Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2013
News from the Week of 30th of December 2012 to 5th of January 2013
Idle No More: Aboriginal protesters march across Canada (5 January 2013)
SARNIA--Traffic on the Blue Water Bridge to Michigan stopped completely for just over an hour Sat. afternoon as about 250 protestors, including many from the local aboriginal community, marched onto Highway 402 and blocked the road in support of hunger strikes by chiefs and elders across Canada.
The protestors, carrying signs protesting Conservative environmental policies and supporting the Idle No More movement, walked peacefully on to the highway from an entrance in the nearby village of Point Edward, following a convoy of cars and a truck carrying native drummers and singers.
Under the watchful eye of numerous Ontario Provincial Police officers, the blockaders began their march from a snowy and wind-swept location by St. Clair River directly under the bridge this morning. Organizers first held an aboriginal water ceremony by a monument dedicated to the memory of native ancestors, and then drove and marched to the bridge entrance.
O.P.P. officers warned the organizers that their actions were illegal, but the officers offered their protection to the protestors if they followed an agreed-to route.
Idle No More protesters shut Ontario border crossing (5 January 2013)
CORNWALL, Ont. -- A border crossing from Canada to the U.S. was shut down Saturday morning by First Nations protesters.
The Seaway International Bridge was shut down about 10:30 a.m. ET, said police.
It was unclear when the toll bridge, which connects the city, and Akwesasne, Ont., to Massena, N.Y., would be reopened.
There were about 100 to 150 demonstrators marching on the bridge, as part of the Idle No More movement, said Sgt. Marc Bissonnette.
The bridge was shut down as a public safety precaution and the demonstrators have had no incidents with police, Bissonnette said.
A number of other similar protests were planned throughout the country Saturday, prompting police to warn travellers to plan ahead when using some highways and bridges due to unplanned closures.
Delhi police refute India gang-rape account; Delhi police commissioner rejects remarks by victim's friend, saying officers handled emergency quickly and effectively. (5 January 2013)
At a news conference on Saturday, Joint Commissioner of Delhi Police Vivek Gogia said police vans had reached the spot where the rape victim and her friend were dumped within three minutes of receiving the alert.
The victim's male companion said in an interview broadcast on Friday on Indian TV station Zee News that police delayed taking her to a hospital, after passers-by neglected to help her even though she was naked and bleeding.
The 23-year-old woman died last weekend from massive internal injuries suffered during the December 16 attack.
Gogia said the police vans left the spot for hospital with the victims within 12 minutes and that time had been spent borrowing bed sheets from a neighbouring hotel to cover the naked rape victim and her friend.
PAM COMMENTARY: She may or may not have survived if they'd been any faster, and their quick capture of her attackers was impressive.
How the Food Industry Makes Americans Fat and Hungry (5 January 2013) [Rense.com]
Inundated with foods and drinks that contain high-fructose corn syrup, the US food industry is largely at fault for driving up obesity rates, since the cheap sweetener inhibits the brain from regulating the body's appetite.
From soda to ketchup, many processed foods and beverages contain fructose, which affects the region of the brain that regulates appetite, according to a study by the Scientific American, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers measured the hypothalamus, which regulates hunger-related signals, of 20 healthy adult volunteers to study their responses to consuming sweetened beverages.
Upon receiving a 300-calorie drink sweetened with 75 grams of fructose, the volunteers had a more active hypothalamus and showed greater signs of hunger. When the volunteers received a similar drink that was instead sweetened using glucose, their hypothalamus was less active and the participants showed signs of fullness.
Drinking glucose "turns off or suppresses the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for reward and desire for food," Yale University endocrinologist Dr. Robert Sherwin, who was involved with the study, told the Associated Press.
Monsanto Losing Left and Right (5 January 2013) [Rense.com]
I don't think Monsanto will be around in five years from now, and the first country that arrests their executives for murder will open the doors for other countries to follow suit. They made Agent Orange with Dow Chemicals, which was used in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971, it made so many soldiers sick. It is estimated 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children were born with birth defects as a result of its use. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have health problems due to Agent Orange.
Monsanto makes Round Up, a weed killer that gets into the water and gives people cancer.
There is a massive global grass roots movement against these secret killers, so they can't get away with it as much as before. Monsanto on the ground is like contrails from the air. Humans are aggressively reacting at being poisoned by the elite. I wonder if we can get shoulder-fired Stinger missiles on the National Health, that would help a bit with the contrails.
Tech and Biotech: CDI to partner with AstraZeneca (5 January 2013)
Cellular Dynamics International says it has signed a Center of Excellence agreement with AstraZeneca to speed the pace of drug discovery by using CDI's stem cell lines and tissue cells.
It is the third Center of Excellence agreement with a major, global pharmaceutical company for CDI, the Madison company founded by UW-Madison stem cell pioneer James Thomson.
"These partnerships show customer recognition that leveraging CDI's technical expertise and resources can help accelerate their discoveries," said CDI chief executive Bob Palay.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Meeting the Northern white rhinos (4 January 2013)
But Scientists behind the relocation operation, which has been called "Last Chance to Survive" , hope conditions in Kenya will help the two males and two females to mate more frequently.
A sample of the faeces from the females is sent every few days to a laboratory in Austria to see whether she is pregnant. But so far they haven't managed to reproduce.
Getting close, one of the male Rhinos Sudan, who is 38 years old, was incredible. He was perhaps a little too curious about our cameraman Chris Matlock, getting very close to him, and at one point almost stepping and crushing our go pro camera.
The ranger, who has been with him since 2009, kept tempting him away from us with local grass.
Indian gang-rape victim's blood 'found on clothes of accused' (5 January 2013)
Forensic evidence from the bus in which a 23-year-old Delhi student was gang-raped links the scene of the crime with men accused of her attack, a public prosecutor in the Indian capital claimed on Saturday.
Feelings are still running high in India following the incident three weeks ago, with calls for reforms of laws and policing, and a continuing debate on attitudes towards women.
Five men charged with rape and murder have been ordered to appear in court on Monday. It will be their first public appearance since being detained two days after the attack. They face the death penalty.
Public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan told a judge in the south Delhi suburb of Saket that the men had attempted to destroy evidence by burning their clothes, but that parts of the burnt material had been found to have traces of blood from the victim, who died in a Singapore hospital eight days ago.
Legislators vow to change law on rape by impersonation (5 January 2013)
California legislators and the state's top prosecutor said Friday that they would work to overhaul a law that makes it a crime to obtain sex by impersonating another only if the victim is a married woman.
The 19th century law required a state appeals court on Wednesday to overturn the rape conviction of a Los Angeles County man who entered a darkened bedroom where a woman was sleeping and had sex with her.
The 18-year-old woman said she initially mistook the defendant for her boyfriend, who had left earlier, but resisted when she realized it wasn't him. Police said the defendant admitted the woman probably wrongly assumed he was her boyfriend.
The Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal said it had ruled reluctantly and appealed to the Legislature to change the law. Another court also put the Legislature on notice of the law's anomaly 30 years ago, but legislators failed to act.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said changing the law would be a top priority for the lower house in this year's legislative session.
Newly Sworn-In 113th Congress Is the Most Diverse in History, But Not the Most Progressive (4 January 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: To find out more about the new Congress, we're joined via Democracy Now! video stream by John Nichols, political writer for The Nation, author of Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street. He joins us from Madison, Wisconsin.
John, welcome to Democracy Now! Your assessment of the new Congress?
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, as Juan was suggesting--excuse me--as Juan was suggesting, it really is a different Congress. This is a much more diverse Congress. And notably, it's a more progressive Congress, particularly the Senate. The changes that occurred in the Senate in particular seats, even seats that had been held by Democrats, have moved it to the left. And so, it's a Congress that has the potential to do some things that weren't done in the past.
But it is also a very vulnerable Congress. The important thing to understand is this: This is a divided Congress. The House is minimally controlled by the Republicans. It's important to say the term "minimally" because there's a lot of chaos in that Republican caucus. The Senate is clearly under Democratic control, but that Democratic control has very little meaning without filibuster reform. And this is perhaps the most important thing we'll discuss today. If the Democrats want to actually exercise some sort of power, and if they want to be able to negotiate with the Republican House in some sort of realistic way, they are going to have to reform the filibuster rules so that they can't be blocked at every turn, even in bringing bills to a vote.
Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy leads campaign against legal pot (5 January 2013)
(Reuters) - Retired Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy is taking aim at what he sees as knee-jerk support for marijuana legalization among his fellow liberals, in a project that carries special meaning for the self-confessed former Oxycontin addict.
Kennedy, 45, a Democrat and younger son of the late "Lion of the Senate" Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, is leading a group called Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) that opposes legalization and seeks to rise above America's culture war over pot with its images of long-haired hippies battling law-and-order conservatives.
Project proposals include increased funding for mental health courts and treatment of drug dependency, so those caught using marijuana might avoid incarceration, get help and potentially have their criminal records cleared.
