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NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 21st to 27th of October 2012
Racial prejudice in US worsened during Obama's first term, study shows (27 October 2012)
Racial prejudice in America is more widespread now than when President Barack Obama became the country's first black president in a historic 2008 vote, a new survey has shown.
In a poll of racial attitudes by the Associated Press news agency, researchers found that more Americans have attitudes that are both implicit and explicitly racist than when the same survey was conducted four years ago.
The news comes as Obama is deadlocked in a tight race for re-election against Republican challenger Mitt Romney and surveys have shown strong support for Obama among minorities while white voters favour Romney.
In all, 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% four years ago, the study showed.
Maddow: Is the Romney campaign hiding Paul Ryan? (27 October 2012)
Friday night on "The Rachel Maddow Show," in a segment called "Where's Pauldo?" host Rachel Maddow wondered why vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been all but sidelined by the campaign to elect former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) to the presidency.
While Romney has been on the ground in the swing states, Ryan, who was once the campaign's golden boy, has been campaigning in reliably red, Republican strongholds where the vote is virtually assured to favor Romney over President Barack Obama, and where the national media presence is fairly thin on the ground.
In the last ten days, Maddow pointed out, Romney has been dividing his time among the "7 swingy-est of the swing states," traveling five times to Ohio, considered a key battleground state. Ryan, meanwhile, has been campaigning solo, appearing via video at an event in Texas featuring Glenn Beck and former Vice Pres. Dick Cheney, and traveling in Georgia and South Carolina, and appearing at a $5,000-per-ticket fundraiser in Huntsville, Alabama.
"The election is a week from Tuesday," Maddow said in bewilderment. "You're in Alabama? Is Alabama swinging this year?"
Navy: Ships will remain in port during Hurricane Sandy (27 October 2012)
A day after the Navy ordered nearly all its warships in Hampton Roads to head out to sea to ride out Hurricane Sandy, which is making its way up the East Coast, officials changed their minds. Now, they said, the ships will stay.
After monitoring the storm, officials decided local ports would be the safest places for the ships. Those already at sea have been directed to steer clear of the storm.
The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, which has been docked at Norfolk Naval Station preparing for an extensive overhaul in Newport News, was sent to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth Friday to avoid the storm, according to Mike Maus, a Navy spokesman.
Initially at least 21 vessels currently docked at Norfolk Naval Station and two at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach were scheduled head to sea by Saturday morning.
South Africa mines to reinstate 12,000 workers (27 October 2012)
Mines in South Africa have agreed to re-instate 12,000 miners which could end a period of industrial unrest and violence.
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said they would allow 12,000 miners sacked for an illegal strike to return to work.
Months of strikes have cut production of platinum and gold sectors in the most damaging labour strife since the end of apartheid in 1994 and which threatened to destabilise the ANC government.
"They agreed to reinstate all the dismissed workers on the provision that they return to work by Tuesday," Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for the powerful National Union of Mineworkers, told Reuters on Saturday.
Six new cases reported in meningitis outbreak (27 October 2012)
(Reuters) - Six new cases of fungal meningitis have been reported in an outbreak tied to contaminated steroid injections that has led to 25 deaths in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday.
The CDC reported three new cases in Florida, two in Ohio and one in Indiana, raising the total number of meningitis cases attributed to the tainted steroid to 337 in 18 states. This type of meningitis cannot be spread person-to-person.
There also are seven reported cases of infections after the tainted steroid was injected into a joint such as a knee, hip, shoulder or elbow.
The steroid was supplied by New England Compounding Center of Massachusetts, which now faces multiple investigations. Health authorities have said its facility near Boston failed to make medications in sterile conditions.
Fallen Arches: McDonald's sales slump blamed on food costs, smarter customers (27 October 2012)
If you missed the news about McDonald's recent sales slump that's probably because the company planned it that way. Using the oldest corporate trick in the book, McDonald's announced its disappointing news on a Friday afternoon, hoping it would get ignored as the weekend started. But the timing of the announcement only underscores how bad the news really was. For the first time since 2003, the company's global sales rose less than 2 percent, and its net income dropped almost 4 percent.
CEO Don Thompson blamed the economy for the fast food giant's lackluster performance, pointing to "the external environment including declining consumer sentiment, high commodity and labor costs and heightened competitive activity." Translation? Between the rising price of food (thank you, climate change), growing consumer awareness of McDonald's bad business practices, and competition from the likes of Taco Bell, McDonald's was having trouble maintaining its normally high rate of growth. Thompson said the company would respond by promoting its Dollar Menu and bringing back the shockingly unhealthy McRib in December, as a way to show the "value" of eating at McDonald's. But Thompson is either missing the point or playing dumb.
GMO Companies Lying to Public to Fight Prop 37 (27 October 2012)
An effort may be underway to steal the election against Proposition 37. (Click on link to access embedded video on the topic.)
Prop. 37 support slips in polls (26 October 2012)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Proponents of Proposition 37, the November ballot measure that would make California the first state to require most foods made with genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled, are frantically trying to raise money as their initiative sees a significant dip in the polls.
The measure has the support of 44 percent of California voters, according to a University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Los Angeles Times poll. That's a 17 percent decline from a September survey from the same pollers. The initiative, however, is still leading by two percentage points. Of those polled, 13 percent were still undecided.
Proponents began airing their first television commercial Friday, trying to win back ground. But spokeswoman Stacy Malkan said it's impossible to compete with the opposition's $40.6 million war chest. That money has mostly come from large agribusiness and chemical companies such as Monsanto and Dow, as well as the biotech industry and food manufacturers, including PepsiCo.
Yes on Prop. 37 has raised $6.7 million in contributions from the organic industry, food activists and alternative health organizations.
Paul Ryan's Plan to Put Poverty on a New Diet: Starvation (26 October 2012) [BuzzFlash.com]
In a presidential race where media coverage has focused more on the horse race and the style of the campaigns, rather than substance, it's edifying to read the occasional article that focuses on actual policy implications of either party.
