Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 24th to 30th of March 2013
Pesticide makers want you to save the bees (30 March 2013)
Not only do manufacturers of bee-killing pesticides still insist that their products should be sold -- now they are saying that everybody else needs to be doing more to help save the bees.
Syngenta and Bayer say that their poisonous products do not kill bees, despite a bevy of evidence suggesting otherwise. (The complex problem of colony collapse disorder, in which the pesticides are heavily implicated, is getting worse, by the way -- not better.) Their neonicotinoid-based pesticides may soon be outlawed soon by the European Commission, and beekeepers and activists are suing the EPA as they push for a similar ban here.
But the chemical companies want us to know that they care deeply about these pollinators. And they have kind-heartedly published a plan they think could help the rest of us boost bee populations.
After all, if neonicotinoids are banned, they say, then we may never truly understand how they affect bees. Imagine living without that kind of knowledge.
HIV/AIDS, TB rates sap Russian health (30 March 2013)
MOSCOW -- Russia considers itself a robust member of the global community, keeping pace with heavyweights such as the United States and China. But when it comes to health, the world's largest country is more in the company of Botswana.
A global health study that compares the health toll of various diseases with 1990 data reports that in 2010, HIV/AIDS was the third-largest cause of premature death in Russia, where the number of cases has been growing rapidly. In a measure of years of life lost (with deaths among younger people given more weight in the calculation than deaths among older ones), Russia is faring similarly to Gabon and Bot-swana, although Russia's top two killers remain heart disease and stroke, just as they were in 1990.
"If you look at the story of Russia, particularly for Russian males, the profile of disease is dramatically different than in other developed countries," said Christopher J.L. Murray, who led the recently completed Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.
When the study grouped countries by income, Russia was compared to 14 others, including the Baltics, Lebanon, Libya, Mexico and Botswana. On many measures, Botswana did better than Russia, but they were close on premature deaths from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and on life expectancy -- 68.9 in Russia in 2010 and 71 in Botswana.
PAM COMMENTARY: Sounds like their health care system should look into the Clark zapper.
End of the line for Roadrunner supercomputer (30 March 2013)
It's the end of the line for Roadrunner, a first-of-its-kind collection of processors that once reigned as the world's fastest supercomputer.
The $121 million supercomputer, housed at one of the nation's premier nuclear weapons research laboratories in northern New Mexico, will be decommissioned Sunday.
The reason? The world of supercomputing is evolving and Roadrunner has been replaced with something smaller, faster, more energy efficient and cheaper. Still, officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory say it's among the 25 fastest supercomputers in the world.
"Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer," said Gary Grider, who works in the lab's high performance computing division. "Specialized processors are being included in new ways on new systems and being used in novel ways. Our demonstration with Roadrunner caused everyone to pay attention."
In 2008, Roadrunner was first to break the elusive petaflop barrier by processing just over a quadrillion mathematical calculations per second.
Cost of sulfur emissions plan debated (29 March 2013)
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration on Friday formally unveiled a plan to throttle the amount of sulfur emissions allowed from gasoline, with a potential price tag ranging from a penny to 9 cents per gallon, depending on whom you ask.
An Environmental Protection Agency model said the change would increase gasoline prices by about a cent per gallon. The manufacturers of emission control systems, who back the so-called Tier 3 standards, commissioned a Navigant Economics analysis last year that also concluded the final price tag would amount to an extra penny per gallon. But a Baker & O'Brien analysis done for the oil industry, which opposes the proposal as unjustified, said the change will cause manufacturing costs to jump up to 9 cents per gallon.
Either way, gasoline costs are forecast to climb under the EPA's proposal, which would force refiners to slash sulfur emissions from gasoline to an average of 10 parts per million, down from the current limit of 30 parts per million.
For each side, the question boils down to whether the higher costs are worth it.
The Other Rosa Parks: Now 73, Claudette Colvin Was First to Refuse Giving Up Seat on Montgomery Bus (29 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Let's bring Jeanne Theoharis into this conversation, who wrote the book this past year, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. Can you put Claudette Colvin's remarkably brave act, 15-year-old schoolgirl, into this larger political context, why one action gets a lot of attention in Montgomery, but doesn't launch the boycott, and yet Rosa Parks does, and even the other young woman that Claudette Colvin was just talking about?
JEANNE THEOHARIS: Right. So, this is 1955. We're after the Brown decision, so this is a new legal moment. And so--
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the Brown.
JEANNE THEOHARIS: Brown v. Board of Education, it's May 1954. The Supreme Court rules that school segregation is illegal, that separate cannot be equal. Shortly after that, Jo Ann Robinson--she's a professor at Alabama State College, she's also the head of the Women's Political Council--writes a letter to the bus company saying, "If you don't change, we're going to boycott." So we are in a new moment in Montgomery. There had been people before 1954 that had resisted on the bus. There had been particularly more people in the decade since World War II. But 1954, we're in a new moment. The Women's Political Council had been organizing, the NAACP. E.D. Nixon and Rosa Parks, in particular, are the more activist part of the NAACP. They are growing frustrated with the continuing situation both on the bus and then in schools in Montgomery.
So then, March 1955, Claudette Colvin makes her historic act, and there is outrage in the community. I think there's no way to understand why people galvanized behind Parks without understanding Colvin's arrest and what that does for many people in Montgomery. So, no, we do not see a movement. We do not see, you know, that same kind of reaction. But had Colvin not made that stand, I--you know, I don't think we would have necessarily seen what happened in December of that year. And then, you know, midway, in October, like we were talking about, Mary Louise Smith makes a similar stand. Again, there is no movement around that. And then we get to December 1st, 1955.
Grand jury indicts 35 in Georgia school cheating scandal (29 March 2013)
Atlanta (CNN) -- In what has been described as one of the largest cheating scandals to hit the nation's public education system, 35 Atlanta Public Schools educators and administrators were indicted Friday on charges of racketeering and corruption.
The indictment is the bookend to a story that was once touted as a model for the nation's school districts after the district's test scores dramatically improved in some of its toughest urban schools.
Among those indicted by a Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury was Beverly Hall, the former schools superintendent who gained national recognition in 2009 for turning around Atlanta's school system.
"She was a full participant in that conspiracy," Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told reporters during a news conference announcing the charges.
PAM COMMENTARY: I thought it was decided years ago that too much emphasis was put on standardized tests -- they were proved to be biased and not capable of measuring more than a few very narrow parameters of success. Then suddenly schools are judged exclusively on them?
UPS agrees to pay $40 million for shipping illegal prescription drugs (29 March 2013)
UPS Friday agreed to forfeit $40 million and implement a compliance program after a Department of Justice probe found the company delivered drugs on behalf of illegal online pharmacies.
The agreement followed an investigation that showed that UPS was shipping drugs on behalf of Internet pharmacies that were distributing controlled substances and prescription drugs that were not supported by a valid prescription.
Despite being on notice from employees that such illegal shipments were being delivered, UPS "did not implement procedures to close the shipping accounts of Internet pharmacies," said a Department of Justice statement.
"We are pleased with the steps UPS has taken to stop the use of shipping services by illegal on-line pharmacies," said US Attorney Melinda Haag in the statement.
Obama unveils plans to pump billions into US infrastructure in Miami speech (29 March 2013)
Barack Obama unveiled new plans to pump billions into US infrastructure on Friday as he moved to return the focus back to the economy and jobs.
