Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 3rd to 9th of March 2013
Where is America's Hugo Chavez? Who Will Stand Up Against the Military-Oil-Banker Mafia? (9 March 2013) [Rense.com]
Two events coincided this week that illustrate the crisis of political economy in the capitalist West--the premature and intensely sad death of Hugo Chavez and the trite idiocy symbolizing the class warfare declared by the rich against the rest of us as the Dow Jones stock index reached its highest point ever. Where Mr. Chavez dedicated (and likely gave) his life to improving the lot of Venezuela's and the regional South's poor and building the infrastructure of real economic and political democracy, America's 'liberal' President Barack Obama claimed the right of extra-judicial assassination of the citizenry at his whim while 'sequestering' the economic interests of poor and working Americans to bolster the already substantial fortunes of the pirate financiers and industrialists he serves. To the political 'left' that voted for Mr. Obama, the contrast is there if you care to see it.
Lest there be confusion around the matter, the richest 1% of Americans own 40% of financial assets and the richest 10% own 80%. The soaring stock market symbolizes the ascendancy of a tiny economic elite with all social resources dedicated to consolidating its power. Remove financial and oil company profits, two industries existing on government transfer payments, tax breaks, business guarantees and occasional wars, all at public expense, along with the nearly $3 trillion in Federal Reserve asset purchases designed to boost the value of wealth 'owned' overwhelmingly by America's plutocracy, and the stock market would be trolling the lower depths of hell. Through their mouthpieces in the capitalist media the wealthy put forward their wealth as fact of nature when it is anything but. As Mr. Chavez was able to demonstrate, from whence it came to where it goes, social wealth can be made to once again serve its social purpose.
A thought unlikely to occur to most Americans is the profoundly anti-democratic sidestep around habeas corpus that Mr. Obama's claim to the right of extra-judicial murder of citizens implies ties directly to his economic policies. At a time when the U.S. uses murder robots around the globe to slaughter people charged with no crime, launches 'pre-emptive' wars of aggression, incarcerates millions of overwhelmingly people of color in for-profit prisons and returns immigrants to countries U.S. trade policies have rendered economically dysfunctional, the economic and political elite here enjoys near complete immunity from prosecution for any of a large number of war, political and economic crimes. As the informed left might have it, the concentration of wealth so facilitated by Mr. Obama's economic policies ties directly to the concentration of political power amongst America's plutocracy. While Republican voter suppression efforts appear directly anti-democratic, Mr. Obama's policies to revive the fortunes of the rich while leaving everyone else to rot renders voting irrelevant to the formation of public policy through the relation of economic to political power.
Although circumstances between Mr. Chavez's Venezuela and the U.S. differ, Mr. Chavez took his (their) fight to the people of Venezuela and he repeatedly and consistently won majorities of the vote in free and fair elections. The received wisdom in the U.S., a pathetic lie no doubt, is that deference to the wishes of the plutocrats is the prerequisite to fighting in the interests of 'the people.' The rank oblivion evidenced in the passions of purportedly thoughtful people in favor of Mr. Obama ('New' Democrats--Mr. Obama is but a placeholder) in the recent election supports this capitulation in the quasi-religious hope that if we give the plutocrats everything they ask for they might be nice to us in return.
What is in fact taking place is economic pillage with the full cooperation and facilitation of Mr. Obama and his administration. From banker bailouts to stolen homes, incarceration for profit, student loan penury, wars for oil, profit extracting sick-care and social insurance cuts, class war was launched and is being fought from above. And the non-conflictual economic theories of classical and neo-liberals have rendered cooperation the mechanism of self-subjugation. Against far greater odds Hugo Chavez fought back the forces of global capital, plutocracy and their servants in the oil mafia (CIA) to improve the lot of Venezuela's poor. What he showed is the straightest path to achieving social justice is to fight for it.
Billboards Encourage Texans to Spy on Each Other (9 March 2013) [InfoWars.com]
All over the country, the Amber Alert system is being used to tell citizens to spy on each other. This is all part of the Homeland Security Orwellian takeover.
PAM COMMENTARY: What, the signs are just starting in Texas now? For the past decade, New Yorkers have had to put up with subway announcements and signs advising them "If you see something, say something."
The big joke is, say something to WHO? The same NYPD cops who refuse to take police reports on women being groped and raped in the city? Are those the guys who'll supposedly give a crap if you "see something"?
Organic Consumer's Association Political Director arrested outside White House over GMO labeling (9 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) Alexis Badden Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association was arrested March 2 outside the White House, when she attempted to deliver a DVD petition including over 200,000 names. The petition asked Michelle Obama to ask her husband to fulfill a campaign promise to label GMO food products. You can watch the arrest here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZBL-SBcaR8
Every human's right to know
Every citizen has a right to know about the food they are eating. Under current regulations, this right is silenced by laws that allow corporations like Monsanto to lie about where food comes from and hide the fact that it is genetically engineered. The quantity and variety of genetically modified foods hitting store shelves is growing, without proper human health testing and without proper labeling. How many people would buy a product if they read that the food was genetically manipulated? More people would become aware. More people would begin to cry out for real, organic foods again. The empire of processed, genetically modified foods must be taken down.
To reach policymakers in Washington, and demand the right to know where food comes from, send comments here: http://justlabelit.org/take-action/
GMOs cause infertility
Russian scientists from the National Association for Gene Security and the Institute of Ecological and Evolution discovered that animals fed GMOs as part of their normal diet eventually developed the inability to reproduce. Using hamsters as the test subjects, scientists observed that GMO soybeans slowed the hamster's sexual maturity and gradually eliminated their ability to reproduce. After several generations, these hamsters eventually lost their innate ability to reproduce altogether. This means genetically modified organisms are a crime to humanity. If they cause infertility in animals, they are contributing to the infertility epidemic in the world today.
Ewart: Pipelines proving to be industry's Achilles heel (9 March 2013)
Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Foundation, is among those who question why the ERCB and Alberta Energy need four to five months to evaluate and analyze the report that Calgary-based Group 10 Engineering completed in about two months.
"I feel this third party (Group 10) has come up with some serious problems with all these pipelines they've seen in these river systems," said Bester, who farms in central Alberta, near where 475,000 litres of sour crude oil spilled into the Red Deer River system last June after Plains Midstream had a pipeline break. "We're suspicious they are rewriting the third-party report."
To be clear, when the ERCB announced last September that it had retained Group 10, after Hughes called for an "independent" review of the pipeline system, the regulator said it would deliver its own report, including any recommendations, to Hughes by March 31.
Bester is hardly alone in wanting information sooner.
When the ERCB last month released reports into two 2011 pipeline spills, NDP MLA Rachel Notley urged the government "to make their internal report on pipeline integrity public immediately." She also wants the auditor general to review the integrity of Alberta's pipelines.
Why cooking with a microwave destroys cancer-fighting nutrients in food and promotes nutritional deficiencies (8 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) Microwaves absolutely decimate the nutritional value of your food, destroying the very vitamins and phytonutrients that prevent disease and support good health. Previous studies have shown that as much as 98% of the cancer-fighting nutrients in broccoli, for example, are destroyed by microwaving.
To understand why, you have to understand the nature of vitamins and phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients). These are very delicate molecules which are fragile. They are easily destroyed by heat, which is why raw plant foods contain more plant nutrients than cooked foods. Carotenoids, antioxidants and other molecules like DIM (in broccoli) or anthocyanins (in purple corn) are all easily destroyed by microwave energy.
Microwaves "nuke" your food at a cellular level
Microwaving is the worst way to cook foods because microwaves excite the water molecules inside whatever you're cooking, causing heat to be formed from the inside out. This results in a cell-by-cell "nuking" of the food (such as broccoli, carrots, etc.), causing the near-total molecular decomposition of the vitamins and phytonutrients that promote disease.
Microwaved food is not merely "dead" food at every level, it is food that has been molecularly deconstructed, leaving nothing but empty calories, fiber and minerals. Virtually the entire vitamin and phytonutrient content has been destroyed.
4-year probe of River Birch winds up exposing problems in Department of Justice (9 March 2013)
Federal authorities in New Orleans spent perhaps four years -- not to mention millions of dollars and man-hours -- trying to land a harpoon in the side of River Birch landfill owner Fred Heebe. But the white whale won out Friday, when prosecutors threw in the towel, tossing out the indictments of a top River Birch lieutenant and his brother-in-law, and saying they don't intend to charge Heebe.
The local U.S. attorney's office, meanwhile, is still reeling from the damage it suffered as a result of taking on perhaps the wealthiest would-be defendant ever in its sights. Though he was never charged, Heebe went on the offensive, and he hit pay dirt, unearthing evidence that two of then-U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's top prosecutors were making inappropriate comments online using aliases. The resulting scandal ended the careers of both prosecutors, and ultimately was the undoing of Letten, until then the nation's longest-tenured U.S. attorney.
The abrupt end to the case shocked legal observers. The Washington team that took over the probe after last year's commenting scandal had been aggressively litigating the case, and the sudden capitulation led to speculation that there could be still more unflattering revelations about the U.S. attorney's office on the way.
Bennett Gershman, a Pace University professor and an expert on prosecutorial misconduct, called the government's surrender "startling," saying he couldn't remember a case in which a probe's target had been given assurances he wouldn't be charged.
"I'd have to guess there's more to this than we've seen in terms of irregular conduct by the people on the government's side," Gershman said. "There's got to be something that would embarrass the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney's office if the case were to continue and go to trial."
Radiation fears split families, take mental toll, 2 years after Japan's nuclear crisis (8 March 2013)
To escape this lonely weekday existence, the 42-year-old Ishitani drives three hours up winding roads every weekend to see his family, which has moved away because of fears that radiation could harm the children.
"If it really is safe, I want them to come back," says Ishitani, a stocky man with a small beard on the tip of his chin. "But it's hard to know. Different people say different things, and that adds to my stress. I don't know whom to trust."
Just as with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, mental distress could be one of the biggest health issues to emerge from this disaster, experts say. While attention has focused on the potential cancer risks, they remain unclear. What is clear is that the uncertainty and the upheaval it's caused in people's lives is already exacting a very real and pervasive psychological toll.
"It's one of the biggest problems," said Seiji Yasumura, a professor of public health at Fukushima Medical University.
The (billion-dollar) cost of droughts (8 March 2013)
Droughts are an underestimated natural hazard, warns a Munich-based insurance company. In a paper released on Thursday, Munich RE said data indicates that droughts develop gradually, often creeping up unnoticed until they trigger a famine.
