Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 18th to 24th of March 2012
Americans Eat the Cheapest Food in the World, But What is It Really Costing Us? (24 March 2012)
USDA data shows that in 2010 Americans spent 9.4 percent of their disposable income on food, which equals 5.5 percent at home and 3.9 percent eating out. As a nation, we spend far less of a percentage on our food than we ever have before. For example, in 1929 we spent 23.4 percent of our disposable income on food, which equaled 20.3 percent at home and 3.1 percent eating out.
Not only are we spending much less of our money on the foods we eat, we eat out far more than ever before, buying fatty processed and fast foods laden with saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars. When compared to other countries, our food is by far the cheapest.
According to Carpe Diem:
"The 5.5% of disposable income that Americans spend on food at home is less than half the amount of income spent by Germans (11.4%), the French (13.6%), the Italians (14.4%), and less than one-third the amount of income spent by consumers in South Africa (20.1%), Mexico (24.1%), and Turkey (24.5%), which is about what Americans spent DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION, and far below what consumers spend in Kenya (45.9%) and Pakistan (45.6%)."
But let's be clear, it's not like we're getting a deal overall. The big picture is much more grim because of the ecological ramifications of our industrialized food system. It also means we're spending more than ever on healthcare because we're so absurdly overweight. If Americans continue to pack on pounds, obesity will cost us about $344 billion in medical-related expenses by 2018, eating up about 21 percent of healthcare spending, according to an article in USA Today. Not to mention the unseen health issues associated with a genetically modified and pesticide-bathed food system.
Whitney Houston cause of death cover-up? Coroner changes story, blames cocaine, not pharmaceuticals (24 March 2012)
The mainstream media, however, routinely downplays any negative reports about prescription drugs, especially since the media gets a huge share of its revenues from drug company advertising. So it's no surprise that the pharmaceuticals are now getting downplayed in the reporting of all this. It's much easier to blame the death on an illicit street drug -- cocaine -- and then use that to further fund the wildly failed "War on Drugs" which fills our nations prisons with completely innocent pot smokers.
What are your thoughts on all this? There's no question that Whitney Houston used cocaine in her life, but does cocaine cause you to pass out and slip quietly under the water? That sounds a lot more to me like a toxic interaction between Lorazepam and alcohol. Think about it: Cocaine makes people amped up and energetic. But Lorazepam is a downer that can put you right to sleep. PubMed says: "Lorazepam is used to relieve anxiety. Lorazepam is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow for relaxation." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000560/)
That same page offers this stern warning: "This medication may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you."
The side effects of the drug include irregular heartbeat and drowsiness. Wikipedia's coverage of the drug includes this warning about the drug's side effects:
"Sedation is the side effect that most patients complain of. In a group of around 3500 patients treated for anxiety, the most common side effects complained of from lorazepam were sedation (15.9%), dizziness (6.9%), weakness (4.2%), and unsteadiness (3.4%). Side effects such as sedation and unsteadiness increased with age. Cognitive impairment, behavioral disinhibition and respiratory depression as well as hypotension may also occur." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorazepam#Adverse_effects)
Facebook warns of possible legal action over attempts to coerce passwords (24 March 2012)
Facebook privacy chief Erin Egan has issued a stern statement regarding employers and prospective employers who ask individuals for their Facebook passwords. Egan cites a "distressing increase" in reports of individuals being asked to turn over their passwords or other Facebook account information to bosses, prospective employees and others.
Addressing users of the social networking site, Egan wrote, "This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user's friends," and added, "If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends."
Egan held out the possibility of Facebook taking legal action against organizations and individuals who attempt to coerce users into forfeiting their private information. She wrote that such action "potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability."
She went on to provide a specific example of how an employer might quickly get more than it bargained for by accessing an applicant's private information. "For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don't hire that person."
An emergency room story to make anyone ill (24 March 2012)
When Moser mentioned the bill to his father, Marvin Moser flipped.
"Yes, the fees in ERs are off the wall all over the country," the professor of medicine told me, but he found Tarzana's to be extraordinary. "The one thing that stands out, beyond belief, is $1,212 for a metabolic panel."
That's a test, Dr. Moser said, in which a technician draws blood for chemical analysis, and it takes just minutes. Moser questioned not only the charge, but the usefulness of the test in his granddaughter's case.
Out of curiosity, I went online to see what a lab might charge for a comprehensive metabolic panel.
Some labs advertise prices as low as $39.
The parallel lives of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (24 March 2012)
They were born on August days 15 years apart, at opposite ends of the baby-boom generation, Bill Clinton in 1946 and Barack Obama in 1961. Both came into the world under circumstances that made it surpassingly unlikely that either boy would grow up to be president of the United States. It is hard to imagine two places further from the centers of power than southwestern Arkansas...
George Clooney's satellite spies reveal secrets of Sudan's bloody army (24 March 2012)
Nathaniel Raymond is the first to admit that he has an unusual job description. "I count tanks from space for George Clooney," said the tall, easygoing Massachusetts native as he sat in a conference room in front of a map of the Sudanese region of South Kordofan.
Close by, pins and ink scrawlings on the map detail the positions of Sudanese army forces and refugee populations in the troubled oil-producing province, where the Sudanese army is carrying out a brutal crackdown.
The wall next to Raymond has a series of satellite images projected on it. At the flick of a mouse, tiny images of tanks and military vehicles hove into view, caught by a satellite hundreds of miles above.
Raymond is director of the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), which aims to use advanced satellite imagery to monitor potential human rights abuses in Sudan. And it was all Clooney's idea, turning him from just another Hollywood liberal with a pet cause to a genuine expert and campaigner on Sudan. Together with John Prendergast, another campaigner, Clooney has sneaked repeatedly into the country to document the random bombing of civilians and other atrocities.
Joseph Kony: African Union brigade to hunt down LRA leader (24 March 2012)
The African Union has announced that it will form a 5,000-strong brigade to hunt down Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), believed to be hiding in the jungles of central Africa.
The brigade will be led by Uganda and include troops from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, the countries that have been ravaged by LRA raids.
"We need to stop Kony with hardware -- with military hardware in this case. We're on a mission," an African Union envoy, Francisco Madeira, told reporters in Entebbe, Uganda. "We need to stop Kony."
The announcement came a few weeks after a video made by a US advocacy group was seen by millions of people around the world. The video, Kony2012, by Invisible Children, was viewed by more than 100 million people, generating interest in Kony who has used his militia to terrorise communities throughout central Africa for more than 14 years.
A Tally of Green Jobs (22 March 2012)
For the first time, the federal government on Thursday released an estimate of the number of so-called green jobs in the United States economy, saying that 3.1 million people are employed in the production of goods and services that benefit the environment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a unit of the Labor Department, spent more than a year compiling its report, which found that green goods and services accounted for 2.4 percent of total United States employment in 2010. The study, based on a survey of employers and a relatively broad definition of the term "green," will provide a baseline against which future job growth or decline can be measured.
The definition and value of green jobs have been intensely debated for the last several years, as President Obama promised to create five million new environmentally friendly jobs. The administration has devoted tens of billions of dollars of federal stimulus money to projects intended to reduce energy use, clean up the environment and generate employment during the deep recession.
Republicans charge that the programs have largely been boondoggles, steering money to favored industries and companies while providing very few new jobs. They point to a number of companies, like the solar panel maker Solyndra, that defaulted on loans, laid off workers or otherwise failed to live up to their promises.
World's Most Powerful Wind Turbine To Be Installed Off Belgian Coast (22 March 2012)
The wind turbine, which has a rated capacity of 6.15 MW, has been installed at the offshore Thornton Bank wind farm where it will aid in the generation of around 325 MW of power -- this is enough to meet the electricity needs for 600,000 people a year. Alone, the new 6 MW turbine will single-handedly be able to meet the demands of 6,000 people.
How big is it? Well, the nacelle alone is the size of a two-family house, and the rotor has a radius of over 400 feet and sweeps the surface area of two football fields.
"The installation of the first 6 MW turbine in a commercial offshore wind farm is an important milestone for the entire offshore wind industry," Martin Skiba, head of offshore wind power at RWE Innogy in a statement. "It marks another step along the road towards larger offshore wind power plants with ever more powerful machines."
The turbine was constructed by manufacturer REpower Systems and is the first of a total of 48 wind turbines of this type to be installed in the second and third development stage of the Thornton Bank wind farm off the Belgian coast. The first development stage with a total capacity of 30 MW (six 5 MW turbines) has been in operation since 2009. Being the largest private investor, RWE Innogy owns 26.7 percent of the Thornton Bank wind farm.
Gov. Scott Walker rival: Stop union 'fiction' (23 March 2012)
Wisconsin state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, a Democrat hoping to challenge Gov. Scott Walker, says she's looking forward to dismantling the Republican governor's "fiction" that union money is behind this year's recall election.
Vinehout -- one of two declared Democratic candidates currently running to face Walker -- slammed the governor for alleging that the recall is "all about the union money" and that his opponent will simply be handpicked by "big union bosses."
"My campaign is not funded by big union money outside of this state," Vinehout told POLITICO in an interview. "It's funded by individuals."
And, Vinehout added, the recall isn't about union power but about how Wisconsin can move forward to recover from what she called the politically motivated decisions Walker made during his term.
NYPD intelligence officers monitored liberal groups, files reveal (23 March 2012)
Undercover New York police department officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the US, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counter-terrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.
The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York's 2004 Republican national convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by the New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters.
Police said the pre-convention spying was necessary to prepare for the huge, raucous crowds that were headed to the city. But documents obtained by the Associated Press show that the police department's intelligence unit continued to keep close watch on political groups in 2008, long after the convention had passed.
In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer travelled to New Orleans to attend the People's Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to US economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the US, Canada and Mexico.
