Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 15th to 21st of July 2012
George W. Bush will not attend Republican convention (20 July 2012)
(Reuters) - Former President George W. Bush will not attend the Republican convention next month, his office said on Friday, skipping Mitt Romney's expected coronation as the party's White House nominee.
Bush supports Romney and believes he would be a great president, "but he's still enjoying his time off the political stage and respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa," spokesman Freddy Ford said in an email first reported by Politico.
Bush has largely stayed out of politics and the public eye since leaving the White House in 2009 amid an economic crisis, an unpopular war in Iraq and growing budget deficits.
His spending and immigration policies made him unpopular with some conservative party activists, and his economic leadership was criticized by some Republican presidential contenders during the party's nominating fight.
Bush did not physically attend the Republican convention that nominated John McCain for the presidency four years ago, addressing the gathering via video feed.
PAM COMMENTARY: The GOP wants to avoid reminding people that the worst president ever was one of its own.
Subhankar Banerjee: Looming Deadline Creates Window for Protests to Stop Shell's Arctic Drilling (20 July 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of this area and Shell's now moving in to do exploratory drilling, what that means, where this is in the Arctic.
SUBHANKAR BANERJEE: So, the thing is that the most dangerous form of drilling anywhere on earth is moving forward, which is Shell's impending drilling. It's in the Chukchi Sea. It's the American Arctic, which is in Alaska. Chukchi Sea is on the western and the northwestern side, and the Beaufort Sea is on the north. So these two seas are two seas of the Arctic Ocean. And we have no understanding of the Arctic ecology. The Obama administration has not done an environmental impact statement. And this drilling is moving forward despite tremendous protest from the Iñupiat activists who have been fighting this and the environmental groups who have been fighting this. And just to summarize where we are today, I can give you the best--who have been struggling over at least 12 years.
To give you an analogy of this Shell's Arctic drilling, what this means, Shell is like a little kid, wants to eat his candy, hasn't done his homework, but worse yet, didn't brush his teeth, so it stinks. And if you keep eating your candy and don't brush your teeth, you--results in cavities. And you don't go to the doctor and clean up your teeth and fix your cavities. That's where we are right now, and I mean it in every sense of the word, is when we look at Shell's Arctic drilling, we need to look at Shell's history of drilling in the immediate past and now.
And I'll give you just two examples of how horrible and horrendous Shell's record is. It's like when we go try to get an apartment to rent, we always are asked last two years of tenancy record. In Nigeria, in the Niger Delta, last year the United Nations Environment Programme released an extensive report that said that Shell and other oil companies have systematically destroyed 1,000 square kilometers of the Niger Delta and the livelihoods of the Ogoni people. And U.N. said that it will take 30 years to repair the Niger Delta, possibly more. And then you look at the Siberia, in the Sakhalin Island, Shell, despite the protests from the indigenous people, dumped more than a million tons of dredging waste into the Aniva Bay, destroying the fisheries and the indigenous communities, and built a oil platform right where, despite tremendous protest, where the last 100 critically endangered Pacific gray whales feed.
None of this is in the news in the U.S. All we talk about, like, Juan, you mentioned, the $4 billion Shell has spent. They're making enormous profits at the expense of these things. We have to look at that. And then, of course, their current drilling is full of holes. Like I said, it's like cavities in your teeth. It's completely full of holes. And the indigenous people and the environmental organizations are pointing this out. And the Obama administration really has to pay attention, which they have not been so far.
Whooping crane sighted among sandhills near Horicon (21 July 2012)
I was able to count the sandhill cranes by taking the full-sized picture (which is 4 MB big and too large to display here) and sectioning it into natural breaking points. I then enlarged one section at a time to count the birds in each. (Photographers have this luxury -- people in the field may have to eyeball the birds for a quicker, less accurate count.) I may have missed a crane or two if they were behind another bird and an obvious extra set of legs or an extra neck and head weren't visible, but this is a fairly accurate count.
From the following sectioned photo, I counted 159 sandhill cranes, plus the one whooping crane:
Lower prices slice profits for oil, gas companies (20 July 2012)
NEW YORK -- For oil and gas companies, the math was simple in the second quarter: lower prices equaled lower profits.
With gasoline prices averaging more than $3.40 per gallon nationwide and oil around $90 a barrel, it may be hard to believe oil companies are under duress. Most will report profits measured in the billions of dollars for the quarter.
But they earned less than a year ago -- in some cases a lot less. That's because they had to sell oil and gas at lower prices. The average price for oil was 8.8 percent less from April to June. Natural gas prices have been especially painful. The average price dropped 46 percent compared with last year's second quarter.
This has made many gas drilling operations unprofitable, so companies have begun to cut back.
Colorado suspect was brilliant science student (21 July 2012)
In academic achievement, "he was at the top of the top," recalled Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White.
Holmes concentrated his study on "how we all behave," White added. "It's ironic and sad."
From a distance, Holmes' life appears unblemished, a young man with unlimited potential. There are no indications he had problems with police.
Somehow, the acclaimed student and quiet neighbor reached a point where he painted his hair red, called himself "The Joker," the green-haired villain from the Batman movies, according to New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who said he had been briefed on the matter.
