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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012

News from the Week of 16th to 22nd of September 2012

Criminal investigation at Chevron refinery (22 September 2012)
Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of Chevron after discovering that the company detoured pollutants around monitoring equipment at its Richmond refinery for four years and burned them off into the atmosphere, in possible violation of a federal court order, The Chronicle has learned.

Air quality officials say Chevron fashioned a pipe inside its refinery that routed hydrocarbon gases around monitoring equipment and allowed them to be burned off without officials knowing about it. Some of the gases escaped into the air, but because the company didn't record them, investigators have no way of being certain of the level of pollution exposure to thousands of people who live downwind from the plant.

"They were routing gas through that pipe to the flare that they were not monitoring," said Jack Broadbent, executive director of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, whose inspectors uncovered what Chevron was doing and ordered the bypass pipe removed.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement unit opened an investigation in early 2012, more than two years after the local inspectors made their discovery, according to air-quality officials and others familiar with the probe. The investigation is still open, and Chevron employees have been interviewed.
[Read more...]

Pressure mounts to restore Great Lakes water levels (22 September 2012)
Pressure is mounting on the U.S. and Canadian governments to explore ways to restore water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron that have been lowered nearly two feet due to historic dredging on the St. Clair River. The two lakes, which are actually one body of water connected at the Straits of Mackinac, have been below their long-term average for more than a decade, and forecasters say in the coming months they could plunge below their record low.

Now an organization of 90 mayors representing more than 15 million residents in cities across the Great Lakes region is telling the International Joint Commission that it is "dissatisfied" with a recent study that determined restoring lake levels by installing some type of structure to repair damage done to the St. Clair River would be a costly project that could take decades and ultimately do more harm than good.

The St. Clair River is the primary outflow of Lakes Michigan and Huron, and a deeper river channel means more water can flow out of the lakes, into Lake Erie, over Niagara Falls and, ultimately, out to the Atlantic Ocean.

The mayors group is asking the Joint Commission, a binational board that advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on boundary waters issues, to further investigate engineering options to raise lake levels in order "to compensate for human activities, notably dredging in the St. Clair River over the past decades."
[Read more...]

Cuba launches first nanopharmaceutical (22 September 2012)
Cuba has unveiled its first manufactured nanopharmaceutical drug -- a tweaked variety of cyclosporine, used to help prevent transplant rejection -- official media reported Saturday.

"Its main advantages are that it can achieve the same favorable effect with a dose three times less powerful, using the most prescribed drug of its kind in its class, and while significantly reducing side effects," lead researcher Dario Lopez told the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

His research included design of the drug, also used to treat arthritis, "in a totally water soluble form, in which cyclosporine appears dissolved in the form of nanoparticles in microcapsules."

Nanotechnology is a field of applied science in which materials on a tiny scale -- structures with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers -- are manipulated for industrial, medical and other purposes.

Cuba has a biotech research industry focused largely on vaccines, which earns the Americas' only Communist-run country about $400 million a year.
[Read more...]

Facebook suspends photo tag tool in Europe (21 September 2012)
Facebook has suspended the facial-recognition tool that suggests when registered users could be tagged in photographs uploaded to its website.

The move follows a review of Facebook's efforts to implement changes recommended by the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland last year.

Billy Hawkes, who did not request the tool's total removal, said he was encouraged by the decision to switch it off for users in Europe by 15 October.

It is already unavailable to new users.
[Read more...]

John Kerry on why we need fossil fuels (for now) and climate action (for real!) (21 September 2012)
Q. To enviros, Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy seems like a cop-out. Should the party be moving more aggressively away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy?

A. You have to be all of the above. Look, I'm the most ardent advocate up here for doing something about climate change, but you're nevertheless gonna have to use fossil fuels. The question is, can you use them in clean and manageable ways? The answer is, Yes, you can, if you make the right sort of requirements.

Q. But we're not just talking about using fossil fuels as a bridge to clean energy -- the Obama administration is aggressively expanding fossil-fuel development in the U.S. Rep. Ed Markey [D-Mass.] called it Obama's "drill, baby, drill."

A. If you're going to use X amount of fuel and you're using it in a clean way, it's better to have it produced from the United States than to be dependent on other countries. So, do you want to expand it overall? No. Overall you want to find alternatives in renewables and other things. But you have to do what you have to do to meet our energy demand. You have to have scrubbers, you have to have standards, you have to take old power plants out of service and put in new power plants with higher standards. There are ways to do fossil fuels responsibly. And if we don't do that, it's gonna be catastrophic.
[Read more...]