"Droughts can cause crop failures costing billions, severe bushfires as well as economic losses by restricting shipping or the generation of electricity," said the paper.
There were around 10 loss-producing droughts in the world each year in the early 80s but the number has been twice as high in recent years.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expects "heatwaves and droughts to increase in many regions of the world over the coming decades, in the course of which droughts will become one of the most destructive natural catastrophes," said Prof. Peter Höppe, head of Geo Risks Research at Munich Re.
Unemployment rate: How many Americans are really unemployed? (9 March 2013)
2. Broad measure of unemployment: down slightly in February to 14.3 percent
This is the main "alternative" measure of unemployment watched by job-market pundits. Actually, it's called the "U-6" unemployment rate, because the Labor Department offers six different ways to view the nation's jobless rate. Most of the time, you'll hear about the official jobless rate (which happens to be "U-3") that we've already looked at in this article.
The broadest measure, U-6, is useful to keep an eye on. It adds up those traditionally labeled as unemployed, plus persons "marginally attached" to the labor force, plus all the people working part time when they'd rather have a fuller schedule. Then it divides that big total by the civilian labor force (adding in the "marginally attached" people to this side of the equation as well).
Who are the marginally attached? These are people who want a job but haven't looked recently (thus falling out of the official labor force), often because they became too discouraged to keep searching.
With this wider definition of unemployed, the U-6 jobless rate stood at 17.0 percent in November of 2010.
Special Report: Downfall of the world's oldest bank (9 March 2013)
The existence of internal emails questioning Baldassarri's trades is backed up by interviews with two further sources and reinforced by bank documents, including letters from internal auditors, reviewed by Reuters. One confidential letter was addressed to Vigni at the end of June 2009 and alleged Baldassarri and his team made deals outside market prices and used an array of small, obscure brokers as counterparts. The letter, the existence and content of which were confirmed by two senior sources, prompted an inspection by the bank's internal audit committee, which uncovered "systematic overshooting of risk limits."
Discussions within the bank over the issues raised went on for nearly two years; but little changed.
The high-level source said the former finance chief could be combative with critics and tended to get his way.
In a judicial document confirming Baldassarri's arrest and reviewed by Reuters, Vigni, the former director general, was quoted as telling magistrates: "I have always trusted Baldassarri blindly."
However, according to the document, Baldassarri said that Vigni knew what was happening at the bank.
"He was a competent person and was able to manage the bank ... He was able to realize the scale of the financial commitment for the bank stemming from the purchase of financial products, including structured trades," Baldassarri was quoted as saying.
Unemployment rate drops to 7.7 percent. How real is job-market progress? (8 March 2013)
But an important caveat is worth highlighting: The drop in joblessness in February -- from 7.9 percent in January -- came partly for the "wrong" reason. Although part of the improvement came from new hiring, a big factor was a rise in the number of adults not looking for work.
The Labor Department itself didn't play up the jobless-rate shift, saying in its press release that the unemployment rate "has shown little improvement, on net, since September 2012."
Here's how the math worked for this past month:
The Labor Department's survey of households found that 170,000 more people were working. (A separate survey, of employers, found that payrolls expanded by 236,000 positions.) So that helped.
But the survey of households also found that, despite the number of working-age civilians rising by 165,000, the labor force shrank in size instead of growing. Some 130,000 fewer people were working or looking for work in February.
Hugo Chávez Funeral: Derided by US Media, Venezuelan Leader Uplifted Poor from Caracas to the Bronx (8 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Carol Delgado, I wanted to read a quote of an AP reporter. This was highlighted by the media group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, which was criticizing the extremely anti-Chávez coverage in the United States. And they said, "One of the more bizarre takes on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's death comes from Associated Press business reporter Pamela Sampson."
This is what Pamela Sampson wrote on March 5th. She said, "Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi."
Again, that's the AP business reporter Pamela Sampson offering her criticism of Chávez's choice of investing Venezuela's oil wealth into free health clinics and education instead of the world's tallest building. Carol Delgado?
CAROL DELGADO: We cannot--Venezuela cannot afford to have a new generation of people who will continue enlarging this criminal thing. We have to feed our people, because these people are going hungry every night. The people cannot wait until people think it's right. I think President Chávez has done the moral choice by understanding that his people need to be nourished, his people need to be fed, his people need to have access to health, have access to education. And I just don't understand, I don't agree with, you know, this neoliberal party that says that the state cannot invest on social programs.
That's something that we have decided and we will continue doing, because we believe that it's paramount and also that we have to show the people of the world that you can do many things with not so much money, because when you give people the self--sense of self-esteem--many people have said that President Chávez is a populist. When I had the opportunity to speak yesterday to the people who were mourning President Chávez outside of the military academy where his body is resting, you get to see--they told me, "They underestimate us. They think that we are just ignorant people because we are poor people. We know what things are about, because President Chávez was able to teach the people, the poor people, the disenfranchised, about becoming powerful and becoming--daring to become leaders in their communities, to make decisions." So that's something that's difficult for people in the North to understand.
PAM COMMENTARY: Not all girls named Pamela are as cool as Pam Rotella... "Why oh why did he spend it on poor people, instead of a big glittery building?"
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford vs. Sarah Thomson: There's no proof that Mayor Rob Ford groped Sarah Thomson, but male pawing of women tends to unfold in a predictably dismal way
(8 March 2013)
Sarah Thomson's account of being groped by Mayor Rob Ford when he was in some kind of "state" at a party on Thursday -- he denies it -- at least rings true.
There were no witnesses and there's no proof Ford did anything wrong.
But having endured male pawing many times, I find it always unfolds in a way that is instinctive both to the groper and to the insulted woman, who for years afterwards will still feel that meaty hand running along her flesh, coating it in humiliation sauce
If there are five stages of grief, courtesy of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of groping:
1. Shock and denial. The photo of the mayor, who flatly says it never happened, is troubling. Study it. He looks dazed. Has the wise voice that tells him not to touch a woman who is not his wife and not to express a yearning to hook up when the wife is out of town gone mute? Or has it not? The frozen grin on Thomson's face in the photo is classic. Women are raised to contain their feelings, to go rigid lest they grab a drink and glass his face.
Air Force general's reversal of pilot's sexual-assault conviction angers lawmakers (8 March 2013)
An Air Force general's decision to overturn the conviction of a standout fighter pilot on sexual assault charges is stirring anger on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers say they are losing patience with the military after a string of related scandals.
Several members of Congress have demanded that the Pentagon intervene after Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, ordered the release of the fighter pilot from prison on Feb. 26 and tossed out his conviction without explanation.
The pilot, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, had been found guilty in November by an all-male jury at Aviano Air Base in Italy in what was seen as a test case of the Air Force's willingness to tackle such crimes. But the decision to grant him clemency has infuriated many female lawmakers and advocacy groups, who said the outcome will discourage victims from reporting abuse.
"The appearances of this are devastating to victims of sexual assault throughout the military," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a member of the Armed Services Committee and a former prosecutor. "It looks like somebody taking care of one of their guys."
The Air Force has been grappling for the past year with an even bigger scandal in which basic-training instructors were charged with raping and assaulting dozens of female recruits at Lackland Air Base in Texas. Air Force leaders have bluntly described sexual misconduct as a "cancer" in the ranks that the service is struggling to combat.
Other branches of the armed services are experiencing similar problems. The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on sexual assault problems in the military, the first time it has devoted a session to the subject in a decade.
Vandana Shiva on Int'l Women's Day: "Capitalist Patriarchy Has Aggravated Violence Against Women" (8 March 2013)
AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva, talk about the activism in India right now against violence against women and how that fits into your overall issue, especially as you deal with issues like the environment.
VANDANA SHIVA: You know, my recognition that there was a very deep connection between the women's movement in India and the protection of the environment started in the early '70s with the very inspiring movement called Chipko, where I became a volunteer as a young student. "Chipko" means to hug. And women of my region came out and said, "You can't cut these forests. These forests protect our soil, our water. They're not timber mines." Ten years of protest it took to eventually have the government recognize that the first function of the forests of the Himalaya is to provide stable water supply to avoid floods and drought, not the value of the square foot of timber after a tree is cut.
Today, the protests that are taking place are a result of a number of things. First, the young, rising middle class woke up to the fact that the new India was not safe for women and young men. After all, that young woman who was raped brutally had a friend who was attacked brutally. And therefore, for the first time, the demand for safety for women was joined by a large number of young men.
I think the second thing that became so clear through those protests in December and January is that the government, which should be protecting people, the state which should be protecting people, is afraid of people, and so there were attacks--water cannons, tear gas--and young people who were living innocently in India realized we are living in a militarized police system. That wake-up call to larger democracy, larger issues of freedom, I think, is a big shift in the consciousness of the Indian public.
Of course, in the coastal Orissa, where three people have just been killed about four days ago, because Wall Street, which now owns this Korean steel plant, which is investing in India to create one of the biggest steel plants of the world, wants 4,500 acres. That's a war against the land and against the earth and against women. Soni Sori, a young tribal woman, arrested, raped, tortured, just because she was telling the world how there is a war going on in the heart of India, which has created a Naxalite movement. Thirty percent of India is not controlled by the government.
This violent economic order can only function as a war against people and against the earth, and in that war, the rape against women is a very, very large instrument of war. We see that everywhere. And therefore, we have to have an end to the violence against women. If we have to have the dignity of women protected, then the multiple wars against the earth, through the economy, through greed, through capitalist, patriarchal domination, must end, and we have to recognize we are part of the earth. The liberation of the earth, the liberation of women, the liberation of all humanity is the next step of freedom we need to work for, and it's the next step of peace that we need to create.
New Violence Against Women Act Includes Historic Protections for Native American and LGBT Survivors (8 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: That was Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Some Republicans had used a constitutional argument to object to the expansion of protections for Native American women. This is Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas speaking against the expansion on the Senate floor last month.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN: This is a bill that could do so much good in the battle for victims' rights, but unfortunately it's being held hostage by a single provision that would take away fundamental constitutional rights for certain American citizens. And for what? For what? In order to satisfy the unconstitutional demands of special interests.
AMY GOODMAN: Juana Majel Dixon, your response?
