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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012

News from the Week of 24th to 30th of June 2012

Tar-sands oil spills should scare the crap out of you (30 June 2012)
After a seven-month investigation, InsideClimate News has published an in-depth series on "the biggest oil spill you've never heard of" -- a million-gallon-plus spill of oil-sands crude near Kalamazoo, Mich., in July 2010. If you like your summer reading on the heavy side, dive right into part one, or download the whole series as an e-book.

Or you can get the highlights lowlights right here:

The takeaway: Tar-sands spills are incredibly, frighteningly difficult to clean up. And it's this same kind of oil that would be pumped through the Keystone XL pipeline if it gets built, sent 1,700 miles right down the middle of the country, and right over the Ogallala Aquifer, a major source of freshwater for drinking and irrigation.

Tar-sands or oil-sands crude -- technically called bitumen -- is goopy, tricky stuff:

"Bitumen is so thick--about the consistency of peanut butter--that it doesn't flow from a well like the crude oil found in most of the nation's pipelines. Instead the tarry resin is either steamed or strip-mined from sandy soil. Then it is thinned [by about 30 percent] with large quantities of liquid chemicals so it can be pumped through pipelines. These diluents usually include benzene, a known human carcinogen. At this point it becomes diluted bitumen, or dilbit."
[Read more...]

Keystone XL pipeline expansion driven by oil-rich tar sands in Alberta (30 June 2012)
FORT McMURRAY, Alberta -- Repairman Shawn Flett stood 30 feet above the ground on the deck of a truck the size of a house. He had just waved it gingerly into the repair shop as if guiding an airplane into a hangar.

This is a beast of a machine, with 14-foot tires and weighing in at more than a million pounds. The truck burns 50 gallons of diesel an hour as it rumbles with 400-ton loads across the giant open-pit mines that have transformed a swath of Alberta's vast northern forest into unsightly but lucrative sources of oil.

"It handles like a Cadillac," Flett joked.

Every day, fleets of these Brobdingnagian trucks are digging up countless tons of Alberta's oil sands -- a black, gooey mixture of sand, oil and water that lies just below the Canadian province's boreal forest, an immense region thick with jack pines, spruce, aspen and tamarack trees and fed by wetlands that cover most of the area.

The viscous petroleum, or bitumen, is so common that, in some places, it oozes out along the banks of the Athabasca River and was used by Native Americans to seal canoes. Canada's economically recoverable oil sands are estimated to be about 170 billion barrels, reserves second in size only to Saudi Arabia.
[Read more...]

Japan discovers rare earth minerals in its eastern island (29 June 2012)
In what might literally be a 'chest full of treasure' for Japan, the country's researchers have struck a major mineral deposit in its seabed, sufficient to supply its hi-tech industries for around 230 years and reduce dependence on Chinese imports.

Mud samples taken from the seabed around Minamitorishima island, some 2,000 kilometres southeast of Tokyo indicated presence of massive amounts of rare earth minerals, Kyodo news agency reported.

"An estimated 6.8 million tonnes of rare earth minerals, including dysprosium, exist in the mud in the deposit, which is within Japan's exclusive economic zone," said the group headed by University of Tokyo professor Yasuhiro Kato, an expert in earth resources, yesterday.

The amount is equivalent to some 230 years' worth of domestic consumption of the minerals, which are indispensable for producing high-tech products such as hybrid cars and mobile phones, it reported.
[Read more...]

Why Roberts saved Obama's healthcare law (29 June 2012)
But Thursday's extraordinary conclusion to the bitterly fought healthcare battle was quite ordinary in some ways. Roberts hewed to a traditional Supreme Court principle that if the justices can find any constitutional grounds on which to uphold a law, they should do so. The 57-year-old chief justice also followed a stated principle of his own: narrowly deciding cases and trying to preserve the integrity of the judiciary in polarized Washington.

While he has voted consistently with the conservative bloc on social issues, such as abortion rights and racial policies, Roberts in his public remarks has suggested that he seeks, as chief, to transcend an ideological label. He routinely refers to the court's place in history and has bristled at polls and public commentary that suggest the high court acts in the same political realm as the two elected branches of government.

Indeed, in his comments during oral arguments in the healthcare case, Roberts hinted that he could be open to siding with the government. He expressed concern that the court over which he presides might be seen as ignoring more than 75 years of precedent and rolling back U.S. law to the New Deal era. The last time the Supreme Court struck down a major act of Congress was in 1936, when the court invalidated a federal law that limited work hours and prescribed minimum wages for coal workers.

"He is positioning the court as the one, competent, principled institution in Washington," said Pamela Karlan, a Stanford University law professor. "The chief justice's opinion is designed to appear thoughtful, measured. He is in this for the long haul."
[Read more...]

Dominique Strauss-Kahn kicked out of home by long suffering wife Anne Sinclair (29 June 2012)
DOMINIQUE Strauss-Kahn's long-suffering wife has left the former International Monetary Fund chief, who faces charges of involvement with a prostitution ring in France.

For months, Anne Sinclair, a multimillionaire former top TV presenter, stoically stuck by her husband of 20 years despite a string of vice allegations.

But according to the weekly magazine, Closer, she has now thrown Mr Strauss-Kahn out of their home in the ultra-chic Place des Vosges in central Paris.

A source close to Mr Strauss-Kahn, 63, said the pair had been living in separate apartments for about a month.

But Miss Sinclair, 64, an art heiress who recently relaunched her media career as a news editor at the Huffington Post's French edition, managed to keep the split quiet despite growing speculation their marriage was over.
[Read more...]

Common crop pesticide is a public health threat causing diabetes (29 June 2012)
ScienceDaily (June 25, 2012) - A new study finds that the fungicide tolylfluanid, manufactured by Bayer AG and used on farm crops can induce insulin resistance and provides yet another piece of evidence linking environmental pollutants to diabetes. The results were presented June 23 at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston. "For the first time, we've ascribed a molecular mechanism by which an environmental pollutant can induce insulin resistance, lending credence to the hypothesis that some synthetic chemicals might be contributors to the diabetes epidemic," said investigator Robert Sargis, M.D., Ph.D., instructor in the endocrinology division at the University of Chicago.

Sargis and co-investigators examined the effects of tolylfluanid on insulin resistance at the cellular level and found that exposure to tolylfluanid induced insulin resistance in fat cells. Sargis says "The fungicide and antifouling agent tolylfluanid may pose a threat to public health through the induction of adipocytic-insulin resistance, an early step in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes... Based on these studies, further efforts should be undertaken to clarify human exposure to tolylfluanid and the possible metabolic consequences of that exposure."

Close to 26 million adults and children have some form of diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes increases the risk of other medical complications, including heart and blood-vessel diseases. In the last decade, research has increasingly focused on the link between environmental contaminants and the escalating rates of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic diseases. Environmental pollutants like tolylfluanid are potential contributors to the rampant metabolic disease epidemic we see today.