On Thursday, Steve Benen, who edits the Maddow Blog, wrote a commentary on a Paul Ryan "deficit reduction" speech given Wednesday in Cleveland. Ryan's remarks were euphemistically entitled, "Restoring the Promise of Upward Mobility in America's Economy."
Benen notes that the speech was laden with factual errors and rhetorical sleights of the hand, particularly that the deficit which so concerns Ryan and Romney would likely be considerably increased under their plan of maintaining tax cuts for the rich and expanding the military budget by two trillion dollars.
Of particular note is Ryan's plan for a new diet to reduce poverty: starvation. As Benen writes:
"In reality, Ryan's proposed budget plan, which was heartily endorsed by Mitt Romney, is simply brutal towards the poor and working families. The plan identifies $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts over the next decade, and nearly two-thirds of the savings come from programs intended to help Americans of limited means."
Report: Ryan spending millions to keep his congressional seat (26 October 2012)
While Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been on the presidential campaign trail with Mitt Romney, he continues to fight his own re-election battle in his home district in Wisconsin, ABC News reported Friday.
Ryan's other campaign -- to keep his seat in the House of Representatives -- is spending about $2 million on new TV, radio and print ads for the Madison and Milwaukee markets, on top of an ad that debuted Wednesday and another one scheduled for release before the Nov. 6 election date.
"Advertisements are one of the many ways Ryan for Congress is informing voters in Southern Wisconsin about the specific solutions Paul Ryan has offered to reduce our crushing burden of debt, fix our broken tax code, and strengthen and protect Medicare," said his congressional campaign manager, Kevin Seifert.
Despite raising less money than his opponent, Democratic challenger Rob Zerban in the last fundraising period -- Zerban collected $770,000, nearly $200,000 more than Ryan -- the report said Ryan still has more cash on hand for his campaign, with about $4 million, twice the amount Zerban has to work with.
Who Owns the World? Noam Chomsky on U.S.-Fueled Dangers, from Climate Change to Nuclear Weapons (26 October 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: We're on the road in Portland, Oregon. We are here as part of our 100-city Silenced Majority tour. On this week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. In a recent speech, Professor Chomsky examined topics largely ignored or glossed over during the campaign, from China to the Arab Spring, to global warming and the nuclear threat posed by Israel versus Iran. He spoke last month at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst at any event sponsored by the Center for Popular Economics. His talk was entitled "Who Owns the World?"
NOAM CHOMSKY: When I was thinking about these remarks, I had two topics in mind, couldn't decide between them--actually pretty obvious ones. One topic is, what are the most important issues that we face? The second topic is, what issues are not being treated seriously--or at all--in the quadrennial frenzy now underway called an election? But I realized that there's no problem; it's not a hard choice: they're the same topic. And there are reasons for it, which are very significant in themselves. I'd like to return to that in a moment. But first a few words on the background, beginning with the announced title, "Who Owns the World?"
Actually, a good answer to this was given years ago by Adam Smith, someone we're supposed to worship but not read. He was--a little subversive when you read him sometimes. He was referring to the most powerful country in the world in his day and, of course, the country that interested him, namely, England. And he pointed out that in England the principal architects of policy are those who own the country: the merchants and manufacturers in his day. And he said they make sure to design policy so that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to. Their interests are served by policy, however grievous the impact on others, including the people of England.
But he was an old-fashioned conservative with moral principles, so he added the victims of England, the victims of the--what he called the "savage injustice of the Europeans," particularly in India. Well, he had no illusions about the owners, so, to quote him again, "All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." It was true then; it's true now.
Quitting smoking 'works extraordinarily well' for saving lives (26 October 2012)
Smoking cigarettes throughout adulthood reduces life expectancy by about 11 years in women but quitting avoids much of the extra risk, a new large study shows.
The Million Women Study in the UK recruited 1.3 million British women who were born in the early 1940s to look at the hazards of smoking and the benefits of stopping at various ages.
In most of Europe, Canada and the U.S., the popularity of smoking among young women reached its peak in the 1960s, decades later than for men.
Among women in the study who smoked cigarettes through their adult lives, the mortality rate was three times that of women who never smoked or who stopped well before middle age, Sir Richard Peto of the University of Oxford and his co-authors said in Saturday's issue of the journal Lancet.
Canada suspends dispersal of Novartis flu shots following similar move in Europe (26 October 2012)
Canada is following the lead of several European countries and suspending distribution of flu vaccine made by the pharmaceutical firm Novartis.
The decision relates to the discovery by the company of tiny clumps of virus particles in some batches of flu vaccines made at the Novartis production facility in Italy.
Health Canada, which announced the move, said Novartis has agreed to suspend distribution of its vaccines -- sold in Canada as Fluad and Agriflu -- while the department investigates the situation.
The department is also telling doctors and others who administer flu shots in Canada to hold off using Novartis product for the time being.
Release of Boy Scouts files stirs memories of sexual abuse (26 October 2012)
Joshua Solomon kept his Boy Scouts uniform in his closet for 30 years, a cotton and nylon reminder of the sexual abuse he said he endured -- but never reported -- as a 12-year-old in Berkeley's Troop 22.
"I've been refusing to let this piece of history die," he said.
Last week, he took the uniform out of the closet. His memories of Scouting -- and everything the uniform represents -- flooded back with the public release of hundreds of previously confidential files on suspected molesters kept by the youth organization.
The file on his scoutmaster, Steve Kabeary, indicated that eight years after allegedly abusing Solomon he pleaded no contest to molesting four boys. Kabeary was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Confidante put drugs in Britney's food, singer's mom testifies (26 October 2012)
LOS ANGELES - The one-time confidante of Britney Spears said he crushed up drugs in the pop singer's food to help her sleep and disabled her phone lines during the height of her meltdown five years ago, Spears' mother testified on Friday.
