Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 10th to 16th of February 2013
Fiscal trouble ahead for most future retirees (16 February 2013)
For the first time since the New Deal, a majority of Americans are headed toward a retirement in which they will be financially worse off than their parents, jeopardizing a long era of improved living standards for the nation's elderly, according to a growing consensus of new research.
The Great Recession and the weak recovery darkened the retirement picture for significant numbers of Americans. And the full extent of the damage is only now being grasped by experts and policymakers.
There was already mounting concern for the long-term security of the country's rapidly graying population. Then the downturn destroyed 40 percent of Americans' personal wealth, while creating a long period of high unemployment and an environment in which savings accounts pay almost no interest. Although the surging stock market is approaching record highs, most of these gains are flowing to well-off Americans who already are in relatively good shape for retirement.
Liberal and conservative economists worry that the decline in retirement prospects marks a historic shift in a country that previously has fostered generations of improvement in the lives of the elderly. It is likely to have far-reaching implications, as an increasing number of retirees may be forced to double up with younger relatives or turn to social-service programs for support.
Medical industry wants to own your genes (16 February 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Myriad Genetics Inc., owner of patents for genes linked to cancer risks, won an Australian court ruling allowing it to patent isolated DNA, a first in the country, with the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear a similar case.
Federal Court Justice John Nicholas today in Sydney dismissed a 2010 lawsuit aimed at stopping Myriad and Genetic Technologies Ltd. from patenting a gene mutation associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
The issue has divided the global medical community with groups including the Association for Molecular Pathology and the American College of Medical Genetics arguing that Myriad is attempting to get legal ownership of parts of the human body. The conflict returns to the U.S. Supreme Court this year after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit twice ruled that genes can be patented. The U.S. high court agreed on Nov. 30 to hear the Association for Molecular Pathology's appeal.
Wildlife agency tries to bridge divide (16 February 2013)
The recent coyote hunt in Modoc County that sent environmentalists into conniptions illustrates a growing philosophical divide in California that has placed wildlife officials in a political and cultural crossfire.
The rage is over whether Californians should be able to kill predators like mountain lions, bears, bobcats and coyotes. At the center of it all is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has managed fishing and hunting since 1872 when it was the Board of Fish Commissioners.
A bill introduced last year by then-Assemblyman Jared Huffman, who has since been elected to Congress, changed the name of the agency in January from "Fish and Game" to "Fish and Wildlife" to reflect what officials say is a new reality. But the name change itself has become a source of controversy and concern.
Farmers, ranchers and many rural residents are afraid that the department is turning away from them as they struggle to hold on to their heritage. To conservationists, the name change represents a rejection of an archaic view that wildlife is meant to be shot and mounted on a wall.
Monsanto foiled by feds, Supreme Court, and science (15 February 2013) [Rense.com]
It's been a good week if you enjoy a little GMO schadenfreude. The FDA has reportedly bowed to public pressure to extend the comment period on its approval of genetically engineered salmon, and Illinois, Maryland, and Iowa are the latest states to buck GMOs by introducing labeling bills into state legislature.
Even the Supreme Court has an opportunity to take Monsanto down a peg. On Feb. 19, the court will hear arguments in a patent infringement case between an Indiana farmer and Monsanto (I covered it in detail here). If Monsanto prevails, it'll move a few more paces towards agricultural monopoly; if it loses, the company will take a couple steps back. It's encouraging that the Supreme Court chose to hear the case over the solicitor general's urging to dismiss it, but Monsanto could have an inside man: As in other Monsanto-related cases, former Monsanto-lawyer-turned-Supreme-Court-Justice Clarence Thomas has no plans to recuse himself.
But GMOs took the biggest punch this week from academia: Tom Philpott highlights a USDA-funded study [PDF] by University of Wisconsin scientists who found that several types of GMO seeds (including Monsanto's RoundUp Ready varieties) actually produce a lower yield than conventional seeds. Only one seed -- a corn that produces its own pesticide to combat the corn borer -- offers any significant yield benefit. In other words, planting most genetically modified seeds results in less harvest per acre than planting non-genetically modified seeds.
The researchers looked at 20 years of data from test plots in Wisconsin from 1990-2010, both on research plots and on plots in participating farmers' fields. Philpott flags a key point from the study:
"Then there's the question of so-called 'stacked-trait' crops -- that is, say, corn engineered to contain multiple added genes -- for example, Monsanto's 'Smart Stax' product, which contains both herbicide-tolerant and pesticide-expressing genes. The authors detected what they call 'gene interaction' in these crops -- genes inserted into them interact with each other in ways that affect yield, often negatively. If multiple genes added to a variety didn't interact, 'the [yield] effect of stacked genes would be equal to the sum of the corresponding single gene effects,' the authors write. Instead, the stacked-trait crops were all over the map. 'We found strong evidence of gene interactions among transgenic traits when they are stacked,' they write. Most of those effects were negative -- i.e., yield was reduced."
This matters because stacked-trait crops are a favored approach to combat the superweeds and bugs that are part and parcel of years of GMO crops. But the more you stack, the worse your yield. The scientists also found evidence of a "yield penalty" that comes simply from the act of manipulating plant genes.
How the rock hyrax's toilet habits left climate scientists a 55,000-year trail (16 February 2013)
"Hyraxes use the same place to pee every day," said project leader Brian Chase of Montpelier University in France. "The crucial point is that hyrax urine -- which is thick and viscous and dries quickly -- contains pollen, bits of leaves, grasses, and gas bubbles that provide a clear picture of the climate at the time.
"Once we have found a good layer of solid urine, we dig out samples and remove them for study. We are taking the piss, quite literally -- and it is proving to be a highly effective way to study how climate changes have affected local environments."
Chase's project, based in South Africa, has already shown that the region's climate has been sharply affected by events that have occurred in distant regions, including the Arctic and Antarctic.
"There were several events not long after the end of the last Ice Age when there were dramatic drops in temperature in the Arctic. These were due to great lakes of melted ice water bursting into the ocean.
Anxiety drug pollution makes fish go rogue: study (15 February 2013)
BOSTON, Massachusetts - (AFP) - Anti-anxiety drugs find their way into wastewater where they make fish more fearless and antisocial, with potentially serious ecological consequences, researchers said Thursday.
Scientists examining perch exposed to the sedative Oxazepam -- which, like many medications, passes through the human body -- found that it made them more likely to leave their school and strike out on their own.
"Normally, perch are shy and hunt in schools. This is a known strategy for survival and growth," said ecologist Tomas Brodin, lead author of the article, which will be published in Friday's edition of Science.
"But those who swim in Oxazepam became considerably bolder," he said, putting the fish at greater risk of being eaten by predators.
Brodin and other researchers at Sweden's Umea University tested the fish by exposing them to drug concentrations corresponding to those found in wastewater in densely populated areas of the Scandinavian country.
In addition to growing bolder, the fish also ate more quickly, which the researchers fear could disrupt the ecological balance.
Japanese Supermarket mixes deformed strawberries with normal fruit (16 February 2013) [Rense.com]
I tweeted about the deformed strawberry harvested in Kasakake town in Gunma. I found the same brand harvested in Tochigi prefecture in Fressay (A supermarket chain) , but some of them are also deformed. The supermarket was saying they were going to give it a nickname in Gunma but in Tochigi, they just mix the deformed ones in a package as if nothing was wrong. I used to see nothing like the deformed ones.
Oregon approves $20 million tax credit for struggling SoloPower (16 February 2013)
It was those jobs, and the lure of building up Oregon's green energy sector, two years ago that put the California-based startup in line for nearly $58 million in state and city incentives, including loans, tax credits and abatements.
But today, that investment appears at risk. Questions are mounting about the company's missed deadlines and its ability to survive in a market that's already taken down dozens of solar players.
The death toll includes publicly backed Evergreen Solar and Solyndra -- companies that state recruiters courted but didn't land. Others they did win over are reeling: SolarWorld has shed hundreds of jobs at its Hillsboro plant and seen its stock value plummet 96 percent in five years. MEMC Electronic Materials has shrunk its Portland workforce by more than 70 percent, to a few dozen.
Further complicating matters for SoloPower -- which has not responded to repeated calls for comment -- its president and chief executive left in January. In their place: a new executive linked to the company's main private investor. And a second multimillion-dollar state loan is stalled, at least in part, because the company hasn't found anyone to backstop it.
Morocco: Renewable Energy Taking Off (16 February 2013)
Morocco, being the largest energy importer in North Africa, is making concerted efforts to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Renewable energy is an attractive proposition as Morocco has almost complete dependence on imported energy carriers. Morocco is already spending over US$3 billion a year on fuel and electricity imports and is experiencing power demand growth of 6.5 per cent a year.
According to the Moroccan Ministry of Energy and Mining, the total installed capacity of renewable energy (excluding hydropower) was approximately 300MW in 2011. The Moroccan Government has already achieved its target of supplying around 8% of total primary energy from renewables by 2012 which includes energy generation, conversion and distribution. Morocco is planning USD13 billion expansion of wind, solar and hydroelectric power generation capacity which would catapult the share of renewables in the energy mix to 42% by the year 2020, with solar, wind and hydro each contributing 14%.
Morocco Solar Program
Morocco has launched one of the world's largest and most ambitious solar energy plans with investment of USD 9billion. The Moroccan Solar Plan is regarded as a milestone on the country's path towards a secure and sustainable energy supply which is clean, green and affordable. The aim of the plan is to generate 2,000 megawatts (or 2 gigawatts) of solar power by the year 2020 by building mega-scale solar power projects at five location -- Laayoune (Sahara), Boujdour (Western Sahara), Tarfaya (south of Agadir), Ain Beni Mathar (center) and Ouarzazate -- with modern solar thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power mechanisms.
