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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012

News from the Week of 10th to 16th of March 2013

FDA to probe new diabetes drugs, precancerous changes in pancreas (16 March 2013)
The Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will investigate whether a new class of Type 2 diabetes drugs sometimes called the "gliptins" may increase patients' risk of developing precancerous changes in the pancreas, as well as of developing acute pancreatitis.

The drugs now under closer FDA scrutiny are called incretin mimetics and include such widely prescribed medications as the drug exenitide (marketed as Byetta and Bydureon), liraglutide (Victoza), sitagliptin (Januvia and Janumet or Juvisync), saxagliptin (Onglyza), alogliptin (Nesina, Kazano and Oseni) and linogliptin (Tradjenta and Jentadueto). All of the drugs in this class help Type 2 diabetes patients control their blood sugar by mimicking the hormones that promote the release of insulin after a meal.

The FDA already has issued consumer warnings that patients taking these diabetes drugs may be at higher risk of developing acute pancreatitis, an inflammation of the gland that secretes insulin and the enzymes needed to digest food and extract their nutrients. But the agency said an as-yet unpublished study found that pancreatic cells taken from patients who had died of unspecified causes had developed precancerous cellular changes called pancreatic duct metaplasia.

FDA investigators have asked those researchers to share their methods and findings with the agency so that they can "investigate potential pancreatic toxicity associated with the incretin mimetics."
[Read more...]

Elwha gnaws away at a century of sediment (16 March 2013)
A mother lode of mud is making its way down the Elwha River, and with it, an armada of floating and waterlogged debris.

Contractors are taking two dams out of the Elwha River as part of a watershed and fishery recovery project that is the largest of its type ever in the world. The first, Elwha Dam, came out a year ago. Glines Canyon dam is about two-thirds gone.

Scientists recently learned there was about 41 percent more sediment trapped behind the dams than originally thought -- and that the river is transporting more mud and wood than they expected.

As the river, dammed for 100 years, comes back to life, the other surprise is a forest of waterlogged wood and other organic debris the Elwha is muscling out of the former lake beds of the reservoirs.

All that wood is interacting with the sediment in the river with unpredictable results, said Andy Ritchie, restoration hydrologist for the National Park Service, which is running the Elwha recovery project. He was surprised this winter to see the river building fences and jams of wood that trapped sediment in places where it wasn't expected, such as at Elwha Campground, or causing erosion in others, such as at the historic Elwha ranger district.
[Read more...]

OR-7 returns to Oregon (13 March 2013)
A lone wolf originally from Eastern Oregon is back in his home state after 11 months of rambling in California.

The gray wolf known as OR-7, the identification associated with his radio collar, crossed into Oregon sometime between noon and midnight Tuesday, said Karen Kovacs, wildlife program manager California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Before passing over the state line, she said, OR-7 plunged into and swam across the Klamath River.

"Rivers do not seem to pose much of an obstacle for this critter," Kovacs said. "It's not the first time he swam the Klamath, we know that."

Once a member of the Imnaha pack in Eastern Oregon, OR-7 set out on his own in September 2011. He crossed through Central Oregon, wandering through parts of Crook and Deschutes counties before heading into California late that year. He returned to Oregon for about a month between last March and April but had been in California since. Kovacs said he's covered at least 4,400 miles so far.

While in California OR-7 was the first and only known wolf in the state since the animals were killed off there in the 1920s.
[Read more...]

Comedian's sister, philandering ex-governor in South Carolina race (16 March 2013)
(Reuters) - A comedian's sister and a philandering ex-governor lead a field of 18 candidates seeking to fill a vacant congressional seat in Tuesday's special election, reminding voters how "Appalachian Trial" became a euphemism for extramarital affair.

Coastal South Carolina's 1st Congressional District needs to fill the vacancy left by Tim Scott, who was appointed to replace Jim DeMint in the Senate after DeMint resigned to head the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Sixteen Republicans will compete in Tuesday's primary, including former Governor Mark Sanford, who once secretly left the country to visit his Argentine mistress, and the son of media mogul Ted Turner.

Two Democrats are also running on Tuesday, including Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of television comedian Stephen Colbert, who faces a perennial candidate in the Democratic primary and is expected to win in her first run for political office.
[Read more...]

Mississippi lives for sugar, dies of sugar: Jarvis DeBerry (16 March 2013)
Where I'm from, the iced tea is always sweet, people have been observed sprinkling a spoon of white sugar over a scoop of white rice, and homemade biscuits are not slathered with gravy but broken into sections and used to sop up half a plate of Blackburn Made syrup. Is that too much? You want some Cheerios? Corn Flakes? That's fine. Just make like Nina Simone and put some sugar in that bowl.

Grandmamas keep Blue Bell ice cream in the deep freeze. So that everything baked gets served a la mode. If pitchers of sweet tea don't suit you, there are always 12-packs and 3 liters of Coke, a word that also encompasses Sprite, Pepsi, Sunkist, Tab, basically anything that fizzes and makes you burp. Mississippi is the fattest state in the country. Nobody's figured out why.

Of course, obesity isn't just endemic to the South. Being overweight is becoming a part of what it means to be American. I once heard a popular African musician declare the impossibility of a poor man being fat. Welcome, to America, good sir, the land of innovation. We can get you fat for mere pennies.

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, thought he'd nip that problem if not in the bud then at the nozzle. Bloomberg with the New York City Board of Health outlawed the gargantuan servings of sweetened beverages that are contributing to the most significant widening of America since the Louisiana Purchase.
[Read more...]

Swiss tourist gang-raped in central India (16 March 2013)
NEW DELHI -- A Swiss woman who was touring by bicycle with her husband through the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh was gang-raped by a group of eight men, police said Saturday.

Thirteen men were detained and questioned in connection with the attack, which occurred Friday night as the couple camped out in a forest after bicycling from the temple town of Orchha, local police officer R.K. Gurjar said.
The men beat the couple and gang-raped the woman, he said. They also stole the couple's mobile phone, a laptop computer and 10,000 rupees ($185).

The woman was in a hospital Saturday in the nearby city of Gwalior, Gurjar said, adding that she and her husband apparently suffered no major injuries.
Police detained 13 men and questioned them in connection with the attack, he said. Six of the men were released after questioning. No other details were immediately available.

Indian television stations showed scores of police searching the forest where the attack occurred.
[Read more...]

Matthew Keys moved between two digital subcultures for years (16 March 2013)
In a development that shocked Keys's colleagues and counterparts, prosecutors on Thursday charged that the 26-year-old California native helped a hacker break into and vandalize the Los Angeles Times's Web site in late 2010.

The alleged crime -- Keys faces charges that are punishable by up to 25 years in prison -- was stunning enough. Moreso was Keys's supposed co-conspirator: a member of Anonymous, the notorious collective of hacker-activists that has disrupted private and public computer systems for years.

The story behind the indictment appears to be a tale of payback, counter-payback and perhaps naivete by a young man considered a rising star in the new-media world.

Federal authorities say they suspect Keys helped the Anonymous hacker, known as Sharpie, in order to get back at a former employer, TV station KTXL in Sacramento. Keys had worked at the station, owned by Tribune, as a web producer until he was terminated in October 2010 under circumstances the station has declined to discuss. The Los Angeles Times is also owned by Tribune.

Keys, who joined Reuters last year, allegedly shared a user name and password in an online chat with Sharpie and encouraged him to enter the Tribune's digital-publishing system to deface news stories on the Times site. While Sharpie's mischief appears to have caused minimal damage -- one altered story appeared online for about a half-hour before the break-in was discovered -- the government says the Times subsequently spent thousands of dollars to change passwords and beef up its computer security.
[Read more...]

FBI's demands for private data struck down by federal court (15 March 2013)
The FBI has suffered a dramatic setback in its use of hyper-secret gagging orders in the name of national security to obtain the private data of US citizens, after a federal court struck down the practice.

A judge in a California US district court ordered the US government to stop issuing what are called "national security letters". Susan Illston said the letters, which have mushroomed since 9/11 under the Patriot Act, were unconstitutional as they breached the first amendment rights of the parties being served the orders.

NSLs have been an increasingly important part of the US government's approach to counter-terrorism, though their growing use has been matched by mounting unease on the party of civil libertarians. Last year the FBI sent out more than 16,000 of the letters relating to the private data -- mainly financial, internet or phone records -- of more than 7,000 Americans.

Previous court action has led to the FBI being accused of abusing its powers under the NSL statute by issuing the letters far more extensively than in the limited counter-terrorism situations for which they were devised.
[Read more...]

250 arrested early at Montreal's annual anti-brutality march (15 March 2013)
MONTREAL -- Montreal's annual anti-brutality march instantly descended into chaos Friday as riot cops snatched protesters from the crowd before the demonstration even began.

The notoriously combative event saw police chase hundreds of protesters through a crowd of bystanders downtown, occasionally hurling CS gas bombs in an attempt to splinter the group. After a few skirmishes saw two officers hospitalized, the riot squad surrounded demonstrators on Ste. Catherine St. E. and began making mass arrests.

Two groups were corralled against a wall near the Berri UQAM métro station, with police kicking and striking those who wouldn't move fast enough. In the end, about 250 people were handcuffed and taken away by the busload.

The majority of those arrested will be ticketed for blocking traffic. Two will face assault charges, one person was detained for carrying incendiary devices and another for uttering threats. One protester was hospitalized.
[Read more...]

