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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012

News from the Week of 1st to 7th of April 2012

Fukushima Reactor 4: Life On Planet Earth in the Balance (7 April 2012) [AJ]
Diplomat Akio Matsumura is warning that the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan may ultimately turn into an event capable of extinguishing all life on Earth.

Matsumura posted a startling entry on his blog following a statement made by Japan's former ambassador to Switzerland, Mitsuhei Murata, on the situation at Fukushima.

Speaking at a public hearing of the Budgetary Committee of the House of Councilors on March 22, 2012, Murata warned that "if the crippled building of reactor unit 4 -- with 1,535 fuel rods in the spent fuel pool 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground -- collapses, not only will it cause a shutdown of all six reactors but will also affect the common spent fuel pool containing 6,375 fuel rods, located some 50 meters from reactor 4," writes Matsumura.

In both cases the radioactive rods are not protected by a containment vessel; dangerously, they are open to the air. This would certainly cause a global catastrophe like we have never before experienced. He stressed that the responsibility of Japan to the rest of the world is immeasurable. Such a catastrophe would affect us all for centuries. Ambassador Murata informed us that the total numbers of the spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi site excluding the rods in the pressure vessel is 11,421.
[Read more...]

Fur loss, lesions reported in Beaufort Sea polar bears (7 April 2012)
Research scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey report that some Alaska polar bears are losing their fur.
Tony DeGange, chief of the biology office at the USGS Science Center in Anchorage, said that in the past two weeks, of 33 bears checked by scientists, nine had alopecia -- loss of fur -- and other skin lesions in the southern Beaufort Sea region near Barrow. Three of four bears inspected near Kaktovik on Thursday showed the symptoms.

The scientists have been collecting blood and tissue samples from the afflicted bears but do not know the cause or the significance of the outbreak.

"Our data set suggests that this is unusual, but not unprecedented," said DeGange. Ten of 48 bears checked by the team in 1998-99 had a similar condition, he said.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Watch out for the pop-up ads.

Counterfeit drugs show need for tracking (7 April 2012)
The discovery of a second batch of a phony cancer drug in the United States this week has frustrated regulators in California, where the nation's most stringent law to track and trace pharmaceuticals was passed in 2004 but has yet to be implemented.

Federal authorities said Tuesday that a counterfeit version of Genentech's best-selling cancer drug Avastin has been found in undisclosed locations - less than two months after another bogus version of the same drug made it to medical offices in Southern California, Texas and Illinois.

"It's a situation that really is stunning the medical community right now. Everybody begins to question every drug," said Dan Wood, spokesman for the Medical Board of California, the state agency that regulates physicians.

Fake prescription drugs, along with diluted or expired medications, are a growing problem in the United States and around the world.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Yet another reason to use alternative medicine.

Walker signs slew of controversial legislation, including anti-abortion and sex ed bills (6 April 2012)
Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed a set of contentious GOP bills barring abortion coverage through health insurance exchanges, requiring doctors to consult privately with women seeking abortions and mandating sex education teachers stress abstinence.

Walker, a Republican, signed the bills Thursday but didn't announce the move until midday Friday, when his office released a list of more than 50 bills he signed Thursday and Friday. Walker's spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said it was simpler to lump all the bills signed over the two days into one announcement.

Democrats have ripped the measures as an all-out attack on women. They heaped criticism on the governor Friday, calling the delay in announcing the signings cowardly and the bills bizarre social policy.

"Perhaps he thought that in doing this behind closed doors, with no public notice, before a holiday weekend for many families, his actions would go unnoticed. He was wrong. We will not be silent -- these issues are too important to ignore," Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, said in a statement.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: It's as though he's trying to do as much damage to the state as possible, before being thrown out of office in the recall.

Gov. Scott Walker repeals Wisconsin Equal Pay law (6 April 2012)
With little fanfare, union-busting Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) yesterday signed a repeal of Wisconsin's equal pay act, which gave people who discover they've been discriminated against more time to file suit and the right to do so outside of federal courts.

The Equal Pay Enforcement Act was passed in 2009 and gave workers avenues to pursue complaints about pay discrimination in the workplace and press charges where necessary. The law conferred upon workers the ability to pursue their cases in circuit court rather than the federal court system, which is costlier and less accessible to average citizens. It also expanded the window in which complainants are allowed to file their complaints relative to the time when they worked under discriminatory conditions.

Much like the federal law, known as the Ledbetter Act (which President Obama signed as one of his first acts of office), the Wisconsin law was spurred by the case of Lilly Ledbetter, who suffered decades of pay discrimination without her knowledge. After she sued her employer, Goodyear, and won, the Supreme Court threw out the case because she didn't file shortly after the discrimination began -- when she didn't know it was happening.

The Republican dominated state Senate passed SB 202 in November of 2011, which repealed the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, followed by the State Assembly in February. Both votes passed along party lines in the currently Republican-led state bodies.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: This article should be corrected -- the state senate in Wisconsin is no longer Republican-controlled but rather tied, thanks to a few recall elections that have already taken place and a resignation by a state senator facing recall.

Don Macpherson: When health becomes a language issue (7 April 2012)
Section 32 of Curzi's bill would require an applicant for a new or renewed medicare card to give his or her mother tongue.

This information would be recorded on the card, and used to determine whether a health or social-services establishment officially recognized as bilingual, such as the McGill University Health Centre hospitals, would keep that status.

If a majority of the people served by the establishment did not have English as their mother tongue, the government could, after consulting "the citizens concerned," withdraw its recognition.

If it did, then the establishment would no longer be allowed to use English in internal communications, and its staff would have to write to each other in French.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I was surprised on my trip through Montreal almost a decade ago -- people in the shops spoke English to me, without a French accent. Maybe I "looked" American, but with 1/4 French-Canadian ancestry, was it really that easy to tell? In fact, if it weren't for the traffic signs in French, which were a little confusing for someone who didn't speak the language, it wouldn't have been different from driving in America.

It seemed that the people who I encountered spoke English as their primary language. That's quite a change from my childhood, when I heard stories from travelers to Quebec who described French-Canadian shopkeepers who'd speak French, but switch to English at the slightest hint of an English accent from their customers.

Scientists rewrite rules of human reproduction (7 April 2012)
The first human egg cells that have been grown entirely in the laboratory from stem cells could be fertilised later this year in a development that will revolutionise fertility treatment and might even lead to a reversal of the menopause in older women.

Scientists are about to request a licence from the UK fertility watchdog to fertilise the eggs as part of a series of tests to generate an unlimited supply of human eggs, a breakthrough that could help infertile women to have babies as well as making women as fertile in later life as men.

Producing human eggs from stem cells would also open up the possibility of replenishing the ovaries of older women so that they do not suffer the age-related health problems associated with the menopause, from osteoporosis to heart disease.

Some scientists are even suggesting the possibility of producing an "elixir of youth" for women, where the menopause is eradicated and older women will retain the health they enjoyed when younger.
[Read more...]

Eagles are coming back strong in Minnesota (7 April 2012)
More than ever, Twin Cities residents are looking up to see the majestic flight of a bald eagle.

The great bird is continuing its robust comeback along the Mississippi River. A spring helicopter count found 36 active nests in the 72-mile stretch from Elk River to Hastings that makes up the Mississippi National River Recreation Area -- several more than last year.

"The eagle population is increasing and highly productive" in the area, said Bill Route, an eagle project manager for the National Park Service. Aerial counting isn't precise, but the 36 nests counted in late March are up from 28 last year and 30 in 2010, he said.

The aerial surveys, begun in 2006, when 11 active nests were sighted, have documented the dramatic comeback in the metro area of the majestic bird, which was on the federal endangered species list from 1967 to 2007.
[Read more...]

The dark side of climbing Everest (6 April 2012)
When Dianne Whelan says she was "blown away" by what she experienced on her first trip to Mount Everest five years ago, she wasn't referring to the visual splendour of the world's highest mountain.

She was shocked by images you won't find in adventure-company brochures touting Everest expeditions: frozen corpses jutting out of the snow, rampant commercialism and garbage strewn around. She also heard tales of climbers stealing oxygen from each other.

"If I'm shocked, I thought others would be too," said the award-winning Vancouver photographer and filmmaker, whose experiences inspired her offbeat documentary 40 Days at Base Camp. "You have this weird ad-hoc community at 18,000 feet that's like a beehive without a queen, with nobody in control."

Whelan's film, far from the National Geographic version of the legendary mountain, is a cinema verite-like portrait of a challenging micro-culture.
[Read more...]

Feds divide up oil spill responsibilities (6 April 2012)
Two federal agencies announced Friday that they have formally divvied up their responsibilities in case of any offshore oil spill.

The agreement between the Coast Guard and the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement also clarifies the agencies' roles and responsibilities when it comes to researching oil discharges, preparing for emergencies and deploying vessels in case of a disaster.

The last similar memorandum of understanding between the Coast Guard and the safety bureau's predecessor, the Minerals Management Service, was inked in 2007, well before the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Investigations into the spill revealed there was some confusion and overlapping work by federal government agencies and other entities that responded to the disaster.
[Read more...]

Obama has aggressive Internet strategy to woo supporters (6 April 2012)
The Obama campaign is by far the most aggressive in trying to reach voters online, so far spending more on Internet advertising than on television, radio and telemarketing combined. And the president's campaign has spent five times more on online ads -- jumping from $2.3 million to $12.3 million -- than at this point four years ago, when he was running against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, federal disclosure records show.

The president's campaign, which would not discuss its Internet strategy, also is more aggressive in using technology that can track and target people based on the Web sites they've been browsing, a practice commonly used in corporate advertising.

The candidates are far from abandoning television, direct mail and other marketing strategies, but the competition to find supporters online has rewritten the book on campaigning.

"If you're not advertising online, you're missing out on a huge chunk of people and an ability to influence them," said Tim Lim, a former field organizer for Clinton who runs Precision, an ad firm working with Democratic campaigns.
[Read more...]

Facebook vows to fight B.C. privacy lawsuit (6 April 2012)
Facebook has vowed to fight back against a lawsuit seeking to end its practice of turning Facebook users into brand ambassadors when they hit the "like" button for a product or service.

"This case has no merit and we will defend ourselves against it vigorously," Facebook told The Vancouver Sun in an emailed response to a request for an interview.

At issue in the suit, filed in B.C. Supreme Court, is Facebook's handling of users' privacy under its policy of equating a Facebook "like" with permission to use a person's name and photo in what Facebook refers to as "sponsored stories" that appear on friends' pages. Companies or organizations can pay Facebook to have those sponsored stories show up repeatedly on the friends' pages.

There is no opt-out provision in Facebook's privacy settings to protect people who do not want their likes to be used as brand or product endorsements.
[Read more...]

Local authorities remind watch groups of rules (6 April 2012)
"Eyes and ears."

That's the message local police departments have been spreading to neighborhood watch groups amid the national furor over the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, shot by a neighborhood watch captain.

Although many of the facts are in dispute, one thing is clear: After watch captain George Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person, the dispatcher told him not to take action. A short time later, the two fought, according to witnesses. Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense.

While none of the cities in South Hampton Roads has reported problems with neighborhood watch groups, local authorities have used the shooting as an opportunity to remind them of the limits to their responsibilities.

"Neighborhood Watch members are never expected to patrol, follow, pursue, interact, intercept or anything EXCEPT know your neighbors and call the police if you see something suspicious," Officer Bradley Detrich, a Virginia Beach police crime-prevention specialist, wrote in a recent email to a group of neighborhood watch coordinators.

"It's about seeing and reporting - that's our motto," said Kenny Martin, president of the South Norfolk neighborhood watch in Chesapeake. "You never get involved with anything. You never get involved with anybody. You never approach anybody, ever."
[Read more...]

Options were few for Virginia Beach crash pilots (7 April 2012)
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Zooming along at 170 mph in a fighter jet carrying thousands of pounds of volatile fuel, two Navy pilots faced nothing but bad choices when their aircraft malfunctioned over Virginia's most populated city.

"Catastrophic engine system failure right after takeoff, which is always the most critical phase of flying, leaves very, very few options," said retired Marine Col. J.F. Joseph, an aviation safety expert and decorated pilot. "You literally run out of altitude, air speed and ideas all at the same time."

Somehow, however, the student pilot and his instructor and everyone on the ground survived Friday when the men ejected from their F/A-18D jet moments before it crashed in a fireball in an apartment complex courtyard. The pilots and five on the ground were hurt, but all but one aviator were out of the hospital hours later.

Crews had carefully checked the apartments, and all residents had been accounted for early Saturday, fire department Capt. Tim Riley said Saturday. No deaths were reported.
[Read more...]

With everyone accounted for, investigation to begin in Navy jet crash in Virginia Beach (7 April 2012)
Crews worked through the night sorting through debris and beginning hazardous materials cleanup at the site off Birdneck Road where a Navy F/A-18D Hornet slammed into an apartment complex.

As of this morning, everyone is accounted for, although officials can't yet say officially that no one perished in the crash, said Battalion Chief Tim Riley, Virginia Beach Fire Department spokesman.

"We can't say that it's all clear, but we're not actively looking for anyone," Riley said this morning.

Both pilots ejected safely from the plane, that crashed about 12:05 p.m. Friday.
[Read more...]

Apple's share price overtakes Google as it is forecast to be first $1tn company (6 April 2012)
The technology group achieved another milestone on Thursday as Apple's stock price rose above Google's for the first time. Steve Jobs, Apple's late co-founder, is rumoured to have decided against splitting Apple's stock in order to one day pass Google's share price.

But for all the hoopla, the leap to $1,000 would be a big hike for a company that has already enjoyed a record run on the stock exchange.

Last week Apple's shares were worth $633.38 each -- slightly more than a mid-range iPad. A year ago they were changing hands at $341. At its current price Apple is valued at $590.82bn (£372bn), making it the most valuable company in the world. At $1,000 Apple would be worth nearly $1tn. No other company has been valued at anything like that price. "Apple fever is spreading like a wildfire around the world," White said in his report.

Just what might send Apple's shares to $1,000 The answer is twofold: China and TV.
[Read more...]

Poland Announces Complete Ban on Monsanto's Genetically Modified Maize (6 April 2012) [AJ]
Following the anti-Monsanto activism launched by nations like France and Hungary, Poland has announced that it will launch a complete ban on growing Monsanto's genetically modified strain MON810.

The announcement, made by Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki, sets yet another international standard against Monsanto's genetically modified creations. In addition to being linked to a plethora health ailments, Sawicki says that the pollen originating from this GM strain may actually be devastating the already dwindling bee population.

"The decree is in the works. It introduces a complete ban on the MON810 strain of maize in Poland," Sawicki stated to the press.

Similar opposition to Monsanto occurred on March 9th, when 7 European countries blocked a proposal by the Danish EU presidency which would permit the cultivation of genetically modified plants on the entire continent. It was France, who in February, lead the charge against GMOs by asking the European Commission to suspend authorization to Monsanto's genetically modified corn. What's more, the country settled a landmark case in favor of the people over Monsanto, finding the biotech giant guilty of chemical poisoning.
[Read more...]