The first plant, under the Moroccan Solar Plan, will be commissioned in 2014, and the entire project is expected to be complete in 2019. Once completed, the solar project is expected to provide almost one-fifth of Morocco's annual electricity generation. Morocco, the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe, is also a key player in Mediterranean Solar Plan and Desertec Industrial Initiative. The Desertec Concept aims to build CSP plants to supply renewable energy from MENA region to European countries by using high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines.
If Alberta wants stricter regulations on oilsands pollution, the precedent exists (16 February 2013)
EDMONTON - The province and power companies once denied mercury and metals discovered in central Alberta lakes were linked to local industry, arguing instead they were carried on the wind from across the globe.
It wasn't until a scientist definitively connected the concentrations of mercury to coal-burning power plants near Wabamun Lake in 2006 that stricter emission guidelines were put in place.
Similarly, government and industry have denied for decades that industrial activity in the oilsands region causes pollution, a position refuted by a growing body of scientific evidence. Two studies released in the last month found cancer-causing agents in water and air downstream of the oilsands, backing up 2010 research by a team from the University of Alberta that was contested by industry at the time.
"I will be interested to see what the province does," said Bill Donahue, the scientist from Edmonton whose peer-reviewed mercury study in 2006 prompted Alberta to adopt stricter emission standards for coal-fired plants. "When companies in the oilsands file applications with government, they say they anticipate no negative impacts, and will mitigate any that occur.
A meteor and asteroid: 1 in 100 million odds (16 February 2013)
(CNN) -- Friday was an extremely unusual day, astronomically speaking. Just as scientists were gearing up to witness an asteroid's closest ever approach to Earth in recorded history, a sizeable meteor exploded over Russia, causing thousands of injuries and major damage to buildings.
The asteroid, named DA14, came within 17,000 miles or so, as close as a telecommunication satellite in geosynchronous orbit. DA14 is quite a bit smaller than YU55, the asteroid that passed Earth in November 2011, but DA14 came more than 10 times closer.
These two rare events occurred the same day. Your inner mathematician and your inner prophet of the end times think they should be connected. But scientists say they are not. What gives?
First, some facts. Meteors are rocky bodies that enter the Earth's atmosphere. Some are leftover debris out of which planets like Earth are formed, while others are the remnants of shattered comets and asteroids. As long as their orbit intersects the Earth's orbit, these rocks can in principle impact the Earth.
Microsoft's sustainability chief to share tips, challenges with Missoula businesses (16 February 2013)
Microsoft has moved toward carbon neutrality by doing things like reducing electricity consumption by 30 percent, reducing its carbon footprint from business travel by 30,000 metric tons and installing solar panels at their Mountain View, Calif., campus.
The big picture challenge is that while many businesses -- large and small across the world -- have recognized the importance of incorporating sustainable practices into their operations, the change isn't coming fast enough, Lippman said from his office in Seattle last week.
"Let's say Microsoft's pledge helps get 10 other companies to make the same commitment, at the end, will the scientists find the concentration of carbon in the air going down? They won't," Lippman said.
What can be done to jump from where we are to where we need to be?
Lippman doesn't have all the answers. He thinks a solution will take the collaboration from a variety of entities.
Hard economic times mean more dependents on taxes (8 February 2013)
Members of the sandwich generation -- caught between supporting elderly parents whose assets are nearly exhausted and adult children without jobs -- might find some relief come tax time.
The bottom line is, who's a dependent? Your kindergarten-age son, your adult daughter, her grandparents or maybe an elderly uncle or aunt?
"There's a changing family dynamic because of the economy," said Bob Meighan, vice president of TurboTax, an online-tax-preparation service.
More people are living longer. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of older Americans increased by 9.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, when there were about 40 million people age 65 or older. A longer life span puts added strain on retirement accounts, which have already taken a hit in the roller-coaster economy.
As a result, many baby boomers find themselves supporting their elderly parents, in some cases footing the bill for assisted living or nursing-home care.
Putting a face on human trafficking (16 February 2013)
Yasmin Christopher remembers being crammed into a tiny apartment in Aberdeen with nine of her relatives when she was about 4 years old. They shared one bedroom, a single bathroom, had no furniture and no money. Her dad was in jail and her mom, a foreign-born teenage mother of two, was terrified.
For Yasmin, it was one of the happiest times of her life.
"We were all free and we were all together," recalls the Seattle University law student, now 28. "The bad thing that happened to us when we moved here was over."
Yasmin, her younger sister, mother and a half-dozen other relatives had been brought to the U.S. from their native Bangladesh by her father, Stefan Christopher, to toil on his 65-acre farm near the tiny Grays Harbor County town of Oakville. There, he fed them little, paid them nothing, sexually abused some of the children and beat the adults. Police would later learn he forced one of Yasmin's uncles to dig his own grave before nearly beating him to death.
Jesse Jackson Jr. and wife to plead guilty to fraud (16 February 2013)
(Reuters) - Former Chicago congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., son of the famed civil rights leader, plans to plead guilty to charges filed on Friday accusing him of misusing $750,000 in campaign funds, his attorney said.
Jackson's wife, Sandi Jackson, has also agreed to plead guilty to a related charge of filing false tax returns, according to her attorneys. She resigned her seat on the Chicago city council last month.
Both Jacksons, once considered one of the most powerful couples in the city, issued statements accepting responsibility.
"I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made," said Jesse Jackson Jr, a Democrat, in his statement. He faces fraud and conspiracy charges.
Ex-mayor's $1 billion gambling woes stun San Diego (15 February 2013)
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Maureen O'Connor was a physical education teacher who won a seat on the San Diego City Council when she was only 25 years old, later winning two terms as the city's first female mayor as she charmed voters with a populist flair.
But her rapid rise was matched by her fall, culminating Thursday when she acknowledged in federal court that she took $2.1 million from her late husband's charitable foundation during a decade-long gambling spree in which she won -- and lost -- more than $1 billion.
O'Connor pleaded not guilty to a money laundering charge in an agreement with the Justice Department that defers prosecution for two years while she tries to repay the foundation and receives treatment for gambling.
O'Connor, 66, once had a personal fortune that her attorney estimated between $40 million and $50 million, inherited from her husband of 17 years, Robert O. Peterson, founder of the Jack in the Box Inc. fast-food chain. She is now virtually broke, living with a sister.
Bush Hacker's Victims Include Senator Murkowski (14 February 2013)
The illegal incursions gave the hacker confidential details about the Bush family's travels, illnesses, and whereabouts. But while able to access AOL and Comcast accounts, the hacker does not seem to have broken into the personal e-mail accounts of either former president, both of whom send and receive mail via specific domains established for their post-presidential offices.
In e-mail exchanges, the perpetrator did not reveal a motive for the hacks or details about how they were engineered over the past several months. But it seems likely that certain targets were identified by the hacker's perusal of e-mail accounts that had already been compromised. This daisy chain approach likely explains how members of the Bush family's inner circle were targeted. One of the hacker's victims surmised that their e-mail account was a "domino" that had fallen in sequence.
In most instances where a TSG reporter contacted a victim, they were unaware that their e-mail account had been compromised.
One victim who had learned of the incursion said that the hacker had also rummaged through several other online accounts, including an IRA account. When the victim checked with representatives of the financial institution, she was told her retirement account had been accessed via an IP address that traced back to the Russian Federation. Hackers routinely go to great lengths to mask their actual IP addresses via proxy servers and powerful anonymizers that can make it appear they are committing crimes from the other side of the world.
After 15 years in solitary, convicted terrorist pleads for contact with others (16 February 2013)
The suit says that long-term solitary confinement leaves him "no hope or prospect of any remedial condition" and that it has led to "severe psychological trauma." His lawyer, Bernard V. Kleinman, said in an interview that Yousef already "demonstrates a degree of paranoia and a degree of fear that would not be normal or expected if he was in the general population or had more contact with other inmates."
The prison warden maintains that Yousef is still a serious security threat, but some outside experts agree with Yousef that his treatment is unconstitutional.
Colin Dayan, a humanities professor at Vanderbilt University who has studied solitary confinement in Arizona, said many prison administrations use isolation without regard to psychological damage to inmates.
"You no longer know what's real," she said. "You can't speak to anyone; you can't touch anyone: your senses no longer have any outlet. You have delusions and become psychotic. Your mind deteriorates."
The newly obtained documents show just how brazen Yousef was after he was captured in 1995, and why officials have long been concerned about his potential for still more damage.
"Ramzi Yousef is a cold-blooded killer, completely devoid of conscience," said U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy of New York, in an unusual memo last October in which he agreed the Yousef lawsuit should be heard in Denver rather than New York, the site of the bombing.
Dorner was hiding in nearby condo during manhunt (16 February 2013)
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) -- It didn't take ingenuity for Christopher Dorner to elude authorities for six days. He simply opened an unlocked door.
As law enforcement swarmed a mountain neighborhood searching for the fugitive ex-cop, Dorner hid in a condominium 100 feet across the street from a command post and a short distance where he left his burned-out truck.
On Friday, San Bernardino County investigators revealed Dorner died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and defended tactics used during their search before a fiery gun battle ended an exhaustive manhunt.