Tolylfluanid has been banned for use in the US because it causes thyroid tumors in rats (not dose/concentration-related), and kidney damage to renal tubules (because tolyfluanid is actually another hidden source of fluoride). The main source for tolylfluanid entering the US is on imported apples and apple juice, grapes and grape juice, head lettuce, hops, tomatoes and other products to which tolylfluanid is applied a maximum of 15 times per season. Tolylfluanid is classified by the EPA as "Likely to be carcinogenic to humans" based on the following weight-of-the-evidence findings: Tolylfluanid induced follicular cell thyroid tumors in high-dose male and female rats and were reproducible. In vitro and in vivo mutagenicity assays found gene mutations and chromosomal aberrations in mammalian cells.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Yet another reason to eat organic...

Scientists researching effect of oil spill on endangered turtles (29 June 2012)
NORTH PADRE ISLAND - Ninety-four tiny members of the world's most endangered sea turtle species struggled across the beach to reach the Gulf of Mexico Thursday as park rangers waved away seagulls looking for a quick meal.

Only a handful of the 3-inch Kemp's ridley turtles will avoid predators and other dangers to become adults. Another threat to the species' long climb back from near extinction over the last three decades, however, may be less obvious than predators.

Scientists in labs at the Padre Island National Seashore and Texas A&M University at Galveston are doing research to determine if the species was harmed by the 2010 BP oil spill caused by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon platform.

The research is part of a damage assessment being done on other species - including oysters, marine mammals and birds - but no other species is so linked to Texas.
[Read more...]

Shipping company sentenced in pollution case (29 June 2012)
A Japanese shipping company has been placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine for obstruction and violating a federal pollution control act.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten says U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk handed down the penalty Thursday against CSL Maritime, S.A., headquartered in Tokyo. The company pleaded guilty March 29 to charges in a two-count bill of information for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

CSL owned and operated the M/V FD Jacques Graubart which arrived at the Port of New Orleans in January. CSL admitted that on two occasions in December 2011, crews pumped oily bilge water into the sea without using required pollution prevention equipment. The crew later hid the illegal discharges by falsifying the vessel's oil record book.
[Read more...]

U.S. Air Force faces growing sex scandal (28 June 2012)
WASHINGTON -- The US Air Force said Thursday at least 31 female cadets were victims of alleged sexual assault by military instructors in a widening scandal at the service's training command.

General Edward Rice, commander of Air Education and Training Command, said authorities are investigating 12 male training instructors for suspected sexual misconduct at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.

He said nine of the 12 instructors were from the 331st Training Squadron, and that the problem appeared to be confined mostly to that unit.

The commander of the squadron was relieved of his duty earlier this month over the allegations, Rice told a news conference at the Pentagon.
[Read more...]

U.S. will be allowed to share Canadian border info under new privacy charter (28 June 2012)
OTTAWA--The United States will be allowed to share information about Canadians with other countries under a sweeping new border deal.

A newly released binational privacy charter says that in most cases it won't have to tell Canada about its plan to pass along the information.

Information-sharing about security cases has sometimes been a sore point between the two countries since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Canada and the U.S. jointly released the 12-point statement of privacy principles late Thursday, covering areas including data quality, information security, effective oversight, and redress for people whose privacy is infringed.
[Read more...]

"Escape Fire": As Supreme Court Rules on Healthcare, Film Tackles U.S. Inefficiency, Spiraling Costs (28 June 2012) [DN]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to play a comment from Dr. Erin Martin, a primary care physician who you interviewed in Escape Fire. In this clip, she describes her frustration with having to treat a high volume of patients with not enough time for preventative care.

DR. ERIN MARTIN: Instead of basing things on outcomes, on how good of a job we're doing, the government sets the reimbursement completely on the number of patients that we see. It doesn't matter how complicated they are, how much time that we spend on them. It's just a number--one, two, three, four, five. You have to play this game with, what does this patient need and how much time am I willing to spend with them, because the administration is telling you, "You need to see more patients. We're in the red." And if you try and buck the system, someone says, "What can we do to get your productivity up?" I'm not interested in getting my productivity up. I'm interested in helping patients.

AMY GOODMAN: That, Dr. Erin Martin, primary care physician who you interview, Matthew Heineman, in Escape Fire. You're solution-oriented, these stories.

MATTHEW HEINEMAN: Yeah, I think, you know, the story of Dr. Martin is really the story of a primary care physician who is an idealist, who just wants to practice medicine but is handcuffed by the system. She's forced to see a revolving door of patients, and she's not allowed to practice the medicine that she was taught to practice. And I think, you know, the key message of our film is that we really have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system--a system that profits and is oriented towards disease, towards acute care, towards high-tech, not towards prevention, not towards health, not towards, you know, low-tech interventions that work just as well.
[Read more...]

Supreme Court upholds key Obama healthcare centerpiece (28 June 2012)
(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare overhaul law requiring that most Americans get insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty, a historic ruling that gave the White House a big win ahead of Obama's re-election bid in November.

"The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's majority.

"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," he concluded. The conservative Roberts joined the four most liberal justices to uphold the law's key provision.

The four dissenters, all from the court's conservative wing, were Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. They would have struck down the entire law.

In another part of the decision, the court also found that Congress exceeded its constitutional power by enacting a provision of the law that requires states to dramatically expand the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.

However, the court said this problem is fully remedied by precluding the government from using that provision to withdraw existing Medicaid funds from states for failing to comply with terms of the expansion.
[Read more...]

Here's just how filthy that beach water is (28 June 2012)
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released its annual "Testing the Waters" report, an overview of the nation's beaches.
You'll want to read this before taking a dip.

Over the 22 years the NRDC has created the report, 2011 saw the third-highest levels of beach closings and advisory days. What does that mean?

What, exactly, would you be swimming in?

"Most beach closings are issued because beachwater monitoring detects unsafe levels of bacteria. These unsafe levels indicate the presence of pathogens -- microscopic organisms from human and animal waste that pose a threat to human health. The key reported contributors of these contaminants are (1) stormwater runoff, (2) sewage overflows and inadequately treated sewage, (3) agricultural runoff, and (4) other sources, such as beachgoers themselves, wildlife, septic systems, and boating waste."
[Read more...]

Kim Dotcom judge rules mansion raid was illegal (28 June 2012)
Attempts to extradite internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom to the US have suffered a further setback with a ruling in the New Zealand high court that a raid on his Auckland mansion was illegal.

Justice Helen Winkelmann said the warrants used when more than 90 New Zealand officers stormed the Megaupload founder's home and other properties in January were too broadly cast, "lacking adequate specificity as to the offence".

"The search and seizure was therefore illegal," she ruled, adding that it was "clear that the police, in executing the warrants, have exceeded what they could lawfully be authorised to do".

In a strongly worded 56-page judgment, which may call into question the admissibility of evidence in any future extradition hearings, Winkelmann said the police had acted unlawfully by refusing to release material that was not relevant to the charges, and that their provision to the FBI of cloned hard drives seized in the raid was in breach of extradition legislation.
[Read more...]

Whooping crane chicks arrive in Wisconsin (27 June 2012)
Here's an update from the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.

Six whooping cranes have arrived in Wisconsin and will follow ultralight aircraft for the southern migration this fall. That compares to 10 chicks last year.

The reason for the drop: Increased demand for chicks -- for example, a separate non-migrating flock in Louisiana is also under development.

Also, seven other cranes are targeted to follow adult whooping and sandhill cranes next fall in a project that is known as direct autumn release. But the Department of Natural Resources tells us one of the chicks is having behavior problems and will not likely join the migration.
[Read more...]

