Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 18th to 24th of November 2012
GEICO's 'going vegan' ad: An idea taken from a VeggieCooking.com cookbook ad?
(24 November 2012)
Currently, GEICO insurance is running an ad with antelope who watch a lion through night vision goggles. The antelope taunt the lion because they can see him approaching, saying "Have you thought about going vegan, Carl?" Then a couple of guys break in and say that people who save money with GEICO are happier than a couple of antelope with night vision goggles.
This time of year, readers may see one of the ads for my cookbook "Vegan Vegetarian Cooking" (shown to the right) featuring a buck urging viewers to go vegan, and think that I took the idea from that GEICO ad. Actually, it's the other way around.
My ads (there were actually two of them, with a slight variation) were made and rolled out during November of 2011 -- deer hunting season. They featured a buck photographed in Yorktown, Virginia in 2010. And because the web sites featuring my ad were so popular, it's possible that more than 100,000 people saw that ad last year, before it was replaced in February by ads encouraging people to buy the book for their Valentine sweethearts.
I suspect that someone from a marketing firm GEICO uses saw that ad last year and decided to use the idea in television ads for one of their clients. They probably thought that whatever article they found had low traffic, and so nobody would notice -- but some of those articles have thousands of viewers per month. Ad them all together, and traffic to my sites was between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors per month for November, December, and January. The combined total for the 3-month period when the ads ran was about 140,000 unique viewers.
Legislative battle heating up over Virginia uranium mining (24 November 2012)
Critics say Hampton Roads cannot afford to have something so potentially dangerous close to its drinking water. The ramifications, they said, could be devastating to health and economy, especially considering the region's heavy reliance on tourism.
"People are afraid of radioactive contamination," said Ronald Jordan, with Advantus Strategies, the company Norfolk hired to lobby against the mine. "There are too many horror stories."
Virginia Uranium Inc., the company behind the mine, has for five years worked to repeal the state's now three-decade moratorium on uranium mining. The company is sitting on 119,000 pounds of the radioactive ore in central Virginia farmland, the largest deposit of its kind in the country.
The land is in the Roanoke River Basin, which flows through the Kerr Lake reservoir into Lake Gaston. Lake Gaston supplies between 25 percent and 40 percent of Hampton Roads' water. If something contaminated the supply, it would affect more than a million people in the area, and another million in North Carolina over the next 10 years, studies have shown.
This type of mining has been almost exclusively done in the more arid Western part of the country. Opponents say Virginia's heavy rainfall, low water table and intermittent hurricanes make any type of storage of leftover material from such a mine problematic.
Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission orders halt to demolition of radium clock painting factory (24 November 2012)
Fears that radioactive dust could shower the crowds at Yonge-Dundas Square have prompted Canada's nuclear watchdog to stop the scheduled demolition of a contaminated building.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ordered HNR Properties to cease all demolition activities at 258 Victoria St., which was once a radium dial painting factory, because the residual radioactive contamination in the building would be released if the building is torn down.
Since "demolition work is imminent," the order was "deemed necessary to ensure the health and safety of workers and the public and protections of the environment," inspector Dana Pandolfi wrote in a letter to the developer last week.
A 39-storey mixed residential-commercial development, which would preserve the historical buildings facing Dundas Square and add a new tower behind them, has been in the works for at least five years.
Walmart hit by Black Friday strikes across 46 states, say protesters (23 November 2012)
Retail giant Walmart has been hit by protests and staff walkouts at stores across the US on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day in the retail calendar.
The actions began Thursday, as workers protested the retail giant's decision to open on Thanksgiving, which is traditionally a national holiday, and what they claim are attempts by Walmart to silence protests from workers. Industrial action continued Friday, with organisers claiming 1,000 protests in 46 states.
Walmart workers in Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Wisconsin, California's Bay Area, Chicago, Washington DC and other cities took part in the walk out, protesting wages and work conditions. The demonstrations were co-ordinated by OUR Walmart, a workers' group that last month led the first strikes that the retail giant had experienced.
OUR Walmart workers claimed the retailer was intimidating those who protest working conditions at the retailer.
NJ Governor estimates Sandy will cost state at least $29.4 billion (23 November 2012)
(Reuters) - Superstorm Sandy caused at least $29.4 billion in overall damage in New Jersey, according to a preliminary analysis released by Governor Chris Christie's office Friday.
The estimate of the damage caused by the storm, which ravaged the Northeastern U.S. coastline late last month, includes personal property, business, infrastructure and utility damage, Christie said in a statement.
The statement said the preliminary cost estimate is "inclusive of aid received to date and anticipated from federal sources," including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration. Christie said it was a "conservative and responsible estimate" that could be revised higher, Christie said.
Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he planned to ask the federal government for $30 billion in disaster aid for the state. Earlier this month, New York City Comptroller John Liu said the storm was costing New York City $200 million a day in lost economic activity, with that amount likely to top out at about $1 billion.
Women suffering liver disease 'because they try to drink like men' (23 November 2012)
The drinking culture particularly among young women needs to change in order to stop the "rising tide" of liver disease, England's Chief Medical officer has warned.
The country has seen deaths from liver disease increase by a fifth over the last decade in direct contrast to other European countries.
It is fuelled by obesity, alcohol abuse and preventable liver infections.
Prof Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said one of the main problems was the drinking culture that needed to change.
"Our alcohol consumption is out of kilter with most of the civilised world," she told the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4.
"We really have young people that binge drink and drink too much and it is damaging their livers young.