Monsanto threatens legal action over Vermont GMO labeling bill (6 April 2012)
If lawmakers in Vermont decide to require all genetically modified food be labeled as such, they could be facing a major lawsuit from one of the most hated companies in the world.

A representative of Missouri-based food giant Monsanto, which has in its history filed hundreds of lawsuits over use of its seed gene patents, threatened lawmakers with civil litigation if they pass the bill, according to a report this week from Alternet.

The bill, H.722, otherwise known as the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, was introduced to the Vermont House in February, but lawmakers have hesitated to cast their ballots ahead of a public hearing on April 12.

It wouldn't be the first time Monsanto has sued Vermont, either: the company took the state to court in the ninties over a law requiring milk producers to label products containing bovine growth hormones. Not only did they sue, they won, rendering Vermont's labeling law purely voluntary.
[Read more...]

Donald Trump publicly links vaccines to autism (6 April 2012)
(NaturalNews) In a stunning development for the ostracized, often criticized, vaccine safety awareness movement, cause celebre, and business mogul, Donald Trump raised concern about vaccinations on Monday, April 2, the anniversary of the fifth annual World Autism Awareness Day. Trump 'warned' Fox News viewers he "strongly believes that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are linked to exposure to vaccines."1

During the interview, the tycoon revealed that a series of casual observations led him to the conclusion that '"monster" vaccinations cause Autism. The remark was probably a bombshell for pro-vaccine advocates including doctors, pharmaceutical companies, the government - and oh yes, Bill Gates. They have all fervently denied that observation -long a tenet of 'science-based research' - has anything to do with a medical outcome.

Trump acknowledged that speaking out against vaccines and the vaccine schedule is very controversial. But then he went on to state: "...I couldn't care less. I've seen people where they have a perfectly healthy child, and they go for the vaccinations and a month later the child is no longer healthy."

Trump's statement is a victory for parents who have long believed vaccines contributed to the neurological damage their children suffered post -vaccination. Although Trump is not against vaccines, he has spoken out before regarding his concerns about the increasing number of required immunizations in the childhood vaccination schedule.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I've known people who had the exact same thing happen to their children.

Resistance spread 'compromising' fight against malaria (5 April 2012)
For many years now the most effective drugs against malaria have been derived from the Chinese plant, Artemisia annua. It is also known as sweet wormwood.

In 2009 researchers found that the most deadly species of malaria parasites, spread by mosquitoes, were becoming more resistant to these drugs in parts of western Cambodia.

This new data confirms that these Plasmodium falciparum parasites that are infecting patients more than 500 miles away on the border between Thailand and Burma are growing steadily more resistant.

The researchers from the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit measured the time it took the artemisinin drugs to clear parasites from the bloodstreams of more than 3,000 patients. Over the nine years between 2001 and 2010, they found that drugs became less effective and the number of patients showing resistance rose to 20%.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Has anyone tried the Clark zapper on that?

Obesity blamed as womb cancer deaths up by 20pc in last decade (5 April 2012)
A DRAMATIC rise in the number of women diagnosed with womb cancer means death rates have risen by almost 20pc in the last decade, figures suggest.

Obesity is a key driver behind the increase in diagnoses, at least doubling the risk of the disease, experts said.

Incidence of womb cancer has risen 43pc since the mid 1990s, from 13.7 to 19.6 per 100,000 women in the UK.

Before this point, the chance of developing womb cancer had been constant for at least 25 years and death rates had been declining, according to Cancer Research UK.

But since the late 1990s, the death rate has risen from 3.1 to 3.7 per 100,000 in the UK.
[Read more...]

'Tar balls' from Deepwater Horizon disaster could be fatal to humans (5 April 2012)
After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico clumps of oil called tar balls began washing up on beaches and it was thought there were harmless.

Now new research from Auburn University in Alabama has shown that tar balls are actually reservoirs for a multitude of bacteria -- including one pathogen that can cause life-threatening illness.

It's called Vibrio vulnificus, a naturally occurring bacterium that thrives in warm seawater.

Exposure to it through a wound can lead to tissue-killing, potentially fatal infections, according to lead researcher Cova Arias, who has warned that this has 'clear public health implications'.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Also see earlier article link, from 28 March.

ANGRY OVER BIRDS: Outrage at feds' plan to ax poultry inspectors and speed output (6 April 2012)
The USDA said its soon-to-be-implemented Inspection Models Project will save taxpayers $93 million over three years and enrich business, and it has been proven to improve food safety. But the agency's own inspectors tell a different story.

One unidentified USDA inspector gave a sworn affidavit about conditions at plants where the new program has been tested.

"The bird carcasses fly by at between 165-175 birds per minute. It is difficult, if not impossible, to spot defects at that rate," the inspector said.

Another whistle-blower with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, whose identity was also withheld, portrayed the consequences of replacing trained inspectors with unlicensed workers hired by poultry companies, a provision allowed under the new plan.

"In my plant, some of the sorters really try to look at all of the birds," the whistle-blower wrote. "Others, though, seem to not care or have given up doing their job. As a result, I believe that unsafe and unwholesome birds will be more likely likely to reach consumers."
[Read more...]

Ammonia used in many foods, not just "pink slime" (4 April 2012)
Used as a filler for ground beef, it is made from fatty trimmings that are more susceptible to contamination than other cuts of beef, and are therefore sprayed with ammonium hydroxide - ammonia mixed with water - to remove pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli.

After critics highlighted the product on social media websites and showed unappetizing photos on television, calling it "pink slime," the nation's leading fast-food chains and supermarkets spurned the product, even though U.S. public health officials deem it safe to eat. Hundreds of U.S. school districts also demanded it be removed from school lunch programs.

One producer, Beef Products Inc, has since idled three factories. Another, AFA Foods, filed for bankruptcy protection.

The outrage, which many experts say has been fueled by the term "pink slime," seems more about the unsavoriness of the product rather than its safety.
[Read more...]

In cancer science, many 'discoveries' don't hold up (28 March 2012)
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former researcher at Amgen Inc has found that many basic studies on cancer -- a high proportion of them from university labs -- are unreliable, with grim consequences for producing new medicines in the future.

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 "landmark" publications -- papers in top journals, from reputable labs -- for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated. He described his findings in a commentary piece published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"It was shocking," said Begley, now senior vice president of privately held biotechnology company TetraLogic, which develops cancer drugs. "These are the studies the pharmaceutical industry relies on to identify new targets for drug development. But if you're going to place a $1 million or $2 million or $5 million bet on an observation, you need to be sure it's true. As we tried to reproduce these papers we became convinced you can't take anything at face value."
[Read more...]

Water cutoff contributes to Klamath Basin bird deaths, highlights challenge facing crucial wildlife refuges (5 April 2012)
A cut-off of water supplies to a key Klamath Basin national wildlife refuge contributed to the deaths of 10,000 or more birds this year, the most in a decade, the refuge's manager says.

The Lower Klamath refuge in southern Oregon and northern California is a crucial stop for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. The refuge and five other refuges in the basin are also last in line for water, behind farmers and endangered fish, in one of the most water-short -- and politically fraught -- regions in the West.

Ron Cole, project leader for the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, estimates 10,000 to 15,000 birds have died from avian cholera this year.

From December to mid-March, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cut off water supplies to the 46,900-acre Lower Klamath refuge, citing light snowfall and projections of dismal inflows to Upper Klamath Lake, which stores water for farmers and three fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
[Read more...]

Wind energy sector waning in North Dakota (6 April 2012)
ASHLEY, N.D. -- The Coteau des Prairie hills that form a hummocky spine through McIntosh County provide a perfect platform for wind turbines.

They've been chosen as the site for a sprawling 200-megawatt wind farm six miles north of here -- one of 20 wind projects that have been permitted or are in the regulatory pipeline in North Dakota.

But more than a year after the Ashley Wind Energy Project was approved, not a single turbine has been erected, and landowners who signed leases with the developer were told in December that the project is on hold.

North Dakota's once-booming wind energy sector is waning because of the sluggish economy, continued transmission bottlenecks, and the prospect that federal tax credits will expire at the end of the year.
[Read more...]

ACLU seeks special counsel on election (6 April 2012)
As an internal city review of what went wrong in Tuesday's Anchorage election moves forward, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska is calling for a special counsel to investigate the matter.
So far, 59 of 121 voting precincts have been reviewed by the city clerk's office and just over half, 31, ran out of the preprinted ballot cards at some point, according to the clerk's office.

A vote for mayor and a hotly contested, emotional gay rights measure were among the issues on the ballot. ACLU executive director Jeffrey Mittman sent letters to Anchorage Assembly Chairwoman Debbie Ossiander, City Clerk Barbara Gruenstein and municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler calling for "an independent, special counsel to investigate the conduct of the April 3, 2012 Municipal Election."

Ossiander said it's too early to begin an independent investigation. The city clerk and six-member Election Commission need time to do their work, she said.
[Read more...]

Google gives you private tour of White House (6 April 2012)
Google's Street View cameras have hit 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The White House is now accessible from your computer screen, thanks to a partnership with the Google Art Project. The cameras, usually used to offer a glimpse down city streets or more recently, into businesses, now give anyone with an Internet connection a 360-degree tour of the White House's public rooms.

You can use the "walk through" feature to visit the Entrance Hall, State Dining Room, Library and China Room, which houses a collection of plates. Clicking on the little plus signs will give you a detailed view of the various items on display.

The self-guided 360-degree tour is at Googleartproject.com but there's also a video with a welcome message from First Lady Michelle Obama.
[Read more...]

CIA agent indicted for leaking secrets to journalists (5 April 2012)
Kiriakou first came to public attention in an interview with ABC News in December 2007 in which he became the first US official to describe how top Al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding, a technique widely viewed as torture.

The former CIA operative acknowledged later in his memoir, however, that he was not present when the interrogation took place.

A CIA intelligence officer between 1990 and 2004, Kiriakou was accused in the indictment of leaking information to reporters anonymously identified as "Journalist A" and "Journalist B."

The charges stem from an investigation into classified information, including photographs of a CIA official, that found its way into classified filings by defense lawyers representing detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, the US naval base in southern Cuba.
[Read more...]

How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses (5 April 2012)
In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. This horror show ruling joins two recent horror show laws: the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the "trespass bill", which gives you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection. These criminalizations of being human follow, of course, the mini-uprising of the Occupy movement.

Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit, Albert Florence, described having been told to "turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks." He said he felt humiliated: "It made me feel like less of a man."

In surreal reasoning, justice Anthony Kennedy explained that this ruling is necessary because the 9/11 bomber could have been stopped for speeding. How would strip searching him have prevented the attack? Did justice Kennedy imagine that plans to blow up the twin towers had been concealed in a body cavity? In still more bizarre non-logic, his and the other justices' decision rests on concerns about weapons and contraband in prison systems. But people under arrest -- that is, who are not yet convicted -- haven't been introduced into a prison population.

Our surveillance state shown considerable determination to intrude on citizens sexually. There's the sexual abuse of prisoners at Bagram -- der Spiegel reports that "former inmates report incidents of ... various forms of sexual humiliation. In some cases, an interrogator would place his penis along the face of the detainee while he was being questioned. Other inmates were raped with sticks or threatened with anal sex". There was the stripping of Bradley Manning is solitary confinement. And there's the policy set up after the story of the "underwear bomber" to grope US travelers genitally or else force them to go through a machine -- made by a company, Rapiscan, owned by terror profiteer and former DHA czar Michael Chertoff -- with images so vivid that it has been called the "pornoscanner".
[Read more...]

2 more bodies ID'd in well linked to "Speed Freak Killers" (2 April 2012)
(CBS/AP) FRENCH CAMP, Calif. - Two more possible victims of the "Speed Freak Killers" were identified Friday, more than 25 years after they disappeared from their Stockton homes, authorities said.

In total, the remains of four missing young women from the Central Valley have been found this year as a result of death row inmate Wesley Shermantine's crudely drawn maps directing authorities to burial sites.

In the latest discovery, San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore said the remains of Kimberly Billy, who went missing in 1984 at the age of 19, and JoAnn Hobson, who disappeared in 1985 at 16, were among the hundreds of bone fragments found last month in an abandoned well near the farming town of Linden.

Authorities said they were working to identify the remains of a third body found in the well.

"At this point, of those 1,000 bone pieces that were recovered from the well, the forensic anthropologist has been able to reconstruct what they believe to be three individuals," Moore said.
[Read more...]

Charles Manson has not been a model prisoner (6 April 2012)
Twice in the last few years, guards at Corcoran State Prison found phones in the notorious killer's possession. Manson called people in California, New Jersey and Florida with an LG flip phone found under his prison bunk in March 2009, The Times reported in 2011. A second cellphone was found a year later. Thirty days were added to his sentence for the first offense, officials said.

Earlier, a homemade weapon was found in his possession.

A parole board will consider whether Manson should be released from prison on Wednesday, though the chances of that happening are pretty slim. The board has rejected parole for Manson 11 times before.

Manson, now 77, refused to participate in his last parole hearing, in 2007, describing himself as a "prisoner of the political system." He also declined to participate in any psychological evaluations that were part of that process.

A prison spokeswoman told the Associated Press on Thursday that Manson has informed local prison officials that he will not be at next week's hearing.
[Read more...]

French court may overturn Total oil spill ruling (6 April 2012)
France's top appeals court is to rule on May 24 on Total's appeal against that verdict and a source with access to the case documents said the public prosecutor will recommend a definitive annulment on the grounds the tanker did not sink in French waters.

The Italian-owned tanker was in waters classed as an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and outside French territory when it sunk, and it was flying a Maltese flag, conditions which limit the applicability of French laws.

Total has paid nearly 400 million euros in clean-up costs, and a 375,000 euro fine, but a nullification would clear it of responsibility and leave the blame with the tanker's Italian owners.

Corinne Lepage, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who sought the civil judgment, said it would be unjust for Total to be let off the hook for one of France's worst environmental disasters.

"The oil lobby is sadly very powerful in France and the world," she told BFM TV, adding that it was inherently wrong that a company making billions of euros in profits could use decrepit ships with impunity.
[Read more...]

A huge spill disaster and many smaller ones (5 April 2012)
Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant, went from $100,000 a year in revenue prior to the accident to bankruptcy just months later.

She's one of the many individuals trying to understand how a proposed settlement between BP and plaintiff representatives will affect payouts for economic damages arising from the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP's Macondo well.

The accident spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 people.

Business owners like Nguyen, along with other Gulf Coast businesses and individuals, are potential beneficiaries of a March 2 class action settlement between BP and a Plaintiffs' Steering Committee representing thousands of claimants who were damaged economically by the accident.
[Read more...]

Japanese 'ghost ship' sunk off Alaska (6 April 2012)
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter unleashed cannon fire on the abandoned 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru on Thursday, ending a journey that began when last year's tsunami dislodged it and set it adrift across the Pacific Ocean.

It sank into waters more than 300 metres deep in the Gulf of Alaska, more than 240 kilometres from land.

The crew pummeled the ghost ship with high explosive ammunition, and the Ryou-Un Maru soon burst into flames, took on water and began listing, officials said.

A huge column of smoke could be seen over the gulf as a Coast Guard C-130 cargo plane, sent to observe the sinking, dropped a buoy to monitor for any possible pollution from the sunken ship.
[Read more...]