Calling it his "partnership to rebuild America," Obama outlined proposals to revamp the nation's ailing highways, bridges and other public projects at Port Miami, which is undergoing a $2bn (£1.3bn) upgrade. The president, having shed his suit jacket, stood on a platform overlooking the tunnel project on Dodge Island to outline plans officials said would put the emphasis on private financing for public projects.
"In a time of tight budgets we have got to do it in a way that will ensure taxpayers' money is spent wisely," he said during a short speech which lasted only a few minutes.
He said investment of infrastructure had repaired 20,000 bridges, thousands of miles of roads and put tens of thousands of workers back in work. But he added that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave US infrastructure a D+ in a report earlier this month and warned the country had serious problems with its bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste disposal, ports, rail, roads and schools among other areas.
Cleveland hospital suspends admissions; ex-CEO sought in altercation (29 March 2013)
Cleveland Regional Medical Center has suspended all hospital admissions and surgical services.
The center's chief executive officer, Chuck Fulner, has stepped down, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest in connection with a physical confrontation with the chief nursing officer, Peter Roth. The warrant on the class A misdemeanor assault charge has not yet been served, but Cleveland Police Chief Darrel Broussard said he is working with Fulner's attorney for Fulner to surrender.
Fulner could not be reached for comment.
Roth did not return phone calls about the altercation at the March 20 staff meeting.
Witnesses reported seeing Fulner shove Roth, who then fell over a chair and suffered a head injury and possible seizure, Broussard said. Roth was treated at the hospital and released.
PAM COMMENTARY: They're probably referring to the Texas location here.
Star investigation: Ottawa refuses to say whether drug-tainted horse meat entered food chain (29 March 2013)
Backstreet Bully was unloaded from a trailer after dawn and led by his halter into an abattoir in rural Quebec. Once owned and raced by Magna's Frank Stronach, the chestnut thoroughbred was to be slaughtered then packaged for human food.
That same January morning earlier this year, frantic phone calls from the Stronach group tried to save Backstreet Bully's life -- and protect the public from eating toxic meat.
A Star investigation has found that Canada's food inspection system has serious flaws when dealing with the steady stream of racehorses sent to slaughter every year. During his life, Backstreet Bully, like many competitive horses, was given powerful performance-enhancing drugs that are potentially deadly in meat eaten by humans.
Two of these, nitrofurazone and one nicknamed "bute" (phenylbutazone), had been administered to Backstreet Bully dozens of times but the shoddy paperwork and poor oversight allowed by Canada's food watchdog cleared him for human consumption in a market that includes Quebec, Europe and some Toronto restaurants.
Restaurant meals for kids fail nutrition test (28 March 2013)
(Reuters) - The menus offered to children by most U.S. restaurant chains have too many calories, too much salt or fat, and often not a hint of vegetables or fruit, according to a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The group, which has agitated for everything from healthier popcorn at the movies to calorie labeling in supermarkets, found that among almost 3,500 combinations surveyed, kids' meals failed to meet nutritional standards 97 percent of the time.
That was a marginal improvement over 2008 when such meals failed to meet standards 99 percent of the time.
Every children's meal offered at popular chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Dairy Queen, Hardee's, McDonald's, Panda Express, Perkins Family Restaurants and Popeyes fell short of standards adopted by the center from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutritional recommendations.
Silicon Valley to lobby Washington for more foreign workers (29 March 2013)
SAN FRANCISCO -- For years, Silicon Valley companies wanted as little to do with Washington as possible. Hiring lobbyists to promote and protect their interests was about as far as they went.
But a new generation of technology entrepreneurs believes it can no longer afford to ignore the Beltway, and is setting its sights on Capitol Hill.
Leading the way is Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who with other tech executives is starting a political advocacy group that plans to push an ambitious legislative agenda, people familiar with the plans said.
Zuckerberg has pledged tens of millions of dollars to what is expected to become a $50-million war chest for the group, which is scheduled to launch in a couple of weeks, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Topping the agenda: comprehensive immigration reform that would raise work visa caps to address what they say is a shortage of engineers in Silicon Valley.
Lead found in water at 2 Navy child care sites (29 March 2013)
Navy parents got a dose of unpleasant news as they picked up their toddlers from the child development center at Norfolk Naval Station on Thursday: There's lead in the drinking water.
The Navy conducted voluntary testing at nine child care facilities in the area and found that two of them - located at Norfolk Naval Station and at Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story - had lead at doses higher than recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Norfolk Naval Station was the only place where the higher levels were found in faucets that children usually drink from, said Liz Nashold, an environmental engineer and environmental director of the Navy's Mid-Atlantic Region.
Of the 72 faucets at the naval station center, seven tested above the recommended levels in the first round of tests, the Navy said in a news release. Five were sinks used for hand washing and two were drinking water fountains inside children's classrooms.
How to prevent kidney stones with everyday foods (29 March 2013)
3) Eat foods that are naturally high in calcium. This point may run contrary to your existing line of thinking as far as kidney stones are concerned, but natural calcium is actually beneficial for preventing kidney stones. According to a recent study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, dietary calcium actually binds with calcium oxalate, the substance that makes up most kidney stones, and crystallizes and flushes it from the body before it has a chance to form into stones.
Because of this, many experts recommend eating more foods that are naturally high in calcium to prevent kidney stones. Based on actual calcium absorption rates, the best foods in this category include leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and seeds, and raw, grass-fed milk and butter. As a side note, studies have found the exclusively vegetarian diets are linked to higher rates of kidney stones, so be sure to include saturated fats from coconut or palm oils to help balance your fat intake if you do not eat meat products.
4) Supplement with magnesium citrate, B vitamins every day. One of the first things that hospital ERs administer to patients admitted for kidney stone pain is magnesium citrate, a natural mineral substance that counteracts the oxalate minerals in many foods. For maximum kidney stone prevention, be sure to eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods every day -- these include avocados, broccoli, raw cacao, beans, bananas, and lentils -- and take a high-quality magnesium citrate supplement like Natural Vitality's Natural Magnesium Calm. Also, it is recommended to supplement with a whole food-based B vitamin complex supplement like MegaFood's Balanced B Complex every day to prevent kidney stone formation.
5) Stop drinking soda pop. One of the worst foods you can consume for kidney stones is soda pop beverages, which greatly acidify the body due to their high phosphoric acid content. There is a lot of misinformation out there about soda and its effect on kidney stones -- a 2010 study actually purported that diet soda can help prevent kidney stones (http://www.naturalnews.com/028814_diet_soda_kidney_stones.html) -- but the truth of the matter is that regular consumption of soda pop is a direct contributor to kidney stones.
PAM COMMENTARY: Hulda Clark had an amazing kidney stone cleanse in her book "A Cure for All Diseases." It's over $100 in herbs and supplements, but worth it in my opinion. A kinesiologist in Canada also told me that tincture of stinging nettle helps dissolve kidney stones, but so far I haven't tried to verify that. And I recall reading an article that said high salt diets are behind the rise in kidney stones in children, although soda pop probably plays a role in that, too.
African 'Fairy Circles' May Be Chewed by Hungry Termites (29 March 2013)
Mysterious bare spots dubbed "fairy circles" that have been long observed in the African grasslands are caused by termites, a scientist suggests.