JUANA MAJEL DIXON: Well, there's a couple of reasons. We took a letter to Grassley to let him know that our selection that we would use for--to help at a prosecution would be fair, that the community we come from, by nature of the fact that we have intermarried with our non-Indian partners, they would be a part of that. Plus, our community, we have plans to--because we live side by side with non-Indian communities throughout Indian country, as well as our tribal--our tribal groups within our territories, there's a natural blend of coexisting together, that it seems logical and sensible that we would somehow have the same kind of faith, same kind of trust, to give fair and just decisions in terms of a case. We also know that there's an appeals system in it, that they could choose to go to a federal court, but there's a process.
In terms of what was said of the unconstitutional piece, it's very hard to realize that inside the Constitution itself, we exist. We're a part of the Founding Fathers' language of this country, and our relationship with them is sovereign to sovereign, essentially government to government. And in that relationship, if you don't know that and if you're not taught that, you just don't know. And you can't get angry at what they don't know, but you can try to help them to understand that it isn't unconstitutional. We even have the Indian Civil Rights Act, which mirrors several provisions that are in the Civil Rights Act that allow, as you know, the protections for--in a case where prosecution and defendant, that this outline is in there, that we wouldn't deviate from it just because we now have this opportunity. It only seems logical that the safety and wellness of any society would be given at least fair measure to effect change for that kind of protection, and this affords that. And I understand--I'll tell you again, I understand if they didn't know. The way that they do know is because they didn't learn how--how the Constitution, we're a part of it. And I don't want to repeat myself, but I think I said what I needed to say there.
Federal response to aboriginal corrections report 'dismissive' (8 March 2013)
The Correctional Service of Canada was "very dismissive" in its response to a report sounding the alarm to the dramatic increase of Aboriginal Peoples in federal prison, tabled in Parliament this week, Canada's prison watchdog says.
In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator for Canada, told host Evan Solomon he was "hopeful" he would receive a "fulsome response" that would deal directly with the recommendations he made in the report.
Instead, "what I found is that it's very dismissive. It in no way addresses the urgency of the situation," Sapers said.
The report found there was nearly a 40 per cent increase in the incarcerated aboriginal population between 2001-02 and 2010-11.
While Aboriginal Peoples comprise just four per cent of Canada's population, they make up 23 per cent of the nation's federal prison inmate population, the report found. In other words, the report shows, nearly one in four prison inmates is Métis, Inuit or First Nations.
Gerald D. Klee dies at 86; psychiatrist involved in Army LSD experiments (8 March 2013)
In 1975, Klee made headlines when he confirmed reports that the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Psychiatric Institute had been involved in secret research between 1956 and 1959, when hundreds of soldiers were given LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide. He said that in addition to LSD, the Army was experimenting with other hallucinogens as part of its chemical weapons research program.
Klee said the Army had negotiated a contract in 1956 with the University of Maryland's Psychiatric Institute to conduct physiological and psychological tests on the soldiers.
"A large proportion of the people who have gotten involved in research in this area have been harebrained and irresponsible -- Timothy Leary being the most notorious example -- and a lot of the stuff that has been published reflects that," Klee told the Baltimore Evening Sun in 1975.
"We didn't have any axes to grind, and the university's role was to conduct scientific experimentation," he said. "The interests of the University of Maryland group were purely scientific, and the military was just there."
Klee said soldiers from military posts around the country were brought to the Edgewood Arsenal and Aberdeen Proving Ground installations in Maryland to participate in experiments involving various drugs and chemical warfare agents, of which the hallucinogens were a small part.
"They were mostly enlisted men -- there were a few commissioned officers -- but they were mostly unlettered and rather naive," Klee said. "Now the people knew they were volunteering, the bonus was leave time -- seeing their girlfriends and mothers and that kind of thing. They had a lot of free time, and most of them enjoyed it."
Whole Foods to require labels on genetically modified products (8 March 2013)
Although California voters didn't back the labeling of products made with genetically modified ingredients, the practice will soon be mandatory at Whole Foods Market Inc.
The chain, known for its upscale emporiums of healthful and organic foods, has decreed that all items sold in its American and Canadian stores note the presence of genetically modified organisms, or GMO, by 2018. The Austin, Texas, company says it's the first national grocer to set such a deadline.
Whole Foods Co-Chief Executive Walter Robb described customer demand for the labeling as "a steady drumbeat."
"This is an issue whose time has come," he said. "With cases like horse meat discovered in the U.K., plastic in milk in China, the recalls of almond and peanut butter in the U.S., customers have a fundamental right to know what's in their food."
Activists have long pushed for more transparency on supermarket shelves. Some see Whole Foods' pledge as evidence of retailers' growing power to force policy changes when voters and regulators can't.
Officials rejected some fixes to San Onofre plant, report shows (8 March 2013)
A report on the root causes of problems at the San Onofre nuclear power plant shows that officials considered making design changes to its new steam generators before they were installed but rejected some fixes in part because they would require further regulatory approvals.
Some of the generators began to malfunction a year after they were installed, and the plant has been shuttered for 13 months. The closure has already cost San Onofre's owners, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric, more than $470 million.
Ratepayers across the region are shouldering some of the plant's costs and could be on the hook for hefty future repair bills.
The report, released Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, provides the most detailed picture to date of how the flawed system was designed. It was written by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built the generators.
Both companies insisted Friday that they were not aware of the problems that crippled San Onofre when the generators were installed. Mitsubishi said that the design changes officials contemplated would not have made a major difference.
Mitsubishi, however, acknowledged in the report that it made an incorrect input into a computer code that resulted in underestimating the velocity of steam flow in the plant's replacement steam generators. Again, the company asserted that error did not cause the failure.
Researchers: House dust mites evolving in reverse (8 March 2013)
Researchers at the University of Michigan said in a study published on Friday that house dust mites are living evidence against the popular theory that organisms cannot reverse their own evolutionary process.
"All our analyses conclusively demonstrated that house dust mites have abandoned a parasitic lifestyle, secondarily becoming free-living, and then speciated in several habitats, including human habitations," said Pavel Klimov and Barry O'Connor in the study, published in the journal Systematic Biology.
According to Science Daily, Klimov and O'Connor's research indicated that dust mites evolved from parasitic organisms known as skin mites, commonly found on livestock, cats and dogs. The skin mites are themselves descended from independent lifeforms millions of years ago.
The two biologists collected 700 mite species for their study, which used large-scale DNA sequencing, statistical analyses and reconstructed evolutionary trees to evaluate 62 different theories regarding dust mites' origins.
Klimov said their findings were surprising, given that, according to Dollo's law, evolution can only move forward over time. In the case of parasites, he said, they can often lose the ability to function independently as they become better-equipped to feed off of the resources available thru their host lifeforms.
Scientists find new kind of bacterial life in hidden Antarctic lake (8 March 2013)
An enormous lake that has lain buried under Antarctic ice for millions of years is home to a new kind of bacterial life, Russian scientists claim.
The researchers found evidence for the unidentified organism in water samples brought up from Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial lake on the Antarctic continent.
The Russian team found seven samples of the mystery species in water that had frozen on a drill head used to reach the lake that lies beneath an ice sheet more than two miles (3.5km) thick.
The scientists extracted strands of DNA from the organism, but said the genetic code was never more than an 86% match with any of the species listed in global databanks. Sergey Bulat, a researcher on the team at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, said that anything less than a 90% match usually indicated that the organism was unknown.
TweetFarts lets you find out how much carbon your dumb Twitter hashtag is generating (8 March 2013)
Want another reason to hate #RulesForFemales, #CutForBieber, #LessAmbitiousMovies, or whatever bullshit hashtag is trending right now? How about the fact that everything you do on Twitter is responsible for a certain amount of carbon emissions? OK, maybe not very much, but it adds up -- and maybe it even adds up enough for you to shame participants into stopping.
For instance, it's one thing to say you're sick to the teeth of hearing about South by Southwest. It's another thing to point to your #SXSW-obsessed friends and say "look, you assholes just farted out 827 grams of carbon about your dumb conference."
Climate change is making animals shrink (8 March 2013)
Humans might adapt to climate change through some mixture of mitigation, adaptation, and suffering (like relocating Coney Island several miles into interior Brooklyn, or saying goodbye to chocolate). But the animal kingdom? Many species are already coping with rising temperatures by physically getting smaller [$ub req].
The reasons are complex and vary between species, but the CliffsNotes version is this: Animals (especially cold-blooded ones) often develop faster metabolisms in warmer temperatures, so they burn calories more quickly and reach maturity at smaller sizes. Additionally, smaller animals could have a distinct advantage when competing for dwindling food supplies; like Anne Hathaway, they simply need less to survive. There's also Bergmann's rule, which basically amounts to "colder environments support species of larger morphological size BECAUSE I SAID SO."
BP warns investor it's paying more than expected for spill (8 March 2013)
The London-based oil giant estimated at the time of the settlement last year it would spend roughly $7.8 billion to resolve tens of thousands of claims covered by the settlement agreement. But in a regulatory filing this week, BP said businesses' claims have been paid at much higher average amounts than anticipated.
BP previously had raised the estimated payment to $8.5 billion, although the settlement establishes no cap on payments.
The company also said it can't reliably estimate how much it will pay for unresolved business claims following a ruling Tuesday by the federal judge supervising the settlement that rejected BP's interpretation of certain settlement provisions.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier upheld claims administrator Patrick Juneau's interpretation of settlement terms that govern how businesses' pre- and post-spill revenue and expenses -- and the time periods for those dollar amounts -- are used to calculate their awards.
BP had argued that Juneau's interpretation would lead to "absurd results" and "false positives," but the judge said the settlement agreement anticipated that "such results would sometimes occur."
"Objective formulas, the possibility of 'false positives,' and giving claimants flexibility to choose the most favorable time periods are all consequences BP accepted when it decided to buy peace through a global, class-wide resolution," Barbier wrote.
Second week of BP oil spill trial focuses on gross negligence (8 March 2013)
In the second week of the BP oil spill trial in New Orleans, lawyers for the Plaintiffs Steering Committee and the Justice Department continued to plod through a long list of witnesses called to back up their contention that BP committed gross negligence and willful misconduct in actions before, during and after the blowout of its Macondo oil well nearly three years ago.
At times, the steering committee, representing private plaintiffs in the hundreds of lawsuits consolidated in the trial, also tried to show that the actions of BP's contractors, Transocean and Halliburton, also went beyond the level of simple negligence. BP agreed to assign any claims for damages the company might have with Transocean and Halliburton to the steering committee as part of an estimated $8.5 billion settlement of most private claims.