Lynne Spears told the Los Angeles jury in a civil trial that Sam Lutfi, Britney's self-styled manager at the time, described his actions to her in a January 2008 exchange at her daughter's Los Angeles home.
"Those were his exact words," Lynne Spears said on her first day on the witness stand. "I was very worried and I didn't know what to do so I tried to get her away from there."
Lutfi is suing Lynne Spears for defaming him in her 2008 book Through the Storm, in which she related some of Lutfi's actions in 2007 when he became the singer's closest friend, and moved into her house.
China blocks New York Times Web site after report on leader's wealth (25 October 2012)
BEIJING -- An explosive story about the massive wealth accumulated by the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao prompted the Chinese government to block the Web site of the New York Times early Friday morning, just days before a sensitive, once-in-a-
decade transition of power from Wen and others to a new generation of leaders.
The article says that assets controlled by Wen's family are worth at least $2.7 billion, a shocking figure even in a country where government corruption is rampant and popular resentment against the elite has increased in recent years. The scandal also complicates the apparent intention of Chinese leaders to tackle corruption as a main issue at the Nov. 8 party congress, a move they have been signaling in the wake of other scandals that have dramatically shaken the party's core leadership.
This month, the party took the rare step of accusing another prominent leader, Bo Xilai, of alleged massive corruption and wealth, but only as it began the process of purging him. He had a central role in China's biggest political scandal in the past two decades, which involved the murder of a British businessman.
On Friday morning, China formally expelled Bo from the country's top legislature, the National People's Congress, where he was a deputy.
US Supreme Court upholds stay of execution in Fla. (24 October 2012)
STARKE, Fla. -- Following a slew of conflicting court rulings, a federal appeals court has blocked the scheduled execution of a mass killer convicted of eight killings that jolted South Florida in the 1970s. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the stay.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision Tuesday came during a flurry of legal decisions over claims that 64-year-old John Errol Ferguson suffers from mental illness so severe he cannot be executed. Ferguson, a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions he's the "prince of God," had faced a planned lethal injection at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Florida's death chamber.
The Supreme Court rejected an earlier Ferguson emergency appeal Tuesday - as did the 11th Circuit - but the high court would not agree to the state of Florida's request to overturn the later ruling. The appeals court set a schedule for motions that will likely delay the execution at least until the first week of November, if not longer.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office argued in court papers that the late ruling "makes a mockery of the state's compelling interest in finality" in Ferguson's case. He has been on death row for 34 years.
Whooping crane dies during ultra-light-led migration (26 October 2012)
Operation Migration is reporting that an ultra-light trained whooping crane has died in Illinois: The bird was one of six on migration from Wisconsin to Florida this year.
On Friday, the organization's In the Field blog reported that the bird known as #10 "had broken its left femur" and "despite everyone's best efforts, she unfortunately died on the operating table."
According to Joe Duff of Operation Migration, "We know the bird was injured on land but are not sure how... It was very windy close to the ground and maybe it hit at an odd angle. That is all it would take. The injury looked like a compression fracture consistent with a hard landing and not an impact."
The ultra-light-led flock had been delayed in LaSalle County, Illinois for the past 13 days due to windy weather conditions. Finally the migration was able to continue this morning, and the birds were led over 100 miles to their Piatt County stopover site.
Pacific fish from Japan to Oregon still radioactive from Fukushima fallout (25 October 2012)
More than 18 months later, the full scope of the decidedly human-made Fukushima nuclear meltdown is still rippling through the natural world. Like the butterflies before them, Fukushima fish are showing dangerously elevated radioactivity and may still for a decade to come.
"According to a paper published in the journal Science on Thursday, large and bottom-dwelling species carry most risk, which means cod, flounder, halibut, pollock, skate and sole from the waters in question could be off limits for years.
"Sample fish caught in waters near the stricken reactors suggest there is still a source of caesium either on the seafloor or still being discharged into the sea, perhaps from what is left of the cooling waters. As the levels of radioactive isotopes in the fish are not declining as fast as they should have, the outlook for fishing in the area is likely to be poor for the next 10 years, the paper's author told the Guardian.
"'These fish could have to be banned for a long time. The most surprising thing for me was that the levels [of radioactivity] in the fish were not going down. There should have been much lower numbers,' said Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the US, who wrote the paper titled Fishing For Answers Off Fukushima."
Malvo says he was sexually abused by accomplice (25 October 2012)
Convicted D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo said in a television interview that aired Thursday that he was sexually abused by John Allen Muhammad, his adult accomplice in shootings that terrorized the Washington area 10 years ago.
Malvo also said there are still unidentified victims from the pair's shooting spree and that he contacted the families of some of those victims.
"Without anyone contacting me 2-1/2 years ago, I reached out and I did that," Malvo said in an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer that was aired on the "Today" show. "In five different instances in different states. But there was a point in time where, psychologically, I couldn't handle it."
Lauer told viewers the telephone interview was taped Wednesday and lasted about 40 minutes.
Judge OKs release of Romney divorce case testimony (25 October 2012)
CANTON, Mass. (AP) -- A Massachusetts judge on Thursday granted a request to unseal testimony by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the decades-old divorce of Staples founder Tom Stemberg.
Lawyers for The Boston Globe sought release of the testimony, arguing that the public has the right to know the contents because Stemberg has been a prominent spokesman for Romney's qualifications for the presidency and has cited Romney's role in Staples' success. The office supply company was founded with backing from Romney's firm, Bain Capital.
Stemberg's ex-wife, Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, supported the Globe's request.
The transcripts were not immediately released Thursday; lawyers said they were still reviewing them.
Food Fight: Debating Prop 37, California's Landmark Initiative to Label GMO Food (24 October 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Leading corporations opposing the labeling measure include Monsanto, DuPont, Dow AgroSciences, Bayer, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and ConAgra. By some accounts, opponents of labeling are spending an estimated $1 million a day to quash the measure.