The Psammotermes allocerus termite that lives in the sandy soil beneath the circles kill the grass by chewing its roots, according to a study in the journal Science. By clearing the grass, the termites not only feast, they also allow water to be retained in the soil during the dry season.
The circles also contribute to a larger natural advantage. They allow other species, including geckos, aardvarks, bat-eared foxes and spiders to easily find and feed on the termites, said Norbert Juergens, a scientist at the University of Hamburg in Germany who is the study's lead author.
The circles are "like oases in the desert," Juergens wrote in the journal article. They are found in the Namib Desert, which runs from mid-Angola to northwestern South Africa, according to the study.
Burkina Faso: Drip Irrigation Bears Fruit (29 March 2013)
Mando Adaye turns the crank handle four times and the pump motor springs to life. Slowly it brings water from an underground reservoir to the surface. But were Adaye to turn on the tap, no water would flow out of it for his banana or mango trees. Instead water drips slowly on to the ground through pin-sized holes in a black hose lying on the top of the soil.
Less water, better harvest
Adaye wipes the sweat from his brow. He runs an orchard in the heart of Burkina Faso in West Africa. In spring, which is the dry season, temperatures climb to around 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Sahel desert is just two hours' drive away. Water is scarce here. Consequently, food is scarce, too. A quarter of the Burkinabe population doesn't have enough to eat.
Mando Adaye saves as much water as he can. In the rainy season he collects it in a reservoir. During the dry season he uses piping to transfer the water directly to the trees, so that as little as possible evaporates in the heat of the sun.
The water seeps into the ground drop by drop, around a liter of water enters the soil every hour through the tiny holes in the piping. Previously Adaye used buckets to water his trees, but he needed twice as much water as he does now. "I'm satisfied with the drip irrigation," Adaye said. "Everything has become easier. I only have to pump water once, then in theory, I could go to bed."
Quarter of U.S. firms in China face data theft: business lobby (29 March 2013)
(Reuters) - A quarter of firms that are members of a leading U.S. business lobby in China have been victims of data theft, a report by the group said on Friday, amid growing vitriol between Beijing and Washington over the threat of cyber attacks.
Twenty-six percent of members who responded to an annual survey said their proprietary data or trade secrets had been compromised or stolen from their China operations, the American Chamber of Commerce in China report said.
"This poses a substantial obstacle for business in China, especially when considered alongside the concerns over IPR (intellectual property rights) enforcement and de facto technology transfer requirements," the Chamber said.
A U.S. computer security company, Mandiant, said in February a secretive Chinese military unit was likely behind a series of hacking attacks that targeted the United States and stole data from more than 100 companies.
New Orleans curfew data: 93 percent of curfew arrestees are black (28 March 2013)
New Orleans officials this week released data that show almost 93 percent of the 7,748 children stopped for curfew violations in the city between 2009 and 2012 were African-American. The release came a few days after New Orleans police acknowledged they had misspoken in October when they told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune that they did not track the demographics of curfew violators.
The new data also indicate that African-American boys who are stopped for curfew violations are more likely to be transported to the Orleans Parish Curfew Center, as opposed to being released on the scene. Critics of NOPD contend the numbers validate their concerns that the department has been engaging in racial profiling with some of its practices, curfew enforcement being one of them.
"(The information) is not inconsistent with what past data (have) been regarding curfew arrests and not inconsistent with some of the concerns of the Department of Justice around policing practices that were profiling communities of color," said Dana Kaplan, executive director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana.
Danatus King, head of the local NAACP and an increasingly vocal critic of the NOPD, added that the numbers behind curfew enforcement in New Orleans are especially worrisome to him in the wake of a recent directive from a police lieutenant that called on cops to stop people on bicycles in "the hood."
"It's indicative of a policy of racial profiling," King said.
"Skim-Milk Marriage": Justices Cast Doubt on DOMA in Case Brought by 83-Year-Old Lesbian Widow (28 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
MARC SOLOMON: Sure. That interaction, in particular, was really Justice Kagan highlighting the fact that this law was--you know, was created out of discrimination. And it was really the first time the federal government has created its own sort of definition of marriage to exclude gay people because they were really afraid--Congress was afraid of what was--you know, of progress on the marriage front in Hawaii.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about this document she cited.
MARC SOLOMON: Yeah, it was a House report that accompanies legislation. There's a report, and it really talks about the purpose of the legislation. And it talked--you know, it was very clear in talking about moral disapproval of homosexuality. So it's pretty hard to get away from that.
AMY GOODMAN: There were gasps in the room as she asked the question?
MARC SOLOMON: Yeah. It was a reminder of--you know, of where this law comes from and what its purpose is. And it's simply to deny loving and committed same-sex couples who are married the federal government's, you know, huge panoply of protections.
Dispute over guest-worker program puts immigration talks at risk of delay (28 March 2013)
The dispute centers on rules governing the "future flow" of migrants who come to the United States for menial jobs. Republicans, citing business interests, want to give temporary work visas to up to 400,000 foreign workers a year at low wages. But unions and many Democrats, fearing the effect on U.S. workers, want fewer workers and higher pay under the program.
Senators involved insist that they remain on schedule to complete a bill, including a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, in early April. Obama also expressed confidence this week that the guest-worker disagreement could be solved.
"I don't agree that it's threatening to doom the legislation," Obama said in an interview Wednesday with Telemundo, the Spanish-language TV network. "Labor and businesses may not always agree exactly on how to do this, but this is a resolvable issue."
But behind the scenes, negotiations over the guest-worker program -- and the White House's refusal to take a position -- have soured relations between the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which a month ago joined hands to publicly proclaim agreement on an overall plan.
Undersea internet cables off Egypt disrupted as navy arrests three (28 March 2013)
Egyptian naval forces have arrested three scuba divers who they say were trying to cut an undersea cable off the port of Alexandria that provides one-third of all internet capacity between Europe and Egypt.
However the navy who captured the men had no explanation of who they were working for, where they came from or why they would want to disrupt Egypt's internet communications.
Pictures on the Egyptian coastguard's Facebook page showed the three men tied up on board a boat, and alleged they were cutting an undersea cable partly owned by Telecom Egypt, the country's main communications organisation. The men had been on a fishing boat, said a statement by Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali, but offered no other details.
The world internet submarine cable map by the telecoms analysis company Telegeography shows that six cables come aground at Alexandria. The men were allegedly trying to cut the SeaWeMe-4 (South-east Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-4) cable, able to carry a third of the traffic between Europe and Egypt. Covering a distance of 20,000km, it enters the sea at Marseilles and makes landfall in Annaba in 15 other countries including Sri Lanka, Thailand and India.
How to power America with renewables on the cheap: Build a ton of wind and solar capacity (28 March 2013)
America could be powered almost entirely with wind turbines and solar systems by 2030 at a cost comparable to what we're spending for dirty power today, a new study finds. The necessary approach would surprise most people, and it would generate enough economic activity to make any capitalist drool: Build, build, build ... and then build some more.
From Midwest Energy News:
"The analysis ... challenges the common notion that wind and solar power need to be paired with fossil fuel or nuclear generators, so utilities can meet electricity demand when it's not windy or sunny.
