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NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 23rd to 29th of December 2012
Largest Wind Farm in Kansas to Begin Operation Soon (29 December 2012) [BuzzFlash.com]
The largest wind farm to be built in Kansas is set to begin operations by the end of the year.
Flat Ridge 2, jointly owned by BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, is on a 66,000-acre site covering parts of Harper, Barber, Kingman and Sumner counties in southern Kansas.
The project has 274 wind turbines, each with capacity to generate 1.6 megawatts of electricity or a total of 438 megawatts. That's enough to supply electricity to 160,000 homes.
Besides being the largest wind farm in Kansas, the $800 million project is the largest ever to be built all at once, instead of in phases.
The owners said the giant wind farm was built in Kansas in part because of its business environment but largely because of its wind resources, which have been ranked the second best in the United States.
Medical board appeals to public to combat prescription overdoses (29 December 2012)
In an appeal for the public's help in stemming the epidemic of prescription drug deaths, the Medical Board of California is asking people whose relatives died of overdoses to contact the board if they believe excessive prescribing or other physician misconduct contributed to the deaths.
Linda K. Whitney, the board's executive director, urged those with information about improper treatment to contact the board without delay. By law, the agency has seven years from the time of the alleged misconduct to take disciplinary action against a physician.
"The sooner we get the information, the sooner we can move forward," she said in an interview.
Whitney also said board investigators would review autopsies and other records on specific overdose deaths described in recent articles in the Los Angeles Times.
She said the board, which licenses and oversees California physicians, was acting in response to reports in The Times that documented the connection between doctors' prescribing practices and fatal overdoses involving OxyContin, Vicodin and other narcotic painkillers.
Fearful of ban, frenzied buyers swarm gun stores (29 December 2012)
The phones at Red's Trading Post wouldn't stop ringing. Would-be customers from as far away as New York wanted to know if the Twin Falls, Idaho gun shop had firearms in stock. Others clamored to find out if their orders had been shipped.
Overwhelmed, gun store manager Ryan Horsley had to do what no employee would ever think of doing just days before Christmas: He disconnected the phone lines for three whole days.
"We had to shut everything off," says Horsley, whose family has owned Red's Trading Post, the state's oldest gun shop, since 1936. "We were swamped in the store and online."
The phones at gun shops across the country are ringing off the hook. Demand for firearms, ammunition and bulletproof gear has surged since the Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 schoolchildren and six teachers and administrators. The shooting sparked calls for tighter gun control measures, especially for military-style assault weapons like the ones used in Newtown and in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting earlier this year. The prospect of a possible weapons ban has sent gun enthusiasts into a panic and sparked a frenzy of buying at stores and gun dealers nationwide.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are an elaborate CIA spying scheme (28 December 2012)
(NaturalNews) They are convenient, relatively easy to use, and help millions of people around the world stay connected with family and friends, at least digitally. But social media portals like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly being exposed as what appear to be bait-and-switch spying networks funded, and potentially even run covertly, by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other government agencies. And this is all apparently being done for the purpose of gathering real-time data on the private lives of individuals willing to freely post such information for the world to see.
It is something that serious investigative journalists and skeptics alike have suspected for years, especially as sites like Facebook have gradually and quietly eliminated users' access to the privacy controls that once kept their information "classified" by default. Today, Facebook is literally an open book of information that is freely available not only to the rest of the internet, but also to numerous government agencies that many years ago invested millions of dollars to make social networking sites like Facebook what they are today.
Venture capital firm that ensured Facebook's success linked to CIA front group
When Facebook was first getting off its feet, it turns out, the company received a huge cash injection from a venture capital firm known as Accel Partners. According to reports, Accel's head, James Breyer, was a former chairman at National Venture Capital Association, where he served on the board with Gilman Louie, the CEO of another venture capital group known as In-Q-Tel.
According to In-Q-Tel's "Mission" page, the group, which invested nearly $13 million during Facebook's early days, was first launched in 1999 as a catalyst for keeping the CIA up-to-date with the latest information-gathering technologies. Not surprisingly, the primary purpose of In-Q-Tel is to "build relationships with technology startups outside the reach of the Intelligence Community," and partner with private sector groups who are willing to "co-invest in [its] portfolio companies." (http://www.iqt.org/about/mission.html)
Indian police lay murder charges in Indian gang-rape case after victim dies in hospital (29 December 2012)
NEW DELHI -- Indian police charged six men with murder on Saturday, adding to accusations that they beat and gang-raped a woman on a New Delhi bus nearly two weeks ago in a case that shocked the country.
The murder charges were laid after the woman died earlier Saturday in a Singapore hospital where she has been flown for treatment.
New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said the six face the death penalty if convicted, in case that has triggered protests across India for greater protection for women from sexual violence, and raised questions about lax attitudes by police toward sexual crimes.
The tragedy has forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crime, forcing them to keep quiet and discouraging them from reporting it to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Police often refuse to accept complaints from those who are courageous enough to report the rapes, and the rare prosecutions that reach courts drag on for years.
PAM COMMENTARY: The U.S. has similar problems.
Small-scale solar's big potential goes untapped (29 December 2012)
The Obama administration's solar-power initiative has fast-tracked large-scale plants, fueled by low-interest, government-guaranteed loans that cover up to 80% of construction costs. In all, the federal government has paid out more than $16 billion for renewable-energy projects.
Those large-scale projects are financially efficient for developers, but their size creates transmission inefficiencies and higher costs for ratepayers.
Smaller alternatives, from rooftop solar to small- and medium-sized plants, can do the opposite.
Collectively, modest-sized projects could provide an enormous electricity boost -- and do so for less cost to consumers and less environmental damage to the desert areas where most are located, say advocates of small-scale solar power.
Army Corps of Engineers clear-cuts lush habitat in Valley (29 December 2012)
An area that just a week ago was lush habitat on the Sepulveda Basin's wild side, home to one of the most diverse bird populations in Southern California, has been reduced to dirt and broken limbs -- by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Audubon Society members stumbled upon the barren landscape last weekend during their annual Christmas bird count. Now, they are calling for an investigation into the loss of about 43 acres of cottonwood and willow groves, undergrowth and marshes that had maintained a rich inventory of mammals, reptiles and 250 species of birds.
Much of the area's vegetation had been planted in the 1980s, part of an Army Corps project that turned that portion of the Los Angeles River flood plain into a designated wildlife preserve.
Tramping through the mud Friday, botanist Ellen Zunino -- who was among hundreds of volunteers who planted willows, coyote brush, mule fat and elderberry trees in the area -- was engulfed by anger, sadness and disbelief.
"I'm heartbroken. I was so proud of our work," the 66-year-old said, taking a deep breath. "I don't see any of the usual signs of preparation for a job like this, such as marked trees or colored flags," Zunino added. "It seems haphazard and mean-spirited, almost as though someone was taking revenge on the habitat."
Dockworkers' pact extended, averting strike (29 December 2012)
NEW YORK -- Dockworkers along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico agreed Friday to extend their contract for more than a month, averting a weekend strike that could have crippled major ports from Boston to Houston and bottled up billions of dollars' worth of cargo.
Talks aimed at reaching a new contract covering the 14,500 longshoremen will continue during the extension, which runs through Feb. 6.
The dockworkers' union and an alliance of port operators and shipping lines agreed to the extension after resolving one of the stickier points in their negotiations, involving royalty payments to longshoremen for each container they unload. Details were not disclosed.
Federal mediator George Cohen said the agreement on royalties was "a major positive step forward."
