Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 24th of February to 2nd of March 2013
Saturday without mail may affect votes (2 March 2013)
The recent decision by the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday deliveries was met with shrugs by some people, but elections officials say they are alarmed that it could result in fewer votes being counted.
That's because increasingly across the country - especially in California - people are choosing to vote by mail. In last fall's election, 6.7 million people cast mail ballots, more than half of those who participated, according to the secretary of state.
Elimination of Saturday mail deliveries - which postal officials said also includes eliminating pickups from mailboxes - could cause some ballots to miss the Tuesday election deadline to be valid because most voters wait until the last several days to send them, elections officials said.
"We mail out a tremendous amount of our vote-by-mail ballots for weeks before, but the ballots come back really the last nine days, and they're really loaded to the last few days," said Steve Weir, Contra Costa County clerk and former president of the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials.
Paul Ryan again works on plan to gut Medicare (2 March 2013)
Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the former Republican vice presidential nominee, is preparing a budget blueprint that aims to balance revenue and spending in 10 years. But his effort has run afoul of the GOP vow not to change Medicare -- the federal healthcare program for seniors and the disabled -- for those now 55 or older.
Medicare eligibility currently begins at age 65. Ryan's approach would transform the benefits program into one that would provide a fixed amount of money in a voucher that future seniors could apply to the cost of buying private health insurance or to buying coverage through traditional Medicare.
Throughout last year's presidential campaign, the GOP promised not to change Medicare for today's seniors -- only the next generation. But Republicans familiar with the number-crunching in Ryan's budget committee say balancing the budget may not be possible unless the changes start for those who are now 56 and younger.
Critics say Ryan's plan would shift healthcare costs from the government and onto seniors. Democrats who sharply criticized Ryan's proposal during the 2012 campaign say voters rejected his arguments when they reelected Obama.
How the U.N. Caused Haiti's Cholera Crisis -- and Won't Be Held Responsible (2 March 2013) [InfoWars.com]
If a multinational corporation behaved the way the U.N. did in Haiti, it would be sued for stratospheric amounts of money. And that's just for starters: Were Unilever or Coca-Cola responsible for a cholera outbreak that killed 8,000 people and infected 640,000 more, and for subsequently covering up its employees' failure to adhere to basic sanitation standards, it is likely their executives would have difficulty visiting countries claiming universal legal jurisdiction. They would have to contend with Interpol red notices, along with the occasional cream pie attack. And the companies themselves would go into damage control mode, akin to BP's post-oil-spill public relations blitz, or Wal-Mart's pivot toward promoting American-made products. They'd acknowledge the need to convince skeptical consumers that their corporate behavior had changed.
The U.N. and its leadership won't have to worry about any of this. But maybe it should.
As award-winning journalist Jonathan Katz established in a bombshell chapter of his recent book, The Big Truck That Went By, a base for Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers next to the Artibonite River was the origin of the cholera epidemic that swept through Haiti in October of 2010. There had been no reported cases of cholera in Haiti for a century; now, the disease is endemic, and it is projected to kill as many as 1,000 people a year until it is eradicated, according to Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and a lawyer representing Haitian claimants against the U.N. Former president Bill Clinton, the U.N.'s special envoy for Haiti, has admitted that U.N. peacekeepers were responsible for the outbreak. But Katz, the AP's Haiti correspondent in the years after the country's devastating 2010 earthquake, was at the receiving end of a bungled U.N. cover-up of the epidemic's cause. The World Body actively discouraged and even impeded journalists and public health investigators attempting to trace the causes of the pestilence. The U.N. never admitted responsibility, even as a U.N. commissioned-report left little room for doubt (the entire saga is recounted in Katz's chapter, which should be read in full).
Lavender kills antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria (2 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) Lavender, the plant and its oil, has been used continuously for thousands of years. It is native to the Mediterranean with several varieties that grow at different altitudes. Among the most versatile of oils, lavender is very effective at soothing, calming, balancing (both mind and body), and revitalizing. It is used through inhalation, massage, bath or shower, humidifier or vaporizer, or added to skin and personal care products.
Lavender essential oil has many wonderful uses. One of the best known healing oils, lavender oil has a chemically complex structure with over 150 active constituents, which explains its effectiveness at helping with everything from insect bites to rheumatism. The botanical name, Lavandula, comes from Latin, lavare, which means "to wash," probably for its history of use cleansing wounds, as well as washing linens and in personal bathing. It is a known anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, analgesic, calmative, detoxifier, hypotensive, and sedative.
Science supports use of lavender to kill bacteria and fungus
Recently, studies have confirmed the effectiveness of lavender essential oil against different strains of bacteria and types of fungus. Several varieties were tested by direct contact and each showed effectiveness. Of particular significance is a study by scientists in the UK. They found the antimicrobial activity of lavender oil to consistently inhibit the growth of methicillin-sensitive and resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA and MRSA). MRSA is one of the reasons it is so dangerous to go to the hospital. Created by western medicine, it is responsible for thousands of deaths every year. They have no cure for it, as it was created by overuse of their antibiotics; it is completely resistant to them.
Another shortcoming of western medicine is its inability to treat fungal, yeast, and mold infections. Often brought on by over-consumption of GMO gluten or use of antibiotics, western medicine has no effective treatment of these conditions, and hardly recognizes their existence. They don't know how to diagnose or treat them, meaning that by the time they are identified, they are often very advanced. These conditions can become dangerous to overall health very quickly.
Natural medicine has many effective treatments for such conditions, including essential oils like lavender. Drink lavender tea to clear yeast, apply diluted lavender oil externally to bacteria infected wounds or nail fungus, place a drop of (organic) oil under the tongue to clear stuffy sinuses, diffuse or vaporize into the air to kill germs and aid respiratory ailments, inhale to oxygenate the blood.
German firms investigated for 'systematic egg fraud' (25 February 2013) [Rense.com]
Prosecutors in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, told Der Spiegel magazine they were investigating around 150 firms in that state and around 50 elsewhere. Frauke Wilken, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office told the magazine that initial investigations had begun in the autumn of 2011, and had revealed ever more suspect operations.
"The suspicion is that this is a case of systematic fraud. It is no minor matter - it would be deception of consumers," said Christian Mayer, the new Lower Saxony agriculture minister.
He said if the suspicions were proven, he would move to withdraw operation licenses from the relevant farms.
Those under suspicion were largely conventional farms, but some organic farms were also affected.
Chickens and their eggs can only be described as free-range if each animal has access to at least four square metres of space, while the description organic, or "bio" in German, requires further specific conditions.
Lobbyists weigh in on pharmacy oversight (2 March 2013)
Drug companies are ramping up efforts on Capitol Hill to block specialty pharmacies from mass producing drugs in lightly regulated conditions, urging lawmakers to require that these enterprises return to their traditional roles or face stricter standards.
Commercial drug makers are also pressing a lobbying campaign aimed at stopping these specialty pharmacies, known as compounders, from making "knockoff" drugs for people and their pets that the companies say are costing them millions of dollars in annual profits, records and interviews show.
This rapidly escalating struggle reaches far beyond congressional efforts to rein in reckless compounding pharmacies that began in October after tainted steroids from the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center (NECC) were linked to a meningitis outbreak that has killed 48 people.
Amid a public outcry, lawmakers began considering draft legislation to address public safety concerns. With a bill in the works, a range of companies, business associations and health organizations have begun pressing their own interests along a wide front.
Veterinary groups, for instance, have launched their own lobbying campaign opposing the drugmakers. These groups warn that any legislation that required patient-specific prescriptions would deprive them of vital drug stockpiles and that pets would die at their clinics.
How to become a drone target (2 March 2013)
Earlier this week, we wrote about a significant but often overlooked aspect of the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen: so-called signature strikes, in which the U.S. kills people whose identities aren't confirmed. While President Obama and administration officials have framed the drone program as targeting particular members of Al Qaeda, attacks against unknown militants reportedly may account for the majority of strikes.
The government apparently calls such attacks signature strikes because the targets are identified based on intelligence "signatures" that suggest involvement in terror plots or militant activity.
So what signatures does the U.S. look for and how much evidence is needed to justify a strike?
The Obama administration has never spoken publicly about signature strikes. Instead, generally anonymous officials have offered often vague examples of signatures. The resulting fragmentary picture leaves many questions unanswered.
Top four reasons the U.S. still doesn't have a single offshore wind turbine (2 March 2013)
Despite massive growth of the offshore wind industry in Europe, a blossoming array of land-based wind turbines stateside, and plenty of wind to spare, the U.S. has yet to sink even one turbine in the ocean. Not exactly the kind of leadership on renewables President Obama called for in his recent State of the Union address.
Light is just beginning to flicker at the end of the tunnel: On Tuesday, outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a gathering of offshore industry leaders he was optimistic the long-embattled Cape Wind project would break ground before year's end. And in early January, industry advocates managed to convince Congress to extend a critical tax incentive for another year.
But America's small yet dedicated entrepreneurial corps of offshore developers are still chasing "wet steel," as they call it, while their European and Asian colleagues forge ahead on making offshore wind a basic component of their energy plans. So what's the holdup? Here's a look at the top reasons that offshore wind remains elusive in the U.S.:
1. Begging bucks from Uncle Sam: The industry breathed a sigh of relief this year when Congress re-upped the Production Tax Credit, which recoups wind developers 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of power they produce, and the Incentive Tax Credit, which pays back 30 percent of a wind project's construction costs. It might sound like chump change, but the PTC alone amounts to $1 billion a year, and industry advocates insist that wind would hit the doldrums without these subsidies. Still, they hardly put wind on a level playing field with the lavishly subsidized (and lushly lobbied) fossil fuel industry.
