tuesday's meeting would be delighted if Edison immediately dismantled the plant, let alone opted not to renew the license.

Abel verified that 4,000 tons of high-level, radioactive waste are stored there.

"There is no way the plant should be storing waste material," said Kathleen Jepson-Bernier.

The regulatory commission is looking for off-site storage, but to date all of the country's 104 nuclear power plants store waste material on-site, Abel said.

"This is an old plant, and we need to shut it down right now," said Marni Magda. "California is sitting on a powder keg of nuclear plants on earthquake faults."
[Read more...]

Anonymous briefly knocks CIA website offline (10 February 2012)
WASHINGTON - The website of the Central Intelligence Agency was briefly inaccessible on Friday after the hacker group Anonymous claimed to have knocked it offline.

"CIA Tango down," a member of Anonymous said on YourAnonNews, a Twitter feed used by the group. "Tango down" is an expression used by the US Special Forces when they have eliminated an enemy.

Asked about the apparent website outage, a CIA spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the problems accessing our web site, and are working to resolve them."

The website was restored shortly thereafter.
[Read more...]

White House compromise still guarantees contraceptive coverage for women (10 February 2012)
Seeking to allay the concerns of Catholic leaders and head off an escalating political storm, President Obama on Friday announced an adjustment to the administration's health-care rule requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide contraceptive coverage to women.

Women still will be guaranteed coverage for contraceptive services without any out-of-pocket cost, but will have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds.

Religiously-affiliated non-profit employers such as schools, charities, universities, and hospitals will be able to provide their workers with plans that exclude such coverage. However, the insurance companies that provide the plans will have to offer those workers the opportunity to obtain additional contraceptive coverage directly, at no additional charge.

Churches remain exempt from the birth-control coverage requirement. And their workers will not have the option of obtaining separate contraceptive coverage under the new arrangement.
[Read more...]

FAA-Delayed whooping cranes are finally free in Alabama (10 February 2012)
The ultra-light-led whooping cranes whose migration was delayed by weather and an FAA investigation, among other things, were "released just this morning... and free to roam now" according to Joe Duff, lead pilot and co-founder of Operation Migration.

On Saturday, the 2011-12 flock's migration ended by vehicle, at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. An enclosure had been prepared for the cranes there, where they remained until today. The birds were given health checks, fitted with transmitters, and banded on Wednesday by a crane-costumed team.

"They are in familiar territory right now, because they've been there for several days," said Duff. For the birds, today's release gives them a chance to leave their enclosure and find other cranes that winter at the refuge, including sandhill cranes and a few adult whooping cranes. Earlier this year, the International Crane Foundation found two of its Horicon-released whooping cranes at the Wheeler refuge, although Mr. Duff revealed that now four of the whooping cranes at Wheeler have been identified as a part of Horicon's first flock.

One reason for today's release, according to Duff, is that sandhill cranes have been observed leaving Wheeler refuge en masse, heading north. Operation Migration's team is hoping to ensure that the newly-released cranes have the chance to find other cranes before most have started their northern migrations.
[Read more...]

BP wins right to exclude prior accidents from Gulf of Mexico oil spill case (10 February 2012)
US District Judge Carl Barbier yesterday blocked the introduction of evidence relating to accidents at BP's Texas City refinery in 2005 that killed 15 people and the 2006 spill from a rusted pipeline in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to the court case over Deepwater Horizon disaster, which is due to start on February 27 in New Orleans.

The decision is the second this week to go in favour of BP ahead of the case, after a separate ruling on Wednesday to exclude some emails questioning BP's activities before and after the spill.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 men and causing the biggest oil spill in US history, releasing an estimated 4.9m barrels of oil, polluting coastlines and habitats, and damaging the livelihoods of residents along the Gulf Coast.

The spill saw thousands of individuals launch legal claims against BP, as well as state and Federal cases against the company for environmental damages. These claims have now been consolidated and will be heard by Judge Barbier in a non-jury trial starting at the end of the month. Other corporate defendants include Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and Halliburton, which provided cementing services for the Macondo well where the leak took place.
[Read more...]

Energy profiteering: The rich get richer, the poor get colder (10 February 2012)
UK - More than 5.5 million households are suffering under fuel poverty, many being forced to choose between heating or eating.

Meanwhile the Big Six energy suppliers increased their profit margins by 733 per cent in just three months last year. Enough is enough. Today The Independent supports a campaign to force energy companies to share their profits with the needy. The aim is simple: to make essential home energy affordable to all.

An estimated 3,000 winter deaths are caused every year by fuel poverty and as the winter chill really begins to hit home, with more snow and icy weather forecast for the next few days, it could be the worst time for the vulnerable, particularly the elderly.

Research by Age UK last month found that two million elderly people are so cold that they go to bed when they're not tired in an attempt to keep energy bills down. More than two-fifths of people surveyed admitted to turning their heating down even when cold.
[Read more...]

Bradley Manning trial date set for February 23rd (9 February 2012)
The formal trial stage in the case of the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning will begin on February 23, the US military has announced, when the soldier will be arraigned on all 22 counts relating to the largest leak of state secrets in American history.

Manning will be transferred on that day from his current imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas to Fort Meade in Maryland, where he will be read all the charges against him and asked to give his plea. It will be the first occasion that he has come in front of a military judge representing the full power of the court martial system.

In most cases, the arraignment is a short and routine hearing that marks the accused's official bringing to trial. In Manning's case, however, it presents his trial lawyer David Coombs with the opportunity to raise objections to the conduct of the prosecution against his client.

In particular, Coombs has the option to complain about the exceptional length of time that Manning has been languishing in military jail. Under the US constitution, court martial cases must be brought within 120 days of charges being preferred against a suspect.

The military rule book, under rule 707 for speedy trial, makes clear that military justice must be dispensed quickly. It says that in some circumstances, delays may be prejudicial to the accused and may result in dismissal of the case.
[Read more...]

Man ran ATM scam for gangs worldwide from his box room (10 February 2012)
A MAN turned the box-room of his four-bedroom house into a workshop manufacturing false ATM bank machines for gangs around the world, a court heard yesterday.

When gardai raided Vitalii Pascari's home in Limerick in February 2011, they were shocked to find the heart of an ATM-skimming scam that had been pursued by police services across Europe and America.

Pascari (33), of River Road, Rhebogue, Limerick, pleaded guilty to eight counts of theft and fraud relating to the alleged manufacturing and distribution of ATM skimming devices.

Limerick Circuit Court heard that he ordered the parts directly from ATM companies and put together custom-made ATM machines for his customers.
[Read more...]

Mortgage settlement is also housing relief package (10 February 2012)
Although Thursday's settlement originated more than a year ago as an effort to discipline lenders for improper foreclosures, it has evolved into a housing relief package.

Most of the money -- $17 billion -- is earmarked for people who are struggling to make their payments, chiefly by reducing the amount of principal on their mortgages. An additional $3 billion will be spent by the banks to refinance mortgages of homeowners who are current on their payments but owe more than their homes are worth.

"This isn't just about punishing banks for their irresponsible behavior," said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "It's also about requiring them to help the people they harmed by funding efforts to help homeowners stay in their homes."

For Obama, whose administration pushed hard for a deal, an upturn in the housing market would be a boost to his reelection hopes this fall. The banks receive incentives to provide relief within 12 months.
[Read more...]

Webb, Levin, McCain Warn No Funding for Guam Buildup Until Congressional Requirements Met (10 February 2012)
Guam - Senators Carl Levin, John McCain and Jim Webb are all warning the Obama administration that Congress will not authorize funding for its plans to realign U.S. forces in Japan and Guam until the Pentagon complies with the Congressional requirements set last year in the 2012 Defense Authorization Act.

Senators Levin, McCain and Webb are the architects of the current pause in funding for the Guam military buildup.

Their concerns about the escalating cost of the Guam Buildup, which was last estimated to be as high as $21-billion dollars, prompted the Senators to insert language into the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act making funding for the move conditional on a Defense Department review of the basing plans and sending additional details on the relocation of forces to Congress.

Their warning follows in the wake of Wednesday's Joint Statement from the U.S. and Japan acknowledging that negotiations are underway to revise the 2006 Roadmap to Realignment, that the Guam move has been de-linked from the relocation of Futenma in Okinawa and, separately, the first official confirmation from Navy Secretary Robert Work that DoD has downsized the Guam buildup to just 4,700 Marines.
[Read more...]

Coup in Maldives: Adviser to Ousted Pres. Mohamed Nasheed Speaks Out from Hiding as Arrest Sought (9 February 2012) [DN]
PAUL ROBERTS: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Amy.

Let me tell you what I saw on Tuesday, when I went into work at about 7:00 in the morning. There was an almighty fight going on just outside the President's office by the military barracks, where some protesters--I'd say about 500--had been joined with mutinying police officers, and they were trying to break into the main army headquarters, which is also the armory. Later that morning, we heard that the military police and other members of the military were joining the protesters, calling for the overthrow of the government. A little later, we heard that one of the ruling party offices had been ransacked by police, and then the national television and radio station had been stalled by police. The journalists had been rounded up and locked in a room, and the cables had been pulled. And they pulled off the state television from the air.

But the thing that was my striking for me was, at just about 11:00--or, I'd say, just before 12:00 noon, the gates of the President's office opened, and about three sedan cars swooped in with a jeep at the back. Nasheed got out of one car, the defense minister out of another. He was surrounded by 40 or 50 soldiers, some of whom were armed, and shepherded into a room. And I spoke to Nasheed this morning, and he told me that in that room army officers, who were carrying loaded weapons, told him that if he did not resign now, they would use force against him and his staff. So he wrote a letter of resignation, which the military kept. He was frogmarched to a press conference to declare his resignation. And he was taken to his house, where he was placed under military custody, while the Vice President, Waheed, quickly declared himself the new president. It was--it was deeply, deeply shocking.
[Read more...]

Over 200 dolphins dead in northern Peru (9 February 2012)
This week more than 200 dolphins were found dead along a 106-kilometer stretch at the beaches of Lambayeque.

Authorities have not yet been able to determine the cause of the deaths.

According to El Comercio, Edward Barriga, head of Peru's Ocean Institute (Imarpe) in Lambayeque, ordered samples be sent to Lima, for further analysis.

"Soon we will announce the root causes," Barriga said.
[Read more...]

Young whooping crane recovering from broken bone (9 February 2012)
NEW ORLEANS -- A young whooping crane is recovering after surgery to repair a broken bone in its shoulder.

The female crane spent almost a week isolated at White Lake in southwest Louisiana after veterinary surgeons at Louisiana State University fitted the broken ends together and screwed on a plate to keep the bone stable, State Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Sara Zimorski said Wednesday.

"She is not flying yet. ... She does look good," Zimorski said. "She is moving and flapping her wings very well."

The bird known as L14-11 is among 16 of the endangered cranes brought to White Lake in an attempt to create a wild flock in an area where the last wild flock in the state lived in the 1930s. Ten birds were released earlier; three of them are still alive.

L14-11 had a broken left coracoid -- a strong bone that helps keep the shoulder in place, said Javier Nevarez, a wildlife veterinarian at LSU. The metal plate won't hinder her flying, he said. "It is very light, very small and very expensive," he said. "She's got a $500 plate in her."

Nevarez said it was the first time LSU veterinarians have operated on a whooping crane, and may be the first time that surgeons anywhere have put a metal plate on this bone in a whooping crane. "To our knowledge ... a similar procedure was done in a bald eagle in the past, but never in a whooping crane before," he said.
[Read more...]

Congressional inquiry widens into FDA e-mail monitoring of whistleblowers (8 February 2012)
Congressional inquiry into the Food and Drug Administration's e-mail surveillance of its own employees widened Thursday as a House lawmaker demanded that the agency explain the legal basis for targeting employees who were raising concerns about unsafe medical devices.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) warned that the FDA's monitoring of personal communications between FDA doctors and congressional staff was "unlawful and will not be tolerated."

The letter sent Thursday came in response to a Washington Post article last month reporting that the FDA for two years intercepted and stored the Gmail communications of a group of agency doctors who raised concerns with Congress about the agency approving cancer-screening and other devices despite the doctors' determinations that the devices were not safe or effective.

A similar probe has been launched by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), whose staff communicated with the FDA doctors about their concerns. Grassley wants to know, in particular, whether the FDA obtained passwords to the employees' personal e-mail accounts, allowing their communications on private computers to be intercepted.
[Read more...]

Chicago offers $6.2 million to settle arrests at 2003 Iraq war protest (9 February 2012)
Lawyers for the city of Chicago told a federal judge today they have reached a $6.2 million settlement with more than 800 plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit stemming from the mass arrests of protesters during a 2003 demonstration against the Iraq war.

The issues in the case played a role in city officials' examination of how they handle large demonstrations in the months leading up to the G-8 and NATO summits, which could attract tens of thousands of demonstrators to the city in May.

