Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 4th to 10th of March 2012
Scientists say America is too dumb for democracy to thrive (10 March 2012)
Work by Cornell University psychologist David Dunning and then-colleague Justin Kruger found that "incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas," according to a report by Life's Little Mysteries on the blog LiveScience.
"Very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don't have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is," Dunning told Life's Little Mysteries.
What's worse is that with incompetence comes the illusion of superiority.
Let's say a politician comes up with an ingenious plan that would ensure universal health care while decreasing health care costs.
According to Dunning-Kruger, no matter how much information is provided, the unsophisticated would 1) be incapable of recognizing the wisdom of such a plan; 2) assume they know better; and 3) have no idea of the extent of their inadequacy.
Suit seeks $500,000 for Sky Express Chinatown bus crash injuries (10 March 2012)
It is unclear where Cheung is being held. He had a trial date set for September and then in January, but the case has been postponed each time. A new trial date is expected to be set at his next hearing May 2.
In the civil lawsuit, Dai alleges negligence of Cheung and the two companies, which are referred to in the complaint as a joint enterprise.
The complaint alleges that the two companies allowed Cheung "to drive an overnight trip the night before the collision and did not allow him adequate time to rest before his next scheduled overnight bus route to New York City."
Among other allegations, the complaint says that Cheung violated Virginia law by driving more than 13 hours in a 24-hour period and by operating a commercial bus recklessly. The companies are blamed for allowing Cheung to drive in such a state.
Expert report finds possible link between narcolepsy and swine flu vaccine Pandemrix (8 March 2012)
THE Department of Health has received an expert report on a possible link between the sleeping disorder narcolepsy and the human swine flu vaccine Pandemrix.
Campaign group Sound, which represents over 230 children it believes have been affected, has called on the Health Minister James Reilly to publish the report.
The report was prepared by the Health Service Executive's Health Protection Surveillance Centre and parents of children provided their medical records for the research.
Mairead Lawless said the group had written to the Minister outlining its disappointment at the speed of reaction of both the HSE and the Department of Education to the issue.
8 natural remedies to overcome erectile dysfunction and impotence (10 March 2012)
Lycopodium: This remedy may provide relief for older men and those who are not able to achieve an erection. They may have an enlarged prostate. The man needing Lycopodium may lack self-confidence and also be domineering, in an attempt to hide his feelings of inferiority.
Baryta Carbonica: This remedy is helpful for treatment of premature ejaculation as well as the inability to get an erection. It helps men who have no sexual desire to build their libido. Additionally, it provides support for the prostate and reduces the need for frequent urination.
Sabal serrulata (Saw palmetto): This remedy helps to reduce enlarged prostates and improve sexual function, increasing a man's desire. It is helpful for men who feel sexually aroused but are unable to get an erection.
Men experiencing erectile dysfunction should not try and treat themselves. It's important to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable homeopathic practitioner who will choose a remedy that best fits your individual needs.
PAM COMMENTARY: I'd say to both research the herbs AND consult a health professional, especially before trying herbs that aren't food-grade or popular enough to be well-documented. Some herbs have dosage warnings, side effects, and other characteristics that people need to know before using them.
For example, even a popular herb like goldenseal shouldn't be taken for prolonged periods because it can interfere with the absorption of B vitamins. A less popular herb that I've used, horsetail, shouldn't be taken for long periods because it can cause stomach upset -- as I found, stomach upset that lasts for months or years. However, horsetail is a good source of available silica, often needed after physical injuries for repair of tissue. Hops (the herb used in beer, related to the marijuana plant) also provides silica, but comes with a potent dose of phytoestrogens -- especially men shouldn't use much of it. Hops can cause "brewers droop," basically exposing brewers who work with the herb to such a big dose of plant estrogen that they have their own special category of erectile dysfunction. In short, herbs can be wonderful, can save your life even, and many herbs are very effective, inexpensive, available, and completely over-the-counter. Just do your homework and know what you're taking. If you're an herbal do-it-yourselfer, you're the doctor now. Take it seriously.
LSD 'may aid alcoholism treatment' (9 March 2012)
Psychedelic drug LSD could be used as an effective method to treat alcoholism, scientists say.
The use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), coupled with relapse prevention treatments, could help alcoholics steer clear of the bottle, research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests.
Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen, who were performing research fellowships at Harvard Medical School in the US, examined a number of previous studies, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s, and found that a number of clinics used LSD to treat alcoholism with some success.
They said they found evidence for a clear and consistent beneficial effect of a low dose of LSD for treating alcohol dependency.
They examined 536 participants, across six medical trials, and found that 59% of LSD patients had improved compared to 38% of control patients.
PAM COMMENTARY: I'd discourage everyone from using LSD for anything. The brain wasn't designed to be abused for entertainment purposes.
Dr. Joel Wallach attributed alcoholism to a mineral deficiency; Hulda Clark found that fumes from petroleum products contribute through interference with brain receptors.
Jury awards Severn woman $225,000 for bedbug infestation (9 March 2012)
Jackson realized her sons' beds -- which she had recently purchased from a furniture store in Elkridge -- were teeming with bedbugs, according to a lawsuit she filed in Anne Arundel County in December 2010.
On Thursday, a jury ordered Calidad Furniture & Linen Inc., the store that sold Jackson a pair of wood-frame beds, to pay Jackson and her sons $225,000 for the ordeal. It is one of the largest bedbug liability judgments in the country.
Multimillion-dollar lawsuits over bedbugs have become increasingly common as infestations have spread across the country and victims seek to hold landlords, hotels and retailers responsible for their exterminator bills and mental anguish.
But a public judgment is rare in bedbug liability cases. Lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages have received publicity in recent years, such as several filed against the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. But most fade away with confidential settlements.
Ohio stiffens regulations after concluding that fracking caused earthquakes (9 March 2012)
Ohio state regulators announced tough new regulations on Friday after concluding that the injection of wastewater underground as part of the controversial gas-drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" had almost certainly caused a dozen earthquakes near one well.
The regulations will require well operators to supply extensive geological data before requesting a new drill site, avoid certain rock formations, and keep track of pressure, volume, and the chemical makeup of all drilling water using state-of-the-art technology.
Investigators pointed to "a number of coincidental circumstances" connecting the quakes in northeast Ohio, which began in March 2011 and continued to the end of the year, with a well which had begun operation three months earlier. They also noted the presence of a fault in the rocks that was identified only after drilling began.
The quakes clustered around the city of Youngstown and ranged from magnitude 2.1 to 4.0, with the largest one, on December 31, causing Ohio Governor John Kasich to place a moratorium on drilling at certain locations.
Crony capitalism: Green firms burn through taxpayer dollars, pay huge executive bonuses, then go bankrupt (10 March 2012)
(NaturalNews) The Obama Administration's green energy development program, which has leveraged billions of taxpayer dollars into high-risk green energy startups, is rapidly turning out to be one of the biggest financial scams on the American people in recent history. A new investigative report by ABC News has revealed that many of the now-bankrupt green energy companies that received massive taxpayer-funded loan infusions from the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded huge cash bonuses to their executives shortly before crumbling.
Many readers will recall the FBI raid on solar technology company Solyndra that took place last fall, in which agents stormed the Fremont, Cal.-based facility just days after it had declared bankruptcy. Solyndra was the first company to receive federal funding under the Obama green energy plan, having received more than $500 million, and it was also the first to fail (http://www.naturalnews.com/033551_Solyndra_bankruptcy.html).
Several months later, CBS News revealed that at least 11 other companies that had collectively received more than $6.5 billion in taxpayer loans under the Obama green energy scheme had also failed, or were in the process of failing (http://www.naturalnews.com/034717_Solyndra_green_energy_failures.html). And according to private emails uncovered by ABC News just after the Solyndra scandal made headlines, Obama and Co. knew that Solyndra, and possibly even some of the other companies it had given loans to, was in the throes of collapse long before the multi-million dollar loans were made (http://www.naturalnews.com/033606_Solyndra_emails.html).
Now it appears that the executives at many of these failed companies made off with millions of dollars in golden parachute bonuses just before their firms bit the dust, according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) records recently obtained. So collectively, these failed companies doled out several million dollars in taxpayer funds to company executives just months, or even weeks, prior to their filing for bankruptcy.
PAM COMMENTARY: This always happens when the Feds start loaning or granting money to private firms instead of hiring their own employees and running programs directly. No matter what the issue, some of those companies won't be well-managed, and others may even commit crimes. It's one of the problems associated with "privatization." The most common effects of privatization are low-paid employees and high-paid management.
China suspected of Facebook attack on Nato's supreme allied commander (10 March 2012)
Nato's most senior military commander has been repeatedly targeted in a Facebook scam thought to have been co-ordinated by cyber-spies in China, the Observer has learned. The spies are suspected of being behind a campaign to glean information about Admiral James Stavridis from his colleagues, friends and family, sources say.
This involved setting up fake Facebook accounts bearing his name in the hope that those close to him would be lured into making contact or answering private messages, potentially giving away personal details about Stavridis or themselves.
This type of "social engineering" impersonation is an increasingly common web fraud. Nato said it wasn't clear who was responsible for the spoof Facebook pages, but other security sources pointed the finger at China.
Last year criminals in China were accused of being behind a similar operation, which was given the codename Night Dragon. This involved hackers impersonating executives at companies in the US, Taiwan and Greece so that they could steal business secrets.
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes buys the New Republic magazine (9 March 2012)
Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and coordinator of Barack Obama's online efforts during the 2008 presidential election, is entering the "old media" fray as publisher and editor-in-chief of the New Republic, the publication announced Friday.
Initial response? Journalists who do not write for the New Republic are seething with envy, and wonder if perhaps another Silicon Valley millionaire/billionaire would like to come and inject an infusion of new-media money into their publication too.
But it's not just the money, it's also what Hughes is saying about the state of journalism today that is drawing attention. After helping Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskowitz start Facebook in 2004, Hughes joined Obama's presidential campaign in 2007.
In a letter to readers of the New Republic, the 28-year-old Hughes says that chasing Web traffic is a mistake and implies that he really believes there is still a hunger for long-form content.
200 attend women's rights vigil near Virginia's Executive Mansion (8 March 2012)
Candles in hand, about 200 backers of women's reproductive rights lined the sidewalk behind the Executive Mansion on Thursday evening for a vigil the day after Gov. Bob McDonnell signed legislation to require an ultrasound before a woman gets an abortion.
Many attendees had pinned to their shirts pages of a petition with more than 33,000 signatures that previously had been delivered to the governor's office. The petition was in opposition to the ultrasound legislation and the "personhood" bill, which would have defined life as beginning at conception.
Sarah Okolita, among those in attendance, said the vigil was to mourn what she called the loss of reproductive rights in Virginia with the passage of the ultrasound bill.
The event, held on International Women's Day, was largely low-key, with the group joining in silence for a spell and singing "This Little Light of Mine."
Women make gains in boardrooms worldwide, but US still lags behind (9 March 2012)
Despite growing numbers of women on corporate boards abroad, the proportion of women in US boardrooms still lags behind most in the western world.
The number of female directors on US boards grew only half a percentage point from 2009 to 2011, but at 12.6% it's still higher than the global average, according to a report from the watchdog GovernanceMetrics International (GMI).
That compares with an increase of 7.5% in France and 5.4% in Australia.
In a survey of 4,300 companies in 45 countries, GMI found that membership of women on corporate boards worldwide had nudged above 10% for the first time. But the rate of growth was meagre, at less than 1% since 2009.