The pay-off for this dual strategy could mean BP has to pay billions more in Clean Water Act fines and U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier Jr., who is trying the case without a jury, could make the other companies pay punitive damages to the private plaintiffs.
Thus far, BP's strategy has included aggressively disputing witnesses' claims about specific errors during cross-examinations, attempting to get those witnesses to focus the cause of the errors on Transocean or Halliburton, and trying to prove that the errors resulted from following the industry's standard drilling practices.
BP attorneys also have repeatedly stressed that Barbier must weigh the evidence in the case against the federal laws involved and against previous rulings by him, other district court judges, the appeals courts and the Supreme Court. They estimate that will result in BP paying no more than a third of the maximum fines allowed under law.
BP oil spill trial: Blowout preventer on Macondo well had dead battery, miswired solenoid, expert testifies (7 March 2013)
Rory Davis was part of a team of engineers put together by Talas Engineering of Hayward, Calif., to conduct a forensic analysis of the blowout preventer for the U.S. Justice Department after the failure of the Macondo well led to the explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers and led to one of the largest oil spills in the nation's history.
Davis acknowledged that he had never seen a blowout preventer before beginning the investigation, and had never worked in the oil and gas industry. But his mechanical engineering background, including work on everything from motorcycles to rocket engines, was acceptable to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is trying the lawsuit without a jury to determine liability for the accident.
"When we checked the battery at Michoud -- where the 40-foot-high blowout preventer was taken after being retrieved from the ocean floor -- we found that it was dead, very low voltage," Davis testified. The battery was in one control pod on the preventer. In another was a miswired solenoid, an electronic switch that controls valves also used in controlling the rams, he said.
The solenoid contains two wire coils, and one of the coils was wired in reverse, Davis said. A document shown during his testimony indicated that the solenoid had been replaced in February 2010 "by unknown person. It appears this was done on the rig as the date was written in paint pin."
Other documents indicated that Cameron International, which supplied the blowout preventer, had sent notices to BP that the battery should be changed each year. Earlier testimony in the trial indicated it hadn't been changed since 2007.
Davis testified that the battery failure could have been avoided by having a system in place that monitored its power, and pointed out that the same manufacturer of the battery used on the Macondo blowout preventer had offered a new version that had such a system, which Transocean did not buy.
Pentagon investigating link between US military and torture centres in Iraq (8 March 2013)
The Pentagon is investigating allegations linking the US military to human rights abuses in Iraq by police commando units who operated a network of detention and torture centres.
A 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic, published on Wednesday, disclosed that the US sent a veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee Iraqi commando units involved in some of the worst acts of torture during the American-led occupation.
The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses, implicate US advisers for the first time in these human rights abuses. It is also the first time that the then US commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, has been linked through an adviser to the abuses.
Colonel Jack Miller, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Guardian on Thursday: "Obviously we have seen the reports and we are currently looking into the situation."
Exclusive: India set to halt Iran oil imports over insurance (8 March 2013)
(Reuters) - India is set to halt all crude imports from Iran because insurance companies in the country have said refineries processing the oil will no longer be covered due to Western sanctions, the head of refiner MRPL said on Friday.
India is Iran's second-largest buyer, taking around a quarter of its oil exports worth around $1 billion a month.
"If cover is not available then all Indian refiners will have to halt imports from Iran or else they will have to take a huge risk," P.P. Upadhya, managing director of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL.NS), told Reuters in a telephone interview. MRPL is India's biggest buyer of Iran crude.
"Insurance companies said if I buy Iranian crude my refinery's insurance cover will be canceled ... If we don't get insurance for the refinery then we will stop buying Iranian crude."
CACI seeks dismissal of Abu Ghraib lawsuit in Virginia (8 March 2013)
Military contractor CACI International Inc. is asking a federal judge to toss out a nearly 5-year-old lawsuit filed by four Iraqis who say they suffered abusive and degrading treatment at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
A judge in Alexandria is set to hear arguments Friday.
In the lawsuit, four former Abu Ghraib prisoners say that CACI employees orchestrated a pattern of abuse that included mock executions, beatings, electrical shocks and other humiliating treatment. One of the men said he was kept at the prison for more than four years without ever being charged before his 2008 release.
Arlington-based CACI wants the case tossed out because they say CACI employees never even came in contact with the plaintiffs, much less abused them.
Physical activity can prevent Alzheimer's, report finds (8 March 2013)
You may be able to walk away from Alzheimer's disease.
A report prepared for the Ontario Brain Institute has concluded that more than one in seven cases of Alzheimer's in the province could be prevented if people 65 and over who are currently inactive became physically active.
It could be as simple as 30 minutes a day of brisk walking, even in 10-minute increments.
The report's researchers came to this conclusion after reviewing about 900 recent articles and analyzing various trials and studies, all focusing on older adults with and without dementia.
In addition, the analyzed data indicated that older adults who didn't have Alzheimer's and who were physically active were almost 40 per cent less likely to develop dementia, as opposed to those who are sedentary.
Aspartame - Ants Are Smarter Than Humans (8 March 2013) [Rense.com]
Of note, Page Kaiser in Augusta, Georgia was very upset when the NutraSweet Company were spraying crops with this toxic waste and it smelled bad. She asked, "Why would they spray aspartame on crops". I said, "It's a systemic neurotoxin; it will kill the bugs just like it kills people, and will make the fruit sweet." The city made them stop evidently because of the smell.
When I came back from England in 2002 as I came in the house I picked up a box delivered by mail. It wouldn't fit in the mailbox so he dropped it on the home of fire ants and I didn't know it. I knew it was full of bath products so took a bath and opened the box where hundreds of fire ants came out all over me. It was rough. The next day I found the mound and dumped Equal on it. When I came back out all the fire ants were dead.
I told Monsanto years ago they could make just as much money selling aspartame as a rat poison, just change the label. It killed so many rats in studies. Corinne, Mission Possible France, said she used it to kill mice. It's a deadly poison. It reminds me what Jana said of the studies she shredded for the company. "It killed everything it touched." Read on.
Operation Condor Trial Tackles Coordinated Campaign by Latin American Dictatorships to Kill Leftists (7 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, John, for folks who have never heard of Operation Condor or know little about it, the origins of it, how it began, and the nations or the governments that spearheaded it, could you talk about that?
JOHN DINGES: Well, it is a Chilean invention. Augusto Pinochet had dominated his opposition by--the coup was in 1973; by 1974, there was no internal opposition to speak of. But many of the people who had been part of the previous government, that he had overthrown, had gone overseas. There was a very major, important general who was living in Argentina. Political leaders, for example, Orlando Letelier, the former foreign minister and former ambassador to the United States, somebody who would have lunch with Henry Kissinger, was living in Washington. People were spread around, in Europe and all over Latin America, and Pinochet wanted to go after them. And so he mounted Operation Condor.
And he convinced the other countries--Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay--to go along with him, with the argument that there are these guerrilla operations that are a threat to all of them. And there was indeed a guerrilla operation, called the Revolutionary Coordinating Junta, of people who were taking up arms against these governments. And the idea was that they would cooperate in tracking these people down. And they did.
Most of the--the biggest part of the exiles were in Argentina, because Argentina was the last country to give up its civilian government. It wasn't a dictatorship until March of 1976. And this was created in late 1975. So they were all geared up. And when the coup happened in Argentina, they began killing hundreds of people, of these foreigners. And it's interesting that you mentioned the Automotores Orletti. This is that auto repair shop that was used as a torture center, and that's where they kept the international prisoners.
Obama signs a strengthened Violence Against Women Act (7 March 2013)
"Because of the people on this stage and in this room, every time we reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, we improved it," Biden said.
The bill, whose authorization expired in 2011, became a flash point in last year's elections as Democrats and women's advocacy groups framed Republican opposition to the bill as part of a "war on women."
With women backing Democrats over Republicans by double-digit margins in November, many GOP lawmakers reversed course when the bill came up again this year.
In the Senate, the bill passed 78 to 22 and in the House, the margin was 286 to 138, with 87 Republicans joining a solid Democratic bloc.
Some Republicans objected to the new domestic violence protections for gays and lesbians and the expanded authority granted to tribal courts dealing with non-Native Americans who are accused of a crime on a reservation.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) offered a separate bill that made no mention of same-sex couples and offered compromise language on the issue of tribal sovereignty. The two bills allowed a majority of Republicans to go on record as backing some version of the legislation.
Oberlin College asks FBI to investigate possible racial incidents on campus (7 March 2013)
The liberal arts college was at the center of international media attention this week, after it suspended classes Monday in response to a reported sighting on a person dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb. The reported sighting followed a half-dozen incidents involving racial, homophobic and anti-Semitic vandalism during the past month.
College President Marvin Krislov wrote in an online letter Wednesday that the college was "enlisting external sources of expertise to aid us in investigating these incidents." The letter did not elaborate.
The college also issued a bulletin Thursday saying it has increased security presence on campus.
"We have partnered with local law enforcement to provide a vigilant presence on campus and walking patrols from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.," the bulletin said. "The Oberlin Police Department is providing vehicle patrols at this and other times."
The college has declined to comment on a report that two students are under investigation for their possible involvement in a string of hate-related graffiti found on campus over the last month.
Shoplifter's family sues Wal-Mart, deputy, security company over shooting death (7 March 2013)
The family of a shoplifter who was shot and killed last December by an off-duty Harris County sheriff's deputy has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the sheriff's deputy and the security company that hired him.
Shelly Marie Frey was killed in the Dec. 6 shooting. The off-duty deputy, Louis Campbell, told investigators he feared for his safety when he shot into a car and struck her, saying the driver tried to run him over.
Herschel P. Cashin, an attorney for Frey's famiily, said the officer's actions did not necessitate deadly force.
"We allege that this conduct was extremely excessive, unreasonable and grossly negligent," the lawsuit states. "Their policies and procedures should not be to kill a person for shoplifting."
Silvio Berlusconi sentenced to jail in wiretaps case (7 March 2013)
MILAN--A Milan court on Thursday convicted former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of breach of confidentiality for the illegal publication of wiretapped conversations related to a failed bank takeover in a newspaper owned by his media empire.
The court sentenced him to one year in jail, but issued no orders on the carrying out of the sentence. In Italy, it is rare for anyone to be put behind bars pending a possible appeal except in the case of very serious crimes like murder.
Berlusconi's brother, Paolo Berlusconi, was convicted of the same charge and sentenced to two years and three months. Paolo Berlusconi is publisher of the Milan newspaper il Giornale, which published the transcript of the conversation.