When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to US immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists -- Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies -- were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.
"One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of the International Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City," officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD's top intelligence officer. "Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference. Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine."
PAM COMMENTARY: There are way too many unsolved rapes and murders in New York -- yet cops there just have loads of time to hang out and drink beer with liberals. On the city clock. Just in case they need policing.
Court orders FDA to examine antibiotics use on animals (23 March 2012)
A federal court on Thursday ordered the FDA to follow through on a 35-year-old proposal that would have banned the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed because the agency was concerned that these drugs were overused in livestock and helped develop drug-resistant bacteria that can infect people.
The concern is that some antibiotics given to treat illnesses in people are widely used on animals to promote disease prevention and weight gain, as well as compensate for crowded conditions on ranches and farms. The prevalence of those antibiotics in livestock has been linked in several studies to the creation of drug-resistant "superbugs" that can spread to humans who work with or eat the animals.
In 1977, the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning the use of penicillin and two forms of tetracyline for growth promotion. But the proposal has been in limbo ever since. The agency never held hearings or took any further action, prompting the Natural Resources Defense Council and four other health and consumer advocacy groups to sue the government in May 2011.
A federal district court in Manhattan ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on Thursday, compelling the FDA to press forward with its initial plan to start proceedings that could lead to a withdrawal of the drugs. The decision handed a major victory to consumer advocates.
Texas reporter fired after shocking interview on transvaginal sonograms (23 March 2012)
AUSTIN, TEXAS -- A well-known journalist was fired this week by a radio station in Houston after he featured excerpts from a shocking interview with a woman who was forced to undergo several medically unnecessary transvaginal sonograms to obtain an abortion, leaving the reporter wondering if he was canned over abortion politics, rather than station policy.
For their part, the management of KROI News 92FM in Houston, owned by media company Radio One, claims reporter Scott Braddock (pictured, left) was fired on Tuesday because he appeared on KPFT 90.1FM, a community station run by Pacifica Radio, allegedly in violation of a non-compete agreement.
Braddock, however, told Raw Story on Friday he never signed that agreement, and that management had never taken issue with his other appearances in various related media. "I'm not an attorney, but that sounds like a stretch," he said.
Braddock, who many activists have called a remarkably fair reporter when it comes to controversial issues like abortion, was filling in last Friday for reporter Geoff Berg, who hosts the "Partisan Gridlock" show on Houston's KPFT.
Coalition Slams Obama's Expediting of Southern Segment of Keystone XL (21 March 2012)
CUSHING, Okla. -- President Barack Obama's touting today of an expedited review for the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline comes despite widespread public opposition to the project due to the severe risks it poses to our climate, air, water and wildlife, as well as indigenous and landowner rights. Specifically, the administration today announced -- ahead of the president's visit to a TransCanada pipe yard near Cushing, Okla. -- that it will issue a memorandum to expedite federal environmental review for the southern portion. As the key link of the Keystone XL pipeline for the tar sands industry, the southern segment would transport the world's dirtiest oil -- tar sands oil -- from the Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries, with much of it destined for global export.
"In expediting the southern leg of Keystone XL, President Obama has gone 180 degrees in the wrong direction in less than 180 days," said Kim Huynh, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "It's inexcusable that the administration is cutting corners to support building this dirty tar sands oil pipeline in parts. The president cannot fulfill his promise to protect the climate and transition us to 21st century clean energy while bending over backward to help Big Oil companies tap the continent's biggest carbon bomb. The southern segment would threaten our heartland with spills that pollute our air and water and hurt local economies."
According to TransCanada, the southern leg will be used for exporting diluted bitumen -- tar sands oil -- after TransCanada tries again for a presidential permit to build other legs of Keystone XL that connect to the Alberta tar sands.
"The Gulf Coast leg would add to the fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we critically need to transition away from fossil fuels in order to avoid climate catastrophe," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Just like Keystone I, the Gulf Coast leg of Keystone XL will spill, polluting land and water and ruining important habitat for endangered species like the whooping crane, piping plover, American burying beetle, interior least tern and Arkansas River shiner."
Thousands of U.K. households win extra solar panel subsidies as Government loses court battle (23 March 2012)
In a blow to Ed Davey, the new Energy Secretary, a judge accepted an earlier court decision that ministers' attempt to slash solar panel subsidies with little warning was unlawful.
The Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal means an extra £700 million must be handed over to solar panel owners. This will have to be paid for through energy bills at a cost of around £8 per British household.
It will give extra money to people who installed solar panels between 12 December last year and the beginning of March.
The Government estimates that between 30,000 and 60,000 installations were put in during this period at a total extra cost of £45 million per year for 25 years.
Under the "feed-in tariff" subsidy, the Government pays people who produce energy through solar panels and recoups the cost through the energy bills of homes and businesses.
Oregon study: Medical journals paint a too-rosy picture of new drugs (23 March 2012)
Published reports on the new drug Fanapt gave it high marks.
One medical journal emphasized its "comparable efficacy" to other drugs used to treat schizophrenia, and prominently noted a lower risk of certain side effects.
There was no mention that competing drugs outperformed it in three of the first clinical trials, or that in one trial a placebo worked just as well. The Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology's summary also made no mention of Fanapt's tendency to disturb the heart's electrical activity and increase risk of cardiac arrest.
The one-sided reporting, uncovered by researchers in Oregon, adds to growing evidence that medical journals paint an overly rosy picture of new drugs. The analysis, published this week in PLoS Medicine, found that many unfavorable results on psychiatric drugs never appeared in the articles doctors rely on to learn about trial results.
Occupy Norfolk protesters convicted of trespassing for sitting on the lawn of public building (23 March 2012)
Patrick Bales, an attorney for Barnes and Hotson, argued that they were told that a staffer for U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who has an office in the World Trade Center, said six members of Occupy Norfolk could come into the building to share their position.
But Deputy City Attorney Andy Fox argued that the protesters were told repeatedly by Norfolk police that they would be arrested if they did not move from the lawn back to the public sidewalk.
"Their entry onto the property was not in the nature of entering the building," Fox said.
Lt. Shaun Squyres, who oversees the police downtown Green Sector patrol, testified that the defendants wore prisoner costumes as they sat on the grass following about an hour and a half of a peaceful protest.
Neurosurgeon issues public challenge to vaccine zealots: Inject yourselves with all shots you say children should get! (23 March 2012)
(NaturalNews) Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon, author and expert on "excitotoxins," has issued a public challenge to vaccine pushers everywhere to put their money where their mouths are. During a recent interview with Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, about the fraudulent science of the vaccine industry, Dr. Blaylock challenged Dr. Paul Offit, vaccine manufacturer CEOs, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists, and others who insist today's childhood vaccine regimens are safe to publicly receive these same regimens themselves.
You can watch the full interview between Dr. Blaylock and Mike Adams here:
The CDC and state health agencies all across the country are persistent in telling the public that childhood vaccine regimens, which now include dozens of vaccines administered all at once, are completely safe. And Dr. Offit, of course, made the brazenly arrogant and astounding claim several years ago that healthy infants "could safely get up to 100,000 vaccines at once" (http://www.whale.to/vaccines/offit23.html).
Well, if these claims are true, then those making them should have no problem publicly demonstrating their validity by getting publicly vaccinated with the very same vaccine schedules, right?
Facebook has a new way to avoid unfriending awkwardness (22 March 2012)
Unfriending is an emerging trend but its still awkward deleting people on Facebook that you don't really know or care to get Farmville requests from.
But Facebook's updated "Acquaintance" setting could be the solution to this online netiquette dilemma.
The setting was first introduced last year to allow you separate your friends into lists for "close friends" and "acquaintances" -- allowing you to make Facebook posts and photo albums open to friends but not acquaintances for example.
Now an update allows the tool to pick out the friends you rarely interact with and relegate them in bulk to the acquaintance zone. You'll see fewer of their posts in your newsfeed and can hide what they can see of your activity.
The best part is they'll never know since you're not actually unfriending them.
It's also a way to help Facebook stem the unfriending movement.
Homeless men, women file claims in Sacramento for seized belongings (23 March 2012)
Hundreds of homeless men and women this week began filing reimbursement claims for tents, bicycles and other items seized by Sacramento police during raids of illegal encampments since 2005.
In a highly unusual agreement reached between the city and homeless plaintiffs to resolve a class-action lawsuit, people who show that the city destroyed their belongings each will be paid either $400 or $750, depending upon the value of the property.
Patrons of Loaves & Fishes, the city's largest homeless services complex, are lining up to fill out claim forms, said Paula Lomazzi of the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee. "It's pretty busy," she said Thursday. "We've already gone through 400 to 500 forms." Forms also are available at shelters and other places where homeless people gather.
A thousand or more people may ultimately submit claims, which are due by June 8, said civil rights attorney Mark Merin, who brought the federal lawsuit on behalf of homeless clients.
Whitney Houston: Cocaine worsened heart problems, officials say (22 March 2012)
Singer Whitney Houston's use of cocaine "exacerbated her heart condition" and played a role in her accidental drowning in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel suite, Los Angeles County Chief Coroner Craig Harvey said.
The long-awaited autopsy results were released Thursday after weeks of intense speculation over how the 48-year-old pop star died. It marks another high-profile Hollywood death connected to drug use, coming less than three years after Michael Jackson died suddenly at his Holmby Hills mansion. Jackson's death resulted from intoxication involving a powerful sedative, and his doctor was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Houston had battled with drug addiction for years, and the coroner's office found traces of several drugs, including marijuana, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and Benadryl in her system. But the coroner's office concluded that those drugs were not connected to her death.
Cocaine did play a role, though officials said they were still trying to determine how much cocaine was in her system.