PAM COMMENTARY: Unless something more interesting than "smart guy goes nuts" comes of this (or was already nuts and overmedicated), I'm not going to link to other stories about the Colorado shooting here. I feel for the victims, but at the same time resent some jerk taking over the news for several days just because he felt like shooting up a theater. Why do the crazy ones end up in psychology and similar fields so often? Maybe they're trying to understand themselves. Also, notice that the NY Police Commissioner is the big media leak now.
Anemia drugs made billions, but at what cost? (19 July 2012)
On the day Jim Lenox got his last injection, the frail 54-year-old cancer patient was waiting to be discharged from the Baltimore Washington Medical Center. He'd put on his black leather coat. Then a nurse said he needed another dose of anemia drugs.
His wife, Sherry, thought that seemed odd, because his blood readings had been close to normal, but Lenox trusted the doctors. After the nurse pumped the drug into his left shoulder, the former repairman for Washington Gas said he felt good enough to play basketball.
The shots, which his cancer clinic had been billing at $2,500 a pop, were expensive.
Hours later, Lenox was dead.
For years, a trio of anemia drugs known as Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp ranked among the best-selling prescription drugs in the United States, generating more than $8 billion a year for two companies, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson. Even compared with other pharmaceutical successes, they were superstars. For several years, Epogen ranked as the single costliest medicine under Medicare: U.S. taxpayers put up as much as $3 billion a year for the drugs.
The trouble, as a growing body of research has shown, is that for about two decades, the benefits of the drug -- including "life satisfaction and happiness" according to the FDA-approved label -- were wildly overstated, and potentially lethal side effects, such as cancer and strokes, were overlooked.
Prostate cancer surgery fails to save lives: study (20 July 2012)
NEW YORK--Surgery for prostate cancer was no better in saving lives than observation over a 10-year period, according to one of the first rigorous studies to compare the two approaches in American men with early-stage disease.
The U.S.-funded study assigned 731 men across the country with early prostate cancer to have the gland surgically removed or be observed without any attempt at curative treatment. Ten years later, 47 per cent of men in the surgery group had died, mostly from other diseases, versus 49.9 per cent who were just watched, results published in the New England Journal of Medicine found. The difference wasn't statistically meaningful.
The study is certain to fuel the debate over whether doctors are aggressively treating prostate cancer in men who aren't likely to die from it, causing side effects such as incontinence and impotence.
"There is no question in my mind that what we have been doing in the United States for the last 20 years has hurt a lot of men needlessly," said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. "We need to be telling men that there is tremendous evidence that a large number of men with prostate cancer could be watched and don't need to be treated."
Chevron to drill in Iraq starting next year (19 July 2012)
Chevron said today it will enter Iraq and begin drilling for oil there next year after purchasing major interests in two areas of its Kurdistan region.
The company has no interests in Iraq and had previously not disclosed its pursuit of land in Kurdistan, Chevron spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said.
The Iraqi government has expressed frustration with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government for approving oil exploration and production contracts without approval from the national government.
Iraqi officials previously said it would exclude Exxon Mobil from bidding on lands in other areas of the country because of its agreement with Kurdistan to explore in six blocks of land there.
PAM COMMENTARY: The real reason for the Iraq War.
U.S. Navy unveils its 'great green fleet' with some red-white-and-blue machismo (19 July 2012)
What do you get when you mix animal fat, algae, and 10,000 pounds of steel? The least-popular Navy Blackhawk on Capitol Hill.
Yesterday, during its regular "Rim of the Pacific" exercise, the U.S. Navy showed off its "great green fleet," a number of ships and aircraft running solely on biofuel. As we discussed last week, a lot of Republicans haaaaaaaate the idea: ostensibly because biofuel costs more than oil, but really because anything that could possibly reduce the use of oil is a cardinal sin.
What do you say to that, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus?
As a Navy jet screamed by the Nimitz, Mabus stopped his speech and said, "You just heard biofuel."
Yahoo: Secret hire, very public problems (19 July 2012)
Mayer will have her hands full. Yahoo is a company with deep problems - declining quarterly revenue and market share, a downtrodden workforce, and a dearth of talent within its depleted engineering corps. As former Yahoo manager Michael Smith wrote in a blog post a few months ago, "Yahoo could easily cut 20 to 25 percent of its staff without actually cutting much of its capabilities."
Mayer is the seventh CEO in five years. That turnover has contributed to a metastasizing identity crisis and an oft-repeated question: Just what is Yahoo supposed to be, anyway?
Yahoo's mission, according to the boilerplate on its press releases, is to create "deeply personal digital experiences." But that territory has been usurped by social media upstarts like Facebook and Twitter. Yahoo's share of overall online ad revenue in the United States, which peaked at 15.7 percent in 2009, is dropping like an anvil and hit 9.5 percent last year, according to research firm EMarketer.
"I used to think success for a Yahoo CEO would mean a successful sale of assets and a private equity sale for the rest of the business," says Jordan Rohan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. He characterizes Mayer's move from wealthy, tech-savvy Google to browbeaten Yahoo as "a little bit like the mayor of Palo Alto being asked to run the city of Detroit."
Ann Romney on tax returns: 'We've given all you people need to know' (19 July 2012)
Anne Romney, the wife of GOP hopeful Mitt Romney, on Thursday insisted that she and her husband would not be giving voters any more information about their tax returns because they had "given all you people need to know."