Well, for more, we go now to Berkeley, California, to the University of California, Berkeley, where we're joined by two guests for a debate on Prop 37. Stacy Malkan is a longtime advocate for environmental health, spokesperson for the Yes on 37 California Right to Know campaign. She's author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. And David Zilberman joins us, professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He's also co-director of the Center for Sustainable Resource Development in the school's College of Natural Resources.
Stacy Malkan and Professor Zilberman, we welcome you to Democracy Now! Stacy Malkan, why do you support Prop 37? And can you explain to us, since you're one of its spokespeople, how did it end up on the ballot?
STACY MALKAN: Well, Proposition 37 is very simple, Amy. It's about our right to know what's in the food we're eating and feeding our families. It's about our right to decide if we want to eat food that's been fundamentally altered at the genetic level, by companies like Monsanto, to contain bacteria, viruses or foreign genes that have never been in the food system before. And genetic engineering has been hidden from American consumers for two decades. Sixty-one other countries require labeling laws, but we haven't been able to get labeling here because of the enormous influence of Monsanto and the chemical companies.
Michael Pollan: From GMOs to NYC's Soda Ban, Local Efforts Challenge Agri-Giants' National Control (24 October 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Food Day, and we are speaking with Michael Pollan. In late 2010, Democracy Now! spoke to Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. I asked him about the U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that revealed that the Bush administration drew up ways to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use genetically modified seeds.
JEFFREY SMITH: Well, we've been saying for years that the United States government has joined at--is joined at the hip with Monsanto and pushing GMOs as part of Monsanto's agenda on the rest of the world. This lays bare the mechanics of that effort. We have Craig Stapleton, the former ambassador to France, specifically asking the U.S. government to retaliate and cause some harm throughout the European Union. And then, two years later, in 2009, we have a cable from the ambassador to Spain from the United States asking for intervention there, asking the government to help formulate a biotech strategy and support the government--members of the government in Spain that want to promote GMOs, as well. And here, they specifically indicate that they sat with the director of Monsanto for the region and got briefed by him about the politics of the region and created strategies with him to promote the GMO agenda.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Jeffrey Smith. Michael Pollan, your response?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, you know, our government has been promoting Monsanto's products and the technology of genetic engineering. Both parties, as I said earlier, have supported this--the Democrats very early on. Remember the era of industrial policy--I'm sure you do, Amy--where the Democrats would pick out certain industries to promote to bring back the economy during the first Bush administration. Well, biotech was one of the ones they chose. The biotech industry and Monsanto was very close to Bill Clinton, in particular. And so, you've had--this is an American product that we're promoting overseas. There's nothing unusual about that. And it just happens to be a product a lot of people around the world don't want. And, you know, it's important to remember that other countries have had their debate, and they've decided they want to label this.
We can't have that debate in Washington, because Monsanto has closed off all the avenues of debate. We can't have it in state legislatures--same reason: lobbying money has closed off the avenues. In Congress, Dennis Kucinich has--you know, has introduced bills to label GM for every year since they were introduced. He's never gotten more than a handful of co-sponsors. This bubbling up of the issue in California, through our crazy initiative process, is the only--the only way that it has managed to come before the public. And it's a politics that's very hard to stamp out, though God knows they're trying, and they may succeed. And I think that, in itself, is a--is a pretty worrisome phenomenon.
U.S. Rep. Scott wants Holder to investigate voter fraud (24 October 2012)
U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott is among three Virginia congressmen calling on the Department of Justice to investigate voter registration fraud by a company with ties to the state.
Scott, Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly today called on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate fraud connected to Strategic Allied Consulting and its subsidiary Pinpoint, according to a news release from Scott. On Oct. 18, Pinpoint employee Colin Small was arrested in Harrisonburg on 13 counts of voter registration fraud.
Strategic Allied Consulting is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, after more than 200 allegations of voter fraud. Pinpoint operates in several Virginia locations, including Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, the release said.
A Justice Department spokesman says the agency is reviewing the lawmakers' letter.
Barnes & Noble calls PIN pad tampering "sophisticated criminal effort" to steal personal data
(24 October 2012)
NEW YORK -- Barnes & Noble Inc. said Wednesday the tampering of devices used by customers to swipe credit and debit cards in 63 of its stores was a "sophisticated criminal effort" to steal information, and reiterated it's working with federal law enforcement authorities.
The nation's largest bookseller late Tuesday disclosed the data breach in stores in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and warned customers to check for unauthorized transactions and to change their personal identification numbers, or PINs.
B&N said only one device, or PIN pad, was tampered with in each store, affecting less than 1 percent of these devices in its stores. It released a complete list of locations that were affected. All the PIN pads in its nearly 700 stores nationwide were disconnected on Sept. 14, after the company learned of the tampering.
In a press release issued Wednesday, B&N said the criminals planted bugs in the tampered devices, allowing for the capture of credit card and PIN numbers. The company did not offer a timeline for when the bugs were planted or how long they were in use before they were discovered.
Google cameras map popular Grand Canyon trails (24 October 2012)
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) -- Google and its street-view cameras already have taken users to narrow cobblestone alleys in Spain using a tricycle, inside the Smithsonian with a push cart and to British Columbia's snow-covered slopes by snowmobile.
The search giant now has brought its all-seeing eyes -- mounted for the first time on a backpack -- down into the Grand Canyon, showcasing the attraction's most popular hiking trails on the South Rim and other walkways.
It's the latest evolution in mapping technology for the Mountain View, Calif., company, which has used a rosette of cameras to photograph thousands of cities and towns in dozens of countries for its Street View feature. With a click of the mouse, Internet users are transported virtually for a 360-degree view of locales they may have read about only in tourist books and seen in flat, 2-D images.
"Any of these sort of iconic, cultural, historical locations that are not accessible by road is where we want to go," said Ryan Falor, product manager at Google.
Google announced the trekker earlier this year but made its first official collection of data this week at the Grand Canyon.