Judge upholds PG&E's $16.8 million gas-safety fine (23 March 2012)
Citing PG&E pipeline explosions in 2010 in San Bruno that killed eight people and in 2008 that killed a homeowner in a Sacramento suburb, Mattson said the company's failure to check the East Bay pipelines was part of a pattern of safety problems.
"PG&E missed each opportunity," he said. "Any quality control procedures PG&E may have had in place clearly failed."
PG&E is supposed to check neighborhood gas distribution lines for leaks every five years. Some of the Contra Costa lines had not been checked since 1993, PG&E conceded.
The utility conducted emergency surveys after it went public with the problem in December and discovered 23 leaks, one of which required emergency repairs. Regulators levied a $16.8 million fine for a total of 838 safety violations in January.
Living alone significantly increases chances of depression - study (23 March 2012)
PEOPLE of working age who live alone are significantly more likely to be depressed, a study has shown.
They are 80pc more likely to be taking antidepressants than people in any kind of social or family group, scientists found.
Researchers in Finland followed the progress of 3,500 working men and women for seven years while monitoring their antidepressant use.
The number of people living alone has doubled over the last three decades, reaching one in three in the UK and US.
Gary Greenberg: "Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease" (FLASHBACK) (1 March 2010) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your overall thesis in this book, Manufacturing Depression, two decades after -- two decades after exactly what?
GARY GREENBERG: Well, it's two decades after Prozac was introduced, which saw an explosion of two things: one of them is sales of antidepressants in the Prozac generation, and the other is the rates of diagnosis of depression. And in the book, what I'm trying to do is to show how these two things go together and how, in many respects, the drugs came first, and how this was something that has grown historically. For at least 150 years we've been heading in this direction.
And basically what the book is about is why it even makes sense at this point for people who are unhappy to even think about the possibility that they have a mental illness. And in the book, I'm mostly interested to say that our concern probably shouldn't be so much with the drugs themselves as the meaning that we have for why we're taking the drugs, which I believe shapes our response to the drugs, and that what really we should be paying attention to is how easily people are diagnosed with mental illnesses, as opposed to given other explanations or opportunities for themselves to explain why they might be suffering.
New counterterrorism guidelines permit data on U.S. citizens to be held longer (22 March 2012)
The Obama administration has approved guidelines that allow counterterrorism officials to lengthen the period of time they retain information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism.
The changes allow the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the intelligence community's clearinghouse for terrorism data, to keep information for up to five years. Previously, the center was required to promptly destroy -- generally within 180 days -- any information about U.S. citizens or residents unless a connection to terrorism was evident
The new guidelines, which were approved Thursday by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have been in the works for more than a year, officials said.
The guidelines have prompted concern from civil liberties advocates.
Those advocates have repeatedly clashed with the administration over a host of national security issues, including its military detention without trial of individuals in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, its authorization of the killing of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen, and its prosecution of an unprecedented number of suspects in the leaking of classified information.
New iPad users slowed by expensive 4G network rates (22 March 2012)
In just 15 minutes last week, he watched a YouTube clip that ate nearly one-third of his $20 monthly wireless data plan. For perspective: That experience cost nearly $7, or the price of watching a matinee at a movie theater.
Denny bought the new iPad (the Apple fanatic has the two previous generations, too) because he wanted to watch television on business trips and stream movies anywhere he had coverage.
"It's disappointing because I think of 4G as a way of taking the Internet and media anywhere to do anything I want at any time," said Denny, the director of programming at Wisconsin Public Television. "But when you realize the heavy cost for that, it changes your perspective on how true that is."
Connecting to 4G networks has become akin to jamming too many 18-wheelers on a highway with too few lanes, analysts say.
This pampered private school elite can only lead to US decline (22 March 2012)
Another trend is for there to be no final grades: if you don't like the grade you got, in these $40k-plus schools, you resubmit a revised version of your essay for reconsideration. In life, though, how many times will your boss (or your spouse) let you have a no-foul "do-over" for bad judgement or lousy execution?
Obstacles, of course, are developmentally necessary: they teach kids strategy, patience, critical thinking, resilience and resourcefulness. In my bad public education, we kids learned a lot from the few great teachers; but we learned, also, important life lessons from the irascible or irrational teachers' teaching; we learned from social conflicts in the schoolyard, from frustration with recalcitrant graders, from the race riots that erupted every fall, and even from the boredom of enforced assembly and other not-fun but serious expectations.
This push from wealthy parents probably derives from many sources. These parents work long hours, and the school is the biggest source of emotional feedback the kids get. Paid caregivers, too, are understandably reluctant to set boundaries that might risk them their jobs. Paradoxically, though, these parents' desire to buy a no-bad-things-happening-ever experience for their kids, will incapacitate them in the long run.
Children raised this way are often very nice; but they are notably passive and indecisive. Many parents in this demographic can attest to how hard it is to get such a child off the couch, or to initiate an activity that is not presented to him or her intact. Many college administrators describe the vacillation and need to text parents constantly, that such children, now young adults, display. I was personally shocked to see several hundred University of Arizona students, children of wealth, rampaging, noisy and drunken, through the corridors of a Mexican hotel at 2am. When I asked the fraternity and sorority leaders to take some kind of action, I was told -- nicely and sincerely -- by each student "leader" I contacted, "So sorry, there is nothing I can do; I am just one person." This passivity and powerlessness fit the pattern: if everything is handed to you, you won't develop the skills and muscles required to initiate, find inner resources, or experience mastery.
Court forces redrawing of two districts in Wisconsin gerrymandering case (includes link to PDF of the ruling) (22 March 2012)
The court ruled this morning that districts 8 and 9 were drawn illegally, and must be redrawn. They did not rule on the issue of whether the new maps or old maps should be used for the upcoming recall election, but did state that the current stance by the GAB that the old maps must be used was "sensible".
A federal court this morning ruled Republicans failed to create a majority-minority Assembly seat for Milwaukee's Latino community and offered lawmakers the chance to tweak those lines.
But the court otherwise left intact the maps the GOP created last summer, ruling that while more than a million Wisconsinites were moved needlessly, "the resulting population deviations are not large enough to permit judicial intervention under the Supreme Court's precedents."
The ruling enjoins the GAB from implementing the map in its current form.
Say goodbye to baldness: Scientists discover protein to blame for hair loss (22 March 2012)
SCIENTISTS have identified a hair-loss protein in a development that could pave the way for a cure for male-pattern baldness.
The discovery could mean treatments are developed to suppress the protein and to stop baldness, although it would not reverse the effects to reverse hair loss.
Tests were carried out on tissue from the scalps of more than 20 men with male pattern baldness, known as androgenic alopecia (AGA).
The results showed bald areas had levels of the protein PGD2 three times higher than hairy areas.
PAM COMMENTARY: Dr. Joel Wallach said that a tin deficiency was involved in baldness, although I suspect that omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may contribute to the problem, due to the alleged hormonal nature of baldness.
Google Chrome takes lead from Internet Explorer (22 March 2012)
Google Chrome briefly became the world's most popular web browser at the weekend, overtaking Microsoft Internet Explorer for the first time, according to independent figures.
StatCounter, which compiled the figures, said Chrome took the lead on Sunday, when office workers were using their own computers instead of ones controlled by corporate IT departments.
Google introduced its browser only three years ago, touting it as a faster alternative to established rivals.
"While it is only one day, this is a milestone," said Aodhan Cullen, StatCounter's chief executive.
"At weekends, when people are free to choose what browser to use, many of them are selecting Chrome in preference to IE."
Google users sue company over 'deceptive' privacy changes (22 March 2012)
The suit, which seeks class-action status, alleges that the Mountain View, Calif., tech giant deceived its users on what was going on when it combined privacy policies for about 60 products into one.
Android, Google's popular smartphone and tablet operating system, is made available to gadget makers at no cost but requires a Google account to use many of the features found in the software.
Former Sen. Arlen Specter: 'Cannibals have taken over' Congress (22 March 2012)
Former Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican who turned Democrat in 2009, said Wednesday that "cannibals" were devouring lawmakers who did not maintain ideological purity.
"Like cannibals eating their own, that's what's happening in Washington," he said on CBS News. "You had a senator like Bob Bennett, with a 93 percent conservative rating, he cast one vote to support the bail out of the auto industry and he got dumped by the Republican Party."
Specter said the same thing happened on the Democratic side with now Independent Sen. Joe Liebermann.
"The cannibals have taken over and it has produced a gridlocked Senate and a dysfunctional government," he added.
As Occupy Arrestees Arraigned, Iris Scans Affect Bail (19 March 2012) [AJ]
The first of the more than 70 Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested Saturday afternoon and evening were arraigned yesterday in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Exhausted by a night and day in jail and shaken by the violence of the police response to Occupy Wall Street's six-month anniversary celebration, many burst into tears of relief when they were finally released to the friendly welcome of the movement's Jail Support team.
Unlike many of the other defendants with whom they shared cells, the protesters could feel confident that they would soon be released -- Occupy posts bail for those arrested during movement actions.
But protesters and their legal advisers were surprised yesterday to learn that the size of their bail was being affected by whether defendants were willing to have the distinctive patterns of their irises photographed and logged into a database.
Monsanto's GMO Corn Contributing to Weight Gain, Disrupts Organs (21 March 2012) [AJ]
Are genetically modified foods making you sick and fat? Monsanto's genetically modified creations have been pegged for causing a plethora of environmental and human harm, but are they also contributing to one of the country's fastest growing health problems? A study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences shows that GM food is indeed contributing to the obesity epidemic.
While being one of the first to report on a comparative analysis of blood and organ system data of rats fed GM corn, the study effectively ends the debate as to whether GMO foods are safe regarding health. The study found that GM corn fed to mice led to an increase in overall body weight of about 3.7 percent, while also increasing the weight of the liver by up to 11 percent.