Dorner, 33, is believed to have entered the condo through an unlocked door sometime Feb. 7, soon after he arrived in the resort area of Big Bear Lake after killing three people. He locked the door and hunkered down until the condo's owners came to clean it, said San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon.
Deputies knocked on the door that first night but moved on when they found it locked and with no sign of a break-in, McMahon said.
Serial arsonist terrorizes Virginia's Eastern Shore (16 February 2013)
That December night, Morrow went into the bedroom to change. She was gone no more than a few minutes. When she returned to the kitchen, Morrow could feel the heat.
About 15 feet from the back door, flames spilled from the top of her storage shed, curling back toward the roof like a wave.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze before it could reach the house, but the 60-foot-long shed was a total loss. Morrow had moved in to care for her elderly mother in 2007 and stored all of her own belongings in the shed. Morrow lost nearly everything, about $20,000 worth, she said, including a handmade crib her daughter once slept in. She had been saving it for her granddaughter.
That marked the 32nd fire in a string that now includes 48 confirmed arsons in Accomack County since Nov. 12 - including six so far this month - according to Virginia State Police. Two additional fires and an attempted arson at a church were being investigated this week, although state police have not said whether those incidents were believed to be connected.
Three months after the first fire was set, residents on the Eastern Shore say they're ready for it to be over before it escalates further. Although no injuries have been reported, much damage has been done, Morrow said.
"He doesn't realize, or he doesn't care, what he's doing to people," she said.
Bright streak of light reported over California (16 February 2013)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A science institute in Northern California says it has received numerous reports of a bright streak of light over the San Francisco Bay area.
The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland reports receiving calls describing what appeared to be a fireball flying west Friday night, but it's not clear what the object was.
Astronomer Gerald McKeegan tells KGO-TV that the center's large telescopes did not pick up the object during a stargazing event.
The reports came hours after a meteor exploded over Russia and injured more than 1,000 people and an asteroid passed relatively close to Earth.
Wal-Mart Executives: February sales "a total disaster" -- "Where are all the customers? And where's their money? (15 February 2013)
NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had the worst sales start to a month in seven years as payroll-tax increases hit shoppers already battling a slow economy, according to internal emails obtained by Bloomberg News.
"In case you haven't seen a sales report these days, February MTD sales are a total disaster," Jerry Murray, Wal- Mart's vice president of finance and logistics, said in a Feb. 12 email to other executives, referring to month-to-date sales. "The worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company."
Wal-Mart and discounters such as Family Dollar Stores are bracing for a rise in the payroll tax to take a bigger bite from the paychecks of shoppers already dealing with elevated unemployment. The world's largest retailer's struggles come after executives expected a strong start to February because of the Super Bowl, milder weather and paycheck cycles, according to the minutes of a Feb. 1 officers meeting Bloomberg obtained.
Murray's comments about February sales follow disappointing results from January, a month that Cameron Geiger, senior vice president of Wal-Mart U.S. Replenishment, said he was relieved to see end, according to a separate internal email obtained by Bloomberg News.
"Have you ever had one of those weeks where your best- prepared plans weren't good enough to accomplish everything you set out to do?" Geiger asked in a Feb. 1 email to executives. "Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where's their money?"
Alcohol consumption linked to 1 in 30 cancer deaths: study (15 February 2013)
A new study has found that alcohol is a culprit for 1 in 30 cancer deaths, reported HealthDay News -- or roughly 20,000 deaths.
In the case of breast cancer, 15 percent of deaths are linked to alcohol.
"As expected, people who are higher alcohol users were at higher risk, but there was really no safe level of alcohol use," said the author of the study, Dr. David Nelson, who is also director of the US National Cancer Institute's Cancer Prevention Fellowship program.
The study found that 30 percent of cancer deaths linked to alcohol resulted from 1.5 drinks or less daily.
PAM COMMENTARY: As with any food that has some controversy attached to it, there are pros and cons to using alcohol in moderation. The cardiovascular benefits of red wine have been well-documented.
This article mentions hops in beer, and hops also have pros and cons. Hops contain silica, often needed for tissue repair after physical injuries. Available silica is hard to find in other foods. However, hops also contain powerful phytoestrogens -- plant chemicals that mimic estrogen -- and can cause "brewers' droop" in men and other health complications associated with high doses of plant estrogen. Some studies have linked isoflavones -- the phytoestrogens in soy -- to cancer, and I wouldn't doubt that hops pose a similar risk.
Hops are also in the same family of plants as marijuana, hence beer's ability to make people calm and sleepy. Hops' slightly narcotic effect is noted in the expression "full of hops" -- someone who makes no sense.
From Dorner to Waco to MOVE Bombing, A Look at Growing Militarization of Domestic Policing (15 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Why don't we give an example. We have a clip; a well-known example of police using incendiary devices on people under siege as the 1985 attack in Philadelphia that culminated in the helicopter bombing of the headquarters of the radical group known as MOVE. The fire from the attack killed six adults, five children, destroyed 65 homes, an entire neighborhood. Despite the two grand jury investigations and a commission finding top officials were grossly negligent, no one from Philadelphia government was criminally charged. MOVE was the Philadelphia-based radical movement that was dedicated to black liberation and a back to nature lifestyle. It was found by John Africa. All its members took on the surname Africa in 2010. Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor of the bombing, told DEMOCRACY NOW! what had happened as the bomb was dropped on her house.
RAMONA AFRICA: In terms of the bombing, after being attacked the way we were, first with four deluge hoses by the fire department, and then tons of tear gas, and then being shot at -- the police admit to shooting over 10,000 rounds of bullets at us in the first 90 minutes -- there was a lull. It was quiet for a little bit. And then without any warning at all, two members of the Philadelphia Police Department's bomb squad got in a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter and flew over our home and dropped a satchel containing c4, a powerful military explosive that no municipal police department has. They have to get it from the federal government, from the FBI. And without any announcement or warning or anything, they dropped that bomb on the roof of our home. Now, at that point, we didn't know exactly what they had done. We heard the loud explosion. The House kind of shook. But, it never entered my mind that they dropped a bomb on us. But, the bomb did in fact ignite a fire. Not long after that, it got very, very hot in the House and the smoke was getting thicker. At first we thought it was teargas. But as it got thicker, it became clear that this wasn't tear gas but this was something else. And then we could hear the trees outside of our house crackling and realized our home was on fire. And we immediately tried to get our children, our animals, our dogs and cats, and ourselves out of that blazing inferno.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Ramona Africa describing the 1985 -- the sole survivor of the 1985 police attack on the House of the radical group MOVE group in Philadelphia, that left six adults and five children dead. I was a reporter at the Philadelphia Daily News and I covered that particular event. And what amazed me in watching the fire unfold was that the fire department trucks arrived on the scene, but then for more than an hour, did not turn on their hoses as the house burned. We were later told the MOVE members had attempted to shoot their way out through the back of the House and there was an exchange of gunfire between police and MOVE members. But, it took a commission report later on, an independent commission, to report that in fact some of the members had actually been shot to death, killed as they came out of the burning house. I wanted to ask Chief Stamper, this whole issue of people trapped in these houses and a fire erupting as a result of police action, what the responsibility of the police is at that point when these fires erupt? Even though you may have a criminal or some one that you're involved in a standoff with, your responsibility as a police officer to try to capture these folks alive if possible?
NORM STAMPER: Your number one responsibility is the protection and preservation of human life. And when we employ tactics of the type that we've been talking about this morning in order to achieve what has essentially transformed itself into a military or certainly military-like mission, when we escalate tension and escalate tactics that predictably lead to death, we have violated our most basic, indeed, our most profound responsibility, and that is the protection and preservation of human life.
An Intentional Fire? Police Use of Incendiary Tear Gas Criticized in Killing of Christopher Dorner (15 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
NORM STAMPER: Well, I think the sheriff has articulated what might be seen as escalating levels of force. He started with the mere presence of the deputies, presumably surrounding that cabin. Then they used cold tear gas, so-called cold tear gas. And then they went to the pyrotechnic version, or the incendiary version of CS gas. And whether it was intentional or not, a very predictable outcome of deploying seven burners in what appears to have been a wooden cabin would predictably leave it in rubble.
AMY GOODMAN: And what's your assessment of that? Do you think they should have done that?
NORM STAMPER: You know, I'm not going to second-guess it, but I think over the days and weeks ahead it's imperative that that agency and the rest of the country, all of us riveted by what happened there, understand what decisions were made and why they were made. I can tell you that I am troubled by the use of incendiary chemical agents. By definition, these pyrotechnic versions of tear gas start fires. They are intended for outdoor use. They are not intended for contained structures, particularly wooden structures.
Another observation that I think bears real careful examination, and that is the almost hysterical command to use those burners. The expletives that were used begin to suggest that emotion rather than professionalism, rather than a calm and deliberate approach to extracting Mr. Dorner, if in fact that was possible, were simply not used.
FAA moves closer to widespread US drone flights with plan for 6 test sites across the country (15 February 2013)
WASHINGTON -- A future in which unmanned drones are as common in U.S. skies as helicopters and airliners has moved a step closer to reality with a government request for proposals to create six drone test sites around the country.
The Federal Aviation Administration made the request Thursday, kicking off what is anticipated to be an intense competition between states hoping to win one of the sites.
Privacy advocates worry that a proliferation of drones will lead to a "surveillance society" in which the movements of Americans are routinely monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.
Doctors in India choosing sons over daughters, study suggests (15 February 2013)
Doctors in India have significantly more sons than daughters, says a new study in the American journal Demography, suggesting that they, too, are involved in illegal sex-selective abortions, a practice believed to be widespread in India.