"You know, you should really look at where Mitt has led his life, and where he's been financially," Ann Romney told ABC's Robin Roberts. "He's a very generous person. We give 10 percent of our income to our church every year. Do you think that is the kind of person who is trying to hide things, or do things? No. He is so good about it. Then, when he was governor of Massachusetts, didn't take a salary for four years."
"We've given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life," the candidate's wife added.
U.S. recession's other victim: public universities (19 July 2012)
(Reuters) - For generations, most college-bound Americans paid reasonable fees to attend publicly financed state universities.
But the bedrock of that system is fracturing as cash-strapped states slash funding to these schools just as attendance has soared. Places like Ohio State, Penn State and the University of Michigan now receive less than 7 percent of their budgets from state appropriations.
As a result, public universities -- which historically have graduated the majority of U.S. college students -- are eliminating programs, raising tuition and accepting more out-of-state students, who typically pay significantly higher rates.
The upshot of it all? Students face greater competition for admission, significantly higher tuition bills and bigger debt loads upon graduation.
Potential Dads Beware: Some Careers Linked To Birth Defects (18 July 2012)
From the release, put out by the British Medical Journal:
But certain types of jobs seemed to be associated with an increased risk of having a child with a birth defect in three or more categories.
These included: mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists; artists; photographers and photo processors; food service workers; landscapers and groundsmen; hairdressers and make-up artists; office and admin support workers; office and admin support workers; sawmill operatives; those working with petrol and gas; those working in chemical industries; printers; those operating cranes and diggers; and drivers.
Jobs associated with specific types of defect included artists (mouth, eyes and ears, gut, limbs, and heart); photographer and photo processors (cataracts, glaucoma, absence of or insufficient eye tissue); drivers (absence of or insufficient eye tissue, glaucoma); landscapers and groundsmen (gut abnormalities).
PAM COMMENTARY: Other than a couple of internet articles, I haven't seen this study mentioned in the mainstream press. That's probably because it has the feel of a statistical flaw. What's more likely is that another factor is linked to birth defects (e.g. lack of physical activity. vitamin/ mineral/ essential fatty acid deficiencies, etc.), and people in the listed professions are more likely to have that factor.
And soldiers aren't more likely to have kids with birth defects? In Britain, maybe, but that's not true of American soldiers exposed to depleted uranium.
Lack of exercise kills roughly as many as smoking, study says (17 July 2012)
People across the world are falling so far short on exercise that the problem has become a global pandemic, causing nearly a tenth of deaths worldwide and killing roughly as many people as smoking, researchers warned this week as an alarming series of studies was published in the Lancet.
Eight out of 10 youngsters age 13 to 15 don't get enough exercise, according to one of the Lancet studies released Tuesday, and nearly a third of adults fall short. The problem is even worse for girls and women, who are less active than boys and men, researchers found.
The results are fatal. Lack of exercise is tied to worldwide killers such as heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancer. If just a quarter of inactive adults got enough exercise, more than 1.3 million deaths could be prevented worldwide annually, researchers said. Half an hour of brisk walking five times a week would do the trick.
Despite its deadly consequences, lack of exercise doesn't get the same funding or attention as other health problems, said Pedro Hallal, associate professor at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil and author of one of the studies.
Moon Dust is Toxic to Humans (15 July 2012)
Within their research the team, which included physiologists, pharmacologists, radiologists and toxicologists from 5 countries, investigated some of the following potential health hazards of lunar dust:
Inhalation. By far the most harmful effects of lunar dust would come from inhalation of the particulates. Even though lunar explorers would be wearing protective gear, suit-bound dust can easily make its way back into living and working areas -- as Apollo astronauts quickly discovered. Once inside the lungs the super-fine, sharp-edged lunar dust could cause a slew of health issues, affecting the respiratory and cardiovascular system and causing anything from airway inflammation to increased risks of various cancers. Like pollutants encountered on Earth, such as asbestos and volcanic ash, lunar dust particles are small enough to penetrate deep within lung tissues, and may be made even more dangerous by their long-term exposure to proton and UV radiation. In addition, the research suggests a microgravity environment may only serve to ease the transportation of dust particles throughout the lungs.
Skin Damage. Lunar regolith has been found to be very sharp-edged, mainly because it hasn't undergone the same kind of erosive processes that soil on Earth has. Lunar soil particles are sometimes even coated in a glassy shell, the result of rock vaporization by meteorite impacts. Even the finer particles of dust -- which constitute about 20% of returned lunar soil samples -- are rather sharp, and as such pose a risk of skin irritation in instances of exposure. Of particular note by the research team is abrasive damage to the outer layer of skin at sites of "anatomical prominence", i.e., fingers, knuckles, elbows, knees, etc.
"The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on Jack [Schmitt's] boot." -- Professor Larry Taylor, Director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute, University of Tennessee (2008)
Wisconsin Judge bars enforcement of state's new voter ID law (17 July 2012)
A Dane County judge on Tuesday permanently barred enforcement of the photo identification requirements of Wisconsin's voter ID law, saying that it imposes too great a burden on voters in Wisconsin than the state constitution allows.