Navy eased after-hours rules 4 days before Okinawa rape (24 October 2012)
TOKYO -- Weary of rules limiting the freedom of their "overwhelmingly outstanding" sailors, the top commanders of the U.S. Navy in Japan eased after-hours restrictions this month. Just four days later, two sailors were accused of rape on Okinawa, a small island that has long had a tense relationship with the large American force stationed there.
Now, in his first comments since the incident, one of the commanders has told The Associated Press the policy change is under review. But he also stands by his assessment that the U.S. troops under his watch display "exceptionally high standards of professional and personal conduct."
The Navy says the policy change played no role in the alleged attack on a woman outside her apartment building. But the U.S. ambassador immediately apologized, and the head of all 52,000 U.S. troops in Japan announced a new curfew for them as the case sparked intense anger on Okinawa and a brought a sharp rebuke from the Japanese government.
he uproar has deepened a dilemma nagging the U.S. military for years: It wants to improve relations on Okinawa, home to most of its Japan-based force and one of America's most important Pacific military outposts, but it also wants to be fair to its sailors. Many Okinawans believe the troops cannot be trusted to behave themselves off-base despite falling crime rates, and many sailors believe they are being unfairly judged because of a few notorious cases.
UK government turns up heat on BBC over sex abuse scandal (24 October 2012)
(Reuters) - The British government warned the BBC on Wednesday that a growing sex abuse scandal was raising "very real concerns" about public trust in the broadcaster.
The BBC has been thrown into disarray by accusations that it helped cover up sexual abuse by one of its former presenters, Jimmy Savile, and has struggled to explain why one of its own programs dropped an investigation into Savile last year.
Police and the BBC, which is funded by the public through a license fee, are looking into allegations that the eccentric, cigar-chomping Savile, who died last year, abused girls as young as 12 over six decades. Some of the attacks were alleged to have taken place on BBC premises.
"These allegations do leave many institutions, perhaps particularly the BBC, with serious questions to answer," Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament.
U.S. to study cancer risks near 6 nuclear plants (24 October 2012)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced plans Tuesday to launch a pilot epidemiological study of cancer risks near six nuclear power plants, including San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in north San Diego County.
The commission is acting out of growing concern that using uranium to produce electricity may be dangerous even without accidents at nuclear plants. In addition, recent epidemiological studies in Germany and France suggest that the children living near nuclear reactors are twice as likely to develop leukemia.
The U.S. study will be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, which will also help the commission determine whether to extend the study to all 65 U.S. nuclear power plants and certain nuclear fuel sites.
The pilot study will investigate cancer rates in each census tract within a 30-mile radius of the nuclear facilities, and assess cancers in children younger than 15 whose mothers lived near a nuclear facility during pregnancy. About 1 million people live within five miles of operating nuclear plants in the United States, and more than 45 million live within 30 miles, nuclear regulatory officials said.
Watch out for zom-bees, a real life sci-fi story (24 October 2012)
They stumble around comatose in the dark of night under dim street lights -- circling -- going nowhere.
The imagery seems plucked from an old school horror flick.
But in this real life sci-fi storyline, honey bees are playing the role of the living dead, bees that have been parasitized by the maggots of the Apocephalus borealis fly . The unscrupulous parasites are turning busy daytime foragers into night-time zom-bees.
Biologist John Hafernik, of San Francisco State University, has been monitoring the situation for four years.
"Known infections are primarily on the west coast," he says. Just last month researchers confirmed the presence of zom-bees in Oregon and Washington.
Organic food is best for kids, pediatricians say (23 October 2012)
Organic, babies! The American Academy of Pediatrics is weighing in for the first time on the conventional vs. organic debate.
Its verdict? An "extensive analysis of scientific evidence," it says, suggests that kids who eat organic produce, dairy, and meat "have lower pesticide levels, which may be significant for children."
From NPR's The Salt blog:
"The pediatricians are worried because babies of female farm workers in California showed small but significant developmental and motor delays when their mothers were exposed to pesticides at levels similar to those deemed acceptable in conventionally grown produce while pregnant."
What kind of wine goes with fracking? (23 October 2012)
The hillside vineyards of New York's Finger Lakes region make money producing fine Rieslings and inviting tourists to sip white wine by the water's edge. Now winery owners are worried about the prospect of a grittier kind of economic development: gas drilling.
Some grape growers fear that if shale gas drilling, or fracking, is allowed in this region of postcard-perfect hills and crystal-clear lakes, the muddy well sites and rumbling trucks will not only endanger the environment but threaten the Finger Lakes' reputation for pristine beauty.
In their view, wine does not pair well with drilling.
The Finger Lakes, located about 200 miles northwest of New York City, sit atop the Utica shale formation and on the northern fringe of the Marcellus Shale formation, which is being tapped just across the state line in Pennsylvania through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves the injection of huge amounts of chemically treated water into wells and is denounced by many environmentalists as a danger to drinking water supplies.
Saudi Arabia Reveals Plans to Be Powered Entirely by Renewables While Fossil Fuels Dictate U.S. Energy Policy (23 October 2012) [BuzzFlash.com]
Governor Romney should visit Mecca, Saudi Arabia and learn about the planned utility-scale power plant that will generate electricity from renewables. Mecca, which hosts millions of pilgrims a year visiting Islam's most holy shrine, is working toward becoming the first city in Saudi Arabia to operate an entire power plant from renewable energy sources.
U.S. voters should take a cue from the Middle East. In the session, Reassessing Renewable Energies, during last week's Global Economic Symposium in Rio de Janeiro, Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia said, "I would like to see Saudi Arabia using 100 percent renewable energy within my lifetime."
Wow! While the oil rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces to the world it's embracing the goal of 100 percent green energy, most politicians in America are afraid to make such a bold statement out of fear of losing shocking sums of money that the fossil fuel industry and wealthy individuals "donate" to sway elections and manipulate legislation, a force strangling our attempt to wean ourselves from dirty energy and embrace a clean energy future.