BPA is deadly to the developing brains of babies in utero, new study shows (1 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) Scientists from Duke University in North Carolina have identified yet another major threat to human health posed by the plastics chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). According to new research, babies exposed to BPA in utero, or during their developmental stages in the womb, could experience inhibited central nervous system development, which in turn could set them up for future stricken with neurodevelopmental problems.
Because it mimics the actions of estrogen, BPA is already known to interfere with the body's endocrine system, causing a host of potential problems ranging from behavioral and weight abnormalities to reproductive and immune disorders. And while awareness of BPA's dangers is on the rise all across the globe, there is still a minimal understanding as to how BPA exerts these negative effects, including how the chemical interferes with proper nervous system development.
So to gain a further understanding, researchers from Duke initiated a series of experiments designed to pinpoint the precise mechanisms by which BPA alters proper brain development. What they found is that BPA alters chloride levels inside cells by shutting down a gene known as KCC2 that is responsible for producing the KCC2 protein. Without this gene, cells are unable to properly transport chloride out of cells, which ends up damaging neural circuits and compromising normal brain development.
"It disrupts this process and it corrupts this process," explained Dr. Wolfgang Liedtke, lead author of the study, to WUNC about BPA's obstruction of the KCC2 gene. "And that, for example, would be a scenario that fits very nicely in the setting of neurodevelopmental diseases, where we see an exponential growth in the number of cases that are being diagnosed year by year."
Curcumin vs. cancer: The scientific evidence continues to flow in (1 March 2013)
Dr. Saraswati Sukumar's passion for turmeric is partially rooted in the fact that the spice has long been a staple in traditional Indian cuisine, which is a significant part of her own rich heritage. But Dr. Sukumar has also been studying the unique compositional profile of turmeric, and specifically curcumin, for many years now, which has led her to some fascinating discoveries about its vast potential for use in medicine. Besides quelling inflammatory pain and promoting wound healing, turmeric is a seemingly miraculous anti-cancer nutrient of the highest order.
"We have close to 300 publications (that cite turmeric) for its anti-cancer effects," Dr. Sukumar is quoted as saying to the Palm Beach Post recently. "Many diseases, such as colon cancer and other types of cancer, are being traced to inflammation."
Curcumin, arguably the most potent anti-cancer nutrient in existence
The inflammation link to cancer is backed by numerous scientific studies, including a 2011 review published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found that up to 25 percent of all cancers are caused by chronic inflammation. According to scientists from Ohio State University's (OSU) Comprehensive Cancer Center, inflammation triggers an increase in a molecule known as microRNA-155 (miR-155) that causes a reduction in levels of the protein responsible for repairing damaged DNA.
And what about the other 75 percent of cancers? Curcumin appears to have those covered as well. Research released that same year by scientists from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed that curcumin actually seeks out malignant cancer cells and alters the regulation of DNA in order to kill them. And unlike synthetic anti-cancer drugs, curcumin leaves healthy cells and DNA alone so as not to cause harmful side effects.
"Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) ... is one of the most powerful and promising chemopreventive and anticancer agents, and epidemiological evidence demonstrates that people who incorporate high doses of this spice in their diets have a lower incidence of cancer," explains board-certified clinical nutritionist Byron J. Richards about the power of curcumin to fight cancer.
PAM COMMENTARY: In The Green Pharmacy, Dr. James Duke also cited studies that turmeric helps to reduce the size of gallstones over time, although Hulda Clark's liver cleanse is a faster way to void the things.
WikiLeaks Whistleblower Bradley Manning Says He Wanted to Show the Public the "True Costs of War" (1 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Explain. He actually said he didn't go to WikiLeaks first.
MICHAEL RATNER: No, that's correct. He first--he had these documents on a disk that he eventually took out of--took out of the special secure room. He actually came to the United States with it. That's the Iraq war logs and the Afghan war logs. And he tried to get it to The New York Times and The Washington Post. He calls up The Washington Post, has a five-minute discussion with somebody there.
AMY GOODMAN: Does he know who?
MICHAEL RATNER: He doesn't recall who, or at least didn't say it. He doesn't take it--he said they don't take him seriously, and then he feels he can't get that. He calls the public editor at The New York Times and leaves a message on the answering machine of the public editor and doesn't get a call back. He's then thinking about: "How am I going to get this critical information out? Because I think what the U.S. is doing should be debated in the United States. We're killing people without cause, essentially."
And then, he has already known about WikiLeaks, because he was aware of WikiLeaks in part because of their release of the text messages or the SMSes from the World Trade Center phones that were there on 9/11. So he's aware of WikiLeaks. He's in some communication, by chat or otherwise, with WikiLeaks. And they point him to a site where he can upload, upload the documents.
One interesting point on that is what he mentions about WikiLeaks. Some papers have reported that he said he believes he was in communication with Julian Assange. He actually says it could have been Julian Assange, it could have been someone he calls "Daniel Schmitt," which is probably Daniel Domscheit-Berg from Germany. And he says--and it also says it could have been someone high up in WikiLeaks. He really doesn't know. And he says, "Whatever I did in this case, I did because I wanted to do it. I was not pressured to do it. I made the decision to do it." So he tries these other media, and ultimately he sees that WikiLeaks has a way of uploading documents that's anonymous, that he doesn't know who's on the other end, and they don't know who's on his end.
BP's false oil flow claims may have delayed plugging of Macondo well, Transocean claims (1 March 2013)
BP's false assertions that only 5,000 barrels of oil were flowing from its Macondo well in May 2010 resulted in the use of at least one method to attempt to stem the flow that was doomed to fail, says a motion filed in federal court Friday by attorneys for Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. In its motion, Transocean argues it should not be subject to damages for as much as 60 days of the 87-day spill because of BP's falsifications.
The motion came at the end of the first week of the civil trial before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier Jr. over the liability of BP, Transocean and other companies involved in the Macondo well blowout in April 2010.
Oil and gas from BP's Macondo well flowed to the deck of the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010, where it exploded, causing a fire that resulted in the rig's sinking two days later, and the death of 11 workers. When the rig sank, oil and gas flowed continuously into the Gulf of Mexico from the well and from the collapsed riser pipe that was on the Gulf floor, about a mile below the surface.
BP initially estimated the amount of oil flowing from the well at 5,000 barrels a day, and continued to repeat that estimate in public statements and in meetings and communications with a variety of federal officials, says the Transocean motion. Portions of the motion, including the names of many of the BP individuals who were making more valid estimates and the individuals with whom they were communicating, are redacted from the motion.
Transocean's motion argues that BP admitted lying about the amount of hydrocarbons released by the well in its guilty plea to federal criminal charges tied to the accident, including 11 counts of manslaughter.
Old age far from gentle for Japan's graying homeless (1 March 2013)
(Reuters) - Kyoko Machiya should be enjoying life with grandchildren. Instead, the 64-year-old's home is a makeshift structure of boxes covered with blue plastic in a Tokyo park.
Homelessness in Japan is a decades-old issue, yet it has a worrying new twist. A vast majority of the homeless are now aging, a reflection of the overall graying of Japanese society that poses new problems for policy makers.
Machiya, a tiny woman with weathered skin and graying hair, tried a shelter once but eventually moved out.
"It's not their fault, but it's pretty difficult being surrounded by those with severe mental illnesses," Machiya said. "It wasn't a pleasant environment, so I ended up on the streets again."
Machiya's situation is, sadly, far from unusual.
Virginia Beach kicks homeless out of wooded Seatack area (1 March 2013)
Behind storage units along bustling Birdneck Road, well-worn paths lead to the remnants of tents and fire pits clustered among tangled vines.
For decades, homeless people have set up camps in dense woods along Millers Lane in the Seatack community. All that's left are piles of bottles, old blankets and discarded belongings.
Police recently took an aggressive stance and kicked people out after nearby homeowners complained of the trash, noise and possibly unlawful behavior in the woods. Officers handed out warnings and summonses to about 20 people who were living illegally on private property, telling them to move or risk being arrested, said Capt. Patrick Gallagher, commanding officer of the 2nd Precinct. Police eventually took four people into custody for trespassing, he said.
Those who lived on the property, including Lela Baum, expressed frustration at having to move during the winter, when some private shelters have monthslong waiting lists. Baum and her boyfriend moved to the Millers Lane woods in December, she said, after police kicked them out of another camp.
"I don't know where we're going to go," said Baum, who has been homeless most recently for seven months. "There's nowhere to go. This city needs to wake up and pay attention."
FBI artists craft more busts to try to ID the dead (1 March 2013)
Both came to a lonely end three decades ago in Chesapeake, their remains discovered by strangers and never identified.
One died of a gunshot wound, the other of an unknown cause.
Now FBI artists have used their skulls to construct "facial approximations" in hopes the public can provide clues in identifying them.
Leah Bush, Virginia's chief medical examiner, presented the busts at a news conference in Norfolk on Thursday. FBI forensic artists and anthropologists at the FBI in Quantico crafted the busts from plastic and modeling material, using digitized computer imaging and skulls that Bush provided.
Salt Sugar Fat: NY Times Reporter Michael Moss on How the Food Giants Hooked America on Junk Food (1 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the CEO who basically ended the meeting.
MICHAEL MOSS: The head of General Mills made all of these points and was especially, I think, aghast at being blamed for the obesity crisis, because, again, he felt that in the cereal aisle, for example, General Mills was providing Cheerios with low amounts of sugar, and he didn't see a need to down-formulate, if you will, all of the products in the grocery store in order to deal with this obesity crisis, which, you have to remember, back in '99, was not as grave as it is today.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, the obesity crisis, I mean, in their terms, is about lawsuits, class action lawsuits. What does obesity mean? Why is this such a critical issue?
MICHAEL MOSS: Well, yes and no. The Kraft official who raised this back in 1999 was actually very deeply and sincerely concerned about the health effects on people and not so worried about litigation.