GOP-style jobs program (27 June 2012)
"Here in the House," Speaker John Boehner announced after meeting with his caucus Wednesday morning, "Republicans are going to continue to stay focused on jobs."

It's true. Technically, House Republicans are focused on jobs: Eric Holder's and President Obama's. They want to put both men out of work.

Tying up this administration is Job One for the opposition party, and never more so than this week. Republicans have been awaiting with giddy anticipation a Supreme Court decision Thursday that they expect will overturn Obamacare, the signal achievement of Obama's presidency. "If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what's left of it," Boehner vowed.

At the same time, Republicans decided to dedicate Thursday to a spectacle on the House floor: voting to hold Holder, the attorney general, in contempt of Congress for declining to hand over certain documents related to the Operation "Fast and Furious" guns program on the Mexican border.
[Read more...]

Wisconsin justice won't step out of "choking judge" Prosser's discipline case (27 June 2012)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks says he won't recuse himself from his colleague's discipline case.

The state Judicial Commission has accused Justice David Prosser of violating judicial ethics when he allegedly wrapped his hands around Justice Ann Walsh Bradley during an argument last year. Crooks was the only justice who didn't witness the incident.

Prosser has been trying to stop the discipline process by asking all six of his fellow justices to recuse themselves from the matter. He maintains they're witnesses or are biased against him.

Justice Pat Roggensack is the only justice who has agreed to recuse herself so far. Crooks said Wednesday he's not a witness, he can judge the case fairly and he must serve since the court is the only body that can discipline Prosser.
[Read more...]

Everywhere a Solydra: Congressional Republicans attack another job-creating American company (27 June 2012)
Undaunted by their failure to catch so much as a single guppy, Republicans in Congress are paddling on with their fishing expedition through the Obama administration's clean-energy initiatives. They are nothing if not dutiful.

The latest faux scandal (what are we up to now? a dozen?) has to do with the Ivanpah solar power plant, currently under construction in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California.

Here's what we know about Ivanpah, a concentrated solar power (CSP) project being developed by BrightSource Energy. It started construction in October 2010, amid great fanfare from politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It is technically three separate, contiguous power plants, built in phases, with a total of 170,000 heliostat mirrors, spread across 3,600 acres, aiming sunlight at three solar power towers. It will have a gross capacity of around 392 megawatts and will be, when completed, the largest CSP installation in the world.

In April 2011, the project got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (DOE), allowing it to scale up its already substantial private funding from, among others, NRG Solar and Google. A little over a year later, according to DOE, the project is about one-third completed and is employing over 1,700 people on site. When it's finished it will "avoid 574,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to emissions of 110,000 vehicles" and "generate enough clean electricity to power approximately 87,000 homes annually."
[Read more...]

Navy attempts culture change on sexual assaults (27 June 2012)
The commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship Bataan walked into the wardroom of his amphibious-assault ship where about 200 mostly young sailors were crammed into chairs, along walls and behind the salad bar and wasted no time getting to the point: Sailors don't let other sailors commit sexual assault.

"It's a crime and everyone needs to understand that it's a crime," Capt. Erik Ross said after a third of those in the room raised their hand to say they knew a victim of sexual assault. "You and I need to look ourselves in the mirror. We need to understand that you're on duty 24/7. Even though you're out on the town on liberty ... it's your duty to interfere. It's your duty to intervene. That's it."

Frustrated by a lack of progress in reducing sexual assaults among sailors, the Navy has put unprecedented attention on the issue this year. High-ranking Navy leaders are likening it to their crusade years ago to stop rampant drug abuse and say it is not only dehumanizing to the victims but also threatens their operational readiness.

Regardless of location, most sexual assaults in the Navy occur after a night of drinking and officials say many of them could be prevented if someone had spoken up sooner to stop that chain of events. The focus is nothing short of an attempt at a significant cultural shift in the Navy, where men and women work in close quarters and often go out drinking together in foreign ports after months at sea.
[Read more...]

Private prison company hopes to manage Virginia's sex offender detention facility (26 June 2012)
The nation's second-largest private prison company says it expects Virginia to make a decision by next month on its bid to expand and operate the state's detention facility for sexually violent predators who have completed their prison terms.

"In Virginia, we submitted an unsolicited proposal for the management of the state's sexually violent predator treatment facility involving approximately 250 beds," said GEO Group Senior Vice President Jorge Dominicis during a company earnings call last month. "The state has decided to move forward with this process and is expected to make a contract award by July 1st of this year."

The detention and treatment of sex offenders represents a growing business opportunity for GEO and its competitors, who hope to score lucrative contracts from state officials looking to keep predators off the streets.

In this case, the facility that GEO wants to run is the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, a civil commitment center that houses and treats "sexually violent predators" who have already completed criminal sentences in a department of corrections facility but are deemed by a special court to be at risk of re-offending. Rather than being released at a predetermined date, these sex offenders are sent to VCBR to participate in what the state describes as "intensive treatment." Their "eventual conditional release" from the center "is determined by their progress in treatment and reduction of re-offense risk."
[Read more...]

Syngenta corporation faces criminal charges for covering up livestock deaths from GM corn (27 June 2012)
(NaturalNews) Biotechnology giant Syngenta has officially been outed for deliberately hiding data that proves the company's genetically-modified (GM) Bt 176 corn is directly responsible for killing livestock. Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji writing for QW Magazine explains that Syngenta is now facing criminal charges for willfully concealing the results of an internal, company-run study on Bt 176 corn from 1996 that was abruptly ended when four cows died after just two days of consuming the "Frankencorn."

Gottfried Gloeckner, a German farmer from Woelfersheim, originally filed the suit roughly a decade after dozens of his own dairy cows died from exposure to Syngenta's Bt 176 corn. Gloeckner first began feeding his cattle Bt 176 corn as part of their diet back in 1997 when Syngenta gained government approval to run field trials of the crop on Gloeckner's property. And by 2000, Bt 176 corn was the only thing Gloeckner was feeding his cows.

As this transition from natural feed to GM feed was taking place, however, Gloeckner noticed that his cows were increasingly developing serious illnesses, many of which resulted in the animals' rapid death. By 2001, five of Gloeckner's cows had died, and another seven died by 2002, upon which Gloeckner decided to remove all GMOs from his livestock feed. But most of Gloeckner's remaining cows ended up suffering intestinal damage, decreased milk production, and other ailments that resulted in their having to be put down as well.
[Read more...]

Election lawyer: Deceptive practices disenfranchise millions of voters (26 June 2012)
Deceptive practices are preventing eligible Americans -- particularly minority voters -- from participating in democracy, according to Tanya Clay House, the director of public policy at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"Deceptive practices continue to disenfranchise millions of American voters by interfering with their right to freely cast a ballot," she said (PDF) at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. "For too long, Congress had not taken affirmative action to deter deceptive voting practices. The current political climate of deception and intimidation has kept us from reaching our goal of voting equality."

The Senate panel held the hearing to consider the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011. The bill would establish criminal penalties for anyone who purposely misled voters about voter eligibility, a political endorsement of a candidate, or the time and place of a federal election.

The Voting Rights Act prohibits voter intimidation and voter fraud. In addition, numerous states have enacted laws to deter voter deception.
[Read more...]