Teaching Men Not to Rape: Survivor Zerlina Maxwell Defies Threats After Speaking Out on Fox News (15 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you've been a frequent guest on Fox News in the past. Have you ever gotten the kind of reaction that you've gotten on this particular issue?

ZERLINA MAXWELL: Well, this is my first time ever talking about this particular issue, but I have done segments about guns, because that's, you know, a hot topic right now, and I've never, ever received any of the feedback like the ones, the violent feedback, that I got this week. Normally, it's just: "I disagree. You're stupid." That's fine. You know, I can deal with that. You just, you know, ignore that type of comment. But when it goes to violence and people being very, very cruel, especially since I outed myself as a rape survivor in this segment, which actually wasn't the clip that was on conservative media sites--they took that part out--but I think that, you know, when I'm putting myself out there and I'm being vulnerable, because I think the message and the issue is important, you know, and you respond with violence, I think in many ways you're proving my point, that there is a cultural problem that we need to address.

AMY GOODMAN: Zerlina, you wrote a piece this week, "Five Ways We Can Teach Men Not to Rape." Talk about those ways.

ZERLINA MAXWELL: Yes. We need to teach people what consent is. And, you know, this week we're seeing in Ohio the Steubenville rape trial with two high school football players, and the defense attorney is basically arguing that she was too drunk in order to say no, and so that means she's implying that she consented to everything that happened when she began drinking that night. And, you know, number one on the list is, we need to teach young men about consent, because I think it's not that people don't know that rape is wrong. I think we all can agree that, you know, people know that it's wrong. But I think a lot of people don't know what rape is. And so, there are times when young men will be in a situation where they do something that they think is ambiguous, but in--legally, it's classified as rape. And, you know, it all comes down to consent and knowing what that is.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Rapists aren't usually the "learning" kind of men.

Ten food label entries that should send you running (15 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) There are billions of consumers out there and only a few manufacturers of food. This means that to meet consumer demands, manufacturing companies need efficient processes in order to be in the competition. Enter food additives that serve to present and preserve packaged foods for consumer satisfaction. Thanks to federal laws, companies are now required to print all food ingredients on food packages. That means we are allowed to choose what we eat. Here are 10 of the food additives that we need to stay away from.

Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite
What: Food preservative; helps retain red coloring in processed meat products.

Effects: Its chemical component contains carcinogens, and when accumulated in the body, can lead to stomach, prostate, and breast cancers. It has also been found to cause fetal deaths, miscarriages, and birth defects among animals in the laboratory.

Option: Seek for nitrate or nitrite-free meat products.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: ... Or you could avoid the many problem with meat altogether and go vegetarian!

Mayor says migrants building around sewers are responsible for Cholera outbreak in Congo (15 March 2013)
Brazzaville -- An influx of migrants from the countryside into the Republic of Congo's second largest city, Pointe-Noire, is exacerbating a cholera outbreak that began in November 2012. The outbreak infected at least 389 and killed 10, according to the health ministry and local authorities.

"Heavy rain in the port city in recent weeks and sanitation problems triggered the cholera outbreak," said Health Minister François Ibovi.

According to the mayor of Pointe-Noire, Roland Bouiti Viaudo, the booming city has seen a large influx of migrants from rural areas.

"People build and settle in prohibited areas, including [around] sewers, blocking the free flow of wastewater, which explains the repeated outbreaks of cholera," he told IRIN. "To stop the disease... everyone - the authorities, NGOs and communities - should mobilize and become aware of this danger."
[Read more...]

Donor in rabies cases had symptoms, wasn't tested (15 March 2013)
A 20-year-old Air Force recruit who died of rabies had symptoms of the disease but wasn't tested before his organs were transplanted to four patients, one of whom died of rabies nearly 18 months later, federal health officials said Friday.

The three other organ recipients are getting rabies shots and haven't displayed any symptoms. Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to speculate on their chances for survival.

"This case is so unique and atypical that we cannot make predictions," said Richard Franka, acting leader of the CDC's rabies team.

Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, director of the agency's Office of Blood, Organ, and Other Tissue Safety, said investigators don't know why doctors in Florida didn't test the donor for rabies before offering his kidneys, heart and liver to people in Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Maryland.

The man in Maryland who received the transplant died. The Defense Department said he was an Army veteran who had transplant surgery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
[Read more...]

Boss at ailing Calif. nuke plant made $2M in 2012 (15 March 2013)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The top executive overseeing the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant on the California coast received compensation valued at nearly $2 million last year, according to a regulatory filing released Friday.

The seaside reactors between San Diego and Los Angeles haven't produced electricity since January 2012, when a tiny radiation leak led to the discovery of damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

Documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that the base salary for Southern California Edison's chief nuclear officer, Peter Dietrich, climbed to $461,000 last year -- a 6 percent boost over 2011.

Dietrich, who also holds the title of SCE's senior vice president, saw his stock awards and options each jump 28 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year, according to an Associated Press review of the company's filing.
[Read more...]

Study: Delaying marriage hurts middle-class Americans most (15 March 2013)
The study was conducted by researchers for the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the Relate Institute. It is part of a growing body of research into the impact of delayed marriage as the median age when people marry has risen to 27 for women and 29 for men.

The study found a large educational and class divide. College-educated women typically have their first child two years after marrying. The high school graduates as a group have their first child two years before they -marry.

In a statistic that runs counter to the image of unmarried mothers as reckless teenagers, the study said 58 percent of first births to women who have graduated only from high school are out of wedlock.

"Everyone is pushing marriage to their late 20s and early 30s, the Wal-Mart cashier as well as the Wells Fargo executive," said W. Bradley Wilcox of the University of Virginia, one of the authors of the study. "But the Wells Fargo executive is getting married in her late 20s and having her first child in her early 30s. The Wal-Mart checkout guy is having his first kid in his early 20s, and often marries in his late 20s, often to someone who is not the mother of his first child."
[Read more...]

Study helps untangle polar bear and brown bear genetics (15 March 2013)
Among those concerned about the fate of the polar bear, it's thought that understanding the iconic animal's genetics could help scientists figure out what will happen to the bears as the climate warms and their icy habitat shrinks.

There's just one problem: pinning down the polar bear's genetic history -- including when and how it split away from its close relative the brown bear -- has been tricky. Recent studies have concluded that polar bears are closely related to brown bears (a group that includes grizzlies). But they have arrived at widely varying dates for the species' split. That's because the blend of polar bear and brown bear genes scientists have found in bears can allow multiple interpretations of the species' genetic histories.

Now a new paper, published Thursday in the journal PLOS Genetics, suggests a reason for some of the confusion: Researchers misunderstood the history of one particular set of bears in the mix, the brown bears living on Alaska's Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof (ABC) islands.

ABC island brown bears share genes with polar bears, which led scientists to think they were similar to the bears that would have been the ancestors of the polar bear. But scientists at UC Santa Cruz now think the story of the ABC bears goes the other way around -- that they are the descendants of female polar bears who were the original inhabitants of the islands.
[Read more...]

Too big to prosecute: How Monsanto slipped the DOJ's grasp (15 March 2013)
Hey so remember a few months ago when we told you about how the Department of Justice quietly slipped its Monsanto investigation into the shredder? The global GMO giant was "pleased," activists were pissed, and we were left wondering how that whole thing even happened.

Today, Lina Khan at Salon breaks down the what-the-fuck of it all. The investigation was first fertilized at the state level in 2007, when officials in Iowa, Texas, and other states began looking into Monsanto's restrictive, anti-competitive contract agreements with seed companies and farmers. Monsanto's trademarked genes are in more than 90 percent of American soy and 80 percent of corn.

Monsanto started in chemicals, only moving into genetically modified seed traits in the 1980s, and then buying up seed companies of its own in the '90s. "Over the next decade Monsanto spent more than $12 billion to buy at least 30 such businesses," Khan writes.

"Alarmed by the fact that they were losing access to many key seed gene pools and seed breeders, biotech competitors -- including DuPont, Dow and Syngenta -- scrambled to keep up, grabbing suites of seed companies to secure their own arsenals."
[Read more...]

Top-selling antidepressants double your bone fracture risk (15 March 2013)
A recent March 2013 post by saveourbones.com featured the results of a 2007 Canadian study that determined the risk factor for fracturing bones was doubled among those using SSRIs.

According to the Canadian study: "Functional serotonin receptors and the serotonin transporter have been localized to osteoblasts and osteocytes, and serotonin seems to modulate the skeletal effects of parathyroid hormone and mechanical stimulation."

Translation: Inhibiting serotonin from normal receptors has a negative impact on bone production.

This is compounded by the fact that people who are depressed tend to show higher markers of inflammation. Inflammation weakens bones and produces other chronic autoimmune diseases.
[Read more...]

Answers hard to find after deadly NY gun rampage (15 March 2013)
HERKIMER, N.Y. (AP) -- A man killed by police after a shooting rampage that left four people dead was a mystery in a small town, a stranger to his neighbors and a man of few words, even at a bar where he regularly drank Coors Light and listened to, but never sang, karaoke.

A former boss who worked with gunman Kurt Myers for 20 years described him as a quiet and nervous but intelligent and congenial man who was a fan of World War II trivia -- though a recent encounter with his old employee left him unsettled.

Steve Copperwheat, who hired Myers as a machine operator in the early 1980s at Waterbury Felt, a manufacturer of industrial textiles, said he encountered him in a Wal-Mart parking lot three months ago after not seeing him in about 10 years.