Women Fight Back as Virginia, Georgia Curb Reproductive Rights: "When We're Screwed, We Multiply" (8 March 2012) [DN]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Loretta Ross, I want to go to a clip of Georgia Democratic State Representative Yasmin Neal, who last month countered the so-called "fetal pain bill" with a measure that would have limited vasectomies. Let's play that clip.
REP. YASMIN NEAL: This bill states that vasectomies can be performed to avert the death of a man or to avert serious risk or substantial or irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the man. This bill mimics the abortion bills throughout the nation. And just like the abortion bills interfere with a woman's right to choose, it's only fair that the General Assembly debate the man's right to choose, as well.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Your response? And did that debate occur?
LORETTA ROSS: Well, of course they did not want to have that debate. But my response to Yasmin Neal is: go for it. Because if they visited on men the same kind of sex discrimination that they're visiting on women, they would be able to see how unfair it is. I really do think that if they're going to call every little fertilized egg a human being and try to protect it, then we should count sperm, too. And men should not be able to casually dispose of their little swimming little buggers, you know? And so, I think across the country, whether it's the Lysistrata strategy, where a Republican wife in Virginia refused to have sex with her husband, or trying to outlaw Viagra or require rectal exams before men can get it, all of these are illustrations by women legislators of what happens when medical decisions are not being made by human beings and their doctors, but are being made by legislators who don't have medical degrees. And it's just an illustration of how ridiculous this whole campaign and war against women really is. And why is it only visited on women? Why are not, in fact--we are raising up the question for why Viagra is covered by insurance, but not birth control.
Doctors with electronic systems order more imaging tests (9 March 2012)
Doctors who have access to computer test results order more tests than doctors who don't, according to a new study that challenges an assumption about electronic health records.
The study in the March issue of the journal Health Affairs found that doctors with access to computerized images ordered 40 to 70 percent more imaging and lab tests.
The study authors warn that pushing for more health information technology might not deliver cost savings from reductions in duplicative or inappropriate tests and could drive up costs.
"Our findings should at a minimum raise questions about the whole idea that computerization decreases test ordering and therefore costs in the real world of outpatient practice," lead author Danny McCormick, a physician and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. "As with many other things, if you make things easier to do, people will do them more often."
Kucinich: Targeted Killings 'An Assault On The Constitution' (9 March 2012)
Outgoing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) -- who lost a brutal primary battle on Tuesday to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) -- vehemently criticized the Obama administration's program of targeted killings of US citizens abroad without due process, declaring it a "dangerous" violation of the Constitution that ought to meet resistance from Democrats and Republicans alike.
"Any assault on the Constitution ought to be challenged," Kucinich told TPM in a Thursday interview at his Capitol Hill office. "This is absolutely an assault on the Constitution."
"The idea that the United States has the ability to summarily execute a US citizen ought to send chills racing up and down the spines of every person of conscience," he argued. "The fact that our government can set itself up as policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, all wrapped into one fatal moment, should cause every person who loves this country to be deeply concerned about the direction we're going."
Attorney General Eric Holder this week made the legal case for the targeted killings program that led to the assassination of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was living in Yemen and deemed by the executive branch to be working with Al-Qaeda. Kucinich did not mention Obama by name but lashed out at the policy championed by the President, whom he dropped out of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary to endorse.
2 dead, 7 injured in Pittsburgh area shooting; gunman killed by police (9 March 2012)
City police who arrived shortly after the Pitt officers described a chaotic scene in the hospital lobby, with blood-splattered floors and people running in different directions amid gun smoke.
Officers said they saw two men dead in a first-floor hallway, where one of the walls was riddled with bullet holes. A third man was clutching his ankle, saying he had been shot. A frightened woman fell and broke her arm.
Near the gunman's face-down body were two semiautomatic handguns and a box of unused ammunition. He and the other man, a Western Psych employee, were lying near each other and facing the same direction in the hallway, which is about 8 feet wide.
Police believe the gunman was roaming the first floor before he was killed. There were dozens of shell casings in the area.
World seabird numbers still falling, says a new review (8 March 2012)
Almost half of the world's seabirds have populations that are thought to be in decline, according to a new review.
The study, published in Bird Conservation International, found that 28% of species are considered to be in the highest categories of risk.
Conservationists are particularly concerned by the albatross family.
Threats to the birds include commercial fishing and damage to breeding colonies caused by rats and other invasive species.
Japan ends whaling season short of quota (9 March 2012)
Japan has ended its whaling season with less than a third of its annual target, said the country's Fisheries Agency.
The whaling ships headed home from the Antarctic Ocean this week with 266 minke whales and one fin whale, falling short of its quota of about 900.
The agency blamed "sabotage" by anti-whaling activists for the shortfall.
Japan conducts "legal research" on whales each year, but activists say it is a cover for commercial whaling banned under an international treaty.
PAM COMMENTARY: They need to kill 900 whales for research?
One word in spill case could mean billions (8 March 2012)
Legal experts say the government and other plaintiffs probably will be able to prove negligence in the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP's Macondo well, which triggered the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf.
Investigations concluded that multiple decisions, including design of the well, the way it was cemented and interpretation of pressure tests, all may have contributed to the blowout.
Difficult to prove
But the burden of proof is much higher for gross negligence - defined as substantial deviation from reasonable care - and there isn't a lot of case law to guide Barbier, should the issue reach trial, or the parties as they try to settle.
The federal government has made it clear through its court pleadings that it will seek findings of gross negligence against BP and Transocean.
BP, which owned the well, and Transocean, which owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon, deny gross negligence.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, a finding of gross negligence would nearly quadruple the maximum fine per barrel spilled, from $1,100 to $4,300. The government has estimated almost 5 million barrels - 210 million gallons - gushed out before the well was capped nearly three months after the blowout.
What America Lost When Dennis Kucinich Lost (8 March 2012)
A Congress without Dennis Kucinich will be a lesser branch. It's not just that the loss of the former leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will rob the House of its most consistent critic of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and one its steadiest critics of corporate power.
Since he arrived on the Hill in 1997, Kucinich has been one of a handful of absolutely engaged members. When issues have arisen, be it domestic or international, low profile or high, Kucinich has been at the ready--often with the first statement, the strongest demand and the boldest plan.
A master of parliamentary procedure, and a Constitutional purist, Kucinich has given Democratic and Republican congressional leaders their share of headaches. And he has been more than willing to break with Democratic and Republican presidents on matters of principle. But even as he frustrated the most powerful players in Washington, Kucinich won an enthusiastic base of supporters who backed him for the Democratic presidential nominations in 2004 and 2008.
Though he never got near the nomination in either year, Kucinich earned high marks for forcing the other contenders to address fundamental issues of war and peace, civil liberties and trade policy. At the same time, he remained sufficiently in touch with his blue-collar Cleveland-area district--turf that had previously elected a Republican--to keep his seat in the face of primary and general election challenges from candidate backed by the political and media elites that had been after Kucinich since his days as the uncompromising "boy mayor" of Cleveland.
Had his district remained intact, Kucinich would have won Tuesday's primary. But the 2010 election put Republican Governor John Kasich and his conservative allies in charge of the Ohio redistricting process. With encouragement from House Speaker John Boehner, they targeted Kucinich from the start. Everyone knew Kucinich was threatened, and the congressman even entertained the prospect of moving to Washington state, where he has long been a favorite of progressive activists and where population shifts had created an open seat that might be friendly to his ambitions.
Dennis Kucinich Goes Down in Ohio. Now What? (6 March 2012)
You may have missed it amid Newt Gingrich's ruminations on algae and the Romney-Santorum nail-biter in Ohio, but there was a Super Tuesday result with serious ramifications for progressive politics: In the Democratic primary in Ohio's 9th Congressional District, Rep. Marcy Kaptur knocked off Rep. Dennis Kucinich by double digits, putting the political future of one of Washington's loudest liberal voices in serious doubt. Again.
Kucinich, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008 largely on an anti-war platform, was drawn out of his old Cleveland district during the state's redistricting process (the state lost two seats after the 2010 census), ending up in a primary against Kaptur, a 15-term Democratic incumbent. The resulting, excessively gerrymandered 9th district hugs Lake Erie, stretching from Toledo, where Kaptur lives, all the way to Cleveland, Kucinich's home. (Shira Toeplitz notes, "The district is connected by a bridge that's only 20 yards wide, as well as by a single beach at one point.") Kucinich took his best shots at Kaptur--alleging, for instance, that her campaign had illegally stolen all of his yard signs. But he faced a different set of voters, most of whom he'd never previously courted--and not even Russell Simmons could save him:
Russell Simmons @UncleRUSH if you're in Ohio today, please go and vote for Dennis Kucinich! we cannot lose him.
In his eight terms in Washington, Kucinich held down the far-left of the House Democratic caucus and built up his national profile in tandem. He famously called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, then took things a step further last spring, suggesting that President Obama's imposition of a no-fly-zone in Libya might also be an impeachable offense. He held out for months on health care reform because of his support for the public option.
But while Kucinich's rhetoric has been unwavering, his record of accomplishments is relatively small. Kaptur is pro-life and votes accordingly, but otherwise holds fairly conventional liberal views for a Rust Belt Democrat. She's also never traveled solo to meet with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and then defended him to her hometown paper.
Tsunami pictures - Then and Now (8 March 2012)
It has been nearly one year since a monstrous earthquake triggered a tsunami that roared across Japan's coast on March 11, 2011, transforming once-pristine and thriving towns into waterlogged wastelands and sparking the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter-century.
In the last 12 months, some progress has been made in rebuilding lives, but much remains unfinished. Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder, who chronicled the devastated towns in the aftermath of the disaster, has revisited these communities to see what has changed -- and what hasn't.
Coke changes colour to avoid being slapped with cancer sticker (8 March 2012)
The formula for the colour of Coke is being altered in response to accusations that one of the ingredients is a known carcinogen that poses a health risk to consumers.
Coca-Cola is making the change even though it rejects the accusation made by the U.S. Center for Science in the Public Interest that the ingredient -- compound 4-methylimidazole, also known as 4-MI or 4-MEI -- poses a danger to consumers.
"The fact is that the body of science about 4-MEI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that CSPI would like the public to believe," Diana Garza Ciarlante, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, wrote in an email to National Public Radio in the U.S.
Ciarlante said caramel coloring in all Coke products has always been safe.
U.S. could bring more common drugs over the counter (8 March 2012)
(Reuters) - Prescription drugs to treat some of the most common chronic diseases, such as high cholesterol and diabetes, may become available over the counter under a plan being considered by U.S. regulators.
In what would be a major shift in policy if finalized, the Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comment until Friday on a way to make these medications more readily available. It will also have a meeting about the proposal at the end of March.
The goal is to ensure people take drugs as needed, while still understanding safety issues.
Experts say the unwillingness of people to take certain medications as prescribed has undermined effective treatment of conditions including high blood pressure, raising the cost of healthcare in the United States.
FDA links once-promising pain drugs to bone decay (8 March 2012)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some of the world's largest drugmakers will face an uphill battle next week in their bid to revive a class of experimental arthritis drugs that have been sidelined by safety concerns for nearly two years.
The Food and Drug Administration says there is a clear association between the nerve-blocking medications and incidences of joint failure that led the agency to halt studies of the drugs in 2010. However, the agency also notes that those side effects were less common when the drugs were used at lower doses, potentially leaving the door open for future use. The agency released its safety analysis ahead of a public meeting next week where outside experts will discuss the drugs' safety.