"The paper instead proposes building out a 'seemingly excessive' amount of wind and solar generation capacity -- two to three times the grid's actual peak load. By spreading that generation across a wide enough geographic area, Rust Belt utilities could get virtually all of their electricity from renewables in 2030, at a cost comparable to today's prices, it says."
Feds to unveil new sulfur standards for gasoline (28 March 2013)
Under the so-called Tier 3 fuel standards refiners would have to cut sulfur emissions from gasoline to 10 parts per million, down from a current threshold of 30 parts per million.
The Environmental Protection Agency said earlier this year it was on track to propose the standards in March and finalize them by December. Sources familiar with the rule confirmed it was set to be released Friday.
There has been a flurry of last-minute lobbying by automakers, emissions control technology makers and refiners on the rule in recent weeks.
Automakers say the change would allow them to build cleaner combustion engines, providing new avenues to meet environmental mandates. Lower sulfur fuel allows catalytic convertors to work more efficiently, causing fewer tailpipe emissions.
But refiners have been lobbying the Obama administration to soften or withdraw the proposal, warning that the change would require expensive changes at their facilities, including installation of energy-intensive hydrotreaters to strip more sulfur out of gasoline, without proven health benefits. Industry representatives note that they've already cleaned up sulfur emissions considerably, down from a previous threshold of 300 parts per million.
FBI Pursuing Real-Time Gmail Spying Powers as "Top Priority" for 2013 (26 March 2013)
Despite the pervasiveness of law enforcement surveillance of digital communication, the FBI still has a difficult time monitoring Gmail, Google Voice, and Dropbox in real time. But that may change soon, because the bureau says it has made gaining more powers to wiretap all forms of Internet conversation and cloud storage a "top priority" this year.
Last week, during a talk for the American Bar Association in Washington, D.C., FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann discussed some of the pressing surveillance and national security issues facing the bureau. He gave a few updates on the FBI's efforts to address what it calls the "going dark" problem--how the rise in popularity of email and social networks has stifled its ability to monitor communications as they are being transmitted. It's no secret that under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the feds can easily obtain archive copies of emails. When it comes to spying on emails or Gchat in real time, however, it's a different story.
That's because a 1994 surveillance law called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act only allows the government to force Internet providers and phone companies to install surveillance equipment within their networks. But it doesn't cover email, cloud services, or online chat providers like Skype. Weissmann said that the FBI wants the power to mandate real-time surveillance of everything from Dropbox and online games ("the chat feature in Scrabble") to Gmail and Google Voice. "Those communications are being used for criminal conversations," he said.
While it is true that CALEA can only be used to compel Internet and phone providers to build in surveillance capabilities into their networks, the feds do have some existing powers to request surveillance of other services. Authorities can use a "Title III" order under the "Wiretap Act" to ask email and online chat providers furnish the government with "technical assistance necessary to accomplish the interception." However, the FBI claims this is not sufficient because mandating that providers help with "technical assistance" is not the same thing as forcing them to "effectuate" a wiretap. In 2011, then-FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni--Weissmann's predecessor--stated that Title III orders did not provide the bureau with an "effective lever" to "encourage providers" to set up live surveillance quickly and efficiently. In other words, the FBI believes it doesn't have enough power under current legislation to strong-arm companies into providing real-time wiretaps of communications.
Google reveals views of Japan nuclear ghost town (28 March 2013)
Visitors to Google Maps can now roam virtually through the overgrown streets of an abandoned town where time has stood still since a tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant two years ago.
Half of the town of Namie, on the Pacific coast, sits within the 20-kilometre (12-mile) evacuation zone around the nuclear plant, which was wrecked when the 2011 tsunami crashed into Japan.
With cooling systems knocked out by the tsunami, three reactors at the plant melted down, spewing radioactive particles into the air, soil and sea and forcing Namie's entire population of 21,000 to flee.
"The world is moving on to the future after the disaster... but time has stopped in the town of Namie," said mayor Tamotsu Baba, writing on a blog for Google Japan.
U.S. Navy ship set to be lifted from Philippine reef (28 March 2013)
The final sections of a US Navy ship that has been stuck on a UN World Heritage-listed coral reef in the Philippines for more than 10 weeks are set to be removed within days, an official said Thursday.
The USS Guardian's bow was cut and lifted onto a salvage vessel this week, and good weather should lead to the removal of the rest of the ship by Monday, Tubbataha Reef marine park superintendent Angelique Songco said.
"They continue to work, hopefully all done by April 1," Songco told AFP by text message.
The 68-metre (223-foot) minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha in a remote part of the Sulu Sea on January 17, damaging a section of reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich marine life.
People who eat processed junk food are angry, irritable, say scientists (27 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) The things you eat have a direct effect on your state of mind, and even have the power to drastically alter your behavioral patterns. These are the findings of a new study out of Oxford University in the U.K., which revealed that processed junk food consumption can lead to aggression, irritability, and even violent tendencies.
According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, who led the study, nutrient deficiency is a major cause of behavioral abnormalities. Without the proper nutrients, he says, the body cannot produce the appropriate chemicals and hormones required for clear thinking and healthy mood, which in turn can lead to irrational and even dangerous behaviors.
To back up these claims, Dr. Ramsey decided to study how diet affects mood and behavior in a group of prison inmates. According to CBS Boston, Dr. Ramsey gave certain vitamin supplements to some of the prison inmates, and compared their behaviors and thinking patterns to those of prison inmates eating typical junk foods.
Upon analysis, it was determined that those inmates who took the vitamin supplements were far less aggressive and angry than those eating primarily processed junk food. According to Dr. Ramsey, the findings indicate that nutrient deficiency, which is becoming increasingly common in the modern world, is directly correlated with erratic and violent behavior.
VA uses tranquilizers on over 30 percent of veterans with PTSD despite clinical warnings against their use (27 March 2013)
(NaturalNews) Doctors and medical professionals at the Veterans Affairs are handing out dangerous tranquilizers such as Xanax and Valium to military service members diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder though they have been repeatedly advised not to do so because of the potential the drugs could cause more harm than good.
According to a report in NextGov.com, the VA is prescribing tranquilizers to more than 30 percent of veterans with PTSD, though clinical practice guidelines issued in 2010 by the VA's National Center for PTSD, among others, has warned against it.
Under the guidelines, which also apply to the Department of Defense, warned providers against using benzodiazepine to manage the condition because of "the lack of efficacy data and growing evidence for the potential risk of harm," the center said in the March edition of quarterly research publication.
Let's addict them, then take the pills away and see what happens
Data indicate that treatment of PTSD with benzodiazepine drugs "may interfere with the extinction of fear conditioning or potentiate the acquisition of fear responses, actually worsening recovery from trauma," the center said. That, in turn, could interfere with "first-line" treatment like exposure therapy, in which trained personnel help veterans relive traumatic events so they can learn to effectively handle them.
Arrests at Chicago schools protest (27 March 2013)
More than 100 demonstrators taking part in mass civil disobedience were arrested in Chicago on Wednesday as several thousand people marched against the largest proposed round of school closings in recent memory.
Many carried placards proclaiming "Strong Schools, Strong Neighbourhoods" and "Protect Our Children" while chanting "Whose Schools, Our Schools" and calling for mayor Rahm Emmanuel's resignation.