"I yelled over to him, and he looked at me, said my name, said he was retired and just went booking away," Copperwheat said. "It was almost like he didn't want anybody to know where he was. He was trying to be very distant, which surprised me. The whole conversation was really spooky."
[Read more...]

Affidavit: Wisconsin GOP got rid of redistricting files (15 March 2013)
An affidavit filed in federal court this week said documents were deleted from state redistricting computers last year even after lawmakers' aides were told to preserve all records.

The filing raises the possibility that Republican officials or their lawyers could face sanctions from the panel of three federal judges overseeing the case, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Nine hard drives had been handed over to groups suing the state to help settle questions about whether legislators and their attorneys complied with an order to turn over all relevant documents. One hard drive was unreadable and appeared to have been tampered with, while others had an advanced file-deleting program installed on them, the affidavit said.

Tom Pyper, an attorney representing the Legislature, said any information deletion would have taken place in the normal course of using state computers, and the Legislature wasn't required to preserve documents after June, when the groups dropped an appeal in the case.

The technician reviewing the computers said he hopes to recover at least some of the deleted documents.
[Read more...]

"Muzzling" of Canadian government scientists sent before Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault (15 March 2013)
For a story last December on how climate change is affecting the Arctic and Antarctic, The Star contacted scientists at NASA, Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.

Emails to the U.S. government scientists were personally returned, usually the same day and with offers to talk in person or by phone.

Emails sent to Canadian government scientists led to apologetic responses that the request would have to be routed through public relations officials. Public relations staff asked for a list of questions in advance, and then set boundaries for what subjects the interview could touch upon. Approval to interview the scientists was given days later. In all cases, a PR staffer asked to listen in on the interviews.

Government scientists who were contacted for this story informed the Star directly and through intermediaries that they did not want to comment, fearing repercussions.

But one researcher with well over a decade of experience in the civil service, who asked to remain anonymous because he said both management and his union have told him he could face penalties for speaking out publicly, called the situation "absolutely embarrassing."
[Read more...]

Pope Francis' Junta Past: Argentine Journalist on New Pontiff's Ties to Abduction of Jesuit Priests (14 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
HORACIO VERBITSKY: Of course. He was accused by two Jesuit priests of having surrendered them to the military. They were a group of Jesuits that were under Bergoglio's direction. He was the provincial superior of the order in Argentina, being very, very young. He was the younger provincial Jesuit in history; at 36 years, he was provincial. During a period of great political activity in the Jesuits' company, he stimulated the social work of the Jesuits. But when the military coup overthrow the Isabel Perón government, he was in touch with the military that ousted this government and asked the Jesuits to stop their social work. And when they refused to do it, he stopped protecting them, and he let the military know that they were not more inside the protection of the Jesuits' company, and they were kidnapped. And they accuse him for this deed. He denies this. He said to me that he tried to get them free, that he talked with the former dictator, Videla, and with former dictator Massera to have them freed.

And during a long period, I heard two versions: the version of the two kidnapped priests that were released after six months of torture and captivity, and the version of Bergoglio. This was an issue divisive in the human rights movement to which I belong, because the president founding of CELS, Center for Legal and Social Studies, Emilio Mignone, said that Bergoglio was a accomplice of the military, and a lawyer of the CELS, Alicia Oliveira, that was a friend of Bergoglio, tell the other part of the story, that Bergoglio helped them. This was the two--the two versions.

But during the research for one of my books, I found documents in the archive of the foreign relations minister in Argentina, which, from my understanding, gave an end to the debate and show the double standard that Bergoglio used. The first document is a note in which Bergoglio asked the ministry to--the renewal of the passport of one of these two Jesuits that, after his releasing, was living in Germany, asking that the passport was renewed without necessity of this priest coming back to Argentina. The second document is a note from the officer that received the petition recommending to his superior, the minister, the refusal of the renewal of the passport. And the third document is a note from the same officer telling that these priests have links with subversion--that was the name that the military gave to all the people involved in opposition to the government, political or armed opposition to the military--and that he was jailed in the mechanics school of the navy, and saying that this information was provided to the officer by Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, provincial superior of the Jesuit company. This means, to my understanding, a double standard. He asked the passport given to the priest in a formal note with his signature, but under the table he said the opposite and repeated the accusations that produced the kidnapping of these priests.
[Read more...]

25 disturbing facts about psych drugs, soldiers and suicides (14 March 2013)
Stimulants, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, sedatives and pain meds are the new "fuel" for America's front-line forces. While the idea of sending medicated soldiers into battle was unthinkable just three decades ago, today it's the status quo. And the cost in human lives has never been more tragic.

Here are 25 disturbing facts about psych drugs, soldiers and suicides. They are disturbing because everybody seems to be pretending there is no link between psychiatric drugs and soldier suicides. So soldiers and veterans keep dying while the Pentagon (and the VA) keep pretending they don't know why. (Sources are listed at the bottom of this article.)

1) 33% of the U.S. Army is on prescription medications, and nearly a quarter of those are on psychotropic drugs

2) In 2010, the Pentagon spent $280 million on psychiatric drugs. That number has since risen.

3) There are now over 8,000 suicides each year by U.S. soldiers and veterans; that's over 22 a day
[Read more...]

Shell barred from returning to drill for oil in Arctic without overhaul (14 March 2013)
Shell "screwed up" drilling for oil in Arctic waters and will not be allowed back without a comprehensive overhaul of its plans, the Obama administration said on Thursday.

A government review found the oil company was not prepared for the extreme conditions in the Arctic, which resulted in a series of blunders and accidents culminating in the New Year's Eve grounding of its drill rig.

Shell announced a "pause" in Arctic drilling last month. But Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, told a reporters' conference call that the company will not be allowed to return without producing a much more detailed plan, one tailored specifically to the harsh Arctic conditions.

"Shell will not be able to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated management plan put in place," said Salazar, in one of his last acts before standing down as interior secretary. "It's that plain and simple."
[Read more...]

BP contractor finds cement samples midtrial (14 March 2013)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A lawyer for the cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling project says the company has found cement samples possibly associated with BP's Macondo well that weren't turned over to the Justice Department for testing.

Halliburton lawyer Donald Godwin told U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on Thursday that the company believes the material found this week at its lab in Lafayette, La., has no bearing on the ongoing trial over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

But a plaintiffs' attorney countered that the samples are cement a Halliburton employee used for testing of the well before a blowout triggered a deadly explosion.

In an email to the court late Wednesday, Godwin says Halliburton is investigating whether the material should have been turned over in response to subpoenas.
[Read more...]

Whistle-blowing Oregon prison exec fired, sees retaliation (14 March 2013)
Killgore's concerns touched off an investigation last October by the state Justice Department. Investigators found no criminal conduct but did find a pattern of corrections officials turning to Corrections Enterprises for favors ranging from furniture to donations to their charities.

"I have no doubt this is retaliation for turning in the original information," Killgore told The Oregonian on Thursday. He noted that his allegations also concerned conduct by Peters.

Peters, through an aide, denied any retaliation. "This change has nothing to do with the recent criminal investigation," said Liz Craig, DOC communications manager.

Michael Jordan, chief operating officer at the state Department of Administrative Services, acknowledged the timing looks bad.
[Read more...]

Google to shut Reader web feed application, users vent (14 March 2013)
(Reuters) - Google Inc said it will shut Google Reader on July 1, citing declining usage for the application that aggregates content served by web feeds, as it forges ahead with its strategy to focus on fewer products that have more impact.

Google Reader was launched in 2005 to make it easy for people to discover websites of interest and keep tabs on them.

Google said there were "two simple reasons" for closing the service. "Usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we are pouring all of our energy into fewer products," the company said on its official blog on Wednesday.(r.reuters.com/nur66t)

Users of the doomed app took to Twitter to vent about the closing of the service, making "Google Reader" one of the top trending topics on the microblogging site.

"Shutdown of Google Reader because of a 'lack of consumer appeal?' No way. The simple reason: RSS can't be controlled and monetized easily," one Twitter user wrote.
[Read more...]

In Africa, Corruption Dirties the Water (14 March 2013)
Nairobi -- Collusion among government officials, unscrupulous water vendors and large farm owners results in diverted water supply lines, misappropriated funds, and failure to implement laws on protecting water sources from encroachment and pollution. These are just some of the ways corruption is denying millions of poor people in Africa access to safe and clean drinking water, experts say.

"The impact of corruption on the water sector is manifested by lack of sustainable delivery, inequitable investment and targeting of resources, and limited participation of affected communities in developmental processes," Bethlehem Mengistu, regional advocacy manager at the NGO Water Aid, told IRIN.

In a 2010 report, the UN World Health Organization (WHO), estimated that around 780 million people around the world, including 343 million in Africa, did not have access to an "improved drinking water supply", meaning a running water network, public drinking fountains, protected wells or springs, or rainwater tanks.

Globally, an estimated 3 million deaths result from water-borne diseases annually, according to WHO.

According to the World Bank, 20 to 40 percent of public finances worldwide meant for the water sector are lost due to corruption and dishonest practices.
[Read more...]

Water main break closes Marine Corps base, military school in Louisiana (14 March 2013)
The Marine Corps has closed its installation in Algiers, and administrators at the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy inside the base canceled classes Thursday because of significantly low water pressure. Construction workers broke a water main Wednesday while working on the Patterson Road extension to the Marine Corps installation's north gate, through which truck deliveries will be made.

The break has affected the Federal City campus as well. The water line in question appears to supply only the former Naval Support Activity, which is being converted into the mixed-use Federal City development.