Dennis Kucinich on the "Fiscal Cliff": Why Are We Sacrificing American Jobs for Corporate Profits? (28 December 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Your term would be over, except you've been called back on Sunday, is that right, the House, to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I've been in Washington waiting to see if Congress would be called back into session, as it should be. And there really is no reason, no legitimate reason, why the country should be facing serious tax increases for middle class and also spending cuts that will further slow down the economy. You know, Amy, all the--we've made all the wrong choices. We should be talking about jobs, having more people involved in paying taxes. We should be talking about rebuilding America's infrastructure. China has gone ahead with high-speed trains and massive investment in their infrastructure. Instead, we're back to the same old arguments about taxes and spending without really looking at what we're spending. We just passed the National Defense Authorization Act the other day, another $560 billion just for one year for the war machine. And so, we're focused on whether or not we're going to cut domestic programs now? Are you kidding me?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Congressman, the recent election was seen by many as a mandate from the electorate to finally begin to tax the wealthiest Americans to deal with some of the deficit. Your sense of whether President Obama and your fellow Democrats in the Senate and the House will stay the course on this or will eventually compromise in a way that many progressives would regret?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, we have a divided government. President Obama's election sends one message; the election of a Republican House of Representatives sends another. The--actually, you know, working at odds here. You have Republicans who will not raise taxes for anyone who's making more than a quarter million a year, and they're looking at entitlement cuts. You have Democrats who say, let's have any tax cuts that come up for those who make under $250,000 and no cuts to entitlements. You have a force here that isn't movable right now.
Again, I want to say that we've been going in the wrong direction here. Why haven't we been talking about stimulating the economy through the creation of jobs? We've seemed to accept a certain amount of unemployment as being necessary for the proper functioning of the economy, so that for corporations it will keep wages low. That is baloney. We're creating our own economic vice here that is entrapping tens of millions of Americans, and I just find it unacceptable. It's like this whole fiscal cliff thing is a creation of people who are unimaginative and locked in by special interests.
Activists voice dismay as Senate renews government surveillance measure (28 December 2012)
Civil rights campaigners voiced dismay on Friday over the US Senate's re-authorization of the government's warrantless surveillance program, and the defeat of two amendments that would have provided for basic oversight of the eavesdropping.
The Senate voted 73-23 to extend the law, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, for five years. The House of Representatives has already passed the measure, which President Obama has said he will sign.
But while the program was extended as expected, campaigners saw a silver lining in that the vote was closer than when the legislation was first introduced in 2008.
"We're incredibly disappointed, not just that it passed, but that they rejected some very moderate amendments that wouldn't have interfered with the collection of intelligence," said Michelle Richardson, an ACLU expert on surveillance issues.
An amendment by senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon would have required the secret court that oversees surveillance requests to disclose "important rulings of law." It failed 37-54. An amendment by Merkley's fellow Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden would have required the government to estimate the number of US citizens it had spied on. It fell by a narrower margin, 43-52.
India's chief auditor leads battle against corruption (28 December 2012)
NEW DELHI -- He was supposed to be a faceless accountant, but he has become a household name in India and perhaps the central actor in the nation's battle against corruption.
The slim, silver-haired Vinod Rai is the government's chief auditor, a man appointed on the recommendation of the prime minister more than five years ago. Now he has turned into one of the government's greatest scourges, a hero to many but a source of controversy to others.
Rai's reports accusing the government of losing tens of billions of dollars of potential revenue -- by giving away natural resources to private companies for a pittance -- have dominated news headlines for the past two years.
They have also supplied information for a nationwide anti-corruption movement, helped send a government minister, senior bureaucrats and several business leaders to jail, and damaged the government's image beyond repair.
Victim of love: Online scams leave emotional, financial scars (28 December 2012)
"You're the one who holds the key to my heart, you have taught me the true meaning of love. Love is, what you mean to me -- and you mean everything."
When Kimberley Holowka first read the above words, it was like a dream come true. A month earlier, the now 48-year-old took a leap of faith and posted her photo and profile on Match.com, the world's largest Internet dating site.
"After my mom went to a nursing home, the house was very lonely," says the telecommunications professional who had been a caretaker to her ailing mother, Gayle, after her dad, Orest, died in 2002. "One of my friends had met a great guy on it and encouraged me to put myself out there."
Rather than a fairy tale come to vivid life, her first-day encounter with a prospective suitor turned into a story of a far different kind: a textbook case of romance scamming.
B.C. Highway of Tears: RCMP accused of not taking women's disappearances seriously (28 December 2012)
Matilda and Brenda Wilson walk down a highway, past a small-town airport, to Yelich Road every June, the same month 16-year-old Ramona went missing in 1994.
Flanked by friends and family, they walk to the place where Ramona Wilson's body was found 10 months later, a few kilometres outside Smithers, B.C.
In 2012 Matilda, Ramona's mother, stood on the dirt road, tears streaming down her cheeks, and she said, "We are lucky."
Lucky, Matilda said, because at least they know their girl is never coming home.
Ramona is one of 18 girls and women officially missing or murdered on the so-called Highway of Tears, a 700-odd kilometre stretch of two-lane highway that runs from Prince George, in B.C.'s interior, to Prince Rupert on the coast. And there are others who haven't made the official RCMP list. Most disappeared hitchhiking along this road.
Jean Harris, 'Scarsdale Diet' doctor killer, dies (28 December 2012)
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- Jean Harris, the patrician girls' school headmistress who spent 12 years in prison for the 1980 killing of her longtime lover, "Scarsdale Diet" doctor Herman Tarnower, in a case that rallied feminists and inspired television movies, has died. She was 89.
Harris died Sunday at an assisted-living facility in New Haven, her son, James Harris, said Friday.
She had claimed the shooting of Tarnower, 69, was an accident. Convicted of murder in 1981, Harris suffered two heart attacks while serving her sentence in the Bedford Hills women's prison north of New York City. She was granted clemency by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo when she underwent heart bypass surgery in December 1992 and was released on parole three weeks later.
She later founded Children of Bedford Inc., a nonprofit organization to provide scholarships and tutoring for children of female prison inmates.
Her trial for shooting Tarnower, the millionaire cardiologist famous for devising the Scarsdale Diet - a weight-loss book and sensation of the 1970s named for the New York suburb where he practiced - brought feminists rallying to her defense.
They pictured her as a woman victimized by a male-dominated society, adrift because she was getting older and her lover of 14 years was brushing her off in favor of his younger office assistant. In addition, they said, she was in the thrall of antidepressant drugs Tarnower had prescribed for her.
PAM COMMENTARY: Sounds like another psychiatric drug-related shooting...
Toxic rats, mice spur rodenticide battle
(28 December 2012)
Poisoned rats and mice are spreading toxic chemicals into the ecosystem despite widespread pressure from federal regulators, wildlife officials and environmentalists to remove the most harmful rodenticides from store shelves.
A coalition of environmental and public health groups urged state regulators this month to reject 2013 registration renewals for the dangerous pesticides known as brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum.
The lethal compounds, which are known as second-generation anticoagulants, interfere with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding and a slow, agonizing death, according to the demand letter signed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Earthjustice and the American Bird Conservancy.
The coalition wants the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to end the use of the rodenticides, which toxics experts say can also kill hawks, owls, foxes, mountain lions and other predators that capture poisoned rodents or scavenge their contaminated carcasses.
Light-powered magnetic levitation could create 'new class' of solar energy (28 December 2012)
In a breakthrough that could one day revolutionize transportation and electricity generation, scientists at the University in Kanagawa in Japan demonstrated this month a disc that spins at over 200 rotations per minute when placed over a magnet in direct sunlight, saying the discovery could help create a wholly "new class" of solar energy.