Authors of the study, titled "Skewed Sex Ratios in India: Physician, Heal Thyself," analyzed data that doctors had provided about their families to alumni magazines for the medical school in Nagpur, a city of about 4.5 million near Mumbai. The doctors had studied there between 1980 and 1985.
They analyzed information from 946 families and 1,624 children where either one or both parents are doctors. The study found that the ratio of girls to boys in those families was alarmingly low, at just 907 girls per 1,000 boys.
The national average in India is 914.
Fracking in New York? Not for another year, if ever (15 February 2013)
(Reuters) - The fracking debate in New York state is hitting new heights as regulators delay a final decision on the controversial natural gas production method, but it looks increasingly clear that it will be a year - if ever - before drilling begins again.
Governor Andrew Cuomo missed a Wednesday deadline for completing a report on the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, that was to form the basis for new drilling rules.
As a result, a now-four year moratorium on shale gas drilling in the Empire State could extend into 2014 forcing companies such as Chesapeake Energy and a host of smaller independents to sit on their idle land leases and wait.
Over the last decade, U.S. energy companies have advanced hydraulic fracturing techniques, unlocking vast quantities of natural gas and oil trapped in shale rock. But drilling in New York's portion of the Marcellus shale deposit, one of the biggest in the country, has been halted since 2008 amid concerns that fracking, which involves pumping chemical-laced water and sand deep below the surface, can contaminate water supplies.
Fracking has become a hugely divisive issue in New York where communities are weighing the economic benefits of allowing energy development against the environmental concerns.
Media campaign against windfarms funded by anonymous conservatives (15 February 2013)
Conservatives used a pair of secretive trusts to fund a media campaign against windfarms and solar projects, and to block state agencies from planning for future sea-level rise, the Guardian has learned.
The trusts, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, served as the bankers of the conservative movement over the past decade. Promising anonymity to their conservative billionaire patrons, the trusts between them channelled nearly $120m to contrarian thinktanks and activists, wrecking the chances of getting Congress to act on climate change.
Now the Guardian can reveal the latest project of the secretive funding network: a campaign to stop state governments moving towards renewable energy.
The campaign against wind and solar power was led by a relatively new entity, the Franklin Centre for Government and Public Integrity. The Franklin Centre did not exist before 2009, but it has quickly become a protege of Donors Trust.
New radioactive waste leak found in tank at Hanford nuclear site (15 February 2013)
SEATTLE -- An aging tank of high-level radioactive waste is leaking at the Hanford nuclear site in south-central Washington state at the rate of up to 300 gallons a year, federal authorities disclosed Friday after discovering a dip in the volume of toxic sludge in the tank.
Though more than a third of the 149 old single-shell tanks at the site are suspected to have leaked up to 1 million gallons of nuclear waste over the years, this is the first confirmed leak since federal authorities completed a so-called stabilization program in 2005 that was supposed to have removed most liquids from the vulnerable single-shell tanks.
The new leak calls into question the effectiveness of that program, and state officials said it increased the urgency of ending roadblocks to a permanent storage solution for the 53 million gallons of waste housed at the sprawling site that was a center for atomic bomb-making material after World War II.
"This is very disturbing news. I am alarmed about this on many levels," Gov. Jay Inslee said at a news conference after he was contacted about the leak Friday morning by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Remote-controlled robot that uses dry ice to vacuum radiation headed to Fukushima (15 February 2013)
A remote controlled robot that uses dry ice to vacuum up radiation was unveiled by Japanese researchers on Friday, the latest innovation to help the clean-up at Fukushima.
The caterpillar-tracked device blasts dry ice -- frozen CO2 -- against floors and walls, evaporating and carrying radioactive substances with it, engineers said. The nozzle also sucks up the resulting gases.
The robot has two boxy machines the size of large refrigerators and moves on crawlers that are remotely controlled. Each machine has four cameras that allow the device to "see" what it is doing, an engineer told reporters.
"As the machine blasts tiny grains of dry ice against the surface, the impact of it as well as the energy of evaporation help detach radiological substances," said Tadasu Yotsuyanagi of Toshiba, which developed the robot.
Scott Walker's transportation budget might include sale of state power plants (15 February 2013)
Gov. Scott Walker is seeking to sell off hundreds of millions of dollars in power plants or other state assets to help pay some of the borrowing he is proposing as part of his two-year $6.4 billion transportation plan unveiled Friday.
The controversial move to sell the 37 power and heating plants - already being outlined to lawmakers - would, if it happened, help the Republican governor and the state keep on schedule with key Milwaukee area projects such as the Zoo Interchange and Hoan Bridge. The move could also have the unexpected effect of linking the prices paid by some utility customers to the financing of the state's road system.
Bonds for the road work would go through even if the state property was not ultimately sold.
In his remarks on Friday, Walker placed particular emphasis on the need to repair the Zoo Interchange as well as the Hoan Bridge in downtown Milwaukee. Both are vital pieces of infrastructure that help move goods around the state.
"The Zoo Interchange and the Hoan Bridge are critically important," Walker said.
"There's a tremendous value when it comes to transportation. It's not just the jobs associated with it. It's the businesses that benefit from the proximity to it."
Presenting the broad outlines of his roads plan, Walker said he will not recommend raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees - ideas advocated by a commission he and legislators set up two years ago. Walker made the announcement at the headquarters of the 9,000-member International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 in Pewaukee.
PAM COMMENTARY: Warning: The page launched by the above link keeps refreshing, apparently because of an advertisement on the page.
Jesse Jackson Jr. accused of misusing campaign funds (15 February 2013)
The downward spiral for former congressman Jesse L. Jackson Jr. took another dramatic turn Friday when federal prosecutors in Washington laid out their criminal case against the once-promising Illinois Democrat, accusing him of misusing campaign funds to benefit himself and his wife. Among the purchases were fur coats, a high-end watch and a football autographed by presidents.
Jackson, 47, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit false statements, mail fraud and wire fraud in the misuse of approximately $750,000 in campaign funds, according to court papers filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The court filing was a clear signal that Jackson, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in the mid-1990s, intended to plead guilty to the charge, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. No court date has been set.
Jackson's expected plea would be another mile marker in his slow political and personal collapse, which began shortly after President Obama's 2008 election. That had seemed to open up possibilities for Jackson, considered a likely successor to Obama in the Senate.
Meteor explodes over Russian Urals, injuring 950 -- live updates (15 February 2013)
Here's how Tim O'Brien, associate director of the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory, described the boom and the time gap (we quoted O'Brien in a post earlier today):
"This reasonably large chunk of rock was moving faster than the speed of sound, maybe 20,000 miles per hour. It made a sonic boom in the atmosphere, and that hit buildings and shattered windows. That is what seems to have caused the injuries.
"It's a completely abnormal experience. This thing appeared in the distance, raced over the horizon and was followed up 30 seconds or a minute later by a huge boom as the shock wave hit the ground. I can imagine that would be very frightening."
In fact the boom happened for some witnesses more than two minutes after the meteor came visible, and smaller pops followed the boom.
About that asteroid: It has nothing to do with this morning's meteor over Russia, the European Space Agency explains.
Astronomers have been closely observing the asteroid, which is on track to make an unusually close pass to the Earth this afternoon, coming within about 17,200 miles, which is closer than some satellites. The Associated Press has more... [click link for video]
PAM COMMENTARY: How cool that so many people have cameras with them today -- there are pictures of the meteorite, its trail, and video of its sonic booms.
Meteor explodes over central Russia, injured count near 1,000 so far (15 February 2013)
(Reuters) - A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, sending fireballs crashing to earth which shattered windows and damaged buildings, injuring more than 500 people.
People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 950 miles east of Moscow.
The fireball, travelling at a speed of 19 miles per second according to Russia's space agency Roscosmos, had blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 125 miles away.
Car alarms went off, windows broke and mobile phone networks were interrupted. The Interior Ministry said the meteor explosion had caused a sonic boom.
"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.
PAM COMMENTARY: This article -- one of the first on the meteorite -- isn't up to date with the injury count, but it does have a good slide show.
CDC: Increased emergency contraception use highlights importance of access (14 February 2013)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)'s National Center for Health Statistics has issued two new reports about contraceptive use among U.S. women. Not only did the organization find that use of emergency contraception has increased, but that 99 percent of sexually active American women have used birth control of some kind, making it essentially important, they said, for methods of contraception to be affordable and readily available.
The first report examined the use of emergency contraception (EC) among women ages 15-44 between 2006 and 2010 and found that the rate of use has gone up sharply to 11 percent from 4.2 percent in 2002.
Luisa Cabal of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a press release that the results confirm that all kinds of women use EC, whether they've had unsafe sex or other birth control methods have failed. Commonly called the "morning after pill," EC actually prevents pregnancy by halting the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterine wall.
The fact that so many women from so many walks of life have needed EC is "exactly why we have been fighting a decade-long legal battle with the federal government to lift its arbitrary and medically unnecessary restrictions on emergency contraception," Cabal said, adding that EC should be "available over the counter without prescription for women of all ages."
Under current laws, EC is only available to women under 17 by prescription. Women over 17 can only get the drug at health clinics and pharmacies by requesting it and they must present a photo ID.
PAM COMMENTARY: They don't even track how many of those drugs are used for emergency contraception after rapes.