Unsafe cosmetics face few limits (23 November 2012)
Hair stylist Natalija Josimov combed the straightening solution through her client's hair.
She snapped on the blow dryer, and the heated hair sent up a plume of white vapor that wrapped them in a toxic cloud. Next came the 450-degree flat iron, letting loose another sharp stink of embalming fluid that burned her eyes and made her nauseous.
Every day for months, Josimov performed three or four chemical straightening treatments at a New York salon until she fell so ill she couldn't even stay in the same room.
Josimov is accustomed to odors of peroxide, nail polish and permanent wave solution.
But this is different: It's Brazilian Blowout, and its secret ingredient is formaldehyde, a carcinogen linked to nose and throat cancers, leukemia, respiratory problems and other health effects.
Backyard chicken boom produces unwanted roosters
(23 November 2012)
But no one asked about Hanz, the orange and white rooster that was pecking at feed in an outdoor kennel in the back. He didn't even have a name card on his cage. And unlike the schnauzer inside, he had no sign that read, "Adopt me! I'm cute!"
Animal Control picked Hanz up in mid-October on Wild Cherry Lane in Germantown after some homeowners found him in their yard, according to Paul Hibler, deputy director of the county police's Animal Services Division.
The question of what to do with Hanz -- and other roosters like him -- is an unforeseen byproduct of the growth of backyard chicken flocks, which proponents are touting as a more-nutritious and humane source of eggs. Recently, efforts to amend laws that prohibit chickens in densely populated areas have gained momentum. Montgomery and Fairfax counties allow residents to have chickens, with certain restrictions. And there are efforts to legalize them in Prince George's and Arlington counties, Alexandria and the District.
But that has meant a proliferation of unwanted roosters, many of which arrive unexpectedly from hatcheries along with the first chicks. They are difficult to keep in urban settings, they crow and many places that allow chickens ban roosters. To get rid of them, some owners turn to Craigslist, sanctuaries and animal shelters.
Soon-to-retire weather satellites played key role in predicting Sandy's path (22 November 2012)
Last month, shortly before Sandy ripped apart the shorelines of New Jersey and Long Island, we noted the possibly imminent budget-related retirement of government satellites that help forecasters refine weather data. As the article we cited then asked:
"All this week, forecasters have been relying on ... satellite observations for almost all of the data needed to narrow down what were at first widely divergent computer models of what Hurricane Sandy would do next: explode against the coast, or veer away into the open ocean?"
Now we know just how much reliance forecasters placed on satellites. Without them, predictions that Sandy would veer sharply to the west -- the path that brought it to New York -- would not have been made as early as they were.
Jesse Jackson Jr. quits, ending a once promising political career (22 November 2012)
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from the House on Wednesday, acknowledging that he is under federal investigation of public corruption and ending what once was one of the most promising and vibrant political careers in Washington.
The Illinois Democrat, the son of legendary civil rights leader Jesse Jackson Sr., had been a star among a generation of black politicians, including President Obama, whose political success would ratify the gains of the civil rights movement.
Jackson's resignation followed a sometimes bizarre unraveling of his congressional tenure, which included a six-month absence from office and multiple stints at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota as he battled depression and bipolar disorder.
His last recorded vote was on June 8, and he was not seen in public after that. Weeks went by without any acknowledgment from his congressional staff about his absence, and press releases rolled out as if everything was fine.
Endangered wolf deaths bring end to coyote hunts in North Carolina (22 November 2012)
A judge granted an injunction Wednesday that temporarily halted coyote hunting at night in five North Carolina counties, after a fifth rare red wolf was found shot dead.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission established a temporary rule in August allowing hunters to shoot coyotes at night in response to complaints that the rapidly spreading predator was killing livestock.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and other groups sued to stop the practice. Coyotes look much like red wolves, and night hunting with spotlights offers opportunities to kill wolves.
The wolves could suffer, and the temporary rule does not follow the law, Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway wrote in the injunction.
Swiss nuclear reactor shuts down due to defect (22 November 2012)
A reactor at a Swiss nuclear plant shut down automatically Wednesday due to a defect, the operator said, stressing that the procedure had been completely safe.
"Block 2 of the Beznau nuclear power plant shut down automatically," operator Axpo said in a statement.
"This was triggered by a defect in the non-nuclear part of the power plant. All systems functioned perfectly during the rapid shut-down," it added.
Axpo spokeswoman Daniela Biedermann told AFP that the reactor had not yet returned to the grid and that it could only be recommissioned once the defect had been located and fixed.
Recreating the sweet smell of whale poo (22 November 2012)
Ambergris is a rare, precious substance craved by the perfume industry, but scientists hope they can engineer bacteria to produce the much-coveted fragrance.
Smelling, as the New York Times put it in 1895, "like the blending of new-mown hay, the damp woodsy fragrance of a fern-copse, and the faintest possible perfume of the violet", the aromatic allure of ambergris is not difficult to understand. In the Middle East it is an aphrodisiac, in China a culinary delicacy. King Charles II is said to have delighted in dining on it mixed with eggs. Around the world it has been a rare and precious substance, a medicine and, most of all, a component of musky perfumes.
You'd never think it started as whale faeces, and smelling like it too. As Herman Melville said in that compendium of all things cetacean Moby Dick, it is ironic that "fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale".
But vats of genetically modified bacteria could one day be producing the expensive aromatic chemical craved by the perfume industry, if research reported by biochemists at the Swiss fragrance and flavourings company Firmenich in Geneva comes to fruition. Their results are another demonstration that rare and valuable complex chemicals, including drugs and fuels, can be produced by sophisticated genetic engineering methods that convert bacteria into microscopic manufacturing plants.