"Crude and relative liver weights are also affected at the end of the maximal (33%) GM maize feeding level as well as that of the heart which for corresponding parameters to a comparable extent, showed up to an 11% weight increase...Additional statistically significant differences include ... higher ... overall body (3.7%) weight."
But this 2009 study sheds much more light on GMO dangers than mere weight increase.
Fighting infection: UW Hospital asking all visitors to ICU to wear gowns and gloves (22 March 2012)
Doctors, nurses and visitors at UW Hospital's main intensive care unit are putting on gowns and gloves when seeing all patients, in a national study of whether the precautions curb infection rates.
Health care workers usually wear gowns and gloves only for patients known to have certain infections.
But about 1.7 million infections occur in health care settings each year, causing nearly 100,000 deaths and costing about $30 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials are looking at ways to reduce the spread.
Since January, workers at UW Hospital have been using gowns and gloves for all patients in the 24-bed Trauma and Life Support Center. Visitors are being told to do the same.
"We are asking: Will it reduce infections?" said Dr. Nasia Safdar, an infection control specialist at UW Health. "If it does, it will result in a practice change."
Activists 'commit more data breaches than cybercriminals' (22 March 2012)
Activists such as "Anonymous" who hack into government and corporate computer networks and then release files to embarrass those organisations were responsible for more than half of all known data thefts last year, according to a new survey.
That's a big change from recent years when the motivation behind most cyberattacks has been to make money, according to the US mobile carrier Verizon Communications , which outlined its finding in one of the biggest annual global surveys on data loss (PDF).
The company's researchers worked with law enforcement in the UK, US, Australia, Holland and Ireland, and reached the conclusion after reviewing roughly 174m records stolen in 855 incidents. They found that 58% of the stolen data was due to so-called "hacktivism" in 2011, while no losses had been attributed to that cause in previous surveys.
"It's not just about the money any more. It's a big change in our adversaries," said Bryan Sartin, head of Verizon's computer forensics unit and co-author of the survey. The report notes: "Doubly concerning for many organisations and executives was that target selection by these [cyber activist] groups didn't follow the logical lines of who has money and/or valuable information."
Oscar Grant's cousin sues Oakland for $10 million (22 March 2012)
A man shot and wounded by Oakland police who is a cousin of Oscar Grant, the BART passenger killed by a transit agency police officer in 2009, filed a $10 million federal civil rights suit against the city Wednesday.
Tony Jones, 24, was shot once in the back by Oakland police Officer Cesar Garcia on the 2000 block of 62nd Avenue about 11:45 p.m. Feb. 19 after he ran from a van that police had stopped, said the suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Police have said Jones had a gun, but the suit said he was unarmed and "threatened no one." Jones is being held in the infirmary at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on robbery and weapons charges.
In May, Garcia and Capt. Ersie Joyner shot and killed parolee Antoine Jackson, 30, and John Sloan, 23, on Curran Avenue in Oakland, police said.
Occupy Oakland protesters issued city hall 'stay-away' orders (22 March 2012)
Authorities in California's Alameda County call it "smarter policing", but critics say new legal approaches meant to curb Occupy protesters are infringing on first amendment rights.
Over the past two months, the Alameda County district attorney's office has issued temporary restraining orders, or "stay-aways", to more than 30 protesters charged with misdemeanor and felony behavior at Occupy demonstrations in Oakland and at the University of California at Berkeley. More are reportedly on the way.
While awaiting trial, protesters issued these orders are banned from setting foot within 100 to 300 yards of City Hall Plaza. Occupy Cal protesters are banned from any University of California property both in the city of Berkeley as well as throughout the rest of the state, with a narrow exception for "official business", such as attending classes. The orders are temporary in name, but have so far been open-ended and indefinite.
The American Civil Liberties Union's Michael Risher, who filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of four Occupy Oakland protesters, said the stay-away orders place a restraint on protesters who have not been convicted of any crime.
Occupy protester files claim against Oakland (22 March 2012)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- An Iraq War veteran whose skull was fractured during an Occupy Oakland protest when he was hit by a beanbag round fired by police has filed a legal claim against the city of Oakland.
Attorney Mark Martel says his client, Scott Olsen, filed the claim last week seeking unspecified monetary damages for medical expenses for injuries that also included a fractured vertebrae and hemorrhaging of the brain.
Martel says that a police investigator told him Olsen was struck by the round that was fired by an officer less than 30 feet away during the clash outside Oakland City Hall on October 25.
Martel says he believes that the officer was intentionally aiming at Olsen's head.
Occupy Oakland protesters face hate-crime trial (21 March 2012)
Only Davis was accused of taking items from the alleged victim - a wallet and a political pin - and only Crawford was accused of using a slur. But the judge said all three defendants had been in "close proximity" to the alleged victim as they allegedly berated, intimidated and pushed her around.
Delucchi rejected the defense argument that there was no evidence showing the robbery was motivated by bias, as required under the state's hate crime law.
Two dozen Occupy Oakland protesters left the courtroom in anger after the ruling. They have said the case - in particular the hate crime allegation - is part of an effort by police and prosecutors to discredit their movement.
The hearing revolved around the testimony of the alleged victim, Kelly Stowers, a 42-year-old emergency medical technician. She said she had come out of a comic book store on Piedmont Avenue on the evening of Feb. 22 to find the three demonstrators screaming, "Let's start a f- riot."
Exposed: Inside the NSA's Largest and Most Expansive Secret Domestic Spy Center in Bluffdale, Utah (21 March 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: And those are the opening words of Jim Bamford's piece, "The NSA Is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)." So, James Bamford, it's good to have you on, albeit from Britain right now. But talk further about what you have found and what the capacity of this data center, as they call it, seemingly so innocuous, is.
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, it's going to be a million square feet. That's gigantic. There's only one data center in the country that's larger, and it's only slightly larger than that. And it's going to cost $2 billion. It's being built in this area on a military base outside of Salt Lake City in Bluffdale. As I said, they had to actually extend the boundary of the town so it would fit into it.
And the whole purpose of this is the centerpiece of this massive eavesdropping complex, this network that was created after 9/11. During the '90s, the NSA had a disastrous decade, following the Cold War. They missed the first World Trade Center bombing. They missed the attack on the USS Cole. They missed the attack on the U.S. embassies in East Africa. And finally, they missed the 9/11 attacks. So NSA wanted to pretty much recreate itself as this massive eavesdropping organization that was, during the Cold War, focused on the Soviet Union, primarily, and to some degree, the Eastern Europe and China and Cuba, communist countries, and today it's focused on anybody that could use a piece of communication, because the terrorists that they're eventually after use the same kind of communications that everybody else does. So it has to focus on the worldwide network of communications, the same network that all of us use.
So you have this massive agency that's collecting a tremendous amount of information every day by satellites, by tapping into undersea cables, by picking up microwave links and tapping of cell phones and data links on your computer, email links, and so forth. And then it has to store it someplace, and that's why they built Bluffdale. And then that acts as, in essence, like a cloud, a digital cloud, so that agency employees, analysts from around the country at NSA headquarters and their listening posts in different parts of the U.S.--in Georgia, Texas, Hawaii and Colorado--can all access that information held in Bluffdale in that data center. And that's pretty much a summary of what that data center is all about.
Google promo: "Tour the Amazon in Google Maps with Street View" (22 March 2012)
PAM COMMENTARY: It didn't work very well for me. Maybe someone with more time to experiment will have better luck.
McClatchy Chairman and CEO Pruitt leaving for AP (22 March 2012)
Gary Pruitt, who led The McClatchy Co. through a turbulent era of growth and contraction, resigned Wednesday to become president and chief executive officer of the Associated Press.
Pruitt announced he is quitting as Sacramento-based McClatchy's chairman and CEO effective May 16. McClatchy owns The Bee and 29 other daily papers.
He will be replaced as CEO by Patrick Talamantes, chief financial officer and an 11-year McClatchy veteran.
The chairman's post will be filled by former big league baseball executive Kevin McClatchy, a fifth-generation member of the company's controlling family and a board member since 1998.
Energy drink emergencies climb 1,000 percent (21 March 2012)
The death of a 14-year-old Maryland girl last December from a heart attack doctors said was caused by caffeine toxicity is an alarming example of what hospitals are seeing too much of: kids in the emergency room after drinking too many energy drinks.
Anais Fournier, who had a heart condition, drank two 24-ounce energy drinks at the mall last December, the Today show reports:
"The next day, the Maryland teenager went into cardiac arrest -- and just six days later, she was dead.
"... The day before she went into cardiac arrest, Anais's family says she drank two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks, unwittingly guzzling 480 milligrams of caffeine -- that's nearly five times the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. To put it another way: By drinking just two large energy drinks, Anais drank as much caffeine as you'd find in about 14 cans of Coke."
Occupy protesters accuse NYPD of beating activist during weekend clashes (20 March 2012)
The case, and the weekend's violent clashes, have fueled allegations that the NYPD is adopting brutal and intimidatory tactics to prevent the Occupy movement taking ground in the city in the way it did last September.
McMillan was one of at least 73 people arrested Saturday, and videos and eyewitness accounts of her detention suggest she had a seizure while in police custody at the park. In multiple videos McMillan is seen writhing on the ground with her hands cuffed behind her back.
Bystanders are heard screaming at police to call an ambulance and remove her handcuffs, while a number of officers are seen standing around her convulsing body. Numerous witnesses told the Guardian that McMillan's head was unsupported throughout the incident and claimed her skull repeatedly struck the pavement.
The New York police department, meanwhile, has pointed to a separate video allegedly detailing the sequence of events leading to McMillan's arrest. Grainy footage shows an individual who the NYPD claims is McMillan swinging an elbow backwards and striking a police officer in the head.