Circuit Judge David Flanagan ruled that Wisconsin Act 23, the voter ID law, "tells more than 300,000 Wisconsin voters who do not now have an acceptable form of photo identification that they cannot vote unless they first obtain a photo ID card."
That requirement, he wrote, imposes a "substantial burden" upon a significant proportion of state residents who are registered or eligible to vote because of the cost and difficulty of obtaining documents needed to apply for a state photo ID. That creates a "substantial impairment" to the right to vote guaranteed by the Wisconsin Constitution, he wrote.
"I think that the judge recognized the severe flaw in Wisconsin's photo ID law in that it imposes an unreasonable burden on a very large number of people," said Richard Saks, lawyer for the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera, which sued to the state to stop the Republican-authored law.
PAM COMMENTARY: Also: Second judge rules against Wisconsin's voter ID law
Glaxo whistleblower goes public with shocking details of bribery, marketing fraud and other pharma crimes (17 July 2012)
(NaturalNews) GlaxoSmithKline employee and whistleblower Blair Hamrick has helped make medical history. Together with his colleague Gregory Thorpe, Blair blew the whistle on criminal practices taking place inside GlaxoSmithKline which have now led to the largest criminal admission and financial settlement in the history of western medicine. GSK is paying a $3 billion fine while pleading guilty to felony crimes. (http://www.naturalnews.com/036416_GlaxoSmithKline_fraud_criminal_char...).
Blair recently joined Mike Adams on the Health Ranger Report for a video interview. In this astonishing interview, Blair describes his firsthand knowledge of the "bribery" of physicians, the push for off-label marketing of drugs for unapproved health conditions, the illegal marketing of drugs to children, how 80 percent of physicians were willing to be "on the take," and other astonishing details from behind the scenes of the criminally-operated medical mafia known as Big Pharma.
The full video interview is available on YouTube at:
And on TV.NaturalNews.com at:
Africa palm-oil plan pits activists vs N.Y. investors (18 July 2012)
(Reuters) - It was a tough week for Cameroonian village chief Wangoe Philip Ekole.
People in Fabe, angry at his support for a palm-oil plantation in their rainforest home, had put a curse on its seedling nursery, prompting petrified workers to lay down their tools and flee.
Ekole, who believes the project will bring people jobs and wealth, had persuaded them to return. But the whiff of revolt remained. Many of his 200 or so subjects accused him of seeking to enrich himself through the project. Some even disowned him as their leader.
The village dispute is part of the global struggle to feed the world - and central to a New York investment fund's bid to capitalize on that effort in Africa.
FDA bans BPA from sippy cups after sippy cups no longer contain BPA (17 July 2012)
Wow! Bold step! What prompted the FDA to buck an industry that's already given $4.7 million in Congressional campaign contributions in 2012?
"The U.S. chemical industry's chief association, the American Chemistry Council, had asked the Food and Drug Administration to phase out rules allowing BPA in such products in October, after determining that all manufacturers of bottles and sippy cups had already abandoned the chemical due to safety concerns."
Oh. Thanks, I guess?
Advocates have called for the FDA to take the ban further. From the Environmental Working Group:
"The FDA's action, while a positive step, will have little impact on children's health. A consumer revolt and state-level legislation have already driven BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. However, the epoxy coating that lines infant formula cans and most other aluminum food cans sold in the U.S. does contain BPA. The chemical leaches readily into liquids it touches."
Daytime naps linked to dementia, warn neurologists (17 July 2012)
Taking frequent daytime naps and sleeping too long at night could be early warning signs of dementia, or even contribute to the brain condition, say neurologists.
They have found a link between excessive sleep and problems with thinking in the elderly.
Many older people take forty winks, and it is usually only because they need a physical rest from exertion.
But French researchers who looked at results from 5,000 over 65s found the fifth who regularly took long naps scored lower in mental ability tests.
Keep a journal to lose weight, study finds (16 July 2012)
A new study has backed up what others have found: Women who want to loose weight should keep a food journal, avoid skipping meals and eating in restaurants, especially at lunch.
The study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, looked at self-monitoring and diet-related behaviors and meal patterns among overweight post-menopausal women.
The conclusion was total calories matter more than the kind of diet.
"When it comes to weight loss, evidence from randomized, controlled trials comparing different diets finds that restricting total calories is more important than diet composition such as low-fat versus low-carbohydrate. Therefore, the specific aim of our study was to identify behaviors that supported the global goal of calorie reduction," said Dr. Anne McTiernan, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
Twilight of the Elites: Chris Hayes on How the Powerful Rig the System, from Penn State to Wall St. (17 July 2012) [DN]
Twilight of the Elites means that what we have seen in this last decade is this cascade, almost uninterrupted cascade, of institutional failure and, specifically, elite failure. And I think what it--what the system is telling us, what these failures are telling us, is that the current social model and the current mechanisms of elite formation, the extreme levels of inequality we have, are producing an elite that cannot but help but fail, that one of the most insidious aspects of the current distribution of resources in this country and the current inequality we have isn't just that it's bad for people on the bottom of the social pyramid but that it makes people at the top worse. It conditions them to be incompetent and corrupt. And so, I think that's one of the main arguments of the book, is that what we're seeing in elite failure is produced by the system that produces those elites.