Doctors Urge Their Colleagues To Quit Doing Worthless Tests (5 April 2012)
Nine national medical groups are launching a campaign called Choosing Wisely to get U.S. doctors to back off on 45 diagnostic tests, procedures and treatments that often may do patients no good.

Many involve imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs and X-rays. Stop doing them, the groups say, for most cases of back pain, or on patients who come into the emergency room with a headache or after a fainting spell, or just because somebody's about to undergo surgery.

A child with low belly pain and suspected appendicitis? Don't rush her to the CT scanner. Do an ultrasound first. That will give the answer 94 percent of the time, is cheaper and doesn't expose the child to radiation.

Don't put heartburn patients on high doses of acid-suppressing drugs when lower doses and shorter courses will do, they say. You might just be making their symptoms worse when they try to stop the medicine.

An apparently healthy middle-aged guy with few cardiac risk factors comes in for a yearly exam and wants to know how his ticker is. Don't give him a full cardiac workup, with a treadmill test and fancy imaging. This kind of patient accounts for almost half of unnecessary cardiac screening.
[Read more...]

Painkiller sales soar around US, fuel addiction (5 April 2012)
Sales of the nation's two most popular prescription painkillers have exploded in new parts of the country, an Associated Press analysis shows, worrying experts who say the push to relieve patients' suffering is spawning an addiction epidemic.

From New York's Staten Island to Santa Fe, N.M., Drug Enforcement Administration figures show dramatic rises between 2000 and 2010 in the distribution of oxycodone, the key ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan. Some places saw sales increase sixteenfold.

Meanwhile, the distribution of hydrocodone, the key ingredient in Vicodin, Norco and Lortab, is rising in Appalachia, the original epicenter of the painkiller epidemic, as well as in the Midwest.

The increases have coincided with a wave of overdose deaths, pharmacy robberies and other problems in New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Florida and other states. Opioid pain relievers, the category that includes oxycodone and hydrocodone, caused 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008 alone, and the death toll is rising, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Nationwide, pharmacies received and ultimately dispensed the equivalent of 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available. That's enough to give 40 5-mg Percocets and 24 5-mg Vicodins to every person in the United States. The DEA data records shipments from distributors to pharmacies, hospitals, practitioners and teaching institutions. The drugs are eventually dispensed and sold to patients, but the DEA does not keep track of how much individual patients receive.
[Read more...]

Happy Meal lawsuit dismissed by Calif. judge (5 April 2012)
Children in California will still be able to get toys with their Happy Meals.

A San Francisco judge has dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that sought to stop McDonald's Corp. from using toys to market its meals to children in the Golden State. The suit had been filed in late 2010 by Monet Parham, a California mother of two, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

The suit had claimed that the world's biggest hamburger chain was violating consumer protection laws by using toys to lure them to eat nutritionally unbalanced meal. The lawsuit did not seek damages.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement that it will discuss whether to appeal the case.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: The meals -- unhealthy fatty foods. The toys -- cheap plastic. When a few of my nieces and nephews were young, they'd BEG their grandparents for Happy Meals, just to get the toys. Grandparents have trouble turning kids down, and so I saw a lot of half-eaten burgers around their house. Several unrelated parents have told me that they also have problems with their children begging for Happy Meals, just to get the toys. Many consider the marketing strategy to be unethical, and would like to see the practice banned.

In meditative mindfulness, Rep. Tim Ryan sees a cure for many American ills (5 April 2012)
Rep. Tim Ryan (D) is a five-term incumbent from the heartland. His Ohio district includes Youngstown and Warren and part of Akron and smaller places. He's 38, Catholic, single. He was a star quarterback in high school. He lives a few houses down from his childhood home in Niles. He's won three of his five elections with about 75 percent of the vote.

So when he starts talking about his life-changing moment after the 2008 race, you're not expecting him to lean forward at the lunch table and tell you, with great sincerity, that this little story of American politics is about (a) a raisin and (b) nothing else.

"You hold this one raisin right up to your mouth, but you don't put it in, and after a moment your mouth starts to water," he says, describing an exercise during a five-day retreat into the meditative technique of mindfulness, developed from centuries of Buddhist practice. "The teaching point is that your body responds to things outside of it, that there's a mind-body connection. It links to how we take on situations and how this results in a great deal of stress."

For Ryan, the raisin was the beginning of a transformation. The retreat, conducted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, led Ryan on a search into how the practice of mindfulness -- sitting in silence, losing oneself in the present moment -- could be a tonic for what ails the body politic.
[Read more...]

Energy industry fears U.S. tax credit won't be renewed (5 April 2012)
WICHITA, Kan. -- BP Wind Energy certainly was getting its money's worth recently as a steady 30-mph wind spun the 148-foot-long turbine blades at the Flat Ridge 1 wind farm at a surprisingly fast clip.

The 100-megawatt wind farm north of Medicine Lodge, Kan., has spawned an under-construction extension, Flat Ridge 2, that is four times bigger. It's a key reason why Kansas is the nation's top destination for wind-farm construction this year; the state's power-generating capacity is nearly doubling to more than 2,600 megawatts.

But any prospect of a Flat Ridge 3 looks dim, as Congress appears unwilling to renew a federal wind-power tax credit that expires on Dec. 31.

An industry executive said that losing the subsidy would kill almost all planned construction because the power would be too expensive. One wind-energy manufacturer in Colorado plans large layoffs if the subsidy isn't renewed.

Wind farms built this year are unaffected and will continue to receive the tax break.
[Read more...]

Construction begins at largest Kansas wind farm (5 April 2012)
HARPER, Kan. -- Construction is under way in south-central Kansas of what's expected to be the state's largest wind farm.

State officials joined representatives of BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power on Wednesday to mark the start of work on the Flat Ridge 2 wind farm in Harper County.

Gov. Sam Brownback said in a news release the project is important for the nation's energy production and revitalizing rural Kansas.

The $800 million wind farm is located on a 66,000-acre site about 40 miles southwest of Wichita.
[Read more...]

China's wind power market to lose puff this year (5 April 2012)
China's wind market bubble will deflate as the industry enters the worst year in its history, said the Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa.

"The first half of 2012 is the worst time in the last four years, triggering a faster industry consolidation," said Jorge Calvet, chairman of the company.

Even though China consolidated its position as the world's wind power leader in both newly and cumulative installed capacities in 2011, with 18 gigawatts of wind turbines installed, that was down 6.9 percent year-on-year.

As a result of the slowdown, Gamesa received no orders in the first quarter of 2012.
[Read more...]

The dark side of wind power: Accidents, injuries, and fatalities raise serious safety concerns (5 April 2012)
April 4, 2012 (San Diego's East County) -- Today marks the "International Protest Day Against Wind Power" with 765 websites participating. A dark side of the wind industry that many media outlets have failed to report on is the thousands of documented cases of serious accidents. These include numerous documented cases of turbines falling over, blades flying off, injuries to workers and the public, and at least 99 reported fatality accidents.

Of the deaths, 67 were wind industry and direct supporters workers or small turbine operators and 32 were public fatalities.

How many tragedies have occurred worldwide is a well-kept secret within the wind industry. In the United Kingdom alone, however, Renewables UK, an industry trade association, has admitted to 1,500 wind turbine accidents/incidents in the UK alone during the past five years, the London Telegraph reported http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8948363/1500-accidents-and-incidents-on-UK-wind-farms.html.

Those included 300 injuries and four deaths--in just one small part of the world.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I'm sure the oil industry dwarfs those numbers, but it's an important issue to investigate.

Wind Farm in the Sky Created by Donut-Shaped Blimp (2 April 2012)
From a distance it looks like an escaped party balloon in the shape of a donut, but that new thing up in the skies over Limestone, Maine this winter was in fact the 35-foot prototype for a new helium blimp capable of harvesting wind energy at high altitudes, built by the company Altaeros. High-altitude winds are generally stronger and steadier than those near the surface, making them a more efficient feedstock for wind turbines than the low lying winds harvested by conventional wind farms.

How not to harvest wind energy at high altitudes
Building taller wind turbine towers is not a particularly cost effective way to grab high-altitude winds, due to additional expenses for site acquisition (larger towers generally require a larger footprint), manufacturing and transporting the components, constructing the tower, and performing routine inspections as well as maintenance and repair.

The benefits of blimp-lofted wind farms
Altaeros Energies, which calls its new blimp the Airborne Wind Turbine, is one of several companies working around the problem by sailing a turbine into the air (other attempts include hookups between wind turbines and kites).

Along with the benefits of gaining high altitudes without the need for a tower, the dock for the new blimp fits on a trailer for easy portability. The blimp's tether doubles as a power transmission line and in case of severe weather, the blimp could be grounded by remote control.
[Read more...]

The world's weirdest beaches (5 April 2012)
Loango National Park, Gabon
This sprawling national park extends all the way to the beach, enabling elephants, buffalos, wild pigs, gorillas and hippos to take a dip in the ocean. The nearby Loango Lodge is the best place to stay.

Cow Beach, Goa, India
Bovine and beach: two words that don't usually appear in the same sentence. But at Cow Beach in Goa, heifers hurdle towels and bulls blunder past parasols. Despite the sanitary issues this scenario would seem to incur, the beach remains hugely popular with travellers.

Punaluu Beach, Hawaii
Take the perfect white sand beach of clichéd brochure covers, imagine the complete opposite and you'll have some idea of what Punaluu looks like. It's rocky, cold-watered and entirely black, its basalt sand being the product of ancient volcanic lava cooled by the sea. All of which seems to appeal to endangered Hawksbill turtles, who are regular frequenters of this curious cove.

Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas
Three miles long, gentle and wonderfully wide, the sand at this otherwise textbook Bahamanian cove is pink due to microscopic coral insects called Foraminifera. When they die, they leave their pink shells behind to be crushed into the sand by waves.

Papakolea Beach, Hawaii
Sand also comes green, too. Two global beaches are green; one is on the remote Western Pacific island of Guam, and the other is this Hawaiian oddity, situated on Big Island. The reason for the strange shade is, in this case, olivine crystals; the result is a shore that looks like a grass verge.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: This is a photo gallery -- click the arrow buttons to the right to move from picture to picture and read the captions below.

The "Glass Beach" photo from California reminds me of Hamburg beach on Lake Erie as a child in the 1970s -- white, green, brown, and occasionally cobalt blue glass from the beer bottles that people had thrown into the lake, polished smooth like stones.

The world map of chocolate (made out of chocolate) (5 April 2012)
Chocolate is seriously big business. 2,650,342 tonnes of cocoa were shipped around the world in 2009/10, according to the latest data from the International Cocoa Organisation.

We wanted to visualise that trade - which is where the Guardian graphics team came in, lovingly creating the map above out of melted chocolate onto greaseproof paper using paintbrushes and letting it cool. Then it was photographed, with the original, er, filed rather deliciously.

Guardian graphic artist Jenny Ridley then created the graphic above. It shows interesting things, such as the Netherlands as a global focus of the cocoa trade. According to the ICCO, this is because:

"The cocoa industry in the Netherlands has traditionally been very active, with large cocoa processing plants from major international cocoa processors. A large share of the cocoa liquor, butter & powder produced from the raw beans is then exported."
[Read more...]

Scott Walker: My kids were 'targeted' on Facebook (5 April 2012)
Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says that his family has been "targeted" on Facebook and "yelled at" during trips to the grocery story over his efforts to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights.

Walker, who is facing a recall election, recently complained to Christian Broadcast Network's (CBN) David Brody about the vitriol in his state.

"Well, even more so my personal home where my kids, my parents still live," the governor explained. "I have thousands of people bussed in to my home in Wauwatosa where I've got two high school sons living, and I've got parents in their 70s. Last year, my 16 year old and my mother in her 70s were at a grocery store and got yelled at."

"I've had my kids targeted on Facebook; we've had all those sorts of things," he added.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: He's actually trying to DOWNPLAY how much people in the state despise him. The comments following the article are the best part, though. Usually sites "moderate" (a/k/a censor) reader comments, but apparently RawStory allowed people to post their real emotions. A few of my favorites:

"Somebody call this poor sap a waaaambulance..."

"Oh here comes the victim card, ahhhh poor, poor Scotty....Maybe if you weren't such a dick, look inthe mirror and see what your irresponsible acts have caused."

"F U mister turd merchant. Don't like the push back to F'ing bad. Have your family leave the state."

"Way to use your family as your human-sympathy shield Walker. How many families has your State government targeted for job losses and wage decreases and taken away their collective bargaining rights?"

Presidential primary leaves Wisconsin, but all eyes stay on state's governor recall (5 April 2012)
Wisconsin voters had their say in the presidential nomination process on Tuesday. OK, did that. Now it's on to much bigger stuff: a recall election for the governor.

Wisconsin officials announced on Friday that citizens had turned in enough signatures -- actually, hundreds of thousands more than necessary -- to mandate a recall election of Gov. Scott Walker. If he loses, he would be only the third governor to be recalled in U.S. history, and his fate will tell us much about the political winds of 2012.

Walker, a Republican, was elected in November 2010, buoyed by a national Tea Party wave. Republicans swept the state: conservative newcomer Ron Johnson knocked off liberal icon Russ Feingold for the U.S. Senate seat, and the GOP gained control of both chambers of the state legislature.

Upon taking office in January 2011, Walker proposed a bill that he said would save Wisconsin hundreds of millions of dollars over two years by requiring state and local government workers to contribute more to their health care plans and pensions, and would remove most collective bargaining rights for unions of public employees.

Protests against the bill started within days.
[Read more...]

Wisconsin Planned Parenthood Arson Suspect: "I Lit Up The Clinic" (5 April 2012)
Grady later clarified to reporters outside the courthouse that he didn't bomb the clinic. "There was no bomb it was gasoline." He also allegedly admitted to police, "I lit up the clinic."

The criminal complaint against Grady alleges he used a hammer to break a window in the clinic and poured gasoline from a plastic bottle to start the fire, which burned itself out and caused minor damage to an examination room.

Though it seems Grady's arson plan is as half-baked as his facts on Planned Parenthood, the incident has prompted the Obama administration to take the case seriously and led the FBI to reaffirm its position to protect public access to women's reproductive healthcare facilities.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: That's one scary-lookin' dude...

Ignoring Domestic Terrorism in Wisconsin (5 April 2012)
The lukewarm (or in Romney's case, nonexistent) statements against the clinic bombing are just the beginning of a predictable response from the right--that most anti-choicers condemn violence, that the perpetrator was a lone lunatic and that the unwavering war against women's reproductive health and freedom has nothing to do with the bombing.

But this kind of domestic terrorism is a foreseeable result of a conservative culture that uses violent rhetoric and lies about women's reproductive health to rile up the anti-choice public. Planned Parenthood has been accused (falsely) of supporting sex trafficking, trying to "hook" kids on sex so they'll need abortions later in life, and being mass murderers. Some anti-choice leaders have even accused abortion providers of eating fetuses. This is how incendiary and ridiculous the attacks against Planned Parenthood and other health care providers has gotten.

Anti-choice legislation is no different. Just last year, South Dakota and Nebraska considered bills that would have made it legal to kill abortion providers--yes, kill them--by making it "justifiable homicide" to kill someone in defense of a fetus.