AARP repeatedly boos Ryan for vowing to repeal 'Obamacare' (21 September 2012)
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan was loudly and repeatedly booed by members of the AARP on Friday after he pledged to repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

"The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare," Ryan said, pausing as the audience in New Orleans booed and shouted, "No!"

"I had a feeling there would be mixed reaction," the candidate said, but the booing continued. "It weakens Medicare for today's seniors and puts it at risk for the next generation."

That, too, was met with audible groans and jeers.
[Read more...]

Mercury found in Camp Lejeune water plant pipe (21 September 2012)
Camp Lejeune, the coastal Marine base with a history of problems with its drinking water, shut down one of its water treatment plants after about 8 pounds of the type of the mercury found in thermometers was discovered last week in a pipe in the facility.

Elemental mercury was found Saturday in the pipe at Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant during maintenance, base spokesman Nat Fahy said Friday. Tests conducted after the discovery showed none of the elemental mercury in the water, Fahy said.

The plant will stay offline during repairs that include inspecting the entire plant for mercury. Areas that normally get their water from Hadnot Point will instead be serviced by the Holcomb Boulevard plant.

About 1 pint of mercury, weighing 8 pounds, was found, Fahy said. A likely source is water pressure meters containing elemental mercury that were removed from the plant in the 1980s and replaced with digital meters.
[Read more...]

Probe: 6 women paid by Secret Service for sex in Colombia (21 September 2012)
A federal watchdog told lawmakers Friday that six women who met with U.S. Secret Service employees in Colombia in April were paid for sex and that other Defense Department and White House staff might also have been involved.

Charles K. Edwards, acting inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, shared initial findings of his months-long investigation with Congress on Friday, despite saying that his final investigative report will not be released publicly, pursuant to department policy. Edwards said he is in the final stages of the investigation.

In a letter to House and Senate committees, Edwards said that 13 agency staffers "had personal encounters" with women at two Cartagena hotels and a private residence after meeting them at nightclubs in mid-April. Three of the women left without asking for money, five asked for money and were paid, four were refused payment and one woman was paid only after she summoned a Colombian police officer and was later paid by another Secret Service employee, according to investigators.

The dispute that unfolded in the early hours of April 12 exposed the misconduct to local authorities and set off one of the most embarrassing episodes in Secret Service history -- just hours before President Obama arrived in Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas.
[Read more...]

DN! Exclusive: Live from Illinois Where Workers Demand Romney Visit Before Bain Sends Jobs to China (20 September 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask about Mitt Romney's responsibility, why, Tom, you have gone to his events to try to speak to him. I'm looking at a piece around Gawker. It says, "According to documents detailing Romney's finances obtained and published by Gawker, his connection to Sensata is much more direct" than having just founded a company that then took over--

TOM GAULRAPP: That's right.

AMY GOODMAN: --Bain, but he's left it. "Romney held a direct investment in Sensata through one fund titled 'Bain Capital Fund IX, L.P.,' dated December 31, 2009, meaning he has likely financially benefited from Bain's ownership of the company in the past, and could benefit from the plant's closure and the outsourcing of the jobs to China. According to his 2011 personal financial disclosure, Romney still holds the Bain Capital fund that contains the Sensata investment."

TOM GAULRAPP: Yeah, we look at it that these--Bain Capital board has made their decision. The Sensata CEO has made his decision. So we believe that the only person in the world who can stop these jobs from being moved is Mitt Romney, because of his relationship with the Bain board, his financial investment in Bain Capital. And we also believe that if he would come and talk to us and see the impact that this kind of outsourcing has on not only the people who work there but, as the mayor has addressed, the community and the surrounding area, that he would see that this is absolutely the wrong thing to do because of the devastation it brings. But, you know, so far, we continue to receive no response from them. They continue to say they're unaware of the situation, although at this point we certainly know they are aware of the situation, so...
[Read more...]

Scientists: Psychopaths have a poor sense of smell (20 September 2012)
Psychopaths have a remarkably poor sense of smell, according to a study published on Thursday.

Researchers in Australia tested a theory that psychopathy -- a severe personality disorder characterised by lack of empathy, antisocial behaviour and callousness -- may be linked to impaired smell ability.

Both phenomena have been independently traced to dysfunction in part of the brain called the orbito-frontal complex (OFC).

Mehmet Mahmut and Richard Stevenson of the Department of Psychology at Sydney's Macquarie University trialled the olfactory skills of 79 individuals, aged 19 to 21, who had been diagnosed as non-criminal psychopaths and lived in the community.