Kennedy wants cancer patients and others with serious illnesses to be able to obtain drugs with cannabinoids, but in a more regulated way that could involve the U.S. Food and Drug Administration playing a larger role.
Gambian president to open herbal AIDS-cure hospital, amid strong criticism from Western medical authorities (3 January 2013)
(NaturalNews) Gambia is a small country in West Africa, with a population of about 1.7 million. Fortunately, Gambia has not been hit as hard by HIV/AIDS as other African countries, and only about 2% of its inhabitants are infected. Under its current president, Yahya Jammeh, Gambia has seen important public health progress, and now, Jammeh has proposed something that has managed to anger all Western medical experts: that AIDS can potentially be cured through natural herbal remedies.
Real cure or false hope?
In Banul, Gambia's capital, Fatuma and her 3 year old son Suleiman are both receiving a herbal concoction that has been hailed as an AIDS cure. "It's amazing. Two weeks ago, I was very ill, weak and couldn't eat without vomiting", she said.
Fatuma and Suleiman are not the only ones to see improvement thanks to the mysterious herbal cure. 54 year old Ousman Sow said he has been HIV positive for over 15 years, and had barely been surviving on anti-retroviral drugs until he was introduced to Jammeh's AIDS cure program. Within a month, Ousman gained 30 pounds and started feeling much better.
"I am cured at this moment. As I stand before you I can honestly tell you I have ceased to have any HIV symptoms", he said. CNN reports that multiple patients gave similar stories, but president Jammeh himself refused to talk to the press.
Study: 97 percent of children affected by 2009 mumps outbreak were vaccinated for condition (4 January 2013)
(NaturalNews) More evidence has emerged showing the complete failure of modern vaccines to provide any real protection against disease. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reveals that an astounding 97 percent of children affected by a mumps outbreak that swept the Northeast back in 2009 had already been vaccinated for the condition in accordance with recommended government guidelines.
According to the study, 3,502 children of primarily Orthodox Jewish upbringing developed mumps between June 28, 2009, and June 27, 2010, as a result of an unusual "face-to-face" educational method used at certain all-boys Jewish schools throughout the New York and New Jersey areas. Among those affected by the outbreak, 97 percent were said to be Orthodox Jewish persons, and nearly one-third were between the ages of 13 and 17.
After confirming 1,648 cases of infection using clinical specimens, the research team that compiled the study determined that 89 percent of all those who contracted mumps as a result of the outbreak had already been vaccinated at least twice for mumps, presumably with the controversial measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) combination vaccine that has been implicated in causing gastrointestinal disorders and autism. Another eight percent of the group had reportedly received only one dose of the mumps vaccine.
When combined, these percentages translate into a 97 percent vaccination rate among all those affected by the mumps outbreak, leaving only three percent unconfirmed as having ever been vaccinated. What this means, of course, is that the MMR vaccine was essentially useless in conferring protection in this case, at least as far as mumps is concerned, and that parents would do well to think twice about administering this toxic vaccine to their children.
Researchers cast doubt on long-held theory of how bacteria become drug-resistant (3 January 2013)
Researchers have disproved a long-held theory about how some bacteria survive antibiotics and opened the door to new treatments to fight drug-resistant bugs, a study released Thursday said.
Using a technique called microfluidics, scientists revealed that -- contrary to the explanation that has held for more than 50 years -- the surviving bacteria continue to divide and grow and, at times, die.
The old theory held that the survivors were the individual bacteria that had stopped growing and dividing.
"The persistent population is thus very dynamic, and the cells that constitute it are constantly changing -- even though the total number of cells remains the same," explained microbiologist Neeraj Dhar.
Is Fracking Safe? Debate on Controversial Natural Gas Drilling Technique as NY Moratorium May Expire (4 January 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Ryan, we haven't heard what you said.
MAYOR MATT RYAN: This is just absurd that their water--their water--let's go back to the history of what happened on Carter Road. The industry came in, and--after they brought the concerns to the industry, Cabot Oil, and they did testing, and they said, "Do not drink your water." They brought in the water buffalos. They said, "Do not bathe in this water. Do not drink it." And this is--there's so much behind the scenes.
PHELIM McALEER: Yes, there was a lawsuit.
MAYOR MATT RYAN: We all know how much oil and gas--
PHELIM McALEER: Yes, there was a lawsuit.
MAYOR MATT RYAN: --the big corporations, control the thing. They've had a glossy, Madison Ave. advertising campaign that's cost hundreds of million dollars to convince us that this is a clean industry. It's just not.
The bizarre and fascinating history of lead in gasoline (4 January 2013)
In the course of reading Kevin Drum's great piece on lead and crime and writing my reply, I started reading a bit about the history of lead in gasoline, and holy crap it's fascinating! The guy who invented Ethyl, the lead-based additive to gasoline, also invented chlorofluorocarbons, which just about destroyed the ozone layer. Mild-mannered chemist Thomas Midgley is basically history's greatest monster. Luckily, he got polio, invented a wire-and-pulley system to get himself out of bed, and then ended up being strangled by it. Seriously!
Meanwhile, workers in the plants that produced Ethyl had hallucinations and went crazy -- according to the plant manager, because they were "working too hard." There are just tons of fascinating details like that. Somebody should make a movie of it. You can read a short, lively account of it here, or a longer, more academic version here [PDF].
Aside from the entertainment value, though, the important thing to note is that there were in fact concerns about the safety of lead additives even back in the 1920s when they were being developed. Big companies colluded with government to cover up and lie about the dangers, thus resulting in untold lost human potential and an enormous crime wave that cost the country billions.
This is the story, over and over. Big money screws the public health and lies about it. The same fight is happening over mercury right now. The same fight is happening over greenhouse gases. The same fight is still happening over lead! We never learn.
Seven healthy habits to begin in the new year (4 January 2013)
(NaturalNews) Now that this long holiday season is over, it's time to review our resolutions or contemplate how we should begin working toward changing our bad health habits into good ones. If you haven't made any resolutions yet, or if you're questioning the integrity of what you've considered, here are seven suggestions (with subdivisions).
(1) Are you eating meat? Try eating less. But when you do, make sure it's from humanely treated grass fed livestock and not factory farms that use CAFO (confined animal feeding operations). The higher prices may slow down your meat consumption, which is not a bad thing.
You won't be supporting the animal cruelty of factory farming. And you won't be eating unhealthy meat products from livestock fed GMO grains instead of grazing on grass, injected with hormones to make them fatter faster, and antibiotics to contain the infectious diseases fermenting in the filth of their miserable, confined quarters.
(2) Eat more organic fruits and vegetables, especially greens. Eat raw sometimes; steam lightly when you cook. When you eat, chew more, talk less, and don't stress. Practice this until it becomes a habit. Consider adding enzyme supplements to aid digestion.
PAM COMMENTARY: People usually don't need digestive enzymes if their diet is healthy.
Mexico considers marijuana legalization after ballot wins in U.S. (4 January 2013)
MEXICO CITY -- Forgive the Mexicans for trying to get this straight:
So now the United States, which has spent decades battling Mexican marijuana, is on a legalization bender?
The same United States that long viewed cannabis as a menace, funding crop-poisoning programs, tearing up auto bodies at the border, and deploying sniffer dogs, fiber-optic scopes and backscatter X-ray machines to detect the lowly weed?
The success of legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington in November has sparked a new conversation in a nation that is one of the world's top marijuana growers: Should Mexico, which has suffered mightily in its war against the deadly drug cartels, follow the Western states' lead?
Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, opposes legalization, but he also told CNN recently that the news from Washington and Colorado "could bring us to rethinking the strategy."
Genetically modified food: GMO backlash in Latin America
(2 January 2013)
Are genetically modified crops "Franken-foods" or the answer to global hunger and climate change? That is the dilemma dividing Latin America, where vast quantities of GM crops are grown. Ecuador's constitution actually prohibits them and Peru recently voted for a 10-year moratorium.
Outside the US, no region has a greater expanse of agricultural land sown with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) than South America.
Together, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have roughly 120 million acres of GM crops, principally soybean, but also significant amounts of corn.
Advocates say they increase yields, allowing the world to feed a growing population, and will even help farmers adapt to climate change.
But critics have long warned of the dangers, both to the environment and human health, as well as the way so-called GMOs can make farmers dependent on the corporations that provide the seeds and complementary products.
FDA proposes new food safety rules for farmers, producers (4 January 2013)
The Food and Drug Administration laid out two proposed rules Friday designed to boost food safety and curb illnesses that kill thousands of Americans a year.
The first would require food producers to have formal plans in place to avoid and deal with contaminated consumables sold in the U.S., whether originating domestically or abroad.
All companies would have to keep records of their efforts, which would be open to government audits.
The latter rule would demand "science- and risk-based standards" at fruit and vegetable farms and packing facilities.
The suggested regulations were a long time coming -- one of them 12 months behind the date mandated by Congress, according to food safety advocates. The agency said the lag was due to "extensive outreach" to consumers and industry members necessary for effective rules.