"Meritocracy" is a really fascinating word. It's coined by a British left-wing social critic named Michael Young in the 1950s. And he writes a book called The Rise of the Meritocracy. This book is kind of in the vein of 1984 or Brave New World. It's a dystopic work of social criticism about the future, in which he writes about a Britain in the future that manages to use intelligence testing and productivity testing inside firms to select out for the people who were the smartest and the hardest-working and have them run everything. Michael Young says in the book, tongue in cheek, "You know, we realize democracy can be no more than an aspiration, that we can't have rule by the people, but rule by the cleverest people." Later in his life, Young was horrified to find that this word, "meritocracy," which he had intended as satire, had been adopted as an actual social model. In 2001, he writes in an op-ed in The Guardian, while Tony Blair is campaigning for New Labour on a vision of meritocracy, he's saying, "No, no, no, no, no! I didn't mean this as a model; I meant it as a critique and what an awful vision it would be of a society that didn't take our egalitarian commitment seriously, that didn't take democracy seriously, and instead decided to outsource the important decisions to people that were selected out for their brains or their other features."
Libya election results put liberal alliance first (17 July 2012)
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- Final results released Tuesday placed a liberal alliance ahead of other parties in Libya's first free nationwide vote in half a century, leaving Islamists far behind, but each side is already trying to build a coalition with independents.
It appeared to be a rare Arab Spring setback for Islamists, who won elections in Egypt and Tunisia -- but the structure of the parliament, heavy with independent members, left the final outcome uncertain.
The election is a major step for a country emerging from 42 years of Moammar Gadhafi's one-man rule. It also marks the end for the interim National Transitional Council, which has been running Libya with varying degrees of success since Gadhafi was overthrown and killed last year.
The election commission said former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril's National Forces Alliance won 39 seats, or nearly half of those allocated for parties.
Sailor's 'Bikini Letters' described 1946 nuke tests (17 July 2012)
Linda Thornley discovered her father's letters in 2004, shortly after his death. They were among his belongings, contained in that "Bikini Letters" file. She preserved the typewritten notes yet was too grief-stricken to absorb their meaning.
But earlier this year, her local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, published letters a Navy petty officer wrote to his family, describing the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The article inspired Thornley to read her father's old letters and eventually share them with the Review Journal.
"This is something he didn't talk about, didn't want to talk about," Thornley said this week after the letters were published.
Dick Cheney: One sick old man (17 July 2012)
Cheney, said lawmakers in the closed-door meetings, urged Republicans to continue high levels of military spending, warning them to resist automatic cuts that were put in place in last summer's bipartisan budget deal. He offered not a word about how to fix the enormous budget deficits and soaring federal debt.
"The vice president talked only about the pros of appropriate investments in defense," reported Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who worried that lawmakers might respond to such advice by abandoning attempts to restrain spending.
In that sense, the Republicans' invitation to Cheney was worrying. In office, he championed policies -- huge tax cuts, fighting two wars on credit and expanding Medicare benefits -- that created much of today's fiscal mess. Three years later, as the consequences of such policies have become clear, he is essentially advising the GOP on the same course.
Seeking Cheney's advice on budget discipline was a curious choice for congressional Republicans. One wonders whether they will next seek lectures from Scooter Libby on grand jury procedure, Paul Wolfowitz on non-violence or Donald Rumsfeld on charm.
PAM COMMENTARY: Of course he wants to continue military spending while leaving social program cuts in place -- during the worst economy (thanks to Bush/Cheney) since the Great Depression. Everything to kill people, nothing to save them.
"Fuel on the Fire": Author Greg Muttit on Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, Arab Spring (16 July 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you talk about the oil industry actually promoting the corruption. How does it?
GREG MUTTITT: What's happened is that the--since 2010, vast quantities of cash have been injected into Iraq by the likes of BP and Exxon Mobil, in an almost complete absence of oversight by government agencies. There are two corruption--two bribery investigations going on into Western oil companies operating in Iraq. One is against Eni, the Italian company. There's an investigation in Italy. Another is against Leighton Holdings, which is an Australian company building the oil export facilities in Basra.
And I think an example of this is--an example of the problem is that BP, which won the first contract in Iraq in 2009, they subsequently renegotiated it, renegotiated the contract, after it was awarded, and they set a time limit on the Iraqi side's ability to approve or not approve subcontracts. When it came to awarding drilling contracts, $500 million worth of drilling contracts, they were overpriced. They awarded drilling contracts at $10 million, not $3 million, which is the normal going rate. And because they put into their contract a time limit on Iraqi--on the Iraqi participants' in the contracts ability to object, that time limit passed, and these overpriced contracts were awarded. You look a bit more closely, and you find that one of the contractors doing the drilling is a subsidiary of BP's partner in the field.
More than 100,000 protest nuclear power in Tokyo (16 July 2012)
(Reuters) - More than 100,000 anti-nuclear protesters marched through central Tokyo on Monday to voice their opposition to atomic power, racheting up the pressure on under fire Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
On the hottest day of the year, protesters forsook their air-conditioned homes to say the country does not need nuclear energy after last year's Fukushima disaster raised concerns about the safety of atomic power.
It was the biggest demonstration since Noda said last month Japan needed to restart reactors shut down for safety checks to avoid electricity shortages that might hit the economy.