Using "Sniffin' Sticks" -- 16 pens that contain different scents, such as orange, coffee and leather -- they found the participants had problems in correctly identifying the smell, and then discriminating it against a different odour.
[Read more...]

Mother Jones Reporter David Corn on Revealing the Secret Romney Video That's Upended 2012 Campaign (20 September 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
DAVID CORN: Well, he got really close in that comment, I think, to saying, "And if you really do well financially, you only have to pay 13 percent in income taxes." But he didn't quite say that. This is classic bait and switch. You know, he's trying to make, you know, lemonade out of--out of turds, to be kind of crude about it. I mean, if you--you know, the great thing about this story, one thing that I take pleasure in, is that you don't have to take my word or anyone else's word, you can watch the tape again and again and again and see what Mitt Romney's saying. And in those remarks, he shows--I think you can only call it contempt or disdain for 47 percent of the public. He doesn't just say, you know, "There's an issue here that they don't make enough to pay taxes, and I've got to lift their incomes. That's what I'm in this race for." He calls them moochers, parasites, people who do not take personal responsibility for their own lives.

He also conflates a couple of different subsets. There are the 47 percent of people who voted for--of the electorate that voted for Obama. He lumps them all together into this parasitic victim class. He then says there are 47 percent of people who don't pay taxes. That's sort of a different subset, but he's lumping them all together. And then he says there are people who get benefits. You know, he doesn't say 47 percent, but again lumping them together, including people who get Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, assistance from the Veterans Administration, perhaps even, you know, farm subsidies and corporate welfare. So, he's basically creating this caste for the election, in which the--you know, the politics is divided between those of us in this room, strivers, people who have made what we made purely on our own initiative, and the rest of the--you know, of America, who are moochers who want to basically be parasites living off us. There is really no other way to see that tape. It just shows his disdain for all of--you know, for half of America, when he claims to want to be president for all of America.

And yet, you know, he's coming out of this, he has to say something. He can't say, "Yeah, that's what I meant." So he's saying, "Well, I was concerned about the level of entitlements and about people not making enough money." But it's pretty clear. I mean, he wouldn't still be explaining three days out if the tape didn't really show the real Romney.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I mean, David, he wouldn't have held a news conference the night that you released this videotape, late at night, which was quite remarkable, demanding you release the whole thing, which you did on the Mother Jones website.
[Read more...]

Occupy activists commandeer anti-Occupy Wall Street rally (20 September 2012)
A conservative rally billed as an opportunity to "stand up to Occupy Wall Street extremists" fell flat on Thursday when it was co-opted by members of Occupy Wall Street.

Supporters of Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-esque group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, gathered at the Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan to demonstrate against both Occupy Wall Street and President Obama.

But almost half of the sparse crowd were Occupy Wall Street protesters, smartly dressed and bearing signs parodying Americans for Prosperity's ultra-conservative message.

"My sign says: 'I'm dreaming of a white president, just like the ones we used to have,'" said Stan Williams, a labour organiser and member of the Occupy movement.
[Read more...]

Why Obama is pulling ahead in the battleground state of Wisconsin (20 September 2012)
The president is gaining independents at Romney's expense, Mr. Franklin says in a video posted on the university website. A poll for the school, released Wednesday, shows Obama with a 54 to 45 percent advantage among Wisconsin independents, compared with 38 to 43 percent in August.

Overall in the state, the school's poll finds that Obama has a 14-point lead over Romney, 54 to 40 percent. Obama's lead against Romney was just three points in August.

"Those shifts among independents are the biggest single driving force behind those results," he says.

One theory is that Romney's attacks on Obama for the economic downturn may not be taking root in Wisconsin. Marquette's polling shows 55 percent of Wisconsin voters blame the recession on President Bush, while 30 percent say it is Obama's fault.
[Read more...]

U.S. "surge" troops out of Afghanistan: defense official (20 September 2012)
(Reuters) - The last of the 33,000 'surge' troops ordered into Afghanistan by President Barack Obama in 2009 have withdrawn from the country, returning the American presence to pre-surge levels, a senior U.S. defense official said on Friday.

The surge in American troops was designed to push back the Taliban and create space for NATO forces to build the Afghan army to a point where it could take over Afghanistan's security, allowing for an eventual Western drawdown.

The completion of the surge withdrawal had been expected by the end of September. Obama has trumpeted ending the war in Iraq and winding down the war in Afghanistan as he seeks re-election on November 6.

The return of U.S. forces to pre-surge levels comes as NATO commanders wrestle with an upswing in "insider attacks" by Afghan forces turning their guns on Western troops.
[Read more...]