The policies stem from the Food Safety Modernization Act, which President Obama signed into law two years ago and is widely recognized as the most sweeping reform of its kind in more than seven decades.
US economy adds 155K jobs; rate remains 7.8 pct. (4 January 2013)
Robust hiring in manufacturing and construction fueled the December job gains. Construction firms added 30,000, the most in 15 months. That increase likely reflected hiring needed to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy and also gains in home building that have contributed to a housing recovery.
Manufacturers added 25,000 jobs, the most in nine months.
Other higher-paying industries also added jobs. Professional and business services, which include jobs in information technology, management and architecture, gained 19,000. Financial services added 9,000, health care 55,000.
Lower-paying industry sectors were mixed. Restaurants and bars added 38,000 jobs. Retailers cut 11,300, a sign that the holiday shopping season may have been weak. But those cuts came after three months of strong gains.
All the job gains last month came from private employers. Governments shed 13,000 jobs, mostly in local school systems.
Hiring still isn't strong enough to quickly reduce still-high unemployment. For 2012, employers added 1.84 million jobs, an average of 153,000 jobs a month, roughly matching the job totals for 2011.
Legislators want Army Corps to explain habitat removal decision (4 January 2013)
Two state senators on Thursday called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explain its decision to plow under 43 acres of lush wildlife habitat at the Sepulveda Basin without prior notice or coordination with community leaders and environmentalists.
Sens. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) asked for details about what led to the agency's declaration in August that its "vegetation management plan" for the area did not require an environmental impact report because it would not significantly disturb wildlife and habitat.
On Dec. 10, Army Corps bulldozers, mowers and mulching machines stripped nearly all the greenery from the swath of Los Angeles River flood plain just west of Interstate 405 and north of Burbank Boulevard, wiping out habitat for mammals, reptiles and hundreds of species of birds.
"When a clunky federal bureaucracy doesn't collaborate with state and local officials and community leaders, you create a real mess, which is what we have right now at the Sepulveda Basin," De Leon said in an interview.
California lawmaker proposes 'homeless bill of rights' (4 January 2013)
California law protects its residents from discrimination based on sex, race, religion and sexual orientation.
Now a state lawmaker is pushing to add another category to the list: homelessness.
New legislation titled the "Homeless Bill of Rights" by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco is meant to keep communities from rousting people who have nowhere to turn.
The measure is sure to be controversial in cities such as Sacramento, which has battled for years over "tent cities" for homeless people, and San Francisco, where voters passed an ordinance barring sitting or lying on sidewalks.
Swiss bank Wegelin to close after guilty plea (4 January 2013)
(Reuters) - Wegelin & Co, the oldest Swiss private bank, said on Thursday it would shut its doors permanently after more than 2 1/2 centuries, following its guilty plea to charges of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through secret accounts.
The plea, in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, marks the death knell for one of Switzerland's most storied banks, whose original European clients pre-date the American Revolution. It is also potentially a major turning point in a battle by U.S. authorities against Swiss bank secrecy.
A major question was left hanging by the plea: Has the bank turned over, or does it plan to disclose, names of American clients to U.S. authorities? That is a key demand in a broad U.S. investigation of tax evasion through Swiss banks.
"It is unclear whether the bank was required to turn over American client names who held secret Swiss bank accounts," said Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor involved in other Swiss bank investigations who is now in private law practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Happy birthday internet! Here are 15 reasons why I love you (4 January 2013)
10) Anonymity. You want to be a dick? Welcome to the internet! Need to keep your identity secret so the military junta in charge won't kill you and your family? Come on down! The internet is a broad church, and you can be anonymous while worshipping.
11) Gifs. It is a place where one can legitimately reply to inquiries with gifs, AKA "for when words are just too much hassle".
12) Fan and slash fiction. Sure we have Fifty Shades of Grey still (somehow) selling like hot cakes, but that's just one trilogy in a galaxy of fanfic stars. What do you like -- Lord of the Rings? Friends? Avengers? The online fandom does too. Once I saw highly specialist slash fiction featuring Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Iron Man and Black Widow fanfic felt charmingly quaint in comparison.
13) Open news. For better or worse, the news has opened up. The internet makes for a more diverse news diet and places ever more emphasis on good, solid journalism in a world of a crowdsourced agenda.
Guided-missile destroyer Gonzalez to deploy today (4 January 2013)
The guided-missile destroyer Gonzalez is scheduled to deploy today from Norfolk Naval Station to the 5th Fleet area of operations.
The ship and crew of 276 will relieve the Oscar Austin, a Navy news release says.
The Gonzalez ship is led by Cmdr. Chris H. Inskeep. The ship is named for Sgt. Freddy Gonzalez, a Marine Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in 1968 during the initial phase of Operation Hue City in Vietnam, according to the Navy.
Worsening oil bottleneck could cost Canada $1 trillion, shock government revenues (with video) (4 January 2013)
Federal and provincial governments are reeling from the impact of the lack of pipelines and new markets for Alberta crude - an alarming dilemma that could cost Canada more than a trillion dollars in lost economic activity.
With no quick fixes in sight, both the federal Conservatives and the Alberta Tories led by Alison Redford are now readjusting revenue projections and deferring plans to balance their respective budgets.
Alberta's oilsands bitumen is selling at a $36-a-barrel discount because of a glut of oil in the United States and a lack of pipelines to get the Canadian product to the eastern and western coasts and down to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) has estimated that if three major pipeline expansion projects don't get built, the country will forgo as much as $1.3 trillion of gross domestic product and $276 billion in taxes over the next two decades.
PAM COMMENTARY: WARNING: This link clicks through to a page that's a bandwidth hog as it loads and plays a video (with sound) without warning viewers first.
Canada's need for more pipeline capacity a 'real concern,' says natural resources minister (4 January 2013)
OTTAWA -- Canada risks stranding its resource bounty unless it adds new pipeline capacity to the West Coast, eastern provinces and the U.S., says Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who believes the issue will be one of the biggest items on his plate in 2013.
But building new pipelines is anything but a sure bet. There's strong opposition from citizens, some governments and environmental groups over transporting oilsands crude and other petroleum via pipelines such as the proposed Northern Gateway project to the B.C. coast and Keystone XL in the United States.
A glut of oil from multiple continental sources, including the Alberta oilsands, and inability to move it to market due to pipeline bottlenecks is resulting in large discounts for western Canadian crude compared to North American benchmark West Texas Intermediate and international Brent prices.
The price spread, for example, is costing Alberta $8.5 million a day in royalties -- or more than $3 billion a year -- and the entire Canadian economy nearly $20 billion annually, according to various estimates.
Virginia gun sales reach apparent record in 2012 (4 January 2013)
Virginia gun sales surged to an apparent record high in 2012.
State police statistics on gun buyers' mandatory criminal-background checks showed that there were 432,387 gun transactions last year, a 35 percent jump from 2011. Records show that it was the largest year-to-year increase in 20 years and the third-largest increase overall since Virginia's background check program was implemented in 1989.
The state's 2012 figures outpaced the nation as a whole, according to FBI data. A record 19.6 million transactions were conducted in the U.S. last year through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, up 20 percent from 2011.
Not all checks represent the sale of a gun, as some customers buy multiple firearms and other checks involve people reclaiming firearms that had been pawned. About 1 percent of the background checks in Virginia also typically result in people being denied permission to buy a weapon. Exact sales figures aren't recorded in Virginia.
This Week in Poverty: Responses to the 'Cliff' Deal (4 January 2013)
Greg, we can't afford any of the Bush tax cuts. It makes sense to keep those for the non-super-rich until the economy fully recovers, but if we want to help the poor, they all have to be phased out.
The Washington Post states: "...the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows how the Bush tax cuts are likely to continue be a major driver of federal budget deficits 20 years after they were first passed. With Congress raising taxes on the wealthy on Tuesday, the effect on deficits will be somewhat less--about $600 billion less than shown in this chart. Still, they will remain the largest component of deficits for the foreseeable future." In six years, when Republicans are again howling about deficits, will they be pushing for cutting programs for the poor or for raising taxes?
There is no way I would have agreed to this. I could have accepted a five-year limit on extending the new version of the Bush tax cuts, but making them permanent is a colossal mistake.
So, yes we have five years of some good low-income tax credits, but we are stuck with a permanent budget-buster that is 98 percent of the Bush tax cuts. And on top of those tax cuts there is whipped cream and a cherry for the rich (and in most places, $250,000+ is undeniably rich): "Dividend tax rates were permanently extended at the Bush-era levels; The estate tax was permanently set at levels far more generous to inherited wealth than before the Bush era tax cuts."
Al Jazeera's bid to expand U.S. audience may be a tough sell (4 January 2013)
Al Jazeera has built a formidable presence around the globe, but the Qatar news service has struggled to establish itself in the United States.
With the acquisition of Current TV, a cable network available in more than 40 million homes, the media company could have the platform it needs to establish itself here and change perceptions about its editorial mission.