What this did, though, mean to the companies, though, was--was what I write about in the book, which, I have to tell you, Amy, was a bit of a detective story. I managed to come across a trove of internal documents that enabled me to get insiders to talk. And when they did, what it showed was that salt, sugar, fat are the three pillars, the Holy Grail, if you will, on which the food industry survives. And through their research, they know that when they hit the perfect amounts of each of those ingredients, they'll send us over the moon, products will fly off the shelves, we'll eat more, we'll buy more--and being companies, of course, that they will make more money.
Pandora's Lunchbox: Pulling Back the Curtain on How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal (1 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
MELANIE WARNER: Yeah. Well, hi, Amy. It's great to be here.
You know, one of the things with processed food that I found while doing this book, is not only that it has an abundance of the things that Michael was talking about--salt, sugar, fat--it's also what it's lacking, which, it turns out, is naturally occurring nutrition, in many cases. So that's vitamins and minerals and fiber and things like antioxidants.
So, you take something like cereal--you know, you walk down the cereal aisle, and you're bombarded with health messages: It's high in vitamin D, a good source of calcium, fiber, antioxidants. You see these things all over the package. And one of the things--one of the questions I asked myself when I was starting to work on this book was: Why is it nearly impossible to find a box of cereal in the cereal aisle without vitamins, added vitamins and minerals, in the ingredient list?
And it turns out, because most cereal has very little inherent nutrition. And this is in part because of processing. The processing of food is very intensive. It's very--it's very technical, and with cereal, can be very damaging to naturally occurring nutrients, especially vitamins and oftentimes fiber. So, what manufacturers do is they add back in vitamins. So, essentially, you see all these wonderful claims on the package, but essentially--and you look at the panel, and you're getting 35 percent and 40 percent of your recommended daily allowance of these vitamins, but they're essentially added in like a vitamin pill, which many people maybe are already taking in the morning.
And I was really surprised to learn where some of these vitamins come from. I never really thought about it in much detail, as probably most people don't. But it turns out that they're--these vitamins are not coming from the foods that contain them. Like vitamin C does not come from an orange, and vitamin A does not come from a carrot. It's very far from that. They come from things that really aren't actually foods. Vitamin D, for instance, was probably the most shocking. It comes from sheep grease, so actually the grease that comes from sheep wool. You have giant barges and container ships that go from Australia and New Zealand over to China, where most of--a lot of our vitamins are produced. About 50 percent of global vitamin production comes from China inside these huge factories, very industrial processes. A lot of vitamins are actually chemical processes.
A Racial Entitlement? Supreme Court Threatens Voting Rights Act, One of Civil Rights Era's Key Gains (28 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ari, on the exchange, not--it was not a direct exchange between Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Scalia. Could you talk about that? Because I think it's the first time that Justice Sotomayor comes out clearly in a court hearing so strongly opposed to one of her fellow justices.
ARI BERMAN: Well, Scalia made be outrageous statement that the Voting Rights Act is a "perpetuation of racial entitlement" and that that's why Congress has supported it so overwhelmingly. And Scalia basically said that the overwhelming congressional support for the Voting Rights Act means it must be unconstitutional.
And Sotomayor basically said, "Discrimination is discrimination. It's ongoing today. This is not racial entitlement; this is about a basic fundamental right that for so many years America ignored." And she said to Shelby County, the county that's bringing the state, "You don't have the standing to bring this challenge, because as recently as 2008 you were found by the Justice Department to be discriminating on the basis of race, doing a voting change that eliminated one of the only black districts in a city in the county." So, Sotomayor basically said there was no basis to bring this challenge to the Voting Rights Act itself.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a clip, going back in history, from a documentary that recently featured King. It's called A Filmed Record...Montgomery to Memphis. This is President Lyndon Johnson speaking just as he is signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Over his shoulder is Dr. Martin Luther King, who speaks next. First, President Johnson.
PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: Today is a triumph for freedom, as huge as any victory that's ever been won on any battlefield. This law covers many pages, but the heart of the act is plain. Wherever, by clear and objective standards, states and counties are using regulations or laws or tests to deny the right to vote, then they will be struck down. If it is clear that state officials still intend to discriminate, then federal examiners will be sent in to register all eligible voters. This good Congress, the 89th Congress, acted swiftly in passing this act. And I intend to act with equal dispatch in enforcing this act.
Manning plea statement: Americans had a right to know 'true cost of war' (28 February 2013)
Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of the biggest unauthorised disclosure of state secrets in US history, has pleaded guilty to being the source of the leak, telling a military court that he passed the information to a whistleblowing website because he believed the American people had a right to know the "true costs of war".
At a pre-trial hearing on a Maryland military base, Manning, 25, who faces spending the rest of his life in military custody, read out a 35-page statement in which he gave an impassioned account of his motives for transmitting classified documents and videos he had obtained while working as an intelligence analyst outside Baghdad.
Sitting at the defence bench in a hushed courtroom, Manning said he was sickened by the apparent "bloodlust" of a helicopter crew involved in an attack on a group in Baghdad that turned out to include Reuters correspondents and children.
He believed the Afghan and Iraq war logs published by the WikiLeaks website, initially in association with a consortium of international media organisations that included the Guardian, were "among the more significant documents of our time revealing the true costs of war". The decision to pass the classified information to a public website was motivated, he told the court, by his depression about the state of military conflict in which the US was mired.
Facebook, Google tech gurus to design cancer research game (28 February 2013)
(Reuters) - Scientists from a British cancer charity are teaming up with technology gurus from the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google to design and develop a mobile game aimed at speeding the search for new cancer drugs.
The project, led by the charity Cancer Research UK, should mean that anyone with a smart phone and five minutes to spare will be able to investigate vital scientific data at the same time as playing a mobile game.
The first step is for 40 computer programmers, gamers, graphic designers and other specialists to take part in a weekend "GameJam" to turn the charity's raw genetic data into a game format for future so-called "citizen scientists".
"We're making great progress in understanding the genetic reasons cancer develops. But the clues to why some drugs will work and some won't are held in data which need to be analyzed by the human eye - and this could take years," said Carlos Caldas at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute.
PAM COMMENTARY: I wasn't in search of a new drug when I had cancer symptoms -- I used some of the best protocols that alternative cancer treatments have to offer.
Bills make Virginia government less visible, some worry (28 February 2013)
While legislators at the General Assembly ostensibly did the people's business this winter in Richmond, many of their bills effectively restricted the right to obtain government records. The Assembly approved several bills to peel away provisions of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act that provide access to such documents.
Among them are measures to exempt the correspondence of legislators' aides from public disclosure, and to close off public access to concealed-handgun-permit data kept at courthouses.
The approval of those and other bills, some without a vetting by the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, reinforces concerns from some advocates that lawmakers are gradually eroding open-records laws.
"There's a whittling away every year, just in different ways and coming from different directions," said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.
She said that's more noticeable now because "we have fewer real open-government champions," especially after the recent death of former Del. Clifton "Chip" Woodrum of Roanoke, an ally in the fight for public access.
Eye on election, India surprises with spending surge (28 February 2013)
(Reuters) - India unveiled a surge in government spending on Thursday, despite expectations of an austerity budget to shore up its finances, imposing new taxes on the rich and large companies to fund a dash for growth ahead of an election due by next year.
The extent of the slowdown gripping Asia's third-largest economy was underlined by data released just hours after Finance Minister P. Chidambaram delivered his budget for the coming fiscal year, showing GDP growth tumbled to 4.5 percent in the October-December quarter, its lowest in nearly four years.
Chidambaram, whose reformist zeal has made him a darling of financial markets since his appointment last August, focused on revenue-raising measures rather than spending cuts, a sign, analysts said, of his difficult balancing act ahead of a general election that must be held before the middle of next year.
Many private economists expressed skepticism at Chidambaram's rosy revenue assumptions and were dismayed by the sizeable increase in public spending in a country facing its sharpest economic downturn in a decade.
Total budget expenditure will rise by 16 percent in the 2013/14 fiscal year to 16.65 trillion rupees ($309 billion).
Fascism in the Church: Ex-Priest on "The Pope's War," Clergy Abuse and Quelling Liberation Theology (28 February 2013)
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In some of your writings, you have raised the point of view that both Pope Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul, were actually leading the schism and that, in fact, that they were attempting to overthrow the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. But for many Americans who are no longer familiar, because they're young, they don't know about the impact of the Second Vatican Council and Pope John XXIII, could you give us the broader historical movement that's occurred here?
MATTHEW FOX: Yes. Pope John XXIII called the council in the early '60s, and it brought together all the bishops of the world and all the theologians, many of whom had been under fire under the previous papacy, Pope Pius XII. And it definitely was a reform movement, and it gave inspiration to the poor, especially in South America. And after the council, the movement of liberation theology, which had a principle of preferential option for the poor, this really took off, and it created base communities, which was a new way of doing church where everyone had a voice, not just the person at the altar.
And this non-hierarchical, this far more horizontal and circular approach to Christianity and to worship was a big threat, of course, to certain people in Rome, but it was even a bigger threat to the CIA. When Reagan was elected, two months later there was a meeting of his National Security Council in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss one thing: How can we destroy liberation theology in Latin America? And they concluded: We can't destroy it, but we can divide the church. And so they went after the pope. They gave him lots and lots of cash for solidarity in Poland. And in exchange, they got the permission, if you will, the commitment on the part of the papacy, to destroy liberation theology.
And this is very much documented. It's actually documented by Carl Bernstein, of all people, in a cover story in Time magazine, where he kind of creates a hagiography of Reagan and the pope together creating so much good. But Bernstein, I think, was very naive about what was really going on in terms of the church itself, because the reform of the church, part of the council was to declare freedom of conscience, and it said every Christian has a right to freedom of conscience. But all that was destroyed by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger.