Lawyers for the city said payouts in the suit would not be introduced to City Council until June. In a smaller case stemming from the same demonstration, city officials reached a settlement last month but said the amount would not be released until the settlements are introduced for council for approval.

The city's defense in the case was weakened last year when federal appellate Justice Richard Posner ruled the arrests were unjustified because police allowed the massive demonstration to take place without a permit, but then decided to arrest people for participating without giving them a clear order that it was time to disperse.
[Read more...]

Wsconsin Unions want repeal pledge from Democratic candidates (9 February 2012)
State union leaders are asking Democratic candidates for governor to pledge they will veto the next state budget if it doesn't restore collective bargaining rights for public workers.

The limitation of those rights is largely what motivated the petition drive to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that Democratic candidate Kathleen Falk agreed to the veto promise. The other announced Democratic candidate, Kathleen Vinehout, said she would work to avoid the threat of a veto to restore bargaining rights.

Sen. Tim Cullen, who considered a run against Walker in a recall election, told the Journal Sentinel he was asked by leaders of public employee unions if he would veto any state budget that didn't restore collective bargaining. "I said I could not make that promise and I did not think any serious candidate for governor could or should make that commitment," he said of a veto of the state budget. "It's a $60 billion document."
[Read more...]

Tai chi counters loss of balance in Parkinson's disease, an Oregon study finds (8 February 2012)
One of the first things to go wrong was Don Stepp's handwriting. Without intending to, he was penning his letters smaller and smaller. He began stuttering on occasion. Then his balance faltered.

"It's like someone's pushing me over a little bit," says the 71-year-old Portland man.

Stepp was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2003. When the symptoms started to escalate, he enrolled in a study testing tai chi, a system of exercise derived from Chinese martial arts.

The results, reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, show tai chi is highly effective at preserving balance, improving walking and preventing falls. Tai chi outperformed strength training in several measures. The study -- carried out in Eugene, Corvallis, Salem and Portland -- is one of the largest controlled clinical trials of exercise therapy for Parkinson's disease.
[Read more...]

Watchdog sues FTC over new Google privacy policy (9 February 2012)
Reporting from San Francisco-- A consumer watchdog has escalated its efforts to block Google from rolling out a controversial new privacy policy that would allow the Internet search giant to harvest more information about its users.

But the Electronic Privacy Information Center is not suing Google. Instead, it filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with protecting consumers' privacy on the Web.

In an unusual end run around the FTC, the watchdog group is asking a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to compel federal regulators to enforce a settlement they reached with Google last year and protect consumers who will be "left without recourse if the commission fails to enforce its order."

Google settled charges last year that it violated privacy laws by exposing Gmail users' personal information when rolling out its now-defunct Google Buzz social networking service. The breach prompted an angry backlash from consumers and privacy advocates who say the Mountain View, Calif., company disclosed personal information without their knowledge or consent.
[Read more...]

NOPD officer commits suicide after federal investigation comes to light (8 February 2012)
A veteran New Orleans police officer committed suicide at his St. Tammany Parish home late Tuesday, authorities said, shortly after news broke that he and two other officers were under investigation by the FBI for possible insurance fraud. Deputies with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office discovered the body of Salvadore Battaglia on Tuesday night at his home outside of Madisonville after a relative called to say he might be contemplating suicide.

St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan confirmed late Wednesday that Battaglia shot himself in the head.

The federal investigation began about a week ago and centers on NOPD Sgt. Kevin Guillot, according to Guillot's attorney, Eric Hessler. News of the investigation broke on several television news programs Tuesday night, shortly before Battaglia's suicide.

Sheila Thorne, FBI special agent and spokeswoman for the New Orleans office, declined to comment on the investigation. No one has been charged.
[Read more...]

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Georgia will have first newly approved nuclear reactors in 33 years (9 February 2012)
The first newly approved nuclear reactors in 33 years will be built in Georgia.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed off Thursday on Atlanta-based Southern Co.'s request to build two 1,100-megawatt reactors at its Plant Vogtle site in Burke County.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the project. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who has supported the project throughout the process, dissented, saying he was concerned that the reactors would not meet certain safety requirements put in place since Japan's Fukushima Daiichi accident.

" Significant safety enhancements have already been recommended as a result of learning the lessons from Fukushima, and there is still more work ahead of us. Knowing this, I cannot support issuing these licenses as if Fukushima never happened," Jaczko said.
[Read more...]

Life in lake far beneath Antarctica? It's everywhere else (9 February 2012)
If scientists find microbes in a frigid lake two miles beneath the thick ice of Antarctica, it will illustrate once again that somehow life finds a way to survive in the strangest and harshest places.

And it will offer hope that life exists beyond Earth.

Russian researchers reported Wednesday that they had reached Lake Vostok, a pristine body of water untouched by light or wind for about 20 million years. They want to know what type of microbial life - bacteria too small to see - might exist there.

Finding microbes may not sound like much. But they were the first form of Earth life eons before plants and animals existed.
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Mortgage giants to pay $26 billion in foreclosure settlement (9 February 2012)
Federal and state officials on Thursday announced a landmark $26-billion agreement with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers to settle investigations involving foreclosure abuses and try to stabilize the housing market.

The deal would give $17 billion in relief to current homeowners, mostly by reducing the amount of principal they owe on their mortgages.

An additional $5 billion would be paid in cash to California and more than 40 other states as restitution for foreclosure paperwork problems and other improprieties by the servicers in the foreclosure process. Officials said hundreds of thousands of homeowners would probably get $1,700 to $2,000 each under that part of the deal. About $1.5 billion of the $5 billion would be distributed directly to people whose homes were foreclosed on from 2008 through 2011.

In addition, the five servicers -- Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc. -- agreed to spend about $3 billion to refinance about 1 million existing mortgages, most of those likely to be for homeowners whose properties are worth less than they owe on their loans.

The $3 billion is the amount the servicers would lose on the refinancings, not the total amount of principal to be written down, which officials expect will be much larger.
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Steve Jobs: Secret FBI dossier reveals late Apple boss was investigated by Bush Sr White House (9 February 2012)
The federal file shows that his friends accused him of taking drugs, being a liar and failing to support his family.

The 191-page dossier was drawn up after Mr Jobs was being considered for a "sensitive" post at the White House in 1991, and is based on interviews with his friends and former colleagues by special agents.

One long-term friend, who had attended college with the future billionaire, provided a scathing portrait of Mr Jobs, describing him as a "deceptive individual who is not completely forthright and honest".

The report, which is partially redacted to exclude some names and other details, went on: "He stated that Mr Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals."
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PAM COMMENTARY: The FBI "Vault" records they're referring to are here. Pretty boring stuff. I looked at a few -- different people had different opinions of him, but the few pages I read seemed to contain general impressions of the man -- nothing specific enough to show that they really knew him well.

Closings expected in John Hinckley hearing in D.C. (9 February 2012)
Closing statements are expected in a hearing for a man who shot President Ronald Reagan and wants to spend more time outside a Washington mental hospital.

A federal judge in Washington is determining whether John Hinckley should be allowed to spend more time at his mother's Virginia home. Closing statements are expected Thursday.

Fifty-six-year-old John Hinckley was found by a jury to be insane when he shot and wounded Reagan outside a Washington hotel in 1981. Doctors say his mental illness has been in remission for years, however, and a judge has granted Hinckley increasing freedom from the hospital. In 2005, he was given permission to start making overnight visits to his mother's home in Williamsburg, Va., and those visits have since been increased to up to 10 days.
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Judge orders release of report on Stevens prosecutors (9 February 2012)
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. District court judge on Wednesday rejected an attempt by federal prosecutors to keep secret a report detailing their misconduct in the case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.
Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled the 500-page report will be made public on March 15.

He denied an attempt by some of the attorneys under investigation to keep the report on their behavior permanently under seal and barred from public release.

The judge said the case has become a national symbol of what happens when prosecutors cross the line, and the public has a right to know what happened behind the scenes.
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Billions of tons of water lost from world's glaciers, satellite reveals (9 February 2012)
The survey found that the melting of the cryosphere has been responsible for raising sea levels by about half an inch over the same period, equivalent to a rise of about 1.5mm a year. This was on top of sea-level increases due to the thermal expansion of seawater caused by rising ocean temperatures.

Data gathered by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), a joint satellite project run by Nasa and the German government, also found that the amount of ice melting from the mountain glaciers and ice caps that were not in Greenland or Antarctica was actually significantly smaller than previous estimates had suggested.

Instead of contributing nearly 1mm of sea level rise per year as previously suggested, some of the Earth's glaciers and ice caps, especially in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges in Asia, were melting significantly slower than expected, contributing about 0.4mm of sea level rise per year -- less than half the amount predicted.

One explanation for the previous overestimates could be that most of the glaciers that have been studied intensively are at lower altitudes and therefore more prone to melting. Higher glaciers are colder and less susceptible and yet only 120 glaciers out of 160,000 glaciers and ice caps have been directly measured from the ground.
[Read more...]

Mount Etna erupts overnight in Sicily (9 February 2012)
Burning hot lava spews down the side of Mount Etna in these dramatic pictures captured earlier today.

A huge column of hot ash can be seen billowing over the southern Italian island of Sicily after Europe's biggest volcano erupted last night.

The ANSA news agency reported that flames were sent hundreds of metres into the air and could be seen from the nearby towns of Catania and Taormina.

Airport officials closed Catania's airport on Wednesday evening.
[Read more...]

Pandas heading to zoos in Calgary, Toronto (9 February 2012)
BEIJING -- Panda-monium is heading to Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced Thursday that Canada and China are finalizing details on an agreement that would see the Chinese loan two giant pandas to zoos in Calgary and Toronto for a period of five years each.

Harper will announce more details of a looming agreement on Saturday, when he visits a panda preservation centre in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing and gets up close and personal with the bamboo munchers.

But the two leaders released a joint statement Thursday, following a bilateral meeting, explaining the panda swap is almost a go.
[Read more...]

Washington Post is downsizing its staff again to reduce costs (8 February 2012)
The Washington Post announced Wednesday that it would extend buyout offers to newsroom staff members in an effort to reduce the paper's payroll. It is the fifth in a series of buyouts that have helped reduce the size of the staff by more than a third over the past decade as circulation and advertising revenue have fallen.

"Our objective is a limited staff reduction that won't affect the quality, ambition or authority of our journalism," Marcus Brauchli, The Post's executive editor, said in a memo to the staff.

He said the buyout would not be offered to every section of the paper and that The Post would "turn down some volunteers if we feel their departure would impair our journalism." In a meeting with staff, he said the maximum number of buyouts would be capped at around four dozen out of about 600 newsroom staff members.

The terms of the buyout were not announced and are still being negotiated with the Newspaper Guild. Brauchli said The Post would still make "tactical hires so that even as we get smaller, we get stronger."
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Animal study: Short-term fasting may help boost treatment of cancer (9 February 2012)
They also warn that fasting could be dangerous for patients who have already lost a lot of weight or are affected by other risk factors, such as diabetes.

The research showed that tumour cells do not respond to the stress of fasting the same way as normal cells.

Instead of entering a dormant state similar to hibernation, they try to keep growing and dividing. In the end the cells destroy themselves.

"The cell is, in fact, committing cellular suicide," said lead scientist Professor Valter Longo, from the University of Southern California in the US.

"What we're seeing is that the cancer cell tries to compensate for the lack of all these things missing in the blood after fasting. It may be trying to replace them, but it can't."

The study is reported in the latest edition of the journal 'Science Translational Medicine'.
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PAM COMMENTARY: Again, destroying tumors isn't the same as ending the disease. People have their tumors surgically removed or shrunk all the time, but still die of the disease anyway (see earlier comments). However, fasting may help in other ways by putting less of a stress on the immune system, especially if the patient's normal diet is poor or somewhat toxic. And so fasting may or may not help when tested in humans.

As much as we may hate food regulation, it works (8 February 2012)
Few readers liked the idea of regulating sugar, a food that some health officials recently said should be regulated because of its deleterious effects on human health.

In the health community there's wider support for stronger regulations of trans-fatty acids, the consumption of which has been shown to increase heart disease.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took the step in 2003 of requiring trans-fatty acids to be listed on nutritional information panels on food products, and there were widespread public campaigns to encourage consumers to limit their consumption of trans-fatty acid. Some cities and states (such as California) required restaurants to limit their use.

Now a new study (see abstract) suggests those efforts have borne fruit. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that blood levels of trans-fatty acids in white U.S. adults decreased by 58 percent from 2000 to 2009.
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N.C. offshore energy panel: Drilling prospects iffy (8 February 2012)
A science panel advising Gov. Beverly Perdue on offshore energy development says oil and gas drilling is unlikely in waters within North Carolina's authority, but the coast has some of the best East Coast locations for wind power.

Perdue's office on Wednesday released the report submitted to her office more than four months ago.

The report said much more exploration is needed to determine if significant offshore oil or natural gas deposits are accessible, but if there is it will be in federally-controlled waters. For geological and business reasons, waters off other East Coast states appear more promising.