On Monday, Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals will make their case to continue studies of the drugs, with safety precautions to protect patients.
The request to restart testing is unusual, since drugmakers often abandon research on experimental drugs that appear to have safety issues. However, with more than 50 million U.S. adults diagnosed with arthritis - one in five - the potential multibillion dollar market opportunity may be too big to ignore.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich hailed by colleagues after primary loss (8 March 2012)
Kucinich, 65, lost a nasty primary Tuesday that pitted him against a onetime ally, Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Redistricting by the state Legislature all but eliminated Kucinich's home turf. Even star-studded help -- campaign contributions from actor Warren Beatty and a daylong flurry of Twitter shout-outs from hip-hop legend Russell Simmons -- couldn't save Kucinich.
Now the congressman, hailed as an icon of the left and a champion of the downtrodden, is a politician without a populace.
"Congress will be a weaker place without his voice," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who has known Kucinich for decades. "There is no question Dennis Kucinich has been a unique voice fighting for issues most other politicians would not go near."
The small and hyperkinetic congressman returned to the Capitol on Wednesday to handshakes and slaps on the back, and spent the afternoon casting votes. He said he had no Plan B after his defeat, even though he had at one point scouted out running for the House from Washington state, in case his district was eliminated.
Dennis Kucinich: Conscience of the Congress (8 March 2012)
When Kucinich refused to play ball with the downtown banking interests they pulled the plug on Cleveland finances and temporarily derailed his career. But 14 years later the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which has savaged him since his mayoral days, ran a headline conceding "Dennis Was Right" as it belatedly acknowledged that his refusal to sell the plant had provided needed competition to private power, resulting in lower energy costs for consumers.
Dennis early on made a choice to rise politically by faithfully representing his people rather than betraying them, as is the norm in politics. In our Playboy interview he made a joke concerning the criticism of all the idealistic young people who had joined him in administering Cleveland: "The real reason the young people I've appointed have been criticized is that they haven't learned to steal yet. If they learned to take bribes they'd be praised as innovative and bright."
So, too, Kucinich, who has been unfailingly resilient in advocating for the vulnerable, whether they were the working poor in his district or the folks our government bombed throughout the world. He was defeated this week by a fellow House member who prides herself on bringing home government bucks, particularly in defense expenditures. Her pitch to the voters was that her role on the House Appropriations Committee would help keep the pork barrel open, big-city Dem style.
Kucinich never competed in that way. He has been a national symbol of resistance to excessive government power and waste. He also has been a champion of social justice. His has been a rare voice, and one way or another it must continue to be heard. Simply put, when it came to the struggle for peace over war, Dennis was the conscience of the Congress. And he was always at the forefront in defending the rights of unionized workers who once formed the backbone of a solid middle class and who are now threatened with extinction.
Scott Walker Caught In Pre-Election Lie On Collective Bargaining Plans-Will Wisconsin Voters Care? (5 March 2012)
Walker went on to indicate that he was willing to work with the unions, pointing out that he had used furloughs as a bargaining tool when negotiating with unions as Milwaukee County Executive and that he would "approach a similar strategy for the state." Walker further noted that he was open to compromise and that if the unions had ideas as to how to save money, he would be willing to explore what they might have to say.
Sounds reasonable to me--except that it turns out that Governor Walker had no interest whatsoever in what the unions had to say. In fact, we know that the state employees' unions attempted to agree with Walker's proposals to modify their collective bargaining agreements before the Governor introduced his legislation placing severe limits on collective bargaining.
So, Governor Walker fibbed. The question now is will Wisconsin voters care?
While it seems difficult to ignore that Walker very much sought to mislead Wisconsin voters on a very important issue, there remains considerable support for his anti-collective bargaining position in Wisconsin. Still, polls reveal that a majority of Wisconsinites disapprove of Walker's anti-collective bargaining stance, calling into question whether or not the Governor would have emerged victorious in his race had he been more forthright with the voters of his state.
PAM COMMENTARY: Will they care? They're kicking him out of office, aren't they?
Wisconsin's 'Defeat the Recall' campaign largely funded by out-of-state donors (8 March 2012)
An email circulated Wednesday by a super PAC trying to drum up support for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) seems to have accidentially revealed that the "Defeat the Recall" campaign is being primarilly funded by individuals who do not live in Wisconsin.
The super PAC, which is registered out of California, is focused on the Walker campaign as a secondary effort. Their actual name is "The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama," but they've taken up supporting Walker as a key electoral front in 2012.
Out of 336 entries on the donor list circulated Wednesday, only 18 are Wisconsin residents -- something that could pose trouble for Republicans if the state's Democrats seize upon that fact. The group's first Federal Election Commission filing also reflected that trend, listing just nine donors who gave more than $200, with not a single one from Wisconsin.
"Scott Walker is raising millions of dollars, and about 17 percent of it comes from within Wisconsin," Lynn Freeman, executive director of United Wisconsin, a super PAC supporting the recall efforts, told Raw Story on Wednesday. "I think this mirrors that."
Republican Wisconsin Assembly Approves Limiting Recall Reasons
(7 March 2012)
There was talk of limiting recalls in California after Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003, but Spivak said no significant changes were made. In Michigan, a constitutional amendment similar to the Wisconsin one was introduced last year just weeks after a Republican state representative was recalled from office. That proposal has not gone anywhere.
In the Wisconsin Assembly, the measure passed Tuesday 60-37, with all Republicans in support and all Democrats against except Rep. Peggy Krusick of Milwaukee.
It is a long way from becoming law. The proposal would also have to pass the Senate next week before the session ends and then pass both houses of the Legislature either next year or the year after. And then, it would still have to win approval in a statewide vote before being added to the constitution.
Assembly Democrats railed against the proposal, saying the right to recall officeholders was a fundamental pillar of the Progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century that has been rarely used until the past year. State Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, called the proposal the "politician protection act."
PAM COMMENTARY: They just need to face reality -- they did a horrible job, and the voters want them gone. People were spending their weekends standing in the freezing cold to gather signatures, and a million people signed those petitions. Would folks have bothered if their representatives were anything but harmful to the state?
Insane Sex Laws Inspired by Republicans (8 March 2012)
As Republican lawmakers have pushed ever more intrusive and expansive uterus-related legislation, some of their colleagues across the aisle have fired back with intentionally and equally ridiculous counterproposals. From mandatory rectal exams for guys seeking Viagra to prohibitions on sperm-stifling vasectomies, most of these male-only provisions have, unsurprisingly, flopped. But they've scored big as symbolic gestures, spotlighting the inherent sexism of laws that only regulate lady parts.
Some of the tongue-in-cheek ideas introduced across the country:
Delaware: By an 8 to 4 vote, the Wilmington, Delaware, city council recognized the personhood of semen because "each 'egg person' and each 'sperm person' should be deemed equal in the eyes of the government."
Virginia: As the state Senate debated requiring transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, Sen. Janet Howell proposed mandating rectal exams and cardiac stress tests for men seeking erectile dysfunction meds. Her amendment failed by just two votes.
Georgia: Responding to a Georgia house bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Rep. Yasmin Neal wrote a bill outlawing most vasectomies because they leave "thousands of children...deprived of birth."
Ohio: A bill introduced by state Sen. Nina Turner would compel men to get psychological screenings before getting prescriptions for impotence meds. "We must advocate for the traditional family," Turner said, "and ensure that all men using PDE-5 inhibitors are healthy, stable, and educated about their options--including celibacy as a viable life choice."
PBS already aired Breitbart's Obama footage (7 March 2012)
Breitbart.com editors Ben Shapiro and Joel Pollak said Wednesday on Sean Hannity's radio show that they would release footage that proved President Barack Obama had "radical intellectual founders" -- footage which was covered up by the mainstream media.
But before Breitbart.com released the footage, PBS Frontline published the full unedited video themselves, noting that they had previously included the footage in their election special The Choice 2008.
"There's nothing new about the clip or Obama's role in the controversy at Harvard Law School," PBS said. "It's been online at our site and on YouTube since ."
In the video, Obama is shown in 1990 introducing Harvard's first tenured black law professor, Derrick Bell, a racial justice pioneer who broke with legal orthodoxy to develop the critical race theory. Bell was announcing that he would take an unpaid leave of absence until Harvard hired a black woman for its tenured faculty.
PAM COMMENTARY: Not only is it not new, it's not radical. Sounds like another day at any university, USA.
FDA survey uncovers concerns over influence (7 March 2012)
At the same time, many participants said political and corporate interests have too much clout in the decisionmaking process. Dozens of employees reported experiences in the past year where they believe the medical device industry hurt public health by withholding information or by forcing changes in FDA policy.
Dr. Jesse Goodman, the FDA's chief scientist and deputy commissioner for science and public health, welcomed what appeared to be growing worker confidence in the FDA. In a blog item posted on the FDA website, he cautioned that the overall response rate was relatively low, making "definitive conclusions difficult."
Agencywide, 997 employees responded to the UCS survey, about 17 percent of those whose views UCS solicited. Of those, 158 survey participants worked in the center for devices.
Some respondents worried about the FDA's ability to monitor the performance of medical devices once they hit the market. One in four survey participants was not confident that the FDA had enough power to assure patient safety from medical devices that malfunction after manufacturers offer them for sale.
Madigan team reversed 285 PTSD diagnoses, Sen. Murray says (7 March 2012)
The Army Medical Command has identified some 285 Madigan Army Medical Center patients whose diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder were reversed as they went through a screening process for possible medical retirements, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.
Last month, Madigan's screeners for PTSD were removed from that duty while the Army Medical Command investigates why diagnoses were changed.
Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD as they prepare to leave the military can qualify for a medical retirement that offers a pension and other benefits.
The soldiers were screened by Madigan's forensic psychiatry team over a five-year period dating back to 2007, and will be invited to undergo new reviews at Madigan or other military facilities, according to a release Wednesday by the Western Regional Medical Command, which has oversight over Madigan.
Senator Alexander calls for ending wind-energy subsidies (7 March 2012)
Alexander also is working on legislation that would reroute the money from energy subsidies to pay down the national debt and fund clean-energy research and development.
The production tax credit gives renewable-energy producers -- mostly wind companies -- an income-tax break of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity they generate for the first 10 years of production. The credit has been kept alive through temporary extensions since it was first created in 1992.
The renewable-energy industry and advocacy groups are lobbying Congress to renew the credit this year. They say it's helped create jobs, clean the air, and lower the cost of wind power by 90 percent.
Last month, President Barack Obama proposed making the tax credit permanent while eliminating breaks for the oil and gas industry.
Oil spill cleanup of Mississippi River in St. John is complete, but investigation continues (7 March 2012)
The cleanup of an oil spill last month in the Mississippi River near Edgard has been completed, the Coast Guard announced today. However, the cause of the early morning collision between the two vessels is still under investigation.
Part of the investigation is to determine the fault,'' Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said Wednesday.
On Feb. 17, a construction barge and a tank barge, towed by separate vessels, collided in the river in St. John the Baptist Parish, resulting in the closure of river traffic for most of the day and spilling 6,813 gallons of sweet crude oil.
No injuries were reported, but officials in St. John and St. Charles Parish closed drinking water intake valves along the river for several hours as a precaution against possible contamination.
University of Houston study shows BP oil spill hurt marshes, but recovery possible (8 March 2012)
In one of the first studies to look at how oil spills affect salt marsh arthropods, Brittany McCall, a UH graduate student, and biology professor Steven Pennings, her adviser, sampled terrestrial arthropods and marine invertebrates at the time of the oil spill, as well as a year later.