So, the reforms of the Vatican Council were stuffed. And the reason this is a schism, therefore, is that in the Catholic tradition a council trumps a pope. Popes do not trump councils. For the last 42 years, these two papacies have been undoing all the values that the council stood for. And this is what the sisters are now undergoing. Just as they attacked the 105 theologians, now they're accusing the sisters of, what should I say, not participating in the Inquisition. And God bless these sisters, who--the Nuns on the Bus. And so many of us know them because they have been on the front lines carrying out the values of Vatican II, especially values of justice and peace work and working with the marginalized.
Outer Banks watermen struggling to stay afloat (28 February 2013)
Tall, lean and weathered like many of his watermen ancestors, Wescott, 37, says he is up against more than bad weather these days when it comes to commercial fishing.
In 2011, North Carolina fishermen harvested 29.7 million pounds of finfish compared with 110.9 million pounds a decade earlier - down from the peak of 388.6 million pounds in 1981, according to state records.
The number of commercial fishing licenses issued remained steady at just over 9,000 in 2011, but the number of fishermen actually using them fell to 3,700 from 5,260 in 2002 and a peak of 7,198 in 1996.
Wescott says he doubts his 3-year-old son, who loves going on the boat and to the fish house, will be able to make a living on the water.
"I don't think the industry will be here," he said.
Fuel prices, imported seafood, government regulations and shoaling at Oregon Inlet have left many commercial fishermen on the Outer Banks in a upstream battle to survive, said John Hadley, the socioeconomics program manager for the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.
Calgary sewage system can't keep up with biosolids surge from population boom (28 February 2013)
For more than 25 years, the city has been turning treated sludge into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Calgro, the city's biosolids-to-land program, is a joint effort with the province to use environmentally-friendly alternatives to dumping biosolids in the landfill.
Each year, the city produces nearly 20 million kilograms, or 9,500 tanker truckloads, of biosolids fertilizer. It's spread on local farming crops as organic fertilizer.
Concerns over pharmaceuticals and other contaminants detected in biosolids is cause for worry, said Ald. Druh Farrell.
"I think we just don't know the impacts of this in our environment. It sounds good that we're putting nutrients in the soil, but we don't know what else is in there," she said.
Fukushima cancer risk slightly up for those exposed to highest radiation dose (28 February 2013)
The lifetime risk of contracting certain types of cancer rose slightly for those exposed to the highest dose of radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the World Health Organization said in a report released on Thursday.
But the psychological trauma was worse, it said.
Researchers highlighted the psychological effects of disaster -- fear, grief, anxiety and depression, to the point of psychosomatic illness and psychiatric disorders.
Nuclear disasters can aggravate these conditions because radiation is invisible and people have a tough time understanding it and its effects.
The WHO report comes just a few days before the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed 18,000 people on March 11, 2011 and triggered a third disaster when three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant melted down and a fire broke out in a fourth. It was the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
The report noted that emergency workers at the plant, who inhaled high doses of radioactive iodine, probably raised their risk of developing thyroid cancer. However, since the thyroid is relatively resistant to cancer, the overall risk for these people remains low, it said.
Entire food system may be contaminated with BPA and other plastic nasties (27 February 2013)
Eat organic all you want. Avoid plastic like the plague. It may not matter after all -- you could still be ingesting a lot of nasty bisphenol A and phthalates, chemicals that leach from plastics and potentially disrupt human endocrine systems.
A study by Sheela Sathyanarayana published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology compared one group that avoided BPA and pthalates in accordance with written directions and another group that ate a catered, local, organic diet prepared without use of plastic for cooking or storage.
From Fast Co.Exist:
"The researchers assumed that urinary BPA and pthalate levels would drop in the catered group compared to the group using written instructions -- people are generally bad at following advice from their doctors after all. 'Instead we saw big spikes and increases in the catered diet group and no changes at all in the written education group,' she says.
"Sathyanarayana's team tested the food samples in the catered group to find the source of contamination. The culprits: milk, cream, and ground coriander. 'I honestly don't know why the spices were more contaminated or why the dairy had higher contamination, but I do know it's consistent with other reports,' she says. ..."
ACLU Blasts Supreme Court Rejection of Challenge to Warrantless Spying Without Proof of Surveillance (27 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So could you explain, Jameel Jaffer, the grounds on which the decision was taken yesterday, the basis, standing grounds, and what it means for a likely future judicial review of the amendment?
JAMEEL JAFFER: Sure, right, right. I mean, so, when we brought the case, our claims were constitutional claims. We argued that the statute violated the First Amendment because it imposed a burden on expressive and associational activity without sufficient reason. We argued that it violated the Fourth Amendment, which generally requires warrants before the government engages in this kind of surveillance. And those were the arguments we made in the district court.
But the government came back and said the courts shouldn't reach those arguments at all, the courts shouldn't consider whether the law is constitutional or not, because the ACLU's plaintiffs can't show that they, themselves, have been monitored under this law. And, of course, nobody can show that they've been monitored under the law, because the government doesn't disclose who its targets are.
AMY GOODMAN: Which is sort of why you're challenging it.
JAMEEL JAFFER: Right. I mean, that's part of the challenge. And the government is sort of creating this hurdle that is insuperable, this barrier to judicial review, which will ensure that nobody can ever challenge this kind of statute in court. And they were successful at the district court. We then appealed to the 2nd Circuit in New York, and we prevailed in the 2nd Circuit; it was a three-zero decision in our favor. The government then asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, and yesterday's five-four decision against us is the result.
Selling the White House? Obama-Linked Group Promises Top Donors Access to President (27 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
BOB EDGAR: I think it's a step in the wrong direction. Its title is Organizing for Action. It really should change that title to "Organizing for a Perpetual Campaign." We need the president of the United States to use the next four years to set a better example and not to cave in to what the Supreme Court unleashed with Citizens United on a narrow five-to-four decision three years ago. They said corporations and labor unions could use corporate treasury moneys to fund campaigns, and that spurred a whole host of super PACs. We saw in this last election $6 or $7 billion raised and spent throughout the country. Obama raised a billion; Romney raised a billion dollars. And here in this organization, Organizing for Action, they're saying if you can give $500,000 or bundle $500,000, you can then have access to the president four times a year. That's moving exactly in the opposite direction.
Three years ago, when Citizens United came down, the president, in the State of the Union, looked over at the Supreme Court justices, made them squirm a bit by challenging their decision. The president needs to get back to an agenda to reduce money in politics, not expand it. So Common Cause has asked the president to shut down Organizing for Action and to turn the attention. Let's have a White House conference on reform. Let's have the president put his arm around Senator McCain and fix the presidential public financing system. Let's find a way to get full access to voting, to get voting up to 80 and 90 percent. And let's have the next president of the United States not spend 300 or 400 days raising a billion dollars or $2 billion for re-election. Let's find a way where the president, once elected, can govern. And we just think that the United States is hurt, democracy is soiled, by the amount of money that's spent, not only in campaigns, but now in organizations like this following up from the last election.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Bob Edgar, on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded defensively to questions of whether Organizing for Action was selling access to the White House.
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: The fact is, there are a variety of rules governing interaction between administration officials and outside groups, and administration officials follow those rules. White House and administration officials will not be raising money for Organizing for Action, and they--while they may appear at appropriate OFA events in their official capacities, they will not be raising money.
Gay marriage: why corporations are coming out against DOMA (27 February 2013)
Wading into the highly emotional but quickly shifting national debate over gay marriage, 278 companies filed an amicus brief Wednesday in support of Edith Windsor, the New York woman whose challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been taken up by the United States Supreme Court.
Among the companies filing the brief are behemoths Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Starbucks, corporate entities associated with America's youth culture. But others include pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, insurance mainstay Aetna, and Citigroup.
In addition to the challenge to DOMA, which centers on Ms. Windsor's having had to pay a substantial federal estate tax following the death of her partner of more than 40 years, whom she married in Canada, the Supreme Court is also taking up California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. Windsor would not have had to pay any federal estate tax on the inheritance had the United States recognized her marriage. The court will hear arguments on Prop. 8 on March 26, and on DOMA on March 27.
So what interests do corporations, which usually shun controversy, have in urging the Supreme Court to sign off on gay marriage? One reason, it appears, is they think it's just good business.
100 years after suffrage march, activists walk in tradition of Inez Milholland (27 February 2013)
At the 100th anniversary of Washington's Women's Suffrage Parade on Sunday, participants will march in the bold tradition of suffragette Inez Milholland -- even if they, and most of America, have never heard of her. Of all the images and people invoked during this centennial celebration, perhaps the least remembered is the one woman said to have died for the cause.
Milholland, 27, sitting astride a white horse, in white, flowing, Joan of Arc robes is the most iconic image of that 1913 march. When she died three years later, she was hailed as a martyr of the women's suffrage movement. That she is barely remembered today is part of the challenge and frustration for those who advocate for greater attention to women's history and for those trying to build a national women's history museum on the Mall.
The march, sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta sorority and including the National Women's History Museum, the Sewall-Belmont House Museum and the National Organization for Women, retraces the original 5,000-person march down Pennsylvania Avenue. It will feature women in period costumes and focus broadly on women's equality.
But in 1913, it was all about the vote.
Milholland, raised in a wealthy Brooklyn family, was educated at Vassar and had a law degree from New York University. Her father was a writer for the New York Tribune, and her parents supported progressive causes, including suffrage and civil rights. She was on the leading edge of educated women advocating for civil, labor and women's rights. She said she proposed to her husband, Dutch importer Eugen Jan Boissevain, as part of her "new freedom" as a woman.
L.A. to ask high court to overturn ruling on homeless belongings (27 February 2013)
Citing an immediate public health threat, the city of Los Angeles will ask the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to overturn a lower-court ruling preventing the random seizure and destruction of belongings that homeless people leave temporarily unattended on public sidewalks.
If the court takes up the matter, the case could have broad implications for cities nationwide grappling with how to keep streets clean and safe while respecting the property rights of those who live there.