The report says without congressional changes, North Carolina would not see any royalties from future drilling.
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Islamic group asks for investigation of Portland FBI over detention of Muslim men (8 February 2012)
Tarhuni, a Tigard importer who was working with the Medical Teams International relief group, was detained before he could fly out of Tunisia as planned on Jan. 17 and interrogated by FBI officials about his religious beliefs, Abbas said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the office is reviewing the letter.

The FBI declined to comment on whether it is investigating anyone or on the situation of either man. A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said the office has received some information from the FBI under the condition that it remain confidential.

Elogbi, 60, and Tarhuni, 55, attend the same Southwest Portland mosque, Masjid As-Saber, but traveled independently to Libya last fall. They are both now in Libya and were recently told by the U.S. embassy in Tunisia that they should be able to return home next week, according to family members.
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State Department: Guantánamo lawyers can't question Yemeni leader (8 February 2012)
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in the United States with full diplomatic immunity, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's legal advisor has written the Pentagon, and should not be compelled to provide sworn testimony for the Guantánamo war court.

State Department Legal Advisor Harold Hongju Koh wrote the letter Monday to the Pentagon's chief war crimes prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, opposing a request for a subpoena by lawyers for an alleged al Qaida bomber facing a tribunal at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

Saleh, 69, arrived in New York late last month and checked into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The U.S. granted him entry for medical treatment of burns he suffered in a June attack at his palace mosque in the uprising to oust him from power.

Lawyers for Guantánamo captive Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 47, argue that Saleh could provide critical evidence in the capital case. Nashiri, who was waterboarded by the CIA, is accused of orchestrating al Qaida's suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Aden, Yemen. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the attack that crippled thewarship in October 2000.
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Capitol Assets: Some legislators send millions to groups connected to their relatives (8 February 2012)
Some members of Congress send tax dollars to companies, colleges and community groups where their spouses, children and parents work as salaried employees, lobbyists or board members, according to an examination of federal disclosure forms and local public records by The Washington Post.

A U.S. senator from South Dakota helped add millions to a Pentagon program his wife evaluated as a contract employee. A Washington congressman boosted the budget of an environmental group that his son ran as executive director. A Texas congresswoman guided millions to a university where her husband served as a vice president.

Those three members are among 16 who have taken actions that aided entities connected to their immediate families. The findings stem from an examination by The Post of all 535 members of the House and Senate, comparing their financial disclosure forms with thousands of public records. The examination uncovered a broad range of connections between the public and private lives of the nation's lawmakers.

Several of the cases have received previous media attention, raised by local newspapers or campaign opponents, but the practice has continued unabated, The Post found.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Actually, the total amount they found was very small in comparison to the budget ovefall. It could be a coincidental number.

Finally admitting that escalating gun violence is more important, Oakland backs off increasing Occupy enforcement (8 February 2012)
Council members Ignacio De La Fuente, Libby Schaaf, Jane Brunner and Brooks voted in favor of the resolution. Rebecca Kaplan and Nancy Nadel voted no, saying they were concerned about devoting more police resources to Occupy as gun violence escalates throughout the rest of the city. Kernighan and Larry Reid abstained.

The laws are already on the books, but in the case of Occupy protests, police have generally refrained from intervening unless the protest turns violent. The rationale is to protect free speech rights and to avoid antagonizing protesters, some of whom say they are eager to confront police.

The resolution was introduced by De La Fuente and Schaaf, who have argued that the city should use every tool at its disposal to stop the ongoing Occupy protests from escalating into violence and property damage.

The resolution focused on Port of Oakland shutdowns, which protesters have attempted twice, but would have applied to all protests.
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U.S. hopes to sidestep Futenma impasse in moving Okinawa Marines to Guam (8 February 2012)
TOKYO -- The U.S. and Japan on Wednesday tweaked a long-stalled military realignment plan, hoping to streamline the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam by cutting the number of troops to be moved and sidestepping a separate controversy about the future location of the Okinawa base.

A joint statement about the agreement provided no specifics about the new deal, but Japanese media reported that the United States is likely to send roughly 4,700 troops -- not the original 8,000 -- to Guam, signaling a possible scaling back of a planned $23 billion military expansion on the tiny island. The remaining 3,300 troops will be spread across the Asia-Pacific, rotated through bases in Australia and the Philippines.

But the agreement would make it easier for the U.S. to remove those troops from Okinawa in the first place. Based on the deal Tokyo and Washington reached in 2006, Marines were to move to Guam only after Japan resolved one of its thorniest domestic issues, securing new land for an existing U.S. air base that Okinawans don't want on their island -- in its current location, or anywhere else.

"We separated those two things in the package," Japanese foreign minister Koichiro Gemba said. "The transfer of the Marines to Guam will not be related to progress in the relocation of Futenma station."
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Sending manufacturing overseas is not the easy road (8 February 2012)
"Every start-up manufacturing program in China costs tens of thousands of dollars," Rosenstein told me during a recent tour of Pioneer's 40,000-square-foot complex not far from the 10 Freeway. "To do a very simple program -- it's $50,000 just to start. And that doesn't include when you have to fly material to China because of lead times and fly things back from China. It doesn't always go by boat."

Then there's the premium in management support: "If they have a technical problem, they may not know how to solve it." And overseas contractors often demand a higher volume of orders than a specialty manufacturer with its eye on quality can provide. "I have to twist their arm to do 1,000 units a year -- they want to do 1,000 a month," he says.

Rosenstein says Pioneer has managed to avoid the pitfalls of offshore manufacturing, such as missed deadlines and poor quality. But that requires hands-on oversight.

"Our experience has been excellent," he says. "The key is that we have very close relationships with our suppliers. I go to China often. I send our product manager, our manufacturing engineer over, just to make sure everybody's together. You cannot imagine the overhead in support time."
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"Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away with Murder": New Book Ties Johnson Admin to Guevara's Death (7 February 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: And how you know CIA was involved?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, the CIA here, this is--I mean, what's interesting in the book is the documents we got. We got one from Walt Whitman Rostow that essentially said--

AMY GOODMAN: Who was working for president--

MICHAEL RATNER: Right, the national security adviser for President Johnson. He said all the documents he shoveled in to Johnson were from the CIA, the CIA's reporting. "We want the fingerprints. We think Che did this. We think Che did that." So it all comes out of the CIA. Rostow says the killing is stupid. But then you read Rostow's memo, and you realize the first thing the United States wanted was Che dead, because that was the way to end revolutionary fervor in Latin America and in the world.
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PAM COMMENTARY: This seems to fit with LBJ's reputation of having been involved in the JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X assassinations.

Exelon's Byron plant generating electricity after shutdown (8 February 2012)
A northern Illinois nuclear plant is back up and running after a reactor lost power and shut down last week.

Exelon Nuclear says the Unit 2 reactor at the Byron Generating Station began producing electricity at about noon Tuesday after it was reconnected to the electrical grid.

An outage on Jan. 30 started when an electrical insulator failed and fell off the metal structure it was attached to. That interrupted power and caused the reactor to automatically shut down as a precaution.

Exelon says technical experts did hundreds of maintenance and inspection tasks while the unit was offline.
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Welders question PG&E's gas pipeline work (8 February 2012)
Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s old gas lines are riddled with potentially lethal weld flaws, and new welding that the company's crews did during pipeline testing last year is suspect, two veteran welders told state regulators this week.

The two told the California Public Utilities Commission that they had serious concerns with what they saw while working on PG&E's high-pressure water testing of 150 miles of transmission pipeline last year. The company undertook the tests in reaction to the explosion of a pipe in San Bruno in September 2010 that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

PG&E expects to perform such hydrotests on 180 more miles of pipe this year. The tests are designed to expose any flawed welds like the one that ruptured in San Bruno and helped cause the disaster.

In a filing to the utilities commission on Monday, however, the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 342 union said the 2011 testing program had safety problems and that the company's old gas transmission lines were plagued by corrosion, flawed welds and shoddy repairs.
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Architect of Egypt's NGO crackdown is Mubarak holdover (8 February 2012)
CAIRO -- The architect of Egypt's crackdown on U.S.-funded pro-democracy organizations is a holdover from the cabinet of former president Hosni Mubarak who has tried for years to stymie the groups' activities.

Faiza Abou el-Naga, the minister who coordinates international aid and long the most powerful woman in the Egyptian government, has survived a series of cabinet purges and weathered the groundswell of anger toward remnants of Mubarak's regime. But her intensifying campaign against the civil society groups offers clear proof, her critics say, that some elements of the old guard remain entrenched and are trying to block the rise of new political leadership in the country.

"Mubarak is still ruling in some ways and is still blocking the emergence of a new regime in Egypt," said Abdullah al-Ashaal, a former deputy foreign minister. "Faiza Abou el-Naga is one of the tools in that."

This week, 43 employees of nongovernmental organizations, including 19 Americans, were charged as part of an investigation of civil society groups. They included the country directors of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI), the latter of which is led in Cairo by the son of the U.S. transportation secretary.
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Analysis: Invalid signatures likely not enough to halt Walker recall (8 February 2012)
About 15% of the signatures in a random sample of the petitions seeking the recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker could not be verified, according to an analysis by the Journal Sentinel.

The review suggests that even if the number of unverifiable signatures turned out to be three times higher, Walker supporters - barring a new legal challenge - will have a difficult time striking enough of the 1 million signatures submitted to stop a recall election.

To force a recall election against Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, 540,208 valid signatures are needed for each - a figure equivalent to 25% of all the votes cast in the November 2010 election that put Walker in office.

Lynn Freeman, vice chair of the board of directors for United Wisconsin, said her group is confident the recall election will be certified.

"I don't want us to have a 15% problem, but even if we do, we are still far and above the signatures needed," Freeman said.
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Republican primary surprise: Santorum wins Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri (8 February 2012)
"I'm probably going to be the only Mitt guy," said Meyers, chairman for House District 50B Republicans. "For a lot of people, he's not conservative enough."

He was right. Results in his suburban district: Santorum 204, Paul 118, Romney 85, Gingrich 35 and five write-ins. Four years ago, Romney won 44 percent of the vote there.

That story resonated in the Republican stronghold of Buffalo, Minn. While Romney swept that city in 2008, it was a Santorum rout in 2012.

In Buffalo, caucusgoer Don Tilus said Santorum was "level-headed."

"Some of the others have big money behind them and that isn't good," said the former union member.
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Facebook criticised for 'hurting' cybercrime investigation (8 February 2012)
"Yes, it hurts investigations," he said.

"When criminals find out they are being investigated they will be doing everything they can to preserve their freedom."

Kaspersky's stance was backed by F-Secure, another anti-virus firm, which told The Telegraph that naming and shaming "undermines any efforts to get these guys arrested".

It is not clear why the Koobface gang have not been investigated despite the detailed intelligence gathered by Facebook and internet security firms, which has been passed to authorities in the West and in Russia. St Petersburg has long been viewed as a centre of organised cyber crime, however.

The Koobface worm emerged in 2008 and spread itself by sending fake messages on Facebook and other social networks to its victims' friends. If the recipient of the message clicked on a link that promised "you look just awesome in this movie" or similar, they were directed to a website that told them to update their Adobe Flash software.
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Rising temperatures at Fukushima raise questions over stability of nuclear plant (8 February 2012)
Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant say they are regaining control of a reactor after its temperature rose dramatically this week, casting doubt on government claims that the facility has been stabilised.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] was forced to increase the amount of cooling water being injected into the No 2 reactor after its temperature soared to 73.3C earlier this week.

By Tuesday night, the temperature had dropped to 68.5C at the bottom of the reactor's containment vessel, where molten fuel is believed to have accumulated after three of Fukushima Daiichi's six reactors suffered meltdown after last year's tsunami disaster.

The temperature at the bottom of the No 2 reactor vessel had risen by more than 20C in the space of several days, although it remained below the 93C limit the US nuclear regulatory commission sets for a safe state known as cold shutdown. Tepco said it had also injected water containing boric acid to prevent a nuclear chain reaction known as re-criticality.
[Read more...]

Rejected compromise in Texas redistricting case leaves state's primary date in limbo (7 February 2012)
AUSTIN, Texas -- Last-ditch negotiations to save the April 3 Texas primary appear dead and that means a federal court will likely draft the state's political maps and set a new primary date.

The court had set a Monday deadline for the state and a coalition of minority groups to reach a compromise. But several black and Hispanic groups splintered at the bargaining table.

Minority groups are suing over political districts in the state's most urban and racially diverse areas in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and the upper gulf coast. They claim that Republican lawmakers drew districts that make it hard for minorities to elect the candidates that they want.

But Republicans say their maps only prevent Democrats from winning, which is legal.
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'Mandela of the Maldives' forced out by police coup (8 February 2012)
President Mohamed Nasheed, the man who earned a broad international profile for helping secure democracy in the Maldives and highlighting the threat to his country from climate change, has been forced to step down after weeks of opposition protests culminated in a mutiny by police. Supporters of the President said he was the victim of what amounted to a coup.