BP investigates fatal Colorado natgas blast (26 June 2012)
(Reuters) - BP is investigating the cause of an explosion at a natural gas compressor station in western Colorado that killed one worker and injured two others, the latest deadly accident to plague the international oil major in the United States.

The incident occurred on Monday at 8:15 am MST during maintenance on a pipeline at BP's Pinon compressor station near Bayfield, a small gathering hub for production from the company's San Juan basin, the company said.

BP officials did not have a timeframe for when the station would be brought back online. It handles about 30 million cubic feet of gas per day -- a tiny fraction of U.S. daily supply.
[Read more...]

Health Ranger investigates cyanide-producing Tifton grass on cattle ranch in Elgin, Texas (26 June 2012)
"Recently, 15 head of Corriente roping calves died as a result of prussic acid poisoning in Bastrop cattle in a clean field of Tifton 85 bermudagrass. While this has never been reported before, results of analyses of rumen contents and the fresh forage confirmed death was due to prussic acid poisoning. Forage specialists and researchers here and the vet diagnostic lab at first denied the possibility of this. Even the researchers and breeders at USDA-ARS -- Tifton, GA, doubted the findings, but after multiple site visits, multiple forage analyses, and DNA analysis of plants from several fields from several environments across Texas, we can come to only one conclusion -- the death of the cattle was indeed due to prussic acid [cyanide gas] poisoning."

Three things are important to note in this statement:

1) This outbreak of cyanide gas producing grass has never been reported before. This is a first, at least in this report.

2) The cyanide gas produced by the grass did, indeed, kill the cattle.

3) This is happening on more than one farm. This report quotes a farm in Bastrop, Texas. The ranch I visited where other cattle perished is in Elgin, Texas. In Elgin, the rancher there told me that many other fields across the county tested positive for cyanide gas production.
[Read more...]

In Mixed Ruling, Supreme Court Overturns Parts of Arizona's S.B. 1070, Upholds "Show Me Your Papers" (26 June 2012) [DN]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Marielena, how do you explain the fact that on 2B, in fact, the judges' decision was unanimous?

MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: Well, unfortunately, you know, I think there's some--the fact that the majority of the court reached that decision, and also when you look at the decision and see that they really struggled with what to do, whether to strike it down completely, they basically have also said that while they think that at this time they don't have sufficient evidence--and remember, the only issue before the Supreme Court was the issue of whether it was preempted. You might remember from the oral arguments, Chief Justice Roberts actually framed the discussion and asked the solicitor general from the United States, ensuring that the argument was not going to touch upon racial and ethnic discrimination. So, in the decision, they have--

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by "preempted."

MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: The main argument that the Department of Justice had before the Supreme Court was arguing that only the federal government, under the Constitution and under the Supremacy Clause, has the authority to regulate and to create immigration law. And that's for a whole host of reasons, because otherwise we would have 50 states with different immigration laws. For foreign policy reasons, it's important for the United States, as a sovereign nation, to regulate who comes in and who needs to leave the country. And that was the only issue before the Supreme Court. And in the decision yesterday, the Supreme Court does note that it may--Section 2B may be found unconstitutional on other grounds. And in our case, the Friendly House case, which is the civil rights lawsuit and the class action lawsuit pending, which we are co-leading, we have a number of other constitutional claims, and that's why we do believe that eventually Section 2B will be struck down.
[Read more...]

WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning wins battle over U.S. documents (25 June 2012)
FORT MEADE, Maryland -- A US military judge ordered prosecutors Monday to share more documents with WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning after defense lawyers accused them of hiding information that could help their client's case.

For months, Manning's defense team has demanded access to reports by government agencies, including the CIA, that assessed the effect of the leak of classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.

Manning is accused of passing on a massive trove of files to WikiLeaks but his lawyers believe the reports will show the alleged disclosures had no major effect on the country's national security.

Judge Denise Lind ruled that government prosecutors must provide "damage assessment" reports from the CIA, the State Department, the FBI, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (Oncix) and other documents that were relevant for the defense.
[Read more...]

Environment Canada raises alarms on chromite mining development in Ring of Fire (25 June 2012)
The same toxic material that Erin Brockovich discovered in the water of a small California town could pollute northern Ontario due to chromite mining in the Ring of Fire, documents obtained by the Star show.

Environment Canada has raised a series of red flags regarding a massive chromite mining initiative in the Ring of Fire, located 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

The federal ministry warned in a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency of potential adverse effects of mine waste, including the carcinogen chromium-6.

The letter is further proof of the need for proper environmental assessments on the Ring of Fire -- something environmental advocates and First Nations leaders say has yet to happen.
[Read more...]

Some worry that new rule for Kansas sandhill-crane season might endanger whoopers (24 June 2012)
Like it or not, Kansans will see a new structure to the sandhill-crane hunting season this fall.

The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission voted Thursday night to approve a measure that will liberalize the season by setting the shooting hours at sunrise to sunset.

That is a change from the half-hour after sunrise to 2 p.m. hours that had been in effect. That regulation was imposed in 2005 in an effort to make sure that hunters could clearly distinguish their targets and not mistakenly shoot an endangered whooping crane.

The first regulation change came on the heels of a nationally publicized incident in 2004 in which a party of hunters mistakenly shot three whooping cranes, killing at least two of them (the other was wounded and flew off but its ultimate fate was never known) when they mistook them for sandhill cranes.
[Read more...]

LDWF Public Education Campaign Focuses on Whooping Crane Awareness (26 June 2012)
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is launching a multi-faceted public education campaign designed to increase public awareness of the presence of whooping cranes in the state.

The non-migratory population, currently numbering 16 cranes, has been in southwest Louisiana since 2011 and has moved beyond the boundaries of White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area where the cranes were first released.

"The department wants the public to know that this species repopulation project is underway and care should be taken if these birds are encountered," said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. "We greatly appreciate the funding support provided by Chevron to educate the public about the work being done."

Utilizing a grant provided by Chevron, LDWF will distribute a teaching module recently developed that specifically addresses this new non-migratory flock of whooping cranes. Eight engaging, GLE- aligned lessons covering topics such as taxonomy, bird reproduction, ecosystems, adaptation, and endangered species will be distributed to Louisiana educators via day-long workshops to be held at four locations throughout the state. Geared toward teachers of middle and high school students and informal educators, these workshops will explain the complexities and challenges of the reintroduction program, demonstrate the new classroom lesson activities, and engage participants in field work related to habitat identification using GPS units.
[Read more...]

Koch brothers' effort to take over Cato Institute appears over (26 June 2012)
"You could sum up the Cato case with two bullet points," wrote Slate's Dave Weigel, a sometime contributor to the Koch-tied Reason magazine, in describing the institution's perceived rebellion against the Koch takeover. "One: The Kochs wanted to hollow out a think tank and turn it into a political hack shop. Two: Nobody in the media would take the Koch-ified Cato seriously ever again. 'Who the hell is going to take a think tank seriously that's controlled by billionaire oil guys?' Crane asked."

The Koch camp, Weigel says, was worried that Crane had lost his way in navigating the think tank through aggressive liberal attacks on the right. Crane's ouster clears the way for the institute, which is nonprofit, to be governed by a board of 16 directors rather than four shareholders.