Professor Jiro Abe and Dr. Masayuki Kobayashi presented their discovery in the December issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Speaking a reporter with Phys.org, Abe said their research represents "the first time in the world" that humans have been able to achieve "real-time motion control" of inanimate objects without individual parts of the machine coming into direct contact.
The study goes on to explain that it works because the light slightly changes the temperature of the graphite, which causes subtle fluctuations in the material's "magnetic susceptibility."
Shell drill ship and tow vessel maintain position with tug's help (28 December 2012)
Amid gusting wind and rough seas, a vessel towing a Shell Oil drill ship lost its engines in the Gulf of Alaska south of Kodiak on Friday, rendering both of the massive boats immobile and at risk of drifting out of control.
By Friday afternoon, a tugboat had arrived and was connected to the towing vessel, the 360-foot Aiviq, which was in turn linked to Shell's drill ship, the Kulluk, according to the Coast Guard. The tug was helping the two vessels maintain their position about 50 miles south of Kodiak Island, with plans to move them to safe harbor Saturday, the Coast Guard said.
The welcome news came after the Coast Guard cutter had to abandon efforts to help the stricken vessels when the cutter's towline tangled on one of its propellers.
After several setbacks for Shell in the summer offshore drilling season in the Arctic -- during which the Kulluk started an exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea -- the most recent trouble started Thursday.
Tokyo Electric sued by U.S. sailors exposed to radiation (27 December 2012) [Rense.com]
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), owner of the power plant which had the world's biggest nuclear disaster since 1986, was sued by eight U.S. sailors claiming they were exposed to radiation and the utility lied about the dangers.
The sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear-powered aircraft carrier were involved in disaster relief operations following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan that caused the meltdown, according to the complaint filed in U.S. federal court in San Diego on Dec. 21.
Tepco, as the Japanese utility is known, and the Japanese government conspired to create the false impression radiation leaking from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant didn't pose a threat to the sailors, according to the complaint. As a result the plaintiffs rushed into areas that were unsafe and too close to the power plant, exposing them to radiation, the sailors' lawyers said.
The Japanese government was "lying through their teeth about the reactor meltdown" as it reassured the crew of USS Reagan that "everything is under control," the plaintiffs' lawyers said in the complaint. "The plaintiffs must now endure a lifetime of radiation poisoning and suffering."
Husband charged in shooting death of Wauwatosa officer (27 December 2012)
Benjamin Sebena, a wounded Iraq war veteran who told investigators he had been stalking his wife for days, was charged Thursday in the Christmas Eve shooting death of his wife, Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer L. Sebena.
According to a criminal complaint, Benjamin Sebena told police he shot his wife early Monday after lying in wait for her for hours.
When she emerged from a break at the Wauwatosa Fire Department station on Underwood Ave., he said, he shot her in the back of her head with his own handgun and then shot her several times in the face with her service weapon, according to the complaint. Sebena faces a charge of first-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon. Bail has been set at $1 million.
A decorated Marine, Benjamin Sebena, 30, had been part of the invasion force at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. He returned in the fall of 2004 and was sent to Ramadi.
"We were trained to kill," he says in a YouTube video made for a 2010 Christian men's conference.
Facebook bans Gandhi quote as part of revisionist history purge (27 December 2012)
(NaturalNews) The reports are absolutely true. Facebook suspended the Natural News account earlier today after we posted an historical quote from Mohandas Gandhi. The quote reads:
"Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest." - Mohandas Gandhi, an Autobiography, page 446.
This historical quote was apparently too much for Facebook's censors to bear. They suspended our account and gave us a "final warning" that one more violation of their so-called "community guidelines" would result in our account being permanently deactivated.
They then demanded we send them a color copy of a "government issued identification" in order to reactivate our account. Our account was removed from suspension just minutes before InfoWars posted its article on this Facebook censorship, and the Facebook page is now functioning at:
This is a separate account from our primary Facebook account, which has nearly 250,000 followers at:
Don't Cut Social Security--Double It (12 December 2012) [BuzzFlash.com]
Even before the Great Recession, 40 percent of middle-income and 53 percent of lower-income Americans already were at risk of having insufficient retirement funds. But the economic collapse has taken its toll on two out of three of Americans' primary retirement resources: pensions and savings/investment in a home.
Already Off the Cliff: Pensions, Private and Public
American pensions were some of the hardest hit in the world by the Great Recession, falling in value by over a quarter in 2008, with only modest recovery since then. But private pensions already had become a less steady leg of retirement security prior to the recent recession. Since the early 1980s, businesses have gradually shifted responsibility for pensions onto workers, with predictable results. In 1981, approximately 60 percent of private sector workers were covered by a pension with a guaranteed payout. Today only about 10 percent of private sector workers have guaranteed payout pensions. Meanwhile, 401(k)-type retirement contribution plans have gone from covering only about 17 percent of the private workforce to about 65 percent today (see Figure 3).
401(k)s and other defined-contribution plans have turned out to be an unreliable pillar of retirement security, not only because they don't provide as secure a net but because many Americans are pretty lousy at managing their investments. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that more than one-quarter of baby boomer households thought "hardly at all" about retirement and that financial literacy among boomers was "alarmingly low." Half could not do a simple math calculation (divide $2 million by five) and fewer than 20 percent could calculate compound interest.
In the public sector, most workers still are covered by guaranteed payout pensions, but the number of public sector workers has declined dramatically in recent years, accelerating as a result of the Great Recession. There are now a million fewer federal employees than when Ronald Reagan left office, and public sector employment is at a 30-year low.
Could a port strike really cripple the U.S. economy? (27 December 2012)
The fiscal cliff is no longer the only threat facing the U.S. economy. Some 14,500 dockworkers from Texas to Massachusetts are threatening to strike this week, a move that could throttle East Coast ports and disrupt commerce across the nation.
Negotiations have been tense between the dockworkers' union and the group that represents shippers and port operators -- their disagreements have centered on container royalties, which are used to augment worker wages and benefits. Without a resolution, dockworkers are poised to strike at 14 shipping-container ports starting Sunday, including Boston, New York-New Jersey, Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, Miami and Houston.
"This is truly a 'container cliff' in the making," warned Jonathan Gold, the National Retail Federation's vice president for supply chain policy.
So how much economic damage would a port strike wreak? Estimates can vary widely. Business groups claim that a comparable 11-day lockout at ports on the West Coast in 2002 cost the economy $1 billion per day, or nearly 4 percent of the nation's output during that period. Yet other economists have argued that these figures are often inflated and that the economy can adapt to temporary disruptions.
India gang-rape victim sent to Singapore hospital (27 December 2012)
NEW DELHI--Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged Thursday to take action to protect the nation's women while the young victim of a gang rape on a New Delhi bus was flown to Singapore for treatment of severe internal injuries.
The Dec. 16 rape and brutal beating of the 23-year-old student triggered widespread protests, including a march on Thursday, demanding a government crackdown on the daily harassment Indian women face, ranging from groping to severe violence. Some protesters have called for the death penalty or castration for rapists, who under current laws face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
Rape victims rarely press charges because of social stigma and fear they will be accused of inviting the attack. Many women say they structure their lives around protecting themselves and their daughters from attack.
Singh's government set up two committees in response to the protests. One, looking into speeding up sexual assault trials, has already received 6,100 email suggestions. The second will examine what lapses might have contributed to the rape -- which took place on a moving bus that passed through police checkpoints -- and suggest measures to improve women's safety.