The former political prisoner who some nicknamed the "Mandela of the Maldives" announced his resignation during a live television broadcast yesterday, saying he would rather stand down than use force against his own citizens. Foreign tourists who flock to the nation's luxury resorts were not believed to be in any danger.

"I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power. I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force which would harm many citizens," he said. "I resign because I believe that if the government continues to stay in power, it is very likely that we may face foreign influences."

The British-educated, former journalist was the first democratically elected leader of the Muslim Indian Ocean nation of more than 1,200 islands. But his opponents had recently been holding daily demonstrations and seized on the President's decision to arrest and detain a judge -- accusing him of acting undemocratically.
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Obama advisers seek compromise on contraception rule (7 February 2012)
A key White House adviser on faith issues said Tuesday that several organizations with ties to the administration have approached President Obama's aides about finding a resolution to fast-growing controversy over a new rule requiring many Catholic institutions to offer birth control and other contraception services as part of employees' health care coverage.

"There are conversations right now to arrange a meeting to talk with folks about how this policy can be nuanced," said Pastor Joel C. Hunter, a Florida megachurch pastor who has grown personally close to Obama and advised his White House on religious issues. "This is so fixable, and we just want to get into the conversation."

Hunter's comments followed a statement by David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama's reelection campaign, who indicated on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday that the White House might be open to a compromise on the matter.

"We certainly don't want to abridge anyone's religious freedoms, so we're going to look for a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventive care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions," he said.
[Read more...]

U.S. admiral says Afghan special operations to expand (7 February 2012)
A U.S. admiral said today that special operations forces in Afghanistan are preparing for a possible expanded role as American forces begin to withdraw after a decade of war.

Adm. Bill McRaven, the special operations commander who led last year's Navy commando raid against Osama bin Laden, confirmed special operations forces would be the last to leave under the Obama administration's current plan, and that the Pentagon is considering handing more of the Afghan war responsibility over to a senior special operations officer as part of that evolution.

He said special operations would combine targeting and training operations this summer to prepare for a smaller overall U.S. footprint, but McRaven stressed that no final decisions had been made.

"We feel like we have to become not only more effective but more efficient," McRaven told a Washington audience.
[Read more...]

Entire staff of California school replaced pending sex abuse inquiry (7 February 2012)
In a dramatic move to quell parents' fears, Los Angeles school officials said they will temporarily replace the entire staff of an elementary school south of downtown Los Angeles, where two teachers have been accused of lewd acts against students.

Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy announced the action at a tense public meeting Monday evening in which Miramonte Elementary School parents chanted "cover-up!" and accused the school system of failing to protect their children.

Some parents said they were alarmed by reports that students had complained about one of the accused teachers several times in the last two decades.

"My trust level is at zero," Cassini Quarles, the mother of a third-grader, said outside the meeting, which was held at a nearby high school.

The staffing shake-up marks an attempt to rebuild community confidence as detectives and school officials continue their investigations.
[Read more...]

California appeals court upholds gay marriage (7 February 2012)
A federal appeals court today ruled California's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, upholding a federal judge's landmark ruling in a case likely destined for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision, by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is a major lift for gay-rights advocates in a nationally-watched case.

The proponents of Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban voters approved in 2008, are expected to appeal.

The decision by the appeals court upholds the historic ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in 2010 that the ban violates gay people's equal protection and due process rights. The ruling has been stayed pending appeal.
[Read more...]

Diabetes quadruples birth defects risk, say researchers (5 February 2012)
The risk of birth defects increases four-fold if the pregnant mother has diabetes, researchers say.

The Newcastle University study, published in the journal Diabetologia, analysed data from more than 400,000 pregnancies in North East England.

The risk of defects such as congenital heart disease and spina bifida were increased.

National guidelines already recommend having good control over blood sugar levels before trying to conceive.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: This would seem to support the mineral deficiency model of diabetes (at least for type 2), covered by Joel Wallach, ND DVM. According to that model, chromium and vanadium (the right kind, in very low trace amounts -- otherwise they can be toxic) deficiencies are involved in diabetes. Wallach has mentioned how this was discovered by a hospital staffer who researched how to solve the previously common problem of coma patients developing type 2 diabetes while being fed through IVs for long periods of time.

Many birth defects, including spina bifida, are caused by vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies. This would imply that diabetic mothers have several deficiencies -- not only those causing diabetes, but those causing birth defects. Multiple deficiencies are common among people who eat a nutritionally poor diet and/or those who don't take dietary supplements.

Alaska group to lure moose off roads with food (7 February 2012)
"We hope the diversionary feeding stations will lure moose away from roads and will reduce moose-vehicle collisions and other dangerous encounters," he said in the announcement.

Kavalok estimates that more than 600 moose have been killed by cars, trucks and trains so far this winter in the Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska-Susitna boroughs, where the tactics will be applied. He didn't have an exact count, but the Mat-Su Borough a few weeks ago had listed the moose kill at 315.

"All I can tell you is that we're way above normal," he said by phone.

Snow has accumulated to more than 4 feet deep in some places, making snowshoes a necessity for humans leaving a trail. It's not just the quantity of the snow that's the problem, Kavalok said. The quality also can be an issue if moose are breaking through crust.
[Read more...]

Meat trade emissions equal to half of all Britain's cars (5 February 2012)
If everyone in the UK went vegetarian or vegan it would have the same environmental benefit as talking half of all cars off the road, according to new research. Scientists have calculated the impact of 61 foods, with fresh meat and cheese topping the carbon footprint league.

They estimate that the combined greenhouse gas emissions from the foods we eat in the UK are the equivalent of 167 million tons of carbon dioxide, and switching to vegetarian diets could cut this by between 22 and 26 per cent.

Professor Nick Hewitt of Lancaster University, who carried out the research, said: "Our analysis shows that informed dietary choices can make a significant difference to greenhouse gas -- reducing food-related emissions by around a quarter -- with additional health benefits.''

Professor Hewitt, who carried out the work with colleagues from Small World Consulting, said that the potential saving of the nation becoming vegetarian could be as much as 40 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. "This is equivalent to a 50 per cent reduction in current exhaust pipe emissions of CO2 from the entire UK passenger car fleet.''
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U.S. House approves bill to expand Corolla wild horse herd (6 February 2012)
The U.S. House has approved a bill that would expand Corolla's wild horse herd to help maintain the herd's genetic viability.

Unanimously approved by the House of Representatives, the bill would increase the maximum number of horses in the herd from 60 to 130. Equine genetic scientists have found that at least 110 horses are necessary in order to maintain the herd's genetic viability, a news release from Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC, said. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund would continue to pay the cost of managing the horses.

For at least the last five years, the herd has averaged more than 100 horses, said Karen McCalpin, director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Last year, an aerial count showed the herd had ballooned to 144 horses, the most recorded since the Corolla Wild Horse Fund was founded in 1989.

The Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act, introduced by Jones, now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
[Read more...]

Canada: CSIS may use intelligence derived from torture, Toews says (7 February 2012)
The [Canadian] federal government has directed Canada's spy agency to use information that may have been extracted through torture in cases where public safety is at stake.

The order represents a reversal of policy for the Conservative government, which once insisted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would discard information if there was any inkling it might be tainted.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has quietly told CSIS the government now expects the spy service to "make the protection of life and property its overriding priority."

A copy of the two-page December 2010 directive was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
[Read more...]

Neuroscience could mean soldiers controlling weapons with minds (UK) (7 February 2012)
Soldiers could have their minds plugged directly into weapons systems, undergo brain scans during recruitment and take courses of neural stimulation to boost their learning, if the armed forces embrace the latest developments in neuroscience to hone the performance of their troops.

These scenarios are described in a report into the military and law enforcement uses of neuroscience, published on Tuesday, which also highlights a raft of legal and ethical concerns that innovations in the field may bring.

The report by the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, says that while the rapid advance of neuroscience is expected to benefit society and improve treatments for brain disease and mental illness, it also has substantial security applications that should be carefully analysed.

The report's authors also anticipate new designer drugs that boost performance, make captives more talkative and make enemy troops fall asleep.
[Read more...]

Marines practice amphibious war, storm US beaches (7 February 2012)
Military officials say the operation being conducted in Virginia and North Carolina is the largest amphibious training exercise they've attempted in at least a decade. Marines have been fighting wars in landlocked countries like Iraq and Afghanistan for years, and many have never even set foot on a Navy ship. That's of particular concern as the military shifts its strategic focus toward the coastal regions of the Middle East, such as Iran, and the Pacific, where North Korea and China are drawing increasing attention from the U.S.

"Sooner or later, the nation is going to require a sizeable force to go somewhere where folks don't want us to go. So, no, the image is not Iwo Jima, Tarawa and so forth, but nevertheless, when we go to shore someplace where we're not wanted ashore, we have to be ready to defend force to accomplish the mission and then to sustain the force once it's ashore," said Brig. Gen. Christopher Owens, deputy commanding general of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

About 3,500 Marines made landfall on the beaches near Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Virginia Beach beginning Monday, days before an aerial assault and insertion of Marines launched from sea is made on Fort Pickett in Virginia.

About 6:30 p.m. Monday, between 120 and 150 Marines traveled by landing hovercraft from the USS New York - an amphibious landing dock ship - to the cold shores of Fort Story, a military base along Virginia Beach hidden away from nearby high-rise resorts.
[Read more...]

Glencore and Xstrata unveil $90bn merger creates the world's fourth largest natural resources company (7 February 2012)
The company will have combined revenues of more that $200bn and it will be a global leader in export thermal coal, ferrochrome and integrated zinc production, the third largest producer of copper growing into the largest independent producer within four years, and fourth largest producer of nickel.

Operations and project will cover 33 countries, 101 mines and more than 50 metallurgical facilities and have around 130,000 employees.

The group believes increased scale will give it the size to compete mining giants BHP Billiton, Brazil's Vale, and Rio Tinto and enable it to take part in consolidation in the industry. It will also lessen risk and lower capital costs.

Mr Glasenberg, who holds a $9.6bn, 15.8pc stake in Glencore, said: "We have a fantastic opportunity to create a new powerhouse in the global commodities industry ... This is a natural merger which will realise immediate and ongoing value ... but the opportunity is even greater than that."
[Read more...]

BP has "recovered from" Gulf spill, increases dividend as profits hit $23.9bn (7 February 2012)
BP increased its dividend for the first time in a year, as the oil giant recovered from the losses caused by the Gulf of Mexico disaster to post profits for 2011 of $23.9bn (€18.1bn).

The 14pc dividend rise - taking payments to 8 cents per share - was the first increase since BP reinstated the payments it suspended during the oil spill.

The welcome news for shareholders came as the oil major reported full-year profits of $23.9bn, compared with the $4.9bn loss it made in 2010 - the year of the accident that killed 11 men and spilled millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf.

The profits are reported on the oil industry's standard 'replacement cost profit' measure, which strips out changes in the value of the inventory.
[Read more...]

BP approves Mad Dog Phase 2 in Gulf of Mexico (7 February 2012)
(Reuters) - BP said it had approved a plan to develop a "major new gas field" in the Gulf of Mexico, the latest sign the British oil group is getting back to business in the area after its disastrous 2010 oil spill.

Chief Executive Bob Dudley said on Tuesday that BP and its partners Chevron Corp and BHP Billiton had agreed to build phase two of their Mad Dog development.

This will involve installing a new 'spar' platform on the southern extension of the field, capable of producing 120,000-140,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed).

"We have just sanctioned with our partners Chevron and BHP ... one of the largest new free-standing developments in the Gulf of Mexico," Dudley told reporters at a press conference.
[Read more...]

How to copy music from an iPod, iPhone to a PC (6 February 2012)
Anyone who owns an iPod, iPhone or iPad is likely aware it's pretty easy to copy music from your computer to your portable device.

It's getting music off your portable player that can be problematic.

New software called iDevice Manager can help. Not only is it free to download and use, but it's much simpler than similar programs and contains extra features, too.

Before we get into specifics on this free tool, you might be wondering why you can't easily copy music from your device to a computer. It's because iTunes - the software that performs the handshake between your USB-connected iGadget and the computer -- was designed for one-way transfer only. This Apple-imposed restriction is to help curb piracy, defined as the duplication and/or distribution of copyrighted content. Otherwise, people might share music freely by simply connecting the portable player to a friend's PC and giving away their collection.

But there are legitimate uses for copying music from an iPod to a different computer. What if your PC crashes and you can't access your music off the hard drive? Or what if you want to hear your purchased music on a secondary computer, such as a laptop you travel with, yet your tunes are stored on a home office PC?
[Read more...]

Gingrich Drops Court Bid to Get on Virginia Ballot (6 February 2012)
Newt Gingrich, who is seeking the Republican Party's nomination for president, dropped his court bid to be added to Virginia's primary ballot.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, asked the U.S. Appeals Court in Richmond, Virginia, today to dismiss his case challenging the state's primary rules.

