Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 22nd to 28th of April 2012
To effect change, should the 99% should go vegan? (27 April 2012)
"Fact: Diet-related disease is the biggest killer in the United States, right now, here today," said Jamie Oliver in his 2010 "TedTalks" presentation. "Your child will live a life 10 years younger than you because of the landscape of food that we've built around them."
Is it child abuse? Oliver argues that it is, and that in addition to nourishing our children, we should also educate them on how and what to eat. His critics accuse him of overstepping and say he should pack up and go back to Britain. Who is he to tell us what's right for our children? "All I can say is: I care. I'm a father, and I love this country, and I believe truly, actually, that if change can be made in this country, beautiful things will happen around the world. If America does it, I believe other people will follow."
Author Ruby Roth shares Oliver's spirit of activism, and she too has dealt with her fair share of backlash. Her new children's book, "Vegan Is Love," advocates for more than just a plant-based diet; it's a call to action to inspire young people into a vegan lifestyle at an early age. "In my near decade of research, it is absolutely clear to me that some of America's most insidious health problems -- from pharmaceutical addiction to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, ADHD and obesity -- are caused by or exacerbated by eating animals and their products," she says.
Beyond health, Roth wants to educate children about animal cruelty, from the slaughterhouse to the circus, and the environmental consequences.
Policeman looks back on LA riots with shame (28 April 2012)
"It was like (going) through a war zone."
At the command post, Neiman found paralysis had set in among the department's leaders.
Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates was out of the city, and his assistants were afraid to take decisions on their own.
Hundreds of police officers were massed at the command post awaiting orders, but as the city burned no instructions were forthcoming.
"I assume they were afraid, but for some reason they would not allow the officers to go out into the street and stop the looting, the violence and the buildings on fire.
"In my opinion, I think they were afraid that we were going to make it worse," he said.
Trayvon Martin shooter's bail under fire after website makes $200K (28 April 2012)
About $5,000 of the donor money was used to post Zimmerman's bond, O'Mara said.
At the bond hearing, Zimmerman had access to the funds and heard his wife say they had no savings.
O'Mara said he believed it was an oversight -- not intentional deception -- that his client didn't disclose the money during the bond hearing.
O'Mara said he found out about the money four days after the bond hearing when he asked his client to shut down his website. Zimmerman then asked him then what to do with all the PayPal donations.
O'Mara said there was about $150,000 left when he took control. The family also used the money on living expenses and on setting up somewhere secure for him to stay.
Tropical diseases surfacing more in Texas (28 April 2012)
Houston scientists have launched an attack against little-known tropical diseases, scourges of the developing world, increasingly showing up in poor areas of Texas.
The diseases, spread by all manner of blood-sucking insects, cyst-forming tapeworms and tissue-invading bacteria and viruses, typically don't kill, but they cause chronic disabilities that trap sufferers in lasting poverty.
"They may have been here all along, but now that we're looking we're seeing these diseases more and more," says Dr. Peter Hotez, a Baylor College of Medicine infectious disease professor leading the effort. "They have a huge impact - heart disease, epilepsy, mental retardation -- even though they fly beneath most everyone's radar."
Hotez calls it "a national disgrace that these diseases are not higher on the public health agenda." He says the reason is that they afflict "forgotten people, not wealthy people living in the suburbs."
The discovery of more cases in the United States, however, is starting to get attention. In Texas, those include an outbreak of dengue fever in Brownsville; common occurrences in Houston of a tapeworm that invades the brain; and a parasitic disease, transmitted by "the kissing bug" and affecting the heart and digestive system, that scientists now estimate afflicts more than a quarter of a million people living in Texas.
Presidential race ad war begins in earnest (28 April 2012)
The presidential campaign ignited Friday after a super PAC linked to Republican strategist Karl Rove launched the season's first major brushback pitch - a 30-second ad mocking President Obama as "a celebrity president," a preview of one of the GOP's top attack lines.
Analysts said comparing the pop-culture-conversant Obama and the more publicly stiff Mitt Romney, the presumed GOP nominee, may not produce the result Rove intended. But the Obama campaign's response inspired a new question: How should it handle the killing of Osama bin Laden?
The first major ad salvo of the campaign began Thursday with a new 30-second online ad produced by Rove's American Crossroads group, which is not affiliated with Romney's campaign. It shows a montage of Obama's top pop-culture turns, singing part of an Al Green song at a fundraiser and hamming it up this week on Jimmy Fallon's NBC late night show.
Then it asks: "After four years of a celebrity president, is your life any better?" After that, in a direct attack on the youth-vote constituency that Obama dominates, statistics on the high unemployment rate and student loan debt among young Americans flash on-screen.
Google releases FCC report on Street View probe (28 April 2012)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Google has released the full report of the Federal Communications Commission's investigation into the data it collected and stored from millions of unknowing households across the nation while operating specially equipped cars for its Street View service.
The search giant released the report, which had had heavily redacted passages, after wrangling with the FCC over which details could be publicly revealed. The report now blacks out only the names of individuals. It reveals new details and raises new questions about how Google captured personal information over a two-year period. Google has said that it was mapping wireless networks but that collecting personal data was "inadvertent."
The report points the finger at a rogue engineer who, it says, intentionally wrote software code that captured payload data information -- communication over the Internet including emails, passwords and search history -- from unprotected wireless networks, going beyond what Google says it intended. The engineer invoked his 5th Amendment right and declined to speak to the FCC.
But the FCC raises the question of whether engineers and managers on the Street View project did know -- or should have known -- that the data was being collected.
Google guru says whole world will be on web by end of this decade (28 April 2012)
ALMOST everybody on the planet will be connected to the web by the end of this decade, according to the so-called "father of the internet".
But Vincent Cerf, Google's vice-president, also warned that more must be done to eradicate problems such as child pornography and credit card fraud.