Facebook proposes eliminating democratic decisions on user privacy (22 November 2012)
On Wednesday, just before a long holiday weekend in which few people check the news, Facebook announced a few big changes -- not least of which is eliminating a voting system that let users have a voice in their own privacy.
Now the company is proposing to do away with that system.
"We found that the voting mechanism...actually resulted in a system that incentivized the quantity of comments over their quality," read a statement from Facebook's Elliot Schrage (emphasis his), vice president of communications. "Therefore, we're proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement."
PAM COMMENTARY: WARNING: This page tries to launch a video without the user taking any action. However the video can be closed and there is a written article on the topic.
Study finds mammograms lead to unneeded treatment (21 November 2012)
Mammograms have done surprisingly little to catch deadly breast cancers before they spread, a big U.S. study finds. At the same time, more than a million women have been treated for cancers that never would have threatened their lives, researchers estimate.
Up to one-third of breast cancers, or 50,000 to 70,000 cases a year, don't need treatment, the study suggests.
It's the most detailed look yet at overtreatment of breast cancer, and it adds fresh evidence that screening is not as helpful as many women believe. Mammograms are still worthwhile, because they do catch some deadly cancers and save lives, doctors stress. And some of them disagree with conclusions the new study reached.
But it spotlights a reality that is tough for many Americans to accept: Some abnormalities that doctors call "cancer" are not a health threat or truly malignant. There is no good way to tell which ones are, so many women wind up getting treatments like surgery and chemotherapy that they don't really need.
Bed bug battles: Is fungus the next frontier? (21 November 2012)
He said the university provides information to students and parents on bed bug prevention during parent sessions. Also, fact sheets are distributed and students are told which items they can and cannot bring before arriving on campus.
But new research could end the battle against bed bugs. According to a team of entomologists at Penn State University, the parasites have met their match in a fungus called Beauveria bassiana, which grows naturally in soils and causes disease in insects.
As part of the study, published in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, researchers took paper and cotton jersey, commonly used in bed sheets. On one set they sprayed fungal spores and on the other blank oil. After the surfaces were dry, bed bugs were added for one hour.
All the bugs exposed to the biopesticide died within five days. But more important, the infected bugs carried the fungal spores back to their hiding places, infecting nearly all the other bugs. This is key because they tend to live in hard-to-reach places, such as electrical plates, under loose wallpaper and behind baseboards.
Black Friday walkout: why Wal-Mart is focus of labor's struggle (21 November 2012)
As the hottest shopping day of the retail calendar looms, the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is embroiled in a battle to defend its image, even its formula for success. A growing number of employees, protesting low wages and benefit cuts, is vowing to walk out on Black Friday.
Wal-Mart charges that outside union agitators with the United Food and Commercial workers union (UFCWU) are making trouble. Both sides have filed grievances with the National labor Relations board (NLRB).
Coming alongside the failure of talks between labor and management at yet another iconic American company, Hostess Brands Inc., Wal-Mart's travails have put a sharp focus on working conditions following the worst post-Depression recession in the nation's history, say both labor and business experts.
"Wal-Mart has become the poster child for all the issues surrounding labor right now," says Scott Testa, a Philadelphia-based business consultant and blogger who has studied Wal-Mart's business practices extensively. The company has implemented aggressive anti-union measures, he notes, closing a store in Canada rather than negotiate.
Twinkies' demise proves the stupidity of U.S. labor relations (21 November 2012)
The Great American Twinkie Crisis illuminates what is wrong with the relationship between management and labor in this country. Hostess, the company that since the 1930s has provided our nation with snacks that are nearly indestructible, now threatens to go out of business and leave us bereft of Ding Dongs, Sno Balls, Ho Ho's, CupCakes, Wonder Bread and a variety of other baked goods that are probably not good for us but, at least to a kid's palate, taste so good.
The company blames a nationwide strike by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union for the imminent death of its brand. In response, the workers say management has failed to innovate -- the company's products have not changed in decades or adapted to new tastes and new concerns about nutrition and so have failed to keep pace with the market.
A bankruptcy judge briefly kept hope alive for fans of the sugary guilty pleasures by urging the bakers and the bosses to try to work out a resolution through private mediation that might have kept the Twinkies rolling out of the ovens (or wherever they come from). Sadly, the latest reports are that the mediation broke down and that the company will proceed with liquidation. That means 18,500 people will lose their jobs.
Two questions come to mind. First, did the workers understand how close to ruin the company was when they decided to go on strike? Second, did the owners bother to listen to employees' concerns about improving the product line or did they just let the brand drift into financial crisis?
U is for... uncertain times. What now for Elmo? (21 November 2012)
In the award-winning documentary Being Elmo, a colleague of Kevin Clash, the human alter ego of Sesame Street's pre-eminent furry, red monster, Elmo, declares: "When a puppet is good and true, and meaningful, it's the soul of the puppeteer that you're seeing."
The makers of America's best-known and most influential children's-television show were yesterday hoping those comments aren't taken too literally after Mr Clash, who has been on the company's payroll for almost three decades, announced his resignation amid a widening gay-sex scandal.
"Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go any longer," read a statement from Mr Clash, 52, who has won 24 Emmy awards over the years. "I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."
The development came amid allegations that the puppeteer had conducted at least two sexual relationships with teenage boys. On Tuesday, one of the alleged victims, Cecil Singleton, filed a lawsuit in New York claiming the actor had engaged in "sexual behaviour" with him when he was just 15 years old. He is seeking $5m in damages.