Gingrich "has voluntarily dismissed his claims pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia," according to the two-page filing. "Accordingly, this matter is moot."

A three-judge appeals panel last month rejected a request from Texas Governor Rick Perry and Gingrich to block the state from printing ballots and distributing absentee ballots for the March 6 primary while their appeals seeking to be included on the ballots were pending.
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Justice Department delays decision on Suffolk voting district maps; city's new maps may reflect racial bias (6 February 2012)
Among other things, the department requested "a detailed explanation of the process" the city used in adopting its redistricting plan and in considering any alternative plans. It also requested all documents, notes, tapes, and transcripts of all meetings where the plans were discussed.

The city's plan, created by city staff, drew sharp criticism from some residents and from the NAACP for drawing Councilman Leroy Bennett and two School Board members out of their boroughs. Bennett and one of the excluded board members are black.

Critics of the plan accused the city of trying to dilute the back vote.

Bennett and the NAACP also submitted plans. The city council rejected both, declaring that they were "not legally viable" on largely technical grounds.
[Read more...]

AG accepts Texas redistricting deal (6 February 2012)
A congressman's lawyer says the Texas attorney general has agreed to a temporary voting map that could keep the April 3 date for primary elections in Texas.

Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar's lawyer Rolando Rios tells The Associated Press that the attorney general agreed not to challenge a proposal that would give Texas two new Hispanic congressional seats.

A San Antonio federal court gave the state and minority groups until Monday to reach a compromise, or see the Texas primaries pushed back for a second time. The groups say the original map was discriminatory.

Still, some minority groups aren't supporting the new map. Luis Vera, an attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens, says it "means absolutely nothing."
[Read more...]

Texas redistricting compromise disputed (6 February 2012)
Abbott's office said the deal had been worked out with the Latino Redistricting Task Force, which includes the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, League of United Latin American Citizens, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. However a key LULAC lawyer denied that any deal was in the works.

"There will not be an agreement ... There is no agreement," said Luis Vera, an attorney for LULAC.

He said LULAC, the NAACP and a coalition of North Texas Democrats would make that official in a filing they would submit in the San Antonio court later Monday.

The proposed compromise, put together by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, likely would force U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett back into a Hispanic-dominated district that runs from Austin to San Antonio, along Interstate 35. It also transforms a Fort Worth-area district into a coalition district that probably would elect an African American into a district dominated by Latinos.
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US levies tougher sanctions on Iran's Central Bank (6 February 2012)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama levied tough new sanctions on Iran's Central Bank Monday amid increased tensions over Tehran's nuclear program and the specter of an Israeli attack on the Islamic republic. In a letter to Congress, Obama said more sanctions were warranted, "particularly in light of the deceptive practices of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks." He said the problems included the hiding of transactions of sanctioned parties, the deficiencies of Iran's anti-money laundering regime and the unacceptably high risk posed to the entire international financial system posed by Iran's activities.

The Central Bank sanctions were included as an amendment in the wide-ranging defense bill that Obama signed into law at the end of the year. The White House said Obama signed the executive order enforcing the sanctions on Sunday. The stronger sanctions come as the White House tries to ratchet up pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program and dissuade Israel from launching a unilateral strike on Iran, a move that could roil the Middle East and jolt the global economy.

Obama said Sunday he does not believe Israel has yet decided whether to attack Iran and still believes a diplomatic solution is possible.

Iran insists that its nuclear pursuit is for peaceful purposes, but the West accuses Tehran of developing the know-how to build a nuclear bomb. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week would not dispute a report that he believes Israel may attack Iran this spring in an attempt to set back the Islamic republic's nuclear program. The White House said Monday that the timing of the stricter sanctions was unrelated to the prospect of an Israeli attack.
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Internet giants pull content after warning in India courts (6 February 2012)
The High Court has yet to rule on their appeal, but the sitting judge warned in January they were responsible for content on their websites and said he could block sites "like China" if they did not get their house in order.

In the Rai case, the court ordered the companies to stand trial for offences relating to the distribution of obscene material to minors, after being shown images it said were offensive to Prophet Mohammed, Jesus and various Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as several political leaders.

"If the companies have actually removed some content, they should put in place a mechanism to do it regularly, instead of waiting for a court case every time," Rai told Reuters.

Fewer than one in 10 of India's 1.2 billion population has access to the Internet, but that still makes it the third-biggest Internet market after China and the United States. The number of Internet users in India is expected to almost triple to 300 million over the next three years.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Sounds like FREEDOM OF SPEECH would be much more practical for them...

Goldman Sachs CEO campaigns for gay marriage (6 February 2012)
Gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign published a video on Sunday in which 57-year-old Blankfein, who has headed investment bank Goldman Sachs since 2006, asks viewers to join a "majority of Americans who support marriage equality."

"America's corporations learned long ago that equality is just good business and it's the right thing to do," Blankfein said in the video, which was posted on popular video website YouTube.

Blankfein had already made his views on the issue known. Last year he was one of the financial industry executives to sign an open letter calling on New York state lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage.

Yet Sunday's video is a rare public display of support on a highly controversial issue from one of the financial world's titans whose firm has not always endeared itself among supporters of liberal causes, depicted by some lawmakers and activists as the epitome of Wall Street greed.
[Read more...]

Broward Inspector General: Narcotics stolen, unaccounted for at Medical Examiner's Office (6 February 2012)
Thousands of narcotic pills, including oxycodone and hydrocodone were stolen and unaccounted for at the Broward County Office of the Medical Examiner and Trauma Services, according to a report issued Monday by the Inspector General's office.

The report, based on an investigation launched in November, alleges that employees at the Medical Examiner's Office, including former Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Joshua Perper, for years have mismanaged medical inventory, and failed to ensure that medications were properly secured, cataloged and destroyed -- allowing at least one former supervisor to openly steal narcotics.

Inventory and management of seized medications at the Medical Examiner's office was so haphazard and lax, the report states, that pills were stored in garbage bags scattered throughout the office, and employees openly mocked the lack of professionalism, and derided staff meetings with Perper and their outcomes as a "joke.'' Perper, who could not be reached at home early Monday, served as chief medical examiner from 1994 until he resigned in October.

"Our investigation revealed a disturbing lack of professionalism at the Medical Examiner's Office,'' said John Scott, Broward's inspector general.
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West Memphis 3: Freed Death Row Prisoner Makes Film about 18-Year Battle to Prove His Innocence (6 February 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: You were held for more than 18 years on death row.


AMY GOODMAN: Most of that time.


AMY GOODMAN: And you were agreeing not to sue the state, though you were maintaining your innocence?

DAMIEN ECHOLS: Well, what it all came down to for me was, we knew we would win this eventually, we would be exonerated eventually. The state knew that. But they presented this deal to us, basically saying, "You can sign this paperwork, and you can walk out of prison this week. You can go home before this week is out. Or, you can refuse this deal, and yeah, you'll eventually win, but we'll drag this out for another five, 10 years, however long it takes." You know, Scott Ellington also says in the movie, the prosecutor, that one of the considerations they had in offering--in agreeing to this deal was that the three of us together could have effectively sued the state for $60 million. So you take that in consideration with the fact that I also knew how corrupt and how desperate they were, and I knew they could have had me stabbed to death in that prison any day of the week for $50. So, I knew I would never live to see that exoneration.
[Read more...]

Italy frees former Guantánamo detainee (6 February 2012)
An Italian appeals court has overturned the terrorism conviction of a Tunisian man who had spent nearly eight years in the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo, Cuba.

Mohamed Ben Riadh Nasri, who had been convicted of terrorism association by a lower Italian court, was one of three Tunisian prisoners from Guantanamo that Italy accepted more than two years ago.

Nasri's lawyer, Roberto Novellino, said the appeals court in Milan on Monday threw out the guilty verdict and its six-year sentence, meaning his client is a free man. The court's reasoning will be released in 30 days.

A second Tunisian man who had served time at Guantánamo was released for time served and returned home, while the third remains in an Italian prison.
[Read more...]

Chloramines suspected in Virginia pond where fish died (6 February 2012)
About 1,100 fish died in two ponds -- one of about three acres, one smaller -- in Winchester Green in western Henrico County.

DEQ officials said last week that they believed the fish were killed by chlorinated water that gushed into the ponds from a Jan. 27 break in a nearby drinking-water line. Henrico officials have said all along that they were skeptical of that.

A DEQ biologist today ran two tests in the larger pond. The tests found chlorine levels of 0.20 and 0.21 parts per million in the water -- more than 10 times the legal limit 0.019 ppm.

The DEQ will run more tests to get a better idea of what's happening in the pond and to help determine how to address the problem, Hayden said.

Chlorine usually dissipates fairly quickly in the open air. "It's surprising that chlorine was detected so long after the event," Hayden said.

However, Henrico treats its drinking water with, among other things, chloramines -- chemicals that contain chlorine and ammonia. Chlorine in chloramines lasts longer in water than chlorine by itself, experts say.
[Read more...]

Sinopec lobbies top court in oilsands death case (6 February 2012)
A Chinese state-owned corporation wants the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a ruling that would force it to stand trial in the deaths of two oilsands workers.

Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Company is seeking leave to appeal a Nov. 23 Alberta Court of Appeal judgment that orders the company to stand trial on 53 safety charges.

Two temporary workers from China were killed in 2007 near Fort McMurray when a storage tank collapsed at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s Horizon project.

In it's appeal application, Sinopec Shanghai, which brought the workers to Alberta, argues it has no official presence in Canada.
[Read more...]

Race to drill into Antarctic lake (6 February 2012)
Lake Vostok, which is about the same size as Lake Ontario, is buried beneath nearly 4km of ice in the middle of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

The lake itself is about the same age as the ice that covers it - 14 million years old. The lake water is thought to be younger - tens or hundreds of thousands of years old - because water may flow between different sub-glacial lakes.

It may host cold-loving organisms that have been left to their own evolutionary devices for millennia.

The Russians have friendly competition from US and British teams. Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (Bas) are hoping to begin their project to drill into Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica later this year.
[Read more...]

Molepske: Mining bill should be crafted in consultation with tribes (5 February 2012)
As we stated from the beginning, a bill of this scope and effect on our northern Wisconsin population and local environment should be crafted in consultation with the tribes located here in Wisconsin. It was a serious misstep to exclude them. Only by having these sovereign nations at the table from the beginning could a bill be crafted that truly ensures efficiency and streamlining for future mining operations in Wisconsin.

First of all, the tribes should have been consulted in order to avoid an inquiry by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which we now learn is occurring under President Obama's November 5, 2009 Executive Order.

Equally important, though, is that the mining bill affects the Bad River Tribe, which has state status to implement provisions of the Clean Water Act. This means that the Bad River Tribe can object to a proposed mining operation if the operation would jeopardize the Tribe's own water quality downstream. Such a result seems not just likely but probable, given the extreme gutting of Wisconsin's environmental protections under AB 426.

The tribes said from the beginning that they needed and wanted to be involved in the process of making changes to Wisconsin's mining law. They absolutely should have been at the table as this bill was being developed. I truly hope that the Senate takes the appropriate path of starting over and inviting the tribes to the conversation as they craft an entirely new mining bill.
[Read more...]

Local Tribe Reacts to Wisconsin Mining Bill's Federal Inquiry (3 February 2012)
A federal agency is getting involved with the debate over Wisconsin's mining rules. The Bureau of Indian Affairs or BIA is looking into whether the state violated tribal treaty rights when drafting a mine permitting bill.

James Schlender Jr., a tribal attorney for the Lac Courte Orielles band that is near the mine site said the state didn't consult with them on the bill, something treaties require them to do. Now speaking on behalf of all tribes, hoping for more say before the bill passes.

Local tribal bands have been at every hearing about the proposed iron ore mine but say they needed more say in a bill that recently passed the assembly.

"We've had input but we've had to do it at the public hearings," said Schlender. "But when you have a thousand people and you are given three minutes, is that really giving a tribe enough time to respond?"

The bill aims to streamline the mine permitting process to help get a proposed iron ore mine into Ashland and Iron counties. Supporters of the bill say they need 700 jobs the mine would bring. However the tribes have expressed concern the bill lifts too many environmental restrictions and they needed to be better consulted.
[Read more...]

Federal Agency Exploring Whether Mining Bill Violated Treaty Rights (3 February 2012)
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is examining whether the mining bill Assembly Republicans advanced violated treaty rights because planners did not consult with tribal governments.

According to representatives from the Bad River, Menominee, Lac Du Flambeau and Red Cliff tribes, their leaders must be consulted on legislation that could impact members. They have alleged that a mining operation just south of Lake Superior could adversely affect water quality on tribal lands.

The bill would streamline Wisconsin's permitting process for the mine, such as by requiring the review to be completed within a year's time.

Supporters contend jobs are desperately needed in the region, and a mining operation would provide good-paying positions for years.

Critics of the bill fear irreparable damage to the environment.
[Read more...]