Paul Ryan's dangerous, and intentionally vague, budget plan
(20 March 2012)
Does Mr. Ryan propose to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction? The preferential tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance? The deduction for charitable donations?
Mr. Ryan says he'd leave those pesky details to the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, and no wonder: The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said Mr. Ryan's plan would reduce revenues by an eye-popping $4.6 trilllion -- and that's on top of the $5.4 trillion cost of making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Moreover, no matter what deductions are curtailed, the benefit of the lower rates would flow overwhelmingly to the wealthiest Americans, while Mr. Ryan would take a machete to programs that help the least fortunate.
For make no mistake: Mr. Ryan's plan envisions, though again does not spell out, draconian spending cuts. We support some cuts, such as for agriculture subsidies. Mr. Ryan's tweaked Medicare approach, giving seniors the choice of purchasing private plans or staying in traditional Medicare, deserves to be part of the debate about controlling health-care costs.
But Mr. Ryan proposes a budget path that would leave government unable to fulfill essential functions. As the Congressional Budget Office's analysis finds, by 2050 his budget would reduce federal spending for everything besides Social Security, health programs and interest payments to less than 4 percent of the gross domestic product, down from 12.5 percent in 2011. Since, as the CBO notes, "spending for defense alone has not been lower than 3 percent of GDP" since World War II, and Mr. Ryan wants to increase defense spending, there would be essentially nothing left for the rest of government -- nothing for education, for highways, for veterans, for low-income families, for the FBI.
FCC decision strikes critical blow to right-wing radio dominance (20 March 2012)
And that's been the case ever since the FCC's radio spectrum auction in 2003, which has led many activists to fear they would be forever choked out and kept away from the public airwaves. But after a long battle, activists with the Prometheus Radio Project have finally won.
"Now these right-wing radio networks won't keep getting their translator applications approved," Renderos added. "That will severely limit their ability to expand."
The FCC's decision also set clear criteria for community radio stations in heavily populated urban areas, which are otherwise bombarded by the endless droning of commercial media full of snide opinion masquerading as news.
"These [new, low power] stations can only be licensed to non-profit organizations, and you can only have one per customer," Brandy Doyle, policy director for the Prometheus Radio Project, told Raw Story. "That way we won't have these big corporate chains and media networks that are taking over the rest of the media landscape moving in on low power FM service. These stations have to be local, and they have to be independent. This clears the way for a real transformation of the FM dial."
Instead of slowly grinding down thousands of repeater station applications that leave no room for community radio, the FCC essentially threw most of those applications away by limiting who can apply, how many filings a single entity can make, and which markets can consider new repeaters -- all of which frees up the regulatory body to examine applications for new community stations. The regulatory agency still gave some deference to corporate broadcasters, however, by allowing them one shot at revising their applications to fit the new guidelines.
Arm blood pressure differences 'predict death risk' (20 March 2012)
A previous analysis of 28 study papers in The Lancet also found that a large difference in readings could mean an increased risk of vascular disease and death.
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study supports national guidelines, which recommend that blood pressure readings are taken in both arms. It is normal to have a small difference in your blood pressure readings between arms.
"However, a big difference between your readings may carry risks, so more tests could be needed to check your heart health. If you want to find out your blood pressure, visit your GP or practice nurse to have it measured."
People with different readings in each arm may have peripheral vascular disease, which often shows no symptoms.
Hidden data show that antipsychotic drugs are less effective than advertised (21 March 2012)
When seeking approval for eight atypical antipsychotic drugs, drug companies performed 24 studies, according to a Food and Drug Administration database. But four of the studies were never published in professional journals -- and all four were unflattering for the drug in question.
Three of the unpublished studies showed that the new drug did not perform better than a sugar pill. The fourth study showed that while the antipsychotic drug helped patients more than a placebo, older, less expensive drugs helped patients even more.
"That's bad if you're marketing the drug," said Erick Turner, the psychiatrist at Oregon Health & Science University who conducted the new analysis, which was published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine.
Two of the unpublished studies, which included more than 300 patients, tested Abilify. Both found the drug to be no more effective than a sugar pill in treating schizophrenia.
Pentagon predicts Israel will drag US into war with Iran (21 March 2012)
Classified war games conducted by the Pentagon have sketched a scenario in which an attack by Israel on Iran's suspected nuclear facilities would lead to Tehran launching a counter-strike against a US ship in the Gulf. That in turn would drag a reluctant US into a fresh war in the Middle East.
The results of the simulation, meant primarily to test co-ordination and communications between the various arms of the US military in the event of a flare-up with Iran, were reported by The New York Times.
The revelations came as Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned yesterday that Tehran would attack any enemy "on the same level" as it attacks Iran. He named both Israel and the US as enemies, in remarks on state television.
The war games were completed earlier this month under a long-standing programme called Internal Look to test the readiness of the Pentagon, Central Command in Florida and military resources in the Middle East to respond to any fallout from an Israeli strike.
Former Exxon Valdez, now Oriental Nicety, sold for scrap (20 March 2012)
What do you do when your name becomes linked with one of the most horrific environmental disasters in American history - and no one wants you around anymore?
In the case of the Exxon Valdez, arguably the most famous ship of modern times, you move and you change your name.
Twenty-three years after the oil supertanker became synonymous with what its Irving-based owner at the time calls "one of the lowest points in ExxonMobil's 125-year history," the ship is slated for the scrap heap.
After six name changes and several ownership shuffles - and a 2010 collision in the South China Sea - the ship has been sold as scrap for $16 million and was under her own power Tuesday afternoon to Singapore and a coming date with one of the several "ship breakers" along the shores of the Indian Ocean.
Hydropower 'could supply Africa's entire power needs' (20 March 2012)
[MARSEILLES] Hydropower could supply all of Africa's electricity needs if cross-border cooperation was stepped up, according to a UN report launched last week (12 March) at the World Water Forum in Marseilles, France.
Africa currently generates just one third of its electricity from hydropower, but could learn from cooperation and training programmes with India and some Western countries, according to Ulcay Unver, coordinator of the UN World Water Assessment Programme, which produced its fourth edition of the World Water Development Report.
The report said African governments have begun to recognise the importance of cooperative electricity projects.
Several strong examples have begun to emerge, including the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the West African Power Pool. These bring together groups of national electricity companies under the authority of the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Community of West African States respectively.
Study says Keystone XL pipeline would destroy more jobs than it could create (20 March 2012)
What exactly does the study say?
"The history of other pipelines indicates that spills from [Keystone XL] are inevitable," say the authors of the Cornell study, For instance, the Keystone I pipeline, which started carrying Canadian tar-sands crude 2,100 miles from Alberta to Illinois in 2010, experienced more than 30 spills -- including 14 leaks on U.S. soil -- in just its first year of operation. The authors say such historical data means a major spill for Keystone XL is almost a statistical certainty if the pipeline is operated for 50 years.
What makes spills so likely?
Canada's tar-sands crude, known in the industry as diluted bitumen, is more prone to spills than conventional crude. Between 2007 and 2010, the stuff poured out of pipelines in the northern Midwest three times as often as conventional oil, possibly "because the heavy, corrosive material puts greater stress on pipelines," says Alyssa Battistoni at Salon. The same properties make it harder to clean up than regular crude, increasing the risk of environmental damage, according to the study.
How bad would these spills be?
That's the big question. A July 2010 accident dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of tar sands oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River, and has proven a nightmare to clean up. Already the effort has cost $725 million, caused scores of health problems, and left the river closed to fishing. The Keystone XL pipeline, which would cross hundreds of bodies of water, could suffer the same kind of spill, says Sean Sweeney, the Cornell institute's director and a co-author of the study. TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, disputes such assessments.
So... what does this prove?
According to the study, the pipeline would destroy more jobs than it creates. The study says only 20 permanent jobs would be created in the six states the pipeline would cross -- not 20,000, as others claim -- and that spills in areas dependent on agriculture and tourism would wash away a lot more than 20 jobs.
Obama ready to push partial Keystone XL approval (20 March 2012)
U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly set to announce in Oklahoma this week that he's expediting the permit process for the southern half of TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Citing a senior administration source, CNN reported on Tuesday that Obama wants to slash several months off a permit approval process that can ordinarily stretch on for as long as a year.
The administration wants to speed things up to deal with a glut of oil in Cushing, Oklahoma, where crude from the Midwest runs into a logjam on its way to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama will make the announcement Thursday at a storage yard in Cushing, the starting point of the pipeline's southern half.
China offers measured response to U.S. tariffs on solar panels (21 March 2012)
China's state media said U.S. import tariffs imposed on Chinese solar panels are "sensible" and a "result of compromise" but warned that bilateral ties are still in jeopardy because of Washington's tougher stance on trade.
A commentary published Wednesday afternoon by the official New China News Agency was the country's first response to the U.S. Commerce Department's decision Tuesday to slap tariffs of between 2.9% and 4.73% on Chinese solar panels because of illegal state subsidies.
"The U.S. government's lighter than expected tariffs on China's solar panel imports reflects some degree of rationality, but it has to do more to keep bilateral trade ties from derailing," the commentary said.
It continued: "Although the solar panel case has proven to be less devastating than expected, the U.S. government recently intensified shots against a range of Chinese imports, from rare earths to steel wheels, recalling the phantom of protectionism in an election year."
U.S. solar to get Obama aid in battle with China (19 March 2012)
China's biggest solar manufacturers, which include Suntech Power Holdings Co, Trina Solar, and JA Solar Holdings, generate more than 20 percent of their annual sales in the United States, making it the second-largest market for them after Europe.
They are already moving to shift some of their production out of China to dodge additional U.S. tariffs. "We're already dependent on the Middle East for our oil. We cannot become dependent on the Far East for our renewable energy," said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, which heads the coalition and the U.S. arm of one of Germany's largest solar manufacturers, SolarWorld AG.