The Cato Institute has historically prided itself on independence -- not for espousing party-line Republican conservatism but for straight-up, small-government libertarianism, which occasionally meant sacrificing sacred GOP cows when it came to issues such as civil liberties. When the Kochs first announced they planned to sue -- to essentially seize controlling shares of the think tank -- Cato's institutional wiliness reared its head among some current staffers.

In March, Julian Sanchez posted a "presignation letter" in the event that the Kochs took over and made the institute a blunt-force political weapon. "I can't imagine being able to what I do unless I'm confident my work is being judged on the quality of the arguments it makes, not its political utility -- or even, ultimately, ideological purity," he wrote.
[Read more...]

Insight: A land owner caught between energy giants (26 June 2012)
(Reuters) - A Michigan land owner who alleges he was jilted by two of North America's largest energy companies says emails made public Monday by Reuters prove that the two companies colluded to kill deals that could have earned him more than $54 million.

Walter Zaremba, who is locked in litigation with Encana Corp, Canada's largest natural gas producer, said he has long suspected that Encana and Chesapeake Energy Corp had been working together, which would be a possible violation of state and federal antitrust laws.

Encana and Chesapeake, the second-largest natural gas producer in the United States, withdrew offers for Zaremba's land in quick succession in 2010. That came after they had engaged in a bidding war for his property in the weeks prior, according to the documents reviewed by Reuters.

Emails and other documents show that executives of the two companies discussed detailed plans for preventing Zaremba from getting the price he wanted for about 20,000 acres of land where both sought to drill for gas and oil.
[Read more...]

Chesapeake shares drop after report of land talks (25 June 2012)
Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s already-battered stock dropped more than 8 percent Monday after a published report suggested the natural gas giant colluded with a Canadian company to depress land prices.

Chesapeake and Encana Corp., Canada's largest natural gas company, exchanged emails discussing how to avoid bidding against each other for land in Michigan, where both were active, according to a Reuters report.

Chesapeake spokesman Jim Gipson, in a statement, did not address allegations of collusion but referenced discussions in 2010 between the companies over a possible joint venture.

"No such agreement was reached between the parties," he said.

Chesapeake and its CEO, Aubrey McClendon, have been rocked in recent months by allegations of conflicts of interest and concerns about an overly aggressive strategy that has pushed the company into a severe cash shortfall.

Shares in Chesapeake closed at $17.03, down $1.58. The company's stock has fallen 40 percent over the last year.
[Read more...]

Arizona immigration ruling complicates Republicans' strategy with Hispanics (25 June 2012)
Monday's Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's tough anti-illegal-immigration law stirred a growing debate among Republicans over how to navigate an issue that has energized the conservative base and turned off Hispanic voters.

Some on the right were taken aback to see Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., an iconic figure to many conservatives, side with the court's liberals to reject several key provisions in the law and even declare that as a "general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States."

The ruling came as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been struggling to connect with Hispanics after courting conservative primary voters with sharp rhetoric against illegal immigration. A survey published Monday showed him -favored by just one-fourth of Hispanics.

The quandary for Romney and the GOP is clear from recent polling. The Arizona law is very popular with whites and independent voters, according to data from the Pew Research Center, while many GOP strategists think their party has little chance for success in battlegrounds such as Colorado, Nevada and Virginia if Romney doesn't win close to 40 percent of Hispanics.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Watch out for the aggressive pop-up ad on this one.

George Hearst Jr. - Hearst Corp. chairman - dies (25 June 2012)
George R. Hearst Jr., chairman of the board of the Hearst Corp., died Monday at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto of complications following a stroke.

Mr. Hearst, who became ill June 16 at his ranch home in Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County), was 84.

He was the grandson of William Randolph Hearst, who took over the small and struggling San Francisco Examiner in 1887, the first newspaper in what became a worldwide media empire. The elder Hearst died in 1951.

George Hearst Jr. served for more than 50 years as a director of the Hearst Corp. and became chairman of the board in 1996.
[Read more...]

No, genetically modified grass isn't killing cows with cyanide (25 June 2012)
Reports indicate that the culprit was indeed prussic acid poisoning, a well-documented, if uncommon, threat to cattle.

The University of Wyoming writes:

"Prussic acid or hydrogen cyanide poisoning arises from the release of emulsin, which is found primarily in plant tissue of the sorghum family, and interaction with dhurrin, also found in these same crops. Damage to plants, such as freezing, trampling, chewing results in the interaction of these two plant compounds and the creation of hydrogen cyanide (HCN). . .

"Probably the most common cause of prussic acid poisoning in sorghums is drought. Drought-stricken plants consist mainly of leaves. Animal poisoning can result from grazing or green chop feeding. Regrowth following drought can have deadly concentrations."
[Read more...]

Stihl wants to add wind turbines to Virginia Beach campus (26 June 2012)
The region's largest power-tool manufacturer plans to make more use of wind energy to power its operations.

Stihl Inc. has requested the city's approval to install up to seven more wind turbines at its campus off Lynnhaven Parkway. Stihl last summer put two turbines atop one of its production facilities near London Bridge Road, said Ben Hoffmann, the company's special projects manager.

The Planning Commission approved Stihl's request, 10-0, last month. It is scheduled to go before the City Council today.

The company is moving forward with wind energy, Hoffmann said, because it will save Stihl money - he wouldn't say how much - and "we want to be environmentally friendly."
[Read more...]

Microsoft Agrees to Acquire Yammer for $1.2 Billion in Cash (25 June 2012)
June 25 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. agreed to buy corporate social-network operator Yammer Inc. for $1.2 billion in cash to help it woo businesses with Facebook-like tools that help employees collaborate in the workplace.

San Francisco-based Yammer will become part of Microsoft's Office division and the team will continue to report to current Yammer Chief Executive Officer David Sacks, the companies said today in a statement.

Yammer provides features -- similar to those found on Facebook Inc. -- to more than 200,000 companies such as Ford Motor Co. and EBay Inc. The purchase will help Microsoft compete with corporate-social features like Salesforce.com Inc.'s Chatter product, as well as startups such as Jive Software Inc. and Asana Inc., run by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.

"They've been behind in terms of social, and this puts them in a really strong position, perhaps even the lead," said Rob Koplowitz, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "There are a lot of communications that are being generated by social."
[Read more...]

After Oregon Coast coyote attack: The hunt begins (25 June 2012)
Two days after a rare coyote attack on the Oregon Coast, two wildlife specialists worked their magic in the still of dawn. Their cries punctured the quiet of the dunes, imitating the cry of a rabbit in distress, the yelp of a coyote pup, and the bark of an adult coyote moving into another's territory.

The tactics had one goal: luring a coyote suspected of attacking a 5-year-old girl and stalking three other people at Nehalem Bay State Park -- the first coyote attack on a human in Oregon state parks history.

On Thursday evening, 5-year-old Sadie Couch of Oregon City had strolled with her mother and father to the beach from their campsite in the state park to enjoy the sunset. At 9:15 p.m., they were about to walk back through the dunes to their tent when a coyote approached.

"The little girl was running in-between Mom and Dad," said Larry Oswald, manager of Nehalem Bay State Park. "She was dragging a stick back and forth up and down the beach access when she was jumped."
[Read more...]