Fresno faces more than 30 lawsuits arising from its efforts to clean up downtown homeless encampments. In Hawaii, activists living in a De-Occupy Honolulu encampment sought an injunction against city authorities after they allegedly seized and destroyed personal property during a raid, according to court documents.
The Supreme Court filing comes after two years of legal wrangling between Los Angeles officials and homeless advocates over a controversial campaign to clean up downtown's skid row, which has the highest concentration of homeless people in the city.
"We have an obligation to the homeless, as well as to the other residents and businesses on skid row, to ensure their health through regularly cleaning skid row's streets and sidewalks," City Atty. Trutanich said in a statement. "The current outbreak of tuberculosis among that most vulnerable population should serve as a stern reminder to us all of just who and what is at risk."
Carol Sobel, who represents the homeless plaintiffs, said the TB outbreak, which has infected nearly 80 people and killed 11, has nothing to do with the property left on the streets. She accused city officials of deliberately allowing conditions to deteriorate in order to bolster their case, saying: "They have a public health issue of their making."
Houston to spend $4.4 million to erase rape kit backlog (27 February 2013)
Houston's long-standing backlog of more than 6,600 rape kits will be eliminated within 14 months after City Council's unanimous approval Wednesday of a $4.4 million plan to outsource the testing to private labs.
The vote will see the Houston Police Department ship those 6,663 kits, 1,450 kits tied to active cases, and 1,020 samples of DNA evidence from other cases, such as robberies and property crimes, to labs in Utah and Virginia.
The city negotiated bulk pricing on the deal, dropping the average per-kit cost to $400, which city officials said is roughly a third of the typical price.
"It needed to be done," Mayor Annise Parker said. "I'm satisfied we have a cost-effective solution, but also the right solution for everybody who's been involved in this process, both the survivors of rape, but also those who may be, if there are any, incarcerated wrongly."
Inside the military's clean-energy revolution (27 February 2013)
I'm strapped into my backward-facing seat on a COD, or "carrier onboard delivery" plane, the U.S. Navy workhorse that ferries people, supplies, and mail to and from its aircraft carriers at sea. I cinch the four-point harness holding me in place. Then I cinch it some more. When it's as tight as it can go, an aircrewman walks by and yanks it so hard it squeezes the breath out of me. The hatch closes. Steam rises from the floor. Shit. I've watched the YouTube videos. I know what's coming. Takeoff, a 30-minute flight, then landing on the USS Nimitz, decks pitching, plane wings waggling, tailhook dangling from the underside of the aircraft to catch one of four arresting cables stretched across the flight deck. Since it's not hard to miss them all, the pilot will gun the engines at landing to enable an immediate relaunch. Which means that if he succeeds at trapping a cable we'll decelerate from 180 nautical miles per hour to zero in about one second.
To get to the Nimitz, 100 miles off Honolulu, our turboprop is flying a 50-50 blend of biofuel and standard JP-5 shipboard aviation fuel. The biofuel is made from algae plus waste cooking oil. This makes us part of history, my aircrewman says, players in what the Navy calls the Great Green Fleet demonstration of July 2012. It's paired with a three-year, $510 million energy reform effort in conjunction with the departments of Agriculture and Energy as part of a larger push to change the way the U.S. military sails, flies, marches, and thinks. "As a nation and as a Navy and Marine Corps, we simply rely too much on a finite and depleting stock of fossil fuels that will most likely continue to rise in cost over the next decades," announced Navy Secretary Ray Mabus at the launch of the program back in 2009. "This creates an obvious vulnerability to our energy security and to our national security and to our future on this planet."
The Navy has set five ambitious goals to reduce energy consumption, decrease reliance on foreign oil, and significantly increase the use of alternative energy. Part of one target is to demonstrate a Great Green Fleet by 2012, and that's what's sailing this July day in Hawaii's cobalt-blue waters: a carrier strike group comprising an aircraft carrier, two guided-missile destroyers, a guided-missile cruiser, and an oiler. All are running at least partially on alternatives to fossil fuels: the Nimitz on nuclear power, the other ships on that biofuel-diesel blend. The 71 aircraft aboard -- Super Hornets, Hornets, Prowlers, Growlers, Hawkeyes, Greyhounds, Knighthawks, and Seahawks -- are burning the same cocktail as my COD. All of today's biofuels are drop-in replacements for marine diesel or aviation fuel and are designed to run without any changes to the existing hardware of ships or planes. "No [nation] can afford to re-engineer their navies to accept a different kind of fuel," Vice Adm. Philip Cullom, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, tells me.
The Great Green Fleet is debuting at the 2012 RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercise, the largest ever international maritime war games, engaging 40 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel from 22 nations. For the first time Russian ships are playing alongside U.S. ships, and naval personnel from India are attending. Many fleets here are sharpening their focus on alternative fuels and working to assure the formulations are co-developed with their allies. " We've had dialogue with the Australians, the French, the British, other European nations, and many others in the Pacific," and they all want to take "the petroleum off-ramp," Cullom tells me. "We don't want to run out of fuel."
Sotomayor, Kagan ready for battles (27 February 2013)
For a quarter-century, Antonin Scalia has been the reigning bully of the Supreme Court, but finally a couple of justices are willing to face him down.
As it happens, the two manning up to take on Nino the Terrible are women: the court's newest members, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The acerbic Scalia, the court's longest-serving justice, got his latest comeuppance Wednesday morning, as he tried to make the absurd argument that Congress's renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 by votes of 98 to 0 in the Senate and 390 to 33 in the House did not mean that Congress actually supported the act. Scalia, assuming powers of clairvoyance, argued that the lawmakers were secretly afraid to vote against this "perpetuation of racial entitlement."
Kagan wasn't about to let him get away with that. In a breach of decorum, she interrupted his questioning of counsel to argue with him directly. "Well, that sounds like a good argument to me, Justice Scalia," she said. "It was clear to 98 senators, including every senator from a covered state, who decided that there was a continuing need for this piece of legislation."
Secretary Hagel and the Senate's Massive Waste of Time (27 February 2013)
So Chuck Hagel is now the secretary of defense after a grueling confirmation process that managed to ignore most of the big challenges he'll face. That's our political media culture in inaction.
Chuck Hagel and his allies spent months dealing with a string of mostly hysterical distractions -- Did Hagel receive money from the non-existent "Friends of Hamas?" Is Hagel an anti-semite because he does not follow the agenda of the most conservative government in Israeli history (a government still having notable difficulty re-forming itself after elections more than five weeks ago)? Isn't Hagel really an ally/agent of the mullahs of Iran and the hermit dictators of North Korea? -- while massive real world issues went ignored.
Unfortunately, charges like these, the intellectual equivalent of tossing marbles down the hallway of an elementary school, prove all too distracting for the Zoe Barnes element of the media. Just as the cynics behind them knew they would be.
Deeper analysis told us that none of that stuff would matter in the end as far as the outcome was concerned.
Brand-new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, just sworn into office, addressed his new Pentagon subordinates, saying: "We must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests; and America must engage - not retreat - in the world, but engage wisely." Hagel cited his co-authorship, with former Virginia Senator and Navy Secretary Jim Webb, the most highly decorated Marine officer of the Vietnam War, of the post-9/11 GI Bill as one of his proudest accomplishments.
Still, much was lost. Not Hagel's nomination, of course. But something perhaps more important than that, important as the identity of the secretary of defense undoubtedly is. And that is time and space with which to consider what's going on.
Cyberattack leaves natural gas pipelines vulnerable to sabotage (27 February 2013)
Cyberspies linked to China's military targeted nearly two dozen US natural gas pipeline operators over a recent six-month period, stealing information that could be used to sabotage US gas pipelines, according to a restricted US government report and a source familiar with the government investigation.
From December 2011 through June 2012, cyberspies targeted 23 gas pipeline companies with e-mails crafted to deceive key personnel into clicking on malicious links or file attachments that let the attackers slip into company networks, says the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report.
The report does not mention China, but the digital signatures of the attacks have been identified by independent cybersecurity researchers as belonging to a particular espionage group recently linked to China's military.
The confluence of these factors -- along with the sensitive operational and technical details that were stolen -- make the cyberbreaches perhaps among the most serious so far, some experts say. The stolen information could give an adversary all the insider knowledge necessary to blow up not just a few compressor stations but perhaps many of them simultaneously, effectively holding the nation's gas infrastructure hostage. Nearly 30 percent of the nation's power grid now relies on natural gas generation.
BP investigators were never given oil well cement test results, samples by Halliburton (27 February 2013)
A BP team investigating the company's Macondo well blowout that led to the explosion and fire that sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010 never received the results of tests of a light cement used to plug the well from cement contractor Halliburton, a senior BP official leading the investigation said Wednesday. Mark Bly, BP's executive vice president for safety and operational risk, confirmed during testimony Wednesday afternoon that senior BP attorneys repeatedly demanded the test results and samples of the cement used on the rig from Halliburton, but that they were not made available to BP investigators before publication of the company's investigative report that bears Bly's name.
Despite the lack of those results, the report concluded that the cement mixture provided by Halliburton experienced a "nitrogen breakout" -- the release of nitrogen gas from the bubbles it was intended to create in the foamy cement to keep it light -- resulting in the cement having the incorrect density needed to block natural gas and oil from moving up inside the well casing to the surface, and eventually to the well, where it ignited and exploded.
Asked if BP and other investigative teams should have received those results, Bly said, "Yeah, I think people should share information that can help us learn about accidents."
Bly's testimony came on the third day of what is expected to be a three-month trial to determine the share of liability of BP and other companies involved in drilling the well, which eventually will be used to determine how much they will pay in fines for violating federal environmental laws and in damages for private plaintiffs.
Bly was called as a witness by the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, representing individuals and companies that sued BP and the other companies for damages.
PAM COMMENTARY: Great little graphic in this article.