While oil exporters look beyond the short-term and embrace a sustainable energy future, Governor Romney demands that the only way to achieve energy independence is to increase offshore oil drilling, frack all our public and private lands, pipe toxic tar sands across the breadbasket of our country and continue to blast the mountaintops in Appalachia to get every last drop of fossil fuels out of the ground while killing any strategic focus on renewable energy including the Production Tax Credit for wind. Romney blasts President Obama's investment in renewable energy and labels these efforts a nefarious job-killing "green agenda" that "has been nothing short of a disaster."
Meningitis: drug firm escaped tough sanctions before outbreak, files show (23 October 2012)
Released under a freedom of information request and published on the Massachusetts department of health website, the documents show a litany of complaints against the company, ranging from allegations of an NECC official handing out blank prescriptions in 1999 to inadequate documentation and inadequate process controls in 2006.
In 2004, the pharmacy board of the public health department in Massachusetts initially proposed sanctioning NECC with three years of probation and a public reprimand, amid allegations that the company violated accepted standards for compounding methylprednisolone acetate, the steroid linked to the current fungal meningitis outbreak.
But two years later, the board agreed to a non-disciplinary settlement. It also agreed not to report the agreement to the National Association of State Boards of Pharmacy or other outside agencies. NECC's lawyer had pleaded with the board not to issue a public reprimand because it could put the company out of business, according to Reuters.
The documents reveal that in 2006 an outside evaluation firm, Pharmacy Support Inc, was sent to NECC. In a letter to NECC, it concluded: "Although your facility has seen significant upgrades in facility design for the sterile compounding operation, there were numerous significant gaps identified during the assessment."
South African gold mine sacks 8,500 strikers (23 October 2012)
More than 8,000 striking South African gold miners have been sacked after refusing to return to work, mine owners say.
Gold Fields said workers at the KDC East mine had ignored a final deadline set for 16:00 (14:00 GMT).
Last week, some 11,000 miners at Gold Fields' KDC West mine heeded a company ultimatum and returned to work.
South Africa's mining sector has been hit by a wave of recent unrest which has left almost 50 people dead.
Most strikes have been over pay, although the stoppage at KDC East - at Carletonville west of Johannesburg - relates to a local trade union dispute not wages.
"Long Distance Revolutionary": New Documentary Tells Untold Story of Mumia Abu-Jamal's Life Journey (22 October 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: That's a clip from the new documentary, Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal, written, produced and directed by Steve Vittoria, coming to theaters in February. Democracy Now!'s Juan González and me, as well, also speak in the film. Juan will be introducing the film in November in New York City at DOC NYC.
The significance of what we have just heard and why you chose Mumia Abu-Jamal as your next subject for a film?
STEPHEN VITTORIA: Amy, unlike any other film, book, video, article written about Mumia, Long Distance Revolutionary does not deal with his case whatsoever. We mention it; it is not a focus of the film. The focus of the film is Mumia's life as a journalist, a writer, a historian, a revolutionary, both prior to incarceration and after incarceration, 30 years on death row. Now he's been in the general population for the last year or so. And that's what really interested me about Mumia. We know about the case. There has been plenty of pieces produced about the case. I didn't want to mine that information again. The forces that have been--that have been keeping Mumia where he is and put him where he is, they've had their narrative for 30 years. There is another narrative.
And the other narrative is that this was an incredible young man at 14, 15 years old that was a writer for the Black Panther newspaper. He was a reporter and a broadcaster for National Public Radio in his late twenties. He had an amazing career before December 9, 1981, when he was arrested and then later convicted for the murder of Faulkner. It's just an incredible story that they have kept under wraps, and they want to keep it under wraps because he has--he has transcended prison for the 30 years after. And people like Noelle Hanrahan, who is my partner on this film, she's been able to get his voice out from death row, a dark, dank hole on death row in Pennsylvania, and she's delivered it to the world. And he has had an amazing impact on social and political discourse the world over. That's what the film is about.
And the voices that you just heard, the outpouring of not only love but of intellectual respect and historical respect for Mumia Abu-Jamal, is absolutely incredible. And we capture it in this film. We talk a great deal about the ugly reality of mass incarceration in this country. Michelle Alexander is in the film, the author of The New Jim Crow, and she helps to frame how and why men and women like Mumia are where they are. And so, the film covers that arc of Mumia's life. And we're incredibly proud--Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam offered us some music, which is just absolutely incredible. And we have a stellar interview cast. So, we're looking for to sharing what, quite frankly, is a brand new story with audiences all across the world.
I knew Senator George McGovern by Steven Jonas, MD (23 October 2012) [BuzzFlash.com]
When Sen. George McGovern died on October 21, 2012, the United States lost the last true progressive nominee it has had for the Presidency since Sen. McGovern ran in 1972. Senator McGovern first came to my attention during the Democratic Party primaries in 1996. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy on June 5, 1968, with the encouragement of the Kennedy family, which hoped to be able to head off the nomination of Hubert Humphrey Sen. McGovern entered the primaries. But it was too little too late, and we all know what happened that year when Humphrey didn't have the guts to oppose President Johnson on the Viet Nam and was beaten by Richard Nixon and his "secret plan" to end the war. (The "secret" was of course to have conspired with the South Viet Nam political leadership to make sure that the then peace-talks going on in Paris would fail and Nixon would continue the war for another six years.) After that defeat, Sen. McGovern almost immediately began organizing a run for the Presidency in 1972. (So you thought that the "permanent campaign" was something new, huh?)
Of course Sen. McGovern did win the 1972 nomination with the support of folks whose politics ranged from mine to those of two y youngsters form Arkansas, Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham. As pointed out in The New York Times obituary (1), "The Republicans portrayed Mr. McGovern as a cowardly left-winger, a threat to the military and the free-market economy and someone outside the mainstream of American thought." His staff "urged him urged him to talk more about his war experience, but like many World War II veterans at the time, he was reluctant to do so." That was most unfortunate. In contrast to Nixon, who spent his naval war service in a series of desk jobs in places ranging from Ottumwa, IA to Guadalcanal well after it was captured by the Marines, to Washington, DC and New York City, Sen. McGovern was a pilot for the "other" heavy bomber of the US Air Force, well less known than the B-17, but equally destructive, the B-24.