"It shouldn't be affecting anybody but the base," said Kathy Lynn Honaker, executive director of the Algiers Development District, which has a hand in overseeing Federal City. "It's all internal, as far as I know."

Authorities at the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board could not be reached immediately for comment Thursday morning.

Only essential personnel are reporting to work today at Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans, said Lt. Col. Francis Piccoli, public affairs director at Marine Forces Reserve.
[Read more...]

Papal election stirs Argentina's 'dirty war' past (14 March 2013)
Some leading Argentine human rights activists agree that Bergoglio doesn't deserve to be lumped together with other church figures who were closely aligned with the dictatorship.

"Perhaps he didn't have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship," Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for documenting the junta's atrocities, said Thursday. "Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship. He can't be accused of that," Perez Esquivel told Radio de la Red in Buenos Aires.

Other activists are angry over the positions Bergoglio, 76, has taken in recent years, as Argentina pursues investigations aimed at exposing those responsible for killing as many as 30,000 people, and finding traces of their victims. Some say he's been more concerned about preserving the church's image than providing evidence for Argentina's many human rights trials.

"There's hypocrisy here when it comes to the church's conduct, and with Bergoglio in particular," said Estela de la Cuadra, whose mother co-founded the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo activist group during the dictatorship to search for missing family members. "There are trials of all kinds now, and Bergoglio systematically refuses to support them."

Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court in trials involving torture and murder inside the feared Navy Mechanics School and the theft of babies from detainees. When he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman told the AP.

Bergoglio's own statements proved church officials knew from early on that the junta was torturing and killing its citizens even as the church publicly endorsed the dictators, she said. "The dictatorship could not have operated this way without this key support," she said.
[Read more...]

Florida bartender who shot '47 percent' video said he had no grudge against Romney; rather wanted people who couldn't afford fundraiser to hear the candidate's ideas (13 March 2013)
Scott Prouty revealed himself on MSNBC's "The Ed Show" Wednesday night as the bartender who shot a damaging video of Mitt Romney dismissing President Obama's supporters during a closed-press fundraiser last year.
"I was behind this whole thing," Prouty said.

The bartender said he brought a camera to the Boca Raton, Fla. fundraiser in case Romney came back to take pictures with the staff, as former president Bill Clinton had done at another event Prouty worked. "I didn't go there with a grudge against Romney," he said. "I really had no idea he would say what he said."

Prouty grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in Boston, he said. He said he felt that people who couldn't afford to attend a high-priced fundraiser should get a chance "to find out what the candidate actually thinks."

He said he struggled for two weeks with whether or not to release the video and risk his own career. He did not have health insurance. After wrestling with the decision, he decided it would be cowardly not to release the video: "I went down the path and never looked back."

Romney's comments on the "47 percent" who he described as dependent on government handouts were a major blow to his campaign, as the former Massachusetts governor himself acknowledged in a recent interview.
[Read more...]

Victim in overturned military rape case: 'I was stunned' (13 March 2013)
"I opened my eyes and he was in bed with me with his hands down my pants," said Hanks.

Hanks said she was "absolutely stunned" when she heard that the conviction had been overturned.

"It looks to me that he is protecting one of his own," she said.

Hanks' case has caused a firestorm in Congress, which held hearings on Wendesday during which numerous sexual assault victims detailed their experience with the military's "broken" justice system.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. was visibly incensed at the scale of injustice occurring, calling the Wilkerson case "shocking."

"I question now whether that unit that that man returns to, where there's any chance if a woman's sexually assaulted in that unit [she] would ever say a word," said Gillibrand. "Because what that general just said was 'that jury's decision didn't matter.'
[Read more...]

Are we approaching the antibiotic apocalypse? (13 March 2013)
Imagine a world where a scratch would strike terror into your soul. A place where giving birth is a life-and-death experience, where every sore throat and stomach upset is potentially lethal. A world where almost no surgeon will operate unless the only alternative is certain death and where chemotherapy is too deadly to contemplate. This could be our awful future, according to Prof. Sally Davies, the British government's chief medical officer. She has warned the world faces an antibiotic apocalypse, a "ticking time bomb" and a "catastrophic threat to the population" as medicine faces the prospect of losing probably the most powerful weapon in its armoury - the effective antibiotic.

The tragedy is that this is a disaster of our own making. Thanks to a combination of profligacy, wilful stupidity, the laziness of thousands of doctors and the selfish persistence of millions of patients in demanding instant cures for minor illnesses that would go away on their own, simple bacterial infections could once again become the scourge of humanity.

When antibiotics were developed in the 1930s and 1940s, doctors found themselves equipped with cheap, safe and effective miracle drugs that transformed the prognoses of millions of patients. The first penicillin antibiotics were incredibly effective against a host of diseases, such as tuberculosis, and in fighting off myriad infections caught through bacterial transmission or as a result of accidental or surgical wounds.

In the '40s, '50s and '60s, it seemed germs had no answers to penicillin and other wonder drugs, which along with sanitation and vaccination were responsible for adding years, and then decades, to life expectancies. When one bacterial species proved to be resistant to the antibiotic Armageddon being rained down upon it, new drugs would emerge from the pharmaceutical laboratories, synthesized and semi-synthetic versions of natural compounds produced by species of fungus (such as Penicillium itself and Acremonium).
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Yet another reason conventional medicine should consider accepting the Clark zapper.

Too many drug types are compromising heart health: doctors (13 March 2013)
(Reuters) - About 80 million Americans suffer from heart disease, the nation's No. 1 killer, and most are on multiple drugs.

Some cardiologists think prescribing has gotten out of hand.

The criticism was voiced by a number of leading heart doctors who attended the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology, held on March 9-11 in San Francisco. They said eliminating certain drugs could potentially improve care without compromising treatment. Evidence is growing that some medications are not effective.

Patients who need multiple daily doses of a given drug often fail to take them, said Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic and a past president of the ACC. "There is also the question about whether the benefits are additive."

Among the medications cardiologists are giving a second look: AbbVie's Niaspan, or prescription niacin, which aims to raise good cholesterol; so-called fenofibrate such as top-selling branded drug TriCor (also from AbbVie), which lowers blood fats called triglycerides; and beta-blockers, most of which are inexpensive, older generics.
[Read more...]

Chevron battles activist shareholders (13 March 2013)
Chevron has asked federal regulators to let the company block a nearly identical proposal from discussion at this year's shareholders meeting. It's one of two shareholder proposals that the San Ramon company has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission for permission to block.

Both deal with a long-running, $19 billion pollution lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. The shareholders pushing the proposals want Chevron to settle the suit. Company executives call the suit extortion and have vowed never to pay.

Instead, Chevron has pushed back against its activist shareholders. Last fall, the company even subpoenaed documents from some of them. The second proposal Chevron seeks to block asks the company's board to explain the rationale behind those subpoenas. [More on Chevron's legal troubles.]

"I've never had a case of a company playing such hardball tactics against its own shareholders this way," said Simon Billenness with Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Billenness, who received one of the subpoenas, filed the resolution on splitting up Watson's job.

"The feeling among institutional shareholders is we really have to draw a line in the sand here, because we can't have companies using these tactics against shareholders in the future," he said.
[Read more...]

Louisiana pipeline blaze could burn until Thursday (13 March 2013)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A fire raging in a coastal Louisiana bayou where a tugboat struck a gas pipeline appeared to have diminished Wednesday night, but is far from extinguished, the Coast Guard said.

Smoke was still visible in New Orleans, 30 miles to the north, and officials say they don't expect the fire sparked by Tuesday night's crash to be out until Thursday or later.

It started when a tug pushing an oil barge struck a liquefied natural gas pipeline in shallow Bayou Perot, where Lafourche and Jefferson parishes meet. Four people were injured, one critically.

No oil had spilled as of Wednesday evening and what appeared to be pockets of oil on the water turned out to be ash from the burned gas, the Coast Guard said.

At a news conference, Capt. Jonathan Burton stressed that the barge remained intact and none of the oil appeared to be leaking. However, as a precaution, protective boom was deployed in the area around the site and in nearby environmentally sensitive areas. Oil skimmers were also dispatched.
[Read more...]

Majority of British children will soon be growing up in families struggling 'below the breadline', Government warned (13 March 2013)
The majority of British children will soon be growing up in families which are struggling "below the breadline" because of welfare cuts, tax rises and wage freezes, the Government is warned today.

Within two years, almost 7.1m of the nation's 13m youngsters will be in homes with incomes judged to be less than the minimum necessary for a decent standard of living, according to a new report.

The figures, which emerged a week ahead of George Osborne's Budget, suggest that an unwanted legacy of the Coalition's squeeze on spending will be to leave more children living close to poverty.

They coincide with a new survey for the Resolution Foundation think-tank, which found that almost seven in ten of people believe the Government does not understand the financial strains they face.
[Read more...]

Research exposes racial discrimination in America's death penalty capital (13 March 2013)
Black defendants facing trial in Houston -- the death penalty capital of America -- are more than three times as likely to face a possible death sentence than whites, new academic research has revealed.

The study, by a criminologist at the University of Maryland, exposes the extent of racial discrimination inherent in the administering of capital punishment in Harris County, the ground zero of the death penalty in the US. The county, which incorporates Houston, Texas's largest city, has carried out 116 executions in the modern era -- more than any entire state in the union apart from Texas itself.

Professor Raymond Paternoster of the university's institute of criminal justice and criminology was commissioned by defence lawyers acting in the case of Duane Buck, a death row prisoner from Houston whose 1995 death sentence is currently being reconsidered by the Texas courts.