Silvio Berlusconi's defence team had accused the court of seeking a speedy verdict for political impact.
Libya: Climate Conversations - Could Libya Be a Top Solar Energy Producer? (7 March 2013)
Could Libya become a major producer of solar power? New research suggests the North African country could produce about five times more power from solar energy than it does from oil.
Research conducted by Nottingham Trent University's School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment found the oil-rich nation, with the right investment, could harvest enough renewable energy from solar power to meet its own electricity demands and export power to its neighbors.
"Any renewable energy project would (require) significant investment, with a projected payback period," said Amin Al-Habaibeh, the researcher leading the Innovative and Sustainable Built Environment Technologies research group at the university. "But the current increase in energy prices and the drive to reduce carbon emission are making renewable energy a more commercially feasible option."
While research is still in the early stages and firm numbers are hard to come by, the experts say they're confident investing in renewable energy could reduce Libya's financial and energy dependency on oil. The country's location on the tropic of cancer helps, with long daily exposure to sunlight.
Oil execs, Canadian leaders fret over what U.S. will want in exchange for pipeline approval (7 March 2013)
WASHINGTON -- There are growing concerns among Canadian leaders and oil and gas executives that the U.S. administration will demand concessions from Canada including possible changes to its environmental policies in return for approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told journalists at a breakfast meeting Thursday that the power of the U.S. environmental lobby could force U.S. President Barack Obama to try to impose regulations on Canada.
He said this would "not be helpful" and added that Canada would never try to impose domestic policy on the U.S. in exchange for approving a U.S. project.
Wall recently complained in a letter to the American ambassador to Canada about the possibility that the U.S. might use Keystone as an excuse to trespass on Canadian domestic policy.
Beached sperm whale in Spain dies after eating large amounts of plastic (7 March 2013)
A 4.5 tonne sperm whale that washed ashore in southern Spain died from ingesting large amounts of plastic sheets used in greenhouses on farms in the region, a scientist said Thursday.
The whale, which came ashore last year on a beach in Andalusia, had over 17 kilogrammes (37 pounds) of garbage blocking its stomach, including some 30 square metres (36 square yards) of plastic canvas, said Renaud de Stephanis, a marine biologist at the Donana Biological Station, which is run by the Spanish National Research Council.
"We quickly realised that it had a real greenhouse inside its stomach. We did not expect it, but it did not surprise us," he told AFP in a telephone interview.
"There were a dozen metres of plastic rope, plastic sheeting used on the outside of greenhouses, and plastic sheeting used inside and even two flower pots."
Over 250 marine animals including turtles, dolphins and otters, have problems because of plastic garbage that finds its way into the ocean and which can cause them to choke, de Stephanis said.
Dogs may have been Man's Best Friend for long time (7 March 2013)
I also recognize that humans and dogs have a special relationship. One doesn't have to watch Lassie to realize the devotion dogs have to humans.
So perhaps a new research paper in PLOS One (see article) shouldn't surprise me.
Scientists have believed for some time that some wolves became domesticated as dogs about 10,000 years ago. But now a team of scientists have analyzed what appear to be dog remains from about 33,000 years ago, found in the Altai mountains of central Asia.
Their DNA analysis showed that the remains more closely resembled modern dogs than wolves.
"These results suggest a more ancient history of the dog outside the Middle East or East Asia, previously suggested as centers of dog origin," the Russian scientists conclude.
USDA approves Monsanto alfalfa despite presence of infertility-causing pathogens (7 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently deregulated Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, but two weeks before the department's chief, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, made his decision, a senior soil expert alerted USDA to a newly discovered, microscopic pathogen that had been found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready corn and soy the researchers believe could be causing infertility in livestock, as well as diseases in crops that have the potential to threaten the nation's entire domestic food supply.
The warning was issued by Dr. Don Huber, a plant pathologist and former Purdue University professor, who wrote in a letter to the Department of Agriculture that the pathogen he discovered is new to scientists, and that it appears to impact the health of plants, animals and most likely humans to a significant degree.
"For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and man-made biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks," Huber wrote in a Jan. 16 letter to Vilsack.
"Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency," Huber warned.
More and more farmland already being affected
The retired professor has called for an immediate moratorium on any approvals of Roundup Ready crops. Despite his warning; however, the USDA fully deregulated Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa Jan. 27 following nearly five years of court battles with environmental groups and farmers. The department had partially deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets Feb. 4.
Coconut oil can stop dementia and Alzheimer's disease (7 March 2013)
Look it up yourself - drugs cause breathing problems (apnea); loss of coordination; drowsiness; headaches; muscle pains; nausea; shaking; confusion; anxiety and, even, memory loss! Clearly, this is not the best protocol for people suffering with brain issues.
Have you ever seen the YouTube video featuring Dr. Mary Newport? Dr. Newport a Florida neonatologist, documented her husband's incredible progress with reversing Alzheimer's disease by eating coconut oil. To read more about this story, get her book - "Alzheimer's Disease: What If There Was A Cure?" Basically, it's the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil that can work wonders on brain dysfunction.
Back in the 1960's, Dr. George Cahill discovered that coconut oil can be metabolized by the liver and turned into ketones - which are then used as an alternative fuel source for the brain. So, in other words, these ketones are converted directly into energy for the brain - instead of being stored as fat in the body. Keep in mind, most of the vegetable oils like, olive oil - do not contain MCTs.
On the next NaturalNews Talk Hour, Jonathan Landsman and Dr. Bruce Fife will talk about how to eliminate brain inflammation; prevent memory loss plus much more!
Mice with human brain cells have improved memory, researchers find (7 March 2013)
Mice with human cells grafted into their brains outperform their normal counterparts on tests of learning and memory, according to new research. The findings, published today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, suggest that evolution of the human brain involved a major upgrade to long-neglected cells called astrocytes, and could provide a better way of testing potential treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases.
Traditionally, our remarkable mental abilities were thought to come down to the massive expansion of the brain relative to body size during the course of evolution. We now know that size isn't everything, however, and some researchers have shifted their focus away from the brain's overall size and shape to study its microscopic structure instead, the idea being that human brain evolution involved specializations at the cellular level.
One such specialization was the emergence of entirely new type of cells. For example, the brains of humans and other great apes (as well as those of elephants and some whale and dolphin species) contain large cells called von Economo neurons, which aren't found in mice or other non-primate mammals. Another was an increase in the complexity of existing cell types, and astrocytes in particular have undergone numerous changes during human brain evolution.
Astrocytes are one of several types of glia, the non-neuronal cells found alongside neurons in the nervous system. Glial cells were discovered at around the same time as neurons, but were quickly dismissed as little more than support cells that insulate neurons, provide them with nourishment, and fill the spaces between them like polystyrene packaging. In the past decade, though, astrocytes have come into their own as key players in brain function -- we now that they form signalling networks and make important contributions to the brain's information processing capabilities by regulating the way neurons communicate with each other.
In 2009, husband-and-wife team Maiken Nedergaard and Steve Goldman of the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York reported major differences between mouse astrocytes and those isolated from the brains of humans and chimps. They found that human astrocytes are not only more than twice the size of the mouse cells, but also far more complex, with about ten times as many finger-like projections, which they use to contact other brain cells and blood vessels. Human cells also work more efficiently than those of mice, propagating internal signals about four times faster. What's more, the human brain contains subtypes of astrocytes that aren't found in mice, and the ratio of astrocytes to neurons is far bigger.
Researchers find chemical secret to recapturing youthful brain (6 March 2013)
The brain, says Strittmatter, "becomes cemented in place." Compared with the highly plastic adolescent brain, it is hard-wired.
The Yale team focused on a gene that programs for the production of a central nervous system protein called Nogo Receptor 1. Earlier research had established that Nogo Receptor 1 stimulates the growth of connections between neurons, and that when it is plentiful in the brain, mice do not recover as well from brain and spinal cord injuries.
But the Yale researchers essentially took time-gap photographs of groups of brain cells and the way they connected to one another in the brains of mice. When they bred mice without the gene, they documented that even into adulthood, the cells they recorded continuously arranged themselves into constantly changing configurations themselves, at the same frantic pace seen in adolescent mice. The brains of mice with normal levels of Nogo Receptor 1, by contrast, settled down to a more stately pattern of reconstitution.
Then, the Yale team tried something more audacious: When they chemically plugged up the Nogo receptors in the brains of adult mice, they found that even mice whose brains had made the transition to plodding adulthood regained the speed of an adolescent brain at wiring and rewiring itself.
Adult mice with normal levels of Nogo Receptor 1 needed to live in cages that plied them with constant stimulation if their brain cells were to show evidence they were learning new skills. But the brains of adult mice whose Nogo receptors were knocked out were showing signs of intensive learning, even when they were housed in cages that offered them little stimulation.
Ron Wyden joins Senate filibuster: Americans have the right to know when they can be targeted (6 March 2013)
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon on Wednesday joined a filibuster over the use of drone strikes against U.S. citizens, urging Congress to take action on the issue.
"Every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them," he remarked.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) began the filibuster Wednesday morning amid the nomination of John Brennan as the next director of the CIA. He began the filibuster because U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the United States could "hypothetically" use lethal military force against American citizens in "an extraordinary circumstance."
Wyden said he planned to vote in favor Brennan, but still supported Paul's filibuster. The Democratic senator, who has pushed the Obama administration to release more information about drone strikes, said Brennan's nomination was an opportune time to bring the issue to light.
Paul's filibuster in opposition to Brennan, drone policy ends after nearly 13 hours (6 March 2013)
One of the oldest and most storied traditions of the Senate made a sudden return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday when a junior senator seized control of the chamber with an hours-long -filibuster involving rambling speeches aimed at blocking a vote on President Obama's choice to lead the CIA.
Led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with help from other junior senators, the filibuster stretched nearly 13 hours -- with the Senate adjourning at about 12:40 a.m. Thursday -- and was aimed at drawing attention to deep concern on both sides of the aisle about the administration's use of unmanned aerial drones in its fight against terrorists and whether the government would ever use them in the United States.
Shortly before noon, Paul -- the scion of a political family at the heart of the libertarian movement -- came to the Senate floor and declared his opposition to the nomination of John O. Brennan, Obama's choice to lead the spy agency, who has overseen the drone program.
"I will speak until I can no longer speak," Paul said as he began. "I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court."
Conservation groups work to make crane habitats (6 March 2013)
As the snow white birds migrate from the Gulf coast to Canada, channels of the Platte River are their stopping place.