David Suzuki on Rio+20, "Green Economy" & Why Planet's Survival Requires Undoing Its Economic Model (25 June 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: TransCanada has reapplied for a permit to build a 1,200 mile segment from Alberta, Canada to Steel City, Nebraska, just this past Friday, the U.S. State Department said it would conduct a new environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline. Talk about the significance of the project, the role of activists in stopping it, then President Obama being slammed afterwards. Republicans in congress said it would pass legislation in Congress because he, in a very poor economy, was stopping people from getting jobs to build it. David Suzuki, your answer to jobs versus the environment.

DAVID SUZUKI: That has always been the dichotomy that's thrown up. But we have not looked at the real job opportunities that lie from taking a completely different direction. Obama's statement shows that he is captain of the oil industry as are most governments on this planet. He had an opportunity to really offer Americans the real job creator, which is in renewable, sustainable energy, greater energy efficiency, getting us off the oil addiction that we have. It is going to run out. It's going to run out. We are going to more and more extreme sources of energy. This is the moment that we should create the opportunity to go down a different path.

I just came back from Japan where they had an absolute disaster that was an opportunity. They have shut down every single one of the 54 nuclear plants they have. They have an opportunity to take a totally different path. Japanese people cut their energy use by 25% immediately after Fukushima. They showed there was huge opportunity there. Instead, the government simply wants to get those plants up and running again. The nuclear industry, the fossil fuel industry have an enormous hammer over our elected representatives and it really is up to civil society.

I think in the U.S., you're in deep trouble right now because of the huge support for parties that want to take us back to the past, the Tea Party and all of that are taking us away from having an opportunity for civil society to really contribute. I think we are really in a crisis when Sir Martin Rees, one of the leading scientists in Britain, the Royal Astronomer, was asked on BBC, what are the chances that human beings will survive to the end of this century? This is whether we will still be around. His answer was, 50/50. 50/50 that human beings will avoid extinction? I mean, surely to goodness we ought to be on an absolute crisis mode and getting off all of this rhetoric being fostered by the fossil fuel industry and nuclear industry and get on to a truly sustainable path.
[Read more...]

Scientists warn US east coast over accelerated sea level rise (25 June 2012)
Sea level rise is accelerating three to four times faster along the densely populated east coast of the US than other US coasts, scientists have discovered. The zone, dubbed a "hotspot" by the researchers, means the ocean from Boston to New York to North Carolina is set to experience a rise up a third greater than that seen globally.

Asbury Sallenger, at the US geological survey at St Petersburg, Florida, who led the new study, said: "That makes storm surges that much higher and the reach of the waves that crash onto the coast that much higher. In terms of people and communities preparing for these things, there are extreme regional variations and we need to keep that in mind. We can't view sea level rise as uniform, like filling up a bath tub. Some places will rise quicker than others and the whole urban corridor of north-east US is one of these places."

The hotspot had been predicted by computer modelling, but Sallenger said: "Our paper is the first to focus on using real data to show [the acceleration] is happening now and that we can detect it now."

The rapid acceleration, not seen before on the Pacific of Gulf coasts of the US, may be the result of the slowing of the vast currents flowing in the Altantic, said Sallenger. These currents are driven by cold dense water sinking in the Arctic, but the warming of the oceans and the flood of less dense freshwater into the Arctic from Greenland's melting glaciers means the water sinks less quickly. That means a "slope" from the fastest-moving water in the mid-Atlantic down to the US east coast relaxes, pushing up sea level on the coast.
[Read more...]

Jimmy Carter savages US foreign policy over drone strikes (25 June 2012)
The former president Jimmy Carter has declared that US drone strikes and targeted assassinations abroad have seen the country violating human rights in a way that "abets our enemies and alienates our friends".

In a stinging attack on US foreign policy in the New York Times, Carter says America is "abandoning its role as a champion of human rights" and calls on Washington to "reverse course and regain moral leadership".

Revelations that top US officials are targeting people, including their own citizens, abroad are "only the most recent disturbing proof" of how far such violations have extended, he says in a furious critique of the administrations of George Bush and Barack Obama.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the US should be strengthening, not weakening "basic rules of law and principles of justice", Carter says in the paper on Monday. His criticisms, just months before Obama hopes to regain the White House in November's presidential election, lambast the use of drones and detention.
[Read more...]

Bradley Manning lawyers accuse prosecutors of misleading judge (24 June 2012)
The US government is deliberately attempting to prevent Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of state secrets, from receiving a fair trial, the soldier's lawyer alleges in new court documents.

David Coombs, Manning's civilian lawyer, has made his strongest accusations yet about the conduct of the military prosecutors. In motions filed with the military court ahead of a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, on Monday, he goes so far as to accuse the government in essence of lying to the court.

Coombs charges the prosecutors with making "an outright misrepresentation" to the court over evidence the defence has been trying for months to gain access to through disclosure.

The dispute relates to an investigation by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, Oncix, into the damage caused by the WikiLeaks disclosures of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents.

Reports by the Associated Press, Reuters and other news outlets have suggested that official inquiries into the impact of WikiLeaks concluded that the leaks caused some "pockets" of short-term damage around the world, but that generally its impact had been embarrassing rather than harmful.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Former President Bush was classifying way too much material, basically to cover up his own administration's war crimes and lies to the American public. The press wouldn't have cared so much about classified material if they weren't trying to investigate those crimes and lies. I'm surprised that Obama is pursuing Manning so aggressively, as most Americans at the time were against the wars and against Bush, only not willing to risk as much as Manning to gather evidence.

Genetically modified grass blamed for mass cattle deaths in Texas (23 June 2012)
A form of genetically modified grass is being cited as the likely culprit in the sudden death of a herd of cattle in Central Texas, according to CBS News.

Preliminary tests revealed that the grass, an altered form of Bermuda grass known as Tifton 85, had mysteriously begun producing cyanide gas. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are conducting further tests to determine if some sort of mutation caused the grass to suddenly begin giving off the deadly gas.

The cattle died roughly three weeks ago while grazing on a ranch in Elgin, Texas, about 20 miles east of Austin. According to the ranch's owner, Jerry Abel, the cattle began howling shortly after being let out to graze one day. Fifteen of his eighteen cattle died, all of them in a matter of hours.

Abel told CBS that he'd been using the modified grass for about fifteen years with no problems, until now. And he's not the only one with a suddenly toxic pasture. Other farmers in the area who use the same modified grass have also found cyanide on their properties, though as yet no other cattle have died.
[Read more...]

Insight: Farmers hit paydirt with irrigation in arid spring (22 June 2012)
(Reuters) - Bouncing down a county back road, squinting as a blazing sun intensifies one of the hottest, driest Midwest springs ever, farmer Dale Tuholski steers his pick-up truck between fortune and failure.

To his left, new irrigation machinery sprays a fine mist across his corn field in northern Indiana, where emerald green plants sway in the breeze. To his right is a neighbor's land: the soil dry and dusty, the corn leaves curled.

Amid the warmest first five months of the year since 1894 in the U.S. heartland, a rapidly expanding minority of farmers like the Tuholskis and Kyle Clute - who manages 25,000 acres 100 miles southwest of Tuholski's farm - are taking out an expensive hedge against increasingly volatile weather: buying new irrigation equipment for their corn or soybean fields.

"We don't want Mother Nature to control our destiny anymore," said Clute, who farms corn and soybean fields in Warren County, Indiana.