Speaking at the company's European headquarters in Dublin, Mr Cerf (68) gave the inside track on future trends in new technologies.
"There is an annual 15pc growth of the internet in terms of people and machines. That's enough to make everybody on the planet connected by the end of the decade," he said.
Quebec student protesters reject tuition concessions (28 April 2012)
Thousands of Quebec students took the streets of Montreal once again on Friday night to voice their rejection of Premier Jean Charest's offer to stretch the planned increase in tuition fees over a longer period of time.
Police declared the march illegal after some protesters threw rocks and bottles at them. There were also some incidents of vandalism, including damaged cars and smashed windows.
Police arrested 35 people, but say most of the protesters were peaceful.
Student Nicolas Dagenais said violence was not encouraged, or welcomed.
Hawaii utility's wind power will provide 16% of its total (28 April 2012)
ULUPALAKUA - When the Auwahi Wind project comes on line late this year, it will be "a building block for the future," Maui Electric Co. President Ed Reinhardt said Friday during the wind farm's Hawaiian blessing and groundbreaking ceremonies.
Because wind-generated power isn't tied to volatile fuel prices, Maui's second wind farm will help move MECO toward the goal of producing energy at a stable price, he said. The project won't immediately bring lower electric bills for consumers.
"It's still a small component of our greater use of oil," he said of wind power alternatives.
Reinhardt said that when Auwahi begins generating power for MECO, the utility will see around 16 percent of its power come from wind energy.
Padilla: Shermantine's Map Still Revealing Clues in Search for Bodies (28 April 2012)
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY-- In an enormous, incredibly detailed map, Wesley Shermantine says there is another well, now covered by a driveway, sitting just feet from the original flood road dig site where more victims of himself and Loren Herzog are buried.
Grass is now growing over the original speed freak killers dig site on Flood Road in San Joaquin County.
The excavated well yielded three bodies in this decades-old case: Kimberly Billy and Joann Hobson's remains were identified. A third body is still considered a Jane Doe but according to the map, the property in the rolling grass outside Linden isn't done revealing victims.
Shermantine's map includes misspelled road names, tips for Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla and notes about where he and Loren Herzog spent years killing people and dumping their bodies.
'Heart shrinking' trial to combat heart failure to begin (27 April 2012)
As the heart loses its ability to pump, it fills with too much blood and becomes stretched over time. The more the heart enlarges, the worse the symptoms.
Surgeons at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and The Royal Liverpool University Hospital hope to reverse the damage.
They will fit a device - similar to a pacemaker - to the vagus nerve which runs to the heart. Surgeons said the electrical stimulation should "protect the heart" from the effects of the hormone adrenaline.
Adrenaline makes the heart pump harder and faster; this is one of the body's responses to heart failure - but doctors say it becomes toxic over time and damages the heart further.
The idea is that by shielding the heart, it will stop enlarging and begin to shrink.
Cispa approved by House but critics urge Senate to block 'horrible' bill (27 April 2012)
Free speech advocates are calling for the Senate to block controversial cybersecurity legislation they claim will give the US authorities unprecedented access to online communications.
The House of Representatives on Thursday ignored the threat of a White House veto to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa). The bill aims to make it easier for companies to share information collected on the internet with the federal government in order to help prevent electronic attacks from cybercriminals, foreign governments and terrorists.
Sponsors of the bill have made several amendments to Cispa in the past week, but critics say the bill still threatens to overrule existing privacy protections for citizens, and hands the National Security Agency too much power to access and use people's private information.
The Center for Democracy and Technology said it was "disappointed that Cispa passed the House in such flawed form and under such a flawed process."
Secret Service imposes new rules on agents for foreign trips (27 April 2012)
The U.S. Secret Service imposed new rules Friday aimed at tightening oversight of its employees on international trips in the wake of the Colombia prostitution scandal, banning staff from bringing foreigners into their hotel room, drinking alcohol within 10 hours of duty and visiting "non-reputable establishments."
Senior management distributed the list of ten rules in a memo to employees, codifying what traditionally had been a largely unwritten code of conduct in the agency. The changes were deemed necessary after 12 agents and officers were implicated in a scandal that involved theavy drinking and payments to prostitutes in advance of President Obama's visit to Cartagena, Colombia, two weeks ago.
Next week, the Secret Service will hold an ethics training session for more than 100 employees, and several more mandatory courses will be scheduled through the year, agency officials told members of Congress. The agency said it hoped to put all of its 3,500 agents and 1,400 uniformed officers through the training seminars.
In the memo, the agency said employees "are expected to always conduct yourselves in a manner that reflects credit on you, the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and -- most importantly -- the United States Government and the citizens that we serve."
Mitt Romney warns students about nation's mounting debt (27 April 2012)
WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- Responding to President Obama's assault on Republicans this week over the cost of student loans, Mitt Romney sidestepped the issue on Friday as he urged young voters to think instead about the burden they will face in repaying the national debt.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee met with students at Otterbein University here in this suburb of Columbus as a counterpoint to Obama's visits this week to colleges in three other battleground states -- Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina.
Afterward, Romney told a campus audience that it was time "to get serious about not passing on massive debts to you guys -- to your generation."
"This is not something that you spend a lot of time thinking about," Romney said, with nearly four dozen students on stage as his backdrop. "You look at your student loans. But you should also have, in addition to your student loans, an understanding of the federal loans you've got, that you're going to inherit."
PAM COMMENTARY: Also known as sticking college kids with the bill for oil wars that nobody wanted...
Group files lawsuit against city to prevent Occupy Madison eviction (27 April 2012)
Three homeless residents of the Occupy Madison encampment, along with a group that organized the camp, filed a lawsuit against city leaders Friday to extend their stay at a city-owned vacant parking lot beyond a deadline that is approaching on Monday.
The group is asking a Dane County judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would bar the city from taking any action to remove Occupy residents from the encampment that has been at 802 E. Washington Ave. since October.