After Sandy, some dump homes, while others hunt for bargains (20 November 2012)
(Reuters) - "Reduced for Quick Sale!" reads Mike Montalbano's Craigslist ad for the three-bedroom home he needs to sell before he can relocate for a new job.
The drywall is new, as are the appliances. The only problem? Location. Montalbano's home is in Tom's River, New Jersey, which was pummeled by last month's Sandy megastorm.
"A lot of people are scared to come back to the water," says Montalbano. "Back in the day, everybody wanted to come to the shore. Now it's a mess down here."
Montalbano was lucky. His home sits higher than others, and the storm waters hit his lawn but did not make it into his house.
That has not proved compelling to would-be buyers. His house is listed for $245,900, some $5,000 less than his original asking price. And even if he sells for that amount, he will lose about $40,000 on the property.
U.S. food banks raise alarm as drought dents government supplies (21 November 2012)
(Reuters) - The worst U.S. drought in more than half a century has weakened the safety net for the 50 million Americans who struggle to get enough to eat, and the nation's food banks are raising the alarm as the holiday season gets into full swing.
Demand for food assistance - unrelenting as the U.S. economy slowly recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression - ticks higher during the winter holidays.
This summer's crop-damaging weather in the U.S. farm belt has driven up costs for everything from grain to beef. That means higher prices at the grocery store, but it also means the U.S. government has less need to buy key staples like meat, peanut butter, rice and canned fruits and vegetables to support agricultural prices and remove surpluses.
Most of the products from those government purchases are sent to U.S. food banks, which then distribute them to food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters that are a lifeline for people who struggle with hunger - including low-income families, senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Victims of Hurricane Sandy forgotten in Haiti (21 November 2012)
Hurricane Sandy, the deadly storm that slammed into New York and New Jersey in October, tore through the Caribbean long before reaching America -- and in Haiti, many still await help.
Flooding from Sandy killed 54 people and left thousands homeless in Haiti, another woe for a country still struggling to recover from a 2010 earthquake that left more than 200,000 dead.
A cholera epidemic that broke out afterwards has since killed around 7,600 people but even its effect worsened with the recent rains -- 44 deaths were reported in the past month, according to Haiti's Ministry for Public Health.
Nearly a month after the government of President Michel Martelly declared a national emergency due to Sandy, scores of residents in the hard-hit town of Petit-Goave, in south-western Haiti, still live in emergency shelters.
Study shows legalizing pot could earn billions for B.C. (21 November 2012)
Legalizing marijuana in B.C. could generate $2.5 billion in government tax and licensing revenues over the next five years, according to a study published this month in the International Journal of Drug Policy.
The information comes after Washington state and Colorado passed measures two weeks ago approving the legalization of marijuana for adult use under a strictly regulated system.
The study -- conducted by a coalition of University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University researchers -- used surveillance data from the Centre for Addictions Research to estimate the annual value of the B.C retail cannabis market at between $443 million and $564 million.
Provincial policing agencies estimate that 85 per cent of the cannabis market in B.C. is controlled by organized crime, with the number of grow ops throughout the province nearly doubling between 2003 and 2010.
Marijuana legalization or decriminalization backed by most Canadians: poll (20 November 2012)
A new poll shows a majority of Canadians support loosening the country's marijuana laws, a stance that's starkly out of sync with the federal government's pot policy.
According to the poll, released Tuesday by Toronto's Forum Research, 65 per cent of Canadians favour either the legalization and taxation of the drug, or decriminalizing it in small amounts.
"Very few want the law to be as it is," said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff, pointing out that 17 per cent believe Canada's current pot laws should remain, while 15 per cent want tougher rules.
On Monday, Forum Research polled 1,849 randomly selected people over the telephone in an interactive voice response survey.
Can the bozos who created the 'fiscal cliff' save us from it? (20 November 2012)
On Monday, investors on Wall Street sent stocks soaring on the airy hope that the president and Congress will come up with a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" that looms at the close of the year. This only proves that the masters of finance have all the emotional sophistication of 13-year-old Justin Bieber fans.
Apparently, investors so want to believe that a budget deal will be struck to keep the U.S. from falling back into a deeper recession that they have abandoned informed skepticism and opted for wishful thinking. So, before we give too much credence to earnest promises by leaders in Washington, it might be useful to recall how we got wedged into this precarious corner.
The reason we are where we are is because our elected leaders put us here. The fiscal cliff -- a set of automatic draconian budget cuts and tax increases that will start taking effect on Jan. 1 -- was purposely created as a way to force the squabbling Congress and president into a budget deal. It is part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that grew out of the near-disastrous debt ceiling showdown between President Obama and House Republicans.
The idea was that Republicans and Democrats would finally put differences aside and reach a budget compromise because both sides would be motivated by dread of automatic across-the-board cuts and tax hikes that would almost certainly hit the U.S. economy like a wrecking ball.
New health-care law: Many Americans unaware of how changes affects them (20 November 2012)
After surviving a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election, the Obama administration's health-care law faces another challenge: a public largely unaware of major changes that will roll out in the coming months.
States are rushing to decide whether to build their own health exchanges and the administration is readying final regulations, but a growing body of research suggests that most low-income Americans who will become eligible for subsidized insurance have no idea what is coming.
Part of the problem, experts say, is that people who will be affected do not realize the urgency, because the subsidies will not begin for another year. But policy decisions are being made now that will affect tens of millions of Americans, and the lack of public awareness could jeopardize a system that depends on having many people involved.