What Sen. McGovern wouldn't talk about were factors like these. The B-24 was known colloquially in the Air Force as the "flying coffin." This was because, unlike the B-17 the B-2 was very difficult for its airmen to escape from and parachute to Earth when the plane was hit (2). Nevertheless, when Sen. McGovern's plane was hit on one of its raids he managed to pilot it safely to a crash-landing on an Island in the Adriatic Sea. And oh yes, if air crewmen survived 25 missions, they were rotated back to the States (and never sent out again, unlike our troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan). But this "cowardly left-winger," as he was labeled by the likes of "I-had-something-better-to-do-five-Viet-Nam-War-deferments" Dick Cheney, happened to have volunteered for an additional 10 missions in the "flying coffin."
Senator McGovern courageously tried to remake the Democratic Party into one that represented the interests of the working class, as it had to some extent under the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In fact it is a sad fact that Lyndon Johnson, who McGovern opposed so bitterly on 1968, would have gone down in US history as one of our greatest Presidents, for the same reasons, had it not been for his having been dragged into the Big Muddy of Viet Nam by his visceral fear of being labeled a "red" by the Republicans. He had embraced both Medicare and the Civil Rights movement and was a strong proponent of government intervention to solve problems that the private sector could not or didn't want to solve (as, ironically enough, so was Richard Nixon, on the domestic front). But in 1972 McGovern was trying to return the Democratic Party to both its New Deal roots and the abandoned "Great Society" of Lyndon Johnson.
George McGovern Dies at 90: Remembering Democratic Senator, Antiwar Candidate's Life and Legacy (22 October 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: The Vietnam War, talk about his growing activism against it. Was he against the war from the beginning?
STEPHEN VITTORIA: He was very much against the war from the beginning. He did in fact vote for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and it's a vote that George, to his dying day, regretted making. There are only two senators that voted against that Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: Morse and Gruening. And George told us in the film, and he told me on many occasions, that he should have never believed what he was being told by both the Kennedy and the Johnson White House.
AMY GOODMAN: Which was?
STEPHEN VITTORIA: Which was that this was going to be a kind of a humanitarian effort, it was going to be quick, and that the Gulf of Tonkin was just to make sure that the soldiers had what they needed.
Romney's 'Farmer' (by Jim Hightower) (22 October 2012)
Old Mitt Romney went to a farm, e-i-e-i-o. And on that farm he came a cropper, e-i-e-i-o!
At the time, his staff probably thought that putting Mitt on a farm was a good idea, since he was perceived as being completely out of touch with regular folks -- more concerned with getting extra tax breaks for multi-millionaires than with helping families who're struggling just to make ends meet. So, what better way to show his down-to-earthiness than to go to the heartland for an "American Gothic" photo-op with one of those hard-hit farmers who're suffering from this year's devastating drought? Thus, to demonstrate his oneness with America's tillers of the soil, Romney jetted away to the Iowa farm of Lemar Koethe.
Well... he went to one of Koethe's farms. It turns out that even when Romney tries to get grassrootsy, he still prefers to do it with fellow millionaires. Koethe owns not one, two, or merely several farms, but 54 of them. And forget the Old McDonald's image, for farming is not this guy's main business -- he is a real estate developer and entertainment mogul who runs his own event center.
And Koethe has something else that probably drew Romney to bond with him: a huge house with an underground garage equipped to hold multiple vehicles. It doesn't have a car elevator, as Romney's Southern California mansion does, but Koethe's garage does have its own car wash bay. And no doubt Mitt would envy Lemar's 35-foot spiral staircase that rises from the entry foyer to the main living area of his home, which is called "the spaceship house."
Pam's recipe for Vegan Pumpkin Pie (23 October 2012)
Food you'll need
4 cups steamed pumpkin, skin removed, diced or mashed
4 cups steamed & peeled sweet potatoes or yams, diced or mashed
2 cups water, distilled preferred
1 & 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, plus extra to sprinkle on top
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large or 2 small unbaked lower pie crusts
(Click on link to see the instructions)
PAM COMMENTARY: Don't forget that you can make pumpkin pie from FRESH pumpkins (not just canned) by using this recipe from my cookbook (available on VeggieCooking.com). This recipe uses sweet potatoes or yams to sweeten the pie, not sugar or even blended raisins. It's all healthy vegetables, in the form of a delicious pumpkin pie!
Also remember my olive-oil-based pie crust (one of my book's most popular recipes online), delicious and no cholesterol or trans fats!
Study for Shell's Jackpine oilsands mine predicts big losses in animal habitat (22 October 2012)
EDMONTON - Shell Canada outlines a substantial loss of habitat for birds, woodland caribou, bison and other animals in an environmental assessment of the proposed expansion of its Jackpine oilsands mine in northeastern Alberta.
The document prepared by the company for an upcoming public hearing predicts that the impact of all development projects in the region, including but not restricted to the proposed Jackpine mine, would result in the loss of 40 to 60 per cent of the habitat for birds, 47 per cent of habitat critical to woodland caribou, 39 per cent of the habitat used by wood bison and significant swaths of forest important to fisher, lynx, wolverine, moose, beaver and black bear.
"The numbers are unprecedented, and show we are getting closer and closer to an environmental tipping point," said Simon Dyer, policy director for the Pembina Institute, a non-profit think-tank that promotes environmental, social and economic sustainability. "If everyone develops what they want to develop in the region it could be devastating.
"It is time some tough choices have to be made when it comes to deciding which projects go forward and which should be held back."