Paternoster, whose report is based on the latest quantitative methods, looked at 504 cases involving adult defendants who had been indicted for capital murder in Harris County between 1992 and 1999 -- the period during which Buck was charged for murdering his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and a man called Kenneth Butler. Paternoster whittled down that pool to 20 cases that most closely echoed that of Buck's own in terms of the factors involved in the crime that were likely to incur a death sentence.
[Read more...]

Keystone XL pipeline not good for Canada, opposition leader suggests (13 March 2013)
Canada's opposition leader spoke out against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline during a visit to Washington on Wednesday, breaking with the Canadian government's full-on lobbying push for the controversial project.

In appearances around Washington, Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the New Democratic Party, was scathing of the Conservative government's environmental record and strongly suggested -- without saying so explicitly -- that he does not believe the pipeline is in Canada's interest.

"We would never have made this a priority if we had been a government," Mulcair told reporters after a speech at the Wilson Centre, a Washington thinktank on Wednesday.

The remarks were a clear break with Canada's Conservative government, which has despatched cabinet officials and provincial premiers to Washington, New York and Chicago this month to push Barack Obama to approve the project.
[Read more...]

Oil barge crashes into gas pipeline in Louisiana, triggers big fire (13 March 2013)
A grotesque collision of fossil-fuel-laden vessels happened in a bayou south of New Orleans on Tuesday evening, where tug-boat operators crashed a barge carrying crude oil into a submerged natural-gas pipeline.

The result was predictable: A spectacular conflagration erupted that injured two of the four members of the tug-boat crew, including the captain, who reportedly suffered burns covering more than three quarters of his body. Emergency crews on Wednesday were scrambling to contain spilled oil spreading south of the accident.

The crash occurred at about 6 p.m. local time 30 miles south of New Orleans on Bayou Perot, according to the Coast Guard.

Pipeline owner Chevron isolated the severed section of line by shutting off some of its valves, and emergency crews allowed the gas left inside it to burn off, The Washington Post reports. Various outlets reported that the barge was carrying more than 2,000 barrels of oil and that the tug boat was fueled with diesel.
[Read more...]

River full of dead, diseased pigs is just another food safety nightmare for China (13 March 2013)
The Chinese are pissed, and if I were them I would be too.

One week after local residents first spotted them by a water treatment center, Chinese officials are still fishing dead pigs out of the Huangpu river. To date, they've used a dozen barges to pull 5,916 pigs out of the water. The pigs are believed to have originated from upriver farms after a series of investigations revealed illegal trade of meat harvested from diseased pigs. But don't worry, the government says: The water's fine!

"While the cause of the incident is still under investigation, water quality tests along the river have identified traces of porcine circovirus, a virus that can affect pigs but not humans. ...

"China's toxic smog, rubbish-strewn rivers and contaminated soil have emerged as a source of widespread anger over the past few weeks, as profit-minded officials jostle with aggrieved internet users over how to balance the country's economic development with its environmental concerns."
[Read more...]

As Gitmo Prisoners Revolt, Obama Admin Challenged on Indefinite Detention at OAS Hearing (13 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
KRISTINE HUSKEY: Well, I addressed--on behalf of my organization, Physicians for Human Rights, which uses medicine and science to advocate for human rights, I was addressing the psychological and physical consequences of indefinite detention at Guantánamo. So, for example, you know, as Pardiss said, I think the hunger strike and the intrusion into religious practices really is sort of a trigger point in the context of a much larger problem, which is the indefinite detention that's going on at Guantánamo. And in this situation, you have a severe, severe and lasting psychological trauma. And this is caused by chronic states of stress, anxiety and dread, because, essentially, these people at Guantánamo don't know if they're going to be released, if ever. They don't know if they're going to be charged. They know some people will be charged, but yet not everyone who might be charged has been charged. They don't know if they're ever going to see their family again. Now it's been over 10 years, and you have people who left their children who were, you know, young toddlers; they're now young teenagers. And they have no way of knowing whether they should cut those ties and tell their family to forget about them or try to keep those ties. And they have extremely irregular contact with their families.

So all of this uncertainty and uncontrollability causes extreme stress on the immune system, the cardiovascular system. It leads to asthma, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, spread of cancer, viral infections, hypertension, depression, suicide, PTSD. So, you know, yesterday the state testified, the United States testified, as to the great care and hospital facilities and beds and primary care providers, but that all does not negate the psychological trauma caused by this indefinite detention, which in this case really is sort of the epitome of indefinite, because who knows when the war against terrorism will ever end?
[Read more...]

Over 100 Guantánamo Prisoners on Hunger Strike, Citing Threat of Return to "Darkest Days Under Bush" (13 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what he said? We now hear that well over a hundred of the 166 prisoners are on this hunger strike.

PARDISS KEBRIAEI: He said what we've heard from every other detainee who has communicated with his lawyer since February, which is that there is a large-scale hunger strike in Camp 6, which is the largest of the facilities at Guantánamo. That prison holds about 130 men. He said that almost everyone, except for a few who are sick and elderly, are on strike.

He himself had lost over 20 pounds. He is a diabetic. His blood glucose levels are fluctuating wildly. He told me that medical staff at Guantánamo have told him his life is in danger. And he and others want us to get the word out about this.

We, last week, CCR and group of other habeas counsel, wrote a letter to the authorities at Guantánamo and to the Department of Justice reporting what we have heard and asking for a response. And to date, almost two weeks later, we have not heard anything, other than denials of the strike.
[Read more...]

Finally: hear Bradley Manning in his own voice (12 March 2013)
"She reviewed the information and about a half and hour later delivered a rough written transcript in English to the S2 section. I read the transcript and followed up with her, asking her for her take on the content. She said it was easy for her to transcribe verbatim, since I blew up the photograph and laminated it. She said the general nature of the document was benign. The document, as I had sensed as well, was merely a scholarly critique of the then current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"It detailed corruption within the cabinet of al-Maliki's government and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people. After discovering this discrepancy between the Federal Police's report and the interpreter's transcript, I forwarded this discovery to the top OIC and the battle NCOIC. The top OIC and the overhearing battle captain informed me that they didn't need or want to know this information anymore. They told me to quote 'drop it' unquote and to just assist them and the Federal Police in finding out, where more of these print shops creating quote "anti-Iraqi literature" unquote.

"I couldn't believe what I heard and I returned to the T-SCIF and complained to the other analysts and my section NCOIC about what happened. Some were sympathetic, but no one wanted to do anything about it.

"I am the type of person who likes to know how things work. And, as an analyst, this means I always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts in my section or other sections within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was not satisfied with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie cutter assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what we could to correct or mitigate a situation.

"I knew that if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time -- if ever.

"Instead of assisting the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police, I decided to take the information and expose it to the [WikiLeaks organization], in the hope that before the upcoming 7 March 2010 election, they could generate some immediate press on the issue and prevent this unit of the Federal Police from continuing to crack down in political opponents of al-Maliki."
[Read more...]

'The World According to Dick Cheney': A too-polite form of interrogation (12 March 2013)
R.J. Cutler's new documentary, "The World According to Dick Cheney," finds the former vice president as resolute and indifferent as ever to his critics. What else did you expect -- that the heart transplant would have magical effects? That he would have newfound doubts about his role in going to war against Iraq? That a little time and perspective would lead him to see the world any way other than the way he already sees it? If so, the joke's still on you.

"I don't go around thinking, 'Gee, I wish we'd done this, or I wish I'd done that,' " Cheney says. "The world is as you find it, and you've got to deal with that. . . . You don't get do-overs." No regrets, no wishy-washiness. No duh. "I did what I did," he says later, "and it's all part of the public record and I feel very good about it. If I had it to do over again, I'd do it in a minute."

The film, fresh from Sundance and having its television premiere Friday night on Showtime, is a sturdy but ultimately stifled exercise in the most polite methods of interrogation -- to which its subject is entirely immovable and not prepared to surrender anything, even a smile. The lone artistic move in "The World According to Dick Cheney" is to hire actor Dennis Haysbert as narrator -- the voice of Allstate insurance, presently, but, more important, the fictional president of the earliest seasons of Fox's "24," a show that absorbed some of our culture's excess panic attacks about counterterrorism, torture and general millennial doom. Here, Haysbert's voice is a nostalgic touch in a film that badly needs any help it can get to keep the viewer engaged.

Cutler, whose previous work includes co-producing "The War Room" (an unforgettable look at the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign) and directing "The September Issue" (a fascinating trip into Vogue magazine's editorial process), patiently waited and wheedled for many months until Cheney agreed to sit for several hours of interviews. Cheney even let the crew come along on a Wyoming fishing trip, his first since a heart transplant last year. It's a good get, but the results are probably not what anyone hoped.

So what are we doing here, for nearly two hours?
[Read more...]

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela under suspicion as two bodies unearthed in Soweto (12 March 2013)
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has always been a force to be feared in South Africa.

But on Tuesday, two long-buried bodies were exhumed in an unfolding drama that could land her in court facing murder charges.

The bodies, pulled from unmarked graves in the sprawling black township of Soweto, are believed to be those of anti-apartheid activists Lolo Sono and Sibuniso Tshabalala. Sono was last seen -- badly beaten -- being driven off by Mandela and a gang of thugs in November 1988.

Parents of both have long claimed that Winnie Mandela was responsible for their deaths. But authorities never had enough evidence to charge her: the bodies were hidden and never found.
[Read more...]