The group appears to have found a sympathetic ear in Obama. "I don't want to see wind turbines and solar panels and high-tech batteries made in other countries by other workers. I want to make them here," Obama said last week. The U.S. Commerce Department will announce preliminary countervailing or anti-subsidy duties on Tuesday and preliminary anti-dumping duties in mid-May. A final decision on both is expected in the third or fourth quarter of the year.
Analysts expect 20 to 30 percent anti-subsidy duties on the imports, which soared to an estimated $2.8 billion in 2011 from about $1.2 billion in 2010. The punitive tariff, if it comes, is expected to take effect immediately. Chinese companies will be reimbursed if the decision is reversed later this year.
Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords (20 March 2012)
SEATTLE (AP) -- When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.
Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn't see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.
Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn't want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. But as the job market steadily improves, other job candidates are confronting the same question from prospective employers, and some of them cannot afford to say no.
In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person's social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.
"It's akin to requiring someone's house keys," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it "an egregious privacy violation."
Winds of change blow through China as spending on renewable energy soars (20 March 2012)
The remote, wind-blasted desert of northwestern Gansu could be the most unloved, environmentally abused corner of China. It is home to the country's first oilfield and several of the coalmines and steel factories that have contributed to China's notoriety as the planet's biggest polluter and carbon dioxide emitter.
But in the past few years, the landscape has started to undergo a transformation as Gansu has moved to the frontline of government efforts to reinvent China's economy with a massive investment in renewable energy.
The change is evident soon after driving across the plains from Jiuquan, an ancient garrison town on the Silk Road that is now a base for more than 50 energy companies.
Wind turbines, which were almost unknown five years ago, stretch into the distance, competing only with far mountains and new pylons for space on the horizon. Jiuquan alone now has the capacity to generate 6GW of wind energy -- roughly equivalent to that of the whole UK. The plan is to more than triple that by 2015, when this area could become the biggest windfarm in the world.
Ancient sites spotted from space, say archaeologists (20 March 2012)
Computers scanned the images for soil discolouration and mounds caused when mud-brick settlements collapsed.
Dr Ur said surveying the same area on the ground would have taken him a lifetime.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researcher told BBC News: "With these computer science techniques, however, we can immediately come up with an enormous map which is methodologically very interesting, but which also shows the staggering amount of human occupation over the last 7,000 or 8,000 years.
"What's more, anyone who comes back to this area for any future survey would already know where to go.
U.S. Marines set to arrive in Australia next month (20 March 2012)
US Marines are set to arrive in Australia's tropical north next month as Washington increases its military presence as part of a renewed emphasis on the Asia-Pacific, reports said Tuesday.
State radio said about 250 Marines were set to deploy to Darwin from early April as part of a process that will see about 2,500 in Australia by about 2016, according to a plan announced byPresident Barack Obama last year.
"This first year, of course, we start pretty small," the commander of Australia's First Brigade, Brigadier General Gus McLachlan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"We have got about 250 arriving in early April. This first year is almost just a foot in the door, proof of concept, and obviously it will build up in a pretty measured pace in the next few years."
Supreme Court wrestles with survivors benefits (19 March 2012)
The couple had married in 1999, but not long afterward, Robert was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. They had one child, and the husband deposited semen in a sperm bank as his condition worsened. After his death at age 44, his wife became pregnant with the twins.
Since 1939, the Social Security Act has offered benefits to the survivors of a deceased wage earner, including dependent children.
When Karen Capato applied for survivors benefits for the twins, a Social Security official said she had a "very sympathetic case," but turned down the request nonetheless. The Social Security Commission said that because the twins were not heirs of the father at the time of his death, they did not qualify as his survivors.
The issue has divided judges across the country. It has also gotten the attention of U.S. servicemen overseas, some of whom have used sperm banks before deploying for a war zone.
Amazon.com to buy Kiva Systems for $775 million (19 March 2012)
(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc said on Monday it agreed to buy Kiva Systems Inc for $775 million in cash, a deal that will bring more robotic technology to the e-commerce company's giant network of warehouses.
The acquisition, which has been approved by Kiva's stockholders, is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012, Amazon added in a statement.
Kiva develops robots that zip around warehouses, grabbing and moving shelves and crates full of products. The technology helps retailers fulfill online orders quickly and with fewer workers. Companies including Gap Inc, Staples Inc and Crate & Barrel, have used the technology.
Amazon has traditionally used more employees in its warehouses, or fulfillment centers as they are known. However, Kiva's robots have been used by other e-commerce companies acquired by Amazon in recent years, such as Quidsi and Zappos.
Canadian beef recall due to E. coli fears grows to 135 products (20 March 2012)
A full listing of the affected beef products can be found at the CFIA website.
Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled, but eating it may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.
The CFIA says it is working with retailers and distributors to recall all affected products from the marketplace and is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.
New study: Radiation treatments create cancer cells 30 times more potent than regular cancer cells (19 March 2012)
(NaturalNews) In a groundbreaking new study just published in the peer reviewed journal Stem Cells, researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Department of Oncology found that, despite killing half of all tumor cells per treatment, radiation treatments on breast cancer transforms other cancer cells into cancer stem cells which are vastly more treatment-resistant than normal cancer cells. The new study is yet another blow to the failed and favored mainstream treatment paradigm of trying to cut out, poison out or burn out cancer symptoms (tumors) instead of actually curing cancer.
Senior study author Dr. Frank Pajonk, associate professor of radiation oncology at the Jonsson Center, reported that induced breast cancer stem cells (iBCSC) "were generated by radiation-induced activation of the same cellular pathways used to reprogram normal cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) in regenerative medicine." Pjonk, who is also a scientist with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine at UCLA, added "It was remarkable that these breast cancers used the same reprogramming pathways to fight back against the radiation treatment."
In the new study, Pajonk and his team irradiated normal non-stem cell cancer cells and placed them into mice. Through a unique imaging system, the researchers observed the cells differentiate into iBCSC in response to radiation treatments. Pjonk reported that the newly generated cells were remarkably similar to non-irradiated breast cancer stem cells. The team of researchers also found that the radiation-induced stem cells had a more than 30-fold increased ability to form tumors compared with non-irradiated breast cancer cells.
Despite all the billions of dollars spent on cancer, the 40 year "war on cancer" has been a losing one by any honest evaluation. One hundred years ago, anywhere from 1 in 50 to perhaps 1 in 100 people could be expected to develop cancer. Now it is estimated that 1 in every 2 men and 1 in every 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Despite more people around the world developing cancer and dying from cancer every year, mainstream medicine continues to cling to failed treatments which more often than not fail to eliminate the cancer and help cancer spread and return more aggressively than ever. Notably, two of the three major mainstream cancer treatments - radiation and chemo - are themselves highly carcinogenic.
Ina May Gaskin on Rising U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate, Midwifery and Home Births (19 March 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: How does the rate of maternal mortality in this country compare to other industrialized countries?
INA MAY GASKIN: Depending on whether you're looking at World Health Organization data or The Lancet's recent study that was funded by the Gates Foundation, we are 40th or 50th, OK? Now, if you add in the underreporting factor, we have no way of knowing how much farther down list we go, but we're following--you know, we're behind Czech Republic, we're behind Poland, we're behind Bosnia-Herzegovina, we're behind Slovakia, we're--the list goes on.
AMY GOODMAN: How? How is that possible?
INA MAY GASKIN: Because we don't give feedback. We don't have feedback to our obstetricians, to our hospitals or maternity wards, to find out what we're doing wrong and why the United States is one of four countries in the world where the maternal death rate is going up, not down.
Wisconsin public employees pushing back some of new disciplinary rules (19 March 2012)
Public employees are pushing back some of the new disciplinary rules that were imposed as part of the controversial 2011 repeal of legal union rights for most government workers in Wisconsin.
The Jefferson County Board last week loosened a proposed discipline standard after unions protested, and Columbia County employees are winning a series of changes to a controversial policy that top officials wrote behind closed doors to prevent employee input.
Union leaders say many of the new rules are unfair. Public administrators for schools and municipalities say it hasn't been easy to write rules to replace union contract provisions that evolved over 50 years of collective bargaining.
"This is an entirely new arena," said Andrew Phillips, an attorney for the Wisconsin Counties Association. "We are going to have to execute management in areas where we have never executed it before."
Obama Harvard Video Released, Shows Young Obama At 1991 Protest For Derrick Bell, Diversity (EMBEDDED VIDEO) (7 March 2012)
Before Andrew Breitbart's unexpected death, the conservative blogger and journalist had promised to release video footage of President Barack Obama that he said would change the election. Now, BuzzFeed has unearthed the video it believes Breitbart was referring to, according to the site's editor-in-chief, Ben Smith.
If this is indeed the footage in question, it's not particularly controversial.
In the 1991 video, which BuzzFeed licensed from WGBH Boston, a young Obama is shown speaking in support of Harvard's first tenured black law professor, Derrick Bell. Bell was staging a protest over the lack of female black professors at the school, and was taking an unpaid leave until Harvard hired a woman of color.
As Bell said at the time, "My major effort in teaching is to convince students ... that they should be ready and able to take risks and make sacrifices for the things they believe in, and their real success in life will come from making those sacrifices and taking those risks, regardless of outcome. The best way to teach that is to practice it."
In the video, Obama, who was then president of the Harvard Law Review, is shown praising Bell, while the professor stands nearby and a crowd cheers. Obama recalls how Bell spoke at an orientation for first-year students, and instead of lecturing the students, encouraged conversation.
The world's fastest-growing oil frontier (19 March 2012)
(Reuters) - Collapsing natural gas prices have yielded an unexpected boon for North Dakota's shale oil bonanza, easing a shortage of fracking crews that had tempered the biggest U.S. oil boom in a generation.