48 Arrested at Keystone Pipeline Protest as Sierra Club Lifts 120-Year Ban on Civil Disobedience (14 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go now to Washington, D.C., where we're joined by two of the protesters, now out of jail, who were arrested yesterday outside the White House. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, his most recent book is called Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal. And we're joined by Daryl Hannah, the actress and activist, who was previously arrested in Texas in October for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let's begin with Michael Brune. This is historic for your organization, Michael. In its 120-year history, you are the first leader of the organization to get arrested in a civil disobedience. Why?
MICHAEL BRUNE: Well, first, thanks for having me on the show.
And it might sound a little surprising that an organization like the Sierra Club, that's been around for so long and has been a part of so many important fights, that it's the first time we do civil disobedience. But we look at this project, the tar sands pipeline, and it's a boondoggle. It's such a--it would contribute to such a climate disaster that we realize we have to use every single tool of democracy in order to fight this thing. We'll fight it in the courts. We'll fight it in statehouses and here in the Beltway, in the streets. But we realize that we have to do every single thing that we can to make sure that instead of putting $7 billion into a dirty oil pipeline, that we're investing in clean energy instead.
Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks (14 February 2013)
Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.
The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising "wedge issue" for hardcore conservatives.
The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.
Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes.
Fox News hosts scoff at 102-year-old woman's 3-hour wait to vote: 'What's the big deal?' (14 February 2013)
Three Fox News hosts on Wednesday dismissed the long three-hour wait a 102-year-old woman in Florida endured by saying it was no "big deal" and "she was happy."
During his Tuesday State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to protect voting rights and noted that 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who attended the speech, had been "told the wait to vote might be six hours" when she arrived at the polling place in November -- though the wait only ended up being three hours.
"And as [three hours of] time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her," the president explained. "Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read 'I Voted.'"
But the following day, Fox News hosts Brian Kilmeade, Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer said that Victor had no right to complain because she was "happy" after finally completing her civic duty.
Ex-cops like Dorner may own banned guns (14 February 2013)
The case of fired Los Angeles police Officer Christopher Dorner highlights a significant exemption in California's assault weapons ban: Law enforcement officers can purchase high-powered weapons that the general public is forbidden to possess, and they can keep them if they retire or are dismissed from the force.
The exemption in the state's stringent gun laws is one few lawmakers are likely to challenge, even as state leaders are pushing a wide array of bills to further restrict gun ownership and use.
Taking on the issue would mean challenging the politically powerful police lobby and could set up a scenario where the state mandates the removal of guns from the possession of former public safety officials.
Investigators say Dorner killed four people, including a Riverside police officer and a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy, and he bragged about the weapons he had and the damage he planned to do to other people with them in the manifesto he published on Facebook.
Wolves maybe have became dogs by saying yes to delicious carbs (14 February 2013)
You know how you look at dogs and you're like, "Wow, you're cute and snuggly"? But then you look at wolves and you're like, "Wow, you're hot! You are so cut! You have such long lean muscles!" Well, scientists studying DNA from wolves and dogs think there's a reason that dogs evolved into adorable, soft, sometimes squishy pets while wolves remain lean and sinewy, with a sort of telegenic rough trade appeal about them, and the reason has to do with the ability to digest carbs.
Scientists at Upssala University in Sweden recently completed a study, printed in the journal Nature, which compared the DNA of 12 wolves and 60 dogs. They looked at gene variations that the dogs had in common with each other, but not with the wolves. What they discovered is that dogs have many more genes that are involved in, and in some cases absolutely essential to, starch or fat metabolism. One of these genes is responsible for making an enzyme called alpha amylase, which is extremely effective in digesting starch, and dogs have five times as much alpha amylase activity as wolves.
The researchers envision the evolution of wolves into dogs happening something like this: There were some wolves hanging around human settlements. They were eating meat leftovers. They kept hanging around the humans. The humans started to eat roots and stuff. The wolves that could digest carbs started to eat scraps from this expanded, more carb-heavy diet, and hung around more and more, and ate more carbs, while the wolves that could not stayed farther away from the human settlements, as their cast-off garbage was not as appealing. And, a couple billion loaves of bread later, we got dogs.
Merck to pay $688 million to settle Enhance lawsuits (14 February 2013)
(Reuters) - Merck & Co (MRK.N) has agreed to pay $688 million to settle two U.S. class-action lawsuits by shareholders who said they lost money because the company concealed the poor results of a clinical trial of the anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin.
The federal lawsuits, led by several pension funds, alleged that Merck and Schering-Plough Corp knew more than a year in advance that the trial, known as Enhance, was a failure, but withheld that information from investors.
Shares of Merck fell nearly 15 percent and Schering fell nearly 21 percent on March 31, 2008, the first trading day after full trial results were released at the American Conference of Cardiology in Chicago. The companies merged in November 2009.
Law firms representing some of the plaintiffs said the combined settlements are among the 10 largest in a securities class-action that did not involve a restatement of financial results.
A guide to ethical chocolate (13 February 2013)
The drugstore is selling you blood chocolate.
OK, that sounds dramatic, but a day in the African cacao trade isn't too far from a Blood Diamond outtake (Leonardo DiCaprio not included). For the world's biggest chocolate makers -- Hershey, Nestle, and Mars account for more than 35 percent of global chocolate production -- practices like child slave labor, rainforest demolition, and heavy reliance on GMOs are just a part of doing business. But lucky for them, the supply chains between the African farmers and the American manufacturers are so long and winding -- links include plantation owners, chocolate dealers, African government officials, and cocoa suppliers -- that companies can claim ignorance. A 2010 documentary called The Dark Side of Chocolate laid those supply chains bare and also exposed the major chocolate companies' willful ignorance; the filmmaker's repeated attempts to force the truth on them are met with refusal and eventually physical removal from company premises.
Even worse: For African children, chocolate poses a much bigger threat than just cavities. A 2011 Tulane University study found a "projected total of 819,921 children in Ivory Coast and 997,357 children in Ghana worked on cocoa-related activities" in 2007-2008. (I use the term "work" loosely: That implies payment, when most of these children are in fact slaves who are imprisoned on farms, beaten for trying to leave, and denied any wages.) NGOs, politicians, and even a Hershey shareholder have tried to force the industry to change, but so far, these efforts have been stymied by the powerful chocolate barons, who are surprisingly evil for folks who make candy for a living. An example: In 2001, after heavily publicized reports of child labor in the cocoa industry, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) tried to pass legislation to require chocolate companies to show that they were "child labor free" and label their products as such. But after intense industry pushback, the Harkin-Engel Protocol that passed made certification voluntary; the idea of labeling products was abandoned entirely. In the more than 10 years since it was signed, the new rules have done almost nothing to liberate child workers in the chocolate industry.
And by the way, these companies crush more than children's dreams. They are also responsible for encouraging farmers to clear West African rainforests to make room for more cocoa plants, as well as mowing down the Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests for palm oil plantations. The multi-continent deforestation subsidized by Big Chocolate also releases tons of greenhouse gases and displaces indigenous peoples.
Just in case these weren't reasons enough to steer clear of the big brands, you can also expect your drugstore chocolate to be filled with everyone's favorite ingredient: GMOs. (Hershey and Mars are reported to have spent a combined $1 million-plus to defeat California's Prop 37.) So all of the dicey politics and questionable science you taste in your cornflakes are in your Russell Stover's chocolates, too.
Beyond Gun Control, Obama Urged to Tackle Joblessness, Incarceration and U.S. "Culture of Violence" (13 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Bob Herbert, I want to bring you into the conversation to ask what you think the likelihood is of successful gun control laws being passed. Shortly after Obama's address last night, Republican from Oklahoma, Jim Inhofe, said that his agenda, that Obama's agenda on gun control, was, quote, "a disaster," and that "As Congress contemplates new legislation, I will oppose anything that further restricts the Second Amendment or its contribution to the free exercise of all our constitutional rights."
BOB HERBERT: Well, I'm not hopeful about any kind of comprehensive gun control legislation moving forward. You know, the Republicans are a problem, but so are a lot of Democrats. It doesn't even look like we're going to get an assault weapon ban. So, you know, it's starting to look like this gun control push is much ado about nothing.
But I couldn't agree more with Ms. Cohen that in addition to addressing the problem of guns, which we should be addressing, we have to address the issues of joblessness and poverty and the loss of hope and the despair that are in these inner-city neighborhoods that are driving so many of our young people to violence. So, it's not just comprehensive gun control that we need; we need a comprehensive policy to address the violence in this country. And I don't see anything happening on any fronts.
Barack Obama is Pushing Gun Control at Home, But He's a Killer Abroad (13 February 2013) [InfoWars.com]
On 27 January CBS aired an interview with the newly inaugurated President Barack Obama and his outgoing secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, during which the president faced accusations that under his watch America had retreated from its key role in world affairs. "The biggest criticism of this team," said the interviewer," has been [that there is] an abdication of the United States on the world stage, sort of reluctance to become involved in another entanglement."
Obama interrupted. "Well, Muammar Gaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment," he said. "Or at least if he was around, he wouldn't agree with that assessment." Quite. Gaddafi, to whom the US authorised $15m worth of arms sales in 2009, is not around because he was murdered by a mob shortly after being sodomised by a bayonet following his ousting by US-led Nato bombardment. In the minutes between the sodomising and the summary execution there just wasn't time to reflect on US foreign policy.
The day after the interview was screened, Obama met with the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and the Major County Sheriffs' Association. The president, fresh from boasting about having Gaddafi "smoked", wanted to discuss how to stop guns getting into the wrong hands, bolster the forces of law and order, and stem violence in US cities.