"Our commitment to the voice of the voiceless, bringing stories from underreported regions across the world and putting the human being at the center of our news agenda, is at the heart of what we do," Al Jazeera Director General Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani said in a statement.
Current TV, founded by former Vice President Al Gore and legal entrepreneur Joel Hyatt, catered to viewers with liberal sensibilities. But it has had a very small audience.
America's Real Criminal Element: Lead (4 January 2013)
But even more remarkable is what happened next. Shortly after Bratton's star turn, political scientist John DiIulio warned that the echo of the baby boom would soon produce a demographic bulge of millions of young males that he famously dubbed "juvenile super-predators." Other criminologists nodded along. But even though the demographic bulge came right on schedule, crime continued to drop. And drop. And drop. By 2010, violent crime rates in New York City had plunged 75 percent from their peak in the early '90s.
All in all, it seemed to be a story with a happy ending, a triumph for Wilson and Kelling's theory and Giuliani and Bratton's practice. And yet, doubts remained. For one thing, violent crime actually peaked in New York City in 1990, four years before the Giuliani-Bratton era. By the time they took office, it had already dropped 12 percent.
Second, and far more puzzling, it's not just New York that has seen a big drop in crime. In city after city, violent crime peaked in the early '90s and then began a steady and spectacular decline. Washington, DC, didn't have either Giuliani or Bratton, but its violent crime rate has dropped 58 percent since its peak. Dallas' has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los Angeles: 78 percent.
There must be more going on here than just a change in policing tactics in one city. But what?
PAM COMMENTARY: Actually, New York's crime rate dropped largely because NYPD refused to take reports on many crimes, even on serious crimes like rape. I laugh every time I see the TV show about New York's "Special Victims Unit," because I've never encountered a cop in New York who was that smart or that good at his or her job. New York still remains a violent city, with offenders left on the streets to victimize people many times before being caught, if ever. New York even exports its criminals, as they migrate to other Eastern states to commit crimes.
Then there was that whole 9/11 cover-up, with Giuliani famous for his involvement. Some people thought he was a good a Mayor, but my observations led me to believe that most of his claimed "improvements" were merely spin from his public relations machine. That's why I don't like articles that try to portray him as some kind of crime hero, although this one tries to debunk the myth later.
And underreporting serious crimes happened all over the country, not just in New York, after the Crime Bill provided cities with money for extra police. Police Departments felt that they had to show results, and if they used the money for cops to write more tickets, well, they didn't have much in the way of results to show, did they? For example, Milwaukee wouldn't even show up to take reports on property theft or damage after the Crime Bill -- they'd send a form to victims, who could fill out the form if they needed a report number for an insurance claim. And if victims filed those forms, their insurance rates could go up due to increased crime statistics in their neighborhoods.
This article also suggests that ADHD could be lead-related. That's unlikely. Children these days aren't exposed to lead in the numbers seen in the ADHD epidemic. The culprit is probably mercury, injected into children with vaccines unless parents are aggressive about demanding mercury-free vaccines and actually reading the inserts that come with the vaccines. (Many doctors mistakenly tell patients that vaccines are mercury-free, but it's often not true for all of the childhood vaccines that they provide.) And there are other factors in the ADHD epidemic, for example the reclassification of normal behavioral variations as a disease, apparently for the sake of drug company sales.
Friend of rape victim blasts Indian police (4 January 2013)
The man said he and the woman were attacked after they boarded the bus following an evening out watching a film.
"The attack was so brutal I can't even tell you ... even animals don't behave like that," he said.
They were thrown off the vehicle and left bleeding in the street for 45 minutes before a police van arrived, he said.
Officers then spent a long time arguing about where to take them, he added.
"There were a few people who had gathered round but nobody helped. Before the police came I screamed for help but the auto rickshaws, cars and others passing by did not stop," he said in a studio interview, a blue metal crutch leaning on his chair.
Indian Gang-Rape Victim's Attackers Charged with Murder, Protesters Push for Broader Women's Rights (3 January 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin our show in India, where six men have been formally charged with the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus. The woman, identified only by the Hindi word for "fearless," "Nirbhaya," died from her injuries on December 29th in a hospital in Singapore, where she was flown for special treatment. Police are likely to press murder charges and could seek a death penalty sentence for the five adults. On Tuesday, the woman's ashes were scattered in the Ganges River, and many New Year's celebrations were canceled as mourners honored her memory. The woman was mutilated so badly during the rape she needed a gut transplant, but ultimately succumbed to severe organ failure. In her memory, hundreds of thousands of people took part in a candlelight and called for perpetrators to be punished.
ANJALI: Being a woman, I feel it's not just about these six people who have been, you know, arrested. It's about everything that goes wrong against women. It's about child abuse. It's about domestic violence. It's about rape. It's about molestation, eve teasing. And a very simple thing to--a very simple thing that we can do, both men and women, is that we need to raise our voices.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, the father of the Delhi gang-rape victim has been speaking to the BBC about his daughter. This is an excerpt from his interview.
FATHER OF GANG-RAPE VICTIM: [translated] My daughter was very adamant on what it was she wanted. When she used to go to school in class four, there was a sweet shop on the way. And if she made up her mind to have a sweet, even the shopkeeper had to relent.
The same happened in her higher education, and she was doing what she desired. I remember asking her once, "Who are all your friends?" And she replied, "Dad, it's only my books I am friends with." She always wanted to be a doctor and was sure about it. The reason why we moved from this rural place to capital Delhi was the need for a better future for our children.
House Republicans Derail Bill Targeting Rapists (3 January 2013)
In the past year, Republicans have gone wild when it comes to rape. They blocked the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act because it would have given tribal courts broader jurisdiction over rape on Native American lands. They told women they can't get pregnant from rape and that babies that result from rape are God's will. Though the GOP did pay a political price for some of this (see: Rep. Todd Akin), as the 112th Congress was hurriedly finishing up its business in the past few days, House Republicans yet again played politics with rape and sabotaged a bipartisan bill that would have made it easier to track down rapists.
The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act, also known as the SAFER Act of 2012, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in the Senate in May, and by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) in the House in December. It would have reallocated $117 million to help make a dent in the nationwide backlog of untested "rape kits," which contain forensic evidence collected after sexual assaults that can help identify perpetrators. There are some 400,000 untested kits sitting in labs around the country. As long as this DNA evidence goes unanalyzed, it's easier for rapists to avoid arrest and prosecution.
The legislation would have required at least 75 percent of federal grants already allocated for rape kit testing to actually be used for that purpose, or to increase law enforcement agencies' capacity to process the kits. (Some of that money was being spent on conferences and processing DNA for other crimes.) It would also set up a reporting system to track localities' progress in reducing their backlog, and would require yearly audits of the number of untested kits.
"Right now when we give out federal grants, we don't know if they're going to the right places, we don't know if it's going to a place where there's really [a] backlog," Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, told the Houston Chronicle in December. The SAFER Act, he said, "puts money into actually putting rapists in jail."
More than 100 children rescued from clutches of pedophiles in ground-breaking raid across 19 states that saw 245 arrested (3 January 2013)
More than 100 children have been rescued from the clutches of pedophiles after a massive U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency raid.
The ground-breaking investigation - named 'Operation Sunflower' - was executed America-wide between November 2012 and the first week of December, and resulted in 245 arrests.
A total of 123 sexually exploited children were identified by ICE agents working with Homeland Security Investigations by targeting people who own, trade and produce child pornography.
Of those, 44 victims were rescued from their abusers and another 55 were saved from being exploited by people they knew outside the home. Another 24 victims were identified as adults who were preyed on as children.
U.S. police break up ring that smuggled Narwhal tusks from Canada (3 January 2013)
PORTLAND, MAINE. -- A smuggling ring brought narwhal tusks from the Canadian Artic into the U.S. in a trailer with a secret compartment and then illegally sold them to American buyers, officials said.
Andrew Zarauskas, of New Jersey, and Jay Conrad, of Tennessee, will be arraigned in Bangor, Maine, next week on 29 federal smuggling and money laundering charges each.
For nearly a decade, two Canadians smuggled the whale tusks into Maine and shipped them via FedEx to Zarauskas, Conrad and other unnamed American buyers, according to an indictment.
The Canadians have been charged in connection with the case. Their names in the indictment are redacted.
Narwhals are known as the unicorns of the sea for their spiral, ivory tusks that can grow longer than two metres. The tusks can sell for thousands of dollars each, but it's illegal to import them into the U.S.
The court document doesn't specify how much money was involved, but it says the Canadian sellers received at least 150 payments from tusk buyers.
Obama prepares to ignore NDAA provisions blocking Guantanamo closure (3 January 2013)
President Barack Obama appears ready to ignore key provisions of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that aim to block him from closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, according to a signing statement issued by the White House on Wednesday.