Defendants in the lawsuit include Mayor Paul Soglin, Police Chief Noble Wray, Fire Chief Steven Davis and Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County.
Earlier this month the Madison City Council voted not to extend a deadline for the group to abandon the site. After Monday, Occupy Madison will no longer qualify for a state temporary camping permit, and city attorney Michael May said it would be difficult to get an extension. May said Friday that he was not aware of the suit and declined to comment.
State law does not allow temporary dwellings to be occupied for more than four continuous months within a 12-month period.
Reef shark populations in steep decline: Study (27 April 2012)
Reef sharks have dropped sharply near populated islands in the Pacific Ocean, scientists said Friday.
The survey by the University of Hawaii showed that the numbers were drastically lower near populated islands in Hawaii, the Mariana Archipelago and American Samoa, compared to more pristine, remote areas in the ocean.
"We estimate that reef shark numbers have dropped substantially around populated islands, generally by more than 90 percent compared to those at the most untouched reefs," said Marc Nadon, lead author of the study in the journal Conservation Biology.
"In short, people and sharks don't mix," added Nadon, a scientist at the university's Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research.
Conoco, China National to Pay $360 Million for Oil Spill (27 April 2012)
China National Offshore Oil Corp. (883) and ConocoPhillips agreed to pay 2.28 billion yuan ($360 million) to resolve claims and pay for environmental programs in China's Bohai Bay after spilling 3,000 barrels of oil and drilling mud in the area last year.
Under an agreement with the State Oceanic Administration, the two companies will pay 1.683 billion yuan for "possible impacts" on the bay's marine environment, Houston-based ConocoPhillips said in an e-mailed statement today. Conoco, the operator of the well in the Penglai oilfield, will pay 1.09 billion yuan of that as well as 113 million yuan to "support environmental initiatives."
China National Offshore, the nation's largest offshore oil producer, will pay 480 million yuan for programs designed to protect the Bohai Bay, according to a statement from the State Oceanic Administration. State-owned China National Offshore, based in Beijing, owns 51 percent of the well, according to ConocoPhillips. (COP)
The Penglai field, located off the coast of northeast China, produced an average of 60,000 barrels a day in 2011, according to ConocoPhillips.
Radioactive waste dump opens in Texas, environmentalists worried (27 April 2012)
(Reuters) - A 1,300-acre dump to bury low-level radioactive waste has opened in a remote corner of west Texas, the fourth U.S. site to allow such waste, despite concerns about water seepage at the site, which sits above the huge and vital Ogallala aquifer.
In a letter to Waste Control Specialists LLC of Dallas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted approval to the company's dump near Andrews, Texas, about 45 miles northwest of Midland and close to the New Mexico border.
"Initially we will be disposing of Texas waste - medical waste - it is coming in from destinations around the state," Chuck McDonald of dump owner Waste Control Specialists said in an interview.
McDonald said waste from as many as 38 other states will soon be trucked in to the site.
CISPA Critics Warn Cybersecurity Bill Will Increase Domestic Surveillance and Violate Privacy Rights (26 April 2012) [DN]
MICHELLE RICHARDSON: CISPA, the bill that will come up later today and probably be voted on tomorrow, will create an exception to all existing privacy laws so that companies can share very sensitive and personal information directly with the government, including military agencies like the National Security Agency. And then, once the government has it, they can repurpose it and use it for a number of things, including an undefined national security use. The violations of privacy are just amazing under this bill, and it's even invoked a veto threat from the Obama administration.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And specifically in terms of the new powers that this grant, what does this do to existing laws that protect the privacy of American citizens and requires the government to get even FISA warrants when it wants to actually do surveillance in particular situations?
MICHELLE RICHARDSON: Right. Current law now creates a presumption of privacy in our phone calls, emails and internet records, and they say that companies have to keep them private unless there's an emergency or the government serves them with a subpoena or warrant. And in one fell swoop, this bill will say that these privacy laws simply no longer apply. So, all of the process afforded under those laws, the protections, the congressional reporting, the role of a judge, all of that is swept away in one bill and will allow companies to decide how much and what type of information they want to turn over to the government. And it can include incredibly sensitive information, like the content of emails or internet use history. There's no obligation on the companies to extract the personally identifiable information. And that's the important thing to remember here, that information sharing may be a good thing. There are ways that it could be done, where companies would share technical data with the government that wouldn't invade privacy. But that's not what we're talking about. This bill is incredibly broad and will allow the companies to turn over even the personally identifiable information.
U.S. comes to agreement with Japan to move 9,000 Marines off Okinawa (27 April 2012)
The U.S. and Japanese governments said Thursday that they will move about 9,000 Marines off Okinawa to other bases in the Western Pacific, in a bid to remove a persistent irritant in the relationship between the two allies.
The Futenma air base on Okinawa has been seen by both sides as essential to deterrring Chinese military aggression in the region. But the noisy air base's location in a crowded urban area has long angered Okinawa residents, and some viewed the Marines as rowdy and potentially violent.
"I am very pleased that, after many years, we have reached this important agreement and plan of action," Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in a statement.
Still unresolved is the issue of establishing a replacement for Futenma. The failure to find a suitable spot for a new air base had held up a previous effort to relocate the Marines to Guam, but the current agreement removes that barrier. U.S. Marines would leave Futenma as soon as suitable facilities on Guam and elsewhere are ready.
KFC must pay $8.3m to poisoned girl in Australia (27 April 2012)
Fast-food giant KFC has been ordered to pay $8.3m (£5.1m) to the family of an Australian girl left severely brain damaged after being poisoned by a chicken meal.
Monika Samaan fell ill with salmonella poisoning after eating a "Twister" wrap at a KFC restaurant near Sydney in 2005.
The poisoning left her wheelchair-bound and unable to speak.
KFC said it was "deeply disappointed" by the decision and would appeal.
PAM COMMENTARY: "Disappointed"?