Justice refuses to block morning-after pill rule (27 December 2012)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has denied a request to block part of the federal health care law that requires employee health-care plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception pills.
Hobby Lobby Stores and a sister company, Mardel Inc., sued the government, claiming the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners.
In an opinion Wednesday, Sotomayor said the stores fail to satisfy the demanding legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She said the companies may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts.
Company officials say they must decide whether to violate their faith or face a daily $1.3 million fine beginning Jan. 1 if they ignore the law.
Amazon most satisfying website to shop: survey (27 December 2012)
(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc remained the best website for shopping online while JC Penney Co Inc suffered the largest drop in customer satisfaction of any major online retailer this holiday season, according to a survey released on Thursday.
Flash sale sites Gilt.com and RueLaLa.com were among the worst performers in online shopping satisfaction this season, according to ForeSee's Holiday E-Retail Satisfaction Index.
"The importance of satisfying them and giving a great consumer experience is going to pay back huge dividends in terms of profitability for these retailers," said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee, which measures customer satisfaction for companies, including retailers.
Amazon has held the highest score in each of the eight years of the index, due in part to the wide variety of merchandise it offers and a site that is easy to use.
Asparagus could help cure a hangover, scientists believe (27 December 2012)
It isn't the most traditional vegetable to be served with Christmas lunch and is generally more renowend for its properties as an aphrodisiac.
But scientists believe asparagus could be ward off the effects of a hangover.
Scientists have found chemicals in the vegetable also protect liver cells against toxins.
Experiments on human cells found the minerals and amino acids in asparagus can replacing those lost through drink, which can often lead to a headache. They also relieve stress on the liver.
Bioethicist: 'Frankenfish' far less scary than fast food (27 December 2012)
If you like the McRib, and I do, should you worry a lot about eating it? Oh yeah.
The genetically altered "AquAdvantage"' salmon is Atlantic salmon made from an egg, which has been injected with a gene from a Chinook salmon. That gene, which is stuck to a bit of DNA from another fish--the ocean pout, carries instructions for making more growth hormone than an Atlantic salmon ordinarily makes. More growth hormone means faster growth and, thus, more salmon to eat much more quickly.
This genetic concoction was first used in 1989, to create a "founder" genetically modified (GM) salmon. The GM salmon is now in its tenth generation. Many people have eaten it. No nasty side-effects have been observed.
Now consider the McRib sandwich. There is no rib in a McRib. The sandwich features a "McRib pork patty," contains 980 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of fat and 23 milligrams of cholesterol. Ingredients listed on the McDonald's website for the McRib's bun include azodicarbonamide, a flour bleaching agent used in breads at some U.S. fast food restaurants -- and also in the making of foamed plastics. It's banned as a food additive in some countries.
Newtown residents: Thanks but please stop sending so many gifts (27 December 2012)
Residents of the Connecticut town that was the setting for the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have said that they appreciate the deluge of gifts from well-wishers all over the world, but ask now that people please stop sending them. According to the Associated Press, Newtown, Connecticut has received so many gifts and toys that the city is simply unable to process them all.
The town's first selectman, Will Rodgers, along with the police chief and and school superintendant made the request via the Newtown Bee in an article that included a list of instructions for those interested in donating to Newtown. Items on the list asked donors to please send no more perishable items unless specifically requested, to contact the receiving board before donating to find out if that type of donation is needed and more.
Since the Dec. 14 tragedy in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 27 people, 20 of whom were children, donations of everything from art to toys to school supplies have poured in from around the globe. The sheer volume of donated items has outstripped the town's ability to sort and process them. Officials have asked people to wait before sending more gifts.
A fund established by the United Way to help the community recover has currently grown to $3.5 million.
Megachurch members raise $600,000 for charity in two days (27 December 2012)
When Christ Fellowship Church asked its parishioners to help make "an everlasting impact on the hurting and under resourced this month", the idea was simply to raise $337,000 on the weekend of Dec. 15 and 16.
The result was overwhelming, when thousands of families attending one of the megachurch's six campuses throughout Miami-Dade County decided it was truly more blessed to give than to receive, and raised more than $601,000 in two days.
According to Aimee Artiles, a spokeswoman from the church, "Thousands of churchgoers waited in line to give, using debit cards, writing checks, and turning in cash." Every penny of the money collected will be used to help the hurting and under-resourced in Miami and India," she said.
Artiles said more than half the money will stay in Miami, and will be used by a nonprofit organization affiliated with the church, Caring for Miami, to help meet the dental, medical and mental needs of thousands in South Florida. Caring for Miami's most recent tax return lists the organization's largest activities as including counseling on abortion alternatives, post-abortion counseling, assistance to homeless people, and aid to proselytizing activities.
Congress Says Netflix Can Share What You're Watching (27 December 2012)
When the streaming-video site Netflix suffered an outage on Christmas Eve, millions of Americans confronted the terrifying possibility of an evening of spent talking with their relatives instead of re-watching Die Hard. But Netflix's technical snafu wasn't the only streaming-related news infuriating Americans over the Christmas holiday.
Last Tuesday, the Senate quietly altered a key privacy law, making it much easier for video streaming services like Netflix to share your viewing habits. How quietly? The Senate didn't even hold a recorded vote: The bill was approved by unanimous consent. (Joe Mullin of Ars Technica was among the first to note the vote.)
Here's what changed. For the last twenty-four years, ever since a local reporter easily obtained failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's video rental records without his consent, the law has required video rental companies to get your permission each and every time they share information about the movies you rent or buy. Although Bork himself had no respect for the idea of a constitutional right to privacy, part of his legacy ended up being one of the strongest privacy-related laws in the country.
As of last week, that's all in the past: Video streaming companies that want to share your data now only need to ask for your permission once. After that, they can broadcast your video-watching habits far and wide for up to two years before having to ask again.
Idle No More: Indigenous-Led Protests Sweep Canada for Native Sovereignty and Environmental Justice (26 December 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Pamela, welcome to Democracy Now! Start off by why the name of the movement, "Idle No More"?
PAMELA PALMATER: Well, it's really symbolic of trying to get people organized at the grassroots level, because for many decades we have this scenario where politicians in Canada are making decisions over the lives of First Nations communities across this country and First Nations leaders who are trapped in this system under the Indian Act--that's federal legislation that we have--that controls every single action and decision they make, which really leaves the grassroots people out of the decision-making process. And for traditional indigenous governments here in Canada, it's the indigenous grassroots people that are the real decision makers. They have been kept in the dark. They haven't known what's going on. And so, what we tried to do for this movement is come up with teach-ins, come up with information that would help empower the grassroots to know what is the threat against them and how to take action to address it, regardless of what's happening at the political level.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Pamela, can you say a little about what precisely sparked these protests? What was the budget bill that was being considered?
PAMELA PALMATER: Well, it's actually 14 pieces of legislation. Some of the earlier protests were focusing just on Bill C-45, which was a giant omnibus bill which made amendments to tons of pieces of legislation. But the two kind of critical pieces for us at the time were the changes to the Indian--unilateral changes to the Indian Act, which would allow the easy surrender of our reserve lands, and the changes to the Navigable Waters Act, which doesn't just impact First Nations people, it also impacts Canadians and Americans because we share, between Canada and the U.S., lots of waterways and water basins and rivers and lakes. And so, these changes will be catastrophic to those waterways and affect people on both sides of the border. So what we were trying to do was not to just inform and empower First Nations communities about that violation to our treaty rights, because we never surrendered our waterways, but also the devastating impacts on Canadians and Americans in terms of clean drinking water.