Right now, Tennessee is considering passing a bill that would force abortion clinics to publish a report on their website that details every procedure -- including the name of the doctor. This comes on the heels of Operation Rescue publishing the names, addresses and pictures of abortion doctors on a website whose mission is providing "comprehensive, up-to-date information about the abortion cartel." The site claims that it is meant "for informational purposes only," and has a wink-wink-nudge-nudge disclaimer that says its work "is in no way meant to encourage or incite violence of any kind against abortion clinics, abortionists, or their staff."
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: The bomber in Wisconsin set off his explosion when the clinic was closed and nobody was there, and so his apparent intent was not to harm anyone. However, his actions could be considered "terrorism" if they were meant to scare women away from using the clinic.

FDA to GMO labeling campaign: What million signatures? (4 April 2012)
But it gets worse. Or better if you're Monsanto. The deadline for the FDA to respond to the Just Label It petition for genetically modified food labeling arrived last week. And, as required by law, the agency responded. Sort of. It supplied a letter to the group behind the petition that said, essentially, "Don't call us, we'll call you."

Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety -- one of the groups involved with the Just Label It campaign -- told the Chicago Tribune the letter stated that the agency had "not made a decision yet and when they did they would let us know." The FDA also suggested the group keep an eye out for the first signs of frost in hell. (Okay, I made that last part up.)

The Just Label It campaign had reason to be a bit optimistic. Past surveys have indicated around 90 percent of Americans want GMO labels on food, and Just Label It's own survey found similar results. The group also collected signatures from 1 million Americans -- an undeniable sign that the public broadly supports, even demands, labels.

But it looks like the FDA is refusing to see it that way. In a footnote to its mild response, the FDA observed that a mere 394 comments were submitted by Just Label It, rather than the million the organization claimed. That's no small disagreement. The difference boils down to way the FDA handles submissions. The main Just Label It petition was submitted as a single document, or docket, and the FDA is choosing to count it as one comment (the other 393 comments come from individuals who contacted the agency separately, i.e. not through the Just Label It site).
[Read more...]

Maddow relays censored memo on CIA 'war crimes' during Bush Administration (5 April 2012)
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night explained a legal memo that advised the Bush Administration that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were torture and therefore illegal.

Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman obtained the memo, written by State Department counselor Philip Zelikow, through a Freedom on Information Act request.

Bush told NBC's Matt Lauer in 2010 that he authorized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding because his "lawyer said it was legal, said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act." But Zelikow's memo warned the Bush Administration in 2006 that the interrogation techniques used on terror suspects by the CIA were "a felony war crime."

"As a top lawyer at the Bush State Department, Philip Zelikow circulated the memo within the Administration that said, essentially, that the Administration was kidding itself in trying to say that there was some way around the law," Maddow explained. "They were trying to give a legal green light to CIA interrogator to torture people, but that green light, he said, was a sham."

In 2009, Zelikow said that the Bush Administration attempted to collect and destroy all copies of the memo.
[Read more...]

Half a million Mac computers 'infected with malware' (5 April 2012)
More than half a million Apple computers have been infected with the Flashback Trojan, according to a Russian anti-virus firm.

An investigation by Dr Web suggests that about 600,000 Macs have installed the malware - potentially allowing them to be hijacked and used as a "botnet".

It says that more than half that number are based in the US.

Apple has released a security update, but users who have not installed the patch remain exposed.
[Read more...]

Charles Manson, now 77, gets new chance at parole (5 April 2012)
After 11 failed bids for freedom, notorious killer Charles Manson, now 77, is up for parole later this month.

The parole board rejected his bid in 2007, saying Manson [For the record, 9:42 a.m. April 5: An earlier version of this post incorrectly gave the killer's last name as Mason.] "continues to pose an unreasonable danger to others and may still bring harm to anyone he would come in contact with."

Manson refused to participate in that hearing, describing himself as a "prisoner of the political system." He also declined to participate in any psychological evaluations in 2007.

"He refused to cooperate, so the conclusion they drew from the reports is he still remains a danger to the public," Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Patrick Sequeira said at the time. "He was convicted of nine horrible murders. He has expressed no remorse or empathy for any of the victims."

A new photo released by state prison system shows Manson with long, gray hair and a beard. It was released at the request of CNN in advance of next Wednesday's parole hearing.
[Read more...]

B.C. fishermen challenge billionaire ranchers for lake access (5 April 2012)
A dispute is escalating between the American billionaire owners of a massive B.C. cattle ranch and a local fishing group.

The fishermen say the ranch is blocking their access to two public lakes located on the Douglas Ranch near Merritt, B.C.

The 200,000-hectare property -- reputed to be the largest working cattle ranch in Canada -- is owned by billionaire Stan Kroenke, who's also owner of the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, is the daughter of Wal-Mart department store founder Bud Walton.

Members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club claim ranch managers are illegally blocking access to Minnie and Stoney lakes, by dumping tree logs on a roadway that is publicly owned.

"This is definitely an attempt to keep us the heck out of here and off a public road," angler Rick McGowan told CBC News. "They're trying to lock us out of half a million acres of Crown land and all the lakes and streams in there."

The fishermen say the last time they went ice fishing, the ranch manager confronted them, calling them trespassers.
[Read more...]

SPCA 'bead dog' sculpture in New Orleans vandalized beyond repair (5 April 2012)
A "bead dog" sculpture that was placed in Lafayette Square as part of a fundraising project for the Louisiana SPCA was vandalized Monday night. The dog was placed at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and North Maestri Street in January and "was a big hit with locals and tourists," said Judge Sally Shushan, a board member of the Lafayette Square Conservancy.

The dog, wearing sunglasses and playing the saxophone, was created by artist Terry Becnel.

Shushan said it was so badly damaged that it cannot be salvaged. She said she did not know whether the vandalism was related to Monday night's NCAA men's championship basketball game a few blocks away in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, "but the timing is certainly suspicious."

About 45 "Mardi Gras bead dog sculptures" have been or will be placed throughout New Orleans and Metairie as part of the "Paws on Parade" public art project, due to run through June. Local artists designed and decorated the dog sculptures,
[Read more...]

S.F. falcon cam shows baby chicks preflight (5 April 2012)
Four peregrine falcon chicks hatched over the weekend on a 5-foot building ledge overlooking San Francisco's Financial District, and they will take flight for the first time in a few weeks, researchers said.

Bay Area falcon enthusiasts are thrilled at the new faces nesting on the 33rd floor of 77 Beale St., a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. building.

Falcon fans can keep track of the chicks' progress thanks to a webcam installed outside the nesting site in 2005. Streaming video of the chicks and their mother, Diamond Lil, can be seen at sfg.ly/I0AGgP.

The chicks will fledge, or take their first flight, in about 40 days, said Glenn Stewart, director of the Predatory Bird Research Group at UC Santa Cruz.

Diamond Lil and her mate, Dapper Dan, have nested in the spot since 2008, Stewart said. Researchers decided to put a nest box on the ledge after they saw falcons flying around the area in 1986. The first peregrine pair began nesting on the ledge in 2003. Falcon eggs incubate for about 33 days before hatching. These new chicks' eggs were laid about a month ago.
[Read more...]

Fuzzy dinosaur was 'beautiful feathered tyrant' (5 April 2012)
The most eye-catching part of the find might be the patchily preserved signs of fossilized feathers around different parts of the animals' bodies. The feathers varied in length. Some on the tail were about 6 inches long; others, hanging from the neck, measured about 8 inches.

In an article in the journal Nature, published online Wednesday, Chinese and Canadian paleontologists said the discovery provided the first "direct evidence for the presence of extensively feathered gigantic dinosaurs" and offered "new insights into early feather evolution."

Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, lead author of the paper, said it was "possible that feathers were much more widespread, at least among meat-eating dinosaurs, than most scientists would have guessed even a few years ago."

Xu said the feathers were simple filaments, more like the fuzzy down of a modern baby chick than the stiff plumes of an adult bird. Such insubstantial feathers, not to mention the animal's huge size, would have made flight impossible. The feathers' most important function was probably as insulation.

The species has been named Yutyrannus huali, which means "beautiful feathered tyrant" in a combination of Latin and Mandarin.
[Read more...]

Coke cuts ties with ALEC (5 April 2012)
Coca-Cola has cut its ties to a controversial Washington group that some allege supports voter suppression.

The Atlanta-based beverage giant said Thursday it "has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council" or ALEC.

"Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business," Diana Garza Ciarlante, a spokeswoman for Coke, said in a statement. "We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry."

Coke's arch rival Pepsi severed ties with the group in January, spokeswoman Heather Gleason said.

ALEC describes itself as a non-partisan organization advancing "the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty."

Progressive critics accuse the group of helping big business and conservative politicians write state legislative bills that, among other things, push voter suppression laws.
[Read more...]

Quebec court injunction halts Ottawa plans of destroying gun-registry records (5 April 2012)
Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier indicated Tuesday he would challenge C-19 in Superior Court just as soon as it receives royal assent and becomes law.

The province has asked Ottawa repeatedly to hand over records on the 1,560,359 long guns registered in Quebec so that it could use the information to create its own registry.

The Conservatives have refused.

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier argued Thursday the federal government is well within its jurisdiction to destroy the data and that it will defend its "constitutional competence" in court.

The registry was established in 1995, largely in response to the Dec. 6, 1989, Montreal Massacre at Ecole Polytechnique where gunman Marc Lepine murdered 14 women. As such, Quebec has been one of the most vocal opponents to the bill.
[Read more...]

Judge imposes stiff sentences on 5 New Orleans Police officers convicted in Danziger shootings (4 April 2012)
After a morning featuring powerful testimony from both the victims of the Danziger Bridge shootings and friends and relatives of the former NOPD officers who fired at them, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt this afternoon imposed stiff sentences on the five former cops who were convicted at trial last summer. The four defendants convicted of participating in the shootings themselves -- which claimed the lives of two civilians, and badly injured four others -- all face prison terms of 38 years or more, while lead investigator Arthur "Archie" Kaufman was sentenced to six years.

Robert Faulcon Jr., 48, received the stiffest sentence: 65 years in prison. Faulcon is the only officer tied to the second of the two fatal shootings on the bridge -- that of Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally challenged man. Madison was felled by a shotgun blast to the back fired by Faulcon on the western side of the bridge.

Former Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, 38, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Bowen sat in the front passenger seat as a Budget rental truck full of officers sped to the bridge on the morning of Sept. 4, 2005. Prosecutors said Bowen jumped out of the truck and sprayed an AK-47 at a concrete barrier where civilians were hiding. The jury also convicted him of stomping on Madison as he lay dying, though Engelhardt later threw out that conviction, citing a lack of physical evidence.

Former Sgt. Robert Gisevius Jr., 39, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Gisevius was one of several officers who rode to the bridge in the back of the Budget truck. He opened fire with an M-4 rifle after jumping out the back of the truck, and later, with Bowen and the investigators, helped orchestrate a years-long cover-up to hide what actually happened on the bridge.
[Read more...]

"Two Sources of Power": Van Jones on Need for Obama Re-election, Building Occupy-Like Mass Movements (4 April 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Van Jones for the hour. Rebuild the Dream is his book, the first former White House administration to write about his experience inside. But it is beyond that. It's talking about the movements he was a part of coming into the White House and where he is going now. Occupy, the Occupy movement, the significance of this, where you were on September 17th, Occupy Wall Street. People take over Zuccotti Park. Your thoughts about what you saw there and what it meant around the country?

VAN JONES: Well, first of all, I don't speak for Occupy. I speak up for Occupy, as people need to do. But I think I was like most people. When they first went down there, I said, you know, well, they'll probably be there for 20 minutes, and then they'll be arrested, and we'll have to go on and find other things to do. I wasn't a part of it. I wasn't part of planning it. I was aware of it, but I think, like most people, radically underestimated what they were going to be able to achieve.

However, they proved something, which I talk about in the book, which is that when you have--we always focus, often--liberals, lefties, progressives--on good ideas and the inside game. "What's happening in Congress today? What does the president saying about this? What's in the Ryan budget? Blah blah blah blah blah." It turns out that when people come from the heart--talking about the head space and the heart space--the heart space and connect with the outside game, that's when you have real game-changing moments. You know, the president is really, most of the time, just a guy on a tightrope, or hopefully someday a woman on a tightrope, just--you know, they can only lean so far to the left or the right before the laws of gravity punish them. What the Tea Party did, they came, and they moved the tightrope. While we were trying to tug on his sleeve and try to pull him to the left a little bit, they picked up the whole tightrope and moved it. Occupy moved it back. We were headed toward this awful austerity mania. The Tea Party had hijacked Congress in August of 2011, and even the President was talking about a grand bargain that was going to really put a lot of pain onto the American people's shoulders. And Occupy just obliterated that whole discussion. The supercommittee basically disappeared suddenly and couldn't even function, because Occupy brought up the issue of inequality, of the economy working for only the 1 percent, not the 100 percent, the 99 percent being left out. And that, I think, was a telling moment.

One of the reasons why we created Rebuild the Dream the summer before Occupy was a recognition that the economic issues in America were not being effectively addressed by the progressives. We're very good on issues around the environment, race, gender, immigration, sexuality. All those issues are very, very important key issues, but there is a hole in the donut on the economy. And the Tea Party was just driving through that hole in the donut every day. We thought it was important to raise an economic populist view from the left that would be willing to take on the financial elites, the economic elites, but do it from a progressive point of view and not from a "destroy the government" point of view. And we were beginning to ramp that up. We had about a hundred grasstops organizations, from MoveOn.org to the SEIU and others, Planned Parenthood, and then the grassroots just took off. And so, we were able to swing right behind, push as hard as we could.
[Read more...]

Mitt Romney Celebrates Primary Sweep; Embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Avoids GOP Contenders (4 April 2012) [DN]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Very quickly, John Nichols, before we conclude, could you say a little about Governor Scott Walker's recall election, which is scheduled for June 5th?

JOHN NICHOLS: Sure. I mean, the amazing thing about the Wisconsin primary fight was that while Romney and Santorum were trying to get attention, all of the attention in Wisconsin is on the recall battle. It was certified on last Friday. That means that we now know the dates, the schedule. There will be a May 8th Democratic primary. There are at least four prominent Democrats who have gotten into that race. And then there will be a June 5th general election between Governor Walker and the Democratic nominee. There will also be races for lieutenant governor and four State Senate seats. So this will be the most wide-ranging recall vote in the history of the United States, one that has the potential to remove a governor and to shift control of the state legislature. And it all is driven by, or began with, a fight over austerity and labor rights. So it really is a remarkable economic and political battle playing out with immense amounts of grassroots energy in Wisconsin.

AMY GOODMAN: And the court ruling on the law?

JOHN NICHOLS: The court ruling--yeah, there was a court ruling that came through late Friday, and it reinforced what many of the union folks have been saying for a long time. Elements of Governor Walker's anti-labor law, which was pushed through the legislature middle of last year, were found to be unconstitutional. And the determination was that the Governor and his supporters had unfairly and unconstitutionally taken away some basic union rights, including the right to collect dues and the right to have unions exist as permanent entities. They were going to be forced to have reconstitution every year. They had to have a new election. That was an incredibly burdensome challenge for unions. The court threw that out. It will still be battled in the courts, but it served to reemphasize that much of what the Governor did was not just politically controversial, it was also legally inappropriate.
[Read more...]