The White House initially warned it would veto the bill, which gives $633 billion to the Department of Defense, if it contained provisions that block detainee transfers to and from the U.S. Despite that veto threat, President Obama signed the 2013 NDAA into law on Wednesday, but like 2011's bill he attached a signing statement to it.
"I continue to oppose this provision, which substitutes the Congress's blanket political determination for careful and fact-based determinations, made by counterterrorism and law enforcement professionals, of when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees," the president wrote.
He added: "I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies, and strengthening our enemies. My Administration will interpret these provisions as consistent with existing and future determinations by the agencies of the Executive responsible for detainee transfers."
Grounding of Shell drill ship shows oil company is not ready for Arctic offshore drilling, critics say (3 January 2013)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The grounding of a petroleum drilling ship on a remote Alaska island has refuelled the debate over oil exploration in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, where critics for years have said the conditions are too harsh and the stakes too high to allow dangerous industrial development.
The drilling sites are 1,600 kilometres from Coast Guard resources, and environmentalists argue offshore drilling in the Arctic's fragile ecosystem is too risky.
So when a Royal Dutch Shell PLC ship went aground on New Year's Eve on an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, they said the incident foreshadowed what will happen north of the Bering Strait if drilling is allowed.
For oil giant Shell, which leads the way in drilling in the frontier waters of the U.S Arctic, a spokesman said the grounding will be a learning experience in the company's yearlong effort to draw oil from beneath the ocean floor, which it maintains it can do safely.
Richmond, Calif., fights back against Chevron's choke hold (3 January 2013)
Chevron has dominated the town of Richmond, Calif., for 110 years, but that dominance is finally being called into question. Tensions have been escalating for decades, but came to a head after a fire in August 2012 at the oil giant's Richmond refinery belched toxic smoke all over the Bay Area.
When Chevron sought city permits to rebuild the refinery, the Richmond mayor and City Council called for stronger pollution and safety controls. But in December, the city Planning Department approved permits that will allow the company to bring the refinery back to full production with only very minor improvements in emissions.
Last month, Chevron agreed to pay $145,600 to settle 28 different air-quality violations that had taken place at the refinery before the fire. That works out to $5,200 for each screwup, which ranged from not filing reports on hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide pollution incidents to the fact that the the oil giant didn't check part of the refinery for leaks for two years.
For most of its 110 years in Richmond, Chevron -- the town's biggest employer and a big donor to local political campaigns -- has put out fires and paid fines and not looked back, while local residents suffered from sustained health problems. Now, The New York Times reports, the winds are shifting...
Exposé Reveals Wal-Mart Blocked Improvements Despite Vows to Improve Safety After Deadly Factory Fire (3 January 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Steven Greenhouse, welcome to Democracy Now! It's good to have you back. Lay at your findings. What most surprised you?
STEVEN GREENHOUSE: So I worked with our reporter in South Asia, Jim Yardley, and we found several surprising revelations in investigating Wal-Mart's relationship with this Tazreen factory. First, we obtained a series of inspection reports that showed that over nearly a year Wal-Mart suppliers continued doing work in this factory, even though it was found to, you know, have many serious safety problems. Each report found a lack of fire extinguishers. Several reports found lack of smoke detectors. There was a lack of fire alarms and firehose pipes on the factory's fourth and fifth floors. Each report found, you know, partially blocked access to exit routes.
One of the big revelations we found in our investigative report was that one of the main monitoring companies, inspection companies for Wal-Mart, admitted that "We don't even check whether factories have emergency exits, whether they have fire escapes or fireproof, smoke-proof enclosed staircases." And this factory did not have outdoor fire escapes, did not have enclosed staircases. It had three staircases which all led down to the ground floor where the fire had begun. So, you're really screwed if you're in a factory and have to go the down the staircases that lead right to where the fire was.
Another revelation we found was that while the CEO of the company, Mike Duke, gave a major address at the Council on Foreign Relations saying that "We, Wal-Mart, will not use unsafe factories," it turns out that the company's head of ethical sourcing sent a letter around to other retailers two weeks earlier saying, you know, we must--you know, "We acknowledge that our audits, our inspections, are inadequate on fire and electrical safety." I think this dovetails with what this inspection company said, that "We don't even check for fire" --
Odd meteorite could be time capsule of a wetter Mars (3 January 2013)
An unusual meteorite plucked from the Moroccan desert holds the potential to open a window on a critical period in the history of Mars, when the planet was undergoing a dramatic change from warm and wet -- conditions potentially hospitable to life -- to cold, dry, and desolate.
Unlike any Martian meteorite scientists have studied so far, the new object, tagged as NWA 7034, has a composition similar to the planet's crust. Indeed, the sample is similar to rock and soil samples seen by rovers Spirit and Curiosity -- the first time scientists have been able to link a meteorite to rocks analyzed on the surface of the red planet, according to a team from the US and China formally reporting its results in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
It is the 2 billion-year-old meteorite's volcanic origin and its apparent interactions with water and the atmosphere at or near the Martian surface that may have turned it into such an intriguing a time capsule.
"Having this sample from 2 billion years ago may give us a little bit of a glimpse of what the surface conditions were like" during a poorly understood period in Mars's history, says Carl Agee, the team's leader and director of the Institute for Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
How Dangerous Is the Lead in Bullets? (3 January 2013)
The most ubiquitous danger at firing ranges has a lot to do with bullets but nothing to do with getting shot.
It's all in the lead. A recent report from the National Academy of Sciences found that OSHA lead exposure standards are too lax to protect military firing range employees. Repeated exposure to the toxic metal causes a raft of health problems including brain damage, high blood pressure, and anemia.
Lead is found in bullets as well as the explosive that ignites gunpowder. When a bullet is fired, it gets so hot that that lead actually vaporizes. Firing range employees breathe in the lead fumes, as well as ingest lead dust that settles on their body and clothes. OSHA sets the permissible level of atmospheric lead at 50 micrograms/meter2, but the report found that level frequently exceeded at military firing ranges, sometimes by several orders of magnitude.
The new report also finds OSHA's blood lead level recommendation of 40 µg/dL or lower to be too high. That limit hasn't changed since 1978, but subsequent research has found health problems at blood lead levels as low as 5 µg/dL. Lead is so damaging because it mimics calcium, an ion with essential roles everywhere in the body from bones to nerve cells. (It's especially dangerous for children with developing brains, which is why you hear so much about lead paint.) The report devotes more than 70 pages to detailing lead's many toxic effects in nearly every organ in the body, including the brain, blood, kidneys, heart, and reproductive organs.
How can firing range workers reduce their exposure? The most direct solution is switching to lead-free ammunition or at least jacketed bullets, which have a lead core covered with a coating made of copper or nylon. Lead has been traditionally favored because of its density, but the military has since developed lead-free ammunition that reportedly works just as well.
Even owning Al Gore's Current will not make al-Jazeera current on US TV (3 January 2013)
Al-Jazeera, on the other hand, not just lacking political clout, but being politically toxic, never got beyond 5m American homes.
Current TV, which announced it was putting itself on the market in October, has been a target of great interest, especially thanks to internet video players, because -- even failing to gain much audience share -- it has produced more than $100m in revenues and significant profit margins. In other words, if you have cable distribution, cable success, no matter how lame your content might be (and Current's content was usually very lame), is virtually guaranteed.
Although the terms of the deal have not been disclosed, al-Jazeera clearly paid more, probably much more, than the top bidder for this guaranteed success -- even though al-Jazeera is the one bidder that likely cannot be guaranteed success. Al-Jazeera paid not only enough to overcome the bad press bound to attach to Al Gore for selling to what is often thought to be a staunchly anti-American voice, but they paid enough to keep Al Gore (and hopefully his clout) close to the station as a member of the new network's advisory board. (Surely, Fox News will now start referring to Al-Jazeera Gore.)
There is another story waiting to be written about how much Al Gore has made as a post-presidential candidate, media entrepreneur, and environmental spokesman. But for now, the question for al-Jazeera is, having added to Al Gore's wealth, and having bought, through a back door, access to American's cable homes, whether it will make any difference.
PAM COMMENTARY: Actually, Al-Jazeera has quite a few good articles on international events. I'll have to check their site more often.
FTC: Google did not break antitrust law with search practices (3 January 2013)
Google emerged from nearly two years of intense federal scrutiny Thursday by convincing the Federal Trade Commission that even though rivals may suffer as the company continually refines its search engine, consumers often win through better, faster, more valuable answers to their queries.
But despite the unanimous FTC decision to close its antitrust investigation, U.S. regulators long have struggled to determine what's best for consumers -- and what can be successfully addressed with laws written long before anyone imagined the economic role that today's technologies would play.
The murky standards for establishing consumer harm ultimately undermined the case for forceful action on the most serious charges -- that Google was manipulating search results to benefit its own products while hurting competitors and limiting choice.
That drained energy from what once appeared to be an aggressive FTC push against Google, leading to modest concessions that are unlikely to be noticed by most of the search engine's hundreds of millions of users. Consumer groups, Google's rivals and some legal analysts say the company now will be emboldened to enhance the visibility of its own products for travel, shopping and other lucrative services in ways that will make it harder for people to find other offerings and will lead to higher prices.