Study: Coral reefs decimated by Chinese economic boom (26 December 2012)
China's economic boom has seen its coral reefs shrink by at least 80 percent over the past 30 years, according to a joint Australian study, with researchers describing "grim" levels of damage and loss.
Scientists from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology said their survey of mainland China and South China Sea reefs showed alarming degradation.
"We found that coral abundance has declined by at least 80 percent over the past 30 years on coastal fringing reefs along the Chinese mainland and adjoining Hainan Island," said the study, published in the latest edition of the journal Conservation Biology.
"On offshore atolls and archipelagos claimed by six countries in the South China Sea, coral cover has declined from an average of greater than 60 percent to around 20 percent within the past 10-15 years," it added.
Amazon's Christmas faux pas shows risks in the cloud (26 December 2012)
(Reuters) - A Christmas Eve glitch traced to Amazon.com Inc that shuttered Netflix for users from Canada to South America highlights the risks that companies take when they move their datacenter operations to the cloud.
While the high-profile failure - at least the third this year - may cause some Amazon Web Services customers to consider alternatives, it is unlikely to severely hurt a fast-growing business for the cloud-computing pioneer that got into the sector in 2006 and has historically experienced few outages.
"The benefits still outweigh the risks," said Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry.
"When it comes to the cloud, Amazon has got it right."
Sarah Gilbert selects her favourite pictures of the year (from The Guardian) (26 December 2012)
(Picture 1): I took this from a helicopter, after the storm in New York, as we flew over Manhattan. It was a two-day scramble to organise it and to get across the city, since nothing was working -- the tunnels and bridges were closed, there was no transportation. It was a cold, three-hour helicopter ride to and from the city. So when I took the picture I was trying to direct the pilot while I was freezing. It was essentially the water that knocked out the power. I thought it was important to show it in that way -- it made us realise how fragile we are against nature and water.
(Picture 2): On September 29 I saw on the -news that a tornado had ripped through the east of Spain. When I saw the intensity of the devastation I decided to travel there. Gandia is about 400km from Madrid, where I live. It was festival time and usually it is filled with people, lights, music and laughter. But this time it was different. The -situation was quite strange: the creaking of twisted metal, the debris after the tornado, and everything closed and empty. It was so bleak. I exchanged a few words with the man in the picture; he said that they had lost everything.
PAM COMMENTARY: Some amazing shots in this gallery...
Virginia town offering free app to help fight crime (26 December 2012)
Marion police are giving residents a safe and easy way to become crime fighters.
The Marion Police Department is offering a free app called iWatch Marion. It is available for Apple and Android devices.
Lt. Andrew Moss tells The Bristol Herald Courier that residents can use the app to report crimes and suspicious activities to police. Residents also can send photos and videos.
Residents also can sign up for text alerts for weather, school closings, missing children, crime alerts and other items.
Moss said 911 should still be used for emergencies.
Predicting who is at risk for violence isn't easy, but experts say there are sometimes signs (26 December 2012)
CHICAGO - It happened after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Colo., and now Sandy Hook: People figure there surely were signs of impending violence. But experts say predicting who will be the next mass shooter is virtually impossible -- partly because as commonplace as these calamities seem, they are relatively rare crimes.
Still, a combination of risk factors in troubled kids or adults including drug use and easy access to guns can increase the likelihood of violence, experts say.
But warning signs "only become crystal clear in the aftermath, said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminology professor who has studied and written about mass killings.
"They're yellow flags. They only become red flags once the blood is spilled," he said.
Brazilian cities hit by crack epidemic (26 December 2012)
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Glassy-eyed, rail-thin and filthy, hundreds of addicts emerged from doorways and alleys as dusk came to the once-grand Luz district in the heart of this city.
After quick transactions with crack dealers, they scrambled for a little privacy to light up their pipes and inhale tiny, highly addictive rocks that go for about $5 each. The image was reminiscent of Washington or New York in the 1980s, when crack cocaine engulfed whole neighborhoods and sparked a dizzying cycle of violence.
But this time, the crack epidemic is happening in Brazil, alarming officials and tarnishing the country's carefully cultivated image ahead of two major sporting events to be staged here: soccer's 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
In cities all over Brazil -- from this gritty metropolis to the crown jewel of Rio de Janeiro and smaller places in the middle of the Amazonian jungle -- nightfall brings out swarms of desperate addicts looking for their next fix in districts known as "cracolandias," or cracklands.
And like the crack wave that slammed the United States, the result here is the same -- lives destroyed, families upended, neighborhoods made uninhabitable.
UWM center helps companies cut costs through energy assessments (26 December 2012)
Charter Automotive, a maker of components for internal combustion engines, turned to faculty and students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a bid to trim energy costs from its manufacturing process.
UWM is home to Wisconsin's only industrial assessment center, which consults with firms like Charter to help reduce energy use and save companies on their bottom line.
The center, primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, has been gearing up over the past year to conduct energy assessments at factories around the state.
A sluggish, slow-growth economy has businesses looking at where they can cut costs, and the assessments are offering Charter a good indication what to do.
Job one: Fix leaky air compressors, says Aaron Abert of Charter. The company, a subsidiary of Charter Manufacturing, has followed up the free assessment by hiring an auditor to check for leaks in its air compressors.
CIA's Global Response Staff emerging from shadows after incidents in Libya and Pakistan (26 December 2012)
The rapid collapse of a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya exposed the vulnerabilities of State Department facilities overseas. But the CIA's ability to fend off a second attack that same night provided a glimpse of a key element in the agency's defensive arsenal: a secret security force created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Two of the Americans killed in Benghazi were members of the CIA's Global Response Staff, an innocuously named organization that has recruited hundreds of former U.S. Special Forces operatives to serve as armed guards for the agency's spies.
The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.
But a series of deadly scrapes over the past four years has illuminated the GRS's expanding role, as well as its emerging status as one of the CIA's most dangerous assignments.
Pipeline blast, quake strike 2014 Olympics Russian host Sochi (26 December 2012)
(Reuters) - Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics, has been hit by a gas pipeline blast and a mild earthquake, a government spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
Irina Gogoleva, of Russia's Emergencies Ministry, said no one was hurt and there was no apparent damage to the city's infrastructure after a 5.3 magnitude earthquake was reported at 0242 local time on Wednesday (2242 GMT on Tuesday).
"Emergencies Ministry servicemen scoured through the city districts, bridges and electrical cables, there was no damage," Gogoleva said.
The epicenter of the quake was about 150 km (93 miles) off Sochi in the Black Sea.
President Vladimir Putin ordered authorities to inspect Olympic sites, particularly those under construction, to ensure there was no damage, Interfax news agency reported.
In oil country, high-school grads opt to make money over education (25 December 2012)
SIDNEY, Mont. -- For most high-school seniors, a college degree is the surest path to a decent job and a stable future. But here in oil country, some are choosing the oil fields over universities, forgoing higher education for jobs with salaries that can start at $50,000 a year.
It is a lucrative but risky decision for any 18-year-old to make, one that could foreclose on their future if the frenzied pace of oil and gas drilling from here to North Dakota to Texas falters and work dries up. But with youth unemployment at 12 percent nationwide and college tuition soaring, students here on the snow-glazed plains of eastern Montana said they were ready to take their chances.
"I just figured, the oil field is here and I'd make the money while I could," said Tegan Sivertson, 19, who monitors pipelines for a gas company, sometimes working 15-hour days. "I didn't want to waste the money and go to school when I could make just as much."