"Rebuild the Dream": Ex-Obama Adviser Van Jones on Life Inside White House, Right-Wing Smear Attack (4 April 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened? What happened in the White House?

VAN JONES: Well, the great--well, first of all, the great thing about Glenn Beck, he's sort of like a Darth Vader meets Mr. Rogers. You know, he makes up his own universe. It just happens to be that people he's talking about happen to have the names of real people like me or the President or George Soros. You know, all that stuff, you can--he says all these things. He says I'm a felon. He says all type of stuff. All that's taken care of in the book.

I think the more important thing to deal with is what was happening to our media system at that moment. What you saw going on was a right wing in sheer panic mode. They threw out the rule book. And you had provocateurs like Glenn Beck, Breitbart, Andrew Breitbart, now the late, stepping forward and basically taking a relatively advanced information system and firing into it lies, smears, viruses, for which we had no antibodies. So they bug-zapped me. They bug-zapped ACORN, and knock out the entire Democratic Party "get out the vote" operation with one video. They go after Shirley Sherrod. And for several months, the body politic does not know how to react to this virus. Finally, with Shirley Sherrod, a line gets drawn, and people begin to realize, "Wait a minute, it turns out you can have people on national television saying crazy stuff like that and getting away with it." And eventually, with the advertising boycott, he gets pushed off the air. But there was a moment when the White House itself was rocked back on its heels, because we had an information system that was very advanced, but a wisdom system that had not yet caught up to what tricksters like Beck and Breitbart could do. And so, that's the moment that we were in.

And so, you know, being one of the first people to kind of be a test case for this new, more desperate right-wing set of tactics, I did not know how to respond or how to deal with it. I talk about it in the book, the decision making that I went through to make the decision: I should actually resign, get myself out of the way. Obviously, I'm not a politician. I'm not somebody who wants to be in elective office. I was working in the Bay Area, and they asked me to come and help. I was a special adviser. I wasn't a cabinet member. I was a special adviser. So, my calculation was, listen, I've had a very colorful past. I distinguished myself as an activist, as an outstanding left-wing activist in the Bay Area. You've got to work hard to distinguish yourself in the Bay as a left-winger. And I did that, with great pride. I was on the left side of Pluto in my twenties. And so, I said, if we're going to have to litigate that, right on the verge of healthcare, I don't see how that's a win-win for me or for the President or anybody else, so I chose to step away.

But I think that the reality is that we are now in a situation where we've got to have a much smarter approach to our own messaging, our own media operation. Obviously, Democracy Now! is one of our shining star examples. We've got to keep building on that.
[Read more...]

Lawmakers tackle obstacles to new ethanol blend (4 April 2012)
WASHINGTON - The federal government has given filling stations the green light to sell gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, but that doesn't mean motorists can count on buying the blend anytime soon.

There are still big hurdles to clear before it catches on.

Now, lawmakers are tackling the biggest challenge: Soothing concerns by refiners and filling stations fretting about being held accountable in case the fuel blend known as E15 ends up in old cars or other equipment that can't handle it.

Politicians are trying to erase those fears with legislation that would limit the companies' liability for such fueling mistakes, while also making it easier for filling stations to dispense a variety of fuels using shared tanks and other equipment.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Huh? When I've found myself in parts of the country that have E-20 and even E-30, I've tried it. Those lower percentages of ethanol were meant to be used with regular cars. E-20 worked just fine in my regular gasoline-powered car, many times, but the car's performance wasn't as good with E-30.

Chile court rules in favour of Patagonia HidroAysen dam (4 April 2012)
The project, which involves flooding 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) of land, still needs government approval.

It has sparked a number of protests, some of them violent.

Court spokesman Jaime Rodriguez said the Supreme Court had rejected seven appeals filed against the HidroAysen project, a joint venture by Spanish-owned energy company Endesa and Chile's Colbun.

The objections ranged from the detrimental effect opponents said it would have on the Laguna San Rafael National Park to the dangers it could pose to the Huemul, an endangered Andean species of the deer family.
[Read more...]

Tsunami 'ghost ship' to be sunk off West Coast (5 April 2012)
The derelict Japanese fishing boat Rykoun Maru will be sent to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean north of Haida Gwaii, B.C., this morning by a U.S. Coast Guard gunnery crew.

The so-called ghost ship has been drifting towards North America after being torn from its moorings and washed out to sea by the giant Japanese tsunami in March 2011.

A U.S. Coast Guard ship arrived in the vicinity of the ship on Wednesday afternoon and reported its location as 315 kilometres southwest of Sitka, Alaska on Thursday morning.

With no lights, no power and no one on board, it poses a serious threat to other marine traffic, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.
[Read more...]

Encyclopedia Britannica's final print edition on verge of selling out (5 April 2012)
"It's sold much quicker than normal -- we haven't seen sales like this for a long time," said Hughes. "But people have grown up with it -- in the early days it was the mark of an educated household -- and they wanted to get their hands on a piece of history, we think. It's looking like we will sell out -- I imagine the remaining 800 will go very quickly."

Future editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica will be available only online, despite the popularity of the final set. "I don't think we would go back to print on it, although we haven't suspended print entirely -- just the 32-volume set," said Hughes (the publisher's print editions of reference books for students and young children continue). "In the distant future we might do a limited edition once a decade, but there are no plans for that at the moment," added Hughes.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has its roots in 18th-century Edinburgh, where printer Colin Macfarquhar, engraver Andrew Bell and scholar William Smellie decided to create an encyclopaedia which would be arranged alphabetically, "compiled upon a new plan in which the different Sciences and Arts are digested into distinct Treatises or Systems", with its chief purpose being "utility".

Starting out as a three-volume first edition first published in 1768 and completed in 1771, the Encyclopedia Britannica began to include contributions from the likes of Walter Scott, AC Swinburne, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Leon Trotsky and Harry Houdini. The current edition features 65,000 articles written by 4,000 contributors, including Ian Rankin, Desmond Tutu and Bill Clinton.
[Read more...]

Study: DNA sequencing can't predict most diseases (4 April 2012)
Sequencing the genomes of patients to reveal what ailments might mar their futures isn't the best predictor for the most common diseases, according to a study involving thousands of identical twins.

Researchers found that most people would get negative results from having their genome sequenced for all but one of 24 identified conditions that includes heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's. While the process can help spot many rare genetic disorders, it doesn't appear to be a good predictor of who will suffer from the majority of illnesses, the authors wrote.

The key to preventing illnesses remains early prevention strategies, wrote Bert Vogelstein, a study author and professor at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore. Eric Topol, director of Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla said the results show sequencing is still at a very early stage.

"Before we abandon the importance of the DNA sequence, let's get more data from large populations," Topol, who wasn't involved with the research, said in a telephone interview. "This is a moving target, this is a dynamic field."
[Read more...]

Whooping cough outbreaks higher among children already vaccinated (4 April 2012)
New research reported by Reuters reveals that whooping cough outbreaks are HIGHER among vaccinated children compared with unvaccinated children. This is based on a study led by Dr. David Witt, an infectious disease specialist at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, California.

As Reuters reports: (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/03/us-whoopingcough-idUSBRE832...)

In early 2010, a spike in cases appeared at Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael, and it was soon determined to be an outbreak of whooping cough -- the largest seen in California in more than 50 years. Witt had expected to see the illnesses center around unvaccinated kids, knowing they are more vulnerable to the disease. "We started dissecting the data. What was very surprising was the majority of cases were in fully vaccinated children. That's what started catching our attention."

This same article also admits that these vaccines have never been tested for long-term effectiveness...
[Read more...]

Monsanto's GMO Seeds Contributing to Farmer Suicides Every 30 Minutes (4 April 2012)
In what has been called the single largest wave of recorded suicides in human history, Indian farmers are now killing themselves in record numbers. It has been extensively reported, even in mainstream news, but nothing has been done about the issue. The cause? Monsanto's cost-inflated and ineffective seeds have been driving farmers to suicide, and is considered to be one of the largest -- if not the largest -- cause of the quarter of a million farmer suicides over the past 16 years.

According to the most recent figures (provided by the New York University School of Law), 17,638 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2009 -- about one death every 30 minutes. In 2008, the Daily Mail labeled the continual and disturbing suicide spree as 'The GM (genetically modified) Genocide'. Due to failing harvests and inflated prices that bankrupt the poor farmers, struggling Indian farmers began to kill themselves. Oftentimes, they would commit the act by drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto supplied them with -- a gruesome testament to the extent in which Monsanto has wrecked the lives of independent and traditional farmers.

To further add backing to the tragedy, the rate of Indian farmer suicides massively increased since the introduction of Monsanto's Bt cotton in 2002. It is no wonder that a large percentage of farmers who take their own lives are cotton farmers, the demographic that is thought to be among the most impacted. Dr. Mercola, an osteopathic doctor that has been educating the world about natural health for many years, recently saw the destruction of traditional Indian farmers first hand. Dr. Mercola found out about the notorious 'suicide belt' of India, where 4,238 farmer suicides took place in 2007 alone.

Many families are now ruined thanks to the mass suicides, and are left to economic ruin and must struggle to fight off starvation...
[Read more...]

Amazon.com warehouse workers fired if goals aren't met (4 April 2012)
But a federal lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania and interviews with a physician and warehouse workers in Washington and Kentucky suggest that the numbers Amazon is reporting may not tell the whole story.

In the lawsuit, settled in July, Amazon warehouse worker Paul Grady said a warehouse safety worker in Allentown, Pa., instructed him to tell emergency workers that his hip injury was not work-related, even though he says it was. Grady's injury was first reported in an investigation of Amazon's Pennsylvania warehouse operations last year by the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, which also found indoor temperatures soared so high that Amazon had ambulances parked outside to take workers to the hospital.

Three former workers at Amazon's warehouse in Campbellsville told The Seattle Times there was pressure to manage injuries so they would not have to be reported to OSHA, such as attributing workplace injuries to pre-existing conditions or treating wounds in a way that did not trigger federal reports.

Pam Wethington, a former Campbellsville employee, took several months off work in 2002 because of stress fractures in both feet. She says her doctor attributed the injury to walking miles on the concrete floors of the warehouse, but Amazon disputed that the fractures were work-related.

A former warehouse safety official said in-house medical staff were asked to treat wounds, when possible, with bandages rather than refer workers to a doctor for stitches that could trigger federal reports. And warehouse officials tried to advise doctors on how to treat injured workers.

"We had doctors who refused to work with us because they would have managers call and argue with them," he said.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Hmmm... Should I leave the ads for Amazon.com on my website, or use ads from a company that's probably just as bad, but we just don't know about it yet? Amazon does save people a lot of gasoline and time, as they don't need to drive from store to store looking for that hard-to-find item.

By the way, my own cookbook isn't sold through Amazon, and the publisher is a family-run business -- at least ordering my cookbook from VeggieCooking.com is "safe"...

Amazon.com recruits work campers to help with holiday rush (4 April 2012)
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. -- Each fall, Winnebagos, Airstreams and other recreational vehicles fill up the gravel lots across the highway from the Amazon.com distribution center in this small town.

The RVs are owned by "workampers," many of them retirees, drawn to Amazon's Campbellsville operation by the opportunity to work long hours filling customer orders through the peak holiday season.

Though a few said they needed the paycheck to meet their expenses, others said they show up as much for the camaraderie and discipline that comes from working in the warehouse.

"We could live on our retirement income, but I don't care to sit around and just go out with the ladies," said Judy Oeltjenbruns, who joined her husband, Larry, in a second season of warehouse work. "I would like to keep my mind and body active ... and hopefully stay a little bit younger."

The program started small here several years ago, and rapidly expanded as Amazon promoted it on websites catering to "workampers." Work campers also were recruited at Amazon distribution centers in Kansas and Nevada.

The company pay starts at about $10 an hour, plus campground fees. The presence of the work campers reflects the ongoing challenge of finding enough temporary workers to staff the peak holiday season, when Amazon's workforce in Campbellsville may more than double. Even when recruiting from a six-county area around the city, Amazon has had difficulty.
[Read more...]

Analysis: Romney graduates from front-runner to underdog (4 April 2012)
(Reuters) - With a sweep of three presidential primaries on Tuesday, Mitt Romney graduated from Republican front-runner to underdog in a November match-up against Democratic President Barack Obama.

Romney's wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C. gave him a prohibitive lead in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, analysts said, and effectively consigned chief rival Rick Santorum to also-ran status.

Now the former Massachusetts governor faces an uphill climb as he takes on a well-funded opponent who travels to campaign events by Air Force One.

The jousting already has begun.

Obama criticized Romney by name while blasting a Republican budget plan on Tuesday, a move the president had avoided until now. Romney made no mention of Santorum or any other Republican rivals in his victory speech in Wisconsin late Tuesday, focusing instead on Obama.
[Read more...]

VIDEO: Texas tornado flings truck trailers hundreds of feet into the air (4 April 2012)
CNN cameras caught the action yesterday as a huge tornado bore down on Dallas, Texas. In the clip below, anchor Brooke Baldwin and reporter Ed Lavandera watched as truck trailers were thrown up into the air and torn to pieces while power transformers exploded and the amount of rain and debris in the air turned everything a muddy gray.

Lavendera noted that the storm was so violent that it was creating what's called a "debris ball," an airborne mass of debris so large that it appears on weather radar.

Watch the clip from CNN below, which originally aired Tuesday afternoon, April 3...
[Read more...]

Brazil seeks $10.9 bn from Chevron over oil spill (4 April 2012)
RIO DE JANEIRO -- A Brazilian prosecutor is demanding that US oil giant Chevron and the oil drilling contractor Transocean pay $10.9 billion for a spill off southeastern Brazil last month, Chevron said Wednesday.

The penalty sought of 20 billion reals, or $10.9 billion, "is arbitrary, speculative and not based on facts," the US oil company said in a statement sent to AFP.

On March 4, an oil spill was detected at a depth of 1,300 meters (4,200 feet) three kilometers (two miles) from the site of a bigger spill that occurred last November in the Frade field operated by Chevron, some 370 kilometers (230 miles) northeast off Rio de Janeiro state.

"The oil spill from Frade has yet to be contained. The damage to the environment is immeasurable. Each new accident increases the damage and spotlights the mistakes of the accused," Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, the prosecutor from Campos, said.

The US oil giant had already been fined a total of $54 million after the first oil spill at the Frade field in November.
[Read more...]

Biggest roach in Texas city sold for scrap (3 April 2012)
For 42 years, a 2-ton sign featuring a neon-lighted cockroach blazed over the Southwest Freeway near Westpark, a garish but iconic advertisement for Holder's Pest Control.

The 8-foot-by-16-foot sign, nicknamed Bubba, was taken down in 2004 and put in storage because Holder's had moved its offices and a new city ordinance forbade such signs when companies relocate. Though their new landlords refused to allow the sign, officials of the pest-control company expressed optimism at the time that they could bring it back someday, somehow.