They can travel on the order of 500 miles a day so this is often a convenient stop over site for them
Jerry Kenny is the Executive Director for the Platte River Recovery Implementation program. The goal is to create habitat and rehabilitate the land used by the endangered Whooping Cranes.
"What we are trying to accomplish for cranes are broad shallow channels, with bare sand suitable for roosting," said Kenny.
Revealed: Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centres (6 March 2013)
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country's descent into full-scale civil war.
Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.
After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.
A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.
Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.
President Hugo Chavez dies at 58; hero to Venezuela's poor (5 March 2013)
Although Chavez finally disclosed the gravity of his illness in December after months of insisting he was cancer-free, news of his death was expected to shake his bedrock supporters, Venezuela's poor. They were the biggest beneficiaries of his 14 years in power, a period in which opponents in the country's middle class and elite said he grew increasingly iron-fisted and autocratic.
Chavez returned home from Cuba on Feb. 18 following his most recent surgery and remained out of sight at a military hospital in Caracas. Though he had been scheduled to be sworn in for a fourth term on Jan. 10, the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled he did not need to take the oath of office to remain president, a decision questioned by legal scholars.
His popularity with the poor helped propel him to victory in October balloting, gaining 55% of the vote despite rising crime, persistent scarcities of basic food items, double-digit inflation and unpopular foreign aid programs. His reelection was a testament to the near-religious devotion of Venezuela's impoverished to their comandante.
Chavez won the lower classes' support by redistributing the nation's vast oil wealth through welfare programs called missions, which set up medical clinics and schools, operated a chain of cut-rate grocery stores, and divvied up nationalized farms and ranches among cooperatives of the impoverished.
Daniel Hellinger, a political science professor at Webster University in St. Louis, said the welfare programs reduced Venezuela's poverty rate from close to 80% in the 1990s to about 20%, and wiped out illiteracy.
A famous moment: Chávez says Bush is the devil in UN Speech (20 September 2006)
Brandishing a copy of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, cemented his reputation as Washington's chief irritant yesterday with a fiery performance at the United Nations.
In a 15-minute address to the annual gathering of international leaders in New York, President Chávez said he could still "smell sulphur" left behind by the "devil", George Bush, who had addressed the chamber 24 hours before.
His speech, which veered between a rousing appeal for a better world and a florid denunciation of the US, included the claim that President Bush thought he was in a western where people shot from the hip: "This is imperialist, fascist, assassin, genocidal, the empire."
Volcanoes are keeping the planet from boiling over -- for now (5 March 2013)
While we've been pumping the atmosphere full of heat-trapping gases, Mother Earth has been belching sulfur pollution through volcanoes and slowing down global warming.
That's the conclusion of a new study that's helping to explain why the globe warmed less during the first 10 years of this century than climate models suggest it should have. If volcanic activity calms down and sulfur pollution levels fall away again, runaway global warming could ensue.
Scientists believe that elevated levels of aerosols in the stratosphere, particularly sulfuric acid and water particles formed from sulfur dioxide pollution, have been shielding the ground from solar radiation. That has helped offset the warming effects of a spike in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It was previously thought that the aerosols were perhaps being pumped into the atmosphere by industrial activity. But the new research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, suggests that the aerosols have come from a natural source. From Science NOW:
"[B]y using a computer model that includes processes due to global atmospheric circulation and atmospheric chemistry, [CU-Boulder atmospheric scientist Ryan] Neely and his colleagues show that the human contribution of aerosols to the stratosphere was minimal between 2000 and 2010. In one set of simulations, the researchers estimated the effects of all known volcanic eruptions, including the quantity of aerosols produced and the heights to which they wafted, on the month-to-month variations in particulate concentrations."
This is your brain on NutraSweet - and it isn't pretty (5 March 2013)
If you are ever in doubt about the dangers of aspartame, have a look at the following disorders directly connected to the chemical:
- Epileptic seizures
- Headaches and migraines
- Severe depression, including suicidal tendencies
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Personality disorders
- Memory loss
- Slurring of speech
- Irreversible brain damage
- Mental retardation
As frightening as it is, these are simply the neurological problems associated with the sweetener. Janet Starr Hull, creator of the Aspartame Detox Program, believes "aspartame is the common denominator for over 92 different health symptoms at the root of modern disease." Additionally, many scientists are convinced the chemical is also the cause of a dramatic spike in brain tumors. An article in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology states:
"Evidence potentially implicating aspartame includes an early animal study revealing an exceedingly high incidence of brain tumors in aspartame-fed rats compared to no brain tumors in concurrent controls, the recent finding that the aspartame molecule has mutagenic potential, and the close temporal association (aspartame was introduced into U.S. food and beverage markets several years prior to the sharp increase in brain tumor incidence and malignancy)."
And the dairy industry would like to add this same chemical willy-nilly to the mainstream milk supply without labeling? The insanity continues.
PAM COMMENTARY: Milk is naturally sweet, and it's strange that any company would want to taint its product's image with a disgraced product like aspartame.
Increasing minimum wage an uphill battle (5 March 2013)
On the same day the stock market reached new heights, thanks in part to record corporate profits, there was a renewed attempt to raise the federal minimum wage, which has stayed the same for the past four years.
"Look, it's become clear that corporations paying the minimum wage can now afford to pay more. It's not more complicated than that," said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 on Tuesday.
Miller's bill, co-written by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would raise the federal minimum wage, in stages, from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, and link increases beyond that to the cost of living. It would also raise the guaranteed minimum for tipped workers (primarily in restaurants) from $2.13 an hour - where it's stood for the past 20 years - to 70 percent of the standard minimum wage.
Miller has the backing of President Obama, who called for an increase to $9 an hour in his State of the Union address, and presumably a majority of fellow Democrats. Ah, but there are the nonbelievers, like House Speaker John Boehner, who immediately labeled the president's proposal a "job killer." Given the current state of play in Washington, does the bill really have a prayer?
UPDATE: Three missing Colorado women have online modeling profiles (4 March 2013)
"She wasn't running away from anything here at home," said Raven's mother, Tonja Mahaffey. "I'm scared she was lured away."
Raven did call her father's home and spoke to her stepmom on February 26.
"The call was very short and Raven appeared scared, she said: "Mom, I was told to call and let someone know I'm safe, I'm safe. I have to go... I have to go... this isn't my phone. I have to give it back now. I have to go now" and then hung up," said a post on the Facebook page dedicated to finding Raven.
Raven and Kara have modeling profiles on the social networking website Model Mayhem. KRDO Newschannel 13 found a modeling profile that appears to be Kelsie's on site called Explore Talent.
Jillian Mourning knows firsthand about the potential dangers behind modeling websites. Six years ago, the now 25-year-old professional model got connected to a "manager" on Model Mayhem. She says things went fine at first, but took a dark turn when she was in Arizona for a shoot.
"He came into my room with three guys, and they call proceeded to rape me," recalled Mourning. "They took pictures of it, and would even show me pictures of things that I was doing, and videotaped the whole thing."
New Funding Group Calls for 100 More WikiLeaks to Offset Unprecedented Gov't Secrecy (5 March 2013)
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange accepting the award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism at the 2011 Walkley Awards in Brisbane, Australia. He sent a video. He was under house arrest in Britain. Assange currently remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, fighting extradition to Sweden, even as WikiLeaks continues to receive recognition for its work. In fact, this week it's set to receive major new funding from the Freedom of Press Foundation, the group that funds independent journalism organizations dedicated to transparency and accountability in government. Trevor, talk about what is happening, what your organization, the Freedom of Press Foundation, is planning to do.
TREVOR TIMM: Sure. So, a major part of our mission is to crowdsource funding for organizations like WikiLeaks who are under attack, who may have gotten cut off from payment processors like Visa, MasterCard and PayPal. So, for two years now, they've barely been able to get any donations. And when we launched in December, we started taking donations in a tax-deductible way so U.S.--people in the U.S. could safely and relatively anonymously donate to WikiLeaks. But they can also donate to other journalism organizations that do similar work, so groups like the National Security Archives, which has the largest library of declassified material in the country, or new organizations like MuckRock, which do Freedom of Information Act work where they allow citizens to file their own requests. And so, we set this up to, you know, help organizations like WikiLeaks, but we also want to bring attention to other groups that are doing really innovative work in trying to bring transparency to government.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how are you going to get this money to WikiLeaks? Have you spoken, for example, to PayPal, Visa, MasterCard?
TREVOR TIMM: Well, you know, we're fairly confident that they're not going to cut us off at this point. I think the level of hysteria has died down from late 2010. And, you know, companies have had a chance to do legal research and realize that nothing that WikiLeaks is doing by publishing this information is against the law. Obviously, every day or every week newspapers around the country, like The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal, publish classified information, a lot of times at a higher level of secrecy than WikiLeaks did. And, you know, if these companies were to cut us off, they wouldn't just be cutting off WikiLeaks. It's important to emphasize that we're completely an independent organization from WikiLeaks, and we take donations to a variety of journalism organizations and do different types of freedom of information advocacy work. And so, they wouldn't be cutting off WikiLeaks; they'd be cutting off the freedom of the press.
Glenn Greenwald on Bradley Manning: Prosecutor Overreach Could Turn All Whistleblowing into Treason (5 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of what the military prosecutors are pushing for now, life without parole for Bradley Manning, and what he said in court last week, not far from here, just down the road at Fort Meade.
GLENN GREENWALD: There are several levels of significance, the first of which is the most obvious, which is that this is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overkill. The government has never been able to identify any substantial harm that has come from any of the leaks that Bradley Manning is accused of and now admits to being responsible for. Certainly nobody has died as a result of these leaks, even though the government originally said that WikiLeaks and the leaker has blood on their hands. Journalists investigated and found that there was no evidence for that. So, just the very idea that he should spend decades in prison, let alone be faced with life on parole, given what it is that he actually did and the consequences of it, is really remarkable.
But even more specifically, the theory that the government is proceeding on is one that's really quite radical and menacing. That is, that although he never communicated with, quote-unquote, "the enemy," which the government has said is al-Qaeda, although there's no evidence that he intended in any way to benefit al-Qaeda--he could have sold this information, made a great deal of money, had he wanted to. All the evidence indicates that he did it for exactly the reason that he said, with the intent that he said, which was to spark reform and to bring attention to these abuses. The government is proceeding on the theory that simply because the information that's leaked ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda had an interest in it, that constitutes aiding and abetting the enemy. And what that essentially does is it converts every form of whistleblowing or leaks into a form of treason. There's evidence that Osama bin Laden was very interested, for example, in Bob Woodward's book--books, which have all sorts of classified information in them at a much higher level of secrecy than anything Bradley Manning leaked. That would mean that not only the leakers to Woodward, the highest-level members of government, but even Woodward himself, could be depicted as a traitor or be accused of aiding and abetting the enemy. It's an extraordinarily menacing theory to journalism and to whistleblowing and leaking.