Less than a year away from proms and homecoming games, young people like Sivertson now wake at 4 a.m. to make the three-hour trek to remote oil rigs. They fish busted machinery out of 2-mile-deep hydraulic fracturing wells and repair safety devices that keep the wells from rupturing, often working alongside men old enough to be their fathers. Some live at home; others drive back on weekends to eat their mothers' food, do loads of laundry and go to high-school basketball games, still straddling the blurred border between childhood and adulthood.
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike 'concerns' Aboriginal Affairs minister (25 December 2012)
OTTAWA--Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan expressed concern on Tuesday for the health of a northern Ontario First Nation chief who is on a hunger strike near Parliament Hill.
In a letter sent to Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence on Christmas Day, Duncan said he was worried about the leader's well-being and urged her to end her protest.
Spence has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11 to focus public attention on aboriginal issues, and has been living in a teepee on an island in the Ottawa River that many aboriginals consider to be sacred land.
She is seeking a meeting with the prime minister, the governor general and First Nations leaders to discuss the government's relationship with First Nations.
Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction and the Destruction of American Childhood (25 December 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the importance of attachment?
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Attachment is the drive to be close to somebody, and attachment is a power force in human relationship -- in fact, the most powerful force there is. Even as adults, when attachment relationships that people want to be close to are lost to us or they're threatened somehow, we get very disoriented, very upset. Now, for children and babies and adolescents, that's an absolute necessity, because the more immature you are, the more you need your attachments. It's like a force of gravity that pulls two bodies together. Now, when the attachment goes in the wrong direction, instead of to the adults, but to the peer group, childhood developments can be distorted, development is stopped in its tracks, and parenting and teaching become extremely difficult.
AMY GOODMAN: You co-wrote this book, and you both found, in your experience, Hold on to Your Kids, that your kids were becoming increasingly secretive and unreachable.
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, that's the thing. You see, now, if your spouse or partner, adult spouse or partner, came home from work and didn't give you the time of day and got on the phone and talked with other people all the time and spent all their time on email talking to other people, your friends wouldn't say, "You've got a behavioral problem. You should try tough love." They'd say you've got a relationship problem. But when children act in these ways, we think we have a behavioral problem, we try and control the behaviors. In fact, what they're showing us is that -- my children showed this, as well --- is that I had a relationship problem with them. They weren't connected enough with me and too connected to the peer group. So that's why they wanted to spend all their time with their peer group. And now we've given kids the technology to do that with. So the terrible downside of the internet is that now kids are spending time with each other ---
AMY GOODMAN: Not even in the presence of each other.
DR. GABOR MATÉ: That's exactly the point, because, you see, that's an attachment dynamic. One of the basic ways that people attach to each other is to want to be with the people that you want to connect with. So when kids spend time with each other, it's not a behavior problem; it's a sign that their relationships have been skewed towards the peer group. And that's why it's so difficult to peel them off their computers, because their desperation is to connect with the people that they're trying to attach to. And that's no longer us, as the adults, as the parents in their life.
AMY GOODMAN: So how do you change this dynamic?
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, first we have to recognize its manifestations. And so, we have to recognize that whenever the child doesn't look adults in the eye anymore, when the child wants to be always on the Skype or the cell phone or twittering or emailing or MSM messengering, you recognize it when the child becomes oppositional to adults. We tend to think that that's a normal childhood phenomenon. It's normal only to a certain degree.
'Preservative-free' vaccines and flu shots still contain deadly toxins (20 December 2012)
One major problem with the multi-jabs, even preservative-free ones, is that several vaccines at once enables the chance of the tiny amounts of viruses introduced by these vaccines and their genetic material to meet and "mingle." You see, then the recombination of such strains are super viruses, and can rise up later and attack the system. Still only worried about the preservatives?
Measles and Mumps Live Virus Vaccine: (M-M-Rvax) Made by Merck. Injected into one-year-old babies and contains gelatin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, bovine cow serum, and human albumin.
Diptheria, Tetanus and Polio Vaccine: Five injections given between two and six years of age, plus boosters "recommended" every 10 years. This monster jab contains formaldehyde, phenoxyethanol and aluminum phosphate.
DTaP, IPV, HBV and Hib: (Diphtheria, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B) Given to infants from two to 12 months old with boosters less than a year later. This beast of a shot contains aluminum hydroxide, formaldehyde, and bovine cow serum.
Rural infants spend less time in hospitals (25 December 2012)
California infants from rural counties are less likely to be admitted to hospitals than infants from urban counties and spend fewer days in the hospital when they are hospitalized, according to a new study.
But despite the variance in hospitalizations, there was no significant difference in mortality rates between rural and urban infants, the study found.
The study, by two researchers from Pennsylvania, focused on California because of the availability of records and its geographic diversity. The authors looked at California infants during the first year of life from 1993 to 2005, or more than 6.4 million infants.
Published last month in Pediatrics, the study found that 9.8 percent of infants in large urban counties were admitted to hospitals in their first year of life compared with 8.9 percent of infants in small rural counties.
If urban infants were hospitalized at the same rate as rural infants, there would have been 46,000 fewer hospitalized infants over the time frame, researchers found. The increase in hospitalizations impacts not only the families of the infants, but also could have cost effects for the state, said Dr. Scott Lorch, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Secrets of Chinese medicinal herb chang shan (blue evergreen hydrangea root, Latin term Dichroa febrifuga Lour) revealed by scientists (23 December 2012)
In 2009, researchers made insights into its active ingredient, febrifuginone, which can be pharmaceutically made as a molecule called halofuginone.
They found that halofuginone prevented production of rogue Th17 immune cells which attack healthy cells, causing inflammation that leads to fever.
A study published in the journal Nature on Sunday found halofuginone works by hampering production of proteins for making "bad" Th17 cells, but not the "good" ones.
Specifically, it blocks molecules called transfer RNA (tRNA), whose job is to assemble a protein bit by bit, in line with the DNA code written in the gene.
As for malaria, halofuginone appears to interfere with the same protein-assembly process that enables malaria parasites to live in the blood, the study said.
New study: Infants receiving most vaccines are most likely to be hospitalized and die (24 December 2012) [InfoWars.com]
A new study, published in Human and Experimental Toxicology, a peer-reviewed journal indexed by the National Library of Medicine, analyzed more than 38,000 reports of infant hospitalizations and deaths following vaccinations. Researchers found statistically significant correlations between the number of vaccine doses administered to infants and infant hospitalization and mortality rates: babies who receive the most vaccines tend to have higher (worse) hospitalization and death rates.
Infants who received 2 vaccines simultaneously were significantly less likely to be hospitalized than infants who received 3 or more vaccines at the same time. Infants who received 3 vaccines simultaneously were significantly less likely to be hospitalized than infants who received 4 or more vaccines at the same time. Babies who received 6, 7, or 8 vaccines during a single pediatric well-baby visit were the most likely to be hospitalized following their injections. In fact, the hospitalization rate increased linearly from 11.0% for infants receiving 2 vaccine doses to 23.5% for infants receiving 8 vaccine doses.
The authors of the study, Dr. Gary Goldman and Neil Z. Miller, also discovered that younger infants were significantly more likely to be hospitalized after receiving vaccinations than older infants. In addition, infants who received 5-8 vaccines simultaneously were significantly more likely to die following their shots than infants who received 1-4 vaccines simultaneously.
Several factors could contribute to whether an infant will have an adverse reaction to vaccines, including a genetic predisposition, illness (which may be a contraindication to vaccine administration), quality of vaccines (which can vary by manufacturing methods), and sensitivity to one or more vaccine components. Some infants might be more likely to experience an adverse reaction due to biochemical or synergistic toxicity associated with concurrent administration of multiple vaccines.