Particles of truth (7 February 2013)
Such tiny particles may not be visible to the eye, and may enter the blood stream when inhaled through the lungs, eventually leading to silicosis, a chronic lung disease. Pierce notes that PM 2.5 concentrations over time are associated with increased risk of death from all natural causes; from cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular disease; and from lung cancer.
"Crystalline silica is classified as a human carcinogen," the research reports.
Pierce is careful to point out that the particulates measured in the air around frac sand mines and processing plants since mid-2011 are "snap shots" only. While valid, the samples gathered so far offer a partial picture. "We're concerned about long-term exposure," he said.
Should the research numbers, recorded by Pierce and a growing number of his hard-working UW-Eau Claire students, remain above EPA standards, the next logical step would be to join forces with physicians to determine public health threats.
But the fact that the UW-Eau Claire research project is the only one of its type in Wisconsin--and possibly on the planet--already defies logic, given the lucrative frac sand rush overtaking Wisconsin's landscape in the past 36-48 months. Were it not for Pierce and his students, specific public health threats posed by frac sand mining might be ignored by the state of Wisconsin and the mining corporations.
VA's backlog hurts SEAL who allegedly killed bin Laden (13 February 2013)
The Navy SEAL who says he killed Osama bin Laden is unemployed and waiting for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In an exclusive story for Esquire by Phil Bronstein of the Center for Investigative Reporting, the SEAL adds many details to what already is known about the death of the al-Qaida leader. His name is withheld to protect his identity.
The SEAL told Bronstein that he alone killed the terrorist leader, recounting minute details of those brief seconds. As the second Navy SEAL up a staircase, he saw bin Laden inside a room.
"For me it was a snapshot of a target ID, definitely him," he said. "Even in our kill houses where we train, there are targets with his face on them. This was repetition and muscle memory. That's him, boom, done."
But perhaps the SEAL's most explosive revelation is that nearly six months after leaving the military, he feels abandoned by the government. Physically aching and psychologically wrecked after hundreds of combat missions, he left the military a few years short of the retirement requirement with no pension and no job.
"Navy SEALs go through a highly demanding selection process. They are selected for physical, mental and psychological qualities that are exceptional. The fact that this hero, with these qualities, cannot find employment is shocking to me," said retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command.
PAM COMMENTARY: Not surprising to the rest of us. That's how bad the economy is, and has been, for 3-4 years.
Esquire Exclusive Part II: The Shooter finds Osama (13 February 2013)
Right then, I heard one of the guys talking about something, blah, blah, blah, the helo crashed. I asked, What helo crashed? He said it was in the yard. And I said, Bulls--! We're never getting out of here now. We have to kill this guy. I thought we'd have to steal cars and drive to Islamabad. Because the other option was to stick around and wait for the Pakistani military to show up. Hopefully, we don't shoot it out with them. We're going to end up in prison here, with someone negotiating for us, and that's just bad. That's when I got concerned.
The breacher had to blast the door twice for it to open. We started rolling up.
Team members didn't need much communication, or any orders, once they were on line. We're reading each other every second.
I was about five guys back on the stairway when I saw the point man holding up. He'd seen Khalid, bin Laden's [23-year-old] son. I heard him whisper, "Khalid ... come here ..." in Arabic, then in Pashto. He used his name. That confused Khalid. He's probably thinking, "I just heard sh--y Arabic and sh--y Pashto. Who the f-- is this?" He leaned out, armed with an AK, and he got blasted by the point man. That call-out was one of the best combat moves I've ever seen. Khalid was the last line of security.
I remember thinking then: I wish we could live through this night, because this is amazing.
Injured whooping crane recovering (13 February 2013)
UNDATED (WSAU) A Wisconsin whooping crane is back in the wild, after having one of its toes amputated due to an injury. The baby crane was among a dozen that flew last fall from the Badger State to a pair of refuges in Florida, as part of a 12-year-old effort to boost the population of the endangered bird in the eastern U-S. According to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, somebody saw a crane limping on the outskirts of North Miami early last month. The bird was captured in late January and taken to Disney's Animal Kingdom, where veterinarians amputated its right middle toe. The crane was then taken to a national refuge in Meigs County Tennessee to be re-connected with a number of birds, including sandhill cranes. The baby was released last Saturday.
The Eastern Partnership said it was the first time in the 12 years of the migration program that an injured bird could re-join other nesting animals after treatment. The whooper was part of a group of six that left Horicon, and flew to a reserve in Florida's Everglades -- the farthest south that Wisconsin cranes had flown in the program. Over 110 cranes still take part in the migration effort. The veterans reach Florida on their own, after being guided in their first years.
Obama urges a move away from narrow focus on politics of austerity (12 February 2013)
Just about every argument in Washington since the 2010 midterm elections, which returned control of the House to Republicans, has centered on reducing the federal deficit. On Tuesday night, President Obama leaned into his second term by declaring that a single-minded focus on deficit reduction would jeopardize the nation's future. And he sounded an urgent call to rebuild.
Reelected by an ascendent coalition, the president spoke from a position of strength in his fourth State of the Union address. The economy is improving. The Republican Party is in disarray. The time has come, Obama indicated, to pivot away from the politics of austerity.
"Most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of the agenda," he said. "But let's be clear: Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs -- that must be the North Star that guides our efforts."
The president rejected the fiscal brinkmanship that defined the past two years. Instead, he framed future fiscal debates as opportunities to shape a "smarter government" -- one with new investments in science and innovation, with a rising minimum wage, with tax reform that eliminates loopholes and deductions for what the president labeled "the well-off and well-connected."
Where the nation's highest earners live (12 February 2013)
This map shows how high-income households are concentrated in counties across the nation. These households, with incomes of $191,469 and up, make up the nation's top 5 percent. Of the 15 counties with top percentages of high-income households, seven are in the Washington metropolitan area. See related story.
Alaska Unions pack Assembly to protest labor-law rewrite (12 February 2013)
Sullivan says the sweeping changes are long overdue and necessary to streamline labor negotiations and deliver city services cheaper and more efficiently. As written, the plan would limit raises, eliminate the right to strike and give the Assembly the final word on stalled labor disputes, among many new provisions.
City unions fired back on Monday, calling the proposal poorly planned and hasty. Police officers, firefighters and engineers swarmed the Assembly meeting room Tuesday night at the Loussac Library.
"It's important that the Assembly see this, because these are people who are concerned about their livelihoods," said Rod Harris, president of the Anchorage firefighters union.
Fire Chief Chris Bushue told the crowd that some people would have to clear the room. Others were asked to leave the nearby lobby, while still more union members and their allies chanted outside.
"I've never seen the Assembly this crowded," Bushue said.
Dorner manhunt leads to deadly standoff (12 February 2013)
When authorities hemmed in the man they suspected of killing three people in a campaign of revenge that has gripped Southern California, he responded as they had feared: with smoke bombs and a barrage of gunfire.
The suspect, who police believe is fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner, shot to death one San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy and injured another Tuesday. He then barricaded himself in a wood cabin outside Big Bear in the snow-blanketed San Bernardino Mountains, police said.
Just before 5 p.m., authorities smashed the cabin's windows, pumped in tear gas and called for the suspect to surrender. They got no response. Then, using a demolition vehicle, they tore down the cabin's walls one by one. When they reached the last wall, they heard a gunshot.
Then the cabin burst into flames. By late Tuesday evening, the smoldering ruins remained too hot for police to enter, but authorities said they believed Dorner's body was inside.
After Pope Benedict, Progressive Catholics and Priest Victims Call for a More Inclusive Papacy (12 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: That was Terry Kohut, one of the courageous deaf men who later came forward to protect other children from Father Murphy and to demand he be held accountable. That's from Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney. The priest's victims tried for more than three decades to bring him to justice, but the film shows the Church neither defrocked him nor referred him for prosecution. It also uncovers documents from secret Vatican archives that portray the pope as both responsible and helpless in the face of the abuse. Talk more, Barbara Blaine, about the particular role of this pope and his role as a cardinal, as well.
BARBARA BLAINE: I think it's really important to recognize that that very case that you're referring to with those boys at the school for the deaf children in Milwaukee, Pope Benedict previously worked in a position as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and in that role, he was a cardinal and known as Cardinal Ratzinger. And at that time, back in the '70s and in the '80s, the victims were speaking up and coming forward and trying to get some semblance of justice. And more importantly, they wanted to prevent other children from going through what they had been through. So they contacted the people in the Vatican, and Cardinal Ratzinger was involved.
AMY GOODMAN: The pope now.
BARBARA BLAINE: And he had the opportunity to intervene, remove Father Murphy from his position in the priesthood, and Cardinal Ratzinger chose not to do that. There is--I mean, there are letters, apparently. Father Murphy started writing to Cardinal Ratzinger and asked that he be permitted to live out the rest of his life as a priest in good standing. And Cardinal Ratzinger made the decision that that was more important than ensuring the safety of children or trying to heal those who they knew had been violated by Father Murphy.
Remembering the Overlooked Life of Eslanda Robeson, Wife of Civil Rights Legend Paul Robeson (12 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how she traveled? Because, certainly, travel for Paul Robeson was made extremely difficult because of the kind of anti-communist witch hunt that was going on in this country. His passport was taken from him. If you can talk about what happened to him, and then talk about Essie Robeson and how she traveled?