Erin Brockovich gets involved with Assumption sinkhole (5 March 2013)
NAPOLEONVILLE, La. -- Environmental activist Erin Brockovich and a California attorney hired by a group of Assumption Parish residents are coming to Pierre Part to discuss the legal options for residents evacuated from the Bayou Corne area due to a giant sinkhole.
Los Angeles personal injury lawyer Thomas V. Girardi tells The Advocate he and Brockovich will attend a community meeting Saturday at the American Legion Hall to answer residents' questions.
Girardi was one of the attorneys who worked with Brockovich to secure a $333 million settlement for 650 residents of Hinkley, Calif., in a groundwater pollution case. Actress Julia Roberts portrayed Brockovich in the 2000 film "Erin Brockovich," which chronicled that case.
The failure of a Texas Brine Co. LLC cavern is believed to be the cause of the sinkhole. About 350 residents remain under evacuation orders.
Girardi said he has not yet filed lawsuits for his 25 clients but will be filing soon.
Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, dies in Caracas (5 March 2013)
Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, has died in a military hospital at the age of 58 after a long battle against cancer, the vice-president has announced, prompting a wave of mourning in the country he ruled since 1999 with a globally distinctive and influential style of leadership.
The symbol of Latin American socialism succumbed to a respiratory infection on Tuesday evening, 21 months after he first revealed he had a tumour. He had not been seen in public for three months since undergoing emergency surgery in Cuba on 11 December.
He will be given a state funeral in Caracas, likely to be attended by millions of supporters and leftwing leaders from across the globe who have been inspired by Chávez's doctrine of "Bolivarian 21st-century socialism", grateful for the subsidised energy he provided or simply impressed by his charisma.
His death will also trigger a presidential election, which must be held within 30 days, to decide who controls the world's greatest untapped reserves of oil. Chávez's designated successor is the vice-president, Nicolás Maduro, who is likely to face Henrique Capriles, the losing opposition candidate in the most recent presidential election. Until then, according to the constitution, the interim president should be the head of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello.
Why Can't Big Oil Match Hugo Chávez? (FLASHBACK) (7 January 2009)
Four years ago, Hugo Chávez scored one of the more impressive p.r. coups of the new century when he started delivering free heating oil to low-income Americans. Even if it was political opportunism, as conservative critics insisted, it got home-heating fuel to hundreds of thousands of yanquis during the past four winters, when the price was often skyrocketing. On Monday, however, with world oil prices plunging, the Venezuelan President decided to suspend his large-scale, multistate U.S. program in order to tend to financial concerns at home. Then on Wednesday, at the urging of U.S. politicians whose constituents had come to rely on the oil, Chávez reversed himself and said the heating oil would keep flowing this winter.
All of which raises the question: If Chávez can keep donating fuel even as his oil revenues tumble, why can't any U.S. oil companies step up to do the same? (See pictures of the global financial crisis.)
The left-wing Chávez caught Washington by surprise in the fall of 2005 when he announced that Citgo -- the Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil firm, Petróleos de Venezuela -- would give millions of gallons of heating oil at half price, and eventually free, to struggling households in the American Northeast and Midwest. By this year, the service has expanded to more than 200,000 families in 23 states. The partisan controversy around it has also grown. Republicans grouse that taking fuel from Chávez, America's chief antagonist in the hemisphere, is unpatriotic and simply aids his anti-U.S. foreign policy. Democrats and advocates for the poor disagree. In a website video for Boston-based Citizens Energy, which helps distribute the Citgo oil, director Joseph Kennedy, son of Senator Robert Kennedy, says, "Some people say it's bad politics to [accept the fuel]. I say it's a crime against humanity not to."
Chávez was responding to members of Congress who had made a public plea for oil companies to provide lower-cost home-heating oil to U.S. families squeezed by the rising price of fuel. No U.S.-owned firm stepped forward; Citgo did. (Sunoco has since set up a program that provides free heating oil to 1,100 residents in the Philadelphia area.) Admittedly, it was a chance for Chávez to showcase "one of our revolution's most important principles," as then Venezuelan Ambassador to the U.S. Bernardo Alvarez told TIME in 2006: "the redistribution of oil revenues, especially for the poor."
PAM COMMENTARY: Compare that to certain US politicians who look for every way possible to restrict and rescind aid to the poor.
Japan's "Long War" to shut down Fukushima (5 March 2013)
(Reuters) - Just months after Quince was deployed to inspect Japan's tsunami-devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the $6 million robot got trapped in its dark and winding pathways.
Seventeen months later, the high-tech soldier is still missing in action - a symbol of a daunting decommissioning project that will take decades, require huge injections of human and financial capital and rely on yet-to-be developed technologies.
"It's like going to war with bamboo sticks," said Takuya Hattori, president of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum and a 36-year veteran of Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, known as Tepco.
The war began after a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a huge tsunami. Walls of water 13 metres (43 feet) high smashed into the Fukushima plant north of Tokyo, knocking out its main power supply, destroying backup generators and disabling the cooling system. Three reactors melted down as a series of hydrogen explosions rocked the plant.
Australian woman says dolphins saved her and her dog from drowning (5 March 2013)
"I just remember falling and I'm in the water and the waves were just pounding me up against the rocks and I could see him out there trying to get back in," she said.
Dog and owner struggled to stay afloat as help arrived from an unexpected quarter.
"I remember going under and coming back up I saw a fin, and I saw him, and thought 'Oh great, it's a shark,'" she said. "And then I saw another fin then I realised they were dolphins. These dolphins just formed this horseshoe and were guiding him in, pushing him in."
Soon enough, Gitsham herself was being herded toward shore by the ring of dolphins.
"The dolphins came around me and pushed me into a massive, big boulder," she said.
Camel fossils discovered in Canada's Arctic shed light on animal's evolution (5 March 2013)
How did the camel get his hump?
With the announcement Tuesday that a Canadian-led research team has discovered prehistoric camel fossils in the high Arctic, that story is about to get a lot more interesting.
Fat-filled humps may have been an adaptation for surviving in the chilly polar forest, according to the lead author of the new findings.
"This completely changes how we think about the evolution of Paracamelus, which is the form that gave rise to the modern camel," says Natalia Rybczynski, a paleobiologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and a professor at Carleton University. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.
BP Macondo well drilled in fragile rock formation prone to earthquakes, geoscientist testifies (4 March 2013)
BP's Macondo oil and gas well was drilled in an area of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico that was prone to shallow earthquakes and whose rock formations were the fragile remains of a landslide of rubble that occurred after the end of the last Ice Age, a Scottish geoscience professor testified Monday.
Andrew Hurst, who teaches production geoscience at Aberdeen University in Scotland, worked as a geologist in the petroleum industry in the 1980s, including a stint as lead geologist for Statoil, the national oil company of Norway, at a time when it was drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurst left the oil business in the 1990s to teach geology and to continue his research on pore pressure in rock: how rock structures are affected by the pressure of fluids, including water and oil, that are in the spaces within them.
His testimony on behalf of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee representing private parties who have sued BP and its partners and companies it hired to help drill the Macondo well was aimed at showing that the companies planning the well did not adequately take into account the locatlon's unique geology.
Hurst's testimony came during the fifth day of the first phase of a trial without jury before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier Jr. to determine the liability of BP and its contractors for the explosion that killed 11 men and triggered the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Virginia's Liberty University transforms from Falwell's evangelical school to cut-rate online mega-university (4 March 2013)
LYNCHBURG, Va. -- The small Baptist college that television preacher Jerry Falwell founded here in 1971 has capitalized on the online education boom to become an evangelical mega-university with global reach.
In the almost six years since Falwell's death, Liberty University has doubled its student head count -- twice.
Total enrollment now exceeds 74,000, with nearly 62,000 working toward degrees online in fields such as psychology, business, education, criminal justice and, of course, religion. That makes Liberty the largest university in Virginia -- with more than double the number of students at No. 2 George Mason -- and the largest private, nonprofit university in the country. With a slogan of "training champions for Christ," Liberty also is the nation's largest university with a religious affiliation.
The surging enrollment for a bastion of Christian conservatism in the central Virginia foothills highlights the school as a market leader at the crossroads of religion and higher education. Liberty figured out how to recruit masses of students via the Internet years before elite universities began ballyhooed experiments with free online courses.
Turbocharged growth inevitably raises questions about quality, and Liberty's academic reputation has not risen as fast as its enrollment. About 47 percent of its first-time, full-time students graduate within six years, federal data show, below the national average of 58 percent. Liberty officials say such statistics reflect an admissions policy geared more toward opportunity than exclusivity.
PAM COMMENTARY: I met a girl from Wisconsin who had "attended" Liberty University online. I'm not sure whether employers take a degree from that college seriously, but the student I met didn't select Liberty because of religion. She said that they simply had a very low per-credit online rate, and that the university wouldn't divulge which students had graduated online and who'd attended regular classes. It's a cut-rate bargain basement school, basically.
GOP "Rising Star" Derek Khanna Fired After Penning Controversial Copyright Reform Memo (4 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what it is that you put forward in this Republican Study Committee report that they have retracted and, well, fired you for.
DEREK KHANNA: Sure. Well, I think that intellectual property laws are one of the critical ways the government has to incentivize investment and research and development and progress. So I thought that analyzing our copyright scheme was a good way to go. And so, basically, I was taking a look at the current scheme that we have, comparing it to the Constitution, and saying, "Is this really the most effective structure of copyright law that we could have in this country?" And what I discovered was, this wasn't consistent with the Constitution, and this was not really the best system. It was kind of a system that was mismatch and created by lobbyists over a series of years.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me read part of the memo on copyright reform that you authored, Derek Khanna, for the Republican Study Committee. You wrote, quote, "Strictly speaking, because of the constitutional basis of copyright and patent, legislative discussions on copyright/patent reform should be based upon what promotes the maximum 'progress of sciences and useful arts' instead of 'deserving' financial compensation." What do you mean?