In 1990, infants received a total of 15 vaccine doses prior to their first year of life. By 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended 26 vaccine doses for infants: 3 DTaP, 3 polio, 3 Hib, 3 hepatitis B, 3 pneumococcal, 3 rotavirus, and 2 influenza vaccines.
Israel approves another 1,200 settlement units around Jerusalem (25 December 2012)
Israel has given the green light for the fast-track development of a further 1,200 settlement units around Jerusalem. It brings the total number of new approvals to 5,500 in just over a week, the largest wave of proposed expansion in recent memory.
The latest plan, which would see almost 1,000 new apartments built over Jerusalem's green line in Gilo, comes as the Israeli media is reporting mounting pressure on the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to drop his commitment to a two-state solution from his platform for re-election in January.
The agreement for the Gilo development is only the latest in wave of settlement approvals in Jerusalem agreed by the country's interior ministry and Jerusalem municipality's planning committees before Christmas.
That included proposals, which attracted international criticism, to develop the controversial E1 block to the east of Jerusalem.
Although Netanyahu, who leads a coalition with the ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, is still expected to win the most seats in the 22 January vote, a new poll suggests he has been losing ground since Lieberman was indicted on anti-trust charges this month and forced to step down as foreign minister.
Going, going, gonzo: A famously twisted mind tackles the extinction crisis with a wicked pen (25 December 2012)
Ralph Steadman is probably best known for illustrating the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, famous for the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson is dead and gone (per his final request, his ashes were loaded into a cannon and blasted into the air outside Aspen, Colo., in 2005), but Steadman, a Brit, is still very much alive and kicking at the age of 76.
Steadman's latest work, a collaboration with filmmaker Ceri Levy, is a coffee table book called Extinct Boids. It's bestiary of extinct birds, some of which are real (there's the dodo, of course, and the great auk, and many lesser-known species) and others (the Rodrigues Blue-Back Throstle and the Mechanical Botanical Spunt, to mention a few) that hatched directly from Steadman's and Levy's imaginations.
It's a strange and wonderful thing -- Steadman's ink-splattered illustrations narrated by Levy's comic journalings and notes. Think John James Audubon on a lot of acid. But there's a serious message here, too -- about how little we know about the world around us, about the damage we've done, and the spirit and creativity we'll need if we're going to save a few scraps of it for the boids and other critters.
Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, on the Struggle to Win, and Now Protect, Voting Rights in U.S. (24 December 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Why do these voter purges actually target the groups you've just talked about? How do they target them? Maybe you can explain what you were so pivotal in having passed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, I think there's this make-believe that if we do not purge, if we do not weed out some of these people, they're going to come out and vote, and they're going to vote not the way that some people would like for them to vote. They're primarily Democratic voters. It makes me want to just cry, after people gave a little blood, after some people were beaten, shot and murdered trying to help people become registered voters. I can never forget the three civil rights workers that were murdered in the state of Mississippi on the night of June 21st, 1964; other people shot down in cold blood; the march from Selma to Montgomery, where 17 of us were seriously injured. And we passed the Voting Rights Act. We renewed the act. We extended the act. And then the state of Florida, the state of Georgia, Alabama and other states throughout the nation come along with tactics to make it hard, to make it difficult for people to participate. We should be making it easy and simple and open up the political process and let all of the people come in.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the Voting Rights Act said.
REP. JOHN LEWIS: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 said, in effect, that you cannot use a literary test, you cannot have a poll tax, you cannot use certain devices, you cannot harass, you cannot intimidate. And before you make any changes in election laws dealing with registration, changing a precinct, local lines for any political position, you have to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice or the federal district court in Washington, D.C. So, the state of Florida, for an example, never sought to get clearance to purge. And they're hiding behind there may be fraud. That's their own.
Scouts employ aggressive tactics in abuse defense (24 December 2012)
The Scouts' legal tactics in the ongoing lawsuit are part of an aggressive approach that the youth group has long used in defending itself in child sex abuse cases, some victims, their families and lawyers say.
Since 1,247 confidential files were unsealed in October detailing allegations of sexual abuse in its ranks, Scouting has taken a more conciliatory stance.
"We have heard from victims of abuse and are doing our very best to respond to each person with our utmost care and sensitivity," Scouting spokesman Deron Smith said in October, offering an apology, counseling and other assistance.
DOCUMENTS: A paper trail of abuse
But in the years before the files' release, some who alleged abuse say, their accusations were met with denial, blame and legal hardball.
Confessed serial killer hid in plain sight, then broke own rules (24 December 2012)
(Reuters) - A confessed serial killer from Alaska who hid in plain sight and whose crimes went undetected for more than a decade, was ultimately caught after he gave in to his compulsions and struck close to home.
Israel Keyes, in jail since March for the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old coffee stand server Samantha Koenig in Anchorage, Alaska, confessed to that and other violent crimes. Then guards found him dead on December 2 after he committed suicide by cutting his wrists and choking himself with a bed sheet. He was 34.
Keyes, a U.S. Army veteran, lived a quiet life in one of Anchorage's best neighborhoods, doing well-regarded handyman work for unsuspecting customers. He had been due to go on trial in March for Koenig's death, and investigators believe he killed eight to 11 people, if not more.
A picture of Keyes' double-life emerged from his own words -- authorities released excerpts from 40 hours of interviews with investigators to reporters -- and from interviews and news conferences given by investigators, who said they believed his confessions were sincere.
This dog is also a trained archaeologist (24 December 2012)
We've always liked animals with jobs -- it's a great example of humans and nature working together. So we're pleased to see that, having previously worked mainly in service industries, farming, and the military, animals are now branching out into academic fields. Or at any rate, this Australian dog named Migaloo is helping archaeologists find buried human remains.
Migaloo is a black lab mix, and she's one of those dogs who gets a little bit obsessive about things she likes. But in this case, that's an asset, her trainer told National Geographic:
"She loves to play, and she's an absolute nut about her ball. I think she would chase it till she drops dead. So, once we trained her to recognize the odor of human bones, and taught her that she only gets her ball when she finds the target odor, she became obsessive with trying to find that odor."
Now that she's fixated on human bones, Migaloo has found graves that are hundreds of years old. Once she locates the graves, trainers give her her favorite ball, so she doesn't start trying to dig up her target -- Migaloo might be a great archaeologist, but she still doesn't have thumbs, so she can't be trusted with the sensitive digging part. Also, unlike human archaeologists, she might chew up the remains once she finds them.
Newfield Stops Flow at Bakken Well Oil Spill in North Dakota (24 December 2012)
Newfield Exploration Co. (NFX) stopped the flow of oil, gas and saltwater leaking from a well in the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota yesterday afternoon, almost 48 hours after it began.
The well, in a remote part of McKenzie County, North Dakota, began releasing hydrocarbons at about 8 p.m. local time Dec. 21, Keith Schmidt, a spokesman for the Houston-based company, said in a phone interview. A filing with the U.S. Coast Guard's National Response Center said the well was releasing 106 barrels of crude, 166,000 cubic feet of natural gas and 80 barrels of salt water per hour.
A workover rig was completing the well when the release started, Schmidt said.
Newfield has about 100,000 net acres leased in the Bakken play, and operates three rigs there, Schmidt said. The company's other operations in the field haven't been affected by the incident, he said.
Growing oil output in the Bakken, spurred by the increased use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, has led a jump in U.S. oil supply. North Dakota's portion of the Bakken produced less than 10,000 barrels a day in October 2006. This October it pumped out 682,000 barrels a day, according to the North Dakota Industrial Commission.