"We're signalling that there is going to be a large and determined movement that will use the tactics of civil disobedience and direct action in order to keep these schools open," said Chicago Teachers Union vice-president Jesse Sharkey, who was arrested outside City Hall, one of 131 detained by police. "We see this event as kicking off an extended campaign this spring and we think it was a great success."
The city last week announced plans to close 54 schools affecting more than 30,000 students, primarily in low-income black and Latino areas. The proposals -- which had already sparked huge, rowdy protests at hearings throughout the city prior to the announcement -- mark Emmanuel's second major confrontation over education in less than six months following the teachers' strike in late August.
Striking Guantanamo prisoners say water denied (27 March 2013)
MIAMI (AP) -- Prisoners taking part in an expanding hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay leveled new complaints about their military jailers Wednesday as a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross made a fact-finding trip to the U.S. base in Cuba.
In an emergency motion filed with a federal court in Washington, lawyers say guards have refused to provide drinking water to hunger strikers and kept camp temperature "extremely frigid," to thwart the protest. A spokesman for the detention center denied the allegations.
"The reality is that these men are slowly withering away and we as a country need to take immediate action," said Mari Newman, a human rights lawyer based in Denver, who was among those who submitted the motion.
They filed the petition after interviewing Yemeni prisoner Musaab al-Madhwani by phone Monday. He told them that guards were refusing to provide bottled water and telling prisoners to drink from tap water that inmates believe is non-potable. The lawyers say in their motion that the lack of drinkable water has "already caused some prisoners kidney, urinary and stomach problems," in addition to the health effects of the hunger strike.
Brazilian doctor charged with 7 murders, may have killed 300 (27 March 2013)
(Reuters) - A Brazilian doctor who was charged with killing seven patients to free up beds at a hospital intensive care unit may have been responsible for as many as 300 deaths, according to a Health Ministry investigator.
Prosecutors said Dr. Virginia Soares de Souza and her medical team administered muscle relaxing drugs to patients, then reduced their oxygen supply, causing them to die of asphyxia at the Evangelical Hospital in the southern city of Curitiba.
De Souza, a 56-year-old widow, was arrested last month and charged with seven counts of aggravated first degree murder. Three other doctors, three nurses and a physiotherapist who worked under De Souza have also been charged with murder.
Prosecutors for the state of Parana said wiretaps of De Souza's phone conversations revealed that her motive was to free up hospital beds for other patients.
Pervasive cell phone surveillance tool raises concerns by judges, privacy activists (27 March 2013)
Federal investigators in Northern California routinely used a sophisticated surveillance system to scoop up data from cellphones and other wireless devices in an effort to track criminal suspects -- but failed to detail the practice to judges authorizing the probes.
The practice was disclosed Wednesday in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California -- in a glimpse into a technology that federal agents rarely discuss publicly.
The investigations used a device known as a StingRay, which simulates a cellphone tower and enables agents to collect the serial numbers of individual cellphones and then locate them. Although law enforcement officials can employ StingRays and similar devices to locate suspects, privacy groups and some judges have raised concerns that the technology is so invasive -- in some cases effectively penetrating the walls of homes -- that its use should require a warrant.
The issues, judges and activists say, are twofold: whether federal agents are informing courts when seeking permission to monitor suspects, and whether they are providing enough evidence to justify the use of a tool that sweeps up data not only from a suspect's wireless device but also from those of bystanders in the vicinity.
Your personal data for the taking (27 March 2013)
BETWEEN 2008 and 2010, Google collected bits of personal data -- e-mails, Web sites visited and other sensitive material -- from unsecured WiFi networks around the world. All its employees needed to gather it were commercially available antennae and some open-source software.
The company says that it didn't mean to collect people's sensitive information. It was assembling imagery and location data for its innovative Street View feature, which allows users to stand, virtually, on practically any street corner after just a few mouse clicks. It relied on unencrypted WiFi signals to help match images with locations. But, in the process, its roaming information-gatherers dug into unsecured data streams, gathering far more than they needed for Street View.
This month, Google settled with attorneys general from 38 states and the District, who were jointly investigating the company. It committed to paying $7 million, destroying as soon as possible the personal information it took and implementing a 10-year privacy program. More important than these results, though, is the lingering fact that Google -- apparently without meaning to -- easily accessed all sorts of information that WiFi users were broadcasting. Technology creates new possibilities -- and new vulnerabilities. Americans need to appreciate both.
Law enforcement can do only so much to keep up, even if the law were heavily weighted toward privacy protection. It's relatively easy to investigate a big company that has a lot of cars rolling around collecting data. It's much harder for the authorities to stop a lone antenna-bearing snooper in a van outside your house. The best defense is locking your home WiFi network.
States answer help wanted ad to be drone test site (27 March 2013)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It's the land where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, where the space shuttle fleet rolled off the assembly line and where the first private manned rocketship climbed to space.
Capitalizing on Southern California's aerospace fortunes, two rival groups want to add another laurel: drone test range.
They face crowded competition. In search of an economic boost, more than half the country is looking toward the sky - expected to be buzzing in the near future with pilotless aircraft.
Before that can become reality, the Federal Aviation Administration last month put out a call to test fly drones at half a dozen to-be-determined sites before they can share the same space as commercial jetliners, small aircraft and helicopters.
The 10 worst toxins hidden in vitamins, supplements and health foods (26 March 2013)
When I look around the natural products industry, I see examples of super honest, high-integrity companies like Nature's Path and Dr. Bronner's. I also see an alarming number of cheats, crooks and charlatans who are only involved in the industry to profit from the explosion of interest in health supplements. In truth, some nutritional products are downright dangerous to your health. My role as a journalist and activist is to help you tell the difference between products that are GOOD for you vs. products that might actually be toxic. Because ultimately, I want you to be healthy, vibrant, intelligent and active. I want you to enjoy life and improve the quality of your life.
Be prepared to be shocked in reading what follows. After reviewing this list, you will probably throw out quite a few products in your refrigerator and pantry. Very few people are willing to tell you the truth revealed here, so some of this may come as a complete shock (see #1 and #2, below).
#1) Maltodextrin (from GM corn)
Let's start out with the big one first: If you pick up a natural product and the ingredients list says "maltodextrin," chances are very high that the maltodextrin in the product is derived from Monsanto's GM corn.
Virtually all the maltodextrin used throughout the natural products industry is genetically modified. Products that are certified USDA organic, however, are not using GMO maltodextrin.
PAM COMMENTARY: I've had some bad experiences with Dr. Bronner's products since the company changed hands.
Anthony Lewis dies at 85; two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (26 March 2013)
Lewis saw himself as a defender of decency, respect for law and reason against a tide of religious fundamentalism and extreme nationalism. His columns railed against the Vietnam War, Watergate, apartheid in South Africa and Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
He wrote his final "Abroad at Home" column for The Times on Dec. 15, 2001, warning against the U.S. fearfully surrendering its civil liberties in the wake of the terrorist attacks three months earlier.
"Gideon's Trumpet" became a legal classic, telling the story of Clarence Earl Gideon, whose case resulted in the creation of the public defender systems across the nation. In Gideon vs. Wainwright, the high court ruled that criminal defendants are entitled to a lawyer even if they cannot afford one.
Gideon's victory, Lewis wrote, "shows that even the poorest and least powerful of men -- a convict with not even a friend to visit him in prison -- can take his cause to the highest court in the land and bring about a fundamental change in the law."