Time ran out for Bubba three months ago.

In January, the steel and porcelain sign was cut up and hauled off for recycling. Last week, the company announced it had rebranded with a new name and new corporate logo on its uniforms and trucks. The new branding is roach-free.
[Read more...]

Former Vice President Dick Cheney released from hospital after heart transplant (3 April 2012)
WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney was released from the hospital Tuesday, 10 days after getting a new heart, his office said.

Cheney, 71, received the organ from an unknown donor on March 24 at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va.

"As he leaves the hospital, the former vice president and his family want to again express their deep gratitude to the donor and the donor's family for this remarkable gift," aide Kara Ahern said in a statement.

Cheney waited nearly two years for the transplant. His lifelong history of heart disease includes five heart attacks, with the first one striking him at age 37 and the most recent one in 2010.
[Read more...]

Should Gulf oil spill dispersant, clean-up companies stay in the litigation? (3 April 2012)
The manufacturer of the chemical dispersant used to break-up the oil during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 and other companies involved in cleaning up the oil have asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to dismiss them from liability for any health claims because they were working on behalf of the U.S. government in responding to the spill and are entitled to immunity. If successful, the move could remove more than a dozen companies from potential liability if people get sick.

But at the same time, the question comes as BP and the committee of plaintiff attorneys steering the litigation have reached an agreement that includes a deal for BP to cover the health bills for clean-up workers and people who live very close to the shore or oiled marshes.

Barbier had entertained such requests last year, but determined that it wasn't the right time for the court to consider those questions. So over the past five months, the parties to the litigation over the BP oil spill have exchanged thousands of pages of documents to get ready to explore that question.

In late January, Nalco, the manufacturer of the dispersant, filed a renewed motion to dismiss the claims.
[Read more...]

Thousands of Dolphins Dying in Gulf Waters (3 April 2012)
Since many of the dead dolphins sink, decompose or are eaten by scavengers before washing up, NOAA biologists believe that 714 represents only a fraction of the actual death count. NOAA declared the die-off an "Unusual Mortality Event" as per the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

Although the timing of die-off largely coincides with BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its aftermath, the deaths actually started increasing about two months before the April 20, 2010 explosion which started the months long oil spill.

Before the spill, 112 dolphins had already been reported stranded on the shore.

In the summer of 2011, NOAA tested 32 live dolphins in Barataria Bay, an area heavily impacted by the oil spill. The dolphins were underweight, anemic, had low blood sugar and/or some symptoms of liver and lung disease. Nearly half had abnormally low levels of hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function.

The symptoms are consistent with those seen in animals exposed to oil.
[Read more...]

Planned Parenthood Bombing Suspect Arrested In Wisconsin (3 April 2012)
On Sunday night, a bomb was placed on the windowsill of a Planned Parenthood clinic -- one of the three out of 27 Planned Parenthood clinics in Wisconsin that offer abortion services. The bomb went off and sparked a small fire at the clinic, which damaged one of the exam rooms. No one was hurt.

"Following a report by a witness that a white, SUV type vehicle was seen leaving the Planned Parenthood area at the same time flames were also observed at the building, investigators were able to corroborate this information after viewing security video from the location," Grand Chute Police Sgt. Greg Mohr said in a press release.

The vehicle, which had "distinctive markings," was involved in a traffic accident near the clinic after the bomb was reported and had to be towed away. Using information collected from that traffic accident, the police were able to identify the driver, whose physical description "matched physical characteristics of a male subject observed on the security video provided by Planned Parenthood," the press release said.

Police located the suspect on Sunday night and have detained him at Outagamie County Jail. They did not release details about his age or appearance and said no charges have been filed.
[Read more...]

ICE Arrest 3k Immigrants in 6 Days, Largest Roundup Ever (2 April 2012)
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Monday that they had arrested more than 3,100 criminals and others living in the country illegally, the largest such effort in the agency's history, adding fuel to the national debate over the Obama administration's stepped-up deportation policies.

The six-day operation -- dubbed "Cross Check" -- nabbed 3,168 offenders across the nation, including in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. Of those, 1,477 taken into custody had felony convictions such as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, kidnapping, child abuse, assault and other offenses.

"This is part of our effort to prioritize our immigration enforcement efforts," said John Morton, the agency's director. "As a matter of public safety, we start first and foremost with criminal offenders."

The wide-ranging sweep, the third in two years, included 131 arrests in Virginia -- 20 in the city of Alexandria -- 53 in Maryland and 11 in the District of Columbia.

The Obama administration has faced criticism from across the political spectrum for tightening its controls on illegal immigration. The administration has deported about 1 million people in the past three years, some 400,000 yearly, a record-setting pace.
[Read more...]

Wisconsin Democrats: RNC memo on Gov. Walker recall a 'tea party fantasy' (2 April 2012)
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin said a memo released by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Monday was little more than a "tea party fantasy." The memo argued that the upcoming recall elections in Wisconsin will actually help Republican's in the state.

"My friend Reince is a good lawyer and an even better salesman for his Party, but his memo about Scott Walker is little more than a Tea Party fantasy," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said in a statement.

"Scott Walker's all out assault on middle class families, his worst-in-the-nation failure on job creation and the criminal corruption growing closer to his office by the day has badly damaged his and his fellow Republicans brand in a way no one could have imagined in November of 2010."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) and four Wisconsin Republican state senators will face recall elections June 5, after state Democrats and labor unions spearheaded a backlash against the first-term governor and other Republicans. Democrats are hoping the elections bring about a political realignment following their loses in the 2010 elections. But according to Priebus, the exact oppose will happen.
[Read more...]

'Trickle-down tyranny' term coined by the Health Ranger unexpectedly emerges as title of Michael Savage's newest book (3 April 2012)
(NaturalNews) In November, 2011, I coined the term "trickle-down tyranny" to describe the phenomenon of what I saw happening in America. That term became the headline of an article published on November 22, 2011, which was also covered on the Alex Jones Show (video link below). Paul Craig Roberts even commented on live radio on how good the article was, explaining that it captured the essence of what we were witnessing with federal tyranny tactics being adopted at the local level.

That article was called: "Trickle-down tyranny - why ordinary people in positions of local power are adopting tactics of tyrants." You can read it at:

The video of me discussing this "trickle-down tyranny" concept on the Alex Jones Show is viewable at:

I usually spend zero time tooting my own horn about these things (because I'm too busy writing new articles), but when I recently saw the announcement of Michael Savage's new book, I had to smile. The book name?

"Trickle Down Tyranny: Crushing Obama's Dream Of The Socialist States Of America," published April 3, 2012.
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PAM COMMENTARY: Savage's books -- are they really meant to be taken seriously? I've seen them in discount bins at book stores for a few bucks apiece, with nobody looking at them. When I pick them up and start reading, it's obvious why.

D.C. taxi official turned FBI informant recalls role in corruption probe (3 April 2012)
The taxi commissioner finished his errand in a fog and felt sick to his stomach. As he drove to his home in Southeast Washington, his mind roiled. Had he just been offered a bribe? What did Syume want for the money? He had met with Syume before and heard him and some of his associates talk about their visions for the industry and how they thought they could profit from a controversial switch from the zone fare system to taxi meters. Did that, Swain thought, have something to do with the promise of money?

Swain also wondered why Syume would offer him cash when the businessman knew he had spent 17 years as a D.C. police officer. He had even gained a modicum of fame on the force: In 1981, he drove John W. Hinckley to D.C. police headquarters moments after President Ronald Reagan was nearly killed by the would-be assassin, and he enlisted Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987 to persuade a kidnapper to turn over an 18-month-old girl.

Swain, a lifelong city resident who has connections in the D.C. political community and has weighed runs for the D.C. Council, was on his second tour on the taxi commission.

Within days of taking office in 2007 and having heard rumors about corruption in the cab industry, he told a group of taxi drivers: "I don't want your money; I don't want your liquor; and I don't want women. There is nothing you have that I want." For a brief moment, Swain wondered if Syume's ham-handed approach bore the hallmarks of an FBI sting.
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US obesity 'higher than thought' (2 April 2012)
Their study, published in the journal PLoS One, said up to 39% of people who were not currently classified as obese actually were.

The authors said "we may be much further behind than we thought" in tackling obesity.

BMI is a simple calculation which combines a person's height and weight to give a score which can be used to diagnose obesity. Somebody with a BMI of 30 or more is classed as obese.

The US Centers for Disease Control says at least one in three Americans is obese.
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Lawsuit accuses BP of robbing inventor who helped plug Gulf blowout (3 April 2012)
A lawsuit filed in Florida against two BP companies alleges that in the wake of the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant was so desperate to fix the problem and preserve its finances that it stole the inventions of a retired inventor whose designs ultimately played a crucial role in helping seal the well for good.

That design, which included a unique inflatable seal intended to fit a riser pipe to the gushing well, was allegedly so effective that BP revised its whole plan just one day later, opting instead for the retired engineer's solution because it enabled them to capture even more oil as they lowered a containment device onto the well.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles even commented to reporters at the time that their new plan to attach a riser pipe to the well helped secure the "Top Hat" container by preventing the formation of ice crystals, which had previously caused it to float.

To Joseph F. Kaminski, a retired engineer living in Florida, that innovation was worth approximately $2 million, which his lawsuit says he demanded shortly after presenting his designs. But instead of thanking him and paying for the invention, potentially helping save BP billions in fines and legal fees, Kaminski now alleges that the company outwardly rejected his plans but secretly used his designs anyway, giving him nothing in return.
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Private jets, 13 mansions and a $100,000 mobile home just for the dogs: Televangelists 'defrauded tens of million of dollars from Christian network' (23 March 2012) [BF]
Two former employees of the world's largest Christian television channel Trinity Broadcasting Network are accusing the non-profit of spending $50 million of its funding on extravagant personal expenses.

Among purchases, the network founded by Televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch, is accused of misappropriating its 'charitable assets' toward a $50 million jet, 13 mansions and a $100,000-mobile home for Mrs Crouch's dogs.

Their granddaughter, Brittany Koper, 26, recently filed her allegations in court after a brief appointment as the network's chief finance director in July.

She claims she was fired in September after discovering the 'illegal financial schemes' according to the lawsuit obtained by the Los Angeles Times, and consequently reporting them to Mr Crouch.
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Dozens of Occupiers evicted from building (2 April 2012)
Police on Monday afternoon began arresting Occupy activists who had taken over an empty San Francisco building the night before.

More than two dozen people had been removed from the building at 888 Turk St. by late afternoon, and it was unclear how many more remained inside. Police stormed the two-story building, which is owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, at about 1:45 p.m., after tearing down a barricade that protesters had built to block a main door.

The building has been used as a music education facility by the archdiocese-associated nearby school Sacred Heart Cathedral High School.

Occupy protester Beth Seligman said Monday morning that a few hundred people came into the building and stayed the night, but police said they believed about 50 to 70 people were inside Monday afternoon.
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Trayvon Martin: State attorney's fury tops news (2 April 2012)
Natalie Jackson, attorney for the Martin family, told WKMG that Wolfinger's response didn't change anything. "They still want the Department of Justice to investigate," Louis Bolden reported.

WKMG anchor Gaard Swanson was struck by Wolfinger's "very strong language." Bolden highlighted Wolfinger's view that "there is a lot of irresponsible rhetoric going around, and he said that should stop because it it only going to compromise the investigation."

WESH-Channel 2 started its 4 p.m. news with Trayvon coverage and Crump's accusations. The anchors read Wolfinger's response at 4:40. WESH, WKMG, WFTV-Channel 9 and WOFL-Channel 35 all put the Trayvon at the top or near the top of their 5 p.m. newscasts.

WFTV anchor Bob Opsahl introduced the story: "Tonight, stunning new claims are raising news questions in the death of Trayvon Martin."

Other highlights: The FBI is conducting a parallel investigation in the case; and state Sen. Gary Siplin wants members of the grand jury to come from outside Sanford and Seminole County. Siplin told WESH that the process needs to have the perception of fairness and honesty.

WESH played a paramedic call from the night of the shooting. The New York Daily News obtained the call in which a second ambulance is canceled. The reason? "Second patient is not a gunshot," a man says.
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7 dead, 3 injured, gunman caught in college shooting (2 April 2012)
Authorities are now confirming that seven people have been killed by a gunman at a private university in Oakland.

The gunman opened fire at Oikos University, a Christian school at 7850 Edgewater Road, at about 10:30 a.m. today, said Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson. Ten people were hit by gunfire in an attack that set off a manhunt that ended about an hour later with the suspected shooter's arrest.

Terrified students ran from the building in the chaotic moments afterward, as police searched the building for the shooter and rescued students, who took cover and hid inside. SWAT units smashed glass windows with sledgehammers to reach the huddling students and faculty.

Watson said authorities detained a suspect, but would not disclose if the man attended the school. Authorities captured the suspect, who had initially been described as an Asian male in 40s with a heavy build, more than a mile away in an Alameda shopping mall an hour after the shooting.
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How low can he go? With $10 trillion in tax cuts for the rich, Paul Ryan's latest budget proposal is his most cruel and cynical yet. (29 March 2012)
Now do you remember last summer's hard-fought debt-reduction agreement, the Budget Control Act of 2011? It's the one that kept the nation from going into default by extending the debt ceiling. The deal created the 12-member supercommittee charged with reducing the deficit, adding a pistol to the head that if the supercommittee failed to achieve required budget reductions over 10 years, automatic cuts would kick in in January of 2013 across all parts of government, including defense.

But you wouldn't know it by the Fiscal Year 2013 budget that was approved last week by the House Budget Committee, chaired by Janesville's Paul Ryan. The proposed budget includes extreme and ideological cuts to non-defense spending, especially programs that serve low-income Americans, while increasing defense spending well above limits agreed to in last summer's act. Further, the bill proposes more lopsided tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

Robert Greenstein, president of the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, says the Ryan budget "would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation's history)."

What does Ryan cut? The center's analysts say that 62 percent of his proposed cuts would come from programs serving low-income people. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the highest number of Americans in poverty -- more than 46 million -- in its history of documenting poverty, and Ryan cuts Medicaid by over $800 billion over 10 years, estimated to result in 14 million to 27 million poor people being uninsured or underinsured over that period.

At a time when one in seven households has difficulty providing enough food -- also the highest number yet recorded -- Ryan's budget would cut food stamps by an estimated $134 billion. Ignoring high unemployment, it would cut $166 billion from training and education programs, especially Pell Grants, which allow low-income students to attend college.

While Ryan's budget cuts low-income programs beyond the severe cuts imposed by last year's Budget Control Act, it actually goes the other way on defense, cutting $200 billion less over 10 years than the act requires.
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Federal Judge Slaps FBI for Continuing OKC Bombing Cover-Up (22 March 2012) [AJ]
During a March 20 hearing in Salt Lake City, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups described as "astounding" the FBI's claim that critical video of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing had simply gone "missing" -- an assertion that buttresses attorney Jesse Trentadue's belief that the Bureau has spared no effort to cover up critical facts about the atrocity.