BARBARA RANSBY: So, they both traveled together, up until 1950, when the passports were taken. And the passports were returned in 1958 when a Supreme Court case said it was--you know, it's unconstitutional to take someone's--American citizen's passport because of their political beliefs. But they had both refused to sign affidavits saying that they were not communist. Now, they both also said publicly that they were not members of the Communist Party, and I take them at their word, but they refused to feed into the anti-communist hysteria at that time. And they both paid a price for it. They were not able to travel for eight years.
But they made the best of the time that they were here. They certainly were not cowed or silenced. Essie traveled around this country during that period, and she was a correspondent at the United Nations. She wrote extensively. She was there actually at the founding of the United Nations in 1945, and then she became a correspondent for a number of progressive and black publications. She wrote about decolonization in Africa, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. She wrote about the conflict in Korea. She wrote about India. So, she really had this very broad worldview, even when they were confined to this country.
They traveled extensively before 1950--Essie traveled, again, extensively on her own--and then after 1958. So, before 1950, she goes to Africa in 1936 for the first time. And it's really against the backdrop of Italy's horrific invasion and occupation of Ethiopia that she sails south to--first to South Africa and then Uganda and stays there for a couple of months over that summer. She meets some of the future leaders of the African National Congress. She is without Paul, by the way, at that point. She took her young son with her on that trip.
Are San Francisco oysters a wilderness wrecker or a pollution solution? (12 February 2013)
The San Francisco Bay Area has been having some mixed feelings about oysters lately: Are they good for the environment, bad for the environment, or just treats for happy-hour drinkers at the downtown Ferry Building?
Just north of San Francisco in Point Reyes, Drakes Bay Oyster Co. has been fighting to keep harvesting oysters on what was set to become protected wilderness land on Jan. 1. Local environmentalists are split on whether fewer oysters will allow the estuary to "quickly regain its wilderness characteristics" or instead/also lead to a big unfiltered load of seal poop in that wilderness. (Wilderness: It's kind of gross!)
Either way, we'll soon find out, as Drakes Bay just lost its federal appeal to stay beyond a Feb. 28 deadline.
Meanwhile, some miles east across the bay on the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, Christopher Lim and the Watershed Project are bringing oysters back. The bay had a large native oyster habitat that was wiped out by overharvesting and hydraulic mining. From KQED:
"Oysters, I think, definitely have that connection to people whether it's through food ... (or) the history of oysters in San Francisco Bay," Lim said. "Part of the reason we would like to restore oysters is because we know of their ecosystem benefits in the Bay, and they were probably here in much greater numbers in the past." ...
Smelt deaths renew calls for new tunnels (12 February 2013)
California water and wildlife officials on Tuesday seized upon the deaths of a rare fish in the water pumps that carry water to California's cities and farms to renew calls for replacing the current pumping system with $14 billion twin tunnels.
The deaths of too many of the protected delta smelt in recent months have led to a series of pumping restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, officials said. The pumps ferry water to 25 million people and 3 million acres of farmland.
The number of smelt killed this year is nearing an annual limit set on the number of smelt that can be killed under the Endangered Species Act. Already, the pumps have killed 232 smelt, and the rules allow only 305 smelt to be killed at the pumps over the entire water year.
As a result of the restrictions triggered by the smelt deaths, 700,000 acre-feet of water were not delivered to water users. That has not led to any current water shortages, but less water will be available for storage and may affect some farmers and other water users this coming summer, officials said.
Polar bears may require feeding by humans because of ailing ecosystem, researchers say (12 February 2013)
"In every nature park, there are signs up saying don't feed the wildlife," said University of Alberta's biologist Andrew Derocher, an expert on management of large Arctic mammals.
"We're not there yet, but we have to start looking at policy decisions and begin discussing options. We're not going to be feeding them seals which is their normal prey, but we may need to start working on commercially-formulated Polar Bear Chow."
The authors of the article in Conservation Letters, a journal about conservation biology issues, include scientists from Canada, the U.S. and Norway. They hope to push the public and politicians to start making plans on how to sustain the declining polar bear population. By mid-century, the scientists say, the polar bear population could be just two-thirds what it is currently.
The animals, especially the cubs, are considered a barometer of global climate change and a symbol of the effects of shifting ice patterns in the Far North.
US Senate renews domestic violence bill despite Republican opposition (12 February 2013)
The US Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation reauthorising the Violence Against Women Act on Tuesday, despite the efforts of a group of Republican men who tried to block it.
Florida senator Marco Rubio, who will deliver the official GOP response to the state of the union address on Tuesday night, led a group of 22 male Republicans who voted against the bill, which established a system for helping women in danger from domestic violence. No women or Democrats opposed the bill and it passed 78-22. It will now head to the House, where Republican leaders are resisting some of its provisions.
Republicans had threatened to block VAWA, which is generally renewed every five years, over new amendments which would introduce protections for undocumented immigrants, LGBT people and those living on Native American reservations.
House Republicans proposed a weaker version of the law last year but the House and Senate were unable to agree on an acceptable version and it was allowed to expire. It had previously been renewed in 2000 and 2005.
Stephen Colbert says Canadian cardinal would make bad pope (12 February 2013)
While the late-night funnyman acknowledged Quebec native Marc Cardinal Ouellet is in the running, he just couldn't see him in the Church's top job.
Ouellet, the funnyman says, has one major weakness: he's a Canadian.
"The Pope cannot be polite," said Cobert, standing in front of his "Papal Speculatron 7500."
"I'm sorry but 'I think God might not want you to use a condom, eh' won't work."
Seed savers: Vandana Shiva and female farmers stand up to Monsanto (VIDEO) (11 February 2013)
There's been enough written about genetically modified organisms and Monsanto that it's easy to lose touch with how they actually impact people's lives. On a recent trip to India, Perennial Plate got a wake-up call from environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Here's our conversation with Shiva on a seed-saving revolution, farmer suicides, and how female farmers are the future of India's agriculture. [Video included]
Novo Nordisk hit hard as U.S. rebuffs insulin drug (11 February 2013)
(Reuters) - U.S. regulators refused to approve Novo Nordisk's new long-acting insulin Tresiba until it conducts extra tests for potential heart risks, dealing a major blow to a key product for the Danish drugmaker.
Shares in Novo, the world's leading insulin maker and the most valuable company in the Nordic region, slumped 12.5 percent as it said the decision would make it harder to meet long-term financial targets. Rival insulin producer Sanofi rose 4.5 percent.
At one stage, Novo shares were down as much as 17 percent on Monday, their biggest daily decline since 2002.
As the world suffers from an epidemic of type 2 diabetes tied to over-eating and lack of exercise, demand for treatments has snowballed. Novo has benefited more than any other company because it is so focused on diabetes, lifting its shares to a lofty premium over other European drugmakers.
House finch eye disease: an update (11 February 2013)
Biological invasions continue to sweep across the continent, one after another. A robust wave of opportunists can sometimes overwhelm an earlier one, only to be dragged down by another scourge.
Such is the case of the house finch, a West Coast native introduced to Long Island in 1940. As the birds multiplied and spread westward -- reuniting with their western cousins in 1995 -- they settled into an ecological niche occupied by another invasive species, the house sparrow, a bird brought from Britain in the 1850s. Where house finch numbers ballooned, house sparrows declined.
But that trend reversed in 1994, beginning in the Washington area. House finches with impaired vision and crusty, swollen eyelids started lingering at bird feeders. A new disease had emerged: Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, a novel strain of Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG), a parasitic bacterium known to cause chronic respiratory disease and sinusitis in pigeons and poultry.
In house finches, MG infects the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the eyes and lining the eyelids. Many finches recover from MG -- if they don't starve or aren't killed by predators -- but they can still carry the disease, which is transferred most effectively by direct contact with other birds while flocking in the fall and winter or when congregating at bird feeders.
Birth, feeding choices affect a baby's gut bacteria: Study (11 February 2013)
A new Canadian study has found that babies born by cesarean section or formula fed have a distinctly different makeup of bacteria inside their guts -- something that could have consequences for the baby's health or immune system development.
Researchers from Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario have published the first North American study looking at healthy babies and how decisions around their delivery and diet impact the gut "microbiome" -- the invisible constellation of bacteria, viruses and fungi that performs a vital role in keeping people healthy.
Researchers used DNA sequencing to analyze the gut bacteria of 24 infants at four months of age. The study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that the richness and diversity of gut bacteria were lowest among babies born by C-section. Those fed by formula, on the other hand, had richer gut bacteria -- but were also more likely to have C. difficile, a pathogen that can cause diarrhea or serious illness.
The health implications of these findings remain unclear and will be studied in the years to come. But over the past decade, a growing body of research has linked disturbances to the microbiome with everything from asthma and allergies to obesity, celiac disease and diabetes.
Military benefits extended to same-sex partners (11 February 2013)
Two senior Pentagon officials explained the changes and the legal arguments behind the decisions on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
In his memo to the military services, Panetta said that housing, burials -- such as those at Arlington National Cemetery -- and some benefits related to overseas deployments "present complex legal and policy challenges" but will remain under review. A key stumbling block is the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing any marriage other than that between a man and a woman.
According to a senior legal official, the department cannot extend any benefits that, by law, are limited to "spouse" because of the DOMA restrictions.
Service members get payment allowances for off-base housing, with singles getting a specific amount and married couples getting a bit more. Same-sex couples could not legally receive the higher off-base funding that a married couple could get because of DOMA's marriage definition.