Crude export ban no match for lightest U.S. shale oil (26 February 2013)
A glut of shale oil in fields from Texas to North Dakota is forcing producers to find ways around the U.S.'s three-decade-old ban on crude exports in order to seek higher prices in foreign markets.
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP is among companies setting up mini-refineries to process certain grades of crude just enough to qualify them as refined fuels, which are legal to export.
The industry's best hope is ultra-light oil, which is so abundant in shale rock that it has flooded the Gulf Coast and traded for a record discount to global benchmark Brent crude last quarter. Potential revenue for exports is $40 billion a year based on global prices, or about $9.7 billion more than what the same oil fetches in the U.S.
"It's going to get exported in one way, shape or form or another," said Ed Hirs, a professor of energy economics at the University of Houston who also runs a small production company in Texas. Producers will sell it abroad "as a product in its own right, or it's going to be exported as a finished good, having become diesel, plastic or fertilizer."
PAM COMMENTARY: Warning: The page at the end of the "live" link (a fuelfix.com page from the Houston Chronicle) refreshes every few seconds, apparently because of ads on the page. Click at your own annoyance.
Public pays little attention to federal spending cuts, poll shows (26 February 2013)
A majority of Americans think the automatic government spending cuts that are set to begin taking effect Friday will do more harm than good, a new poll indicates, but few say they are paying much attention to the issue, and most do not expect the cuts to have a major impact on their personal finances.
The relative lack of attention to the cuts, known as "the sequester," contrasts with the high amount of interest the public showed in the last round of the budget standoff between President Obama and congressional Republicans -- the year-end "fiscal cliff." Four in 10 Americans said in December that they were closely following news about the fiscal cliff, but only one-quarter say that about the current budget fight, according to surveys by the Pew Research Center.
In the latest Pew survey, conducted Thursday through Sunday for the Washington Post, 60% of Americans said they expected the government spending cuts to have a major impact on the economy, and, by 3 to 1, they said the impact would be mostly negative. But fewer than one-third said they expected to see a major impact on their personal finances. By contrast, 43% expected that the "fiscal cliff" would have a major impact on them personally.
The fiscal cliff would have included immediate tax increases on nearly all working Americans. By contrast, the automatic spending cuts will phase in over time, and their impact on most people will be relatively diffuse -- longer lines at airports, perhaps, or less maintenance at national parks. In the survey, Americans earning less than $30,000 were significantly more likely than others to say the cutbacks would affect them personally.
Beyond the personal impact, another factor in the lower level of interest now may be fatigue over the repeated rounds of budget battling in Washington.
Opening Pandora's Lunchbox: Processed foods are even scarier than you thought (26 February 2013)
You've heard of pink slime. You know trans fats are cardiovascular atrocities. You're well aware that store-bought orange juice is essentially a scam. But, no matter how great of a processed-food sleuth you are, chances are you've never set food inside a processing plant to see how many of these products are actually made.
Writer Melanie Warner, whose new exposé-on-the-world-of-processed-foods book, Pandora's Lunchbox, is out this week, spent the past year and a half doing exactly that. In her quest to explore the murky and convoluted world of soybean oil, milk protein concentrates (a key ingredient in processed cheese), and petroleum-based artificial dyes, she spoke to food scientists, uncovered disturbing regulatory loopholes in food law, and learned just how little we know about many of the food products on supermarket shelves.
After reading Pandora's Lunchbox, I sent Melanie some burning questions via email. Here is what she had to say:
Q. The term "processed food" is ubiquitous these days. The food industry has attempted to co-opt it by claiming canned beans, baby carrots, and frozen vegetables are "processed foods." Can you help explain why a Pop-Tart is years away from a "processed food" like hummus?
A. You have to ask yourself, could I make a Pop-Tart or Hot Pocket at home, with all those same ingredients listed on the package? How would you even go about procuring distilled monoglycerides and BHT, for instance?
Hobbyists finding there's no place like drone (26 February 2013)
On a recent blustery morning in an Oceanfront parking lot, Hutton Strader, a Beach resident, placed a 2-pound drone he'd purchased online on the pavement. The drone resembled a small hovercraft, with four rotary blades.
Strader stood several feet away. Using a remote control, he piloted the drone into the air. It hummed high above his head.
On less windy days, he has sent it hundreds of feet skyward and captured footage of the resort shoreline and rows of homes lining the beach. He's posted flight videos online.
Strader, a mechanical engineer, is fascinated with tech toys and has fiddled with other remote control devices, including boats. The drone is his new favorite gadget.
Increasingly, the devices are meeting with regulations.
Billionaires for Austerity: With Cuts Looming, Wall Street Roots of "Fix the Debt" Campaign Exposed (26 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, joining us now are two guests who have uncovered how billionaire investors such as Pete Peterson have helped reshape the national debate on economy, the debt and social spending. Between 2007 and 2011, Peterson personally contributed nearly $500 million to his Peter G. Peterson Foundation to push for Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Peterson served as secretary of commerce under Richard Nixon and went on to serve as chair and CEO of Lehman Brothers. He co-founded the private equity firm The Blackstone Group.
Joining us from Madison, Wisconsin, is John Nichols, The Nation magazine's political correspondent. His latest piece is "The Austerity Agenda: An Electoral Loser." It's part of a major exposé based on a new website called "Pete Peterson Pyramid." Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy is editor of the site, which links billionaires like Peterson to the Campaign to Fix the Debt.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! John Nichols, why don't you lay out who Pete Peterson is and how he fits into this picture of sequester that we look like we're about to see by the end of the week?
JOHN NICHOLS: Sure. Pete Peterson is an old-school moderate Republican. He's not some sort of hard-line conservative. He's a very expensive suit, private jet, mineral water kind of guy. And he has been obsessed, for a number of years, with restructuring the U.S. economy, and particularly restructuring U.S. fiscal policy. This is an important thing to understand. Pete Peterson and the people around him do not want--or aren't, I would suggest, particularly interested in fixing the debt or dealing with deficits. What they're really interested in is taking advantage of a moment when the United States is looking at these issues to establish a very different approach to a host of issues. And at the core of this is changing the way that we look at retirement in this country, definitely undermining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, changing those earned benefit programs into something very different than what they've been and something far less reliable, but also making an awfully lot of other cuts in programs that serve the great mass of Americans, while at the same time continuing and even advancing the tax breaks for billionaires and corporations that have helped to make Pete Peterson a very, very wealthy man.
He sold this idea to around 125 other CEOs and very wealthy people. They've all chipped in a whole bunch of money, millions and millions, perhaps as much as $60 million for the current campaign, to this "Fix the Debt" group. And this Fix the Debt group is the primary proponent in the United States today of austerity. They want to, quote-unquote, "cut our way to progress," as President Obama suggested, but in reality, it's cutting the way toward progress for them and cutting the way toward a real hard hit for the average working American and potentially a slowing of the economy that begins with the sequester but does not end there.
"Makers: Women Who Make America": New Film Chronicles Past 50 Years of Feminist Movement (26 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: So tell us about this project.
BETSY WEST: Well, this project has been eight years in the making. When my partner, Dylan McGee, came to me, she had already been working on it for about a year. She had gone to Gloria Steinem and said, "Hey, I want to do a story about your life, a documentary about your life." And Gloria said, "Look, nobody has really done anything on the movement. Somebody needs to do the story of the women's movement." So, Dylan set about looking into that. She came to me a year later. And I was kind of stunned that the story hadn't been done, but in a way I was also happy, because it was an amazing opportunity.
AMY GOODMAN: The stories that are told in this, talk about--share some of them.
BETSY WEST: Well, you know, we really look at the whole--the movement, some of the well-known people, like Gloria Steinem, who of course was a major figure in the women's movement, and some of the unknown stories. The coal miner, who was one of the first coal miners, and then she was subjected to sexual harassment by her boss, so she took her boss to court and fought a 13-year battle and won. The telephone operator, who in the '60s just--she was a switchboard operator, and she wanted to make a little more money, and so she tried to work on the equipment. And, of course, the argument was, oh, no, you know, women couldn't do that because couldn't carry that heavy equipment, you know, could be as heavy as 30 pounds, when, of course, any woman who's ever carried a baby could carry 30 pounds. So she fought a legal battle with the help of NOW. So, it's a range of stories.
We open--maybe this is the one you're thinking about--we open with an amazing story of a woman who really wasn't an avowed feminist. She was a runner, and she was a junior at Syracuse University.
Rarely Seen Film "King: A Filmed Record" Traces MLK's Struggle from Montgomery to Memphis (25 February 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: This week marks the final week of Black History Month, and this year, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of a pivotal year in America's civil rights movement. On August 28th, 1963, an estimated quarter of a million people joined the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
Well, today we spend the hour featuring an historic look at the movement that led up to that March on Washington. We air major excerpts of the rarely seen 1970 documentary King: A Filmed Record...From Montgomery to Memphis. The film was directed by Sidney Lumet and produced by Ely Landau, largely made from original newsreel footage. The film was played at a one-time-only event March 24th, 1970, in theaters across the country. The film was nominated for an Academy Award and is listed in the National Film Registry. But ever since 1970, the documentary has been rarely seen--until now, as the distributors of the film have given us permission to share it with you. The film has just been released as a two-DVD set by Kino Lorber.
It begins December 1955 with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a full church in Montgomery, Alabama. It was just days after Rosa Parks was arrested. The African community--the African-American community in Montgomery had gathered to decide whether to begin what became the famous Montgomery bus boycott.
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: It has been moved and seconded that the resolution that was read will be received and adopted. Are you ready for the question? All in favor, let it be known by standing on your feet.
Bradley Manning court to rule on claims of 'shameful' delay in trial (26 February 2013)
The military court that is handling the prosecution of the WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning is likely to rule this week on whether the drawn-out nature of his court martial is in breach of his rights to a prompt trial.