The potent mix of ever-warmer weather and expectations of near-record farm income of $92 billion for 2012 is fueling all-time-high sales of such equipment, with revenues up a third or more at leading firms. Center-pivot irrigators are particularly popular with farmers in water-strapped areas because the machinery can extend the reach of limited natural resources.
[Read more...]

The press ponders another member of the horrible Bush family for president (24 June 2012)
(Reuters) - He's the non-candidate they never stop talking about.

Ever since Jeb Bush left the Florida governor's mansion in 2007 with favorable ratings after two terms, speculation has swirled about his political future.

The chatter has only gotten louder this year amid the Republican Party's "veepstakes" - despite Bush's repeated insistence that he is not in the running.

Bush appeared to put the issue to rest in a recent series of interviews with various media outlets in which he criticized the direction of the Republican Party and said that both his father, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan would "have a hard time" getting along with the party today.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I don't think this country could survive another Bush as president. Recently certain members of the press were praising the senior Bush on his birthday, as if he deserves anything but contempt, while recently his son "Duh-bya" was invited to the White House for the unveiling of his portrait.

It seems that the press has forgotten Iran-Contra and Bush's involvement in the CIA's crack cocaine trade. How many babies did Bush #1 addict to crack cocaine, and how many people in Latin America were tortured or killed in his dirty drug/weapons wars there (under Reagan, but according to key players, directed by the senior Bush)? The older Bush also encouraged Iraq to invade Kuwait and then lied his way into the original Iraq War with a disinformation campaign that included lies about babies being killed in Kuwaiti hospitals. Then he oversaw the "highway of death" where the Iraqi army was bombed to death while trying to retreat.

His son, often called Dumb-ya or President Moron, engineered the 9/11 attack on America to launch pre-planned oil wars -- probably the biggest act of treason against this country so far. It seems the Bush family has no qualms about murdering everybody if it means making a little more money. Bush #2 also had the US Congress attacked with anthrax to force them to pass the "PATRIOT" Act (actually an act of treason). And then the war crimes, and the torture... And Bushes always ruin the economy. Always. Bush #1 had a bad recession during his term, too, in 1990-91. We're still in the recession/depression caused by Bush #2, with no end in sight.

Where does it end with the Bush family? They're some of the most disgusting people on earth. Considering Jeb Bush for president can't be anything but another attack from the enemies of America.

Sandusky lawyers raise appeal issue on timing (24 June 2012)
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) -- Jerry Sandusky's lawyers said they tried to quit at the start of jury selection in his child sex abuse trial because they weren't given enough time to prepare, raising an argument on the trial's speed that could become the thrust of an appeal.

And one of the jurors who convicted Sandusky of 45 child sex abuse counts said Saturday he was swayed by the "very convincing" testimony of eight accusers who said the retired Penn State assistant football coach molested them for years.

"It's hard to judge character on the stand, because you don't know these kids," juror Joshua Harper told NBC's "Today" show. "But most were very credible -- I would say all."

A day after Sandusky's conviction, his lawyers disclosed Saturday they felt too unprepared to adequately defend him because of how quickly the case was brought to trial. Experts have said the seven months between Sandusky's November arrest and trial was fast-paced by Pennsylvania standards.
[Read more...]

I'm not bald -- it's just that my hair's asleep (24 June 2012)
It could be good news for anyone starting to thin out on top. Researchers have discovered that rather than losing their hair altogether, balding people are suffering from "sleeping" hair follicles.

Trichologists have found that hair follicles on the scalp can become trapped in a resting state where they do not grow new hair, leading to thinning.

They claim to have identified a way of waking the follicles up, to help restore a fuller head of hair to people who are going bald.

The treatment may not be able to delay the balding process forever, as eventually the follicles lose the ability to make new hair, but it may stave off the wigs, comb-overs or hair transplants used by some to cover up baldness.
[Read more...]

A 'healthy' food stamp, or just a heavy hand? (24 June 2012)
CHICAGO -- On a recent steamy holiday weekend, customers at a discount grocery store in Evanston, Ill., loaded their carts with bags of chips, boxes of cookies, 2-liter soda bottles and jugs of fruit punch -- among other items -- then paid for it all with food stamp credit.

Although some may be surprised to see "nutrition assistance" dollars going to buy food with little nutritional value, it's perfectly legal under federal rules.

Some politicians and health advocates want that to change, saying restricting food stamp purchases to healthier items would encourage better diets, reduce health care costs and make better use of precious tax dollars.

Critics of the idea say such proposals are condescending, probably wouldn't be effective and would stigmatize aid recipients.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Stores would have to categorize everything for the benefit of a system like this, and some items are considered unhealthy but could in fact have health benefits, for example chocolate nut bars. (The chocolate and nuts both have health benefits.) Also, punch often contains fruit juices with vitamins and other nutrients. Maybe a better plan would be extra benefits for specific items like vitamin supplements or fresh fruits and vegetables. The program hasn't kept up with food prices, and so maybe extra but specific benefits are a good direction for needed expansion to take.

Poll: Virginians conservative but prefer Obama (24 June 2012)
More Virginia voters prefer President Barack Obama than Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but many consider themselves more conservative on economic issues than the president, according to a statewide poll by Old Dominion University and The Virginian-Pilot.

When asked whom they would vote for on Nov. 6, 49 percent of those surveyed said Obama, 42 percent chose Romney, 5 percent said they wouldn't vote for either and 3 percent were undecided or wouldn't say.

Obama's 7-percentage-point advantage is significant, said Jesse Richman, an assistant professor of political science at ODU who analyzed the poll results.

But Romney may be able to cut into that lead, Richman said, because voters said they consider their views on economic policy closer to the Republican candidate's.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I sort of suspected that the rich kid thing and being a Yankee governor wouldn't play very well in the South.

Spotting child abuse: What to do to help (23 June 2012)
Warning signs that a child is being abused or neglected:
The child is unhappy or hungry frequently

There are unexplained bruises, burns or sores on the child

The child wears dirty or ill-fitting clothes on a regular basis

The child misses a lot of school

There are unsupervised children outside or being left home alone
[Read more...]

Play or work outside? Know the 8 signs of heat stroke (23 June 2012)
Heat-related illnesses include heat exhaustion, heat rash and heat stroke -- all of which can mean the body's temperature control system has become overloaded.

According to information from the Centers for Disease Control , elderly people, infants and young children, those who are overweight and those who are on certain medications are the most at risk of developing heat-related symptoms.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness, according to the CDC. It can occur after a few days of heat exposure or when the body has unbalanced fluids. Symptoms include:

Heavy sweating
Muscle cramps
Nausea or vomiting
[Read more...]

L.A. urged to fight expansion of coal mine near Utah's Bryce Canyon (24 June 2012)
Environmental groups are urging Los Angeles lawmakers to fight the proposed expansion of a strip mine near Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park that for years has helped power Southern California.

The City Council is considering a resolution opposing the expansion of the Coal Hollow Mine onto federal lands. The mine produces coal for Utah's Intermountain Power Plant, which in turn provides the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power with more than a quarter of its electricity.