Voter ID Law Will Remain Blocked During Wisconsin Recall Elections (26 April 2012)
The case involves a lawsuit challenging the photo ID requirements for voters that was brought by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.
The court said that the Attorney General's Office had shown more than a mere possibility of success on the merits of its case. But that alone was not enough to issue the stay, the court said.
The court granted a motion to expedite the appeal, but said elsewhere in its decision that there is no realistic possibility that it would issue a decision before the June 5 recall elections. And even if it did, the decision would not take effect until at least 31 days after it was issued and would be subject to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The court also said another case on the same law, brought by the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera, remains before another Dane County judge, and its post-trial briefing schedule will not finish until after the recall elections.
Bradley Manning judge warns military prosecutors in WikiLeaks case (26 April 2012)
The military judge in the court-martial of the US soldier accused of handing WikiLeaks the biggest trove of unauthorised state secrets in American history has put army prosecutors on notice that they must prove Bradley Manning knew he was helping the enemy or face the possibility that the most serious charge against him be dismissed.
Colonel Denise Lind refused to throw out the charge -- "aiding the enemy" -- as had been requested by Manning's defence lawyers. But she told the military prosecution that during the trial, now scheduled for the end of September, that they would have to prove that the intelligence analyst was fully aware that he was helping the enemy when he allegedly handed hundreds of thousands of secret US documents to WikiLeaks.
Aiding the enemy is the most serious in the list of 22 charges that have been brought against Manning. It carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The trial will start on 21 September and is expected to last three weeks. It is certain to be closely followed in America and around the world, both by those who see Manning as a traitor to his country and military superiors, and by those who believe he was a hero who is being punished for being a whistleblower.
Under Catholic pressure Paul Ryan backs away from Rand, Objectivism (26 April 2012)
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), when faced with a letter of condemnation by 90 Catholic faculty members at Georgetown University, has abruptly decided to back away from his famous endorsement of the works of controversial author Ayn Rand and her philosophy of "Objectivism." The congressman, who is scheduled to speak at the Catholic university today, is now emphasizing Christian philosophers and the writings of Pope Benedict XVI as the true exemplars of his world view over Russian émigré and atheist Rand.
A National Review profile from early Thursday said, "'I reject her philosophy,' Ryan says firmly. 'It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,' who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. 'Don't give me Ayn Rand,' he says."
Ryan, said the Review, is actually "a practicing Roman Catholic" and that "his faith and moral values shape his politics as much as his belief in freedom and capitalism does."
Ryan went so far as to decry his affinity for the book Atlas Shrugged and its author as an "urban legend," and cites it as proof that he's "arrived in politics" that a false story is out there circulating about him. He says the association of his name to Rand and her brand of capitalism-as-religion is "inaccurate" and "part of an effort on the left to paint him as a cold-hearted Objectivist."
PAM COMMENTARY: Ryan a Catholic... Cares about his fellow man... Theoretically, in campaign season!
Charles Taylor guilty of aiding Sierra Leone war crimes (26 April 2012)
International judges have found former Liberian leader Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war, at his trial in The Hague.
Taylor has been on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone for almost five years.
He was accused of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.
But he was cleared of ordering their crimes.
37,000 jobs at risk if wind energy tax credits expire, backers say (25 April 2012)
Supporters of a bipartisan effort to protect the American wind energy industry say that 37,000 U.S. jobs will be at risk this year if Congress fails to extend the production tax credits that have been vital to wind power development.
The call for Congress to pass HR 3307, the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act, was made during a teleconference hosted by three members of Congress, the American Wind Energy Assn. and TPI Composites, a Newton, Iowa-based wind blade manufacturer.
HR 3307 is sponsored by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.). The bill has 93 co-sponsors.
The AWEA said that production tax credits have helped developers secure vital private financing for wind projects and have also helped bring those projects to completion.
Virginia study makes economic case for renewable energy (25 April 2012)
Pursuing a portfolio of renewable power sources such as solar, biomass and wind power to satisfy Virginia's energy appetite through 2035 would create tens of thousands more jobs than relying on either coal or natural gas, a George Mason University study concludes.
The study released Wednesday was prepared for Virginia Conservation Network, a coalition of environmental groups and proponents of renewable energy sources over fossil fuels.
George Mason's Center For Regional Analysis based the study on the 2010 Virginia Energy Plan, which projected a need for an additional 19,448 megawatts of demand over the next 25 years. Half of that demand can be met through biomass, solar and wind, offshore and onshore, the study concludes.
Nathan Lott, executive director of the Conservation Network, said the study illustrates that renewable energy can be competitive with fossil fuels. "This is important for regulators and utilities that must plan today for a safe, reliable electricity system 20 and 30 years into the future," he said.
Sen. Tom Udall: VAWA 'crucial' for Native American women (25 April 2012)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) on Wednesday called on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, claiming new provisions in the bill were "crucial" to protect Native American women from domestic abuse.
The provision would allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Native American individuals for domestic violence crimes committed on tribal land.
The VAWA, originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized twice since, provides funding to local communities to improve their response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The federal grants from the law support police training, victim services, transitional housing, and legal assistance.
"Since its passage in 1994, domestic violence has decreased by over 50 percent," he said on the Senate floor. "And the victims of these crimes have been more willing to come forward. Knowing they are not alone. Knowing they will get the support they need. Knowing that crimes against women will not be tolerated."
George Zimmerman: Prelude to a shooting (25 April 2012)
(Reuters) - A pit bull named Big Boi began menacing George and Shellie Zimmerman in the fall of 2009.
The first time the dog ran free and cornered Shellie in their gated community in Sanford, Florida, George called the owner to complain. The second time, Big Boi frightened his mother-in-law's dog. Zimmerman called Seminole County Animal Services and bought pepper spray. The third time he saw the dog on the loose, he called again. An officer came to the house, county records show.