The April 2010 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon resulted in a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that washed ashore, damaging a number of coastal areas. McCall and Pennings received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study some of the coastal salt marshes affected by the spill. They gathered samples in areas where relatively low levels of oil were present but the plants still appeared healthy and undamaged. They found that in these areas, the numbers of crabs, insects and spiders were reduced by up to 50 percent because of the oil exposure.
"This study demonstrates that appearances can be deceiving," Pennings said. "Arthropods are quite vulnerable to oil exposure. These results are very important because they show that we can't assume that the marsh is healthy just because the plants are still alive."
However, the fact that some plant life remained intact in these areas apparently was key to how the arthropods recovered. When the UH researchers sampled the same areas a year later, all three groups appeared to have recovered, suggesting that arthropods affected by oil may recover if their host plants remain healthy.
"Salt marshes are commonly disturbed by natural events and, as a result, they may be able to also recover from oil spills if the oil disturbance is not too large," Pennings said.
South Africa's last tea farm tries to bounce back after costly pay dispute (8 March 2012)
Thulami Mtembu has worked at Magwa tea farm for 33 years. For him it's more than a job. "It's the smell. Every day I come here I feel so refreshed," he says. "I love the aroma of the tea bush. The conditions here make our tea special."
The fragrant, lime-green bushes stretch away to the horizon at the biggest tea plantation in the southern hemisphere. It is a deceptively tranquil scene. Magwa has been racked by strikes, violence and financial strife that have brought production to a standstill and put its future in doubt.
The crisis encapsulates South Africa's struggle to realise the potential of its wealth of natural resources. It is a story of low or unpaid wages, powerful unions, political inertia and allegations of financial mismanagement. It is a stark example of self-destruction.
The 1,800-hectare (4,450 acre) Magwa farm outside Lusikisiki in Eastern Cape province is blessed with an ideal climate and soil type for growing tea. At its peak five years ago it came close to profitability, producing 2.7m tonnes of tea in a season, sold in advance to countries including Britain, China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The farm employed 1,200 permanent and 2,300 seasonal workers.
Dennis Kucinich holding back on future plans, but not on criticism for victorious rival Marcy Kaptur (8 March 2012)
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland Rep. Dennis Kucinich is going away mad after a bruising primary loss to longtime Democratic colleague Marcy Kaptur, the Toledo congresswoman he once called his friend.
As he left town around noon Wednesday to return to work in Washington, D.C., he took parting shots at Kaptur and for the second time since conceding the race 12 hours earlier accused her of running a dirty and dishonest campaign.
"That's not who I am," Kucinich said during a brief news conference near the security checkpoint and ticket counters at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. "Our politics have to be lifted up. They don't belong in the gutter."
Kaptur routed Kucinich with 56 percent of the vote in the reconfigured 9th District, which stretches along the Lake Erie shoreline between Cleveland and Toledo. The incumbents were pitted against each other after Republican leaders in Columbus redrew Ohio's congressional boundaries to account for slow population growth and the loss of two seats.
U.S. military must change how it deals with rape, lawmaker says (7 March 2012)
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier on Wednesday castigated the U.S. militaryfor its policies in dealing with rape and sexual assault and repeated her call for legislation to fix a system she said was broken.
In a floor speech, Speier (D-Hillsborough) called for passage of her legislation that would move rape and assault investigations out of the normal chain of command and put them in the hands of an impartial office. Her speech came in the same week that eight current and former members of the U.S. military filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging they had been raped, assaulted or harassed while serving, and that were targeted by superiors after reporting the attacks.
The Pentagon has repeatedly deplored sexual assaults and has insisted that it has no tolerance for such attacks. In December, it announced a new policy that gives those charging a sexual assault the option of a quick transfer to another unit or installation. The Defense Department has also stepped up training in handling such cases and in preventing assaults.
But the military system dealing with the issue remains a broken system, Speier said. The Department of Defense estimates that more than 19,000 service members were raped or sexually assaulted in 2010. But only 13% of them actually reported the incident, and of those 13%, only 8% of the perpetrators were prosecuted and an even smaller percentage were convicted, she said.
Virginia Gov. McDonnell signs controversial bill requiring pre-abortion ultrasound (7 March 2012)
As expected, Gov. Bob McDonnell today signed legislation that will require a pregnant woman to submit to an external ultrasound procedure before having an abortion.
The bill is the most controversial measure to come before the General Assembly session this year, triggering heated debate among legislators and demonstrations on Capitol Square.
Here's McDonnell's statement explaining his decision to sign the bill.
"The issue of abortion raises passionate feelings among many Virginians, based on one's own views on life and liberty. While debates in the legislature over the decades may seem to indicate there is no common ground to be found on this issue, I believe that areas of agreement can and do exist. Most agree that a woman's decision to seek an abortion is difficult, irreversible and life-altering. Nearly everyone agrees that reducing the number of abortions is a laudable goal. I believe that we become a more compassionate society when we enact reasonable legislation to protect innocent human life.
Tone-deaf Bob McDonnell (7 March 2012)
One would think that he had finally gotten the message. To quote Saturday Night Live, which mocked the abortion bills, "But nooooo!"
On March 3, what should have been a peaceful protest against the abortion bills on the grounds of the Virginia Capitol Building quickly turned into a fiasco. About a thousand protestors, some young girls or women in their seventies, were met that Saturday afternoon by State Capitol Police and Virginia State Police in riot gear, facemasks, machine pistols, nightsticks, pepper spray and shin pads that made them look like fearsome Michelin Men.
The protestors had a permit to demonstrate on one part of the lawn. Most dispersed when so ordered. But about 30 or so moved to the steps in front of Thomas Jefferson's lovely building and locked arms. The signal was given. The Michelin Men moved in. The 30 were carried away to nearby buses for arrest processing.
That's when the comedy really got underway. Tucker Martin, McDonnell's press secretary, went on local television to say that the governor has nothing to do with security on Capitol Hill. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said that Democratic politicians critical of the police behavior should apologize to law enforcement. McDonnell, meanwhile, has been giving interviews to friendly news outlets such as the National Review tut-tutting about media bias.
Regardless of whether he was personally involved in calling in the police, tone-deaf McDonnell should realize that bringing on SWAT teams plays against free speech -- and himself politically. He should be encouraging people to enjoy their rights to free speech. Videos of Goon Squads manhandling women is a sure way to win Virginia even more national scorn. What occurred on the Capitol grounds that day was democracy in action -- something apparently new to Robert F. McDonnell.
Wisconsin judge issues injunction against state's new photo ID law (7 March 2012)
With the April elections less than a month away, election officials are rushing to update voting rules in the wake of a Dane County judge's temporary injunction Tuesday barring enforcement of Wisconsin's controversial new photo ID law.
The state Government Accountability Board plans to provide guidance for clerks on Wednesday about how to handle things like absentee ballots following the ruling, GAB spokesman Reid Magney said.
"We're still waiting to get correspondence from GAB," said Maribeth Witzel-Behl, Madison's city clerk.
The GAB is scheduled to meet on Monday to talk about the recalls, scheduling, and now the voter ID injunction.
Art from the ashes; UW forces protest art show to the fringe during Gov. Walker recall (4 March 2012)
When the planning for a three-day arts festival to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Wisconsin's historic and ongoing uprising hit a wall of Republican resistance and was cancelled recently, the festival's organizers switched gears but kept moving.
"We will not go away," political cartoonist Mike Konopacki said when he announced that "Art in Protest" is re-scheduled for March 9 and 10 at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa Street, in Madison. The "censored art show" will run from 8 to 11 p.m. on Friday, and 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Participants are asked to bring signs, banners, posters, songs, poems, music, and poetry related to last year's huge outpouring of citizen protest against Governor Scott Walker's legislative assault on Wisconsin's progressive traditions.
When word reached GOP lawmakers that the exhibit was scheduled for late March at the University of Wisconsin School for Workers, they pressured the school to cancel the show or face de-funding. A staffer for representative Stephen Nass, Whitewater, said GOP objections were based, among other things, on the exhibition's timing related to an election to recall Walker. The event was canceled.
Dozens of advertisers leaving Rush Limbaugh, industry scared (includes video) (7 March 2012)
Rush assured listeners Wednesday that on the business side, "Everything's fine, everything's cool." He said that there are "three brand new sponsors" that will be starting soon, but declined to name them.
An advertiser who doesn't want to be named? That's a first.....
Alas, one major advertiser told Rush that they have "offered to buy all excess ad inventory from the advertisers that have pulled ads to date, for three months," according to a company spokesperson. That company: AshleyMadison.com.
For those unfamiliar with the product, AshleyMadison.com is an online dating service for people already in relationships. Their tagline: "Life is short. Have an affair."
Consumer group finds cancer-causing chemical in colas (5 March 2012)
In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest called on officials to ban the use of caramel coloring in popular soft drinks, citing a possible cancer risk.
This isn't the first time that CSPI has targeted the food additive that gives colas, including Coke and Pepsi, their familiar brown color. The organization first petitioned the FDA on the matter in 2011, noting that 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, which form when sugar is mixed with ammonia and sulfites to create caramel coloring, had been shown to cause lung, liver and thyroid cancer in mice and rats.
In a letter written Monday to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson described recent lab analyses that showed 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, levels in 12-ounce servings of soda that exceeded the 29 microgram limit recommended by the state of California by nearly five times. The average 4-MI content for samples of regular and diet Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper and Whole Foods 365 cola was 138 micrograms. (Some samples of Dr. Pepper and the Whole Foods cola sample had far lower amounts of 4-MI, however.)
The CSPI letter said that the average level of 4-MI indicated a lifetime risk of cancer of five out of 100,000 people in the population -- and perhaps more when people who do not drink sodas are left out of the calculation.
How to completely, utterly destroy an employee's work life (7 March 2012)
Recall your worst day at work, when events of the day left you frustrated, unmotivated by the job, and brimming with disdain for your boss and your organization. That day is probably unforgettable. But do you know exactly how your boss was able to make it so horrible for you? Our research provides insight into the precise levers you can use to re-create that sort of memorable experience for your own underlings.
Over the past 15 years, we have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work. In discovering the answer, we also learned a lot about misery at work. Our research method was pretty straightforward. We collected confidential electronic diaries from 238 professionals in seven companies, each day for several months. All told, those diaries described nearly 12,000 days -- how people felt, and the events that stood out in their minds. Systematically analyzing those diaries, we compared the events occurring on the best days with those on the worst.
What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work.
People want to make a valuable contribution, and feel great when they make progress toward doing so. Knowing this progress principle is the first step to knowing how to destroy an employee's work life. Many leaders, from team managers to CEOs, are already surprisingly expert at smothering employee engagement. In fact, on one-third of those 12,000 days, the person writing the diary was either unhappy at work, demotivated by the work, or both.
BYU study: Guns are not fail-safe protection against bears (7 March 2012)
A well placed bullet might stop an aggressive grizzly, but not shooting could be just as effective in protecting yourself in bear country, according to a new study by Brigham Young University wildlife biologists.
Longtime bear biologist Tom Smith and colleagues analyzed 269 incidents of close-quarter bear-human conflict in Alaska between 1883 and 2009 in which a firearm was involved. They found the gun made no statistical difference in the outcome of these encounters, which resulted in 151 human injuries and 172 bear fatalities
"It really isn't about the kind of gun you carry. It's about how you carry yourself," said Smith, lead author of the study published online in the Journal of Wildlife Management.