Low enrollment could lead to higher premiums, health policy experts say. Hospitals worry that, without widespread participation, they will continue getting stuck with patients' unpaid medical bills. And advocates say the major purpose of the Affordable Care Act -- extending health insurance to more Americans -- will go unmet if large numbers of vulnerable people don't take advantage of it.
Stop the Parade! (20 November 2012)
For Americans, the fourth Thursday in November can mean lots of things, usually some combination of food, family, and football. But before all that, there's the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.* The three-hour, 80-plus-year tradition starts at 9 a.m. and boasts 16 gigantic balloons. If you are ambitious and want to brave the cold on the night before, you can watch those balloons get inflated. In addition to seeing Kermit the Frog or Spider-Man, you'll also witness the squandering of the global supply of helium.
At projected rates of consumption, all the currently available helium on Earth will be depleted in about 40 years. While its best-known use may be filling balloons and making people who inhale it squeak like Mickey Mouse, the element's scientific uses are arguably more valuable. No other gas is as light without being combustible. Those properties, as well as its very low boiling point and high thermal conductivity, make it indispensable for aerospace engineering, deep-sea diving, and cryogenics. So, while a world with no more balloons is a sad specter, without liquefied helium we wouldn't be able to make superconducting magnets like those in MRIs.
The sorry state of our helium reserves can be traced to three key factors. Thanks to a 1996 act of Congress, the price of helium is artificially low, so there's little deterrence for overuse. There's also the fact that we have no idea how to artificially produce helium in any real, sustainable way. Finally, helium's unique properties make finding a viable substitute almost impossible.
The helium we use today is found in underground gas pockets, often associated with natural gas. Helium is abundant in the universe, but here on Earth it is more elusive; while there's a lot of helium in the atmosphere, it is very difficult to purify. It's really only when it is trapped underground that we can isolate it. This helium is largely formed as a by-product of decaying radioactive elements. The rate at which it is produced accounts for less than one-half of global demand, and most of it cannot be recovered efficiently.
"No Place is Safe": After Assault's Worst Day, Gaza Doctor Says Israel Terrorizing Civilians (20 November 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go directly to Gaza where we're joined by Dr. Mona El-Farra. She is the director of Gaza projects for the Middle East Children's Alliance and the Health Chair for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip. She writes the blog "From Gaza, with love." Dr. El-Farra, can you start off by describing what it is like there today?
DR. MONA EL-FARRA: Today, since the early hours of the morning, it is quiet. It is not as violent and tense as it was in the last five days. It is quiet, but airplanes are still in the sky. Drones are in the skies. We can hear intermittent shelling here and there. People are tense, are hoping for a cease fire. But, in the mean time, we don't want a cease-fire at any cost. We want guarantees from Israel that this will not happen again. This is the situation in Gaza. The number of killed, you have mentioned it, but I'm sorry to say that the majority of the killing are amongst women and children. Some homes have been knocked down to the ground and toppled on civilians, and the Israeli Army later on said we are sorry, it was a mistake. How come it is a mistake to kill, for example, twelve civilians in their homes with women and children, and just what we hear is, sorry it was a mistake.
What is happening is not a war. What's happening is unequal confrontation between very sophisticated fighters and [INAUDIBLE] that's bombing Gaza Strip facility camps, schools, apartments, blocks. Everyplace has been blocked, either directly we have been affected and affected by feeling terrified, hating the bombing and the shelling and the shattered windows. I'm very concerned about civilian loss. Of course I am concerned about civilian loss from both sides. I am sorry about the three women or the three civilians on the Israeli side who were killed, but as I said, it is not equal confrontation.
The situation is much, much different than Gaza when we have terrified children in Gaza. Children who do not have enough water, don't have enough food, no medication; the medications are getting less and less in the stores and in the medical facilities. And with all that, children who have no safe place, no place safe in Gaza. Many families left their homes to other safer place in the town or in the [INAUDIBLE] camp to be bombed again in the new places. So, no place is safe. Some of my friends advised me to leave my own apartment to go to another place. I decided I am staying in my place, but I want to make sure I take my own precautions to protect myself and protect my daughter. But, I don't know what will happen next if this madness continues.
New coronavirus: May be 'bat bug' (20 November 2012)
Bats may be the source of a new Sars-like virus which killed a man in Saudi Arabia, according to an analysis of the coronavirus' genome.
Two other people have been infected and one, who was flown to the UK for treatment in September, is still in intensive care.
Experts, writing in the journal mBio, said the virus was closely related to other viruses in bats.
It is thought the virus does not pass readily from one person to another.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses ranging from the common cold to the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus. They infect a wide range of animals.
Virginia bans Pennsylvania.-bagged deer carcasses due to chronic wasting disease (20 November 2012)
Virginia is limiting the movement of deer bagged in Pennsylvania into the state because of the detection of chronic wasting disease in the northern state.
The prohibition involves the transportation of whole carcasses of deer killed in Pennsylvania. Only portions of the dressed animal are allowed in the state. These include boned meat that is cut and wrapped, quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, and antlers with no meat or tissue attached.
Chronic wasting disease affects the brains and nervous systems of deer and elk. There is no evidence to suggest that it poses a risk to humans or domestic animals.
The disease has been detected in 22 states, including Virginia and West Virginia.