Trentadue, whose brother Kenney was murdered by federal agents in Oklahoma shortly after the 1995 terrorist attack, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for surveillance video of Timothy McVeigh parking the truck bomb outside the Murrah Federal Building, and dashcam video of his arrest by a state trooper 90 minutes after the explosion. The FBI claims that these indispensable pieces of evidence regarding what was at the time the worst terrorist act in U.S. history have simply vanished in the tenebrous depths of an official warehouse, much like the Ark of the Covenant was at the end of the first Indiana Jones film. The attorney filed his first FOIA request in December 2006, and the Bureau has done its formidable best to ignore, mislead, misdirect, and otherwise obstruct efforts to produce the records, as it is required to by law.

"The FBI has submitted several declarations from its top records manager to show the agency has searched electronic databases and evidence warehouses without success," reports the Deseret News of Salt Lake City. "But Waddoups said the declarations lack credibility because they do not include firsthand knowledge or details about who, when, where or how the searches were conducted."

Attorney Kathryn Wyer, representing the criminal clique that wittily calls itself the Department of Justice, produced the novel complaint that compelling the FBI to comply with its legal duty to find the video evidence -- as opposed to conducting cursory database searches and then dismissing the matter -- would be tantamount to issuing a "search warrant." This objection, which emits the pungent odor of bad conscience and the rank aroma of desperation, is absurd: The purpose of a search warrant is to protect the privacy rights of individual citizens from government invasion, not the reverse.
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Senior citizens continue to bear burden of student loans (1 April 2012) [AJ]
The burden of paying for college is wreaking havoc on the finances of an unexpected demographic: senior citizens.

New research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that Americans 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans, providing a rare window into the dynamics of student debt. More than 10 percent of those loans are delinquent. As a result, consumer advocates say, it is not uncommon for Social Security checks to be garnished or for debt collectors to harass borrowers in their 80s over student loans that are decades old.

That even seniors remain saddled with student loans highlights what a growing chorus of lawmakers, economists and financial experts say has become a central conflict in the nation's higher education system: The long-touted benefits of a college degree are being diluted by rising tuition rates and the longevity of debt.

Some of these older Americans are still grappling with their first wave of student loans, while others took on new debt when they returned to school later in life in hopes of becoming more competitive in the labor force. Many have co-signed for loans with their children or grandchildren to help them afford ballooning tuition.
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Eurozone unemployment rate rises in February (2 April 2012)
Unemployment across countries that use the euro edged higher in February to 10.8%.

That's up from 10.7% in January and the highest level since the introduction of the single currency in 1999. Spain has the highest rate of 23.6%.

Meanwhile, a separate report confirmed that manufacturing activity in Europe shrank in February.

It is the eighth month in a row that the Purchasing Manager's Index has been below 50, which indicates contraction.
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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, House speaker, targeted in new recall petition (1 April 2012)
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Gov. Bobby Jindal and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley have become targets of recall efforts as a result of Jindal's proposals to revamp public education.

Calcasieu Parish teacher Angie Bonvillain is one of five teachers who started the recall effort. She described herself to The Advocate as "fed up." She said no one was listening to teachers, who she said know more about what's needed to improve public education than Jindal and others fast-tracking the changes through the Legislature.

"When they would not listen, after repeated e-mails and phone calls, we became frustrated, especially when we're the ones who voted them into the office they presently hold," Bonvillain said.

Jindal and legislative leaders are quickly moving proposals that would make it tougher for teachers to get job protection and would dedicate tax dollars to pay private school tuition.
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Group launches second effort to recall Michigan Gov. Snyder (2 April 2012)
The group, formerly called the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder, announced in September its first signature collection effort fell short.

The group needs to file more than 800,000 valid signatures and wants to collect more than 1 million so it can withstand expected challenges.

Snyder, a Republican, began a four-year term in January 2011.

The recall proponents cite cuts to education and the toughened emergency manager law Snyder backed, among other reasons.
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Toronto Public Health worried OxyContin addicts could overwhelm detox clinics (1 April 2012)
One month after OxyContin was replaced with a harder-to-abuse pill, Toronto Public Health warns treatment and detox programs are already stretched beyond capacity.

As street supplies of the prescription painkiller dry up, public health officials are concerned that clinics won't be able to cope with people seeking addiction treatment.

Staff also say the switch in drugs, coupled with the province delisting both forms of the narcotic from the Ontario drug benefit program, could cause an increase in overdose deaths as addicts are forced to turn to more harmful drugs, such as heroin.

And they worry people are getting hurt as they experiment with how to abuse the replacement drug, OxyNeo.

A report, to be tabled Monday at the Toronto Board of Health meeting, will urge Health Minister Deb Matthews to make the drug Suboxone -- a drug similar to methadone that is used to treat opioid addiction -- more easily available to patients who need it.
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Osama bin Laden's widows to be deported (2 April 2012)
Osama bin Laden's three widows and two of his daughters have been convicted of illegally living in Pakistan by one of the country's courts and jailed for 45 days.

They have been in detention since last May when US commandos killed bin Laden at the house in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad where he was living with his family.

Family lawyer Mohammed Amir Khalil said the sentence included time already served since they were formally arrested on March 3, so they will serve another two weeks in prison and then will be deported with their children.

The case treads on a number of sensitive issues for Pakistan. The army faced rare domestic criticism following the US raid that killed the al Qaida chief because they were powerless to stop it. Critics also said bin Laden's presence in the country for so long either pointed to the military's incompetence or complicity.
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Continuing Damage Found From BP Spill (2 April 2012)
The NOAA began the study in 2011 to chart the effects of the BP oil spill.

According to NOAA data, 675 dolphins have been stranded since February 2010 - two months before the oil spill.

The report calls the strandings "significantly higher than normal," and says that under normal circumstances roughly 74 dolphins strand a year in the Northern Gulf.

In Louisiana alone, the average annual number of dolphin strandings from 2002-2009 was just 20.

Yet "2011 had 159 strandings in Louisiana, almost 8 times the 2002-2009 historical average," according to the report.

"These increased strandings are part of an Unusual Mortality Event for the entire northern Gulf which includes all dolphin and whale strandings between the Panhandle of Florida and the Louisiana/Texas border," the NOAA report states. "Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana stranding rates have been higher than historic levels since the spill occurred and continue to be high in 2012."
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Burma election officials confirm Aung San Suu Kyi win (2 April 2012)
Burma election officials confirmed Monday that Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party won a landslide victory in historic byelections.

Suu Kyi claimed victory earlier Monday, saying she hoped it would mark the beginning of a new era for the long-repressed country. She spoke to thousands of cheering supporters who gathered outside her opposition party headquarters a day after her party declared she had won a parliamentary seat in the closely watched vote.

The state Election Commission confirmed that her National League for Democracy had swept to a victory that will put it at the head of a small opposition bloc in the military-dominated parliament.

State radio and television broadcast the commission's announcement that the NLD had won 40 of the 45 seats at stake. Results from five constituencies in remote areas were not yet reported.
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Swing States Poll: A shift by women puts Obama in lead (2 April 2012)
MILWAUKEE -- President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation's dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side.

In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points.

The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney's support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group.

Romney's main advantage is among men 50 and older, swamping Obama 56%-38%.

Republicans' traditional strength among men "won't be good enough if we're losing women by nine points or 10 points," says Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist and former political adviser to President George W. Bush. "The focus on contraception has not been a good one for us ... and Republicans have unfairly taken on water on this issue."
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Grand Chute police investigating explosion at Planned Parenthood office (2 April 2012)
GRAND CHUTE -- Police say a small, homemade explosive device caused damage Sunday to Planned Parenthood's Gillett Street clinic.

The Grand Chute Fire Department was called to the clinic at 3800 N. Gillett St. about 7:40 p.m. for a fire alarm.

Police say someone placed the device on an outside windowsill. It later exploded causing damage to the building and a small fire that burned out before the fire department arrived.

The extent of damage wasn't immediately released.
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How to search the 1940 census records online (2 April 2012)
Personal details of 132 million people will be disclosed on Monday as the U.S. government releases the 1940 census to the public for the first time after 72 years of privacy protection lapses.

Access to the records will be free and open to anyone on the Internet, but it will be several months before it becomes name searchable.

In the meantime, researchers will need an address to determine a census enumeration district -- a way to carve up the map into 147,000 geographic areas for surveying -- to identify where someone lived and then browse the records.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to find records in the census...
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Trayvon Martin death: analysis of 911 call casts doubts on Zimmerman story (1 April 2012)
Since the shooting on 26 February, information leaked from the police inquiry has purported to show that Zimmerman was acting in self-defence. He has yet to be charged, having claimed immunity under Florida's controversial "stand your ground law". But in the past few days details have emerged that cast doubt on this version of events.

The Sentinel asked Tom Owen, a forensic consultant, to analyse the 911 call that had been made by a woman in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community in Sanford where the shooting happened. Using voice identification technology, he said he had found a 48% match between the recording and a separate tape of Zimmerman's voice.

But given the clarity of the recording, Owen estimated that a 90% match should have been achieved.

"As a result of that, you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it's not Zimmerman," Owen told the paper, adding that he could not confirm the screams came from Martin because he had no tape of the teenager's voice with which to compare.
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For a state that likes to vote, elections as far as the eye can see (31 March 2012)
On the other hand, the Republican presidential race is in its end stage, most voters think they know who the nominee will be, and it's not the nominating fight that really animates Republicans in this state. It's the recall fight over Gov. Scott Walker.

"It's impossible to predict what kind of turnout we'll have because everybody is looking past the April election to June 5," says GOP strategist Mark Graul, referring to the recall general election date. "Even though Wisconsin is relevant to this (nominating) race for the first time in many, many, many years, there's not a huge army of people out there doing GOTV (Get Out the Vote) for any of these candidates. If you're a Republican activist, you're doing phone banks and you're knocking on doors. But it's for Scott Walker."

Graul likens it to athletes looking past a game against a second-division team to the championship match a week later.

Senate candidate and former governor Tommy Thompson has a slightly different view: he thinks GOP anger over the effort to recall Walker will stoke turnout in the presidential primary, because when "people are mad, they're going to go to the polls."

State election officials have predicted that up to 1.5 million people will vote next Tuesday -- 35% of the voting-age population.

That seems highly optimistic. That's the same turnout we had in the spring primary four years ago. But there were presidential contests in both parties that year, and most of those voters turned out on the Democratic side for a titanic battle -- Obama v. Clinton -- that electrified the party's base. Democrats have little reason to turn out this year.
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Recall drama: Romney, Santorum back Scott Walker at Wisconsin GOP dinner (1 April 2012)
PEWAUKEE, WI - The drama facing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took center stage at a GOP dinner here Saturday, where presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and other high profile Republicans -- including Walker himself -- addressed several hundred activists days before this state's April 3 primary.

Walker, who faces a recall election on June 5th, was the center of gravity among a roster of national Republican stars -- demonstrating the national import of a battle threatening to pull attention and resources away from the presidential race.

Calling Walker the "anti-Barack Obama," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus cast the recall as a prelude to the Presidential election, declaring, "Anything Scott Walker needs from the RNC, Scott Walker's going to get from the RNC."
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PAM COMMENTARY: I don't see how backing the least popular man in the state will help their chances.

US draws up plans for nuclear drones (2 April 2012)
American scientists have drawn up plans for a new generation of nuclear-powered drones capable of flying over remote regions of the world for months on end without refuelling.

The blueprints for the new drones, which have been developed by Sandia National Laboratories -- the US government's principal nuclear research and development agency -- and defence contractor Northrop Grumman, were designed to increase flying time "from days to months" while making more power available for operating equipment, according to a project summary published by Sandia.

"It's pretty terrifying prospect," said Chris Coles of Drone Wars UK, which campaigns against the increasing use of drones for both military and civilian purposes. "Drones are much less safe than other aircraft and tend to crash a lot. There is a major push by this industry to increase the use of drones and both the public and government are struggling to keep up with the implications."

The highly sensitive research into what is termed "ultra-persistence technologies" set out to solve three problems associated with drones: insufficient "hang time" over a potential target; lack of power for running sophisticated surveillance and weapons systems; and lack of communications capacity.
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Drones coming to a sky near you as interest surges (1 April 2012)
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Drones are the signature weapon of U.S. wars in the 21st century. Just as Humvees became a presence on U.S. highways in the 1990s after the first war with Iraq, interest in non-military uses of drones from policing to farming is rising.

Thousands of hobbyists are taking part in what has become a global do-it-yourself drone subculture.

The pastime is thriving as the Federal Aviation Administration seeks to make the skies friendlier to unmanned aircraft of all sizes.

The use of drones in the U.S. by law enforcement and other government agencies has privacy advocates on edge.

Meanwhile, hobbyists say the cost of flying their own drones has fallen sharply due to the popularity of smartphones, which use the same kinds of chips needed by drone autopilot systems.
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PAM COMMENTARY: "Of all sizes?" I'm already anticipating the accidents -- with both planes and buildings -- that the larger ones will cause if not regulated properly.

Apple's Chinese iPhone plants employ forced interns, claim campaigners (2 April 2012)
Apple's factories in China are employing tens of thousands of students, some of them on forced internships, according to campaigners lobbying for better labour conditions at Foxconn plants, which assemble iPhones. Some students could be as young as 16.

The Foxconn chairman, Terry Gou, head of China's largest private-sector employer -- with 1.2 million workers -- promised on Sunday to reduce hours and improve pay after an independent audit found multiple labour law violations at his factories.

But campaigners have accused Apple, Foxconn and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a charitable organisation that carried out the audit published on Friday, of ignoring the issue of forced internships, where students are told they will not graduate unless they spend months working on production lines during holidays.

In December, 1,500 students were sent by just one vocational college in Henan, China's most populous province, for internships at Foxconn's Zhengzhou plant, which Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, visited last week. The Yancheng Evening News, which exposed the practice, interviewed students who said they were going against their will and that their schools were acting as "labour agencies".
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Amazon.com trying to wring deep discounts from publishers (1 April 2012)
The bad news came to McFarland & Co. in an email from Amazon.com. The world's largest Internet retailer wanted better wholesale terms for the small publisher's books. Starting Jan. 1, 2012 -- then only 19 days away -- Amazon would buy the publisher's books at 45 percent off the cover price, roughly double its current price break.

For McFarland, an independent publisher of scholarly books situated in the mountains of North Carolina, Amazon's email presented a money-losing proposition.

"It was the apocalypse," said Karl-Heinz Roseman, director of sales and marketing at McFarland, which has a long track record of giving all its retail partners the same discount.

McFarland and Amazon have shared a mutually beneficial relationship for more than a decade. A well-regarded source of books on baseball and chess, McFarland helped Amazon fulfill its mission of offering "Earth's biggest selection." And Amazon -- in contrast to traditional bookstores -- listed all of McFarland's titles, no matter how arcane.

Last year, Amazon generated nearly 70 percent of McFarland's retail sales and 15 percent of its entire business.
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Little fish are most valuable when left in the sea, researchers say (1 April 2012)
The smallest fish in the sea are more than twice as valuable when they're eaten by bigger fish than when they're caught by humans, according to a report released Sunday by a scientific task force.