The latest Bradley Manning pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland that starts on Tuesday will focus on a "speedy trial" motion brought by the defence. It argues that the legal build-up to his eventual court martial has been so agonisingly slow that the defendant's basic rights have been violated.
Last weekend, Manning, who was arrested in May 2010 at the US army base outside Baghdad where he was working as an intelligence analyst, entered his 1,000th day in detention without trial. The moment was marked by scores of demonstrations around the world.
Military personnel are afforded similar protection against excessive delays before trial as are civilians. Under Article 10 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the US government is required to use "reasonable diligence" in proceeding to trial for anyone held in pre-trial confinement.
But in legal argument to the court prepared by Manning's main lawyer, David Coombs, the government is accused of deliberately dragging its feet.
Supreme Court says plaintiffs cannot sue over eavesdropping law (26 February 2013)
(Reuters) - U.S.-based journalists, lawyers and human rights groups cannot challenge a federal law that allows surveillance of some international communications, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in a case touching on government efforts to fight terrorism.
Split 5-4 on ideological lines, with conservatives backing the government and the liberal wing in the minority, the country's highest court said none of the three categories, including human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have legal standing to sue because they could not show they had suffered any injury.
The law in question was the 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that authorized mass surveillance by the U.S. government, without identifying specific targets, for the purpose of monitoring foreigners outside the country and gathering intelligence.
President George W. Bush authorized warrantless wiretaps after the September 11, 2001, attacks to find people with ties to the al Qaeda network and other groups. He ended that program in 2007, but Congress the next year reinstated parts of it.
The Obama administration argued that the challengers did not have standing, a position the court's majority endorsed.
Craigslist Killings trial: Shooting survivor testifies (26 February 2013)
AKRON -- Scott Davis stepped away from the witness stand and eyed Richard Beasley.
Davis needed a better view of Beasley, the man accused of killing three men and trying to murder him in what are known as the Craigstlist killings.
Seated in a wheelchair on the second day of his trial Tuesday in Summit County Common Pleas Court, Beasley was turned to the side and did not look at his accuser. Davis, standing feet away from the defendant, said he had no doubt. His voice was strong, steady.
"That's him right there," the Stark County native said.
Beasley, who faces nine aggravated murder counts and other charges in a 27-count indictment, could face the death penalty if convicted.
Prosecutors say in 2011 he shot and killed Timothy J. Kern, 47, of Jackson Township, David M. Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va. and Ralph H. Geiger, 56, of Akron. Beasley is also accused of robbing some of the men.
Republican congressman: Dick Cheney is going to hell for the Iraq war (26 February 2013)
Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina said Saturday that former Vice President Dick Cheney would likely end up in hell because of his role in the Iraq war.
At a Young Americans for Liberty conference, Jones said it was impossible under current law to prosecute a president for intentionally manipulating intelligence reports to make the case for war. He explained he co-authored a bill to change the law, but the legislation was killed in committee by his Republican colleague Lamar Smith of Texas.
"I have no malice towards Lamar, I have respect for him," Jones remarked. "But that again is the problem. Congress will not hold anyone to blame. Lyndon Johnson's probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney."
Jones initially voted in favor of the Iraq war in 2002. He infamous called for "French fries" to be renamed "freedom fries" after France refused to support the U.S. invasion of the country.
The conservative Christian turned against the war after witnessing American causalities and once it became clear Iraq was not building any weapons of mass destruction.
PAM COMMENTARY: Although it's impressive that Jones is finally admitting his mistake (or stupidity / complicity, depending on your own opinion), I might have a different opinion of where Dick Cheney's going, but in the worst possible way...
For those who do remote viewing or similar psychic techniques, and haven't signed a document forbidding you to use it on US citizens... Try Lyn Buchanan's method of following people into their afterlives. Now, I'm just a learner, not a "remote viewing professional" or expert, but as a learning experience I've tried it. First, follow people you know -- relatives, friends, even soldiers who have personally killed people in battle. What I've found (and I've since learned Edgar Cayce claimed happened decades earlier in some of his psychic readings), even with soldiers, is that people meet up with their dead relatives ("soul groups" is the term Cayce used) and visit for a while, then move onto wherever they're going -- reincarnation and whatnot, the next learning adventure for their group. With soldiers, the blame for killing seemed to shift more toward the people who caused them to be there -- the people responsible for the overall situation of war.
OK, after following "normal" people, try George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. Do they even have afterlives? Be honest with what you observed now, don't make assumptions. There is a very rare situation where some people don't, according to Edgar Cayce's old readings. He claimed that in the afterlife, some people go to a distant planet where their souls are basically dissembled.
The exact term that popped into my head when I was exploring them was "Will not be allowed to continue." After probing it a little more, I sensed that it was for the protection of other souls -- apparently people have certain powers in the spiritual world, and some have already proven that they're fine with abusing them to harm others. Oddly, I was "warned off" of probing the justice system on "the other side" too much, but to me it seemed to be somewhat authoritarian, with peoples' victims having a say. It's seemingly a lot like our own, but facts are already known to all and don't need to be proven -- people can try to make a case like a lawyer in closing arguments, but everyone already knows exactly what happened.
With Dick Cheney and company, that's one hell of a lot of victims having a say in what happens to them.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn sues over new book: 'I've had enough of people using me' (26 February 2013)
PARIS--Dominique Strauss-Kahn says he's sick of people trying to exploit his private life to make money.
The former International Monetary Fund chief filed a lawsuit over a new book by a woman describing a sexual relationship with him last year. Strauss-Kahn met with a Paris judge on Tuesday about the book by Marcela Iacub, called "Beauty and the Beast."
The judge is expected to rule on the complaint later Tuesday.
After the meeting, Strauss-Kahn said he was "horrified" by the book. "I've had enough of people using me. I want one thing only, to be left in peace."
PAM COMMENTARY: Oh, really? Well, I have a story about him (or someone who looked a lot like him, with a French accent) from the Los Angeles, California metro area in early 1992, weeks or months before the Rodney King riots. I was on the way to an interview at a technical agency, I think in or near West Hollywood, possibly north of Pico Boulevard in a residential area with free parking. That interview would lead to a temp job at Trust Company of the West, then in a skyscraper in downtown L.A., a much-needed job in the Bush-1/Reagan deep recession of 1991-92.
As I was sitting in the car with my window down, checking my suit, hair, and makeup, an older man with a mix of white and black (mostly white) hair walked up to my car and pinched my breast through my thick suit. He said that he was just checking to be sure that it was "real."
I wasn't sure what to do -- I'd just been assaulted, but if I missed the appointment, then I probably wouldn't get that or any other job from the agency. Almost nobody had cell phones back then, and so calling the cops would have been a long ordeal -- it would have required leaving the area to find a phone, during which time the man would disappear. (I had my first cell phone the following year in '93, but it was quite an expense in those days with sometimes $300 worth of roaming fees in a month, and the occasional criminal cloning it which would cause the carrier to shut it down. But it was one of the first smaller and "more affordable" Motorola models.)
So, with my mouth hanging open from shock and disgust, I told him that yes it was real, with a strange look on my face that I'm sure indicated I thought he was a pervert and I might call the cops on him.
I remember the old lech to this day. He looked almost exactly like DSK, with mostly white hair and dark eyebrows -- although he had more hair back then in a sort of straight white comb-over. He went away after a few seconds of chit-chat, and I decided to go to the interview and leave the old man to be arrested for something else.
I noticed that he had a French accent, too. One of my grandfathers was originally from Quebec, as were his French-Canadian siblings. I knew the sound.
Synthetic pot widely available amid legal grey area (26 February 2013)
The sale of herbal incense that may give a high similar to marijuana remains in a regulatory void in Canada, despite a crackdown on similar substances south of the border.
A CBC News investigation has found that the product is available to buy in stores from St. John's to Vancouver.
Packages of the herbal incense contain explicit health warnings that it is not for human consumption.
But undercover CBC reporters found stores where staff suggested it is meant to be smoked.
Herbal incense is sold in foil packages at prices ranging from roughly $12 and $16 a gram.
In Newport News shipyard, looming budget cuts create anxiety and anger (25 February 2013)
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- As President Obama returned from a Florida golfing trip and Congress was on a Presidents' Day break last week, Tommy Bassett, a nuclear machinist, was applying for a backup job at Lowe's.
The carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was supposed to arrive at the massive shipyard here on Valentine's Day for a multibillion-dollar overhaul that would take years and provide Bassett and some of the other 21,000 shipyard employees with steady work. But the budget deadlock in Washington prompted the Navy to delay the project. For how long, no one seems to know. Whether layoffs are coming -- no one seems to know that, either.
Bassett is too anxious to wait to find out. His wife is having their first child in April, and she had to stop working for medical reasons. "If the budget doesn't come in, they don't have money for us," Bassett said. "I haven't told her yet . . . I didn't want her to worry."
It's just a three-hour drive from Washington to this industrial city on the James River -- where President Obama plans to appear Tuesday in his latest effort to get House Republicans to renegotiate across-the-board cuts set to begin Friday -- but the distance between the politics of the nation's capital and their consequences here is profound.
Oil spill trial begins for BP, Transocean, other companies: Blame game marks the first day (25 February 2013)
Opening day at the long-awaited civil trial against BP and its partners in the ill-fated Macondo oil well at times sounded like a group of youngsters blaming everyone but themselves for a bad deed. That's not an unexpected beginning in the first phase of a federal trial aimed at determining each of the companies' financial liability for the accident.
The trial at the federal courthouse in New Orleans began Monday morning with opening arguments by Plaintiff Steering Committee attorneys, representing private parties who sued BP and its partners for damages; the U.S. Justice Department; and the states of Louisiana and Alabama, whose attorneys outlined their views of how the accident occurred and whether BP or any of its partners were guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct, which could result in an eventual four-fold increase in fines under the Clean Water Act and the awarding of punitive damages for the private plaintiffs.