DEREK KHANNA: Well, we should have an analysis to figure out what the appropriate length of copyright term and patent term is and how broad those should be, because what you do is you're creating a monopoly that ensures that there aren't other market participants, there aren't derivative works, for example. When Apple has a patent, for example, on a swipe-to-unlock feature, no one else could have a swipe-to-unlock feature on their phone. And so, we want patents, we want copyright, but there's also a externality, a cost upon the market, in general. So you need to have that cost-benefit analysis. Too often, our conversations today are: You developed the intellectual property, so you should own it forever. But that's not actually consistent with the idea of intellectual property or the Constitution.
Bush's third term: U.S. government can order killing of American citizens by secret drone strikes (4 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) The continued political polarization of the American people is leading the nation straight into tyranny. Less than a decade ago, the so-called political "left" was up in arms over Bush administration policies that permitted "waterboarding" of suspected terrorists, for instance, or unwarranted phone tapping of those perceived to be a "threat" to national security. But today, this same group of political opportunists seems gleefully supportive of Obama administration policies that are far more offensive, including the outrageous declaration recently that targeting and assassinating American citizens with secret drone strikes is perfectly acceptable and legal.
In a telling indictment of just how far we have fallen into despotism as a society, Chicago Tribune reporter John Kass explains in a recent article how the false "left-right" political paradigm is basically the catalyst through which the perpetual trashing of the U.S. Constitution has been able to take place. It is only because "their" man is on the throne, in other words, that hardcore Democrats who once opposed wars and unconstitutional foreign policies are now in seemingly lockstep support of the Obama administration's flagrant and escalating constitutional abuses.
"He can (now) assassinate American citizens abroad without fair trial if they're suspected terrorists," explains Kass about the recent unveiling of the true tenets of the formerly-mysterious Obama Doctrine. "His weapon of choice? Drone strikes from the air. Drones are politically antiseptic weapons of death, almost like a video game, except that real blood and tissue is blown against the walls. And it's all being done in secret."
Illegal drone strikes: Bush's third term
Kass also goes on to confront the treasonous double standard by which many members of the U.S. Congress are handling the situation, as they refuse to hold the occupying administration responsible for adding yet another layer to the military-industrial dictatorship that increasingly threatens us all. As stated plainly by Kass in his article, the Obama White House has now put it into writing that anyone even suspected of being a terrorist threat, whatever that even means, can be murdered by a secret drone strike without warrant, trial, or any other form of due process.
5 Years in Jail for Unlocking a Phone? Petition Led by Former GOP Staffer Prompts Probe of New Ban (4 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: So, Darcy Burner, how does this work? I mean, I assume there are people in this audience--I don't know if I should make these assumptions, but people in the audience, as we broadcast here this morning at the Freedom to Connect conference, who got a phone a few days ago and unlocked it.
DARCY BURNER: When you buy a phone, it should be yours. And you ought to be able to unlock it and use it on whichever network you want to use it on. And the idea that we wouldn't allow that is pretty offensive, frankly. When people buy phones, they should own the phones, and we shouldn't have corporations being able to reach into people's pockets and say, "You may not do with this device what we don't want you to do."
AMY GOODMAN: Europeans who come to this country, who do this all the time--come in, buy a phone, and do this--could be jailed here?
DEREK KHANNA: If they bought an American phone--
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
DEREK KHANNA: --and they did this in the United States, then, yes, they can be criminally liable.
Bill requires welfare recipients to sign waiver of their Fourth Amendment rights (4 March 2013)
Low-income parents seeking federal assistance would be forced to sign away their Fourth Amendment rights under a bill proposed last week by Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee.
The Welfare Integrity Act of 2013 would require applicants for and recipients of assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to sign a waiver of their constitutional rights and submit to random drug tests. The program helps poor families with children pay for living expenses such as rent, heat, utilities and personal care items.
"Currently the federal government enables drug abusers a safety-net by allowing them to participate in the TANF program," Fincher said Monday in a statement. "Instead of having to make the hard-choice between drugs and other essential needs, abusers are able to rely on their monthly check to help them pay their bills."
"By allowing random drug checks, we can ensure families who receive TANF benefits use them for their intended purpose of feeding, clothing and providing shelter for their children, while cutting the tie that enables drug abuse," he added. "It's not unreasonable to ask folks to stay clean in order to receive federal assistance."
Those who tested positive for drug use or have been convicted of drug-related crimes would be temporarily denied TANF benefits under the bill. Those denied three times would be permanently barred from the program.
Republican's bill would limit hours for in-person absentee balloting (4 March 2013)
A Republican lawmaker is proposing limits on the hours and days voters can cast in-person absentee ballots even as such voting increases in popularity in the state.
The bill would have a heavy impact in Madison, one of several municipalities that have held extended hours on nights and weekends to accommodate in-person absentee voters.
Critics said the bill, introduced in the state Assembly late last week, would force municipalities to spend more on mail-in absentee ballots while making it harder for people to vote.
The measure proposed by Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, would prohibit clerks from opening early, late or on weekends to accommodate voters wishing to cast their ballots before Election Day.
U.S. nuclear companies fight new safety measures (4 March 2013)
How much should a nuclear power plant operator spend to prevent radiation from spewing into the air during an accident, à la Fukushima and Chernobyl?
The answer, according to staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is $20 million per reactor. That's the price tag for a filter that could be fitted to a reactor's vent to capture radiation during an accident.
Many reasonable people might think that $20 million is a reasonable price to pay to prevent the potential contamination of the air and land with deadly radiation. Germans apparently think so: Such filters are installed at all nine of that country's nuclear reactors. Japan gets it: After the Fukushima meltdown, the nation is requiring radiation filters to be installed on all reactors. All quite reasonable.
But the executives running America's nuclear power plants don't seem to be so reasonable. As NRC commissioners prepare to vote as soon as this week to adopt or reject their staff's recommendation that they mandate the use of such filters in some of the nation's oldest reactors, industry is lobbying in opposition. The problem? Companies don't want to spend the money. From Bloomberg:
"A proposed requirement that U.S. nuclear-power plants add $20 million devices to prevent radiation leaks, one of the costliest recommendations stemming from meltdowns in Japan two years ago, has attracted a flurry of last-minute lobbying.
"The U.S. nuclear industry opposes the rule, which would require almost a third of the nation's reactors to install a special filter on vents designed to prevent an explosive buildup of gases. Exelon Corp., which owns more U.S. reactors than any other company, estimates each filter would cost $20 million, meaning the Chicago-based company could end up paying $220 million to equip its units. ..."
New wind power rules coming in Ontario to curb output (4 March 2013)
Ontario wind power companies have reached an agreement that will curb electricity output from wind turbines when there's surplus power on the grid.
In return, the companies will get compensated for lost output, within certain limits.
The agreement puts an end to a dispute before the Ontario Energy Board that pitted the wind companies against provincial power agencies.
Until now, wind power has had almost unrestricted access to the power grid, under rules designed to encourage the development of renewable power in Ontario.
Wind power is especially tricky to deal with, because there's a lot of it and the wind often blows strongest overnight or on weekends, when demand is low.
Nuclear plants also produce power regardless of market conditions, because most nuclear units are very difficult to control -- they're either on or off.
Super-convincing fake egg is made entirely from plants (4 March 2013)
It's not easy to make a real egg. First of all, you have to get a real chicken. Then you have to find a real place to put it, then you have to find real food to feed it so it stays alive. It's quite a production, and sometimes the chicken doesn't enjoy itself so much, seeing as a couple hundred generations ago chickens were just running around willy-nilly and now, generally, their lives suck.
So, to the rescue -- what else -- Californians! A San Francisco company called Hampton Creek Foods (is there a Hampton Creek in San Francisco? I think there is NOT) has created an egg substitute. It is called Beyond Eggs. It supposedly tastes just like real eggs. It is cheaper than real eggs. It does not require that a pesky chicken to exist for it to be eaten. Here's some more info on it from Fast Company:
[Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek Foods] has deconstructed the egg, analyzed its 22 special functions, and replicated it with plant-stuffs like sunflower lecithin, canola, peas, and natural gums from tree sap. By all accounts, the substitute tastes just like the real thing -- even if it doesn't look like it. It's sold as a gray-green powder that you need to hydrate before use.
I don't want to refer to real eggs as romantic -- probably not the right word -- but a gray-green powder that needs to be hydrated? That's not the eggs we knew when we were little, and not even the eggs we know now, and that's sad.
Unequal Justice: Aboriginals caught in the justice system trap (3 March 2013)
Aboriginal people accounted for less than 2 per cent of Ontario's adult population in 2009, but more than 10 per cent of adults admitted to provincial jails. In federal penitentiaries, they are nearly 20 per cent of inmates.
Proportions are even more skewed when it comes to young offenders. Aboriginal girls account for one of every three jail admissions to a provincial facility for female youth, according to data obtained by University of Toronto doctoral candidate Akwasi Owusu-Bempah through a freedom-of-information request. That is 10 times higher than their proportion of the province's youth population.
Among male youth in jail, aboriginal boys make up 15 per cent. In the general Ontario population, they account for only 3 per cent of boys, which means they are overrepresented in jail by a factor of five.
In a report released Tuesday , former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci harshly criticized the judicial system for "systemic racism" and labeled the marginalization and jailing of aboriginals a "serious crisis."
There's no qualitative difference in the crimes aboriginals and non-aboriginals are put in jail for, among the most common being assault, break-and-enter, and theft and possession, according to a soon to be published report co-written by lawyer Jonathan Rudin. But aboriginal youth are treated more harshly.
The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking (3 March 2013) [InfoWars.com]
THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.
What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.
The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler's reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.
The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.
"The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought," Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.
"We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was," he said, "but the numbers are unbelievable."
PAM COMMENTARY: While I wouldn't doubt that numbers were underestimated for not only Jews but all POWs and perceived enemies of the German dictatorship, I hope the museum will produce original documents. Some of us have history degrees, and we demand evidence -- especially when claims are made by those with a financial interest in the outcome of their findings.
Montana, Idaho trappers catching more than just wolves (3 March 2013)
In the first year that wolf trapping was allowed in Idaho, trappers captured a total of 123 wolves.
But according to a survey by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Department, those same trappers in 2011-2012 also inadvertently captured 147 other animals, including white-tailed deer, elk, moose, mountain lions, skunks and ravens.
Trappers reported that 69 of those animals died as a result.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife management chief George Pauley said his office is currently gathering similar information about the state's first wolf trapping season.
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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