Americans are eating so many friggin' avocados these days (20 September 2012)
When I was a kid in upstate New York, we didn't eat avocados. Until I moved to California, I may never have eaten one. Maybe guacamole, but I don't remember it, and I think that eating green paste would have made some sort of imprint. (I'd also never had jicama, but that's a different category of odd.) Basically the entire extent of my familiarity with the things was an insult my sister made up, calling me "avoca-toes" for no real reason.

But maybe the problem wasn't growing up in Rochester. Maybe it was growing up several decades ago.

From the Wall Street Journal:
"With more people paying close attention to diet and health, more single produce items are rocketing to superstardom. ...

"Such is the case with avocados. Mexican imports, available in all 50 states only since 2007, have led to year-round availability and now contribute more than 60% of U.S. supply. Avocado sales in 2011 totaled $2.9 billion, beating 2010 by 11%, according to the Hass Avocado Board, based in Irvine, Calif. Consumption in the first half of 2012 was 30% ahead of the same period last year."
[Read more...]

Mitt Romney: a full dissection of the video that launched a thousand gaffes (19 September 2012)
• Those unemployed or in difficulties in the course of this devastating recession, who Romney has been trying to woo with his promises of jobs, find themselves labelled as spineless.

• Students, both because they typically don't pay federal income tax on account of low earnings and because many of them are also recipients of low-cost government grants or loans.

• The working poor, such as a family of four earning a household total of $40,000. They may not have to pay federal income tax, thanks to earned income tax credits, but they can hardly be accused of either believing they are victims or of not taking responsibility for their lives.

• Members of the US military serving in war zones, who are not required to pay federal income tax on their pay and benefits, and are directly employed by the US government, may not be happy at the thought they have a victim mentality.
[Read more...]

Oops, he did it again: Romney keeps relearning history's loose-lips lessons of campaign gaffes (with videos) (19 September 2012)
WASHINGTON - Who says Mitt Romney doesn't worry much about the very poor? That he believes corporations are people, too? That his wife drives two Cadillacs?

Romney himself, that's who. When it comes to portraying the Republican nominee as an uncaring, out-of-touch rich guy, he's his own worst enemy, offering up a bonanza for Democratic attack ads.

Romney hit the trifecta this time by saying that 47 per cent of Americans believe they are victims, think "government has a responsibility to care for them" and are unwilling to step up and support themselves.

He may seem doomed to relearn the same loose-lips lesson over and over again in 2012. But Romney's far from the first candidate to blunder into a buzz saw of his own words. His rival, President Barack Obama, still hasn't lived down a similar incident from 2008.
[Read more...]

Big Pharma pushes doctors to overprescribe drugs, study finds (19 September 2012)
(NaturalNews) Know anyone taking prescription drugs? The odds are enormous you do. And it's likely they are taking drugs they don't need because their doctors are too quick to fall under the influence of Big Pharma's aggressive drug sales reps.

Consider these statistics: almost half of all Americans are currently diagnosed with a chronic condition and 40 percent of those older than 60 taking five or more medications. Is it really possible that many people in the U.S. have illnesses that need to be treated with multiple drugs?

This question obviously raises issues about the nature of the relationship between the expanding definition of chronic illness and the explosion of prescription drug use in the U.S. -- issues Michigan State University anthropologist Linda M. Hunt, PhD., decided to research.

Dr. Hunt looked into dramatic increases in the diagnosis of common, chronic conditions and the use of prescription drugs to treat these health woes . She specifically looked at two conditions which can often be relieved with lifestyle changes -- type 2 diabetes and hypertension -- that were treated in 44 primary care clinics.
[Read more...]

Study finds tumors in rats fed on Monsanto's GM corn (19 September 2012)
(Reuters) - Rats fed a lifetime diet of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) corn or exposed to its top-selling weedkiller Roundup suffered tumors and multiple organ damage, according to a French study published on Wednesday.

Although the lead researcher's past record as a critic of the industry made other experts wary of drawing hasty conclusions, the finding will stoke controversy about the safety of GM crops.

Monsanto was not immediately available for comment but the group has in the past repeatedly said its products are safe and there is no credible evidence of any health risk to humans or animals from consuming GM crops.

It is expected to create particular waves in France, where fierce opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) led to a ban on growing such plants.
[Read more...]

UW study says boys' pacifier use limits social development (19 September 2012)
Bring up the subject of pacifiers among new parents, and you'll probably spark a spirited conversation that will wake up every sleeping baby within a block or so.