The case is being heard without a jury by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. Barbier is allowing the trial testimony, audio feed and electronic exhibit images to be simulcast in a separate courtroom to accommodate an overflow of lawyers, reporters and the public.
The federal, state and private party attorneys took aim at BP, which owned the drilling lease for the Macondo well; Transocean, which owned and staffed the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig; and Halliburton, which provided an unusual, lightweight cement that was used to block the flow of oil in the well.
U.S. dairy industry petitions FDA to approve aspartame as hidden, unlabeled additive in milk, yogurt, eggnog and cream (25 February 2013)
(NaturalNews) You probably already know that the FDA has declared war on raw milk and even helped fund and coordinate armed government raids against raw milk farmers and distributors. Yes, it's insane. This brand of tyranny is unique to the USA and isn't even conducted in China, North Kora or Cuba. Only in the USA are raw milk farmers treated like terrorists.
But now the situation is getting even more insane than you could have imagined: the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have filed a petition with the FDA asking the FDA to alter the definition of "milk" to secretly include chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose.
Importantly, none of these additives need to be listed on the label. They will simply be swept under the definition of "milk," so that when a company lists "milk" on the label, it automatically includes aspartame or sucralose. And if you're trying to avoid aspartame, you'll have no way of doing so because it won't be listed on the label.
This isn't only for milk, either: It's also for yogurt, cream, sour cream, eggnog, whipping cream and a total of 17 products, all of which are listed in the petition at FDA.gov.
Think twice before eating that ham sandwich or triple meat pizza! Toxins in processed meat cause serious food-borne illnesses (24 February 2013)
(NaturalNews) Unless you eat organic foods and prepare them at home, you've probably purchased packaged, processed meats at some time. Non-organic versions contain added preservatives, chemicals and GMOs; and, many harbor bacterial toxins that harm the body. Even their organic counterparts may be similarly contaminated during processing. Most processed meats are treated to stop the growth of molds and to prevent spoilage. Those that have not been chemically treated, such as organic meats, are still potential breeding grounds for unwelcome micro-organisms.
Fresh meat contains one ingredient, meat. Processed meats contain numerous ingredients, and not all are meat. Additives prolong shelf life, enhance flavors, stabilize colors, and inhibit bacterial growth.
Processed meats include sliced deli meats, sausage, jerky, pepperoni, bacon, lunch meats, hot dogs, and meats used on pizzas, in canned foods, and in packaged products.
Salmonella bacteria is common in processed meats. Organic meats are no exception. Consuming salmonella-contaminated foods can produce illness in the form of fever, vomiting, chills and severe diarrhea -- leading to dehydration and death in sensitive individuals. The primary form of transmission is through contaminated hands spreading bacteria during packaging. Washing hands thoroughly and sterilizing cooking surfaces and utensils help prevent contamination. Onset of salmonella poisoning is generally experienced 12 to 36 hours after consumption of contaminated meats.
The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food (20 February 2013)
On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America's largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.'s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called "stomach share" -- the amount of digestive space that any one company's brand can grab from the competition.
James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury, greeted the men as they arrived. He was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the C.E.O.'s on America's growing weight problem. "We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue," Behnke recalled. "People were starting to talk about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food companies." Getting the company chiefs in the same room to talk about anything, much less a sensitive issue like this, was a tricky business, so Behnke and his fellow organizers had scripted the meeting carefully, honing the message to its barest essentials. "C.E.O.'s in the food industry are typically not technical guys, and they're uncomfortable going to meetings where technical people talk in technical terms about technical things," Behnke said. "They don't want to be embarrassed. They don't want to make commitments. They want to maintain their aloofness and autonomy."
A chemist by training with a doctoral degree in food science, Behnke became Pillsbury's chief technical officer in 1979 and was instrumental in creating a long line of hit products, including microwaveable popcorn. He deeply admired Pillsbury but in recent years had grown troubled by pictures of obese children suffering from diabetes and the earliest signs of hypertension and heart disease. In the months leading up to the C.E.O. meeting, he was engaged in conversation with a group of food-science experts who were painting an increasingly grim picture of the public's ability to cope with the industry's formulations -- from the body's fragile controls on overeating to the hidden power of some processed foods to make people feel hungrier still. It was time, he and a handful of others felt, to warn the C.E.O.'s that their companies may have gone too far in creating and marketing products that posed the greatest health concerns.
The discussion took place in Pillsbury's auditorium. The first speaker was a vice president of Kraft named Michael Mudd. "I very much appreciate this opportunity to talk to you about childhood obesity and the growing challenge it presents for us all," Mudd began. "Let me say right at the start, this is not an easy subject. There are no easy answers -- for what the public health community must do to bring this problem under control or for what the industry should do as others seek to hold it accountable for what has happened. But this much is clear: For those of us who've looked hard at this issue, whether they're public health professionals or staff specialists in your own companies, we feel sure that the one thing we shouldn't do is nothing."
Monsanto drags over 400 U.S. farmers to court over GM seed patents (24 February 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Agri-giant Monsanto, not satisfied with being one of the world's largest agricultural corporations, is dragging hundreds of U.S. farmers into court over alleged copyright violations for repeated usage of the company's patented seeds.
In a case that has surprised a lot of observers, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear one of these complaints on Feb. 19. That case, Bowman v. Monsanto Co., was billed as a landmark battle pitting farmer Vernon Bowman against the international Ag-giant over the former's repeated use of seeds he bought from Monsanto which the company says are only supposed to be used for one growing season.
In advance of the case, The Huffington Post reported, the Center for Food Safety and the Save Our Seeds campaigning organizations released a report detailing similar cases.
Price of seeds have skyrocketed
According to that report titled "Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers," which readers can view here, Monsanto alleges seed patent infringement in 144 lawsuits against 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 states, as of January of this year.
U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments over Maryland DNA case (24 February 2013)
In a Maryland case that's garnered the attention of the other 49 states, the federal Department of Justice and the national science community, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over whether to restrict police in collecting DNA to solve crimes.
The justices will rule on a police practice common in Maryland: taking genetic information from individuals arrested -- but not convicted -- to link them to unsolved crimes. In the past, the court has acknowledged the power of DNA but has not allowed it to run afoul of fundamental American rights such as the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.
At the center of the case is a Salisbury man, Alonzo Jay King. Police took his DNA when he was arrested in 2009 on assault charges and linked him to the 2003 rape of a Wicomico County woman at gunpoint. King appealed his rape conviction, challenging the key DNA evidence.
The Baltimore-based Office of the Public Defender, which represents King, contends that taking DNA from a person before he or she is convicted of a crime tramples on the constitutional promise to be protected from warrantless searches. Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler argues that, once arrested for a crime, an individual is not entitled to the same expectation of privacy.
Report: Calif. parolees disarming tracking devices (24 February 2013)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Thousands of California parolees, many of them sex offenders, are removing court-ordered GPS monitors, often with little risk of serving time because state prisons are too full to hold them, according to an investigation.
More than 3,400 arrest warrants for convicts who tampered with tracking devices have been issued since October 2011, when the state began referring parole violators to county jails instead of returning them to its overflowing prisons, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/13Dq2Il ).
Nearly all of the warrants were for sex offenders, who are the vast majority of parolees with GPS monitors, and many were for repeat violations, the newspaper said.
"It's a huge problem," Fresno parole agent Matt Hill told the Times. "If the public knew, they'd be shocked."
US plan to control Guam's snake population with toxic mice angers PETA (24 February 2013)
Animal rights activists have dismissed as "absurd" and "cruel" the American government's plans to bombard Guam from the air with toxic dead mice in a bid to curtail the spread of invasive snakes.
The US air drop over the the Pacific island is due to commence in the spring, and is aimed at addressing the problems caused by non-native brown tree snakes. Having hitched a ride to the island some 60 years ago on military ships, the colony of reptiles have been deemed responsible for killing off native bird species, biting human inhabitants and knocking out electricity by slithering onto power lines.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii -- some 3,000 miles away -- environmentalists fear a similar invasion from the snakes, possibly through unwitting transportation in aircraft that have spent time on Guam.
But the US Department of Agriculture's plans to reduce the number of brown tree snakes in Guam -- population estimates reach up to 2m -- have been attacked by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).
Analysis: The near impossible battle against hackers everywhere (24 February 2013)
(Reuters) - Dire warnings from Washington about a "cyber Pearl Harbor" envision a single surprise strike from a formidable enemy that could destroy power plants nationwide, disable the financial system or cripple the U.S. government.
But those on the front lines say it isn't all about protecting U.S. government and corporate networks from a single sudden attack. They report fending off many intrusions at once from perhaps dozens of countries, plus well-funded electronic guerrillas and skilled criminals.
Security officers and their consultants say they are overwhelmed. The attacks are not only from China, which Washington has long accused of spying on U.S. companies, many emanate from Russia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Western countries. Perpetrators range from elite military units to organized criminal rings to activist teenagers.
"They outspend us and they outman us in almost every way," said Dell Inc's chief security officer, John McClurg. "I don't recall, in my adult life, a more challenging time."
Study: Mental illness just as likely in drone pilots (24 February 2013)
In the first study of its kind, researchers with the Defense Department have found that pilots of drone aircraft experience mental health problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder at the same rate as pilots of manned aircraft deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
The study affirms a growing body of research finding health hazards even for those piloting machines from bases far from combat zones.
"Though it might be thousands of miles from the battlefield, this work still involves tough stressors and has tough consequences for those crews," said Peter W. Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively about drones. He was not involved in the new research.
That study, by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, did not try to explain the sources of mental health problems among drone pilots. But Air Force officials and independent experts have suggested several potential causes, among them witnessing combat violence on live video feeds, working in isolation or under inflexible shift hours, juggling the simultaneous demands of home life with combat operations and dealing with intense stress because of crew shortages.
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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