"Today temperatures reached record high levels," Noda told Japanese television, as the city sweltered in 36.6-degree Celsius. "We must ask ourselves whether we can really make do without nuclear power."
Gas drilling a boom for drug traffickers, too (16 July 2012)
Energy companies boring into the depths of South Texas in the multibillion-dollar hunt for natural gas and oil are opening a growing fissure in U.S.-Mexico border security as they build hundreds of miles of private back roads and an uncharted pipeline to America for drug traffickers.
Hefty roads running through once-remote ranchlands now enable loaded-down tractor-trailers and pickups to avoid Border Patrol highway checkpoints that have long been the last line of defense for stopping all traffic headed farther into the United States.
Traffickers are seeking to use the southwest-most stretches of the massive Eagle Ford shale formation, which stretches from Mexico all the way to East Texas, to their advantage by trying to corrupt truck drivers, contractors and gate personnel. Authorities also speculate that they are trying to make "cloned" copies of legitimate trucks and use contractor-like vehicles to avoid standing out among fleets of oil-field service vehicles working for energy companies. In some cases, vehicles have been stolen and believed to have been used by smugglers.
"They are using those roads to transport drugs, guns, ammo, you name it," said Albert DeLeon, chief deputy of the Dimmit County sheriff's office.
African Union chooses first female leader (16 July 2012)
"We made it!" a grinning Zimbabwean delegate shouted, reflecting the strong support Dlamini-Zuma's candidacy received from fellow members of the Southern African Development Community.
The South African president, Jacob Zuma, former husband of the winning candidate, emerged from the conference hall where the voting had taken place to announce that "Africa is happy!" Her victory would empower women, he added.
Dlamini-Zuma is the first woman to lead the continent since the Organisation of African Unity, later the AU, was founded in 1963. She is also the first from southern Africa. She faces the challenge of revitalising a body often criticised for its slow and ineffective response to crises such as those in Ivory Coast and Libya last year.
Dlamini-Zuma's victory was far from certain. She had stood against Ping in elections in January, which ended in a stalemate that extended Ping's term in office by a further six months until a fresh ballot could be held.
Oxytocin scientist studies what makes humans good and evil (16 July 2012)
What drives Zak's hunger for human blood is his interest in the hormone oxytocin, about which he has become one of the world's most prominent experts. Long known as a female reproductive hormone -- it plays a central role in childbirth and breastfeeding -- oxytocin emerges from Zak's research as something much more all-embracing: the "moral molecule" behind all human virtue, trust, affection and love, "a social glue", as he puts it, "that keeps society together". The subtitle of his book, "the new science of what makes us good or evil", gives a sense of the scale of his ambition, which involves nothing less than explaining whole swaths of philosophical and religious questions by reference to a single chemical in the bloodstream. Being treated decently, it turns out, causes people's oxytocin levels to go up, which in turn prompts them to behave more decently, while experimental subjects given an artificial oxytocin boost -- by means of an inhaler -- behave more generously and trustingly. And it's not solely because of its effects on humans that oxytocin is known as "the cuddle hormone": for example, male meadow voles, normally roguishly promiscuous in their interactions with female meadow voles, become passionately monogamous when their oxytocin levels are raised in the lab.
The aforementioned wedding -- of the New Scientist reporter Linda Geddes and her fiance -- took place at a country house in Devon, where Zak set up a temporary research station. He took blood samples, before and after the wedding vows, from the bride and groom, close family members, and various friends in attendance, then flew back his spoils -- 156 test tubes, packed in dry ice -- to his laboratory at Claremont University, in southern California. There, he discovered the results he had been expecting: the ceremony caused oxytocin to spike in the guests. And it did so in spookily subtle ways: the bride recorded the highest increase, followed by close family members, then less closely involved friends, "in direct proportion to the likely intensity of emotional engagement in the event". (Only the groom bucked the trend: testosterone interferes with oxytocin, and his testosterone was surging.) Mapping the wedding's oxytocin levels gave rise, in Zak's vivid phrase, to a human "solar system" with the bride as the sun, the hormone finely calibrated to the emotional warmth each guest felt. "It was amazing," Zak recalls. "Just this perfect sense of how oxytocin attunes to the environment."
Tesla test drive: Smooth, silent, fast (16 July 2012)
A word of caution about the Model S, Tesla Motors' new electric sedan: Car buffs who live for the rumble of a big, bad, gas-burning engine may want to look elsewhere. The S stays smooth and silent, even when it's flying down the highway.
This brings up a second warning about the car, which Tesla started delivering to customers in June. Absent gears, engine noise or any vibration that doesn't originate with a pothole, it's absurdly easy for Model S drivers to shred speed limits without the slightest clue. Nothing but the speedometer glowing above the steering wheel hinted to me that I'd hit 85.
"This car was made by total gearheads -- it has to be fun to drive," said Dayo Gomih, a Tesla program analyst who co-piloted my Model S test drive. "And that's really important when you're going up against the established powers that be."
The Model S is just the second car Palo Alto's Tesla has ever made. It is the biggest bet of the startup company's life, a test of whether the world is ready for a mass-produced luxury sedan that just happens to run on nothing but electricity.