Blocking VAWA, The GOP Keeps Up the War on Women (2 January 2013)
Interstate 5 runs down the middle of California's San Joaquin Valley for hundreds of miles. On either side are dusty rows of almond, peach and orange trees. In the summer, the ground is tan and dry. Telephone poles measure out the time for passing cars, their sagging power lines scalloping out to a vanishing point on the horizon. Somewhere almost halfway from San Francisco to Los Angeles is a town called Huron.
This is where Carla (not her real name) used to work, shaking almonds from the trees at harvest time for $8 an hour. This is also where she was raped by her foreman. But as a Mexican immigrant with no papers, she was afraid to tell anyone.
It's a common tale. Some 630,000 of the 3 million migrant farm laborers in the United States are women, and at least 60 percent are undocumented. Most are subject to sexual abuse but fear deportation if they speak up. The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired almost a year and a half ago, would have helped change that. But after being held hostage by House Republicans who wanted fewer protections for women, it died in the 112th Congress. The next class of legislators will have to start from scratch on a new bill. Meanwhile, women are waiting.
A 2010 survey by Irma Morales Waugh of the University of California, Santa Cruz, reported that 80 percent of female farmworkers interviewed had been subject to sexual assault or harassment. A recent Human Rights Watch report found that sexual abuse of female farmworkers is so common that many see it as "an unavoidable condition of agricultural work." And a mid-1990s study by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission concluded that among California crop workers, "hundreds, if not thousands, of women had to have sex with supervisors to get or keep jobs and/or put up with a constant barrage of grabbing and touching and propositions for sex." The female laborers, or campesinas, called one company's crops the "field of panties," since so many women had been raped there by their overseers.
Congress extends farm bill, still manages to screw sustainable farmers (3 January 2013)
Is something always better than nothing? In the case of the farm bill extension that was buried in Tuesday's last minute fiscal cliff deal, maybe not.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) calls the deal -- which will provide $5 billion dollars in subsidies to industrial-scale corn, soy, and wheat farmers while short-changing local food, organics, and beginning farmers, and decimating on-farm conservation efforts -- "deeply flawed." The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), meanwhile, has referred to it as "blatantly anti-reform," while the Union of Concerned Scientists calls it "a giant step backward" and "a blow to farmers who want to grow healthy foods and the consumers who want to buy them." The National Young Farmers Coalition was also "incredibly disappointed with the results."
Even Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D- Mich.), who led the Senate Agriculture committee to pass their own farm bill last summer, but wasn't involved in Tuesday's final negotiations, has characterized the bill as a "partial extension that reforms nothing, provides no deficit reduction, and hurts many areas of our agriculture economy."
Sure, milk prices didn't spike like they were scheduled to if nothing was done, and lawmakers now have until late September to pass a substantial five-year bill. But this rushed, sloppy piece of policy doesn't bode well for the year ahead in food system reform.
Shell squeezes one last Arctic screwup into 2012 (2 January 2013)
Happily, the vessel isn't leaking any of its fuel. And, happily, Shell's complete inability to do things right over the last 12 months means that it wasn't actively drilling anything anyway.
Here's a list of things that have gone wrong so far in the company's hyperactive push to suck oil from the Arctic ocean floor. (I have added a totally believable fake one; can you spot it?)
• A vessel broke free from its moorings. (Not the Kulluk. Another one.)
• Fuel leaked from Shell's containment vessel before the company actually even started drilling.
• The company decided it wouldn't be able to meet the government's air pollution mandate.
• It begged for an extension on its drilling permit because it couldn't get things ready in time.
• A test of its containment dome resulted in the dome being "crushed like a beer can."
• The company admitted that a spill was going to happen in the Arctic.
• Shell accidentally awakened a long-dormant undersea lizard that wreaked havoc on Tokyo.
Troubles with Arctic oil rig raise questions about Shell's tow plan (2 January 2013)
Shell Oil's efforts to bring an Arctic drill rig to a Seattle shipyard involved a winter tow through the Gulf of Alaska, where powerful storms brew treacherous seas.
Even under the best circumstances, the buoy-shaped Kulluk rig, with derricks towering 230 feet above the ocean's surface, is a slow tow. In the final week of December, conditions were anything but ideal as huge waves and strong winds defeated multiple efforts to maintain secure lines and prevent the Monday evening grounding of the rig off Alaska's Sitkalikdak Island.
Shell officials say the rig's journey south from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands to Seattle was expected to take three to four weeks, and that the tow plan was "positively reviewed" by the Coast Guard.
Others question the decision to move the rig through the Gulf of Alaska in winter.
Analysis: In era of gridlock, Congress "created a monster" (2 January 2013)
(Reuters) - Setting a looming deadline to avert self-created calamity has become a frequent device for the U.S. Congress to get things done in recent years. When all else fails, as it often does, it's supposed to frighten members into action.
That was the idea when Congress created the "fiscal cliff" in August, 2011 to resolve a partisan struggle, also with a deadline and also self-created, over raising the federal debt ceiling.
Catastrophic budget cuts, timed to coincide with the threat of hefty income tax increases, would finally produce big cuts in the soaring federal budget by December 31, 2012, or else.
It didn't work.
PAM COMMENTARY: The unemployment rate is too high for people to care about accounting issues. Government spending is just a Republican Party cover story to dodge responsibility on the economy.
Chilling effect: How warmer winters could ruin fruit (2 January 2013)
Think of your favorite fruits and you might think of the warm climates they tend to thrive in. Florida oranges, Texas grapefruit, California strawberries -- and grapes, figs, pears, and apricots. But here's the funny thing: Most fruit trees have to chill. Literally. Unless they're tropical, trees have what are called "chilling requirements": They need winter temperatures to drop to within a certain range -- usually just above freezing -- and remain there for a set period of time.
This allows the buds to go into dormancy and tolerate harsh winter weather, and to reset themselves for the fruit production cycle to start again when spring comes around.
But what happens when they don't go dormant because it doesn't get cold enough outside? As you may or may not have noticed, perhaps depending on your age -- winters are getting warmer. If trees don't get sufficient chilling, they don't fruit. And as some researchers see it, the future of the planet's fruit and nut production is in peril. In fact, lack of chill time has already spelled trouble for U.S. farmers growing tree crops, including pistachios, walnuts, and cherries.
Insufficient cold makes for confused trees, says Eike Luedeling, a climate change scientist who has published studies on chilling requirements and fruit trees.
U.S. developed 'tsunami bomb' during World War II: author (2 January 2013)
The United States successfully developed and, on a small scale, tested a "tsunami-bomb" capable of creating a wave that could wash out a small city, according to New Zealand-based author Ray Waru.
The writer and filmmaker reportedly discovered evidence that the research and testing was carried out in New Zealand in 1944, according to documents unearthed from the country's national archives.
"Presumably if the atomic bomb had not worked as well as it did, we might have been tsunami-ing people," Waru told The Telegraph.
The device would have worked by setting off 10 large explosions along the ocean floor about five miles off the coast, triggering a massive wave that would wash ashore with huge destructive force. It's not clear why the project was shuttered or how effective the testing was, but the military reportedly canceled it in 1945.
Whooping cranes spotted in midst of hunting season (2 January 2013)
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Kentucky wildlife officials report they've spotted an endangered whooping crane at the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area near Henderson and that they've received a report of two others along the Pond River in Hopkins County.
The sightings of the rare birds, which are on the comeback from near extinction, prompted the Humane Society of the United States to again call for the halt of a hunting season on sandhill cranes for fear that shooters might mistakenly kill the whooping cranes instead.
Kentucky's second sandhill crane season, already under way, runs through Jan. 13 or until 400 of the birds are killed.
"Since whooping cranes bear a strong resemblance to sandhill cranes, continuing the hunt could put this seriously threatened species in extreme danger," said Pamela Rogers, the Humane Society's Kentucky director.
PAM COMMENTARY: Note that the photo in this article shows a sandhill crane, not a whooping crane. There are no black markings on the bird's face, and the dark pattern on its wings are the sandhill pattern of dark wingtips with a thin dark fringe around the rest of their wingspan. Whooping cranes have a larger pure black area on their wingtips, and no dark fringe around the rest of their wings in flight.
Frankly, even with my long 300 mm camera lens, sometimes it's difficult to differentiate the two species until I take the photos home and enlarge them on my computer. Under certain lighting conditions, the natural variety of sandhill cranes make lighter gray cranes look like white birds. If a hunter sees that often enough, he may mistake one species for the other.
Parrots have different favorite bands, but all of them hate dance music (2 January 2013)
Have you ever wondered what kind of music parrots like? I never had, but now that someone has taken the trouble to find out I actually wonder why I ever bothered to be curious about anything else.