15 infected by deadly new virus, WHO reports (12 March 2013)
A Saudi man infected with a deadly new virus from the same family as SARS has died, becoming the ninth patient in the world to be killed the disease which has so far infected 15, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old developed symptoms of the novel coronavirus (NCoV) on February 24 and died on March 2, several days after being hospitalized, the WHO said in a disease outbreak update.

The WHO first issued an international alert in September after the virus infected a Qatari man in Britain who had recently been in Saudi Arabia.

Symptoms of NCoV include severe respiratory illness, fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.

"Preliminary investigation indicated that the (latest Saudi)patient had no contact with previously reported cases of NCoV infection," the WHO said. "Other potential exposures are under investigation."
[Read more...]

Photo gallery: Barge and tug boat on fire after striking pipeline (12 March 2013)
A tugboat and barge are engulfed in flames after hitting a pipeline in Bayou Perot about two miles south of lower Lafitte, sending one crew member to the hospital in critical condition with burns over 75% of his body on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. [Read more...]

Chinese forests now just chopstick factories in waiting (12 March 2013)
China's been dealing with a lot of pressure lately: dirty air, a river full of dead pigs, new pledges to go green ... To cope, there's apparently been an uptick in stress-eating. The country is now producing 80 billion pairs of disposable wooden chopsticks a year, nearly 60 pairs for each person in the country, according to Bai Guangxin, chair of Jilin Forestry Industry Group. That's way up from the estimated 57 billion pairs produced annually between 2004 and 2009. At this rate, China is destroying nearly 1.5 percent of its forests each year just in the name of chopsticks.

From The Huffington Post:

"The consequences of China's chopstick production -- deforestation, for one -- have prompted action from some environmental groups. ...

"Bai pointed out during [a] meeting Friday that the Chinese government has also begun taking action by introducing policies limiting manufacturing of disposable chopsticks."
[Read more...]

Solar power set to shine in 2013 (12 March 2013)
This year is shaping up to be a bright one for solar power.

New solar generating capacity expected to be installed around the world in 2013 will be capable of producing almost as much electricity as eight nuclear reactors, according to Bloomberg, which interviewed seven analysts and averaged their forecasts.

That would be a rise of 14 percent over last year for a total of 34.1 gigawatts of new solar capacity, thanks in large part to rising demand in China, the U.S., and Japan. From Bloomberg:

"Prices for silicon-based solar panels sank about 20 percent to 79 cents a watt in the past 12 months, after dropping by half in the previous year.

"China, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, is forecast to unseat Germany as the largest solar market in 2013, according to analysts at [Bloomberg New Energy Finance]. Projects have multiplied as the nation provides financial support to its solar companies in a bid to diversify the coal-dependent energy industry."
[Read more...]

Is the next Fukushima in your backyard? (12 March 2013)
Two years ago today, floodwaters from a massive, deadly earthquake/tsunami combo in Japan knocked out cooling equipment at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, resulting in what experts were quick to deign the second-worst nuclear disaster in history (after Chernobyl), after radioactive contamination touched everything from tuna to baby formula to butterflies. The $125 billion incident precipitated an identity crisis among the world's big users of nuclear power, particularly Germany, which was so spooked that it vowed to shut down every one of its nuke plants by 2022.

But here in the U.S., there's no sign of any impending nuclear phaseout, despite the steady parade of meltdown scares reported in a new study [PDF] by the Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS dug into public data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the nuclear industry's top federal regulator, and found that in 2012, 12 different nuclear power plants experienced "near miss" events, defined as an incident that multiplies the likelihood of a core meltdown by at least a factor of 10. The reasons range from broken coolant pumps to fires to "failures to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering secure areas;" in some cases aging equipment was at fault, and two plants were repeat offenders. One, a California plant, already ranks high in vulnerability to earthquakes. In most cases, the study charges, weak oversight from the NRC was to blame.

The UCS study found nearly 60 such "near misses" over the last three years. Still, the NRC chair told the Associated Press on Sunday that the performance of most nuke plants is "quite good," and pointed to its own study [PDF] from last week, which found 99 of the nation's 104 nuclear power plants to be in top-tier performance.

But UCS Nuclear Safety Program Director David Lochbaum isn't convinced: "Failing to enforce existing safety regulations is literally a gamble that places lives at stake," he wrote in the study.
[Read more...]

Drugmakers, Interpol ramp up fight against fakes (12 March 2013)
More than two dozen of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies have agreed to provide funding and other support to Interpol's battle against counterfeit prescription drugs, the international police agency said Tuesday.

Interpol's newly created Pharmaceutical Crime Program aims to help health agencies, police and customs bureaus in countries around the globe stem the supply of bogus brand-name and generic medicines, as well as identify and dismantle the organized crime rings distributing them.

Those rings, which operate across borders, are raking in billions of dollars every year, costing legitimate drugmakers a small fortune in lost sales. Meanwhile patients who unknowingly take counterfeit drugs often are poisoned or get sicker because they're not receiving what the doctor prescribed. Experts estimate hundreds of thousands of people around the world die because of counterfeit medicines each year.

The pharmaceutical companies have pledged a total of €4.5 million, or nearly $5.9 million, over three years to help Interpol with efforts including training local law enforcement officials on investigative procedures, evidence handling and how to better work with partners outside their countries.
[Read more...]

Texas Told Not to Issue Water Permits That Hurt Cranes (12 March 2013)
Texas was ordered to temporarily stop issuing new water permits for a river system that supplies dozens of Central Texas cities, power generators and petrochemical plants to ensure enough water reaches the last migratory flock of endangered whooping cranes.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack in Corpus Christi, Texas, yesterday blocked state regulators from approving new permits for the Guadalupe, San Antonio or Blanco rivers "until the state of Texas provides reasonable assurances to the court that such permits will not take whooping cranes in violation of the Endangered Species Act."

Jack said in her ruling that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, which grants water permits in the state, violated federal wildlife protections by failing to monitor how much water cities and industrial users took from the rivers during droughts.

According to evidence at a 2011 trial, so much water was siphoned from the rivers during the 2009 drought that 23 birds, or 8.5 percent of the Texas whooping crane flock, died because insufficient freshwater flowed into the coastal marsh where the birds spend winter.

The five-foot-tall whooping crane was believed to be extinct until a flock of 15 survivors was found on an isolated stretch of Texas coastal marsh in the 1940s. There are about 500 whooping cranes alive today, according to trial evidence, with a flock of about 250 birds that migrates between Texas and Canada. That flock is the only self-sustaining wild population.
[Read more...]

How Americans were swindled by the hidden cost of the Iraq war (12 March 2013)
George Bush sold the war as quick and cheap; it was long and costly. Even now, the US is paying billions to private contractors

When the US invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration estimated that it would cost $50-60bn to overthrow Saddam Hussein and establish a functioning government. This estimate was catastrophically wrong: the war in Iraq has cost $823.2bn between 2003 and 2011. Some estimates suggesting that it may eventually cost as much as $3.7tn when factoring in the long-term costs of caring for the wounded and the families of those killed.

The most striking fact about the cost of the war in Iraq has been the extent to which it has been kept "off the books" of the government's ledgers and hidden from the American people. This was done by design. A fundamental assumption of the Bush administration's approach to the war was that it was only politically sustainable if it was portrayed as near-costless to the American public and to key constituencies in Washington. The dirty little secret of the Iraq war -- one that both Bush and the war hawks in the Democratic party knew, but would never admit -- was that the American people would only support a war to get rid of Saddam Hussein if they could be assured that they would pay almost nothing for it.

The most obvious way in which the true cost of this war was kept hidden was with the use of supplemental appropriations to fund the occupation. By one estimate, 70% of the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008 were funded with supplemental or emergency appropriations approved outside the Pentagon's annual budget. These appropriations allowed the Bush administration to shield the Pentagon's budget from the cuts otherwise needed to finance the war, to keep the Pentagon's pet programs intact and to escape the scrutiny that Congress gives to its normal annual regular appropriations.
[Read more...]

Congressional Abdication (1 March 2013)
IN MATTERS of foreign policy, Congress, and especially the Senate, was designed as a hedge against the abuses exhibited by overeager European monarchs who for centuries had whimsically entangled their countries in misguided adventures. America would not be such a place. The Constitution would protect our governmental process from the overreach of a single executive who might otherwise succumb to the impulsive temptation to unilaterally risk our country's blood, treasure and international prestige. Congress was given the power to declare war and appropriate funds, thus eliminating any resemblance to European-style monarchies when it came to the presidential war power.

Importantly and often forgotten these days, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution was also carefully drawn to give Congress, not the president, certain powers over the structure and use of the military. True, the president would act as commander in chief, but only in the sense that he would be executing policies shepherded within the boundaries of legislative powers. In some cases his power is narrowed further by the requirement that he obtain the "Advice and Consent" of two-thirds of the Senate. Congress, not the president, would "raise and support Armies," with the Constitution limiting appropriations for such armies to no more than two years. This was a clear signal that in our new country there would be no standing army to be sent off on foreign adventures at the whim of a pseudomonarch. The United States would not engage in unchecked, perpetual military campaigns.

Congress would also "provide and maintain a Navy," with no time limit on such appropriations. This distinction between "raising" an army and "maintaining" a navy marked a recognition of the reality that our country would need to protect vital sea-lanes as a matter of commercial and national security, confront acts of piracy--the eighteenth-century equivalent of international terrorism--and act as a deterrent to large-scale war.