PETA pans S.F. plan on panhandlers, pups (16 July 2012)
Former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty, now the mayor's homelessness chief, recently announced the pilot program - dubbed Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos, or WOOF - to have panhandlers living in city-funded supportive housing give up begging. In exchange, they would get $50- to $75-a-week stipends to become foster parents for puppies that might otherwise be euthanized at the city's animal shelter.
"Ultimately we want to see people live purposeful and full lives, and this is a step in the right direction," Dufty said.
Teresa Chagrin, a rep for PETA's cruelty investigations department in Norfolk, Va., called the plan "slapdash" and "ill-conceived."
"Most former panhandlers are financially destitute because of struggles with substance abuse and mental-health issues," Chagrin wrote to the mayor. "Placing any animal with them is risky at best, (and) it should be out of the question to play Russian roulette with these animals, allowing them to be used as lures or pawns."
PAM COMMENTARY: In this economy, there are plenty of poor people without substance abuse problems.
Troubled New York Hospitals Forgo Coverage for Malpractice (15 July 2012)
Every hospital makes mistakes. But some New York City hospitals may not have enough money to pay for them.
Several of the city's most troubled hospitals are partially or completely uninsured for malpractice, state records show, forgoing what is considered a standard safeguard across the country.
Some have saved money to cover their liabilities, but others have used up their malpractice reserves, meaning that any future awards or settlements could come at the expense of patients' care, and one hospital has closed its obstetric practice, in part out of fear of lawsuits.
Executives of these hospitals, most of which are in poor neighborhoods, say their dire financial circumstances and high premiums make it impractical to pay millions of dollars a year for insurance.
Microsoft ends online marriage with NBC to pursue building its own online news service (15 July 2012)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft is pulling out of the joint venture that owned MSNBC.com, freeing the world's largest software maker to build its own online news service.
The breakup announced late Sunday dissolves the final shreds of a 16-year marriage between Microsoft Corp. and NBC News, which is now owned by Comcast Corp. The relationship began to unwind in 2005 when Microsoft sold its stake in MSNBC's cable TV channel to NBC.
NBC is buying Microsoft's 50 percent interest in the MSNBC website for an undisclosed amount. MSNBC.com will be rebranded as NBCNews.com, and readers who logged into MSNBC.com late Sunday were automatically redirected to NBCNews.com.
The website will move its headquarters from Microsoft's corporate campus in Redmond, Wash., to NBC News' longtime home in New York.
The online divorce stemmed from the two partners' desire to gain greater control over their digital destinies as the Internet becomes an increasingly important part of their businesses.
Black market Excedrin selling for $1 a pill on eBay (15 July 2012)
Strycharz, a 30-year-old father of three living in California, is among a dozen or more people charging up to 16 times the shelf price for a bottle of the headache and migraine over-the-counter medication.
Maalox, the indigestion medication also caught in the shortage, has also been selling on eBay for 10 times the shelf price.
Excedrin, Maalox, Bufferin, Buckley's, NeoCitran and NoDoz have become harder to find since the single Novartis plant in Lincoln, Neb., that manufactured them for the North American market shut down in January to retool and issued a voluntary recall of certain types and lots of bottles.
U.S. health inspectors had uncovered 13 serious problems of damaged or mixed-up medicines at the Lincoln plant during investigations in June 2011 and sent a warning letter to Novartis International in Switzerland last November about three other manufacturing plants.
Florida wins access to federal database in effort to purge voter rolls (15 July 2012)
In a victory for Republicans, the federal government has agreed to let Florida use a law enforcement database to challenge people's right to vote if they are suspected of not being US citizens.
The agreement, made in a letter to Florida governor Rick Scott's administration, grants the state access to a list of resident noncitizens maintained by the homeland security department. The Obama administration had denied Florida's request for months but relented after a judge ruled in the state's favor in a related voter-purge matter.
Voting rights groups, while acknowledging that noncitizens have no right to vote, have expressed alarm about using such data for a purpose not originally intended: purging voter lists of ineligible people. They also say voter purges less than four months before a presidential election might leave insufficient time to correct mistakes stemming from faulty data or other problems.
Democrats say that the government's concession is less troubling than some GOP-controlled states' push to require voters to show photo identification.
FDA spied extensively on its scientists' private emails (14 July 2012)
The Food and Drug Administration carried out a broad spying operation on some of its own scientists' private emails, creating something akin to an enemies list of employees who had complained to Congress, journalists and others, according to documents uncovered by the New York Times.
According to the Times, the agency began the clandestine surveillance operation in an attempt to find the source of leaks of confidential information from the agency. Yet what began as a probe into a handful of scientists quickly grew into a wider investigation that snared thousands of emails between those outside parties who, the agency feared, were collaborating with staffers to smear the FDA.
Using simple spying software, the agency captured screenshots of five scientists' computers, ultimately creating a repository of some 80,000 pages of documents, which the Times exposed Saturday. The documents include emails from scientists to Congressional staffers, outside researchers, journalists and even President Obama, as well as some personal emails. According to the Times, the documents came to light after they were apparently placed on a public website by mistake.
The surveillance program arose out of an internal fight over the agency's review procedure, with disgruntled staffers warning that lax policies had allowed the approval of potentially dangerous medical imaging devices. The agency originally asked for a criminal investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services to determine the source of the leaks, but when that request was turned down, they resorted to spying on their own to get to the bottom of things.