Now, a UW-Madison study is likely to fuel even more debate about the trusty old nuk. Or nuki. Or binky. Or na-na. Or whatever you have chosen to call the device that serves as a remarkably effective volume control for most babies.

Paula Niedenthal, a psychology professor and lead author of the study, found that boys who used pacifiers as babies scored lower on tests that measured their emotional development. According to the research, the pacifier prevented babies from mimicking the facial expressions of those with whom they were interacting. And that mimicry, other research has shown, is important because it triggers activity in the brain that allows one to actually feel the emotion being expressed.

"When you make that facial expression yourself, you start developing those feelings yourself," Niedenthal said.
[Read more...]

Waiter, There's Arsenic in My Rice (19 September 2012)
As I've reported before, the US poultry industry has a disturbing habit of feeding arsenic to chickens. Arsenic, it turns out, helps control a common bug that infects chicken meat, and also gives chicken flesh a pink hue, which the industry thinks consumers want. Is all that arsenic making it into our food supply? It appears to be doing so--both in chicken meat and in, of all things, rice. In a just released report, Consumer Reports says it found significant levels of arsenic in a variety of US rice products--including in brown rice and organic rice, and in rice-based kids' products like cereal and even baby formula. Driving the point home, CR's analysis of a major population study found that people who consume a serving of rice get a 44 percent spike in the arsenic level in their urine.

Rice is particularly effective at picking up arsenic from soil, CR reports, "in part because it is one of the only major crops grown in water-flooded conditions, which allow arsenic to be moreeasily taken up by its roots and stored in the grains."

Arsenic, CR reports, is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a "group 1" carcinogen--meaning that it's among the globe's most potent cancer inducers. And getting regular exposure to even small amounts of it can be troubling. Here's CR:

"No federal limit exists for arsenic in most foods, but the standard for drinking water is 10 parts per billion. Keep in mind: That level is twice the 5 ppb that the EPA originally proposed and that New Jersey actually established. Using the 5 ppb standard in our study, we found that a single serving of some rices could give an average adult almost one and a half times the inorganic arsenic he or she would get from a whole day's consumption of water about liter."
[Read more...]

Top Genetics Expert: Japan's path closely resembles Chernobyl's -- "Very, very major disturbing findings" (VIDEO) (19 September 2012) [Rense.com]
Wertelecki: I did give lectures in Tokyo recently and I met people from a variety of Universities that attended these events. My sense is that the path followed in Japan closely resembles the path that evolved after Chernobyl. And there are more regrettables than nonregrettables.

It seems like frankly it's difficult to understand what's going on and what's not going on.

From my point of view the absolute priority is women of reproductive age...

No registry of pregnant women as far as I know... very little concentration on these aspects... everything is concentrated on cancer...children beyond the scope of thyroid cancer are very important...
[Read more...]

Japan shrinks from 2040 nuclear power exit deadline (19 September 2012)
Japan has effectively abandoned a commitment to end its reliance on nuclear power by 2040 amid pressure from the country's business lobby, dropping a deadline recommended by a cabinet panel only days ago.

The cabinet on Tuesday gave only a vague endorsement of the panel's report, released last Friday, and dropped any mention of plans to complete the phase-out some time in the 2030s.

The trade and industry minister, Yukio Edano, acknowledged that meeting the target date could prove impossible.

"Whether we can become nuclear free by the 2030s is not something to be achieved only with a decision by policy-makers," he said. "It also depends on the will of [electricity] users, technological innovation and the environment for energy internationally in the next decade or two."
[Read more...]

Romney Decries His Red State Southern Base as Lazy Moochers: the 47% (18 September 2012) [BuzzFlash.com]
No, he didn't use those exact words, but in condemning 47 percent of the nation for paying no income taxes, Romney was denigrating the sacred base of the modern GOP: the Deep South.

In a nutshell, here's why: seven of the lowest ten paying states in income taxes are in the Deep South. Yes stretching from South Carolina to Texas, the states that have the highest percentage of people Romney considers leeches on the government are in the GOP Southern Strategy vote belt. And if you toss in Idaho, which is a red state, you have eight of the lowest paying states in income taxes getting a sneering kick from Romney.

The conservative Tax Foundation provides the facts behind this reality, including a devastating chart as far as Mitt Romney lambasting his base with his "47 percent" derisive remarks

The Tax Foundation unequivocally states, "Nine of the ten states with the largest percentage of nonpayers are in the South and Southwest. In Mississippi, 45 percent of federal tax returns remit nothing or receive money with their federal tax returns; that is the highest percentage nationally. Georgia is next at 41 percent, followed by Arkansas at 41 percent, and Alabama, South Carolina, and New Mexico at 40 percent."
[Read more...]