Feds To Look Into State's Handling Of Mining Bill With Tribes (2 February 2012)
The BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] is looking into whether Wisconsin violated treaty rights by not consulting with tribal governments that could be affected by a state mining bill.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs isn't calling it an investigation, just an inquiry. BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling in Washington says they were asked by at least one tribal government to get involved.

"We're aware of this issue and are looking into whether and how this effects the treaty rights pursuant to their treaties with the United States. The Department encourages the state to live up to the United States standard on consultation with the tribal governments and nations on a government to government basis on issues of mutual concern."

Darling says they're exercising a November 5th, 2009 Executive Order from President Obama that federal officials consult with tribal governments on matters that should involve the tribes.
[Read more...]

A year after dividing the state, Walker in fight of his political life (6 February 2012)
Saturday marks one year since Walker introduced legislation so controversial it divided the state, spurred the largest protests in Wisconsin history and triggered a series of recall elections -- likely including his own.

The Government Accountability Board is in the process of validating 1 million Walker recall signatures turned in last month. Unless it deems more than 450,000 of them fraudulent, the governor will find himself in the fight of his political life.

To win, Walker will have to walk a political tightrope, reminding people of his accomplishments while avoiding some of the more troubling aspects of his first year in office.

He will tout closing a $3.6 billion shortfall in the state budget, adding more than $1.2 billion to health programs such as BadgerCare and FamilyCare and keeping property taxes stable.

He will downplay, however, the loss of 35,000 Wisconsin jobs the past six months, more than $1 billion in education cuts and a spiraling John Doe investigation that keeps getting closer to him.
[Read more...]

State's public workers cope with reduced buying power following Walker legislation (6 February 2012)
State of Wisconsin clerical worker Gina Bertolini started paying about 6 percent of her $15.48 hourly wage toward her pension in August plus $84 a month for her health coverage.

Many other government employees carrying family health coverage took bigger hits, but overall Bertolini saw an 8 percent reduction in her $32,000 annual pay, about $2,500.

She worried, but took it in stride. Until the holidays.

"I've never been rich, but I always made a nice Christmas dinner for my family," said Bertolini, 59, who has two grown sons and two small grandchildren. "This year I couldn't afford to do the dinner. I did buy everyone a gift, but it was really modest. I didn't decorate. I thought, 'I'm just not going to think about this.'"

Bertolini is just one of tens of thousands of public workers in Wisconsin without union contracts who have faced reduced buying power in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker's landmark legislation -- unveiled one year ago this week -- to balance the budget by curtailing union collective bargaining and extracting financial concessions from workers.

Private sector workers have lost jobs and suffered pay and benefit cuts in recent years, and many are used to going without pensions, paying into retirement accounts and paying more for health insurance. But the erosion in public worker benefits happened suddenly, prompting massive protests at the Capitol, sparking recall efforts against Walker and lawmakers and transforming the state into a national battleground over the future of unions.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Those are some mean numbers for people making so little.

State of Chaos: Interactive Timeline of Embattled Wisconsin Governor's Troubled Tenure (6 February 2012)
New Gov. Scott Walker was only a month into his term when he sought to fix a budget deficit by forcing increases in public workers' benefit costs and hobbling their labor unions -- setting off a political firestorm. He announced the news on a Friday, and by Monday the first significant protests had begun. The state quickly became the epicenter of a national story line as other cash-strapped governors considered similar measures... [Read more...]

Obama ignites firestorm among Catholics (6 February 2012)
The Obama administration's decision last week to force Catholic institutions to provide birth control, abortion and other services was the gaffe that went unnoticed last week amid the Komen/Planned Parenthood fracas and the "I don't care about the poor" gaffe by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The Department of Health and Human Services decided to implement a narrow religious exemption for the Catholic Church under the Affordable Care Act, raising First Amendment questions and the ire of Catholic bishops, about three quarters of whom have addressed the issue to their congregations. The administration would require Catholic institutions to abandon their doctrines on reproductive issues or face catastrophic fines forcing them them to close hospitals that care for about a sixth of U.S. patients.

Catholics are a big portion of the independent vote and about 27 percent of the overall electorate. They are concentrated in swing states.

While polls show a sharp drop in independent support for Romney vis-a-vis Obama, the implications of the HHS ruling have yet to play out.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I contacted the HHS about the legal logic behind this, but haven't heard back from them. I did finally find the press release on their web site about it here, and also another article on the specifics to follow...

Catholic Church Blasts HHS Birth Control Rule (30 January 2012)
The Obama administration rule stems from a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires no-cost coverage for preventive health services. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services cover the "full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods" in order to prevent unintended pregnancies at no cost to the beneficiary, and that includes birth control.

The final rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Jan. 20, says that starting on Aug. 1, 2013, health plans must cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, including hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills, implanted devices such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), Plan B emergency contraceptives (the "morning-after" pill), and sterilization -- all without charging a copay, coinsurance, or a deductible.

The plans will not have to cover abortions, however.

Churches and church-affiliated secondary schools are exempt from the rule, but other organizations with religious affiliations -- including universities, charities, and hospitals -- must comply. Such organizations petitioned HHS for an exemption after the preliminary rule was issued last summer. As a compromise, they have been given an extra year to comply.
[Read more...]

Sacrificing the desert to save the Earth (6 February 2012)
Reporting from Ivanpah Valley, Calif.-- Construction cranes rise like storks 40 stories above the Mojave Desert. In their midst, the "power tower" emerges, wrapped in scaffolding and looking like a multistage rocket.

Clustered nearby are hangar-sized assembly buildings, looming berms of sand and a chain mail of fencing that will enclose more than 3,500 acres of public land. Moorings for 173,500 mirrors -- each the size of a garage door -- are spiked into the desert floor. Before the end of the year, they will become six square miles of gleaming reflectors, sweeping from Interstate 15 to the Clark Mountains along California's eastern border.

BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power project will soon be a humming city with 24-hour lighting, a wastewater processing facility and a gas-fired power plant. To make room, BrightSource has mowed down a swath of desert plants, displaced dozens of animal species and relocated scores of imperiled desert tortoises, a move that some experts say could kill up to a third of them.

Despite its behemoth footprint, the Ivanpah project has slipped easily into place, unencumbered by lasting legal opposition or public outcry from California's boisterous environmental community.
[Read more...]

Quebec woman 'cooked to death,' coroner says (6 February 2012)
Lavigne, a mother of two from St. Albert, Que., died of hyperthermia last July after attending a group therapy session involving sweating and forced hyperventilation, reported Enquête, a French-language television program.

Gabrielle Fréchette, a self-proclaimed Quebec therapist, hosted the session -- part of a seminar called "Dying in Consciousness" -- at a home in rural Quebec. Lavigne and eight other participants spent nine hours lying down with their heads in boxes, covered in mud, and wrapped in plastic and blankets. She later died in hospital with a body temperature of 40.5 degrees. Normal body temperature is 37 degrees.

It's an unregulated activity that poses many health risks, said Mel Borins, a University of Toronto professor and expert in alternative medicine.

"Sounds scary to me," he said.

While most natural therapies are safe, there are some unregulated treatments that cost a lot of money and produce few results, Borins said. "When you got to a practitioner that's regulated, at least you know they're accountable to somebody."

Some traditional or alternative approaches to medicine such as naturopathy, physiotherapy and massage therapy are government-regulated and based in science -- while others are not, he said, adding that "it's a bureaucratic nightmare to try to regulate everything."
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Reminds me of the Arizona sweat lodge deaths from a couple of years ago.

Shell hopes to drill in Arctic this summer (6 February 2012)
Alaska's elected officials are banking on offshore development to maintain Alaska's petroleum-based economy. Environmentalists fighting to protect marine mammals have contested every permit application, claiming oil companies can't clean up spills in ice-choked oceans. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in the wake of the BP Gulf oil disaster, pledged "utmost caution" in Arctic offshore drilling, to the frustration of Shell, which has spent upward of $4 billion on Arctic offshore development

The federal government estimates Arctic Ocean outer continental shelf reserves at 26.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Diminished production on Alaska's North Slope has lowered flow in the trans-Alaska pipeline to less than a third of its capacity.

Shell hopes to provide a source to fill it, and has made progress.

The company cleared a hurdle last month when the Appeals Board of the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed an air permit for one of Shell's drill ships, the Noble Discoverer, which had blocked 2011 drilling. Shell hopes to use the drill ship in the Chukchi Sea.
[Read more...]

'Anonymous' hackers' antiracist campaign goes too far: Critics (5 February 2012)
CALGARY -- Calgarians whose names have been connected to neo-Nazi and white-supremacist groups are angry that their personal identification has been published on the Internet.

Earlier this week, an informal computer hacking collective that operates under the name "Anonymous" released the addresses and phone numbers of thousands of people who had registered with websites affiliated with white-supremacist causes.

The sites included Blood and Honour and Local 1488, which sells T-shirts and militaristic training manuals.

Of the more than 70 Canadian residents revealed, more than a dozen were listed in Calgary and Edmonton.
[Read more...]

PETA Whale Slavery Lawsuit Moves Forward (6 February 2012)
SAN DIEGO -- Lawyers for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will face SeaWorld in court on Monday to demand the release of five orcas into their natural habitat.

"This case is the first time we've sought constitutional protection," said lawyer Jeff Kerr, who has worked with PETA for 16 years.

Kerr and his team claim SeaWorld is violating the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution's ban on slavery and involuntary servitude by holding orcas Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka, Ulises, and Corky at its parks in Orlando, Fla. and San Diego.

"[The suit] eradicates slavery in all forms and slavery should not depend upon the species of the slave anymore than it depends upon gender, race or ethnicity of the slave," said Kerr.

PETA will argue that if the orcas can suffer from enslavement, they should be protected from it.
[Read more...]

U.S. suspends operations at embassy in Syria for security reasons (6 February 2012)
REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- The State Department said Monday it was suspending operations at the U.S. Embassy in Syria's capital because of growing safety risks and had removed the ambassador and all other American personnel.

The department said in a statement that bombings in Damascus on Dec. 23 and Jan. 6 had raised "serious concerns" about the safety of the embassy and that Syrian authorities had "failed to respond adequately" to requests for more security help.

Ambassador Robert Ford would continue trying to serve as U.S. representative to Syria from Washington and would seek to maintain contacts with Syrians, the statement said.

The U.S. government remains deeply concerned by the rising violence in Syria, the statement said. It blamed the violence on "the dangerous path" Syrian President Bashar Assad has chosen in stepping up the regime's attacks on anti-government demonstrators. The United Nations estimates that nearly 6,000 people have been killed during protests that have racked Syria since last March.
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Syrian army 'steps up Homs offensive' (6 February 2012)
The Syrian army has stepped up its attacks on opposition fighters in Homs, activists and witnesses have said, a day after a UN Security Council resolution, aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria, was blocked by Russia and China.

Abu Abdo Alhomsy, an activist of a revolutionary council in Homs, described to Al Jazeera on Monday an attack on the city as live pictures showed smoke billowing into the sky.

"It is horrible right here," Alhomsy said. "Rockets are falling. There are massive explosions that shook buildings. We don't know really what to do.

"Its a massive attack - a new massacre is happening here. Nobody can go out, we don't know how many homes have been hit or how many people died."
[Read more...]

Latinos, hit hard by job losses, are making strong comeback (5 February 2012)
Like Qintana, many Latinos with ties to the home building industry got slammed by the recession, which wiped out about 2 million construction jobs.

But now, as the economic rebound picks up a bit of steam, Latinos are scoring bigger job gains than most other demographic groups and proving to be a bright spot in the fledgling recovery.

While they make up only 15% of the country's workforce, Latinos have racked up half the employment gains posted since the economy began adding jobs in early 2010, Labor Department data showed.

The improving labor market for Latinos, a key voting bloc, could boost President Obama's political fortunes in the fall. They backed Obama heavily in 2008, but many became disgruntled over recession-induced job losses, a top concern among Latinos, and his handling of immigration issues.
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U.K. Facebook killer jailed for ex-girlfriend's murder (6 February 2012)
Mills remained in contact with her, including using the alias Charlie Manning to befriend her on Facebook.

Eventually, after Miss Smith began seeing another man, he lured her to his south London flat, where he hit her with a pick axe handle before stabbing her.

Prosecutor Zoe Johnson QC read the court an impact statement from Miss Smith's daughter Louise Harvey.

It said: "My mum lived for her family, especially her grandchildren. She was so kind, such a hard worker and a good friend to others. I have Mum's ashes at home with me because I want to feel close to her."

Ms Harvey, who was three months pregnant when her mother died, said she felt "anguish" that Miss Smith would never meet her baby daughter.

The statement continued: "I also think about the terrible way she died and the fear and pain she must have been in. I sometimes think these thoughts will haunt me for the rest of my life."
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I'll say it again, watch what you post on those "social networking" sites. Watch your kids' posts, too...

Ireland: 6,000 people a month dropping private health insurance as prices rise (3 February 2012)
Dr Reilly said he was told by the VHI that it would have had higher rises this time if it was not for the health insurance levy, a system where the VHI ends up getting compensated for having most of the older and more expensive customers.