What happened is, a British person (big surprise) put two parrots in a cage. He put two buttons in there which the parrots could press to turn on music. The music choices were Vangelis and Scissor Sisters. One of the parrots, named Leo, was into Scissor Sisters, and the other one preferred Vangelis. They did this study for a whole month, and the parrots were unwavering in their choices.
If you are excited as I am about this you will be happy to know that someone else did an entirely different, equally awesome study of parrots and music tastes, also with charming but dubiously scientific results: parrots don't like the Chemical Brothers or Prodigy. Further scientific study of YouTube also determined that cockatoos like the Backstreet Boys.
Canmore elk struck by mystery paralysis (2 January 2013)
A mysterious illness has struck two large bull elk in Canmore, leaving their hind legs paralyzed and wildlife officials baffled.
"I've never seen it before. This is new. I don't think a disease would hit that quick. They were fine a week ago," said Fish and Wildlife officer Dave Dickson.
One of the elk had to be euthanized Monday after it was found lying on the ground behind an unfinished mansion and the Silvertip Golf Course.
Dickson is asking for assistance from the public, saying that while the cause is unknown, it's possible the elk ingested a toxic substance because there are no other signs of trauma and the two sick animals often graze together.
Substitute drug blinds Manitoba woman, damages ear (1 January 2013)
The last time Alena Rossnagel walked on her own, it was following long-awaited kidney surgery in April 2011.
A drug shortage had forced her to use a substitute antibiotic in the final two weeks leading up to her procedure. But the substitute left her legally blind, caused severe inner ear damage and forced her to rely on a walker.
"I was left with this body that couldn't do anything," Rossnagel said from Portage la Prairie, Man. "The new 'normal' has become the use of a walker, no driving, being cognitively impaired, hearing loss, visual impairment and myriad of other symptoms."
Rossnagel has a long history of kidney problems, and developed an infection in the nine months she waited for surgery to treat kidney stones.
India's GM food labelling comes into force amid fears over 'lack of planning' (1 January 2013)
On New Year's day, India joined a select band of countries where food containing genetically modified (GM) content must be labelled as such. But it has done so without any preparation.
The labelling of foods with GM ingredients has been a long-held demand of consumer groups, but the way it has been done in India has left them disappointed.
The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, which came into effect on January 1, say "every package containing the genetically modified food shall bear at the top of its principal display panel the letters 'GM'."
Consumer rights activist Bejon Misra said of the move: "It is a good step, but it is being done without any preparation at all. We don't know how this rule will be implemented or how it will be applied to products with GM content that are being imported or how the violators be prosecuted."
Indian bus rape: Delhi sees rush for guns (1 January 2013)
Hundreds of women in Delhi have applied for gun licences following the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman by six men in a bus in the city last month.
The news underlines the widespread sense of insecurity in the city, deep before the incident and deeper now, and the lack of faith in law enforcement agencies.
The ashes of the victim of the attack -- who died on Friday after 13 days in hospitals in India and Singapore, and was cremated in Delhi in a secret ceremony under heavy security on Sunday -- were scattered on the surface of the Ganges river, sacred to Hindus, in northern India on Tuesday.
The case has provoked an unprecedented debate about endemic sexual harassment and violence in India. Tens of thousands have protested across the country, calling for harsher laws, better policing and a change in culture.
Analysis: Young, urban Indians find political voice after student's gang rape (1 January 2013)
(Reuters) - When Preeti Joshi heard of the gang rape of a fellow student, she joined a movement of thousands of outraged young Indians who have taken to the streets of New Delhi almost every day protesting for justice and security for women.
Beaten and raped by five men and a teenager on a moving bus in the capital on December 16, the 23-year-old student died from her injuries on Saturday, her plight shaking the conscience of many urban middle class Indians who consider gender rights as important as poverty alleviation.
India's politicians, seen as out of touch with the aspirations of the urban middle class, have been caught off guard by the protests. For the first time, they head into national elections due by May 2014 with women's rights as an issue.
Even so, the issue is unlikely to be the defining one.
Massive rural vote banks have been untouched by demands for gender equality and the fury across India's cities may fade, just as unprecedented protests in New Delhi over corruption did 16 months ago.
Superstorm aftermath lifts businesses (1 January 2013)
Sandy has probably increased the demand for construction workers by at least an additional 30,000, said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at Economic Outlook Group LLC, a forecasting firm.
The economic boost of post-storm reconstruction probably will occur over the next year or two, and Baumohl said he expects "a real big, V-shaped rebound" in construction over the next six to 12 months.
"We're going to see a significant multiplier effect with all these jobs that are going to be generating income for these workers, which are then going to spend that additional income in the economy," Baumohl said. The rebuilding effort could add 0.4 percentage points to U.S. growth in 2013, he said.
While many businesses damaged by Sandy must consider relocating or applying for federal loans, others are seeing "enormous demand for all the cleanup and remediation," including services such as mold mitigation and garbage removal, said Tom Bracken, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce. "There's so much work to be done."
Shell drilling rig runs aground in heavy Alaska seas (1 January 2013)
Days of efforts trying to guide a mobile offshore drilling rig through stormy Alaska seas hit a crisis Monday night when crew members were forced to disconnect the rig from its last remaining tow line and the vessel went aground on a small island south of Kodiak.
"The first priority was the safety of the people," said Darci Sinclair, spokeswoman for the unified command of U.S. Coast Guard, Shell Alaska and drill ship owners who had been trying mightily to avoid just such an eventuality ever since the Kulluk rig first ran into trouble Thursday night.
The 266-foot conical drill barge first broke free of its lines last week while being towed back to port in Seattle after a summer season of drilling off the coast of Arctic Alaska. Troubles mounted when the tow vessel, the Aiviq, lost all four of its engines due to possible fuel contamination, and the drill rig was briefly adrift.
Over the weekend, the Aiviq's engines were repaired and a second vessel was able to join it in towing the Kulluk toward safety in Kodiak. All 17 crew members on the Kulluk, which does not have its own propulsion system, were evacuated. But though the Kulluk was attached to two different towing vessels by Monday afternoon, high seas and strong winds continued to pose problems.
When fracking came to suburban Texas (31 December 2012)
"You can hear it, you can smell it, and you are always breathing it. It's just like being behind a car exhaust," said Debbie Leverett, during a tour of the area last October organised by the Society of Environmental Journalists. "All of your senses change."
Over the last few years oil companies have drilled 51 wells in Gardendale, an area that covers about 11 square miles -- and that's just the start.
Berry Petroleum, the main oil developer, plans to drill as many as 300 wells in Gardendale. "Berry's current plan is to drill approximately 140 wells on 40-acre spacing in and around the Gardendale area," Jeff Coyle, a company spokesman, wrote in an email. "Additionally, we are preparing to conduct a pilot study on 20-acre spacing and, if those test results are encouraging and economic conditions warrant, we may drill up to 160 additional wells."
Some of those wells will be drilled within 150ft of residents' front doors -- far closer than in other towns in Texas.
Sexting: Researchers attempting to label teen sexual texting as ADHD or depression (31 December 2012)
(NaturalNews) Teen sexting - when teenagers text nude photos of themselves to each other - is coming into the crosshairs of psychiatry. Soon these hormone driven youth will be candidates for big pharma's ever expanding roundup of humankind.
Sexting is a problem. Surveys vary, but the general consensus is that roughly one in ten teens admit to sending or receiving inappropriate pictures. Five percent admit to sending a nude picture of themselves.
Sexting is pornography and it may violate child pornography laws. It is serious. Parents should make every effort to ensure children do not participate.
It seems that researchers are now seeking to label teen sexting as part of mental illness. To them, there must be a diagnosis that fits. So, they look for one.
According to the Metro West Adolescent Health Survey:
Thirty-six percent of students who had sexted reported depressive symptoms in the past year, per the study conducted by The Educational Development Center, while only 17 percent of students who have not sexted reported symptoms of depression.
2012 In Review: A Year of Extreme Weather, Mass Shootings, Drone Wars and Dark Money in Politics (31 December 2012) [DemocracyNow.org]
Exposed: Inside the NSA's Largest and Most Expansive Secret Domestic Spy Center in Bluffdale, Utah (3/21/12):
NERMEEN SHAIKH: A new exposé in Wired Magazine has revealed new details about how the National Security Agency is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program codenamed "Stellar Wind."
JAMES BAMFORD: So you have this massive agency that's collecting a tremendous amount of information every day by satellites, by tapping into undersea cables, by picking up microwave links and tapping of cellphones and data links on your computer, email links, and so forth. And then it has to store it someplace, and that's why they built Bluffdale.
As Grand Jury Clears White Plains Police in Kenneth Chamberlain's Death, New Tape Shows Fatal Raid (5/4/12):
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today's show with the latest on the shooting death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., the 68-year-old African-American veteran who was shot dead inside his own home by a White Plains New York police officer in November.