The company that owns the 635-acre mine wants to expand its operations more than fivefold to meet ongoing demand. But Bryce Canyon officials oppose the plan and have challenged the methodology used in a draft environmental impact study. The study determined that the mine expansion would diminish air quality and hurt the region's tourism industry, but it recommended allowing the expansion in part because a larger mine would bring employment and tax revenue to the region.

The Sierra Club and other groups staged a City Hall rally to call for the passage of the resolution Friday morning, but the council continued the item until next week. Councilman Paul Koretz, who opposes the mine expansion, said DWP officials had expressed concern about that resolution and a related one that would lend city support to Environmental Protection Agency enforcement of clean-air standards.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: What's next? Mining the Grand Canyon?

Concerns as Shell gears up to tap into Arctic crude again (24 June 2012)
VALDEZ, Alaska -- A new chapter in U.S. oil exploration could open within days as Shell sails into seas north of Alaska, hoping to tap into a potential 90 billion barrels of crude that have beckoned for decades.

The company has been there before, drilling exploratory wells in the 1980s and 1990s that tantalized with promise of riches deep below the freezing Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

But a decade-long slump in oil prices depressed the value of the bounty. Crude from the Exxon Valdez tanker blackened Alaska's coast, drawing worldwide scrutiny to the potential for oil-related environmental disaster -- a prospect reinforced two decades later when a blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico claimed lives and livelihoods there.

Now, Shell is close to getting back into the Arctic waters, after working seven years and spending $4.5 billion to meet new technical challenges, comply with new rules and assuage at least some fears of skeptical environmentalists and native Alaskans who say the exploration threatens a fragile ecosystem and a centuries-old way of life.
[Read more...]

North Dakota's oil fields draw Idaho workers, but their absence is felt at home (24 June 2012)
Jobs in the oil fields pay well. In Williams County, the flagship oil and drilling region in North Dakota, the average annual pay in 2011 was $93,000 for mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction, according to Job Service North Dakota. The average in transportation and warehousing, which includes hauling oil, was $80,000.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council estimates the state's oil reserves are supporting 35,000 jobs directly related to the oil industry. That's the equivalent of putting 57 percent of Idaho's 60,600 jobless back to work.

In the seven months since Jon Phillips went to work with his best friend, Lance Manning, also of Eagle, the pair, along with three other investors, have put two trucks on the road hauling oil.

Phillips worked at St. Luke's Health System in information technology until he left two years ago to launch a business helping clients' Web pages appear nearer the top of results pages in search engines like Google. Phillips, a self-styled entrepreneur, and Manning hit on the idea last November of starting their own trucking company to haul oil in North Dakota. The company now has six drivers and two trucks, with a third one planned. Phillips declined to say how much the company is making.
[Read more...]

California energy officials plan for life without San Onofre (24 June 2012)
California energy officials are beginning to plan for the possibility of a long-range future without the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The plant's unexpected, nearly five-month outage has had officials scrambling to replace its power this summer and has become a wild card in already complicated discussions about the state's energy future.

That long-range planning process already involves dealing with the possible repercussions of climate change, a mandate to boost the state's use of renewable sources to 33% of the energy supply by 2020 and another mandate to phase out a process known as once-through cooling, which uses ocean water to cool coastal power plants, that will probably take some other plants out of service.

"Some of the weaknesses we have in the infrastructure [of Southern California] are laid bare by San Onofre," said Steve Berberich, chief executive of the California Independent System Operator, the nonprofit that oversees most of the state's energy grid.
[Read more...]

Decline in king salmon is rooted in the sea, state biologists say (23 June 2012)
Something in the ocean has been death to Alaska's king salmon.
The state's iconic fish, treasured for food, sport and cash, should now be swimming in droves up rivers from the Southeast rain forests to the populated Railbelt and the Western Alaska tundra.

But they're not.

To preserve future runs, state officials are clamping down throughout Alaska, banning even catch-and-release fishing of returning kings in Southcentral and halting subsistence king fishing on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. They're still reviewing whether to restrict the commercial setnetters in Cook Inlet who target sockeyes but can't help taking kings as well.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I wonder if Japan's nuclear disaster had anything to do with that.

Inglewood Oil Field's neighbors want answers about land shift (23 June 2012)
No one who lives here doubts that the land is shifting. There are cracked swimming pools, broken driveways, uneven garage doors and displaced sidewalks.

The problem is, no one knows why.

"We've always suspected it was them," Harris said, eyeing their neighbor to the west -- the Inglewood Oil Field.

Now operated by Plains Exploration & Production Co., or PXP, the nation's largest urban oil field is at the center of a study that may provide some answers for residents.
[Read more...]

Hot water 'better than urine at treating jellyfish stings' (22 June 2012)
SCIENTISTS in North America believe that hot water and painkillers actually work better at treating a jellyfish sting rather than urine being the best remedy.

There's a lot of folk remedies for treating a jellyfish sting, but science suggests that hot water and topical painkillers actually work the best -- at least in North American waters. Popularly promoted remedies range from vinegar to meat tenderizer to baking soda mixed with water. In a pinch, the victim -- or a very good friend -- might try urinating on the sting.

"Current research demonstrates variable response to treatment, often with conflicting results according to species studied, which contributes to considerable confusion about what treatment is warranted," wrote Nicholas Ward, at the University of California, San Diego, in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Though the American Heart Association and American Red Cross currently recommend using vinegar or a baking soda "slurry," followed by heat or ice, those remedies are based mainly on studies done in Australia and Indonesia, he added in an email to Reuters Health.
[Read more...]

Divorced women less likely to commit suicide in India (22 June 2012)
In India, women who were divorced, widowed or separated from their husbands are less likely to commit suicide than married women --- the exact opposite of what researchers have found in the United States, according to a study.

The surprising results of the study, published this week in the journal Lancet, underscore how many of the conclusions reached about suicide through studying wealthy, industrialized countries do not apply elsewhere in the world.

Richer states in India had higher suicide rates, whereas suicide has been linked to poverty in wealthier countries. People in rural areas of India are much more prone to suicide; the same pattern hasn't been seen in the West.

Things that were "assumed to be universal risk factors for suicide can, in fact, vary greatly between cultures and over time," Michael R. Phillips and Hui G. Cheng, who did not conduct the study, wrote in a separate Lancet commentary. The research "will continue to challenge conventional wisdom about suicide and help put a global face on our understanding of this important public health problem."

Some of the new findings from India, such as the lower rates of suicide among divorced women and widows, echoed earlier studies in China. Others did not: The elderly are more likely to commit suicide in China, but not in India.
[Read more...]

Eat less meat to save planet, researchers warn (20 June 2012)
WESTERNERS need to cut half of the meat out of their diet to prevent global warming caused by agriculture, scientists have warned.

Eating less meat, particularly beef, recycling more waste and devoting more farmland to crops which can generate biofuels are essential if the world is to combat climate change, experts warned.

Failure to make our farms more efficient would leave us unable to feed the growing world population and potentially lead to an ecological disaster with ever more dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, they said.

Drawing up models of how changes in our diet could impact on farming by 2050, the Exeter University team found that a "high-meat, low-efficiency" situation would increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 55 parts in a million.

In contrast, a "low-meat, high-efficiency" scenario would lower carbon dioxide levels by 25 ppm -- enough to keep the rise in global temperature below the two-degree threshold which is seen by climate experts as the maximum "safe" increase.
[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.)