Prosecutor claims Wisconsin Governor Walker and top aides involved in campaign work on taxpayers' dime (19 November 2012)
Gov. Scott Walker and his top campaign and Milwaukee County aides were named Monday as part of a team that routinely commingled political and official county business.
The disclosures came during the sentencing of a former aide to Walker during his last year as Milwaukee County executive. Kelly M. Rindfleisch, 44, was sentenced by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher to six months in jail and three years of probation on a single felony count of misconduct in office. The judge stayed the sentence pending Rindfleisch's appeal to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals or the state Supreme Court.
In a lengthy presentation during Rindfleisch's sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf displayed numerous emails between Rindfleisch and key members of Walker's campaign staff in which they discussed how to manage county government in 2010, while Walker was a candidate for governor.
Repeatedly, Landgraf argued that Rindfleisch knowingly broke the law by doing campaign work at the courthouse. In a new development, the prosecutor made clear - without saying it was illegal - that top Walker campaign officials influenced, even directed, county strategy.
"You guys are in the driver's seat," Rindfleisch wrote in one message to Keith Gilkes, Walker's then-campaign chief of staff.
On casino issue, Caesars Entertainment clashes with Public Health (19 November 2012)
The city's board of health doesn't support expanded gambling in Toronto.
The board voted 9-1 in favour of Councillor Joe Mihevc's motion that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation "should not be invited to expand gambling in the City of Toronto," based on health risks associated with gambling described in a report drafted by medical officer of health Dr. David McKeown.
"This report leads to a very, very simple conclusion. And that is that we should not, as Torontonians, allow the expansion of gaming in our city. So we should say it. We should go on the record," Mihevc said at the board's meeting Monday.
McKeown's report suggests a casino anywhere in the GTA could lead to a rise in problem gaming, but suggests 10 mitigating measures the city could negotiate, including prohibiting ATMs on the gambling floor, slowing down the speed of play on slot machines, mandating a daily loss maximum and providing no alcohol service on casino floors.
Live Report from Gaza Hospital: As Civilian Toll Mounts, Israel Again Bombs Palestinian Journalists (19 November 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: We have Mohammed Omer on the phone right now at the hospital where the journalists have been brought who were injured in the attacks on the Palestinian media center. And we're going to try to go to him in one minute. But, Richard Falk, I wanted to get your response and what i means for you to be the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories. I think we have Mohammed, though, so let's go to him first in Gaza City, because it was hard to get him. Mohammed Omer, where are you, and what are you seeing? Mohammed, can you hear me? Mohammed, can you hear me?
MOHAMMED OMER: Yes, I hear you right now. [inaudible] Shifa Hospital at the moment, where a number of people just arrived with injuries, severe injury, and one of them was completely burned. The target is--this moment, is the building which belongs to all the journalists in Gaza City, in Gaza City. But right now I'm seeing--I'm seeing--I'm seeing all the ambulances and its passengers. They are bringing more casualties at this stage. And I'm just looking inside--I'm just looking inside to see what is this--OK, it's coming now, the car. And one of the injuries is actually a medical staff who was trying to rescue the life of the journalists who were injured in the attack just a few minutes ago. The situation is deteriorating at the moment with a F-16 firing missiles on the Gaza Strip. And I am right now at the Shifa Hospital. It's--it's quite panic for all the journalists to see their colleagues being attacked at this stage.
AMY GOODMAN: I'm going to go back to you, Mohammed Omer, in just one second. I want to get a final comment from Richard Falk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories. As we wrap up, Richard, your final response?
RICHARD FALK: It is incredibly frustrating to represent the U.N. and to realize that it's incapable of acting in a situation of such extremity from the point of view of the existential horror that the people of Gaza are being subjected to by this unlawful and criminal style of attack. I do agree that the rocket fire has to stop, too, but it has to stop in the context of a ceasefire, of ending the blockade, of returning to a condition where diplomacy and law and morality are respected as the foundation of the relations between Israel and the Palestinian people.
John McAfee starts blog documenting life on the run from Belize police (19 November 2012)
Fugitive software pioneer John McAfee appears to have started a blog about his life on the run from Belizean authorities, charting the disguises he claims to have used to evade police and spy on their investigation.
McAfee, named by police in Belize as a "person of interest" in the murder of American businessman Gregory Viant Faull, has protested his innocence, insisting he is the victim of state harassment.
Now he claims to have returned to his residence in San Pedro in the days after his disappearance and watched police search his property. He claims to have seen police dig up the bodies of four dogs he says they poisoned, before chopping off their heads and reburying them.
He did so, he claims, while dressed first as a peasant hawker and then as a drunk German tourist.
Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, calls for more violence in Gaza (19 November 2012) [Rense.com]
Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an op-ed on Sunday calling for even more aggressive Israeli strikes in Gaza.
"We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza," states Sharon in The Jerusalem Post.
The violence between Israel and Hamas this week has reportedly claimed the lives of 81 Palestinians, including 37 civilians, as well as 3 Israeli civilians. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that "the Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation."
Sharon writes in his op-ed, entitled "A decisive conclusion is necessary," that "the residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren't hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences." After saying that Israel needs to "flatten all of Gaza," he goes on to say, "The Americans didn't stop with Hiroshima -- the Japanese weren't surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too."
Americans uderwrite their own demise (14 October 2012) [Rense.com]
America's current economic unwinding didn't begin on Wall Street in 2008, as is often reiterated. Its genesis lies in the affluence-to-poverty trade regiments enacted by President Clinton, beginning in 1993.