"Don't use pepper spray," he told the Zimmermans, according to a friend. "It'll take two or three seconds to take effect, but a quarter second for the dog to jump you," he said.
"Get a gun."
That November, the Zimmermans completed firearms training at a local lodge and received concealed-weapons gun permits. In early December, another source close to them told Reuters, the couple bought a pair of guns. George picked a Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm handgun, a popular, lightweight weapon.
Mumia Abu-Jamal Speaks from Prison on Life After Death Row and His Quest for Freedom (25 April 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Mumia Abu-Jamal, can you talk about what your reaction is to be taken off of death row, to no longer have death hanging over you, but to be in jail for a life sentence without parole?
MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: Well, you've kind of answered the question with your question. That is to say--
OPERATOR: This call is from the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy and is subject to monitoring and recording.
MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: You've probably heard me refer to life as "slow death row." It sounds a little dramatic, but it is really more truth to it than hyperbole. And that's because, you know, in Pennsylvania, it has the highest population, or one of the highest populations, in the state, of lifers--in fact, juveniles with life sentences. And in Pennsylvania, there's no gradation: you know, all lifers are lifers, and that's for their whole life. So, and I guess, in that sense, too, it's bigger. I mean, it's bigger in terms of the time differential, but it's slow death row, to be sure.
And when you see, as I've seen, going to chow or going to a meal and seeing what I call the "million man wheelchair march," it makes an impact on you. You know, you look up in the morning, and there are 30 or 40 guys going through the handicap line, and they're in wheelchairs. And although some are young, most are quite old. And so, you know, life means life in Pennsylvania.
White killer whale adult spotted for first time in wild (22 April 2012)
Scientists have made what they believe to be the first sighting of an adult white orca, or killer whale.
The adult male, which they have nicknamed Iceberg, was spotted off the coast of Kamchatka in eastern Russia.
It appears to be healthy and leading a normal life in its pod.
White whales of various species are occasionally seen; but the only known white orcas have been young, including one with a rare genetic condition that died in a Canadian aquarium in 1972.
Feds make first arrest in BP oil spill; ex-engineer accused of deleting hundreds of messages (24 April 2012)
NEW ORLEANS -- Federal prosecutors brought the first criminal charges Tuesday in the Gulf oil spill, accusing a former BP engineer of deleting more than 300 text messages that indicated the blown-out well was spewing far more crude than the company was telling the public at the time.
Two years and four days after the drilling-rig explosion that set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, Kurt Mix, 50, of Katy, Texas, was arrested and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence.
His attorney, Joan McPhee, issued a statement Tuesday evening describing the charges as misguided and that she is confident Mix will be exonerated.
"The government says he intentionally deleted text messages from his phone, but the content of those messages still resides in thousands of emails, text messages and other documents that he saved," she said. "Indeed, the emails that Kurt preserved include the very ones highlighted by the government."
Rep. Hoyer predicts Democrats will regain House (24 April 2012)
And Speaker of the House John Boehner suggested there were cracks in the Republican Party's armor, warning earlier Tuesday on Fox that "there's a one in three chance that we could lose" the House to Democrats.
"I think there's a higher chance than one in three, I think at best from his perspective, it's 50-50," Hoyer told reporters as he laid out the prospects for Democrats to win dozens of districts.
"We're going to pick up a lot of seats, and I think we'll take back the majority."
The 435-member House now has 242 Republicans and 190 Democrats, with three vacancies including the seat held by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who resigned in January to focus on her recovery after being shot in the head by a gunman.
PAM COMMENTARY: John Boehner has probably done more than anyone to win the House for Democrats. He's the king of frivolous issues, which isn't exactly what people want when they're out of work and losing their homes.
Hawaii wants GMO foods labeled (opinion) (24 April 2012)
When we go to the market, many of us read labels to make sure that we buy that which we want to eat. There are, of course, many that do not care as evidenced by the obesity epidemic we are in the midst of. Yet, we all have that opportunity. We can check calories, sodium content, fat content, sugar content, etc. The one thing we cannot check is GMO content and that right to check GMO content is presently denied to more than 90% of Americans. And why?
Because our genetically modified government does not require GMOs to be labeled.
As a result, Americans are eating GMO foods without informed consent. What's worse is that the FDA, headed by former Monsanto employees, does not require independent safety testing of these ingredients
In fact, documents uncovered in litigation show that FDA scientists believe that GMO foods could pose serious risks and need stringent testing, but their administrative superiors overruled them. As a result, the FDA has a weak "voluntary consultation" process with biotech crop developers and relies entirely on whatever data the companies choose to disclose. The FDA does not even ascertain that GMO foods are safe, but defers to "industry assurances".
Mad cow disease discovered in California dairy cow (24 April 2012)
John Clifford, the chief veterinary officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday confirmed that a cow carrying bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, came from a dairy farm in California's Central Valley.
It was discovered as part of a routine inspection after the cow was sent to a rendering facility. It is the fourth reported case in the U.S. The animal tested positive positive for "atypical BSE, a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed," according to USDA.
USDA said milk is not affected because it does not transmit the disease. Humans may be able to contract a similar form of the fatal brain disease by eating infected parts of an animal. The department has begun notifying trading partners and international health officials. The agency did not release specific information about the cow, other than that it died on the farm. The incident is under investigation.
Futures markets reacted sharply but USDA said it does not expect the incident to affect the nation's beef exports.
Google offers 16TB cloud storage (24 April 2012)
Google is hoping to build the world's largest digital filing cabinet in the latest attempt to deepen people's dependence on its services.
The internet search leader began its pursuit of the audacious goal Tuesday with the much-anticipated debut of Google Drive, a product that stores personal documents, photos, videos and a wide range of other digital content on Google's computers.
By keeping files in massive data centres, users will be able to call up the information on their smartphones, tablet computers, laptops and just about any other internet-connected device. Content can also be more easily shared among friends, family and co-workers by sending links to the information instead of emailing large attachments.