"Guns are great, but for a gun to be great you have to be very, very good. No one ever practices on a 500-pound animal charging at you through the brush at 10 meters. They practice on paper targets," he added. "That's a big, big difference from being in the moment of stress."
Meet the awesome dogs that are stamping out elephant poaching (7 March 2012)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park employs a lean, mean team of crime-fighters to take on evil elephant poachers. These elite commandoes are fearless trackers, work for practically nothing, have exceptional loyalty, and are a pack of adorable puppies.
Meet Carla, Stella, Lila, Dodi, Lily, and Sabrina. The bloodhounds -- or Congohounds, as they're called in Virunga -- are currently being trained to protect the National Park's animals from poachers. Rangers rely on the hounds' especially keen sniffers to track and apprehend suspects -- bloodhounds can identify a single scent out of 5 million competing smells.
The goal of the program is to better protect Virunga's critically endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife from poachers, and in general, help enforce the rule of law, which is critical to re-establishing Virunga's tourism trade. The program will also greatly improve the park's ability to quickly find lost and critically injured rangers, many of whom have died needlessly while awaiting help.
Two of the Congohounds embarked on their first crime-fighting mission last week, after routine aerial surveillance spotted a slain elephant, its tusks hacked off its face. Dodi and Lilly were dispatched to the scene. The dogs picked up a scent, leading rangers on a trail heading towards a nearby fishing village. A ranger then caught up with the suspected poachers, who opened fire, but eventually dropped their weapons and fled the scene. Then everyone got a biscuit!
Entire nation of Kiribati has to move to avoid rising seas (7 March 2012)
The Pacific island nation of Kiribati is moving up in the world -- but not in the good way. The small country is looking to relocate to higher ground in order to escape rising seas brought on by climate change.
Some of Kiribati's 32 coral atolls have already started to disappear beneath the waves. Tong and his countrymen fear that continued sea level rise will wipe their civilization out entirely unless they relocate to Fiji lickety-split. President Anote Tong is reportedly in discussions with Fiji's military government to buy 5,000 acres of land on the country's second largest island, Vanua Levu.
"This is the last resort, there's no way out of this one," Mr Tong said. "Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages."
Depending on when Kiribati makes its big move, the country could be the world's first modern climate-induced migration.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich suffers primary defeat in Ohio (6 March 2012)
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), the two-time presidential candidate and icon of the antiwar left, suffered a bruising primary defeat Tuesday as a new Republican-drawn congressional map threatened to end the career of one of the most colorful figures in Congress.
With most attention focused on the state's GOP presidential primary battle, and no Democratic primary for president, Kucinich was left in a low-turnout race in a newly drawn district against his once-close ally, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).
With about 90 percent of the vote in, Kaptur led 60 to 36 percent.
From his stint as Cleveland's "Boy Mayor" in the late 1970s, including two debt defaults and the forced sale of the city's electric plant, to his unsuccessful effort to impeach Vice President Richard B. Cheney in 2007, Kucinich has repeatedly thrust himself into the national spotlight. Often coming up on the short end of his fights, Kucinich, 65, never stopped swing-ing but usually did so in a friendly spirit.
His defeat, according to lawmakers, was the latest development in a process that is making Congress a more sanitized, less colorful place. Some of the institution's most original characters are either retiring or losing reelection battles, in part because their positions or personalities are so easy to caricature. Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), for example, have announced their retirements.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Progressive Mainstay in Congress, Loses Dem. Primary in Redrawn Ohio District (7 March 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: And so, the question is whether Congress Member Kucinich would establish residency in Washington state, although wouldn't that be difficult, as he still represents the people of Cleveland in Congress, John Nichols?
JOHN NICHOLS: Yes, he would have to step down to change his residency, if I understand it correctly. But he does have time to do it. The Washington state primary is very, very late. And so, the filing deadline for running in this new seat in Washington state in the Seattle area is not until June. And so, Senator--or Congressman Kucinich could make this move.
It's very, very hard, having run for a seat in one state, to then jump to another state and say you want to make a try there. This is much more of a European model. In England, for instance, something like that might happen quite commonly, because under their parliamentary system, members often represent areas that they're not from. In America, we have much more of a tradition of sort of locally rooted candidates. And so, I think it would be a very tough jump.
By the same token, as I was saying before, I think losing Dennis Kucinich, with his outspoken antiwar stances and also his sort of rapid response on so many issues--he's usually the quickest member to be up and running with a progressive response to economic issues at home as well as foreign policy, very willing to challenge Democratic presidents and Democratic leaders when they're wrong--I think there would be an awfully lot of people, even on the ground in Washington state, who would be more welcoming to him than to most candidates. So I think it's within the realm of possibility, but I cannot emphasize to you that it is a hard, hard leap, something relatively unprecedented.
Diet pills a big, fat waste of money, Oregon State University nutrition expert Melinda Manore finds in research review (6 March 2012)
If the bottle reads "extreme fat burner!," it's not. If it claims you'll "crave less" or it'll "reset your metabolism," don't believe it.
Melinda Manore, an Oregon State University nutrition and exercise expert, reviewed a couple hundred studies investigating hundreds of weight-loss supplements and found no evidence that using any product results in significant weight loss. In other words, there's no magic in those magic bullets.
Manore looked at four supplement categories: those that block absorption of fat or carbohydrates; stimulants that boost metabolism; those that claim to change body composition by decreasing fat; and appetite suppressants. Many never were subjected to randomized clinical trials examining effectiveness; most studies didn't include exercise.
Only a few products, including green tea, fiber and low-fat dairy supplements, she found, could have a modest weight-loss benefit of 3 to 4 pounds, but most of those were tested as part of a reduced-calorie diet.
Judge quashes retaliation against doc who dared expose MMR-Autism link (7 March 2012)
A doctor has won his high court battle against being struck off over the MMR vaccination controversy.
Professor John Walker-Smith appealed against the General Medical Council's (GMC) determination that he was guilty of serious professional misconduct.
He was supported by parents of some of the children with autism and bowel disease seen by him at the Royal Free hospital, north London, up to his retirement in 2001.
On Wednesday Mr Justice Mitting, sitting at the high court in London, ruled the GMC decision "cannot stand".
He quashed the finding of professional misconduct and the striking-off.
Calling for changes in the way GMC fitness to practise panel hearings are conducted in the future, the judge said of the flawed handling of Walker-Smith's case: "It would be a misfortune if this were to happen again."
U.K. Diabetes amputation rates show huge regional variation (6 March 2012)
Amputation rates for diabetes patients are 10 times higher in some parts of England than in others, according to a study.
Researchers say the figures highlight the importance of ensuring the right specialist care.
The findings coincide with an NHS report putting the annual cost of diabetes-related amputations at £120m.
Amputation rates in some areas are too high, says the Department of Health.
Gov. Chris Gregoire approves Whistling Ridge wind farm outside Columbia River Gorge in Washington, but project on hold (5 March 2012)
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire on Monday approved a downsized version of the controversial Whistling Ridge wind farm in Skamania County, though its developers say the project is on hold because it's not currently economically viable.
Gregoire's approval allows up to 35 wind turbines on the north side of the Columbia River Gorge, near the town of White Salmon.
Washington's Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council approved the project last October provided that 15 of the 50 turbines proposed were eliminated to lessen the visual impact within the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.
Gregoire said in a news release the project would help meet clean energy needs while bringing needed jobs and revenue to Skamania County, "while preserving the aesthetic and recreational benefits of the Gorge."
Donald Trump asked to appear before MSPs (7 March 2012)
Mr Trump said the plans for 11 turbines in Aberdeen Bay would spoil the sea views for his customers, at Menie, and has stopped work at his resort until Scottish ministers make a decision on the development.
The businessman said, if the turbines were approved, the last thing he would do was build a hotel looking out at it.
He previously called the turbines "ugly monstrosities" and "horrendous machines", and has decided to bankroll an anti-wind farm campaign.
A revolution in green energy is a major part of the SNP government's vision for Scotland's future.
Economy committee convener, Murdo Fraser, said: "From our preliminary discussions with the Trump organisation, it was obvious the strength of views they had.
Gulf of Mexico crude oil reference material released (7 March 2012)
NIST has released a new certified reference material to support the federal government's Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. The new Standard Reference Material, Gulf of Mexico Crude Oil (SRM 2779), will be used as a quality control material for the ongoing environmental impact analyses for the NRDA effort.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster resulted in the discharge of tens of thousands of barrels of oil per day from the seafloor into the Gulf of Mexico. In what has become the worst offshore oil spill in United States history, a wide expanse and variety of natural resources have been exposed to and potentially impacted by oil. During the NRDA, tens of thousands of environmental samples including oil in various forms, water, sediment, and biological samples are being collected and analyzed to characterize both pre-spill and post-spill environmental conditions.
The petroleum crude oil for SRM 2779 was collected on May 21, 2010, on the drillship Discoverer Enterprise from the insertion tube that was receiving oil directly from the Macondo well during response operations. The oil was collected in 2.5-L glass bottles and transported via a defined chain of custody to a laboratory in College Station, Texas. A portion was subsequently provided to NIST under the authority of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for use in the preparation of SRM 2779.
Using the data from three independent methods of analysis performed at NIST as well as one set of data from an interlaboratory study coordinated by NIST and NOAA, certified and reference values (as mass fractions) are provided for a number of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) along with reference values (as mass fractions) for a number of alkylated PAH groups, hopanes, and steranes. These compound classes are among those used as indicators for the presence of petroleum crude oil. Each unit of SRM 2779 consists of five ampoules, each containing 1.2 mL of crude oil.
Anti-Nuclear Groups in Georgia Seek to Block First New Nuclear Plants in U.S. in Decades (6 March 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Is there a possibility that these plants can be stopped, Stephen?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, there's a very long way to go here. I mean, first of all, as you mentioned, we are just coming up on the year anniversary of the tragedy in Japan. And let's recount what happened there. You had multiple nuclear reactors that were literally out of control, spewing radioactivity into the ocean and into the countryside. And this is something that if you had talked to--again, Japan is a very industrialized nation. If you had talked to the engineers the day before this happened, they'd say, "No way this could happen. We've taken care of all this." And yet it happened in a very dramatic way.
Literally, the rubble hasn't even cooled yet, and now the NRC has granted an operating license for a reactor design, the AP1000, which the Vogtle reactors are, that has never operated in the United States. Indeed, we're going to have to rely on China for a lot of the critical testing infrastructure. And a lot of us are concerned that the standards in China may not be as robust as they should be in the United States. So we're greatly concerned about this.
There's a lot yet to go. And we believe that they have violated the National Environmental Policy Act by granting this license. And that's why a number of us have actually challenged it. So we'll see. But I think that this reactor has a lot of momentum, the company is very aggressively pursuing it, and it's going to be very difficult to stop. But a number of the other reactors that were proposed have now begun to recede away, and so the so-called nuclear renaissance is really not happening the way that the industry had hoped.
Toronto's electric company dropped by insurer over aging equipment (7 March 2012)
Toronto Hydro's cries of pain that its efforts to renew aging equipment are being throttled are being heard: Its property insurance company has given notice it won't renew its contract on June 1.
"It's likely that the uncertainty around the capital investment is a factor in that," said Blair Peberdy, vice president of Toronto Hydro.
Toronto Hydro has been warning that a decision in January by the Ontario Energy Board curbing its equipment renewal program will prevent it from replacing aging equipment -- leading to longer and more frequent blackouts.