Exclusive: Cop in Fatal Shooting of Ex-Marine Kenneth Chamberlain ID'd, Sued in 2008 Racism Case (4/5/12):
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: My father accidentally triggered his life alert pendant one morning. The police, White Plains police, responded to the home, supposedly to do a medical check to see if he was OK. He told them he was fine, yet they insisted that he open the door. When my father said that he knows his rights and he doesn't have to open the door, they began to bang on the door for over an hour, ultimately breaking the door down and shooting him and killing him.
In Indian student's gang rape, murder, two worlds collide (31 December 2012)
(Reuters) - One of hundreds of attacks reported in New Delhi each year, the gang rape and murder of a medical student caught Indian authorities and political parties flat-footed, slow to see that the assault on a private bus had come to symbolize an epidemic of crime against women.
In the moments before the December 16 attack, the 23-year-old woman from India's urban middle class, who had recently qualified as a trainee physiotherapist in a private Delhi hospital, and her male friend, a software engineer, were walking home from a cinema at a shopping mall in south Delhi, according to a police reconstruction of events.
A bus, part of a fleet of privately owned vehicles used as public transport across the city of 16 million, and known as India's "rape capital", was at the same time heading toward them. Earlier that day, it had ferried school students but was now empty except for five men and a teenage boy, including its crew, police said. Most of the men were from the city's slums.
One of the six - all now charged with murder - lured the couple onto the bus, promising to drop the woman home, police have said, quoting from an initial statement that she gave from her hospital bed before her condition deteriorated rapidly.
Facebook disables New Year's messaging tool after private messages revealed (31 December 2012)
Facebook has temporarily disabled its New Year's Eve messaging tool after a university student was able to read and delete private messages intended for other users.
Jack Jenkins, a business IT student at Aberystwyth university, alerted Facebook to the privacy flaw after finding that a small tweak to a web address allowed him to view messages and photos sent by strangers using the new tool.
Facebook launched its Midnight Message Delivery app as a way for users to send New Year's Eve messages on the stroke of midnight on 31 December.
Jenkins wrote on his blog how he was shocked when he was able to view a personal New Year's message and private family photo sent by a stranger to another named Facebook user.
Medicare patients may suffer if country goes over fiscal cliff (31 December 2012)
Medicare patients are but another segment of the population that have to worry about the country going over the so-called fiscal cliff.
Doctors at Virginia Heart, a practice of 35 physicians in nine Northern Virginia locations, say they might have to turn away new Medicare patients after the first of the year.
That's because a nearly 30% cut across the board in Medicare reimbursement to doctors goes into effect if we go over the cliff. Virginia Heart, the largest cardiovascular group in the Washington Metropolitan area, says its doctors simply cannot afford a 30% decrease in pay.
"The impact of the cliff in the absence of a deal with the president and the Congress could have a devastating impact not only with Virginia Heart, but physicians and their practices across the country," Gregory Corbett, CEO of Virginia Heart, told CNN. "On January 2nd, if there's no resolution made between the president and Congress, we are going to have to make a decision whether or not we would take new Medicare patients."
Vomiting Larry battles "Ferrari of the virus world" (31 December 2012)
(Reuters) - Poor Larry isn't looking too good. He's pale and clammy and he's been projectile vomiting over and over again while his carers just stand by and watch.
Yet their lack of concern for Larry is made up for by their intense interest in how far splashes of his vomit can fly, and how effectively they evade attempts to clean them up.
Larry is a "humanoid simulated vomiting system" designed to help scientists analyze contagion. And like millions around the world right now, he's struggling with norovirus - a disease one British expert describes as "the Ferrari of the virus world".
"Norovirus is one of the most infectious viruses of man," said Ian Goodfellow, a professor of virology at the department of pathology at Britain's University of Cambridge, who has been studying noroviruses for 10 years.
"It takes fewer than 20 virus particles to infect someone. So each droplet of vomit or gram of feces from an infected person can contain enough virus to infect more than 100,000 people."
Deal reached for stopping spike in milk prices (31 December 2012)
WASHINGTON -- The top leaders in both parties on the House and Senate Agriculture committees have agreed to a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill that expired in October, a move that could head off a possible doubling of milk prices next month.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., indicated the House could vote on the bill soon, though House leaders have not yet agreed to put the bill on the floor. In addition to the one-year extension that has the backing of the committees, the House GOP is also considering two other extension bills: a one-month extension and an even smaller bill that would merely extend dairy policy that expires Jan. 1.
Expiration of those dairy programs could mean higher prices at the grocery store within a few weeks. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Americans face the prospect of paying $7 for a gallon of milk if the current dairy program lapsed and the government returned to a 1948 formula for calculating milk price supports.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that Republican leaders had not decided how they would proceed on the farm extension, though a vote could come as soon as Monday. Boehner has pushed back on passage of a new five-year farm bill for months, saying there were not enough votes to bring it to the House floor after the House Agriculture Committee approved it in July. The Senate passed its version of a farm bill in June.
Rising painkiller addiction shows damage from drugmakers' role in shaping medical opinion (30 December 2012)
Portsmouth, Ohio -- Over much of the past decade, the official word on OxyContin was that it rarely posed problems of addiction for patients.
The label on the drug, which was approved by the FDA, said the risks of addiction were "reported to be small."
The New England Journal of Medicine, the nation's premier medical publication, informed readers that studies indicated that such painkillers pose "a minimal risk of addiction."
Another important journal study, which the manufacturer of OxyContin reprinted 10,000 times, indicated that in a trial of arthritis patients, only a handful showed withdrawal symptoms.
Those reassuring claims, which became part of a scientific consensus, have been quietly dropped or called into question in recent years, as many in the medical profession rediscovered the destructive power of opiates. But the damage arising from those misconceptions may have been vast.
Top executives did not report suspected Scout abuse cases, records show (30 December 2012)
In 1987, a Scoutmaster at a camp in northeast Georgia was accused of fondling a boy in a sleeping bag.
The local Boy Scouts executive, Wayne Brock, followed Scouting procedures and documented the allegation before forwarding it to the group's Texas headquarters, where it was added to confidential files on leaders suspected of molesting children.
The Scoutmaster was expelled and left town in a matter of days. The police were never told, interviews and records show.
Today, Brock is the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America.
Can the Humans Find a Way to Store Nuclear Waste? (VIDEO) (30 December 2012) [Rense.com]
Fairewinds' Arnie Gundersen and CCTV's Margaret Harrington discuss long term storage of nuclear waste in the US and throughout the world. There simply is no sure solution to keep this material out of the biosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. Gundersen notes that nuclear advocates claim it is possible to store nuclear waste forever, while at the same time claiming that no technology exists to store electricity generated from solar or wind overnight! Gundersen notes that it is much simpler to store electricity overnight than to guarantee safe nuclear storage for longer than the human race has existed.
Analysis of Radionuclide Releases from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident Part II (8 December 2012) [Rense.com]
Figure 5 shows the large-scale meteorological patterns for four dates between March 15 and March 24 (the maps were produced from NCEP/GFS 0.5° data using the GrADS system [http://www.iges.org/grads]). These different patterns present wind vector fields and geopotential height at 500 hPa. Geopotential height is useful to highlight large-scale cyclonic and anticyclonic structures. During this time period, a strong westerly jet stream blew over the Pacific Ocean from Japan to California, and over the Atlantic Ocean from the North American continent to Iceland. The flow was then directed towards the north pole because of a high pressure system over Europe (e.g., March 15 map). The high pressure structure established over Western Europe then led the flow to Central Europe. Because the downdraft was located on Eastern Europe, radionuclides suspended in the atmosphere could have reached Eastern Europe before reaching Western Europe (e.g., March 21 and 24 maps). Radionuclides released into the atmosphere were rapidly transported around the globe, and achieved a circumnavigation in 2--3 weeks. Takemura et al. (2011) indicate that a large-scale updraft caused by a low pressure system was located over Japan from March 14 to 15 at the time of the explosion of unit 2 (Table 1). This meteorological situation allowed radioactive particles present in the boundary layer to reach the middle and upper troposphere and the jet stream layer, and finally transported them over the Pacific Ocean in 3 or 4 days.
PAM COMMENTARY: Notice the color maps. The index for the full article appears to the right on this link.
The results are in: More guns sold mean fewer guns deaths, injuries (30 December 2012)
(NaturalNews) It isn't a firearms statistic that liberal progressives and gun banners like California Sen. Dianne Feinstein will want to hear but it's true nonetheless: According to the most recent statistics, the more guns that have been sold in the Golden State, the fewer gun deaths and injuries there have been.
According to the state's office of the Attorney General, gun dealers sold around 600,000 guns last year, nearly double the 350,000 sold in 2002, according to figures compiled by department officials.
During the same period of time, however, "the number of California hospitalizations due to gun injuries" fell by some 4,000 a year to roughly 2,900, a drop of about 25 percent, "according to hospital records collected by the California Department of Public Health," the Sacramento Bee reported.
Meanwhile, the attorney general's office said, the number of deaths from firearms fell from 3,200 a year to about 2,800, an 11 percent decline, according to California health department figures.
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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