Mr. Romney's '47 percent' fantasy (18 September 2012)
But here's why it's only a wisp. Of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax, two-thirds pay federal payroll tax. Most of them aren't making a lot of money; a couple with two children has to earn less than $26,400 to pay no income tax. Altogether, only a tenth of Americans pay no federal tax, and most who pay neither income nor payroll tax are retirees.

Mr. Romney's vision of the country, in other words, is a fantasy. He believes that 47 percent of Americans "are dependent upon government... believe the government has a responsibility to care for them... that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it." This is dramatically out of touch with how hard most middle-class people work and how hard they find it to make ends meet. Half of all American households -- households, not individuals -- earn $50,000 or less, and the official poverty line for a family of four is a meager $23,021.

Mr. Romney's comments echo those of his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), who told the Republican convention that President Obama offers Americans "a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us." Mr. Ryan worries not that the safety net may be inadequate but that it will turn into a "hammock." Does Mr. Romney share this ideology, or does his profoundly skewed vision result from spending his days with people like him?

Either way, Mr. Romney's condescension toward half the country oddly mirrors the liberal disparagement of working-class Republicans that conservatives have long (and rightly) found offensive. The liberal misconception has been that anyone in the 47 percent who votes Republican is acting against economic self-interest and therefore must be stupid or duped by political ads -- as if such voters cannot have principles on abortion, say, or economics that trump self-interest, even if you accept the Democratic definition of the latter.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: What an ice cold, out-of-touch, heartless old man.

Median household income falls again (18 September 2012)
A couple of snapshots of the state of the nation:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, real median household income fell for the second year in a row in 2011 - two years after the official end of the Great Recession - to $50,054. That's an 8.1 percent drop from 2007, just before the recession's onslaught. Hardest hit: white and African American households.

The nation's official poverty rate, meanwhile, remained essentially unchanged at 15 percent, which translates into 46.2 million Americans, or 9.5 million families, including 16 million children, says the report issued last week. Hardest-hit children: African Americans and Latinos.

Income inequality, on the other hand, increased, with the top 5 percent seeing their incomes increase by 4.9 percent, while the rest remained stagnant or declined.
[Read more...]

Chicago teachers vote to return to work (18 September 2012)
Hundreds of thousands of Chicago schoolchildren will return to class Wednesday after the teachers union voted to suspend its strike.

About 800 union officers and delegates met for just over two hours before there was an overwhelming voice vote to suspend the walkout, union leaders said Tuesday.

The contract agreement with the school system still needs to be ratified by the more than 29,000 teachers and support staff who are members of the union. Karen Lewis, union president, said the rank and file will vote in "the next couple of weeks."

Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest U.S. school system, and the union struck a tentative bargain Friday afternoon. But on Sunday, union members decided to continue the walkout while they reviewed the proposal.
[Read more...]

Madison teachers union to demand contract talks in wake of ruling (17 September 2012)
Wisconsin school and government employee unions on Monday were considering whether to seek new contract talks after a state court threw out a new law that restricts public workers' collective bargaining rights.

At least one major union representing about 4,700 teachers in Madison said it will demand new contract negotiations, while others said they were considering their options.

A Dane County judge ruled Friday said the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011, violates the school and local employees' constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said he will ask a court to put the ruling on hold while he prepares an appeal.

The law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to address public budget problems, has been the focal point of a broader clash between conservatives and unions over worker rights.
[Read more...]

Roundtable: After 1 Year, OWS Gives Voice to Resistance of Crippling Debt and Widening Inequality (17 September 2012) [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: And, Frances Fox Piven, a year ago, did you expect to see this?

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: Not right away, I didn't. And when I first went down to Zuccotti Park, it looked kind of small, didn't look like a great, explosive movement. But then again, most movements don't start as great explosions. They start with people here and people there, beginning to name their issues, their grievances and their hopes. And within a couple of weeks, I was very excited, because it's as though you could feel the vibrations in all the people you talked to. Especially I could, because I teach and I interact with young people all the time. And I began to feel that, finally, we had the beginnings of what could become a great movement that could change the United States, and we needed that movement so badly.

AMY GOODMAN: At the time, you were very much under attack, and in those months before, by Glenn Beck, who was saying that you wanted to lead a revolution in this country.