PG&E's $550 million offer for deadly San Bruno blast rejected (23 December 2012)
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. offered to pay a $550 million fine to resolve state regulatory charges connected to the San Bruno pipeline explosion, but government and consumer groups rejected the deal because the utility wouldn't admit it failed to maintain a safe gas system, according to sources close to the talks.
PG&E is facing a potentially huge fine for the September 2010 explosion of its gas-transmission line in San Bruno, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. The case is unfolding before the California Public Utilities Commission, but other parties besides the commission have a stake in the outcome - including the cities of San Bruno and San Francisco and the consumer group The Utility Reform Network.
A chunk of the $550 million that PG&E offered to settle the case would have gone to the state's general fund - but with the caveat that the utility would not have to admit to violating a state law requiring it to maintain a safe system.
PG&E said such an admission could expose it to a criminal charge, a contention the cities and TURN dispute. What's more likely is that scores of San Bruno plaintiffs who have sued PG&E would have seized on the admission to strengthen their arguments.
The cities and TURN shot back that no admission of guilt meant no deal. They are also pressing PG&E to agree to various pipeline fixes and timetables for audits.
Counterfeit medicine from Asia threatens lives in Africa (23 December 2012)
International health experts are warning of a mounting health crisis in parts of Africa because of an influx of counterfeit medicine from Asia that is playing havoc with the treatment of diseases such as malaria. Porous borders in Africa coupled with indifferent oversight in China are combining to turn the continent and its pressing health problems into a free-for-all for maverick manufacturers, some of whom are producing pills with no active ingredients at all.
Precise data is hard to track down because of the informal nature of African health systems. But several recent studies warn that as many as one-third of malaria drugs in Uganda and Tanzania are fake or substandard, with most believed to originate in China or India.
Apart from the lives lost, there are additional concerns about drug resistance building in east Africa, experts say. "It's a crisis any time someone dies," Nick White, who chairs the Wellcome Trust's south-east Asia major overseas programmes and the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (Wwarn). "It's a massive problem that people have simply ignored. It's not like a boil that's beginning to burst because it's been a problem for a long time. What has happened is we are beginning to recognise it more."
Laurie Garett, senior fellow for global health at the US Council on Foreign Relations, said: "Nobody has a head count -- or a body count -- on numbers of Africans that have died as a result. But China's role certainly has been dreadful."
PAM COMMENTARY: Again, is anyone trying a Clark zapper on malaria cases?
Platte River Recovery Implementation Program is creating a place for whooping cranes to stay during their migration (23 December 2012)
KEARNEY -- Large, yellow earth movers circled 180 acres of land southeast of Kearney between the north and main channels of the Platte River, sculpting shallow depressions that will be seeded with wetland plants and, it's hoped, be filled by spring rains.
The goal in this initial "pothole" project is to create habitat attractive to endangered whooping cranes that migrate through the Central Platte Valley.
The hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes that make an annual late winter-early spring mid-migration stop also should like the wetland conditions, said Bruce Sackett, land specialist for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. Ducks, geese and small shorebirds also may visit the site, he added.
To the south, along the river's main channel, 300 acres have been seeded to grass that Sackett said needs moisture now to thrive next year.
Pot farms wreaking havoc on Northern California environment (23 December 2012)
EUREKA, Calif. -- State scientists, grappling with an explosion of marijuana growing on the North Coast, recently studied aerial imagery of a small tributary of the Eel River, spawning grounds for endangered coho salmon and other threatened fish.
In the remote, 37-square-mile patch of forest, they counted 281 outdoor pot farms and 286 greenhouses, containing an estimated 20,000 plants -- mostly fed by water diverted from creeks or a fork of the Eel. The scientists determined the farms were siphoning roughly 18 million gallons from the watershed every year, largely at the time when the salmon most need it.
"That is just one small watershed," said Scott Bauer, the state scientist in charge of the coho recovery on the North Coast for the Department of Fish and Game. "You extrapolate that for all the other tributaries, just of the Eel, and you get a lot of marijuana sucking up a lot of water.... This threatens species we are spending millions of dollars to recover."
The marijuana boom that came with the sudden rise of medical cannabis in California has wreaked havoc on the fragile habitats of the North Coast and other parts of California. With little or no oversight, farmers have illegally mowed down timber, graded mountaintops flat for sprawling greenhouses, dispersed poisons and pesticides, drained streams and polluted watersheds.
Low wholesale electricity prices making waves in Montana's power industry (23 December 2012)
Industry trade publications are reporting that PPL Montana, which bought the coal-fired plants from the old Montana Power Co. in 1999 in the wake of utility deregulation, is now trying to sell them. PPL won't comment on the reports. (See related story)
PPL Montana and others in the coal industry sometimes point at the wind power industry and its federal tax subsidies, which they say are artificially skewing market prices downward.
Qualifying wind farms get a $22 tax credit for every megawatt hour of power they produce. If the market price of power falls below that amount, they still get the money.
In fact, during the past 12 months, wind power producers at times have actually paid electricity buyers to take their power, because they could still get positive income on the deal through the tax credit, regional power officials say.
This phenomenon is known as "negative pricing," when the market price for power has been less than zero during off-peak hours, usually the middle of the night. A wind farm might pay the wholesale buyer $5 per mwh to take the power the farm is producing at off-peak, but with the tax credit, it still makes $17 per mwh.
Minnesotans pay a price for crop fertilizer at faucet (23 December 2012)
HASTINGS - Debbie Carlson can laugh at the irony: She's the wife of a well digger who can't find good water for his own family.
Like one out of three wells in Dakota County, hers is so contaminated with nitrates she won't let anyone drink from it -- especially her 8-year-old granddaughter. Most likely it comes from nitrogen used as fertilizer on the cornfields surrounding her home. "Nitrogen was a great thing for the family farm," Carlson said. "But I am paying the price."
Thanks to a combination of geology and some of the country's richest farmland, thousands of Minnesotans face elevated levels of nitrates in their drinking water. It's a health risk -- mostly for infants and pregnant women -- and a significant economic burden. Hastings is one of nearly a dozen Minnesota communities that has spent millions to clean the toxin from drinking water. Well owners like the Carlsons have three choices: Drink it, which some do. Pay thousands for a new well. Or install expensive treatment systems.
The prairie that once protected groundwater is long gone from Dakota County and from most of Minnesota and the Midwest. That loss lays bare what one leading agricultural economist calls the "wicked problem" of global nitrogen pollution.
Scathing evaluation of UC Davis Medical Center's brain experiments (23 December 2012)
As first reported by The Bee in July, Muizelaar and Schrot had embarked on a quest four years ago to treat brain cancer patients with a novel procedure involving live bacteria. In 2010 and 2011, three patients with deadly glioblastomas consented to have their skulls opened and intentionally infected with Enterobacter aerogenes, the bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract.
Use of experimental drugs or devices in human beings is tightly regulated and must undergo a rigorous review process by both the research institution and government agencies.
The UC Davis neurosurgeons are accused of sidestepping those processes with their "probiotic intracranial therapy," an untested procedure based on their theory that postoperative infections might stimulate patients' immune systems and prolong their lives. The bacteria, though, were not approved for use in humans and had been purchased for the doctors' study involving lab rats, according to university and federal documents.
Only after the third patient was treated in March 2011 -- and died 14 days later of sepsis, a severe bodily reaction to infection -- did the university order the neurosurgeons to "cease and desist."
The university has not identified the three patients, but The Bee has learned that at least two of the families are pursuing legal action over their loved ones' unsuccessful treatments. Those families have not agreed to speak publicly about their cases.
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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