Study: Open access publishing of science research rising at unanticipated rate (22 October 2012)
Read all about it: academic publishing is changing faster than anyone has realised, according to a new study reported today in BMC Medicine.
Before 2000 the vast majority of research papers were published in journals that could only be read by academics if they -- or their university libraries -- paid a subscription. But since the turn of the millennium, the growth of the world wide web has been accompanied by the emergence of open access publishing, by which research papers are made freely available online. According to results published today by Laasko and Björk, over half of all research papers may now be available through open access.
The academic publishing game has changed irrevocably.
The change does not mean that academics have embraced the free-for-all file-sharing mentality that is the bug-bear of the music business. Rather it reflects the deep-seated amateur ethos of scholars, who have always seen the work of producing and reviewing their research findings as an intrinsic part of the job.
Insight: Is Ohio's "secret" energy boom going bust? (22 October 2012)
(Reuters) - Dozens of wells drilled this year across rural Ohio are quietly pumping out the answer to the U.S. energy industry's most loaded question: Is the Utica shale formation, touted as a potentially $500 billion frontier, a boom or a bust?
Yet the answer is likely to remain concealed for some time.
More than a year after Chesapeake Energy Corp Chief Executive and top Ohio driller Aubrey McClendon declared the Utica to be "the biggest thing to hit Ohio since the plow," investors, landowners and even the federal government are still in the dark over the true pace of oil and natural gas production in the state.
That's because Ohio is one of the nation's least transparent states when it comes to energy data - a distinction the industry worked to maintain this year, according to a review of legislative documents and interviews with state and industry officials.
McGovern candidacy a cultural landmark (22 October 2012)
The optimism was understandable. Hubert Humphrey had lost by fewer than 600,000 votes to Nixon in 1968, and the 1972 election was the first presidential campaign since the minimum voting age had been lowered from 21 to 18, potentially adding millions of (presumably) liberal young people to the rolls. And McGovern, in opposing a war expanded and advocated by Democratic presidents, had shaken the party's post-World War II tradition of aggressive anti-Communism.
"Humphrey was anathema to us in '68, and then we got McGovern and America suddenly seemed like a place where real choices were presented," says historian Jon Wiener, who has written often about the politics and culture of the Cold War era. "I remember election night, 1972, as like the worst night in American politics in my life. Here was this stark choice between war and peace, truth and lies, and the American people rushed to embrace hate and lies."
For many, McGovern's campaign promised the fulfillment of what Robert Kennedy might have achieved if not for his assassination in June 1968. Kennedy was just 42 at the time, energetic and wavy-haired. "Bobby Is Groovy," supporters' posters had read. His candidacy inspired one of the first presidential fundraising concerts to feature rock stars, when the Byrds played at a May 1968 concert that also included Sonny and Cher and gospel great Mahalia Jackson. (Humphrey's campaign attempted, in vain, to get a song out of Jefferson Airplane.)
When McGovern, aided by party rules he helped revise, became the surprise contender in 1972, the left felt revived. Hoffman and Rubin had mellowed just enough since 1968 to accept the nominee of a mainstream party. Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Julie Christie were among the young Hollywood stars who backed McGovern. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner was an enthusiastic supporter, and McGovern was the rare candidate regarded sympathetically by the magazine's hell-raising reporter and Robert Kennedy admirer Hunter S. Thompson, who called McGovern "the most honest big-time politician in America."
BBC Newsnight editor steps aside over Jimmy Savile scandal (22 October 2012)
The Newsnight editor, Peter Rippon, is to step aside, as the BBC was forced to admit that his programme was aware of allegations that Jimmy Savile had abused teenagers on the corporation's premises and had unearthed information not previously known to the police.
The BBC said that Rippon's initial explanation as to why he killed off a Newsnight investigation into Savile in December of last year was "inaccurate or incomplete in some respects". The corporation has made three corrections to a blogpost written by Rippon, which was published on 2 October, when the Savile abuse allegations first became public.
In one correction, the BBC said that Rippon was wrong to write "we found no evidence against the BBC". In fact, the Newsnight team had uncovered "some allegations of abusive conduct on BBC premises" -- although there was "no allegation" that BBC staff were aware of Mr Savile's alleged activities.
The BBC also determined that Rippon was incorrect when he wrote: "We are confident that all the women we spoke to had contacted the police independently already. We also had no new evidence against any other person that would have helped the police."
Scientists confirm water extraction helped trigger deadly 2011 quake in Spain (21 October 2012)
Massive extraction of groundwater helped unleash an earthquake in southeastern Spain last year that killed nine people, injured at least 100 and left thousands homeless, geologists said on Sunday.
The finding adds a powerful piece of evidence to theories that some earthquakes are human-induced, they said.
Seismologists were surprised by the May 11, 2011 earthquake which happened two kilometres (1.2 miles) northeast of the city of Lorca.
The quake struck in the Eastern Betics Shear Zone, one of Spain's most seismically active regions, where there has been a large number of moderate-to-large temblors over the last 500 years.
Gunman kills 3 women, wounds 4 others, then commits suicide at Azana Spa in Brookfield (21 October 2012)
This time it wasn't a church.
But the result of Sunday's shooting rampage, at a prominent salon and spa in Brookfield, sounded all too familiar: Three people murdered, four others injured and a lone gunman dead by suicide.
In the Milwaukee area's second mass shooting in less than three months, a 45-year-old Brown Deer man - husband, father, homeowner and ex-Marine - turned the Azana Salon & Spa across from Brookfield Square mall into a killing ground.
Dead were three women, all shot as Radcliffe F. Haughton stormed through the salon bent on killing his estranged wife, an employee there. About a dozen people were in the building at the time.
Police wouldn't say Sunday whether Haughton's wife, Zina, was among the dead.
But there is little question she was the target. Just two weeks ago, she got a temporary restraining order placed on Haughton after he showed up at Azana and slashed the tires of her car. A judge granted a four-year restraining order against Haughton on Oct. 18.
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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