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: Well, in a way, I did. I mean, so much was so wrong. And--but we don't know how to make a revolution. What we know how to do is to come together, share our grievances and our hopes, and figure out the ways that we can exert power. That's what we know how to do. And if that ends up revolutionizing American society, that could well be for the better.
[Read more...]

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Swarm NYC Financial District to Mark 1st Anniversary of 99% Struggle (17 September 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
JUSTIN WEDES: I think the purpose of September 17th, for many of us who are helping to organize it and people who are coming out, is to begin a conversation, as citizens, as people affected by this financial system in collapse, as to how we're going to fix it, as to what we're going to do in order to make it work for us again.

SAM ALCOFF: On Saturday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of downtown Manhattan for what was described as an action to occupy Wall Street.

MARY ELLEN MARINO: I came because I'm upset with the fact that the bailout of Wall Street didn't help any of the people holding mortgages. All of the money went to Wall Street, and none of it went to Main Street. Now, we've just learned that Geithner was actually asked to split up the Citibank, and he didn't do it. And Obama didn't do anything about it.

SAM ALCOFF: The plan wasn't simply for a one-day protest, but an ongoing and creative occupation of the Financial District itself. Organizer Lorenzo Serna.

LORENZO SERNA: The idea is to have an encampment. Like, this isn't a one-day event. Like, we're hoping that people come prepared to stay as long as they can and that we're there to support each other.
[Read more...]

Occupy Wall Street protests return for one-year anniversary -- live updates (17 September 2012)
The latest dispatch from Adam Gabbatt:
It's interesting to see Zuccotti Park almost exactly as it was when Occupy Wall Street began - in some corners groups chatting earnestly, planning marches and other actions, elsewhere drums and music, and then people who are just chilling out and having a snooze.

Today was billed as the one year anniversary of Occupy, and there is definitely a celebratory feel. Few people here see this as a re-occupation but for the most part people are happy enough just to have a large presence again - although the numbers are nowhere near some of the larger marches New York saw last year.

NYPD: Arrests at 135:
A police spokesman just told the Guardian they made a total of 135 arrests by mid-afternoon Monday. Most arrests have been for disorderly conduct when protesters blocked roads or impeded motor or pedestrian traffic.
[Read more...]

Software lights trail to suspect in burglaries (17 September 2012)
As they waited for the police to arrive, the couple thought about the software on one of their laptops - an Apple Macbook Air. Louka had installed the application Find My iPhone on the machine.

Louka called his computer-savvy brother in Virginia Beach to help. Several keystrokes later, they remotely added another password and essentially locked the laptop.

Police technicians inspected the apartment for fingerprints and searched for other, more traditional clues. The couple told police about the tracking software on the Apple laptop. Police asked them to share any information from the software, Louka said.

"My expectation was to get nothing back," Krebs said.

In the meantime, the software had set off an invisible beacon.
[Read more...]

Airport to ditch 'naked' scanners (17 September 2012)
Controversial "naked" security scanners are to be ditched by airport bosses.

The machines at Manchester Airport invaded passenger privacy, according to critics, by giving graphic X-ray style images.

But a trial of their use comes to an end next month and they will be replaced by five next generation "privacy friendly" scanners thanks to EU rules.

The new scanners include a feature which automatically processes images of passengers using a system that eliminates the need for a security officer to view the ghost-like X-ray body outlines that sparked the controversy.

The new machines instead scan passengers using radio frequency-based millimetre wave technology rather than the low dose X-rays used by the current body scanners.

A computer then analyses the scans and alerts airport staff where to look for hidden objects using a stick figure diagram.
[Read more...]

Boy Scouts helped molesters cover tracks, files show (17 September 2012)
Over two decades, the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police - including a Scout leader in Chesapeake - and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.

A Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991 has found that Boy Scouts officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign - and helped many cover their tracks.

Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to leave, citing bogus reasons such as business demands, "chronic brain dysfunction" and duties at a Shakespeare festival.

The details are contained in the organization's confidential "perversion files," a blacklist of alleged molesters, that the Scouts have used internally since 1919. Scouts' lawyers around the country have been fighting in court to keep the files from public view.
[Read more...]

Japan brandname firms shut China plants after protest violence (17 September 2012)
(Reuters) - Some major Japanese brandname firms announced factory shutdowns in China on Monday and urged expatriates to stay indoors ahead of what could be more angry protests over a territorial dispute between Asia's two biggest economies.

China's worst outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment in decades led to weekend demonstrations and violent attacks on well-known Japanese businesses such as car makers Toyota and Honda, forcing frightened Japanese into hiding and prompting Chinese state media to warn that trade relations could now be in jeopardy.