Already some 6,000 people a month are dispensing with health insurance, putting an additional strain on the public system.

VHI said premium prices would rise by between 6pc and 12.5pc for those renewing from March onwards. It comes after rises of between 15pc and 45pc last February.

Now premiums at the state-owned insurer will go up again next month. This latest rise means some plans, particularly those popular with older people, will have jumped by 65pc in a 13-month period.
[Read more...]

Rotherham's two-finger monument to American liberty reopens soon (6 February 2012)
There's a very welcome ceremony in Rotherham today which sheds light on one of the most interesting episodes of the north's long-standing and entirely justified truculence against centralised power.

The Mayor of Rotherham, Coun Shaun Wright, will preside over a topping-out ceremony at Boston Castle, a little fortified folly with overlooks the Don Valley and can just be glimpsed from the M1.

Its name derives from the USA's Boston and it was built to commemorate the famous Boston Tea Party, not in any spirit of revenge but entirely in support of the American rebels. The man who commissioned it in 1773, the third Earl of Effingham, was one of many northerners who backed George Washington & Co in what was in effect the UK's second civil war. The Northerner's colleague Jonathan Freedland has written a very good book about this: Bring Home the Revolution.

Effingham had a sense of humour and forbade tea-drinking in the folly, which is one of a series which make an excellent northern tour if you have a few days spare this summer. Three similar sites are the Greystoke folly-farms in Cumbria -- Fort Putnam and Bunker Hill, named after a rebel general and an embarrassing (for us English) battle; the remains of the American Garden at Meanwoodside in Leeds; and the triumphal arch erected by the Gascoigne family at Parlington Park, also near Leeds, which has the splendidly treasonable inscription: Liberty in N. America Triumphant MDCCLXXXIII (1783).
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Occupy Austin Evicted (5 February 2012) [AJ]
At 10.45pm last night, after days of speculation and rumor, Occupy Austin was evicted from the steps of City Hall.

The Occupiers were told at 9.30pm last night that they had one hour to leave the plaza. New rules had been issued by City Manager Marc Ott's office, requiring a reservation by any group planning to use the Mezzanine or Amphitheater, and barring any non-city usage between 10pm and 6am unless there is a city meeting going on. The new rules also ban "sleeping, camping and the use or storage of sleeping equipment" at all times.

Coolers marked in sharpie with SRT (Special Response Team) were seen being taken into City Hall earlier this week, and occupiers had been told on Wednesday that they would face eviction then. That deadline passed with no incident, but the city was obviously preparing for this later event.

In a press release issued today, Occupy Austin said that 50 police arrived by bus at 10.45pm, and quickly emptied the area, not giving people sufficient time to collect their personal belongings. The protesters then gathered at Republic Square Park and continued to march along Sixth Street. They continued to webcast the event until "it was reported that APD was watching the Livestream and using that information to surround the Occupiers."
[Read more...]

Japan Dumping Radioactive Ash In Tokyo Bay (5 February 2012) [R]
Tokyo on Feb. 2 invited reporters to see how ash from incinerated sludge -- including some contaminated with radioactive substances -- is shipped from a sewage plant to be buried at a disposal site outside a breakwater in Tokyo Bay.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government started burying ash from the incinerator at Akishima in the Tama region of suburban Tokyo in late October last year. In December, it procured gear to separate air from the incinerated sludge and load it into tanker trucks. The Bureau of Sewerage then started transporting the ash from the Tamagawa Joryu Water Reclamation Center to the disposal site.

During the press tour, journalists watched the material being loaded onto the tankers. Radioactive cesium levels in the ash are apparently far below national standards at 1,000 to 2,000 becquerels per kilogram.

The Akishima sewage plant stopped shipping the ash out in May last year and subsequently built up as much as some 420 metric tons of it. The plant will be completely rid of the ash by mid-February.

A total of about 2,600 tons of incinerated sludge are held at six other sewage plants in the Tama region, and the metropolitan government will send the separation gear to those plants to move the ash to the disposal site.
[Read more...]

Five years after HPV vaccine law, state remains split (5 February 2012)
Bioethicist Arthur Caplan said the vaccine has had to overcome numerous barriers.

Caplan, director of a bioethics center at the University of Pennsylvania, said he thinks school mandates for the HPV vaccine were pushed too hard, too soon. Public vaccine campaigns usually entail a process that begins with parent education and establishing a safety record before mandates are proposed.

But the vaccines had barely been recommended by the federal advisory committee before Merck, manufacturer of the first HPV vaccine, Gardasil, began hitting up legislators across the country to propose school mandates.

In Virginia, Merck approached then-state Del. Phil Hamilton, who had received campaign funding from the company. Hamilton, now in federal prison for a public corruption conviction, sponsored the law that went into effect in 2008.

Other states ran into difficulty passing similar measures, partly because of the way HPV is transmitted, through sexual contact. Some people didn't like the idea of immunizing 11- and 12-year-old girls with a vaccine that prevents a sexually transmitted disease, and even raised the idea that the shot would encourage promiscuity.

Minnesota legislator Michelle Bachmann, a former Republican presidential candidate, drew criticism for repeating a claim that the vaccine could cause "mental retardation." The American Academy of Pediatrics quickly sent out an alert saying the assertion was wrong and pointing out the vaccine's excellent safety record.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Actually, the vaccine has a horrible safety record, and questionable efficacy. They can trash the politician all they want, but she's well-informed on this one.

I've mentioned some of the vaccine's problems before, but this time I'll follow-up with a few flashbacks to illustrate the point. I can't include old articles on all of the vaccine's problems -- there are so many, but to follow are a few of them...

CDC Now Pushes Gardasil HPV Shot on All Boys 11 to 12 (4 February 2012) [R]
Will hundreds of more websites soon be popping up telling the tragic tales of young men whose life was riddled with adverse effects after receiving the Gardasil vaccine? Based on the devastating history of the HPV shot Gardasil, the answer is most likely an unfortunate 'yes'. Following the advice of an advisory panel who failed to examine the high number of adverse reactions and deaths associated with Gardasil use, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now recommending that all boys between the ages of 11 and 12-years-old receive the Gardasil shot.

The advisory panel and the CDC both fail to mention that Gardasil was linked to 3,589 harmful reactions and 16 deaths between May 2009 and September 2010 alone, which could be of major concern to parents considering injecting their children with the shot. Permanent disability was the result of 213 cases; 25 resulted in the diagnosis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome; and there were 789 other "serious" reports according to FDA documents.

Of course Merck -- the maker of Gardasil -- also fails to mention these statistics (which once again only span from May 2009 to September 2010). Even on their own Gardasil page, in which the 'side effects' are supposed to be clearly listed to potential patients, all of the listed effects are very minor conditions. Merck makes no mention of the many Gardasil-induced deaths, many of which are now coming to light thanks to Judicial Watch.

Just recently it was found that the FDA was keeping files pertaining to an additional 26 deaths as a result of Gardasil. In fact, on the official Gardasil website fails to mention any of these deaths or serious reactions. Instead, the links to death and permnanent paralysis are replaced with conditions such as headache and itching. The site lists the following side effects...
[Read more...]

Questions on Efficacy Cloud a Cancer Vaccine (FLASHBACK) (16 April 2007)
When Merck & Co. introduced its new vaccine against cervical cancer last June, it gave it one of the biggest pushes any new medicine has received. The company lobbied dozens of states to make the vaccine mandatory for 11- and 12-year-old girls. It aired TV ads featuring young girls skipping rope while reciting the slogan, "I want to be one less" woman to battle the disease.

The campaign scored some big victories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared all women age 11 to 26 should get the vaccine, called Gardasil. Texas and Virginia passed mandatory-vaccination laws for girls entering the sixth grade. Even after Merck halted its lobbying in February amid criticism, an organization backed by the company continues to push for similar laws, and about 20 states are considering them. The vaccine costs $360 for a three-shot regimen. (See the full CDC recommendations.)

But behind the scenes, Gardasil has been dogged by uncertainty about how effective it really is. Merck won approval for the vaccine based on research that showed it protected against two strains of the human papillomavirus, known as HPV 16 and 18, that are thought to cause 70% of cervical-cancer cases. The Food and Drug Administration didn't ask its panel of experts advising on Gardasil to rule on whether the vaccine specifically prevented the cancer itself. In clinical trials, 361 of 8,817 women who received at least one shot of Gardasil went on to develop precancerous lesions on their cervixes within three years of vaccination, just 14% fewer than in a placebo control group.

Scott Emerson, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington who sat on the FDA advisory committee, says he's not persuaded the vaccine is worth the billions of dollars likely to be spent on it in coming years. "I do believe that Gardasil protects against HPV 16 and 18, but the effect it will have on cervical-cancer rates in this country is another question entirely," says Dr. Emerson. "There is a leap of faith involved."
[Read more...]

The CDC Has Known All Along How Dangerous Vaccines Are - And Has Covered It Up... (Part Five) (18 December 2011) [R]
Poul Thorsen is the CDC's expert on the effects of Thimerosal in vaccines. Got that picture? He is also being indicted in Denmark.

The day after Poul Thorsen was indicted in the US David Gorski MD, the one I call "Orac the Nipple Ripper" in his blog, wrote about how Thorsen's indictment had nothing to do with his research, blah, blah, blah. To me, Orac's writings are indicative of the fear level generated in the vaccine industry by Thorsen's arrest. Why do I say this? Because Age of Autism (AOA) author/editor Jake Crosby recently identified, in his article "David Gorski's Financial Pharma Ties: What He Didn't Tell You," that "Orac" is employed by, acts as the agent of, and is the spokesperson for, Sanofi-Aventis -- the world's largest vaccine maker. Certainly, Gorski, who writes in a neurotic panic-mode at most times, was even more strident and pedantic in his commentaries on this day. Probably got a call from his paymasters?

Click here to read the Federal Grand Jury Indictment of Poul Thorsen. You'll get, from this, a sense of the reality of the ENTIRE vaccine construction, for Poul Thorsen epitomizes the vaccinology world.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: This article is hard to follow in spots, but very enlightening overall.

HPV vaccine shows higher rate of anaphylaxis: study (FLASHBACK) (1 September 2008)
The human papilomavirus (HPV) vaccine is up to 20 times more likely than other school-based vaccines to cause anaphylaxis, according to a study released Monday.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, nausea and rashes, but can be treated easily if identified early.

Last year Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland launched HPV vaccination programs in schools, and more provinces are slated to begin programs in September. The massive campaign has had some parents asking questions about the safety of the vaccine.

The Australian rate of anaphylaxis in women following HPV vaccination is 2.6 per 100,000 doses. For most other vaccines the rate is 1 per million.

Dr. Julia Brotherton, lead author of the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, said some women may be allergic to the vaccine components. So far researchers haven't found which parts of the vaccine are causing the reactions.
[Read more...]

ClassAction.org: Gardasil Side Effects May Include Paralysis, Death (5 February 2012)
Gardasil Side Effects: Paralysis, Coma
The following are among the alleged Gardasil problems experienced by those injected with the HPV vaccine:

Guillain-Barre Syndrome
Bells palsy
Blood clots
Anaphylactic shock
Spontaneous abortion
[Read more...]

Sex, Cancer And The Mandatory HPV Vaccine (FLASHBACK) (28 February 2007) [R]
Is human papilloma virus the sole cause of cervical cancer?
There is evidence that HPV alone does not cause cervical cancer and that other "co-factors" are necessary. This research is downplayed by HPV vaccine makers. Because HPV infection rarely leads to cancer some investigators suspect that cervical cancer must have a multifactorial etiology. Back in the 1980s many physicians thought the "herpes simplex virus-2" was the cause of cervical cancer. Nowadays, some think it is still a significant factor in some cases. In the US, 25% of the general population is infected with HSV-2.

Cervical cancer and bacteria
In a rather recent development, it has been found that bacteria and yeast organisms present in the vagina can make a difference in testing for HPV infection. Apparently the detection of HPV DNA is influenced by the composition of vaginal non-viral microbes prevalent at the time of testing.

The question of whether infectious "cancer bacteria" are implicated in cancer is something that I have studied throughout my professional career. There is a century of research linking bacteria to cancer (and more recently to AIDS), but unfortunately this has been entirely ignored by the cancer establishment and by virologists. I wrote about this cancer microbe research in my three books, AIDS; THE MYSTERY AND THE SOLUTION (1984), THE CANCER MICROBE (1990) and in FOUR WOMEN AGAINST CANCER (2005). These cancer-associated bacteria (which also have a virus-like growth stage) have been demonstrated in breast cancer, prostate cancer, various forms of lymphoma, Kaposi's sarcoma (the "gay cancer" of AIDS) and in AIDS-damaged tissue at autopsy,, and in other chronic diseases. (Google: cancer bacteria or cancer microbe for details.)