U.S. Air Force tests biofuel at $59 per gallon (15 July 2012)
(Reuters) - The U.S. Navy angered Republicans by spending $26 a gallon for biofuels for this week's Great Green Fleet demonstration, but the Air Force received little attention when it paid twice as much per gallon to test synthetic jet fuel last month.
The Air Force bought 11,000 gallons of alcohol-to-jet fuel from Gevo Inc, a Colorado biofuels company, at $59 a gallon in a program aimed at proving that new alternative fuels can be used reliably in military aircraft - once, that is, their pricing is competitive with petroleum, which now costs $3.60 a gallon.
The cost of the Air Force demonstration - $639,000 - was far less eye-catching than the $12 million the Navy spent for biofuels to power a carrier strike group on alternative energy for a day.
But it was part of the same Pentagon push, which has escalated under the administration of President Barack Obama, to adopt green solutions to rising fuel costs.
Can Obama save manufacturing? (13 July 2012)
As he campaigns for reelection, President Obama has embraced soaring political rhetoric, pledging to harness the ingenuity of America "to bring manufacturing back." In beat-up factory towns across the land, he has promoted a vision to rebuild manufacturing after decades of shuttered plants and vanishing middle class jobs.
But he wasn't always so sure. Three years ago, confronting the issue in an Oval Office debate, Obama was less of the chest-thumping politician he is today. Vice President Biden led a group of advisers who were making the case for an ambitious plan to reverse the industry's long decline.
Obama had witnessed the devastation of lost factory jobs from his earliest days as a community activist in Chicago and felt in his gut that there must be some way to help, but the president, a policy wonk and onetime professor, also wanted to know what the research showed.
"There's a narrative that countries have to make things to be successful," Obama said to his economic advisers. "What's the evidence?"
Caffeine During Pregnancy Not Linked To Kids' Behavioral Problems, But Still Poses Miscarriage Risk (12 July 2012)
Coffee has had a lot of good press recently, with some studies reporting that it helps the heart, reduces one's risk for diabetes, and may even extend a person's lifespan. This week a study reports that when women drink caffeine during pregnancy, her child does not seem to have any increased risk for behavioral problems years later. However, since there's still good evidence that caffeine poses risks to the viability of the fetus (i.e., the risk for miscarriage), moms-to-be may still want to lay off the joe, or at least drink decaf, until we know more.
Previous studies in animals have linked maternal caffeine consumption to myriad problems in the offspring, including impaired cognitive function, lower brain weight, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and emotional reactivity. But human studies have been less conclusive, some finding increased risk for behavioral problems in the child and others not finding such solid links.
In a new study designed to resolve some of these issues, researchers asked over 3,400 women how much coffee they drank during pregnancy, along with a slew of other lifestyle questions. They followed the families till the kids were five or six years old, and had both mothers and the children's teachers fill out questionnaires about several factors regarding the kids' behavioral and emotional health.
There was no link between maternal caffeine intake and the risk for "hyperactivity/inattention problems, emotional symptoms, conduct problems, peer relationship problems, overall problem behavior, or suboptimal prosocial behavior" in the children. For women who consumed higher amounts of caffeine during pregnancy, their children did tend to have more relationship problems with their peers, but only in women who smoked; this was not true for women who didn't smoke.
British GM crop scientists win $10m grant from Gates (15 July 2012)
Professor Giles Oldroyd from the John Innes Centre, who is leading the team, said the project was vital for poorer producers and could have a "huge impact" on global agriculture.
"We believe if we can get nitron fixing cereals we can deliver much higher yields to farmers in Africa and allow them to grow enough food for themselves."
However, opponents of GM crops say results will not be achieved for decades at best, and global food shortages could be addressed now through improving distribution and cutting waste.
Pete Riley, campaign director of the group GM Freeze, said there was a realisation by many farmers across the world that "GM is failing to deliver".
Private cash secures U.S. habitat for endangered whooping cranes (10 July 2012)
For about 90 per cent of the 300 birds that make up the last wild flock of whooping cranes in North America, the hazardous annual journey between their summer nests in northern Canada and wintering grounds in the southern U.S. is made safer by the fact that highly protected nature reserves -- Wood Buffalo National Park on the Alberta-N.W.T. border, and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas -- lie at either end of their 4,000-kilometre-long migration route.
But about one-tenth of the continent's tallest and most endangered birds -- 30 or more whoopers -- have made it their habit to avoid the Aransas conservation zone and spend their winters on nearby private lands, raising concerns among the cranes' guardians in the U.S. and Canada that those critical habitats could one day be encroached upon by housing or commercial development and lost to a significant segment of the imperilled creature's population.
Those fears have been partly allayed after two recent land deals in the U.S. that have turned hundreds of acres of prime seaside real estate into wildlife protection areas -- a gift quietly bestowed on nature lovers in Canada by several U.S. groups and two American women who left money in their wills to help save the whooping crane.
The new habitat protections represent the latest steps in a 71-year, bi-national effort to pull the species back from the brink of extinction. In 1941, when Canadian and U.S. wildlife officials launched a continent-wide rescue operation, there were only about 20 whooping cranes left in the wild.
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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