Seduced by assurances that free trade would create millions of new high-paying jobs in the United States; Democrats, aided by Republican politicos like Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and David Gergen, succumbed to K Street coercion and codified free trade into American law.
However, the economic Elysium predicted by backers of free trade prior to its passage never developed. Principally because free trade, as a 21st century neo-Colonial economic compact, was no longer nation-based. Rather, this new version was a United Nation's developed transnational colonialism. A system designed to benefit a new superclass of cosmopolitan. Stakeholders bereft of nationalistic sentimentality, itching to profit from the coming realignment in global prosperity.
Correspondingly, America's most acute trade-related dilemma today is unemployment. However, it's impossible for the United States to address the problem of trade-related dislocations, even modestly, when the entirety of our nation's trade policy is premised upon the notion, that surrendering America's economy to foreign interests, while simultaneously relocating tens of millions of American jobs offshore, somehow benefits our nation's competitiveness.
Auto plastics industry linked to breast cancer, new study shows (19 November 2012)
"People were getting sick, but you never really thought about the plastic itself," said Gina DeSantis, who has worked at a plant near Windsor for 25 years.
She and others worried -- mostly in private -- about the prevalence of cancer and other diseases in the poorly ventilated factories that sprawl across the industrialized expanses of southwestern Ontario.
Now, a new academic study appears to confirm their fears, showing profoundly elevated breast cancer risks among workers exposed to toxic chemicals.
The six-year study, to be published Monday online in the journal Environmental Health, draws a striking conclusion: Women employed in the automotive plastics industry were almost five times as likely to develop breast cancer, prior to menopause, as women in a control group.
The implications reach far beyond Windsor factories, said study co-author James Brophy, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Windsor and a former occupational health clinic director.
"These workplace chemicals are now present in our air, water, food and consumer products. If we fail to take heed then we are doing so at our own peril."
In sign of growing clout, Brazil's corn helps hold up U.S. market (19 November 2012)
SAO PAULO -- As U.S. cornfields withered under drought conditions last summer, Brazil's once-empty Cerrado region produced a bumper crop of the grain, helping feed livestock on U.S. farms and ease a drought-related spike in prices.
The U.S. imports of Brazilian corn were small by world standards. But they are rising fast, and they mark just one element of the increasingly complex and sometimes contentious relations between the world's agricultural superpower and its fast-growing competitor amid shifts in the global economy.
Starting at zero in 2010, Brazilian corn exports to the United States are on pace to exceed $10 million this year and are bound to rise as farmers here expand planting and more corn is funneled to nonfood uses, such as ethanol production. Brazil is expected next year to dethrone the United States as the world's largest producer of soybeans. With so much land available for cultivation, that status will probably become permanent.
With a heavy dose of U.S. capital and know-how, a massive agribusiness complex has been established here. Just as American firms have moved production to China to be close to potential consumers, the John Deere equipment trundling across Brazilian fields and the Kellogg's Corn Flakes found in Brazilian supermarkets come from local factories.
White House march revives Keystone XL protest movement (19 November 2012)
Hundreds of people who say they worry oil that would be carried the Keystone XL pipeline will accelerate climate change marched around the White House on Sunday, hoping to revive a movement credited with slowing down the permit process for the crude oil project.
The protesters chanted "Hey, Obama! We don't want no climate drama" and said they hoped the president's election-night promise to address climate change means he will reject the pipeline, which needs a presidential permit to cross into the United States from Canada.
"We're interested in sending a clear message to Obama," said Molly Pugh from nearby Alexandria, Virginia, marching with her husband and two-year-old daughter.
Pugh said she was deeply disappointed that Obama failed to talk about climate change during the recent presidential election campaign, addressing it only in his acceptance speech.
Pressure Mounts for Truce As Israel Pounds Gaza (19 November 2012)
The deaths of 11 Palestinian civilians - nine from one family - in an air strike on Sunday - drew more international calls for an end to six days of hostilities and could test Western support for an offensive Israel billed as self-defense after years of cross-border rocket attacks.
Israel's military did not immediately comment on a report in the liberal Haaretz newspaper that it had mistakenly fired on the Dalu family home, where the dead spanned four generations, while trying to kill a Hamas rocketry chief.
Echoes of explosions in Gaza mixed with cries of grief and defiant chants of "God is greatest" at the funeral of the four children and five women killed in the attack that flattened the three-storey house. Their bodies were wrapped in Palestinian and Hamas flags and thousands turned out to mourn them.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Cairo to weigh in on ceasefire efforts led by Egypt, which borders both Israel and Gaza and whose Muslim Brotherhood-rooted government has been hosting leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed faction in the Palestinian enclave.
Indians arrested for Facebook post on Mumbai shutdown (19 November 2012)
Indian police said Monday they had arrested a woman for criticising on Facebook the total shutdown of Mumbai after the death of politician Bal Thackeray, as well as a friend who "liked" the comment.
The pair were due to appear in court later in the day charged under the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act, said Police Inspector Shrikant Pingle in the town of Palghar north of Mumbai.
"The two women will be produced in a local court later this afternoon. They are being charged for hurting religious sentiments," he told AFP.
They were arrested on Sunday, when a huge funeral procession attended by hundreds of thousands of supporters was held in Mumbai for Thackeray, the divisive founder of the rightwing Shiv Sena party.
US opens Afghan talks on long-term troop presence after 2014 (19 November 2012)
Afghanistan and the US have opened talks to keep American troops in the country after most Nato forces go home in 2014, but the thorny question of immunity for American soldiers, which in effect ended the US role in Iraq last year, is likely to prove a stumbling block.