Energy companies in the Bakken shale patch have boosted activity recently thanks to an exceptionally mild winter and an influx of oil workers trained in the specialized tasks required to prepare wells for production, principally the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing.
State data released this month showed energy companies in January fracked more wells than they drilled for the first time in five months, suggesting oil output could grow even faster than last year's 35 percent surge as a year-long shortage of workers and equipment finally begins to subside.
As output accelerates, North Dakota should overtake Alaska as the second-largest U.S. producer within months, extending an unexpected oil rush that has already upended the global crude market, clipped U.S. oil imports, and made the state's economy the fastest-growing in the union.
Florida County hires law firm for Deep Horizon oil spill claims (18 March 2012)
CLEARWATER -- Nearly two years after British Petroleum's Deep Horizon oil spill, Pinellas County says it is still owed almost $3 million in claims against the oil giant.
County Commissioners unanimously approved on March 13 a recommendation from its attorney to hire the law firm, Colson, Hicks, Eidson, Colson, Matthews, Martinez, Gonzalez, Kalbac & Kane, to evaluate the county's claims and take action to recover lost revenue and expenses.
The firm will be paid only if it successful in recovering the county's money. According to the special counsel agreement, the firm will receive 25 percent plus monies awarded for attorney's cost. If it wins on an appeal, the lawyers will receive an additional 5 percent.
Thus far, the county has only received $173,000 to pay some of the response and removal costs incurred after the April 20, 2010 oil spill. Eleven were killed when the oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico offshore the state of Louisiana. Costs to the environment and the fishing and tourism industries total in the millions.
Alec Baldwin calls Oklahoma senator an "oil whore" (19 March 2012)
In a guest column for The Huffington Post, Baldwin wrote that a major oil company needed to go out of business as a sign that the U.S. was serious about fighting corruption and pollution.
"In the process of being litigated by the government of this country in pursuit of remediating this problem, let BP die," he wrote. "The oil business can only sustain itself through the corruption we now know was (is?) rampant at the Minerals Management Service."
Baldwin's attacks on Inhofe, however, are some what [sic] new.
During his tirade over the weekend, Baldwin encouraged his followers to put an end to Inhofe's political career in 2014.
Brazil concerned Chevron oil-field seabed unstable (19 March 2012)
RIO DE JANEIRO -(MarketWatch)- Brazilian officials are concerned that the seabed above an offshore oil field operated by U.S. oil major Chevron Corp. /quotes/zigman/289939/quotes/nls/cvx CVX +0.30% is unstable and could lead to a series of oil seeps at the field, according to a report Monday by local newspaper O Globo.
Brazil's National Petroleum Institute, or ANP, and environmental regulator Ibama are studying the possibility that cracks and instability in the sea floor extend in a 3.5-kilometer radius around a platform at Chevron's Frade field, O Globo reported. In November, a drilling accident caused between 2,400 and 3,000 barrels of oil to seep into the Atlantic Ocean from fissures in the seabed.
The concern is that the unstable sea floor in the area could collapse, a source told O Globo. In addition, oil is seeping from fissures that have not yet been delineated. "Nobody has any knowledge about what is happening," the source said.
The latest troubles follow last week's revelation that oil had started seeping once again from the seabed near Frade, located in the Campos Basin nearly 200 kilometers off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state. Chevron also asked local regulators for permission to halt production of about 61,000 barrels a day at the field in an effort to "better understand the geologic complexities of the area."
Chevron, Transocean execs held in Brazil over oil spill (19 March 2012)
Authorities in Brazil have detained 17 high-ranking executives of U.S. oil producer Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) and drilling company Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG) after a judge refused to let them leave the South American country pending possible criminal charges.
The travel ban was imposed as prosecutors prepare a criminal case against the companies and executives over their alleged role in deep-water oil spills last year and a second seepage last week, according to news reports.
In November, Chevron was blamed for an estimated 3,000-barrel spill in the Frade Field area off Rio de Janeiro state, prompting Brazilian authorities to suspend the company's drilling operations and bar it from access to fields believed to contain 100 billion barrels of oil.
Chevron, of San Ramon, Calif., already faces an $11 billion civil lawsuit related to the spills. In a statement, the company said: "Any legal decision will be abided by the company and its employees. We will defend the company and its employees."
New hope for tinnitus sufferers (19 March 2012)
A personalised tinnitus treatment that involves listening to sounds through headphones may offer new hope for thousands of sufferers, a study has found.
The unusual therapy is designed to "reset" auditory nerve cells in the brain to stop them misfiring.
Known as Acoustic Co-ordinated Reset (CR) Neuromodulation, it reduced tinnitus symptoms in three quarters of trial patients.
The £4,500 treatment, introduced at the Tinnitus Clinic in London last year, is currently only available to private patients.
PAM COMMENTARY: Dr. Joel Wallach has said that tinnitus was renamed "Wallach's vertigo" because he discovered its cause -- raging osteoporosis affecting the very tiny bones of the ear. Wallach says that calcium supplementation (along with other vitamins and minerals that help with the absorption of calcium like magnesium and Vitamin D, of course) can help or reverse tinnitus.
I've tried this myself and it seems to work. On a few occasions over the past few years, I've heard ringing in my ears, but remembered Wallach's opinion and took calcium supplements immediately. The ringing was always stopped with the first dose of calcium, within hours. This is probably why the ringing comes and goes with some people -- some days they've ingested enough calcium to stop it, others they're so deficient that the ringing returns.
Goldman Sachs's long history of duping its clients (18 March 2012)
At the time, Penn Central operated 20,530 miles of track in 16 states and two Canadian provinces and provided 35 percent of all railroad passenger service in the United States. The company also had substantial real estate holdings, including Grand Central Terminal in New York, along with much of the land on Park Avenue between Grand Central and the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Nevertheless, Penn Central ended up defaulting on $87 million of its short-term unsecured debt -- known in the industry as "commercial paper" -- and Goldman was at the epicenter of its financial difficulties.
In 1968, after years of being shut out of doing business with many of the nation's railroads -- in large part because it was a Jewish-owned firm -- Goldman won the opportunity to underwrite Penn Central's commercial paper, widely seen as among the safest short-term investments. For large fees, Goldman sold the paper to its clients, including big companies such as American Express and Disney, and smaller ones such as Welch's Foods, the grape-juice maker, and Younkers, a Des Moines-based retailer. Welch's and Younkers, particularly, counted on the fact that Goldman told them that the Penn Central paper was safe and could be easily redeemed. Welch's invested $1 million -- some of it payroll cash -- and Younkers invested $500,000, both at Goldman's recommendation.
After Penn Central filed for bankruptcy, an SEC investigation discovered that Goldman had continued to sell the railroad's debt to its clients at 100 cents on the dollar -- even though, by the end of 1969, the firm knew that Penn Central's finances were deteriorating rapidly. Not only was Goldman privy to Penn Central's internal numbers, it also heard repeatedly from the railroad's executives that it was rapidly running out of cash.
According to the SEC, Goldman "gained possession of material adverse information, some from public sources and some from nonpublic sources indicating a continuing deterioration of the financial condition of the [railroad]. Goldman, Sachs did not communicate this information to its commercial paper customers, nor did it undertake a thorough investigation of the company. If Goldman, Sachs had heeded these warnings and undertaken a reevaluation of the company, it would have learned that its condition was substantially worse than had been publicly reported."
New mobile devices spur greater news reading (19 March 2012)
A mounting body of evidence finds that the spread of mobile technology is adding to news consumption in the United States.
Its effects, however, are mixed. While it enhances the appeal of traditional news brands, and even boosts the reading of long-form journalism, it also shows that technology companies are strengthening their control.
These are the key findings in the 2012 report, State of the news media, by the Pew research centre's project for excellence in journalism.
It is a comprehensive analysis of the health of journalism in America and also includes special reports on the impact of mobile technology and social media on news.
Alaskan well damaged in blowout is plugged, under control (18 March 2012)
A well damaged more than a month ago in a natural gas blowout is plugged and under control, state environmental regulators said Sunday
The Spanish oil company Repsol was drilling the well Feb. 15 on the Colville River delta, about 18 miles northeast of Nuiqsut, when the drilling rig hit an unexpected pocket of pressurized gas. About 42,000 gallons of drilling mud shot out of the hole. With the mud came natural gas. The rig was shut down. Gas leaked out until the evening of Feb. 16, when it stopped on its own.
But Repsol's Qugruk Number 2 well was not considered under control until it was plugged.
In a situation report issued Sunday evening, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said "mechanical well control has been achieved."
PAM COMMENTARY: Readers who don't want their bandwidth used to load a video ad overlay -- with sound that plays without your consent -- shouldn't click on this link. Aggressive ads are one reason that I don't link to ADN often. However, due to the state's financial interests, their coverage of the oil industry is often more complete than other papers'.
Eagle makes journey from Metro tracks to U.S. repository (17 March 2012)
The final chapter of the Alexandria eagle's life began one evening last month on Johnson's regular Blue Line run from her job at a downtown law firm to her home in Fairfax Station. Somewhere between the Van Dorn Street and Braddock Road stations, a dark blur caught her eye. A glimpse of white-feathered head confirmed it: a bald eagle, not eight feet from the train window, flapping against a fence.
"I thought it might have been eating something," she said. "I was so excited. I told everybody at work, 'Oh my gosh, I saw a bald eagle.' "
She was less excited the next day when the bird was still in the same spot. Healthy eagles don't hang out by train tracks. She got in touch with the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, a rescue group, and then she and her husband got in the car. Driving along back streets near the tracks, they finally found the eagle next to a high chain-link fence. Its left wing clearly was damaged.