Wind power expanded by nearly 20 percent globally in 2012 (11 February 2013)
A relative slowdown in new wind turbine construction in China was offset by big increases in the US, followed by Germany, India and the UK -- though renewable energy as a whole has fallen
Wind power expanded by almost 20% in 2012 around the world to reach a new peak of 282GW of total installed capacity. Of the 45GW of new wind turbines that arrived in 2012, China and the US led the way with 13GW each, while Germany, India and the UK were next with about 2GW apiece.
"While China paused for breath, both the US and European markets had exceptionally strong years," said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), which produced the statistics. "Asia still led global markets, but with North America a close second, and Europe not far behind."
The UK now ranks sixth in the world for installed wind power, with 8.5GW. In Europe, only Germany (31GW) and Spain (23GW) have more. China leads the world with 77GW installed and the US is second with 60GW.
Liberals and conservatives both wonder about 'SNL' unaired riff on Hagel's Israel comments (11 February 2013)
Republican dissatisfaction with former Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-NE) feelings toward Israel took center stage in an unaired Saturday Night Live skit that has stirred up some questions online.
The skit, which was written as an opener for the show, was performed at dress rehearsal but never made air and was posted online on Saturday. But both progressive and conservative sites have begun speculating as to why it is only available online.
"It is not hard to imagine the pearl clutching and cries of outrage (Outrage, I tell you!) had this skit gone out on the airwaves, depicting the blatant pandering and ridiculousness of the dialogue in Washington surrounding the hearing on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to the position of Secretary of Defense," wrote Crooks & Liar's Nicole Belle.
Meanwhile, Mike Opelka at The Blaze wrote that, "Judging from the lack of laughter from the audience during the most questionable parts of the Senate hearing sketch, this might have been cut based on lack of laughter as well as bad taste,"
Is Christopher Dorner another psychiatric killer? (11 February 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Accepting on faith any part of the official scenario in this case is risky and ill-advised, but assuming Dorner is guilty of committing murders, his highly publicized manifesto may hold a clue.
Buried in the text, here is one of his statements. As usual, the major media are ignoring it completely:
"If possible, I want my brain preserved for science/research to study the effects of severe depression on an individual's brain. Since 6/26/08 when I was relieved of duty and 1/2/09 when I was terminated I have been afflicted with severe depression. I've had two CT scans during my lifetime that are in my medical record at Kaiser Pemanente. Both are from concussions resulting from playing football. The first was in high school, 10/96. The second was in college and occurred in 10/99. Both were conducted at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in LA/Orange County. These two CT scans should give a good baseline for my brain activity before severe depression began in late 2008."
So the question is, did Dorner ever see a doctor for his depression? Was he diagnosed? Was he given one of the SSRI antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc.)?
Wanted for Killing 3, Christopher Dorner's Claims of Racism, Corruption Resonate with LAPD's Critics (11 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
DAVEY D: I think what really has captured people's imagination is, one, that he is--through his manifesto, is waging war against the L.A. Police Department. And I think for most people it might seem to be an open and shut case in terms of how people's emotions would side. But what you found is, once you read the manifesto, it's either opened up old wounds or it's reaffirmed what people have long suspected or have experienced in terms of brutality. I think what stands out for me and many of the people that I deal with is the fact that there are these troubling allegations. And those things need to be further investigated, irregardless of what we feel about Dorner, whether or not he's a psychopath or any of the words that they want to put on him. I'm really curious as to whether or not these allegations that he has raised, where he names dates, times and places and names, whether or not they actually check out. And I think that needs to be really investigated, above and beyond just the immediate scenario which led to his firing, which was the dispute between his sergeant, his supervising sergeant, Teresa Evans.
AMY GOODMAN: For people who aren't following this case in the greater Los Angeles area, if you can explain exactly what you understand has happened, you know, what this manhunt is about and what this manifesto is.
DAVEY D: Well, you know, the main thing is, with the manifesto, he points out that he's going to rage--he's going to wage war on the police officers who'd done him dirty. And so, with that, you've seen an unprecedented amount of manpower, resources, an award, and language that says that all of our security is undermined. I mean, really, the security that's undermined is the police department. And so, really what you're seeing, at the end of the day, is higher value placed on the lives of the police, and you're seeing them pull all the stops out to find this one individual.
Granted, with the murders of the two people, the captain's daughter and her fiancé, how do we know that he did it? I'm not defending this. We know he said this in his manifesto, but what's the evidence that they have that they are now pursuing is the question that I would ask.
Software that tracks people on social media created by defence firm (10 February 2013) [Rense.com]
A multinational security firm has secretly developed software capable of tracking people's movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites.
A video obtained by the Guardian reveals how an "extreme-scale analytics" system created by Raytheon, the world's fifth largest defence contractor, can gather vast amounts of information about people from websites including Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.
Raytheon says it has not sold the software -- named Riot, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology -- to any clients.
But the Massachusetts-based company has acknowledged the technology was shared with US government and industry as part of a joint research and development effort, in 2010, to help build a national security system capable of analysing "trillions of entities" from cyberspace.
Bad economy increases mental health help requests (10 February 2013)
About two years ago, the city's Department of Human Services staff noticed more people coming through its doors and calling its emergency hotline looking for mental health services.
Many shared characteristics - they were unemployed, struggling and lacked benefits. That led mental health staffers to the culprit - the down economy.
Economic pressure is driving more people over the edge, said Alexis Zoss, Human Services' deputy director. Those pressures create stress, which "can make a big difference in someone who's just holding on." With more people out of work, public services are often their only option, she said.
The mental-health and substance-abuse division saw an increase of almost 36 percent in people served between the 2010 and 2012 fiscal years, according to department statistics.
L.A. police to revisit firing of fugitive ex-cop (10 February 2013)
(Reuters) - Los Angeles police will re-examine the 2008 firing of an officer wanted in three slayings, the police chief said on Saturday as a massive manhunt for the fugitive stretched from a southern California mountaintop to the Mexican border.
Police Chief Charlie Beck called on the former officer Christopher Dorner, 33, to turn himself in and tell his side of the story. Dorner was dismissed after officials found he had made false statements accusing another officer of using excessive force.
One of the three people Dorner is accused of killing this week is the 28-year-old daughter of a retired police captain who represented him in a disciplinary action that led to his firing. He is also wanted for the killing of the young woman's fiance and an officer from the town of Riverside.
Dorner posted an online manifesto this week that declared war on law enforcement and complained of his 2008 firing. Some online commentators have expressed support for Dorner and aired grievances against police.
CISPA's back: Hacking, online espionage resurrect cybersecurity bill (10 February 2013) [InfoWars.com]
The bill will be identical to the version of CISPA that passed the House last spring, but was defeated on the Senate floor in August mainly because the upper house was hammering out its own cyber security bill.
CISPA would allow for the voluntary sharing of Internet traffic between private companies and the government. The bill is purportedly intended to help the US government, especially the intelligence community, to investigate cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against cyber attack, especially those emanating from countries like China and Iran.
The bill would also allow the federal government to provide classified cyber threat information to private firms, and protect them from legal action in the course of sharing private information.
Opponents of the bill say it would allow companies to hand over a user's private browsing information to the government, allowing authorities to spy on American citizens rather than simply track down cyber threats.
Fight for the Future, a non-profit group "working to extend the Internet's power for good," has already kicked off anonline petition asking voters to call their representatives on the House Intelligence Committee and express their opposition to the bill.
US food industry battles against regulation (10 February 2013)
It's no secret the standard American diet is relatively inexpensive, convenient and satisfying. Whether it's highly marketed fast food or highly processed, packaged foods in the supermarket, what Americans eat has changed dramatically over decades.
And it shows. The US has the highest rate of obesity in the industrialised world. One-third of Americans over the age of 20 are obese, according to government figures. For children, this figure is 17 percent.
"It's really expensive to get healthy food in the United States," said a shopper at a mall in McLean, Virginia when asked why the number of obese Americans is rising. "Fast food is much too accessible." Another man explained, "The government can stop the advertising, can stop all the bad foods and yet they let it keep going, and then they complain about obesity."
The American diet is strongly influenced by the US Congress: the US food and beverage industry has for the past two decades spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying for government regulations that favour its finances. One unfavourable policy could cost a company millions.
Potential Glacier concessions bidder has ties to Blackfeet Reservation fracking (10 February 2013)
Prospective bidders vying for the 16-year prospectus contract, a venture that involves managing the park's five historic lodging facilities, its food and beverage services and its retail operations, must commit a mountain of money in initial investments alone -- $33 million -- and will face a future rife with financial risk and costly maintenance projects due to senescent buildings and crumbling infrastructure.
But the park's closest neighbors and strongest advocates are more concerned with the age-old mountains of Glacier, and the legacy of cultural sites the park upholds.
Glacier National Park supports a pristine ecosystem and an abundance of wildlife, and carries tremendous cultural significance to residents of the nearby Blackfeet Indian Reservation. And with virtually all of the reservation's 1.5 million acres leased for oil and gas exploration, many observers believe the sacred land is on the cusp of industrialization.
The company drilling exploratory wells along the 400,000-acre swath of land that abuts Glacier Park's eastern boundary is the Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp., which is owned by Philip Frederick Anschutz, one of the wealthiest billionaires in the nation (Forbes estimates his net worth at $7.6 billion).
Having made fortunes in oil, railroads, telecom and entertainment, Anschutz also owns Xanterra Parks and Resorts Inc., the nation's largest park concessionaire, which manages lodges in numerous national parks in the American West and currently holds the primary concession contract for Yellowstone National Park.
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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