The issue has been thrown into sharp relief by the Seattle trial of the US army staff sergeant Robert Bales, who is accused of the massacring 16 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, during a shooting spree at their homes in March. US prosecutors are seeking the death penalty but many Afghans, including some of the victims' relatives, want to see him brought before one of their own courts.
"Immunity [for US soldiers] is going to be challenging," said one western official as talks on the bilateral security agreement started late last week. The issue has been set aside in early negotiations, US and Afghan officials said, because the intensity of the clash between Washington's desire to protect its soldiers and the Afghan government's desire to control trial and punishment of any future offenders.
"To be frank, I do not see a way around this. Neither side looks as if they would budge," said Thomas Ruttig, director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. "Particularly for the US, this (waiving immunity) would be unprecedented. The Afghan government might use it to get other concessions out of the US, but I am not sure what they are aiming at."
Carcinogens linger after Chevron fire (18 November 2012)
Cancer-causing chemicals linger around homes and in gardens over a 9-square-mile area more than three months after a catastrophic fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, according to an environmental justice group.
Independent testing by Global Community Monitor found that toxic fallout from the giant plume of smoke and soot that spewed from the plant on Aug. 6 blanketed an area stretching from Albany to San Pablo with dangerous hydrocarbons.
Five of eight samples of dust at different residential locations around the refinery had high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, in the dust and soil, said Denny Larson, executive director of the Richmond group, which tests for toxic substances in urban communities and advocates for tighter regulations and monitoring.
Among the carcinogenic compounds was benzo(a)pyrene, according to the laboratory analysis done by ALS Environmental in Kelso, Wash.
Group tries to save old-growth redwoods (18 November 2012)
The hikers paused amid the cool dampness of the ancient forest to get a better look at a truly remarkable specimen of redwood jutting out of a lush hillside across Peters Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The huge sequoia looked to be at least as large as the Patriarch Tree, a 285-foot giant a short walk away in Portola Redwoods State Park, but none of the walkers could accurately gauge the height of the tree, obscured as it was by the thick canopy.
"That's a big one," said Larry Holmes, admiring the tree's tremendous girth, unusual light-brownish color and the enormous striations in the bark creasing upward along the trunk. The stroll through this 145-acre forest in a canyon south of the San Mateo County town of La Honda was a walk back in time - to a place dominated by 1,000- and 2,000-year-old redwoods - but it is the future of the colossal trees that Holmes is concerned about.
The 72-year-old Holmes, whose family has for 38 years owned what experts say is the third-largest old-growth redwood grove in the Santa Cruz Mountains, agreed this month to sell it to the San Francisco conservation group Save the Redwoods League. If the $8 million deal goes through, it would forever protect the land and establish a conservation easement on 214 acres of forest at nearby Boulder Creek. In all, 359 acres of some of the last remaining old-growth redwoods along the Peninsula would be preserved.
"The residual amount of old growth in California is 5 percent or less of what it once was, so these trees are precious," Holmes said. "We've always felt they should be part of the park."
Green progress in California could help the poor (16 November 2012)
Andrew Leonard has also been infected with Golden State optimism. "As goes California, so goes the nation?" he asks at Salon.
Not so fast there, friends.
Yes, funding for green industry and jobs, cap-and-trade auctions, and big progressive wins in the state legislature are all pretty awesome. And yes, that's a very nice picture you've got there, Robert Scheer, of a rainbow landing in a field of wind turbines in (extremely unsustainable) Palm Springs. And yes, California may well tip the scales further in favor of clean energy in America. Woo, yay, etc.
But the land of milk and honey this is not: California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, according to a new federal standard that takes into account food, housing, and utility costs, with 23.5 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Luckily, some of the millions raised through cap-and-trade auctions will now be funneled toward needy communities (as well as green innovations), thanks to legislation passed in September.
Sandy's damage to wildlife refuges adds to questions about federal spending (18 November 2012)
An eerie sight greeted Scott Kahan recently when he toured the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge near Atlantic City by helicopter: a giant bird sanctuary with almost no birds.
"Typically I would have seen tens of thousands of waterfowl," but there were only a few dozen, said Kahan, the Northeast regional chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The wreckage at Forsythe and other Northeast coastal refuges was yet another testament to the destructive power of Sandy, the superstorm that ripped up the New Jersey shore and flooded Manhattan. And it drew attention to the costly plans being considered by the federal agency to protect wildlife refuges from the impact of climate change and sea-level rise.
Sandy's winds rammed a dirt and gravel dike at Forsythe with seawater, causing it to burst. Bay salt water rushed into a shallow freshwater pond created for birds such as the American black duck and Atlantic brant. The usual foot of water in which the birds dip their heads got saltier, rose to five feet and washed out vegetation, so the birds could no longer reach underwater seeds or pick bugs from leaves.
Nigeria Exxon spill spreads for miles along coast (18 November 2012)
(Reuters) - An oil spill at an ExxonMobil facility offshore from the Niger Delta has spread at least 20 miles from its source, coating waters used by fishermen in a film of sludge.
A Reuters reporter visiting several parts of Akwa Ibom state saw a rainbow-tinted oil slick stretching for 20 miles from a pipeline that Exxon had shut down because of a leak a week ago. Locals scooped it into jerry cans.
Mark Ward, the managing director of ExxonMobil's local unit, said a clean up had been mobilized, and he apologized to affected communities for the spill.
Exxon said last Sunday it had shut a pipeline off the coast of Akwa Ibom state after an oil leak whose cause was unknown.
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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