Peberdy said the prospect of insuring less reliable equipment seems to have triggered the decision by the insurer, Factory Mutual insurance, or FM Global.
Study: Going Vegetarian Can Make You Happier And Less Stressed (6 March 2012)
Omnivores, take note: Embracing a vegetarian diet could make you happier and less stressed, according to new research published in Nutrition Journal.
The reason comes down to fatty acids: Diets that include meat and fish are higher in arachidonic acid (AA), an animal source of omega-6 fatty acids. Much of the meat Americans eat today is quite high in AA: The average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid profile of modern grain-fed meat is 5 times higher than grass-fed meat, like our ancestors ate. And previous research has shown high levels of AA can cause mood-disturbing brain changes.
High-fish diets also mean higher levels of long-chain, or omega-3 fatty acids, like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both EPA and DHA combat the negative effects of AA. High dietary levels of omega-3 fatty acids are linked to better brain health, better mood and a host of other health benefits. Most health experts recommend an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of about 4:1.
In theory, then, frequent fish eaters should have be protected against the damaging effects of AA because of their higher intake of omega-3 acids. But an earlier study found omnivores reported significantly worse moods than vegetarians, despite higher intakes of EPA and DHA.
PAM COMMENTARY: The original study mentioned is here.
FDA issues warning to makers of inhalable caffeine AeroShot, questions safety of the product (6 March 2012)
WASHINGTON -- Food and Drug Administration officials have issued a warning letter to the makers of the inhalable caffeine product AeroShot, saying they have questions about its safety and concerns about how children and adolescents may use it.
The lipstick-sized AeroShot went on the market in January in Massachusetts and New York, and it's also available in France. Consumers put one end of the plastic canister in their mouths and breathe in, releasing a fine powder that dissolves almost instantly. The product's website calls it "a revolutionary new way to get your energy."
The FDA said the Massachusetts-based company behind AeroShot, Breathable Foods, misled consumers by saying the product can be both inhaled and ingested, which is not possible. The agency said it is concerned consumers may try to inhale it into their lungs, which may not be safe.
The letter also pointed out that the company's website says it is not recommended for those under the age of 18, while the product label says it is not recommended for those under 12. At the same time, the FDA said, the company targets both age groups by suggesting it be used while studying.
Chevron: Fire at rig off Nigeria has stopped (6 March 2012)
LAGOS, Nigeria -- A natural gas fire that killed two people and destroyed a Chevron Corp. rig off the coast of Nigeria has stopped on its own, the company said Tuesday, ending an ocean inferno that burned for 46 days.
The natural gas at the Funiwa field, just off Nigeria's Bayelsa state, stopped bubbling to the surface of the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, extinguishing a fire visible from the coast, Chevron spokesman Russell A. Johnson said. Chevron only confirmed the fire had stopped on Tuesday. Johnson said the company wanted to monitor the well for some time before making a public announcement.
Johnson acknowledged gas could begin flowing again from the well and said Chevron would continue to dig a relief well nearby to permanently plug the site.
"We continue to watch to ensure gas doesn't begin to flow," Johnson said.
Ohioans face down fracking -- and a lack of environmental oversight (6 March 2012)
"Industry likes to say, 'We've been doing this for years, it's not new technology, trust us, we know what we're doing,'" said Brad Kelley, a professor in the Science and Technology Studies Department at Virginia Tech. "But that doesn't mean the regulation or the oversight is really there."
Most everyone -- except for the fracking industry -- in Ohio would likely agree. Dr. Jeffrey Dick, the Chair of the Geology Department at Youngstown State University and the Direction of the Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute, said "We've been doing hydraulic fracturing [known as fracking] since the 1950s." But, he added, "We've been doing it in vertical wells." Ohio, he said, has 85,000 vertical fracking wells, with about 60,000 currently producing, to what's known as the Clinton Sandstone formation. But the first permit for horizontal fracking of the Utica-Point Pleasant Shale Formation was only issued in March 2011. By November, there were already 8 rigs drilling; today, there are 17. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) lists 75 more permitted wells on the public record, but Dick estimates there are closer to 100, because the staff can't keep up with listing the permitted wells online.
[For a visual representation of the fracking process, please click here.]
If the department can't even keep up with informing the public about the locations of permitted horizontal wells when there's less than 200, one is forced to wonder how rigorous their oversight is of the 65,000 active vertical wells. According to geologists, activists and Ohio residents sickened by pollution from those wells, the answer is: not very, and it never has been.
Jaime Frederick, a Mahoning County resident, moved into her dream house in rural Ohio where, like many residents, she got her water from a well. When her adjacent, but absent, neighbor signed a lease to allow a vertical fracking well on his land -- and placed the holding tank for the hazardous waste generated by the fracking right on their shared property line -- Frederick had her water tested in order to get a baseline assessment to allow her to sue if the drilling contaminated her water. Instead, she found that her water was already contaminated with a host of hazardous fracking byproducts, including barium, strontium, toluene, manganese, and her doctor found lead, arsenic and mercury in her blood, though the water wasn't tested for that -- all chemicals not naturally found in personal wells in the area. She then discovered that, unbeknownst to her and back in the woods, there were already 10 other fracking wells within a half mile of her house. "People are being intimidated, lied to by land men to sign, because they feel they'll just drill anyway and they won't get the money," she said, since horizontal drills can go deep under adjacent properties without additional leases.
Sacramento higher-ed protest leads to 72 arrests (6 March 2012)
Police arrested at least 72 protesters who had taken over the Rotunda of the state Capitol on Monday to demand an end to higher education cuts and passage of a proposed "millionaires tax."
Hundreds of students from campuses around the state had taken over the Rotunda during the afternoon. The Capitol closed at 6 p.m., and the group was issued a dispersal order at 6:20 p.m.
About an hour later, the 150 California Highway Patrol officers present began to make arrests. Those arrested were taken to Sacramento's city jail. Most of the 72 were arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest, said CHP officials. One person was arrested for possession of a switchblade.
The students had been boisterous, even climbing on a century-old marble statue and dancing around the ornate marble Rotunda as politicians watched from the balcony above them. But they were also serious about the business of addressing education's critical needs.
ACLU: Obama's extra-judicial killings raise 'profound legal and moral questions' (6 March 2012)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is strongly objecting to a speech given Monday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at Northwestern University's law school, during which he offered a public acknowledgement that the Obama Administration believes it has the right to kill U.S. citizens anywhere in the world without judicial review.
Speaking to Raw Story on Monday night, Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's national Security Project, said that Holder's explanation "raises profound legal and moral questions," and poses a grave threat to American liberties should a future president decide to seize upon the precedent for more nefarious purposes.
So far, only three American citizens have been killed by targeted drone strikes overseas, and in each instance the Administration insisted they were participating in terrorist activities and therefore were enemy combatants. Speaking to law students Monday night, Holder insisted that Congress gave the executive branch blanket authority to safeguard national security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks -- meaning they have the right to do as they see fit, with nobody to second guess them.
"While the speech is a gesture towards additional transparency, it is ultimately a defense of the government's chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny," Shamsi said. "Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact."
Bust Reveals Government Runs Hacking Groups (6 March 2012) [AJ]
The establishment media has characterized the leader of LulzSec ratting out his hacktivist comrades as betrayal, but the incident reveals something far more sinister -- government is responsible for creating and unleashing computer hacker groups.
Hector Xavier Monsegur, said to be the leader of LulzSec, worked for the FBI, according to news reports. He was reportedly arrested in Puerto Rico last June, pleaded guilty to hacking charges, and then began working with the FBI -- or so the cover story would have it.
Monsequr, aka Sabu, decided what targets to attack and who would participate in the attacks, more than likely at the direction of this FBI handlers. It is believed he participated in the Anonymous effort to hack HBGary, the security firm that works closely with the CIA, NSA, FBI, and the Pentagon.
Sabu's Lulz Security, commonly abbreviated as LulzSec, claimed responsibility for taking the CIA website offline. It also attacked Fox News, PBS, Sony, and a number of gamer sites. LulzSec claims to have hacked local InfraGard chapter sites, the organization affiliated with the FBI, and released the emails and passwords of a number of users of senate.gov.
PAM COMMENTARY: While it's good that keeping our Paypal accounts safe is an occasional law enforcement priority, there are a lot of unsolved violent crimes with killers and rapists still on the streets. Why are enforcement agencies giving a higher priority to encouraging otherwise harmless nerds to commit non-violent crimes?
Background detail: LulzSec leader Sabu was working for us, says FBI (6 March 2012)
The FBI claims to have struck a major blow against internet hacking after arresting or charging five key members of the LulzSec hacking group and revealing that the head of the group, who went by the nickname "Sabu", has been working for it since the middle of 2011.
Hector Xavier Monsegur, known as Sabu, was charged with 12 criminal counts of conspiracy to engage in computer hacking and other crimes in court papers in Manhattan federal court, after secretly pleading guilty on August 15 to 12 counts of computer hacking conspiracies.
Monsegur, an unemployed 28-year-old Puerto Rican living in New York, pleaded guilty to carrying out online attacks against PayPal and Mastercard, documents unsealed in a Manhattan court on Tuesday shows. The charges were filed via a "criminal information" form, which means the suspect has been cooperating with the government.
Five other people -- two in the UK, two in Ireland and one in Chicago -- were either arrested or charged by the FBI on Tuesday, details of which were set out in an indictment brought by the US Attorney General's office in New York.
Speed Freak Killer's cause of death, deep anger revealed (6 March 2012)
LASSEN COUNTY -- Tattoos of skulls, flames, satanic imagery and vulgarity covered the body of once-convicted serial killer Loren Herzog, who hanged himself Jan. 16, possibly fearing he would soon be returned to prison.
"Made And Fueled by Hate and Restrained By Reality" read a black tattoo running down Herzog's left leg, knee and foot. Ink on his right foot read, "Made The Devil Do It."
These details are in Herzog's autopsy report The Record requested and obtained Monday from the Lassen County Sheriff-Coroner's Office.
Herzog went to trial in a string of murders that prosecutors say he and Wesley Shermantine, known as the "Speed Freak Killers" committed in the 1980s and '90s. The two, both age 46, were boyhood friends from Linden.
Video interrogation surfaces of dead "Speed Freak" serial killer Loren Herzog (28 February 2012)
CBS) SACRAMENTO - CBS Sacramento has obtained video footage of Loren Herzog, one of the California "Speed Freak" serial killer, recorded just after he was arrested.
The video above of Herzog's interrogation was taped 13 years ago. He recently committed suicide. In the interrogation, he put the blame for the killings squarely on then co-defendant Wesley Shermantine.
William Heirens, known as the 'Lipstick Killer,' dead (6 March 2012)
Heirens, 83, who spent 65 years in custody and was one of Illinois' longest-serving prisoners, died Monday at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
He had been in declining health for years and was taken to the hospital from Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon on Feb. 26, officials said. An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.
Finn said she hopes Heirens' death brought closure to both him and those who have been haunted by his crimes.
"Hopefully he's at peace and we don't have to worry about it anymore," said Finn, who was 10 when her 6-year-old sister, Suzanne Degnan, was abducted from her first-floor bedroom and dismembered in January 1946. "I hope he made amends. I never wished him ill. I just wanted him in prison for everybody's safety. It was never out of retribution. It was out of fear that he could hurt somebody else, and if we did not go to all these parole hearings and protest it and he got out and he hurt a child, you just couldn't live with it."