Years ago, my friend and mentor Virginia Livingston, M.D. wrote in her book, CANCER: A NEW BREAKTHOUGH (1972), that care should be taken in the sexual arena. She advised people "to not have physical relations except with your mate" because of her research showing that cancer was a disease caused by infectious bacteria. At the time her words were considered absolute nonsense and totally out of touch with the sexual mores of the 70s, and Livingston was widely accused of being a quack by her colleagues. When she attempted to boost the immune system of cancer patients with vaccines made from the patient's own bacteria, she was harassed by the medical authorities. Now Livingston's old "heresy" promoting cancer as an infection is the current vogue of virologists and vaccine makers.
[Read more...]

Rick Perry and HPV vaccine-maker have deep financial ties (FLASHBACK) (14 September 2011)
His gubernatorial campaigns, for example, have received nearly $30,000 from the drugmaker since 2000, most of that before he issued his vaccine mandate, which was overturned by the Texas legislature.

Merck and its subsidiaries have also given more than $380,000 to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) since 2006, the year that Perry began to play a prominent role in the Washington-based group, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Perry served as chairman of the RGA in 2008 and again this year, until he decided to run for president. The group ranks among the governor's biggest donors, giving his campaign at least $4 million over the past five years, according to Texans for Public Justice, a watchdog group.

"It's very clear that crony capitalism could likely have been the cause" of Perry's decision to issue the vaccine order, Bachmann said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show, alleging that the drug may be "dangerous" for young girls. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who until now has been generally supportive of Perry in public remarks, joined in the criticism.
[Read more...]

Police: 11 arrested at Occupy DC site (5 February 2012)
Authorities say 11 people have been arrested in Washington's McPherson Square since Park Police began clearing away tents from one of the nation's last remaining Occupy sites.

David Schlosser, who is a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said Sunday that one of those arrested was charged with felony assault on a police officer and assault with a deadly weapon. That person is accused of hitting an officer in the face with a brick Saturday evening. The officer was treated at a hospital.

Three others were charged with assault on a police officer.

Schlosser says officials are continuing to clear the park of unsanitary conditions, though so far Sunday things had remained mostly peaceful.
[Read more...]

Crowds pack Prince Rupert's streets to protest Northern Gateway pipeline (with video) (5 February 2012)
Close to a thousand people marched through Prince Rupert's streets today as part of a rally hosted by local first nations against Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and the oil tanker traffic it would generate on British Columbia's northern coast.

Hosted by the Gitga'at First Nation, which is based at the end of Douglas Channel and would see much of the proposed tanker traffic, the march began with beating drums and singing around 10:30 in Pacific Mariners Memorial Park and ended at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre where speakers, dancers and singers continued into the evening.

Bob Hill, treaty coordinator and negotiator for the Gitga'at and an MC at the rally, said Saturday's action was planned in the lead up to the National Energy Board hearings slated to visit the area later this month.

"We've invited all the neighbouring nations and we've received 100 per cent support," Hill said as he walked from the stage at the rally. "As you well know we're the community that managed to save the passengers off the Queen of the North.
[Read more...]

Corruption probe targets Miami undercover cops (5 February 2012)
When FBI agents questioned Miami undercover cop Roberto Asanza on May 25, 2010, they found a dozen bags of cocaine and marijuana stashed in a CD box in the cab of his truck.

Asanza, an ex-Marine, admitted he kept the drugs after seizing them from a dealer he and his boss had busted at a window-tinting shop in Allapattah weeks earlier.

Rather than arrest Asanza for not turning in and reporting the evidence, the agents flipped him. He agreed to wear a wire to help them go after a much bigger fish -- the boss, Miami Police Sgt. Raul Iglesias -- in a rare instance of cop turning on fellow cop.

The recorded meeting that same day between a half-hearted Asanza and his veteran supervisor produced nothing of real value. A year later, the feds finally popped Asanza on felony drug-trafficking charges.
[Read more...]

Latest Occupy Oakland protest ends without police violence (5 February 2012)
A week after a violent protest by Occupy demonstrators resulted in more than 400 arrests, calm reigned Saturday night as a small crowd of about 100 marchers was turned away from the Oakland Police Department, then paraded around downtown and North Oakland.

No violence was reported by late Saturday, and at 10:35 p.m., ebullient protesters called that a victory as they streamed back into Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Occupy protest's epicenter in Oakland.

"It was an amazing action," said Sarah Carlson, 29, of San Francisco. "Even people who have different ideas tactically about how to approach these things were disciplined."

The march left the plaza in front of Oakland City Hall just before 9 p.m. and headed down Broadway toward the Police Department headquarters on Seventh Street. Near the rear of the march, Zachary Running Wolf, a well-known East Bay protester, burned an American flag and left it in the middle of Broadway.
[Read more...]

Sacred sites up against Mexican mining plans (5 February 2012)
REAL DE CATORCE, Mexico - From atop the sun-scoured mountain called Cerro Quemado, the vast basin below might seem like any other desolate corner of the northern Mexico desert.

Ribbons of asphalt and dirt cut through dun-colored landscape choked with cactus, creosote and the occasional tree. Trains, as if trudging ants from these heights, move north toward the border and on to Houston bearing auto parts, clothing and other treasures conjured by Mexican and Chinese hands.

Yet this expanse of apparent nothing is anything but. This is Wirikuta, the hallucinogenic holy land of a tiny and long-besieged indigenous nation called the Huichol. From this very mountain, many Huichol believe, was born the sun and the world as we know it.

Unfortunately for the Huichol, the mountains that cradle the Cerro Quemado also begat some of the planet's richest veins of silver, which for more than two centuries filled the vaults of Spanish kings and local grandees alike.
[Read more...]

Brazil's poor seem left behind in growth spurt, observers say (5 February 2012)
Reporting from Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil-- Two children ran through the rubble, ducking under smoke pouring from a building that was still burning. Everywhere were signs that people had left in haste: toys, half-cooked meals, couches, ID cards, a fan photo of Justin Bieber.

The wasteland was the aftermath of a surprise raid by 1,800 police in riot gear, launched late last month on Pinheirinho where 8,000 squatters had been living illegally since 2004. After clashing with residents and sympathizers armed with clubs and iron bars, the officers bulldozed the community.

Since then, Pinheirinho has become a smoldering symbol of the divide between Brazil's haves and have-nots.

Over the last few years, the Brazilian economy has powered forward, pulling tens of millions out of poverty and creating a new middle class. Indeed, just across the well-paved street from the wreckage of Pinheirinho is a strip mall that would be recognizable in Southern California.
[Read more...]

Two glasses of wine or beer a day 'doubles the risk' of mouth cancer (5 February 2012)
Drinking two large glasses of wine or two strong pints of beer a day triples the risk of developing mouth cancer, according to a new Government campaign.

New adverts aim to show that drinking just over the recommended daily limit for alcohol increases the risk of serious health problems.

Under the Change4Life banner the new adverts will also inform people about a new online calculator to work out how much they are drinking.

NHS recommendations state men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day, while women should not regularly drink more than two to three.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: There are pros and cons to alcohol, just like coffee, tea, soy, and other foods with mixed reviews. In one of his books, Dr. Andrew Weil warns that much of the research on alcohol's "good effects" were funded by the industry.

Microsoft attacks Google privacy with Gmail Man spoof (5 February 2012)
The clip features the Gmail Man, a traditional carrier, reading paper letters on the street. The Gmail Man talks to a little girl and her mom, who question his reading material. When the little girl tells the Gmail Man he can't read their mail he responds, "Of course I can. I'm not a mailman. I'm the Gmail Man!"

The video is just one in a string of attacks Microsoft has made on Google's privacy policies. On Feb. 1 Microsoft took out a series of attack ads in American newspapers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The ads call Google's privacy changes unpopular and suggest its primary concern is pleasing advertisers. They also suggest a switch to Microsoft's mail products, Hotmail and Office 365.

Google has responded to the attacks with a blog post that aims to clarify myths about its privacy policy. It also released a letter to American members of congress who called for Google chief Larry Page to brief them on the changes.

The letter quoted a recent Global News piece in which Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian praises the changes. "By pulling it all together into one central location and simplifying it, it makes it much more accessible and user friendly," Cavoukian told Global. "So I think this is a positive development."

There is a long history to the Microsoft and Google feud. Last summer Google released its own attack ad, which suggested Gmail users hold interventions for friends using an antiquated mail service--a thinly veiled reference to Hotmail.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: That video has actually been online for a while, but MicroSoft wasn't exactly taking credit for it until now. See earlier article on what appears to be the same video...

Gmail Man video mocks Google in the name of Microsoft (FLASHBACK) (28 July 2011)
A video making fun of Google's email service, Gmail, has been posted online, and it appears it could have been produced by one of the search giant's major rivals -- Microsoft.

The video, which features a character called Gmail Man, was leaked by an attendant of Microsoft's internal Microsoft Global Exchange sales conference, according to the website ZDNet.com, which reported about it and posted it on YouTube on Thursday.

Throughout the video, Gmail Man goes through people's emails "just skimming," as he says, for keywords in order to target advertising to users. Fictional users of the service question the ethics of his actions, asking whether it's wrong to go through people's private messages, to which he replies, "Who cares?"

"Well, sometimes when a person really loves their Gmail very, very much, the two get together," Gmail Man says at one point, "and an ad is born."
[Read more...]

Montreal ERs overflowing thanks to hospital bottlenecks (5 February 2012)
The Montreal Health and Social Services Agency is reporting that its hospitals, on average, are coping with 144 per cent capacity.

The worst ER situation registered Friday was at the Royal Victoria Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre with a 212-per-cent occupancy rate.

The department had 51 patients on stretchers occupying a space meant for 24 -- and 18 of these patients have been waiting longer that 24 hours to be admitted to a bed on a ward.

According to the health agency, chronic overcrowding is afflicting nearly every adult hospital facility.

At Jean-Talon Hospital, the ER was at 177 per cent capacity, at Lakeshore General, 171, at Fleury, 167, at Sacré Coeur, 157, at Verdun, 154, at St. Mary, 147.
[Read more...]

Castaway lizards put evolution to the test (5 February 2012)
The lizards, it turned out, thrived. After two years, one island sheltered 40 lizards descended from the first couple.

More intriguingly, within just a few generations, the back legs of the lizards on all seven islands began to shrink.

Shorter legs provide more agility for the lizards as they navigate the shrunken shrubbery on the tiny islands. And agile lizards can catch more insects and more easily dodge hungry birds.

Losos had, in fact, seen this rapid adaptation before. He and his colleagues have been dropping lizards onto tiny islands in the Caribbean since the late 1980s, watching their hind legs shrink to match the small branches on the tiny vegetation.

"Back then it was kind of big news that species could adapt very quickly," Losos said. "Now we realize this is very common."
[Read more...]

Anti-Putin protesters march through Moscow (5 February 2012)
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have braved temperatures of -18C in Moscow to march through the city shouting "Russia without Putin" and calling for a rerun of disputed elections.

In the latest of a series of mass gatherings since allegations of widespread government vote-rigging at the parliamentary poll on 4 December, the protesters walked an agreed route from Oktyabrskaya metro station to Bolotnaya Square, near the Kremlin.

Much of the protesters' anger is focused on the prime minister and defacto leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who earlier likened their white ribbons -- worn as a symbol of solidarity -- to condoms.

"Under Putin, so many thieves have come to power," said Ivan Frolov, 28, an engineer. "The authorities are totally closed, they don't talk to the people. We want to choose leaders who listen to us. And we don't want to worship a single person."
[Read more...]

Commerce agency's system infected by virus, may be victim of cyber attack (2 February 2012)
A virus has infected the computer network of a job-development agency in the Commerce Department, forcing it to block employees from the Internet for 10 days.

The attack, discovered two weeks ago, targeted computers at the Economic Development Administration, which is responsible for making business-development grants to distressed communities to help them create jobs.

"Out of an abundance of caution, EDA isolated its network systems by removing all network connectivity," Commerce spokesman Brad Carroll said in a statement Thursday. A temporary, bare-bones Web site is providing contact information for the small agency and data on federal funding opportunities.

Commerce officials said they have brought in a team of outside experts to help the agency restore the networks. The agency still does not know whether information has been stolen and why the 215-person agency was targeted.
[Read more...]

India tells Britain: We don't want your aid (5 February 2012)
Britain currently pays India around £280 million a year, six times the amount given by the second-largest bilateral donor, the United States. Almost three-quarters of all foreign bilateral aid going to India comes from Britain. France, chosen as favourite to land the warplane deal, gives around £19 million a year.

Controversial British projects have included giving the city of Bhopal £118,000 to help fit its municipal buses and dustcarts with GPS satellite tracking systems. Bhopal's buses got satellite tracking before most of Britain's did.

In India, meanwhile, government audit reports found £70 million had disappeared from one DFID-funded project alone.

Around £44,000 of British aid was allegedly siphoned off by one project official to finance a movie directed by her son.

Most aid donors to India have wound down their programmes as it has become officially a "middle-income country," according to the World Bank.
[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.)