Eight senators demand investigation of Payá's death (26 March 2013)
THE CAR crash that killed dissident Oswaldo Payá and the youth activist Harold Cepero in eastern Cuba last July was on a rural road. As with any wreck in which passengers die or are knocked unconscious, there was some confusion. In the front of the rental car, on the passenger side, sat Jens Aron Modig of Sweden, president of the youth league of Sweden's Christian Democratic Party. He has said he was asleep at the moment of impact. The driver, Ángel Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of Spain's ruling party, has told us the car was hit from behind by a vehicle bearing Cuban government license plates. They both survived; Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero, in the back seat, did not. Mr. Carromero said that after the crash he was imprisoned and subjected to intimidation and threats by Cuban authorities, who attempted to cover up their role in the deaths. Cuba convicted Mr. Carromero of vehicular homicide, transferred him to Spain and declared the case closed.
But it must not be closed. Mr. Carromero and Mr. Modig carried cell phones. Text messages were sent to friends and relatives abroad immediately after the wreck. These messages cannot be manipulated or suppressed. Although not the whole story, they must be taken seriously as important contemporaneous evidence. The text messages are one reason why the questions about Mr. Payá's death will not go away.
It is not known precisely what happened on the road, but the messages offer clues. One was sent from Mr. Modig's phone to a recipient in Sweden, according to screenshots provided to us. It says: "We've crashed. Traveling in an ambulance now. I do not have my passport. Not in grave danger." A subsequent message reports that Mr. Modig and Mr. Carromero are in a hospital in the town of Bayamo "and OK."
Then Mr. Modig adds: "Ángel said that someone had tried to run us off the highway."
Following in Dr. George Tiller's footsteps (26 March 2013)
WICHITA, Kan. -- Julie Burkhart's high heels click against freshly laid tiles as she tours the construction zone. Wires jut from walls waiting for connection, and the smell of new paint fills the air. With the countdown on, her walk and talk say crisp determination.
Next week the newly remodeled South Wind Women's Center is scheduled to open. Under heavy security, doctors will perform abortions, as well as offering other gynecological services.
Burkhart bought the unremarkable 1970s-era building last August through her foundation, Trust Women, for an undisclosed amount. It is better known by its old name: Women's Health Care Services. That was when it was run by Dr. George Tiller before he was fatally gunned down on May 31, 2009.
The clinic had been closed for nearly four years.
North Dakota governor signs three laws that limit abortion (26 March 2013)
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed into law the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, including one that bans abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can come as soon as six weeks after conception.
A second bill signed by the Republican governor bans abortions solely for the purpose of gender selection and genetic abnormalities. And another requires that any physician who performs abortions must have staff privileges at a nearby hospital.
The three new laws -- and a previously approved resolution calling for a November referendum on a constitutional amendment that is designed to protect life at any stage of development -- places the state at the forefront of efforts to limit abortion rights.
Supporters of abortion rights have said they will fight the referendum and will seek to have the laws blocked in the courts.
PAM COMMENTARY: North Dakota has such a small population that people have to travel for a lot of things. It's like the population of a city spread out over the land mass of a state.
Obama names Julia Pierson as Secret Service director (26 March 2013)
President Obama appointed veteran U.S. Secret Service official Julia Pierson as the first female director in the agency's 148-year history Tuesday, nearly a year after a prostitution scandal tarred the reputation of one of the nation's top law enforcement institutions.
Pierson, 53, who began her career as an agent in Miami three decades ago, has served as chief of staff to the outgoing director, Mark Sullivan, for the past five years. Peers described her as a skilled and dedicated manager who has helped oversee a $250 million project to modernize the institution's communications and data-management networks.
"Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own," Obama said in a statement.
The appointment does not require Senate confirmation.
Obama's selection of Pierson comes after an extraordinarily difficult year at the service, which was enveloped by a prostitution scandal exposing its male-dominated culture. She was chosen over former Secret Service official David O'Connor, another top candidate who had interviewed with the president, people familiar with the process said.
2 communities miles apart on budget standoff, politics (26 March 2013)
In PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- Washington's budget standoff has hit hard in this military town. A sheet-metal fabricator for the Navy was just laid off after 19 years and had to rush to set up a colonoscopy before his insurance runs out. A civilian staffer at the sprawling Naval Medical Center worries that furloughs could mean losing her house.
But in Hanover County, another Virginia community of about 100,000 people just 90 minutes north, fewer eyes are glued to the latest bouts of budget politics and sequester news.
Instead, roofer Harold Oakley stood outside a gas station down a rural road from his home and saw something else as the source of his economic pain: oil and gas prices. The cost of the petroleum-based shingles he uses has doubled in four years, and customers don't make many home improvements when they're scrimping to pay for fuel. "When the gas goes up, the work stops," said Oakley, 61.
The differences in the outlooks of the two places in many ways come down to federal money. In 2010, Washington spent $24,440 per person in Portsmouth, according to the latest government tally. The figure for Hanover: $8,990.
No plan, for now, to protect whooping cranes (26 March 2013)
Texas won't have to start work immediately on a plan to protect the endangered whooping cranes that winter along the Texas Coast, thanks to a stay of an earlier federal court ruling granted Tuesday by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Jack had ruled March 11 that the state's management of the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers caused the death of 23 whooping cranes during winter 2008-2009.
Jack agreed with arguments presented by the Aransas Project, which sued the state, that the food sources the cranes depend on need fresh water flowing into coastal estuaries and that Texas allowed too much to be pumped out of the rivers.
As part of her ruling, Jack ordered the state to develop a habitat conservation plan that would assure fresh water for the cranes. The three-judge panel of the appeals court said Texas doesn't have to do that while it appeals.
Texas Wins Stay in Whooping Cranes Case From U.S. Court (26 March 2013)
An appeals court temporarily lifted a judge's order blocking Texas from issuing permits for a river system that supplies cities and industrial users in a dispute over protecting an endangered flock of whooping cranes.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which issued today's order at the request of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also said it would expedite the state's appeal of a lower court's March 11 ruling that forbids the approval of new permits for the Guadalupe, San Antonio or Blanco rivers.
"Today's order halts the lower court's flawed decision -- and stops Texas from being coerced into a costly federal permitting regime," Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Abbott, said in an e-mail. "Equally important, the emergency stay is a huge win for the farmers, ranchers, and communities along these Texas rivers who would have been irreparably harmed if the district court's order had taken effect."
U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack in Corpus Christi said in her March 11 ruling that state regulators 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.
Early spring leads to sooner than normal northern migration among whooping cranes (26 March 2013)
AUSTIN -- Heralding an early start to spring, whooping cranes began breaking camp at wintering grounds in Texas sooner than usual and are making their way back north.
Wildlife officials are asking the public join Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Texas Whooper Watch effort and watch for the endangered birds as they close out an unusual winter season in the state.
University of North Carolina student: Administrator told me 'rape is like football' (25 March 2013)
Two of the women who filed a federal complaint against the University of North Carolina spoke out against the school's alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases Monday night on CNN.
"She told me rape is like football, and if you look back on the game what would you have done differently in that situation?" said Annie Clark, describing a school administrator's response to her sexual assault. Clark said she "absolutely" felt like she was being blamed for the crime against her.
Another student of the university, Andrea Pino, told CNN that school officials accused her of laziness after she reported lasting trauma from being raped.