The 120-page analysis by the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force -- a group of 13 scientists specializing in everything from fish ecology to marine mammals and seabirds -- underscores the growing concern researchers have about the fate of forage fish, including anchovies, mehaden, herring and sardines that serve as food for bigger fish, sea birds and marine mammals.

Forage fish account for 37 percent of the world's commercial fish catch, with an annual value of $5.6 billion. (Only 10 percent of forage fish caught are eaten by humans; the remaining 90 percent are processed into fish meal and fish oil, which feed livestock and farmed fish.)

But the team of scientists, who worked for three years on their analysis, concluded that forage fish support $11.3 billion worth of commercial fish by serving as their prey. In the North Sea, for example, sand eels help sustain cod, and tuna in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean feed on sardines.
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Groups identify trees bent by American Indians (31 March 2012)
DALLAS (AP) -- The pecan tree, more than 300 years old, stands out from the others in a forested area of Dallas, a 25-foot segment of its trunk slightly bowed and running almost parallel to the ground before jutting high up into the sky.

It, like numerous others across the country known as Indian marker trees or trail trees, was bent in its youth by American Indians to indicate such things as a trail or a low-water creek crossing.

"If they could talk, the stories they could tell," said Steve Houser, an arborist and founding member of the Dallas Historic Tree Coalition. The trees, he said, "were like an early road map."

The coalition says their mission of protecting and maintaining the trees is becoming more urgent year by year.
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Aung San Suu Kyi supporters claim victory in Burma byelection (1 April 2012)
According to unofficial figures, Aung San Suu Kyi was leading the polls against her rival, former military doctor U Soe Min of the government-backed Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP), with 65% of the vote in 82 of her constituency's 129 polling stations.

Despite being the face of democracy in her country, this will be the first time that Daw (Auntie) Suu, as she is known in Burma, will hold public office.

She is expected to spend half her time in the capital, Naypyidaw, and the other half in her constituency, Kawhmu, a smattering of 100-odd villages that begin just 20 miles southwest of Rangoon.

The election has been touted as the make-or-break moment in Burma's history and a crucial test of the reforms initiated by the president, Thein Sein, that many hope will put a final end to years of international sanctions.
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How an evangelist helped thaw Burma (FLASHBACK) (26 December 2011)
Reuters has published an insightful chronology of the rapid thaw between the US and Burma, an army-controlled backwater described by American diplomats as an "outpost of tyranny" not too long ago.

The report is significant in its recasting of John Yettaw, a mentally disturbed Mormon zealot.

Yettaw is best remembered as the man who swam to pro-democracy icon Aung Sun Suu Kyi's house, offered her a Book of Mormon and promised to smuggle her away in a Burqa. He was freed after a visit from U.S. Senator Jim Webb.

Like most journalists at the time, I mostly presented the case as an embarrassment.

But the case appears to have been a spark, more crucial than most suspect, that lit up Burma's secretly held plans to engage America.
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PAM COMMENTARY: Beware the many pop-up ads! It'll take you a minute to close them all.

This article is an intro to other articles written about Burma by the Global Post.

How the U.S. coaxed Myanmar in from the cold (FLASHBACK) (22 December 2011)
Myanmar's generals were looking for a chance to improve ties with the United States. A disturbed American gave them one in May 2009, when he swam across Yangon's Inya Lake on "a mission from God" to rescue Aung San Suu Kyi.

John Yettaw, a 53-year-old Vietnam veteran from Missouri, had hoped to smuggle the democracy champion out of the country in a burkha. He was convicted along with Suu Kyi for violating the terms of her house arrest. Instead of sending him to Yangon's notorious Insein Prison, however, the junta let Yettaw fly out of the country with a U.S. senator.

It was a major step in Myanmar's warming toward the West - but not the first one.

Interviews with dozens of officials in Yangon, Washington and Southeast Asia, and an examination of diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks, show that the United States and Myanmar had started waltzing warily toward each other in the first year of Barack Obama's presidency.

Yettaw's bizarre night-time swim gave impetus to the dance. But it began with Myanmar's fears of rising Chinese influence in their country and was given crucial help by Indonesia's top diplomat. Washington's subsequent willingness to engage the junta, and the generals' surprise steps toward reform, culminated in Hillary Clinton's visit to Myanmar earlier this month, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in five decades.
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U.K. Internet activity 'to be monitored' under new laws (1 April 2012)
Under legislation expected in next month's Queen's Speech, internet companies will be instructed to install hardware enabling GCHQ -- the Government's electronic "listening" agency -- to examine "on demand" any phone call made, text message and email sent, and website accessed in "real time", The Sunday Times reported.

A previous attempt to introduce a similar law was abandoned by the former Labour government in 2006 in the face of fierce opposition.

However ministers believe it is essential that the police and security services have access to such communications data in order to tackle terrorism and protect the public.

Although GCHQ would not be able to access the content of such communications without a warrant, the legislation would enable it to trace people individuals or groups are in contact with, and how often and for how long they are in communication.
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PAM COMMENTARY: Just like our country -- they back down the first time, and then quietly pass the same thing later, no matter how outrageous.

Cannabis returns to Ireland's "top of trade" (1 April 2012)
Cannabis and herbal marijuana have re-emerged as the dominant product in the Irish drugs trade as an affordable 'high' replacing the cocaine-fuelled market of the economic 'boom' period, gardai say.

Detectives from the Garda National Drugs Unit and Customs officers were yesterday weighing and examining the largest haul of cannabis resin and herbal marijuana seized in Ireland since the break up of John Gilligan's cannabis empire in the late 1990s.

Some 630kg of cannabis resin and 180kg of herbal marijuana were seized in an operation on Friday.

Gardai provisionally valued the haul at worth €6.5m at street prices which some gardai said was "about right", or even a slight underestimation if the value was based on the common form of sale of a few grams of the drug for €15.
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Federal court strikes down parts of union law (31 March 2012)
A federal judge in Madison on Friday ruled that portions of Act 10 - the lightning-rod measure from Gov. Scott Walker that removed most collective bargaining for most public employees - are unconstitutional.

Critics of the law welcomed the decision as a major victory, but backers of the legislation seemed unconcerned since the ruling preserved a main limit on bargaining, and suggested broader restrictions would pass muster if applied to all state workers.

Seven major public employee unions had challenged the fact that Act 10 dramatically narrowed what could be bargained by general public employee unions, and required those unions to recertify every year by an absolute majority of membership while denying the same unions voluntary payroll deductions for dues.

The court sided with state officials in upholding limitations on what can be bargained, but found the two other provisions violated the union members' equal protection and First Amendment rights, considering that the same rules did not apply to unions for public safety workers such as police and firefighters.
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Wisconsin Recall Could Hurt Santorum (30 March 2012)
(NewsCore) - Tuesday's Wisconsin Republican presidential primary could be Rick Santorum's last chance to show that the race remains a real contest, as GOP leaders increasingly push for the party to rally behind his top rival, Mitt Romney.

But little of the activity in the state focuses on the presidential nominating fight.

Instead, a series of recall elections involving Republican Gov. Scott Walker and others, spurred by the governor's push to limit the collective-bargaining rights of state workers, has overshadowed the GOP primary.

"The recalls overwhelm everything at this point," said Charlie Sykes, the host of a popular conservative radio show in Milwaukee, who says his callers just started taking a closer look at the presidential field. "There has not been a lot of passion for the Republican presidential race."
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Funeral director: Trayvon Martin's body showed no signs of scuffle (31 March 2012)
The funeral director who handled the body of Trayvon Martin in preparation for his burial has said that the young man showed no signs of the physical struggle alleged by George Zimmerman, who claims he shot the teenager in self defense. In an interview with CBS News, Florida funeral director Richard Kurtz said that Martin showed none of the signs normally associated with a fight.

"In dressing the body," he said, "we could see no physical signs that there had been a scuffle or there had been a fight. You know, on the hands, I didn't see any knuckles bruised, and that is something we would have covered up if it had been there."

While Kurtz is careful to point out that he is not a medical examiner, Trayvon Martin's body, he said, "looked perfectly normal to me," except for the gunshot wound that ended his life.
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Forensic experts: Zimmerman was not crying for help on 911 tapes (31 March 2012)
Two forensic voice experts have told The Orlando Sentinel Saturday that neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was not the voice crying for help in the 911 calls after he shot Trayvon Martin.

Tom Owen, a forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and a court-qualified expert witness, used software called Easy Voice Biometrics to compare Zimmerman's voice to the 911 calls with cries in the background after the shooting on February 26th.

"I took all of the screams and put those together, and cut out everything else," Owen said. "As a result of that, you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it's not Zimmerman."

Another expert, Ed Primeau of Michigan, used audio enhancement and human analysis to also determined that it was the slain teenager's voice instead of his shooter.
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Humiliation After A Privacy Invasion Is Not An 'Actual Damage,' Rules Supreme Court (28 March 2012)
After a ruling from the Supreme Court today, should your TSA body scan somehow get out into the public and go viral, you're going to be out of luck in collecting damages unless it causes you to lose your job.

"After today, no matter how debilitating and substantial the resulting mental anguish, an individual harmed by a federal agency's intentional or willful [exposure of their personal information] will be left without a remedy unless he or she is able to prove [pocketbook] harm," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor today, dissenting from a Supreme Court ruling [pdf] that will make it harder for U.S. citizens to successfully sue government agencies that publicize embarrassing personal data.

The Supreme Court was unsympathetic to the plight of pilot Stanmore C. Cooper who sued the government after the Social Security Administration, from which he was receiving disability benefits, revealed to the Federal Aviation Administration, from which he had a pilot's license, that he had H.I.V. (He had been diagnosed in 1985.) Cooper had concealed his medical condition from the FAA for years because he feared discrimination based on his disease and that it would reveal his sexual orientation as a gay man. (Mike Sacks at the Huffington Post has a nice backgrounder on the case.) Once outed (for lying) on federal forms, he pled guilty, lost his pilot's license, and paid a $1,000 fine. But then he sued over violation of the Privacy Act of 1974, which prohibits the government from sharing citizens' personal records with other agencies or with the public without their consent.

In a successful suit over the Act, a plaintiff will collect no less than $1,000 if he can prove "actual damages" as a result of an exposure. A federal court had ruled that Cooper was entitled to damages from the FAA for the severe mental and emotional distress involved in the breach of his confidential medical information. But the private pilot's claims did not fly with the Supreme Court, which interpreted "actual damages" to be of the economic variety.
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Feds, states seek faster OK for lake wind farms (31 March 2012)
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Obama administration and five states announced an agreement Friday to speed up consideration of plans for offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes, which have been delayed by cost concerns and public opposition.

Wisconsin declined to join the deal but could join it later.

Under the deal, state and federal agencies will craft a blueprint for speeding regulatory review of proposed wind farms without sacrificing environmental and safety standards.

The Great Lakes have no offshore wind turbines, although a Cleveland partnership announced plans last year for a demonstration project that would place five to seven turbines in Lake Erie about 7 miles north of the city, generating 20 to 30 megawatts of electricity.

Offshore wind projects have been proposed elsewhere in the region, including Michigan and New York, stirring fierce debate.

Critics say they would ruin spectacular vistas, lower shoreline property values and harm birds and fish. New York Power Authority trustees last September abandoned a plan for private companies to place up to 200 turbines, each about 450 feet high, in lakes Erie and Ontario. The Canadian province of Ontario in February 2011 ordered a moratorium on wind energy development in its Great Lakes waters to allow more study of environmental issues.
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Scientific panel ducks question around uranium openness (31 March 2012)
RICHMOND, Va. -- A National Academy of Sciences panel had a lot to say about uranium mining Friday -- but not about a McDonnell administration study now under way.

The panel released a $1.4 million report in December saying Virginia faced "steep hurdles" in protecting people and the environment if the state were to allow uranium mining. The report also said modern mining methods could reduce risks.

The panel is now holding public briefings to explain the report to people and answer questions. One of those briefings drew about 40 people to the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Richmond on Friday night.

Glen Besa, director of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, asked the panel to comment on what Besa called "an expedited process" being used by a second study group, under Gov. Bob McDonnell.
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General Motors pulls funding from climate sceptic thinktank Heartland (30 March 2012)
General Motors, the world's largest carmaker, has confirmed that it is pulling funding from the Heartland Institute, an ultra-conservative thinktank known for its scepticism about climate change.

The decision by the GM Foundation to halt its support for Heartland after 20 years underlines the new image the carmaker is seeking to project as part of its social responsibility programme. In the past GM has itself been associated with efforts to discredit climate change science, but in recent years it has been investing heavily in green technologies and cars including the electric/petrol hybrid, the Chevy Volt.

In a statement, GM said that it now runs its business "as if climate change is real and believe we have a role to play in developing new cars, trucks and technologies that can make a difference".

The funding cut -- just $15,000 a year -- is small beer for the institute, which has a multi-million dollar turnover, largely from a single anonymous donor. But it is a blow to the standing of the thinktank and to the leading role it plays as an advocate of climate change scepticism.

The thinktank has long been an incubator of ideas casting doubt that the world is warming as a result of man-made pollution. In 2009 it held a conference in New York under the title "Global warming: was it ever really a crisis?"
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Conoco pays Chinese fishermen for oil spill-report (1 April 2012)
(Reuters) - U.S. energy giant ConocoPhillips and CNOOC Ltd have agreed to jointly pay 305 million yuan ($48 million) in compensation to Chinese fishermen and restore the maritime environment in the Bohai Bay area after a major oil spill there last year, state media reported on Sunday.

ConocoPhillips and China's top offshore oil and gas producer CNOOC reached a preliminary agreement to pay the compensation through the Qinhuangdao city government in the northern province of Hebei, state-owned China National Radio said.

The oil spill at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield, China's biggest offshore oil field, which started in June 2011, has resulted in the release of about 700 barrels of oil, ConocoPhillips has said. The spill polluted more than 840 square kilometres of water, according to the State Oceanic Administration.

ConocoPhillips owns a 49 percent stake in the oilfield and acts as the operator, while the state-owned CNOOC has a 51 percent stake.
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Website allows a whole new look at the Gulf oil spill (Turner) (1 April 2012)
But back to our oil spill contracts.

The pace of spending has fallen -- from a little over $170 million in 2010 to just under $158 million in 2011 to just more than $51 million so far this year.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the lion's share of the money -- $139.5 million, or almost 37 percent -- was spent in Louisiana. More startling, perhaps, is that more money was spent in Colorado ($28.2 million, or 7.42 percent) than in either Mississippi ($4 million, or 1.07 percent) or Alabama ($10.8 million, or 2.84 percent).

For what it's worth, Boulder-based Stratus Consulting Inc. was the big winner there. Among its several contracts was one for just over $10 million for "ongoing assessment on human use impacts from Deepwater Horizon oil spill." The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used Stratus for that work, plus such services as "emergency support" during the spill and an "economic valuation" project.

It appears that litigation, or at least preparing for it, is a major Deepwater Horizon expense.

The firm that's gotten the largest number of contracts, Arlington, Va.-based CACI International Inc., offers "automated litigation support services" to the Department of Justice. It scored 40 contracts worth in excess of $38 million.

Louisiana State University has been the recipient of 21 contracts worth $1,418,273, with oil sampling and waterfowl studies among its jobs.
[Read more...]

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


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