A couple of days later, on Feb. 25, Metro officials had organized a rescue run. A six-car train left King Street Station that afternoon, empty except for the train operator, three transit police officers, an Alexandria animal control officer and three volunteers from the conservancy. They found the injured eagle in some brambles about 300 yards past the Van Dorn station.
Dozens arrested at Occupy's 6-month anniversary rally (18 March 2012)
(Reuters) - Dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested during the weekend as police cleared New York's Zuccotti Park, where demonstrators had gathered for the struggling movement's six-month anniversary.
The park remained closed on Sunday with a sprinkling of police surrounding it, keeping the area clear while crews cleaned up following Saturday night's protests. A sweep just before midnight, when roughly 300 demonstrators had gathered in the park, capped a day of protests and marching in lower Manhattan.
Organizer Jose Martin, who is coordinating with the National Law Guild's New York City chapter, estimated police arrested 74 protesters on Saturday. Police did not have a final tally, a department spokesman said.
"Every time they use violence to put us down, it only increases the number of people that are empathetic to the cause. It adds fuel to the fire and draws attention to the movement," said Ed Needham, one of several members of the leaderless movement's press team.
Don't compare Fukushima to Chernobyl (16 March 2012)
Chernobyl was the worst that could happen. Safety and protection systems failed and there was a full core meltdown in a reactor that had no containment. In the "defence in depth" of nuclear power plants outside the former USSR, containment is an essential engineered safety feature.
The figures tell a story: 237 Chernobyl workers were taken to hospital with suspected acute radiation sickness; 134 of these cases were confirmed; 28 were fatal; about 20 other workers have since died from illnesses considered to have been caused or aggravated by radiation exposure; two workers died from other causes at the time of the accident and another disappeared - presumed dead.
On top of that, it has been estimated that about 4000 people will die (or may already have died) from radiation-induced cancer, including workers exposed directly to radiation, and members of the public exposed to the huge release of radioactive material from the reactor. About 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, which typically kills about 5 per cent of people who get it, have been attributed to inhalation and ingestion of radioactive iodine by children.
At Fukushima Daiichi, the reactors shut down safely when struck by the magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake, the fourth largest ever recorded. But problems arose after they were inundated by a much larger tsunami than had been anticipated when the nuclear plant was designed. This caused the loss of all power on the site so that cooling systems failed and some of the reactor cores overheated. Radioactive fission products were released and hydrogen was generated by chemical reaction. The reactor containments were partially effective, although they were damaged by hydrogen explosions and possibly by molten fuel.
Again, the casualty figures tell their own story. Severe potential hazards did exist on the reactor sites because of high levels of radiation, but health controls were mainly effective. There were no deaths attributable to radiation. Two workers received burns from beta radiation. They were discharged from hospital after two days. Two workers incurred high internal radiation exposure from inhaling iodine-131, which gives them a significant risk of developing thyroid cancer.
PAM COMMENTARY: The Japanese may have been better at managing the emergency, but I don't trust the figures he's quoting. With the tsunami washing many people away, it's possible that the death statistic was "cleaned up" because some who may have died from radiation or cancer were washed away by the natural disaster. Also, Fukushima was located on the eastern edge of Japan with prevailing winds blowing to the east, meaning that most of its radiation blew out to sea and will instead impact people to their east.
Award-winning weatherman's age discrimination lawsuit claims TV stations want "attractive young women broadcasting the weather" (18 March 2012)
They are as much a part of the American television experience as daytime soaps, canned laughter and cheaply produced infomercials. But if one angry meteorologist gets his way, "auto-cutie" weathergirls may become a thing of the past.
Kyle Hunter, an award-winning weatherman who claims to have spent 20 years as a forecaster in Southern California, claims his applications for presenting jobs at local CBS stations were ignored or rebuffed solely because he was not a good-looking, 20-something female. His lawyer, Gloria Allred, said it was one of the first times a man had tried to claim unfair discrimination, under Californian employment law, on the grounds of his gender.
Mr Hunter, who describes himself in legal papers as "over the age of 40 years", alleges that his treatment by the CBS channels KCBS and KCAL also amounted to age discrimination. He is duly seeking "unspecified" damages. The lawsuit tells how, despite being a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society who has worked in every Southern Californian TV market, Hunter was passed over for two jobs in favour of young women with no meteorological qualifications.
"It appears that the defendants do not want knowledgeable weather professionals as their prime-time weather broadcasters," it reads. "It appears instead that they want attractive young women, and only attractive young women, broadcasting the weather."
Hunter was not even interviewed for the jobs, which he applied for in 2010 and 2011, despite being "far more qualified, and far more experienced" than the women who were given the positions. A court will now have to decide whether a company's right to freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the US Constitution, trumps its obligations under employment law. Either way, Mr Hunter's complaint is likely to strike a chord with viewers who have long bemoaned the "dumbing down" of TV weather reports.
PAM COMMENTARY: Oh, please! Even the regular news broadcast has been "dumbed down" with "news models." Why do the majority of people now go online for the news, after all.
Montreal mayor 'disgusted' after 226 protest arrests (17 March 2012)
Montreal's mayor says he was disgusted after more than 200 people were arrested during Thursday night's protest in Montreal against alleged police brutality.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay said such demonstrations are hurting the city's image and economy, and it's time to have a debate on how they are handled in the city.
"Montrealers are really fed up [with] what is going on, and last night and today I'm disgusted about what happened and I want to make sure it doesn't happen again, so let's work together, try to find a solution," he told reporters Friday.
The anti-police brutality rally, held each March, draws a significant police response and usually results in scores of arrests and property damage. Thursday about 1,000 people participated in the demonstration.
65-year-old monument to Sioux warrior still a work in progress (17 March 2012)
CRAZY HORSE, S.D. -- It was to be the largest sculpture in the world: a granite portrait of a Sioux leader on horseback whittled out of a mountain in the Black Hills here. In scale and complexity, the carving would dwarf the imposing collection of presidential profiles on nearby Mount Rushmore.
As he started the Crazy Horse monument in 1947, short on money, manpower and the credulity of just about anyone who heard his plans, Korczak Ziolkowski, a sculptor from Connecticut, promised the tribal leaders who had recruited him and the local residents who scorned him that he was dedicating his life to the effort.
But he underestimated the scale of the undertaking. His promise, it turned out, was a multigenerational commitment.
The sprawling country clan Ziolkowski reared at the base of the mountain has spent the 30 years since his death honoring his plea to continue the effort, to which he supposedly added, "But go slowly, so you do it right."
For a century, underground railroad ran south (18 March 2012)
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- While most Americans are familiar with the Underground Railroad that helped Southern slaves escape north before the Civil War, the nation's first clandestine path to freedom ran for more than a century in the opposite direction.
Stories of that lesser-known "railroad" will be shared June 20-24 at the National Underground Railroad Conference in St. Augustine, Fla. The network of sympathizers gave refuge to those fleeing their masters, including many American Indians who helped slaves escape to what was then the Spanish territory of Florida. That lasted from shortly after the founding of Carolina Colony in 1670 to after the American Revolution.
They escaped not only to the South but to Mexico, the Caribbean and the American West.
And the "railroad" helps to explain at least in part why the lasting culture of slave descendants - known as Gullah in South Carolina and Geechee in Florida and Georgia - exists along the northeastern Florida coast.
Thai billionaire who created Red Bull dies (17 March 2012)
Born in central Thailand's Pichit province to a Chinese father and a Thai mother who reportedly sold fruit and ducks to survive, Chaleo died the third richest man in Thailand.
Chaleo started a small company, T.C. Pharmaceuticals, in the 1960s and formulated an energy drink prototype a decade later called Krathing Daeng, or Red Bull in English.
The drink became popular among truck drivers and other blue-collar workers throughout the country, but it remained a local phenomenon until Chaleo met Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz.
Together, the pair modified Chaleo's initial formula and founded the international Red Bull brand. Launched in 1987, Red Bull now sells billions of iconic slim cans across the world annually. Mateschitz and Chaleo each own roughly half of the company.
Southern California Water District wages costly war with nature and age (18 March 2012)
So that work can be done, the aqueduct has been shut down, a once rare but increasingly frequent event dictated by the demands of maintenance and rehabilitation of the MWD's aging system. The contractors have exactly 19 days and three hours to finish the job, counted back to Feb. 28 at noon, when the shutdown started and the aqueduct went dry.
"After that, we have to be sending water up that hill," Howard, the rehab project's resident engineer, told me in clipped military tones, which sounded entirely appropriate given the rigorous logistics of the job. "For every day they're late, they have to pay us $75,000 in liquidated damages," Howard said, referring to the construction contractors, "but that's a fraction of the millions Met would lose by not delivering water."
The Hinds plant is one of the front lines in the MWD's war with nature and age. The battlefield is largely invisible to the average Southern California water user, whether an industrial plant manager, a farmer or a homeowner with garden hose in hand, pool in the backyard and three bathrooms indoors, who probably has little idea of what's been pushing water rates higher. Key fact: It's not the H2O, which accounts for only about one-fifth of the bill. The water service bill of the average Southern California family of four will include about $34 a month in MWD charges, not including add-on fees charged by its local water district; of that, about $7 is the cost of the water itself.
"The repair and replacement of our aging infrastructure is probably the No. 1 driver of our rates," says MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger, who had invited me and Times photographer Al Seib along on his inspection visit to the work at Hinds.
Richmond Eagle Cam gets a new star (17 March 2012)
The Richmond Eagle Cam has a new star.
A chick hatched for bald eagles Virginia and James about 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The exhausted, pinkish-gray baby struggled out of two shell halves as Virginia gently attended it.
"I feel like a new mother," said an elated Barbara Slatcher, a volunteer who coordinates the Eagle Cam.
Slatcher had been monitoring the webcam from about 7 a.m. to midnight, with only occasional breaks, since the hatchling watch began Monday.
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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