Google Drive is offering the first five gigabytes of storage for free. Monthly prices for additional storage will range from $2.49 for 25 gigabytes to $49.99 for one terabyte, equivalent to five laptops with 200-gigabyte drives.
The service is initially available through a web-based interface or as a software installation on Windows-based computers, Mac computers, laptops running on Google's Chrome operating system and smartphones powered by Google's Android software. A version compatible with Apple Inc.'s hot-selling iPhone and iPad is due in the next few weeks.
PAM COMMENTARY: Why would this appear right after MegaUpload was shut down?
Why Megaupload's Kim Dotcom Might Walk Free (24 April 2012)
Will Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who's been arrested by New Zealand authorities on racketeering and copyright infringement charges at the request of U.S. authorities, go free?
Questions arose Friday in a U.S. district courtroom in Virginia over whether Dotcom's extradition to the United States might proceed, or the charges against him even stick. "I frankly don't know that we are ever going to have a trial in this matter," Judge Liam O'Grady said to Justice Department prosecutor Jay Prabhu at the hearing, reported The New Zealand Herald.
Prosecutors have accused seven Megaupload employees, including Dotcom, of earning $175 million in subscription and advertising revenue from their file-sharing site, thanks to a widespread campaign of copyright infringement. But while previous such cases have been civil matters, the Department of Justice in this case took the unusual route of also filing criminal racketeering charges, which in New Zealand carry a five-year maximum sentence. The move appears to have been pragmatic. "The U.S. government needs to get over the hurdle of a five-year jail sentence to meet the criteria for extradition. Copyright charges in [New Zealand] carry a maximum of four years," reported the Herald.
[ More copyright scuffling: ISPs Agree To Copyright Alerts: What It Means. ]
Judge O'Grady's comments, interestingly, came after the FBI requested that the 1,100 servers that still store Megaupload data be allowed to be deleted. The two hosting providers that own the servers had requested that they either be allowed to return the servers to duty--Megaupload has been unable to pay for their upkeep since the Department of Justice froze its assets--or sell them to one of several groups that are seeking to retain the data they store.
More Secrets on Growing State Surveillance: Exclusive Part 2 with NSA Whistleblower, Targeted Hacker (23 April 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: "Jitsi" is spelled...?
JACOB APPELBAUM: J-I-T-S-I. So, every time you use proprietary software, you have to ask yourself, "Why is this provided to me for free?" And now that Microsoft is involved with Skype, the question is: Doesn't Microsoft have some sort of government leaning on them, say the U.S. government, to give them so-called lawful interception capabilities? And of course the answer is going to be yes, right? If you log into Skype on a computer you've never used before, you get all your chat history. Well, why is that? Well, that's because Skype has it. And if Skype can give it to you, they can give it to the Feds. And they will. And everybody that has that ability will. Some will fight it, like Twitter. But in the end, if the state asserts it has the right to get your data, sometimes without you even knowing that that's happening, they're going to get it, if they can get it.
So we have to solve these privacy problems with mathematics, because it's pretty hard to solve math problems with a gun or threat of violence, right? No amount of violence is going to solve a math problem. And despite the fact that the NSA has got a lot of people working on those math problems, you know, podunk cops in Seattle, for example, they're not going to be able to do that, and the NSA is not going to help them. Now, they may have surveillance capability. They may have IMSI catchers. They might have automatic license plate readers. They have an incredible surveillance state. They're still not the NSA.
And even if they are sharing information, what we want to do is make whatever information they would share worthless, especially if it's encrypted. So if your browsing is going over Tor, at least if someone is watching your home internet connection, they don't see that you're looking at Democracy Now!'s website. They don't see that you're checking your Riseup email. They see that you're talking to the Tor network. And there's a lot of value in that, especially because your geographic location is hidden. So when you log into Gmail--let's say you still use Gmail--but you don't want Gmail to have a log of every place you've been, you use Tor, and Gmail sees Tor, and anyone watching you sees Tor. And that's really useful, because it means that they don't get your home address, they don't know when you're at work. You make the metadata worthless, essentially, for people that are surveilling you.
Mexican immigration falls for first time in four decades (23 April 2012)
A survey from the Pew Hispanic Center finds that the largest wave of immigration in American history to have taken place from a single country has now been brought to a virtual standstill. In the five years from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4m Mexicans immigrated to the US -- exactly the same number of Mexican immigrants and their US-born children who quit America and moved back or were deported to Mexico.
By contrast, in the previous five years to 2000 some 3m Mexicans came to the US and fewer than 700,000 left it.
The latest figures signify the end of an era. From 1970, the Mexican-born population of the US has risen steeply, reaching a peak of more than 12m in 2010.
Now it is falling, with the decline including undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the US who now number about 6.1m -- 58% of the total unauthorised immigrant population of the country.
Ron Paul: Corporations will 'act as government spies' under CISPA (23 April 2012)
Presidential candidate Ron Paul, a Republican Congressman from Texas, has emerged as the leading opponent of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), widely billed as a follow-up to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a controversial set of Internet regulations killed earlier this year by an online mass work stoppage protest.
In a video released Monday morning, Paul called CISPA "an Internet monitoring bill" that would enable the government and corporations to review citizens' private communications without any judicial oversight.
The bill proposes an information sharing scheme between the National Security Agency (NSA) and corporate networks under the auspice of cyber security, and defines "cyber threat intelligence" to include details pertaining to the "theft or misappropriation" of "intellectual property."
CISPA currently enjoys a broad base of support among some of the same companies that opposed SOPA, including Google and Facebook. The bill is expected to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives later this week despite strong opposition from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Constitution Project, Fight for the Future and others.
Joining the bill's opposition on Monday, Paul warned that CISPA "represents an alarming form of corporatism, as it further intertwines government with companies like Google and Facebook."