Clark and Pino, along with two other students and a former assistant dean, filed a 34-page complaint earlier this year with the U.S. Department of Education. Clark accused the university of acting "with deliberate indifference."
Eating made her sick, but it took doctors years to figure out why (25 March 2013)
A year after her daughter's stomach problems began, Margaret Kaplow began having pains of her own.
When she sat down to dinner with her family, Kaplow's gut would clench involuntarily as she waited to see if this was one of the nights Madeline would eat a few bites before putting down her fork, pushing away from the table and announcing, "I don't feel good."
For nearly six years, Maddie Kaplow's severe, recurrent abdominal pain, which began shortly before her 13th birthday, was attributed to a host of ailments. Specialists in the District, Maryland and Virginia decided at various times that she had a gluten intolerance, a ruptured ovarian cyst, a diseased appendix or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some were convinced that her problem was psychological and that she was a high-strung teenaged girl seeking attention.
"It was a freaking nightmare," Kaplow recalled of those years. She said she never believed her daughter was exaggerating or faking her symptoms. And each time a new diagnosis was made, Kaplow said, she felt elated that a doctor had figured out the cause of Maddie's pain, which would turn into crushing disappointment when it recurred.
PAM COMMENTARY: It's pretty sad that it took so long to diagnose a simple problem like ulcers. When I was a teenager, I had severe stomach problems after a flu. For a time I was missing so much school that I had to be tutored at home. Then I missed a lot of classes in the first couple of years at college. I was taken from doctor to doctor, finally to the Cleveland Clinic, and nobody ever found anything wrong, although the clinic's idea was that I was very close to getting an ulcer with the stomach lining worn thin. That was before doctors realized that a bacteria caused ulcers, and not necessarily stress, although I was under plenty of stress to keep up with my college-bound curriculum at school. Too much homework, not enough time to do anything else.
Then I went vegetarian, and the stomach problems were gone for good. That's vegetarian, with eggs and cheese still on the menu -- over a decade before I went vegan. I can't explain why, but meat products are known for producing acidity. And my diet was healthier -- more salads, less fat. I should write about it sometime, but I have a long list of health articles and no time to work on them. I need to spend most of my time on making a living, like most people.
Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work (25 March 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: House Speaker John Boehner. Professor Richard Wolff, your response? And also, that the Obama administration was warning catastrophe if sequestration took place. It took place.
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, it's a stunning comment on our dysfunctional government built on top of a dysfunctional economy. Here we are in the middle of a crisis. We have millions of people without work, millions of people losing their homes, an economy that doesn't work for the vast majority. The United States government is one of the major customers for goods and services in America. Sequestration is simply a cutback in government spending. It doesn't take rocket science to understand that if the government, as the largest single buyer of goods and services, cuts back on the goods and services it buys, that means companies across America will sell less, and they'll have less need of workers, and they will lay off workers. So, this is an act that worsens an unemployment that is already severe.
If you put that together with the tax increase on January 1st--and let me say a word about that. We heard a lot of public debate about taxing rich people, not taxing rich people, Republicans and Democrats, but the tax on the wealthy is small compared to the tax on the middle and lower incomes that went up on January 1st. When we raised the payroll tax here in America from 4.2 to 6.2 percent, we raised over $125 billion--huge amount of money, much more than was raised by taxing the rich--and we savaged the middle- and lower-income groups in America, those that in the presidential election both candidates had sworn to save and support. We attacked them, thereby limiting their capacity to buy goods and services because we taxed them more.
You put together the taxing of the middle and lower incomes with the cutbacks of government spending, and you're going to do what every European country that has imposed austerity has already discovered: You're making the problem worse. So with all the homilies that Mr. Boehner can put out there about how spending is a problem, this abstract idea doesn't change the fact you're making the economic conditions of the mass of people worse by these austerity steps, not better. And that ought to be put as the fire burning at the feet of politicians, so they stop talking these abstractions and deal with the reality of what they're doing.
Guanarito Virus Vial Missing From Galveston National Laboratory's Secure Facility (25 March 2013)
Don't panic, but a vial of Guanarito virus, capable of causing hemorrhagic fever, has gone missing from a secure research lab in Galveston, Texas.
In a statement released March 23, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) President David Callender explained "less than a quarter teaspoon" of the virus was unaccounted for from a locked freezer within a secure facility at the Galveston National Laboratory. A routine inspection on March 20 and 21 revealed the virus was missing.
"There was no breach in the facility's security and there is no indication that any wrongdoing is involved," Callender added in the release. "It is likely, but not confirmed, that the vial was destroyed during normal laboratory sterilization practices."
The laboratory's scientific director, Scott Weaver, told The Houston Chronicle the vial may have become stuck to a glove and fallen onto the floor, where it would have been destroyed as a part of the lab's normal cleaning and decontamination process.
Supreme Court weighs deals to delay generic drugs (25 March 2013)
WASHINGTON -- A government attorney urged the Supreme Court to allow authorities to crack down on cash deals among prescription drug makers that delay the introduction of generic drugs and keep consumer prices high.
The so-called pay-for-delay deals, which allow brand-name drug companies to keep cheaper generic drugs off the market for a time, violate antitrust laws, the Federal Trade Commission argued Monday.
"It's unlawful to buy off the competition," said Malcolm Stewart, the deputy solicitor general who represented the FTC and the Justice Department. "It's an agreement not to compete," he said, which is "presumptively illegal."
The FTC said that more than two dozen such deals cost consumers $3.5 billion last year. Companies such as CVS Caremark Corp., Rite Aid Corp., Walgreen Co., Albertson's and Safeway Inc. joined the FTC in urging the court to rein in the deals.
The end of Indian IT staffing as we know it (25 March 2013)
(Reuters) - India's IT outsourcers are promoting "mini CEOs" capable of running businesses on their own, while trimming down on the hordes of entry-level computer coders they normally hire as they try to squeeze more profits out of their staff.
The shift by Infosys Ltd and others is symptomatic of a maturing industry that wants more revenue from its own intellectual property instead of providing only labor-intensive, lower-margin information technology and back-office services.
For young graduates who see the $108 billion IT industry as a sure pathway to modern India's growing middle class, the transformation is unsettling.
Dozens of industry aspirants who were recruited on campus by No. 4 player HCL Technologies recently protested outside its offices in several cities. They were offered jobs in 2011 before graduating last year but have not yet been given joining dates - or paychecks.
PAM COMMENTARY: That reminds me of technical colleges in this country who advertise decent salaries for graduates, but often graduates can't find any jobs at all. There's a glut of foreign labor and Americans looking for work in the I.T. industry.
Chinese citizen sentenced in military data-theft case (25 March 2013)
NEWARK, N.J. -- Measured in millimeters, the tiny device was designed to allow drones, missiles and rockets to hit targets without satellite guidance. An advanced version was being developed secretly for the U.S. military by a small company and L-3 Communications, a major defense contractor.
On Monday, Sixing Liu, a Chinese citizen who worked at L-3's space and navigation division, was sentenced in federal court here to five years and 10 months for taking thousands of files about the device, called a disk resonator gyroscope, and other defense systems to China in violation of a U.S. arms embargo.
The case illustrates what the FBI calls a growing "insider threat" that hasn't drawn as much attention as Chinese cyber operations. But U.S. authorities warned that this type of espionage can be just as damaging to national security and American business.