Another outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment is expected across China on Tuesday, the anniversary of Japan's 1931 occupation of parts of mainland China.

"I'm not going out today and I've asked my Chinese boyfriend to be with me all day tomorrow," said Sayo Morimoto, a 29-year-old Japanese graduate student at a university in Shenzhen.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the government would protect Japanese firms and citizens and called for protesters to obey the law.
[Read more...]

In battle against synthetic pot, chemists are winning (17 September 2012)
When Hampton police seized more than $8,500 worth of "spice" from a Peninsula business last year, they learned a tough lesson about the fight against synthetic drugs: The chemists were winning.

Ever since spice, or synthetic marijuana, popped up in 2008, law enforcement officials and legislators have been working to snuff it out. But tough laws haven't stopped drug manufacturers.

The drug, often known by the brand names Spice or K2, is made by spraying herbs and spices with synthetic chemical compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, said Shawn Ellerman, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Various combinations of chemicals have been banned by state and federal law, Ellerman said, but spice manufacturers have stayed a step ahead of lawmakers by substituting new chemicals for banned ones.

That's what happened in Hampton, Detective Wayne Roberts said. When police sent spice seized from the raided store to a lab for testing, the results showed the drug didn't contain any of the banned chemicals. No one was charged, he said.
[Read more...]

Photos: See ya later, lovely glaciers (15 September 2012)
This summer could be dubbed The Great Melt. The belt of ice surrounding the Arctic has melted to its lowest level in history, a record seen by many scientists as evidence of long-term climate change. Adding to environmentalists' fears, Royal Dutch Shell sunk its first drill bit into the Arctic seabed, taking the first steps in American offshore oil exploration in these frigid waters.

A new book by photographer James Balog, Ice: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers, captures in vivid color just what's at stake as climate change erodes ice in some of the world's most extreme places. Balog shared six of his favorites with Climate Desk...
[Read more...]

Greg Palast announces his new book at Fighting Bob Fest (17 September 2012)
Greg Palast announced his new book Billionaires and Ballot Bandits at Fighting Bob Fest in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday. The book will become available later this week. [Read more...]

John Nichols: Scott Walker reduced to name-calling to defend struck-down Act 10 (16 September 2012)
Wisconsin once had governors who could argue their briefs on merit. But no more.

Late Friday, a well-regarded Wisconsin jurist -- who before his appointment to the bench spent 15 years working for Democratic and Republican attorneys general as a top lawyer with the state Department of Justice -- issued a thoughtful 27-page assessment of Scott Walker's signature legislative initiative, Act 10.

The decision, grounded in a nuanced reading of state and federal law, and specifically focused on constitutional concerns, displayed immense respect for Walker's positions and those of the public-employee unions with which the governor has sparred over the past 18 months. The outcome of a lawsuit brought by Madison Teachers Inc. -- the union representing educators in Madison schools -- and Laborers Local 61 -- a union representing Milwaukee public employees -- the decision concluded that substantial portions of Walker's anti-labor Act 10 "single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions."

That entirely appropriate legal analysis led to the judge's determination that the governor's law did, indeed, "violate the Wisconsin and United States Constitution and (are thus) null and void."
[Read more...]

State Journal analysis: In Madison, poorer schools get less-experienced teachers (16 September 2012)
Randall Elementary School has one of the lowest poverty rates and some of the highest test scores in Madison. It also has the most experienced teaching staff in the district.

By contrast, Sandburg Elementary has one of the higher poverty rates and some of the lowest test scores. It also has the least experienced teaching staff.

Across the district, schools with higher concentrations of poverty are more likely to have teachers with less experience, according to a State Journal analysis of Madison School District data.

Experts say that while more experience doesn't guarantee higher quality, teachers often need five to 10 years to reach their peak effectiveness.
[Read more...]

Groups race against time to get Florida voters registered (16 September 2012)
(Reuters) - Voting-rights groups that virtually stopped registering voters in Florida for a year as they challenged the state's new restrictions on elections now are scrambling to get people there registered for the November 6 election.

The effort in Florida - a large, politically divided state that is crucial in the nationwide race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney - comes two weeks after a federal judge rejected strict limits on voter-registration drives that have led to a big drop in Floridians signing up to vote.

The Florida law was so limiting that groups such as Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters, which have helped to register millions of voters in the last two presidential elections, essentially halted their registration drives in the state.

Now, with the restrictions lifted and Florida's October 9 deadline for registering to vote in the November election looming, such groups are fanning out across the state to find new voters.
[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.)