Bakken oil booms -- and so does crime on the Plains (23 April 2012)
GLASGOW, Mont. (AP) -- Drug crimes in eastern Montana have more than doubled. Assaults in Dickinson, N.D., have increased fivefold in just two years. And the once-sleepy town of Plentywood, Mont., has seen three assaults with weapons in the past few months -- a prospect previously unheard of in the tiny community tucked against the Canada border.
Booming oil production has brought tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues to communities across a wide expanse of the Northern Plains. But it also has brought more crime, forcing law enforcement from the U.S. and Canada to deal with spiking offenses ranging from drug trafficking and gun crimes to prostitution.
The rural region is emerging as one of the top oil producing areas of North America. Officials say up to 30,000 more workers could descend on the Bakken oil fields of Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan in the next few years.
The recent kidnapping and brutal murder of Montana teacher Sherry Arnold tragically underscored the changes brought on by the rapid pace of drilling. Two men are in custody, but the case has left residents shaken and led to a huge rise in applications to carry concealed weapons in Montana and North Dakota.
Investigation: Two Years After the BP Spill, A Hidden Health Crisis Festers (18 April 2012)
March 3 Nicole Maurer learned of the proposed settlement between BP and hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast businesses and residents harmed by its 2010 oil spill, the largest in US history.
In her cramped but immaculate trailer on a muddy back road in the small town of Buras, Louisiana, Nicole tells me that the two years since the tragedy began on April 20, 2010, have been "a total nightmare" for her family. Not only has her husband William's fishing income all but vanished along with the shrimp he used to catch but the entire family is plagued by persistent health problems.
For months following the onset of the disaster, she says, there was an oil smell outside their home and "a constant cloudiness, like a haze, but it wasn't fog." Her 6-year-old daughter Brooklyn's asthma got worse, and she now has constant upper respiratory infections. "Once it goes away, it comes right back," Nicole explains.
Before the spill, Elizabeth, 9, was her "well kid." But now Elizabeth constantly suffers from rashes, allergies, inflamed sinuses, sore throat and an upset stomach.
Drilling raises complex issues (23 April 2012)
The stories coming out of the oil fields in South and West Texas sound like tall tales: overnight wealth, billions in industry investment and an unbuilt hotel in Odessa that's already booked for two years.
But there are also an increasing number of lawsuits and concerns about water use.
Although shale drilling is adding billions of dollars of investment, it raises complex issues, according to speakers at the Outlook for Texas Land Markets conference at The Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade, an annual two-day event that wrapped up Friday.
Bane Phillippi, an attorney with Austin's Weisbart Springer Hayes LLP, said the first litigation and Texas Supreme Court opinions are out on hydraulic fracturing. So far, the state's Supreme Court has stuck to the so-called "rule of capture" (if you capture oil and gas first, it's yours), but has been careful not to make sweeping decisions in this new drilling arena.
Without reforms, U.S. retirees to face dwindling funds (23 April 2012)
Blahous and fellow trustee Robert Reischauer said lawmakers should be aware that it will become increasingly difficult to "avoid adverse effects" on retirees or those close to retirement if legislative changes are delayed much longer.
For example, Americans' average real earnings are forecast to grow more slowly than previously thought, crimping revenue from the taxes that pay for the benefits, the report noted.
Even when the fund starts to run out of money in 2033, it would be able to pay 75 percent of benefits. An alternative, in order to keep payments at 100 percent, would be to raise the payroll tax on employers and employees to 16.7 percent from its regular 12.4 percent rate.
Members of Congress also have mulled raising the retirement age or cutting some benefits to the wealthy. But no action is expected before the November elections.
Trustees for the fund said a disability insurance program, which is generally lumped in with Social Security, faces the most immediate financing shortfall. It said that fund will likely be depleted in 2016, two years earlier than projected last year.
US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher denied Afghan entry (23 April 2012)
The Congressman was stopped in Dubai on Friday as he was leading a delegation to Kabul. Officials say that while the other members of the delegation had visas for Afghanistan, Mr Rohrabacher did not.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was reported to have conveyed a message from President Karzai to the congressman that he would not be welcome in the country.
Mr Rohrabacher, who is also the chairman of the House foreign affairs subcommittee, has frequently called for a more decentralised form of government for Afghanistan as well as a US investigation into alleged government corruption.
Afghan officials told the BBC that in addition to his criticisms of the president, Mr Rohrabacher was being shunned because of meetings he had held in Berlin with Afghan politicians about the creation of a decentralised form of government.
Charles Colson's Jails for Jesus (Mother Jones FLASHBACK) (1 November 2003)
And then there is the pizza. When a new class of inmates joins InnerChange, the staff orders 100 large pies, a fact that all 800-plus inmates at Ellsworth appear to be intimately, obsessively, aware of. "We are stretching the local Pizza Hut to its absolute capacity," InnerChange office administrator Gale Soukup told me with a worried look, "and they're the only game in town."
Paid for in part by fees charged to the general population, InnerChange also offers substance-abuse treatment and free computer training, hot commodities in a time of budgetary woes. This year, the GED program Ellsworth offers regular prisoners was cut in half, the substance-abuse program eliminated. General-population inmates are still offered a computer class through the local community college, but as it costs $150, and men who are lucky enough to land a prison job make an average of 60 cents a day, the general population's six computers sit under dust covers most days. As Issac Jarowitz, an Ellsworth inmate who isn't in InnerChange, noted grudgingly, "The Christians do lots of stuff the state used to do, like vocational programs, but now they're only for believers."
"I tell them this is their ticket," Raymond said, gesturing to the InnerChange ID card that inmates wear on a "What Would Jesus Do?" neck chain, "to everything they need."