Practical circumstances have changed, but basic philosophical principles should not. We reluctantly became a global military power in the aftermath of World War II, despite our initial effort to follow historical patterns and demobilize. NATO was not established until 1949, and the 1950 invasion of South Korea surprised us. In the ensuing decades, the changing nature of modern warfare, the growth of the military-industrial complex and national-security policies in the wake of the Cold War all have contributed to a mammoth defense structure and an atrophied role for Congress that would not have been recognizable when the Constitution was written. And there is little doubt that Dwight D. Eisenhower, who led the vast Allied armies on the battlefields of Europe in World War II and who later as president warned ominously of the growth of what he himself termed the "military-industrial complex," is now spinning in his tomb.
[Read more...]

Great artist? No. Mass murderer or history? Yes. (11 March 2013)
George W Bush has taken up an unlikely hobby for a former US president: painting portraits of his dogs.

Bush posted this painting of former First Dog Barney who died of lymphoma in February on his Facebook page.

The former president has been taking teaching lessons from local artist Bonnie Flood, who spent six hours with "Dubya" everyday teaching him to mix paints.

Speaking to Fox News, Flood said that Bush was "relaxed, very much like the guy next door" and that he was "going to go down in the history books as a great artist."
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: The world truly would have been a better place if Duh-b-ya had gone into painting instead of politics.

India Gang Rape: Family insists accused rapist didn't kill himself in jail (11 March 2013)
NEW DELHI--Whether he was killed or committed suicide, the jailhouse death Monday of a man on trial for the gang rape and fatal beating of a woman on a New Delhi bus has triggered shock at the enormous security failure at one of India's best-known prisons.

Authorities said Ram Singh, who was accused of driving the bus during the December attack, was in a cell with three other inmates at Tihar Jail in New Delhi when he hanged himself either with his own clothes or a bedsheet about 5:30 a.m.

"This is suicide," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.

His family and lawyer alleged foul play.
[Read more...]

Fukushima Meltdown's 2nd Anniversary Brings Protests Against Japan's Reliance on Nuclear Power (11 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Following the disaster, Japan halted nearly all nuclear-related projects. But two of the Fukushima nuclear power complex's existing reactors are now operational again, and Japan has since resumed construction at the Oma nuclear power plant.

To talk more about the situation, we go to Kyoto via Democracy Now! video stream to speak with Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Green Action.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what people are calling for today, Aileen, on the second anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan?

AILEEN MIOKO SMITH: Well, people are calling for various things, but two very important issues. One is justice for the Fukushima victims. There are 150,000 people that are still--that have been displaced. And, of course, many of them are children. There aren't sufficient health surveys being undertaken. And there's been no compensation regime for these people that is sufficient. The other is that citizens are calling for the end of nuclear power in Japan. This is still the majority view in Japan. And the Abe government is now trying to restart nuclear power, and there's a lot of opposition to that.
[Read more...]

In U.S., nuclear energy loses momentum amid economic head winds, safety issues (11 March 2013)
Two years after the tsunami that crippled Japan's Fukushima power complex, the U.S. nuclear industry is facing fundamental and far-reaching challenges to its own future.

Only five years ago, industry executives and leading politicians were talking about an American nuclear renaissance, hoping to add 20 or more reactors to the 104-unit U.S. nuclear fleet.

But today those companies are holding back in the face of falling natural gas prices and sluggish and uncertain electricity demand. Only five new plants are under construction, while at least that many are slated for permanent closure or shut down indefinitely over safety issues.

On Monday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reiterated its refusal to issue a license for a new unit at Calvert Cliffs, Md., that a French company had hoped to make the model for a fleet of reactors. A pair of reactors in Southern California are under scrutiny over whether a major contractor and a utility there concealed concerns about potential cracks in the tubes of a steam generator. And nuclear plants in Wisconsin and Florida are closing down because their owners said they cannot compete with less expensive natural-gas-fired electricity.
[Read more...]

Paul Ryan's make-believe budget (11 March 2013)
If Rep. Paul Ryan wants people to take his budget manifestos seriously, he should be honest about his ambition: not so much to make the federal government fiscally sustainable as to make it smaller.

You will recall that the Ryan Budget was a big Republican selling point in last year's election. Most famously, Ryan proposed turning Medicare into a voucher program. He offered the usual GOP recipe of tax cuts -- to be offset by closing certain loopholes, which he would not specify -- along with drastic reductions in non-defense "discretionary" spending.

If the plan Ryan offered had been enacted, the federal budget would not come into balance until 2040. For some reason, Republicans forgot to mention this detail in their stump speeches and campaign ads.

Voters were supposed to believe that Ryan was an apostle of fiscal rectitude. But his real aim wasn't to balance the budget. It was to starve the federal government of revenue. Big government, in his worldview, is inherently bad -- never mind that we live in an awfully big country.
[Read more...]

Homeless man ticketed for looking for a meal in trash (11 March 2013)
James Kelly was hungry and looking for something to eat. He tried to find it in a trash bin near Houston City Hall.

For that, the man, who said he spent about nine years in the Navy but fell on hard times, was ticketed by a Houston police officer.

According to his copy of the citation, Kelly, 44, was charged on Thursday with "disturbing the contents of a garbage can in (the) downtown business district."

"I was just basically looking for something to eat," Kelly said Monday night. "I wasn't in a real good mood."
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Halliburton executive testifies about 'irregularities' in cement slurry testing (11 March 2013)
Halliburton's president for strategic and corporate development testified Monday that he was "aware of some irregularities" in the company's testing of the quality of the cement slurry from the ill-fated Macondo oil well after the blowout. But Timothy Probert, who headed Halliburton's safety program at the time of the 2010 spill, did not specify what the irregularities were.

Plaintiffs' Steering Committee lawyer Jeffrey Breit had asked Probert if Halliburton employees had conducted a series of "off-the-record tests" on the cement used by the company to seal BP's Macondo oil well following the blowout that resulted in an explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers and caused one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

During cross-examination, Breit said that Halliburton employees had discarded their notes from the tests, which court filings indicate occurred in late April or early May or 2010. Breit suggested there had been "a series of two, three, four, five tests that had been done and that all had irregularities with the mistake cement."

That drew an objection from Halliburton lawyer Don Godwin, who said there had "been no testimony showing there were two, three, four, five tests that did not pass."

During direct examination, Probert said he was not aware of anyone removing any of the documents, "no matter how slight, out of the locker, out of the secure place where they were being retained," at the time he testified during the 2010 joint hearings by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

Probert testified during cross-examination by Transocean lawyer Brad Brian that he learned about the irregularities with the cement testing in 2012. He said if Halliburton workers discarded their notes, "it certainly wouldn't be consistent with what people were required to do internally within the company, which was to retain information."
[Read more...]

Voices From the Gulf: "We Are Being Poisoned" (Pt. 3) (11 March 2013) [Rense.com]
Obama declared that the Gulf is open for business and the food supply is safe, quieter voices understand that the President is not telling the truth. The oceans are engines of life for the entire planet. And something is wrong, terribly wrong with the water in the Gulf of Mexico and the American people are not being told the truth about the ongoing cataclysmic events in the Gulf.

What the Non-EPA Researchers Are Saying
The most isolated group from which we can measure health effects in the Gulf are the clean up workers. Oil is deadly and Corexit is deadlier and when the two products are combined, it is a lethal cocktail as the mixture becomes up to 52 times more toxic than oil alone.

At one time, the EPA told BP to not use the deadly Corexit because it knew the deadly consequences. BP gave the EPA the big middle finger and showed the federal government who was really in charge.

Kim Anderson's Oregon State University (OSU) team of researchers, from the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, began a test-retest comparative analysis for the carcinogenic contaminant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and its biodegradable partner, OPAHs, which appears after the application of Corexit and subsequent exposure to ultraviolet rays. Stunningly, the OSU researchers found a 40 fold increase in these carcinogenic compounds in the comparative test-retest period.The omnipresent dangers to Gulf Coast residents is self-evident in light of this research. It is noteworthy to report that the OSU researchers had the first draft of their report stolen before the results could be published.
[Read more...]

Tulane researchers find higher post-Hurricane Katrina rates of heart attacks (11 March 2013)
Was the stress from Hurricane Katrina too much for some people's hearts to bear? Doctors at Tulane Medical Center reported findings this weekend that the hospital's patients had a significantly higher incidence of heart attacks after the storm, a trend that continued up to six years later.

Dr. Anand Irimpen and his colleagues spoke at the American College of Cardiology scientific session in San Francisco, discussing patient data they said shows that disaster-related stress might have affected heart health. In the two years before Katrina struck in 2005, 0.7 percent of patients treated at Tulane had heart attacks, compared to 2.4 percent of the patients in the six years after the storm.

The two groups of patients had similar backgrounds and prevalence of hypertension, which can lead to heart problems. But Irimpen said the post-Katrina group had higher prevalence of coronary artery disease, depression and other mental illnesses; they were also more likely to be smokers and substance abusers. And they were more likely to lack health insurance.

Irimpen said the patients he saw just weren't taking care of themselves.

"After Katrina, we all concentrated on getting back our homes. Heath wasn't a priority," said Irimpen, an associate professor at Tulane's medical school and chief of cardiology at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care system.
[Read more...]

Paralyzing algae is killing manatees at record pace in Florida (11 March 2013)
An outbreak of paralyzing algae known as red tide is killing manatees by the dozens in Florida.