Thousands march on California Capitol to protest cuts in college funding (5 March 2012)
Thousands of students and activists marched through Sacramento's streets and rallied outside the state Capitol on Monday to protest cuts to California's colleges and universities.
"They say cut back, we say fight back!" the students chanted while waving signs saying "fund education, not war" and "cuts in education never heal."
The plaza on the west side of the Capitol was teeming with protesters during the rally, which was billed as a chance to "occupy the Capitol." Outside the building, student leaders and top Democrats who voted to slash higher education budgets last year addressed the crowd.
"We've cut billions of dollars and I've hated every minute of it," said Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).
Lung cancer risk of miners linked to diesel exhaust (5 March 2012)
There's new evidence that exposure to exhaust from diesel engines increases the risk of lung cancer.
Diesel exhaust has long been classified as a probable carcinogen. But the 20-year study from the Washington-based National Cancer Institute took a closer look by tracking more than 12,000 workers in certain kinds of mines -- facilities that mined for potash, lime and other non-metals.
They breathed varying levels of exhaust from diesel-powered equipment, levels higher than the general population encounters.
The most heavily exposed miners had three times the risk of death from lung cancer compared to workers with the lowest exposures, said the study released Friday by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
But even workers with lower exposures had a 50 per cent increased risk, wrote lead author Debra Silverman, an NCI epidemiologist.
Winds of Fortune Sweep West Texas (5 March 2012)
BP and other energy companies are funneling millions into building and operating wind farms in West Texas, helping to transform oil country into one of the nation's leading hubs for green energy production.
Skylines dominated by nodding pump jacks are increasingly spotted with spinning turbines. Economies tied to the ebb and flow of commodity prices are finding stability in supplying the power grid.
"We've been through lots of booms and busts with the oil and gas industry. The oil and gas areas deplete over time," said Doug May, economic development director for Pecos County in West Texas. "The wind resource here is sustainable. We look at these wind farms as a long-term investment in the future of Pecos County."
Recent energy analyses have forecast that renewable fuels -- including wind, solar and biofuels -- will be the world's fastest growing energy source in coming decades. BP's own outlook predicts that the country's renewable energy production will surge 252 percent over the next 20 years.
Chu unveils $180m offshore wind innovation fund (5 March 2012)
The US Department of Energy (DoE) is to make $180m available over the next six years to support up to four innovative wind farms off the coast of the country or in the Great Lakes.
The projects are designed to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind technologies by addressing key challenges associated with installing utility-scale offshore turbines, connecting offshore turbines to the power grid, and navigating permitting and approval processes.
DoE funding will be doled out in annual $20m chunks to cover up to 80 per cent of a project's design costs and 50 per cent of the hardware and installation costs.
The US is estimated to have offshore wind resources of more than 4,000GW along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. But despite the enormous potential for economic development and the diversification of the country's energy supply, the resource remains wholly untapped.
Facebook Can Tell You If A Person Is Worth Hiring (5 March 2012)
Employers already know it's a good idea to check job candidates' Facebook pages to make sure there aren't any horrible red flags there. The reddest flags for most employers seem to be drugs, drinking, badmouthing former employers, and lying about one's qualifications. But there's another good reason for checking out a candidate's Facebook page before inviting them in for an interview: it may be a fairly accurate reflection of how good they'll be at the job.
That's the conclusion in a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology last month. The researchers hired HR types to rate hundreds of college students' Facebook pages according to how employable they seemed.
"We asked them to form impressions of a candidate based solely on their Facebook page," says one of the study author's, Don Kluemper, of Northern Illinois University. This involved looking at what was publicly available on those pages (photos, status updates, and conversations with friends) and then assigning each person a score for a number of qualities important to being a good employee, such as their degree of emotionally stability, conscientiousness, extroversion, intellectual curiosity and agreeableness. (In other words, will they flip out on you, care about completing tasks, be fun to work with, be creative in problem solving, and be willing to kiss up when necessary?) The review took about five to ten minutes per profile.
Six months later, the researchers got in touch with their guinea pigs' employers to ask about their job performances. Unfortunately, of the over 500 guinea pigs, just 56 of the employers responded. So the sample is small, but the researchers found a strong correlation between those employers' reviews and the employability predictions they had made based on folks' profile pages.
PAM COMMENTARY: Years ago, I had to help hire a few a few techies for a medical software firm. These were I.T. staffers who would be sent to doctors' offices on a daily basis, and had to interact with physicians directly. The other managers went along with my hiring decisions, despite one of the men having a very bad reference.
All of the new employees exceeded our expectations.
How did I spot good employees so easily? The old-fashioned way -- mostly by their past work history and personal professionalism at the interview.
There were a few details that differed between the three, though. The one who had a bad reference was extremely professional at the interview and very well-groomed. He looked like a business executive, yet he had a technical background. In fact, he was so professional in person, and the person giving the bad reference over the phone was so unprofessional, that I disregarded the one bad reference entirely.
Another employee was hired because from his resume, I knew that he'd worked at a hospital that had temporarily closed due to the Northridge earthquake. In fact, the date on his resume, like mine, showed him leaving the hospital during the exact month it was offering severance packages to encourage employees to find work elsewhere while they made repairs. That particular hospital demanded professionalism and a good "bedside manner" of all employees. At orientation, they told new employees that they weren't even allowed to laugh when non-employees were present, because sometimes -- while trying to cope with an illness or a dying relative -- people would wonder if you were laughing at them.
There were actually so many good candidates that it was hard to choose, but the third person had owned his own business in the past, and presented himself as someone overqualified for the job yet willing to take a salary within budget. I'm not opposed to hiring someone who's overqualified for their pay grade -- in fact, people who are underqualified will leave you just as fast. And while the overqualified person is there, your company can benefit from his or her extra experience.
All of the men were in the age group that today would probably have a very limited, if any, FaceBook page. And at the time they were hired, FaceBook didn't exist. But if it had, would I have checked their FaceBook page?
Absolutely not. What kind of manager has time for something so frivolous? I had reams of resumes to review, on top of managing a small department already short on staff. The firm only wanted a few people who could handle the job, willing to accept a salary within budget. The only thing that really mattered was how they'd perform on the job -- the rest of their lives was their personal business.
How to Make Siri Curse Like a Sailor (5 March 2012)
Send Yourself an Offensive Text Message
One of the most useful features of Siri is how she can read text messages out loud for you. Yup, you can see where this is going already. Take a friend's phone and try to fit as many curse words you can in 160 characters. Or if you want to keep the fun for yourself, text yourself from Google Voice.
Rush Limbaugh has so much more to apologize for (5 March 2012)
Rush Limbaugh's lame apology to Sandra Fluke does not even come close to getting him off the hook. He needs to apologize to America for pushing political discourse to the level of drunk good ol' boys shouting crude epithets in a topless bar.
In case you missed it, a few days ago Limbaugh went after Fluke for supporting the inclusion of contraceptives in employee health plans. The 30-year-old Georgetown University law student jumped into the controversy over a new Obama administration rule requiring even institutions run by religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for birth control. She asked to be added to an otherwise all-male panel testifying on the issue before a congressional committee. When she was turned away, the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, set up a non-official forum where Fluke was given time to speak.
Limbaugh, like anyone who disagrees with Fluke's position, has every right to challenge her ideas, but he didn't do that. Instead, he gleefully engaged in character assassination, calling the young woman a "prostitute" and a "slut" who expected the government to pay her to have sex.
"She's having so much sex, she can't afford the contraception," Limbaugh told his vast audience of angry white males. "She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex."
Arrests At Protests After Putin Election Win (5 March 2012)
Opponents of Vladimir Putin are gathering in Moscow for a mass protest after his disputed victory, with reports of arrests both in the capital and in St Petersburg.
The news agency AFP reports that Eduard Limonov, an opposition leader of the Other Russia movement and 50 of his supporters were arrested at a demonstration outside the central election commission in Moscow.
Meanwhile, in Russia's second city of St Petersburg, police have reportedly arrested dozens of protesters from a demonstration of about 1,500 people, including local deputies from the liberal Yabloko party.
Opposition leaders have accused the authorities of widespread fraud and claim many people were allowed to cast multiple votes.
But speaking at a rally attended by tens of thousands of supporters outside the Kremlin in Moscow, an apparently tearful Mr Putin insisted it had been an "open and honest" contest.
Liver disease research focuses on cell types (5 March 2012)
Liver disease is the fifth biggest killer in Britain and is the only major cause of death that has seen a continual year-on-year increase over the past 40 years -- more than twice as many people die of liver disease now compared with 20 years ago.
About 16,000 people in the UK died last year of liver disease, and the number of people on the waiting list for organ transplants has increased from about 300 five years ago to nearly 500 now.
The latest research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, has unravelled the network of complex biochemical signals that trigger the regeneration of cells within the liver, the body's main organ for filtering harmful toxins from the bloodstream.
Although the human liver has remarkable powers of natural regeneration, this often results in the replacement of the wrong kind of liver cells. Instead of hepatocytes, the damaged liver tends to make to many bile duct cells, the scientists said.
PAM COMMENTARY: In herbal medicine, artichoke helps cleanse the liver and milk thistle helps stimulate liver cells to reproduce. Both are in the thistle family.
20,000 Irish jobseekers queue for a chance abroad (5 March 2012)
Approximately 20,000 people paid €10 each over the two days to sample the job opportunities on offer from 80 recruiters and government officials from Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The queues were so massive that an electronic sign was posted at the Simmonscourt entrance to the RDS warning of a three-hour wait to get in.
On the other side of the RDS where Fianna Fail was holding its 73rd ard fheis, Mr Martin admitted that his party, while in government, "got things wrong".
But his act of contrition fell on deaf ears as jobseekers queued for a better life away from here.
Michigan Upper Peninsula wind farm is partially online (5 March 2012)
"We place them strategically, so they're significantly away from any residences, in open farmland where the wind is best," Wilson said. "We also space them far enough apart from one another so they don't interfere with each other."
He said the project is set on mostly open, active farmland, with areas needed for the turbines leased to Heritage. More than 20 landowners are participating in the program, he said.
Energy generated by the turbines will be sold to utility firms Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy.
The company is expecting construction of the 450-foot tall turbines to be complete by the end of August, Wilson said. The windmills should also be operational at this time.
Navy's practice of sinking ships raises red flags (5 March 2012)
In the past 12 years, records show the Navy has used missiles, torpedoes and large guns to sink 109 old, peeling and rusty U.S. warships off the coasts of California, Hawaii, Florida and other states. During the same period, 64 ships were recycled at one of six approved domestic ship-breaking facilities.
The Navy says target practice on actual military ships serves an important national security function, allowing for live-fire exercises and study of "weapons lethality." But since the program's inception, the AP found, the Navy has struggled to balance its military training needs with an environmentally sound way to send ships to the grave.
The program - called "Sinkex" for sinking exercise - has come under fire from environmentalists for the pollutants it introduces to the sea. The ship recycling industry complains about the jobs and revenue it takes away.
The Navy has performed these operations for decades, disposing of decommissioned ships with little public record of the toxins left onboard. Then, in 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the Navy to better document toxic waste on the ships, and in return the EPA exempted the military from federal pollution laws that prohibited such dumping in the ocean.
The Port of Richmond expands its horizons (5 March 2012)
The world's second-largest shipping line has added Richmond to its route map.
Any shipper using the Port of Richmond for its cargo now has access to the more than 330 global ports served by Mediterranean Shipping Co. S.A. of Geneva.