PRISON FELLOWSHIP MINISTRIES, the group that runs InnerChange, was founded in 1976 by Charles Colson, the "evil genius" of the Nix- on administration; one of his unrealized dirty tricks was a proposal to firebomb the Brookings Institution. For his Watergate crimes, Colson served seven months. After being released, he remade himself as a poster boy for the redemptive power Christ can have on criminals and the government, and has since become one of "America's most powerful Christian conservatives," according to the Weekly Standard. Still chairman of PFM, Colson is also a prolific writer. In his column for Christianity Today or his daily radio address, Colson can be found criticizing PBS for "promoting" evolution, hawking a brochure called "Rick Santorum Is Right," or claiming that the real weapons of mass destruction "are not in Baghdad" but in "the hands of the sexual liberationist lobby." In Colson's first novel, Gideon's Torch, the National Institutes of Health plans to harvest brain tissue from partial-birth abortions to treat AIDS patients, a scheme funded by Hollywood galas. Colson even has his anti-abortionist heroes firebomb the NIH. Gideon's Torch, like much of Colson's writings, ultimately argues that government without faith is doomed to destruction and corruption
Education expected to be a 'major issue' in Walker recall election (22 April 2012)
The organization leading the effort to oust Walker asked 155,000 petition signers in January about the importance of various issues in the recall. Of nearly 40,000 responses, education funding cuts ranked highest in importance, said Lynn Freeman, executive director of United Wisconsin to Recall Walker.
"If this was just about collective bargaining, we would have never gotten" more than 900,000 signatures, Freeman said. "Collective bargaining lit the fire and education and health care poured the gasoline on it."
Walker's first budget cut $792.2 million, or 7.1 percent, in state aid for K-12 schools over the biennium ending June 2013, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
However, school districts faced an even steeper $1.6 billion net reduction in funding because Walker's budget slashed the amount of money school districts could legally raise through property taxes.
PAM COMMENTARY: All those cuts to education, but he still passes out pay bonuses like candy.
Obituary: Lord Ashley of Stoke, who campaigned for thalidomide children, vaccine damage victims, rape victims, and others (22 April 2012)
He first raised the issue of vaccine-damaged children in 1977, seeking an inquiry into 300 children allegedly brain-damaged by vaccinations for whooping cough. When Mrs Castle's successor David Ennals resisted, Ashley accused him of a "shabby and squalid speech"; 10 years later he would seek a judicial inquiry.
In 1980 he took up the case of women who had taken Debendox to counter morning sickness in pregnancy and whose babies had been born deformed. He persuaded ministers to warn doctors against prescribing it, helped Debendox parents to organise, and applied pressure when the manufacturers agreed to pay American victims £92 million, but 70 British parents nothing.
He also sought to shame the Eli Lilly company into behaving "more humanely" toward 1,500 people who claimed to have been harmed by its arthritis drug Opren, and pressed for compensation for women damaged after using the Dalkon contraceptive shield.
In 1981 he began a three-year campaign for the re-examination of every case involving the Home Office forensic scientist Dr Alan Clift, after a constituent was freed having served nearly nine years for murdering a woman he had never met. Eventually Willie Whitelaw, the Home Secretary, agreed; 1,500 cases were reviewed after Clift's forced retirement, and of the first 10 convictions taken back to the Court of Appeal, three were overturned.
Ashley again protested over rape sentences in 1982, after a judge fined a rapist £2,000 because the girl was hitch-hiking at night. The Lord Chief Justice issued advice that rapists should be jailed except in "wholly exceptional circumstances".
Work under way on Nevada's 1st wind energy farm (21 April 2012)
The Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity sued last year in an effort to block the $225 million project, claiming the U.S. Bureau of Land Management skirted environmental regulations to fast-track it.
The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nevada Department of Wildlife also expressed concerns over the project.
The conservation groups and company entered settlement talks last year after a federal judge refused to stop work at the site to allow more study of how the turbines would affect bats and sage grouse.
Under the settlement approved March 29 in U.S. District Court in Nevada, Pattern agreed to expand its program for tracking bird deaths associated with the project.
The company also will pay for a $50,000 study of nearby Rose Cave, where as many as 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost during their fall migration.
'They're killing us': world's most endangered tribe cries for help (21 April 2012)
The Awá are one of only two nomadic hunter-gathering tribes left in the Amazon. According to Survival, they are now the world's most threatened tribe, assailed by gunmen, loggers and hostile settler farmers.
Their troubles began in earnest in 1982 with the inauguration of a European Economic Community (EEC) and World Bank-funded programme to extract massive iron ore deposits found in the Carajás mountains. The EEC gave Brazil $600m to build a railway from the mines to the coast, on condition that Europe received a third of the output, a minimum of 13.6m tons a year for 15 years. The railway cut directly through the Awá's land and with the railway came settlers. A road-building programme quickly followed, opening up the Awá's jungle home to loggers, who moved in from the east.
It was, according to Survival's research director, Fiona Watson, a recipe for disaster. A third of the rainforest in the Awá territory in Maranhão state in north-east Brazil has since been destroyed and outsiders have exposed the Awá to diseases against which they have no natural immunity.
"The Awá and the uncontacted Awá are really on the brink," she said. "It is an extremely small population and the forces against them are massive. They are being invaded by loggers, settlers and cattle ranchers. They rely entirely on the forest. They have said to me: 'If we have no forest, we can't feed our children and we will die'."
Eye-in-sky SPD drones stir privacy concerns (20 April 2012)
The Seattle Police Department's recent federal approval to use drones as an eye-in-the-sky should spark a discussion among city leaders about privacy and the use of technology in law enforcement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.
The department is among dozens of law-enforcement agencies, academic institutions and other agencies that were recently given approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group.
The FAA approval was granted after the president signed a law in February that compelled the agency to plan for safe integration of civilian drones into American airspace by 2015.
Seattle police declined Friday to talk about how the department intends to use drones, saying it was just now training operators. However, the department has earlier said possible uses could include search-and-rescue operations, natural disasters and investigations of unusual crime scenes.
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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