Florida wildlife officials report that 149 of the gentle giants have been killed by red tide this year in just two and a half months, making it almost certain that the state will pass the record of 151, set in 1996.

The bloom of algae this year covers a 70-mile stretch of the west coast of Florida, roughly from Sarasota to Fort Myers. That makes it particularly dangerous for the blimp-shaped, endangered mammals because they congregate in the warm water there for winter.

The algae contain a toxin that can stop the breathing of manatees when they eat it, and particles seep into sea grass, which manatees also eat. So the killing will probably continue for two months after the red tide dissipates.
[Read more...]

Similarities to Missoula megaflood seen on Mars, elsewhere on Earth (11 March 2013)
And there it was in the NASA news release: The Martian flood channel was "comparable with the depth of incision of the largest known megaflood on Earth, the Missoula floods, responsible for carving the Channeled Scabland of the northwestern United States."

Members of the Glacial Lake Missoula Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute have seen that coming since the Viking Lander touched down on Mars back in 1976.

"It's frightening to think how long we've been at this," said Norm Smyers, a retired U.S. Forest Service geologist and member of the Glacial Lake Missoula chapter. NASA suspected the Marte Vallis region of Mars was a megaflood zone back when it was planning the Viking missions. And thanks to what was known about the Missoula floods, that became the target for the first landing.

"They recognized from earlier overflights that some of the features looked very reminiscent of the scablands we see in eastern Washington," Smyers said. "So they brought a model rover to that terrain to see how it would do the job. A bunch of T-shirts came out of that."

The channeled scabland of central Washington bears erosion scars from what geologists suspect was a three-day flood that emptied Glacial Lake Missoula about 14,000 years ago.
[Read more...]

California earthquake packed unusually wide punch, experts say (11 March 2013)
Monday morning's magnitude 4.7 earthquake in Riverside County was the largest temblor to hit the Los Angeles region in three years and has produced more than 100 aftershocks. It caused no major damage, but it was felt over what seismologists said was an unusually large area.

The quake was initially recorded as three separate quakes because a foreshock tricked seismographs into recording multiple quakes of multiple sizes, said Susan Hough, a USGS seismologist.

Earthquakes of a 4.7 magnitude are typically only felt about 120 miles away from the epicenter, but Monday morning's quake traveled farther, shaking coffee cups as far as Los Angeles. The USGS said it was felt as far away as Arizona.

That's because the quake occurred in the San Jacinto Mountains, which are composed of hard granite rock that transmits energy more efficiently, Hough said.
[Read more...]

Thousands of dead pigs found floating in China river (11 March 2013)
BEIJING -- More than 2,800 dead pigs have been found in a major river that flows through Shanghai, igniting fears among city residents of contaminated tap water, according to state news-media reports Monday.

Officials were trying to determine who had dumped the carcasses into the river, the Huangpu, which slices through the heart of Shanghai.

Some reports blamed farmers.

Officials were seeking to track the source of the pigs from marks on their ears, and a preliminary inquiry found that the dumping occurred in Zhejiang province, which is south of Shanghai and upstream on the Huangpu.
[Read more...]

New wave of 'superbugs' poses dire threat, says chief medical officer (10 March 2013)
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria with the potential to cause untreatable infections pose "a catastrophic threat" to the population, England's chief medical officer warns in a report calling for urgent action worldwide.

If tough measures are not taken to restrict the use of antibiotics and no new ones are discovered, said Dame Sally Davies, "we will find ourselves in a health system not dissimilar to the early 19th century at some point".

While antibiotics are failing, new bacterial diseases are on the rise. Although the "superbugs" MRSA and C difficile have been reduced to low numbers in hospitals, there has been an alarming increase in other types of bacteria including new strains of E coli and Klebsiella, which causes pneumonia.

These so-called "gram negative" bacteria, which are found in the gut instead of on the skin, are highly dangerous to older and frailer people and few antibiotics remain effective against drug-resistant strains.

As many as 5,000 patients die each year in the UK of gram negative sepsis -- where the bacterium gets into the bloodstream -- and in half the cases the bacterium is resistant to drugs.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: The capability to resist current antibiotics doesn't mean the same bugs necessarily have immunity to the Clark zapper, or the wide variety of anti-bacterial and anti-viral herbs.

Big Pharma battle threatens to derail Pacific trade pact (10 March 2013)
A US-led Pacific free trade pact faces further delays as a row between Big Pharma and activists supporting access to generic drugs erupts ahead of an October deadline, officials say.

Negotiators from the United States and 10 other countries are holding closed-door talks in Singapore from March 4-13 on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as they race to seal an accord.

"It's getting tougher and more challenging towards the end. There might be some problems in meeting that deadline, October 2013," Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed told the Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore after the talks opened.

Activists pushing for greater public access to cheap generics are sparring with the pharmaceuticals industry, which was worth $355 billion in 2010 among the 11 countries involved in the talks, with US firms accounting for 80 percent of the market.
[Read more...]

Low-wage workers turning to voters for pay raises (10 March 2013)
For decades, Long Beach hotel workers fought for better wages.

But their efforts to start unions mostly fizzled. So last year, union backers tried something new: a ballot measure.

Voters swiftly gave them what years of picket lines and union-card drives had failed to secure -- a $13-per-hour minimum wage for hundreds of Long Beach hotel workers.

A similar shift happened in San Jose, where voters in November awarded workers a higher minimum wage not just in hotels, but citywide. The victories put these two California cities on the cusp of an emerging trend: Ballot initiatives, labor experts say, have the potential to rewrite labor's playbook for how to win concessions from management.

Long Beach and San Jose join a list of cities nationwide where voters, not unions, have won workers higher wages, demonstrating the power of this new labor tactic.

The trend has built slowly. Frustrated in their efforts to fight corporations for better pay and working conditions, labor unions began turning to city councils in the 1990s to pass so-called living-wage requirements.
[Read more...]

Thousands in Japan anti-nuclear protest two years after Fukushima (10 March 2013)
(Reuters) - Thousands of protesters marched in the Japanese capital on Sunday calling on the government to shun nuclear power, a day before the second anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that triggered the world's worst atomic disaster in 25 years.

Japan is still coming to terms with the disaster that ravaged its northeastern region two years ago - the earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people. Several thousand people are still unaccounted for.

"It's becoming more and more important for us to protest. I do this for my children, we can't leave the mess of nuclear power behind to them," said a 32-year old mother of two marching in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, chanting "Stop nuclear! Protect our children!".

"People and the media are starting to forget Fukushima and what happened there," said the woman.
[Read more...]

Pasadena Superfund site's owner indicted, missing (10 March 2013)
In his own mind, perhaps, he was a recycler, a successful entrepreneur, living for a time in a five-bedroom, 7½-bath southern colonial in west Houston with an 800-bottle wine cellar.

In reality, prosecutors said, he is a polluter responsible for a 17-acre disaster - hundreds of dumpsters and concrete tanks vaporizing hazardous chemicals into the air, the worst spoils of the petrochemical industry draining into Vince Bayou in Pasadena.

Three weeks ago, a Harris County grand jury indicted Klaus Genssler, 56, on six felony counts, five for storing and one for releasing benzene. Warrants are out for his arrest; bail has been set at $6 million.

But Genssler, whose companies have been fighting county attorneys on civil charges of pollution for years, is gone. Two years ago, he sold his home. Prosecutors now consider him a fugitive. According to one, his last known location was Turkey.
[Read more...]

Reports: Harvard secretly searched deans' emails (10 March 2013)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Harvard University administrators secretly searched the emails of 16 deans last fall, looking for a leak to reporters about a case of cheating, two newspapers reported.

The email accounts belonged to deans on the Administrative Board, a committee addressing the cheating, The Boston Globe and The New York Times reported, citing school officials. The deans were not warned about the email access and only one was told of the search afterward.

Harvard will not comment on personnel matters or provide additional information about the board cases that were concluded during the fall term, Michael Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said in an email Sunday. If the committee's work were compromised, Harvard College would protect the process, he said.

"Generally speaking, however, if circumstances were to arise that gave reason to believe that the Administrative Board process might have been compromised, then Harvard College would take all necessary and appropriate actions under our procedures to safeguard the integrity of that process, which is designed to protect the rights of our students to privacy and due process," he said.
[Read more...]

Aung San Suu Kyi re-elected leader of Burma's opposition party (10 March 2013)
Aung San Suu Kyi's selection had been assured, since she is the party's main draw. But her dominant influence has also attracted criticism that the party may be too reliant on her charisma.

Asked about allegations by critics that the NDL leans toward an authoritarian structure, she said that "all our leaders have been elected democratically. So if they feel that they do not like authoritarian leadership, they should not vote for those whom they think are authoritarian."

Aung San Suu Kyi conceded that there has been some friction in the party's current transformation process, with complaints surfacing about lack of transparency and fairness in the election of local leaders in the runup to the congress. Four party members who had been elected to attend the congress were suspended just two days before it opened Friday over allegations of irregularities in their selection.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the sole survivor from the party's original executive board, but the other new members are also mostly long-serving party loyalists, disappointing some who were looking for new blood. A broader central committee of 120 members was elected by the delegates and endorsed the executive board, which was given five reserve members.
[Read more...]

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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


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All original content including photographs © 2013 by Pam Rotella. (News excerpts copyright by their corresponding authors, news organizations, or other copyright holders, and quoted here typically as "fair use" or "teaser" paragraphs to generate interest in the full articles.)