"It puts the Port of Richmond on the international shipping map," said Barbara Nelson with the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission.
Cargo containers loaded in Shanghai and destined for Richmond "will say the final port is the Port of Richmond," Nelson said, "not the Port of Virginia," the state's ocean terminals in Hampton Roads.
Port of Virginia is ready for influx expected with Panama Canal expansion (5 March 2012)
It's 2,440 miles from Panama to Virginia, but events in that far-off Central American country soon will be having an impact on the Old Dominion's economic life.
In 2014, the Panama Canal will complete a $5.3 billion expansion that will double the waterway's capacity, and allow new giant container ships to transit the canal. These "post-Panamax" vessels will be able to sail more quickly and less expensively directly to the East Coast, changing the global flow of freight traffic, with fewer but much larger ships stopping at fewer ports to load and unload their rich cargos.
And ports like the Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads that are deep enough and well enough equipped with the commercial transportation infrastructure to handle them could be big winners.
The Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads set an East Coast record for deep-loaded container ships Thursday. The MSC Roma, laden heavy with exports, sailed from APM Terminals in Portsmouth needing a channel 48½ feet deep, the Virginia Port Authority said. No other port on the East Coast could handle ships needing that deep a channel, the authority said.
The reverberations from the shift to the jumbo vessels are helping drive the state's plan to build the $1.5 billion to $2 billion U.S. 460 toll road from Petersburg to Suffolk through largely undeveloped Southside Virginia, and could fuel development around the inland Port of Richmond.
Gitmo war crimes court surprises some observers (5 March 2012)
Some critics challenge the whole concept of the military trials and note that a majority of the 171 prisoners never will be charged with a crime, let alone face trial, despite the fact that most were captured more than a decade ago.
"The federal courts offer something the military commissions do not: true due process," said Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, who was observing the hearing this week at which Majid Khan, a graduate of a suburban Baltimore high school, pleaded guilty to plotting attacks with al-Qaida.
The majority of the men are being held either because they are considered too dangerous to release or because the U.S. authorities say they cannot find an acceptable place to transfer them.
About 80 percent of the inmates are now held in a communal camp where improved conditions, including access to classes and 24 satellite TV channels, have resulted in fewer assaults on guards and less tension, according to officials who led reporters on a tour of the prison this week.
Hotline available for soldiers, veterans over PTSD evaluations (4 March 2012)
The forensic psychiatric team at Madigan is under investigation into whether it properly evaluated soldiers previously treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Madigan team concluded a dozen of these soldiers did not have PTSD, which would have qualified them for medical retirement benefits.
But a re-evaluation by a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center team concluded half of those soldiers did have PTSD.
Madigan has been the only Army medical center to rely so heavily on the forensic teams to screen patients for possible medical retirement, according to the Army Medical Command.
Malaysian oil spill disrupts water supply (4 March 2012)
"This is an emergency because an entire water treatment plant had to stop operations.
"There is no choice but for Laku (Northern Sarawak Water Supply Board) to shut down operations of the plant until the pollutants are cleared from the river."
Lee, who is also Senadin assemblyman and former Laku chairman, added that Shell and Petronas in Miri had responded very swiftly to help contain the spill.
The Lambir treatment plant is the sole treated water supply source for the entire district.
Cattle virus hits nine more farms in U.K. (4 March 2012)
Nine more farms in England have been hit by the Schmallenberg virus, the midge-borne livestock infection that can cause birth deformities in lambs and calves.
It brings the total number of cases to 92 -- seven have been in cattle and the other 85 in sheep, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency said yesterday.
The cases, in East Anglia, Kent and Sussex, are attributed to midges carried to Britain on the wind from continental Europe last August and September.
Humans are thought to be unaffected. A vaccine is expected to be ready in two years.
Hundreds demonstrate for women's rights in Virginia, 31 arrested (4 March 2012)
Some protesters, wearing red armbands and holding signs that included "Gov. McDonnell get out of my vagina," urged the governor to reject the legislation, which is headed to his desk.
Capt. Raymond J. Goodloe of the Division of Capitol Police said 17 women and 14 men were arrested, though representatives of groups involved with the event said they believed more were taken into custody. Goodloe did not have a breakdown on charges, but said those arrested were likely accused of either trespassing or unlawful assembly, both misdemeanors.
The arrests took place after some protesters, who had marched along nearby streets before entering Capitol Square, refused to leave the south steps of the Capitol. They were, in some cases, carried away by police and taken to a bus parked nearby while other officers held protesters at bay with shields.
In the course of two hours, Glen Allen resident Bonnie Ward went from marching with a sign that read, "Women: 51%, men: 49%, there is a new majority," to being guided into a bus by police.
Police: Saratoga Springs man arrested after threatening Obama, school (3 March 2012)
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- U.S. Secret Service agents and local authorities collaborated to arrest a 33-year-old Saratoga Springs man on charges that he made threats against President Barack Obama and Saratoga County elementary school children, the district attorney said.
Brent G. Dickinson of Maple Avenue was charged with two counts of making a terroristic threat after he allegedly sent two communications to a White House message board at around 11 p.m. Friday, District Attorney James A. Murphy III said in a statement. Dickinson named two intended targets: the President and elementary school children at an unnamed school, Murphy said. The Secret Service intercepted the messages, he said.
"In both instances, it is alleged that the defendant intended to murder the intended targets," Murphy wrote on his office's website. He could not be reached for further comment.
Due to the intimidating nature of the communications, the Secret Service contacted Saratoga Springs police and identified Dickinson as a suspect, Murphy said.
Oceans' acidic shift may be fastest in 300 million years (1 March 2012)
(Reuters) - The world's oceans are turning acidic at what could be the fastest pace of any time in the past 300 million years, even more rapidly than during a monster emission of planet-warming carbon 56 million years ago, scientists said on Thursday.
Looking back at that bygone warm period in Earth's history could offer help in forecasting the impact of human-spurred climate change, researchers said of a review of hundreds of studies of ancient climate records published in the journal Science.
Quickly acidifying seawater eats away at coral reefs, which provide habitat for other animals and plants, and makes it harder for mussels and oysters to form protective shells. It can also interfere with small organisms that feed commercial fish like salmon.
The phenomenon has been a top concern of Jane Lubchenco, the head of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who has conducted demonstrations about acidification during hearings in the U.S. Congress.
Oceans get more acidic when more carbon gets into the atmosphere. In pre-industrial times, that occurred periodically in natural pulses of carbon that also pushed up global temperatures, the scientists wrote.
Porcupines an increasingly rare sight in California forests, scientists say (3 March 2012)
The porcupine is not among the cuddly critters most forest visitors hope to stumble upon.
The large rodent seems aloof as it waddles through California woods. Long quills twitching like the headdress on a drum major, it forages leisurely for herbs, seeds and tree bark. When threatened, the prickly species mostly just turns its back and hopes you'll get the point.
While nobody was looking, however, it seems the humble porcupine has been quietly fading away.
Biologists and other resource managers who spend their working hours in California forests say it has become increasingly rare to lay eyes on a porcupine. No one knows how many are left, because very few people ever paid attention to the porcupine except to put a bounty on it for eating trees.
Saving desert tortoises is a costly hurdle for solar projects (4 March 2012)
BrightSource has spent $56 million so far to protect and relocate the tortoises, but even at that price, the work has met with unforeseen calamity: Animals crushed under vehicle tires, army ants attacking hatchlings in a makeshift nursery and one small tortoise carried off to an eagle nest, its embedded microchip pinging faintly as it receded.
History has shown the tortoise to be a stubborn survivor, withstanding upheavals that caused the grand dinosaur extinction and ice ages that wiped out most living creatures. But unless current recovery efforts begin to gain traction, this threatened species could become collateral damage in the war against fossil fuels.
Costly conservation efforts by state and federal agencies and solar companies have created a mishmash of strategies that one scientist says amounts to a "grand science experiment," said Jeff Lovich, who studies the impact of renewable energy projects on desert tortoises for the U.S. Geological Survey.
"One could argue that they are nature's greatest success story," Lovich said. "Yet over half the world's turtles are in dire need of help. The common denominator is humans. They may not survive us."
Study: All of Western US and most of East Coast, Midwest, Canada covered with airborne particles at various altitudes on March 20, Fukushima plume model shows -- Based solely on Reactor No. 1 explosion (PHOTO) (2 March 2012) [R]
Modelling of the Fukushima plume
For the assessment of contamination after the accident and prediction of radioactive particle transport the Lagrangian modelling was applied. In order to describe the atmospheric processes realistically, the vertical velocity, particle dissipation and turbulence during the particle trajectory were considered. A single release of 1015 Bq of 137Cs, which occurred on March 12, 2011 from damaged Fukushima NPPwas analyzed. The initial plume height, as a result of initial vertical velocity and buoyancy, was kept to be at 2000e3000 m. The meteorological data and simulated trajectories revealed that the arrival times of particles released on 11 March, 2011 and 12 March, 2011 were different, and the particles were transported at different altitudes. It was also obvious that the jet stream affected the transport of emitted particles at upper atmospheric levels. Examples of the trajectories simulated using the Lagrangian dispersion model show (Fig. 1) that the first signs of Fukushima released radionuclides could be detected in the European countries (e.g. Island) on 20 March, 2011.
Shale gas boom - helping or harming Ohio? (4 March 2012)
But shale drilling has also presented Ohioans with a dilemma. Chesapeake Energy is using the controversial combination of hydraulic fracturing and improved horizontal drilling methods to unlock vast quantities of natural gas, gas liquids and crude oil, driving down gas prices to 10-year lows. That has raised hopes for a revival of industrial and power plant uses of the gas.
In some cases, however, companies that haven't drilled properly have contaminated water aquifers. And "fracking," which uses about 4.5 million gallons of water -- about 1,300 tank trucks full -- to initially stimulate a well and get it flowing, has raised concerns about the disposal of toxic drilling waste; a Youngstown, Ohio, disposal well for fracking waste has been linked by seismologists to earthquakes. In December, the governor ordered the closure of several disposal wells in the area.
A Quinnipiac University opinion poll in January showed that 85 percent of Ohio voters believed that natural gas drilling would create jobs, and that by a 64-to-29 percent margin they believed that the economic benefits of drilling for natural gas outweigh the environmental concerns.
At the same time, voters said by a 72-to-23 percent margin that hydraulic fracturing should be suspended until there are further studies about its impact. They said by a 43-to-16 percent margin that fracking would damage the environment.
PAM COMMENTARY: I'd have to question their claim that the unemployment rate in the area is down -- all across the country, the rate has fallen artificially because people have run out of their Unemployment Compensation benefits. The same people are still out of work; they just aren't counted in the statistic any longer.
Meanwhile, I've been through that area myself and have seen the trucks at local hotels. They're mostly from out of state, for example a lot of those oil exploration crews are from Texas, where the oil industry has a lot of skilled workers with drilling experience. It's questionable, in other words, how many local people are employed by these firms. They'll include their own staff from Texas (or wherever) as a part of the job count, but it's not helping Ohio much, other than a little travel money spent on local businesses.
US government to continue BP Deepwater Horizon case (4 March 2012)
The US government says it will continue its case against BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill despite a deal the company reached on Friday with the largest group of private claimants.
The $7.8bn (£4.9bn) deal does not address "significant damages" to the environment after the Gulf of Mexico spill, the Department of Justice said.
The company has not admitted liability and still faces other legal claims.
The April 2010 explosion killed 11 workers and leaked 4m barrels of oil.
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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