"The reason this technology is on the State Department munitions list, and controlled . . . is it can navigate, control and position missiles, aircraft, drones, bombs, lasers and targets very accurately," said David Smukowski, president of Sensors in Motion, the small company in Bellvue, Wash., developing the technology with L-3. "While it saves lives, it can also be very strategic. It is rocket science."
Kenyan yoga boom creates jobs and breaks down barriers (25 March 2013)
With ambient music playing in the background, a dedicated group of yogis breathe in unison, concentrating intently on the finer details of the downward dog. Sweat drips from their faces as the teacher guides them through a series of intricate asanas, correcting stray limbs and encouraging complete focus.
But rather than a plush yoga studio with soft mats and air conditioning, the group of teenagers are working out in the concrete courtyard of a Nairobi orphanage, under the tuition of a dreadlocked instructor, Bernard Gitonga.
Until recently, yoga in Kenya was the preserve of a small group of trendy expats and south Asian devotees. But a project to encourage the practice in Africa has trained more than 80 local teachers and now offers 350 free classes a week, mostly in slum areas, serving thousands of students.
The African Yoga Project, funded by donors, volunteers and western yogis, is the brainchild of Paige Elenson, an American, who had the idea in 2007 when she was teaching yoga to Nairobi expatriates and practising with a group of young athletes in the Kibera slum. Elenson saw an opportunity to create jobs for local young people, and raised $10,000 (£6,585) to found the not-for-profit organisation and train 40 Kenyan instructors.
Scientists: Long winter in U.S. the result of melting Arctic ice cap (25 March 2013)
Climate scientists have linked the massive snowstorms and bitter spring weather now being experienced across Britain and large parts of Europe and north America to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.
Both the extent and the volume of the sea ice that forms and melts each year in the Arctic ocean fell to an historic low last autumn, and satellite records published on Monday by the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, show the ice extent is close to the minimum recorded for this time of year.
"The sea ice is going rapidly. It's 80% less than it was just 30 years ago. There has been a dramatic loss. This is a symptom of global warming and it contributes to enhanced warming of the Arctic," said Jennifer Francis, research professor with the Rutgers Institute of Coastal and Marine Science .
According to Francis and a growing body of other researchers, the Arctic ice loss adds heat to the ocean and atmosphere which shifts the position of the jet stream -- the high-altitude river of air that steers storm systems and governs most weather in northern hemisphere.
"This is what is affecting the jet stream and leading to the extreme weather we are seeing in mid-latitudes," she said. "It allows the cold air from the Arctic to plunge much further south. The pattern can be slow to change because the [southern] wave of the jet stream is getting bigger. It's now at a near record position, so whatever weather you have now is going to stick around," she said.
Potato bred to make perfect potato chips will kiiiiiill you (25 March 2013)
Scientists don't need fancy GM techniques to make weird plants that are not so good for human beings to consume. BoingBoing's Maggie Koerth-Baker has a prime example of this: the Lenape potato, created in the 1960s -- using conventional breeding -- to fry up into a perfect potato chip. And it made the few people who ate it really, grossly sick.
Koerth-Baker says it worked "like a fast-acting stomach bug." Which is a nice way of saying that it was akin to "serious illness accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness, and convulsive twitching." That is the effect of solanine, the potato-made alkaloid that is not so friendly to the human system. She writes:
"Despite an almost boring reputation as the squishy white bread of the plant kingdom, potatoes actually come from somewhat nasty roots. Their closest relatives are innocuous enough. Potatoes have strong genetic ties to tomatoes and eggplants. But their more distant cousins include tobacco, chili peppers, deadly nightshade, and the hallucinatory drug-producing flower, datura.
This is a phylogenetic family that is ready to throw down, chemically "speaking."
To protect lands, Obama designates five new national monuments (25 March 2013)
President Barack Obama signed proclamations Monday designating five locations around the country as new national monuments to protect large tracts of land and historical sites, a White House official said.
The locations range from a 240,000-acre expanse in New Mexico's high desert and the town green in Dover, Del., to an archipelago in Washington, a historical home in Ohio and a park in Maryland.
"These sites honor the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country," said Obama. "By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come."
Similar to a national park, the sites, located in Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington, can be designated as national monuments directly by the president without congressional approval, under the Antiquities Act.
Report whooping cranes during migration (25 March 2013)
Outdoorsmen are urged to report any whooping crane sighting that might occur during the spring migration. Depending on weather, the birds could be moving north during the next several weeks, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Anyone spotting the large white birds should notify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 848-2466 or the Game and Fish Department at 328-6300.
Anyone observing the birds is asked to note any colored leg bands which are used for identification. The birds stand about 5-feet tall and have a 7-foot wingspan. Whoopers are white in color with black wing tips. The birds commonly travel in groups of two or three but may be associated with sandhill cranes.
The birds should be observed from a distance and not disturbed.
Idiot shoots horse on camera to promote horsemeat (25 March 2013)
Tim Sappington wants to promote the eating of horsemeat, but he really isn't helping his cause.
In a video now stirring up outrage on YouTube, Sappington is shown with a colt on his property. "All you animal activists, fuck you," he says. Then he pulls a handgun from its holster and aims it between the animal's eyes. He pulls the trigger. As the horse lies convulsing on the ground with its legs kicking in the air, Sappington walks away and mutters, "Good."
The killing appears to have been perfectly legal. The U.S. banned the slaughter of horses in 2006, but the ban quietly expired in 2011.
Sappington had been a contract worker for the Valley Meat Company in Roswell, N.M., which is trying to obtain the federal permits needed to begin slaughtering horses (and it's suing the USDA for taking so damned long about it). After his video went up on YouTube last week, Sappington was apparently let go.
Maple syrup producers hope for 2013 comeback (24 March 2013)
The province's maple syrup producers are hoping the rise in temperature as spring progresses will be steady, signalling a comeback in 2013 for a business worth $42 million annually to Ontario's economy.
This time last year, what seemed an overnight switch from winter to spring wreaked havoc on sap production, which was down 60 per cent in 2012, according to the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association.
"It just got too warm and it never cooled off. So the sap went straight to the top, the leaf buds came out and it was all over," said local maple syrup producer Earl Stanley.
His family has been making the sweet elixir in south Ottawa at Stanley's Olde Maple Lane Farm since the 1880s. Last year, the rapidly warming weather cut Stanley's production in half and his season was over after just two weeks.
Olen Burrage dies at 82; suspect in slayings of Mississippi civil rights workers (24 March 2013)
Olen Burrage, a farmer and Ku Klux Klan member who owned the Mississippi land where the bullet-riddled bodies of three civil rights workers were found buried in the 1960s, has died. He was 82.
Burrage, who was acquitted on civil rights charges related to the murders, died March 15 at a medical center in Meridian, Miss., the McClain-Hays Funeral Home announced. The cause was not released.
The Ku Klux Klan slaying became one of the most infamous episodes of the civil rights era and led to the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory practices that kept African Americans from voting.
When the state refused to bring murder charges, the federal government stepped in. The FBI dubbed the investigation "Mississippi Burning," which was later used as the title of a 1988 movie loosely based on the crime.
Where are the germs? (24 March 2013)
Here are average total bacteria counts, per square inch, for a dozen common germ-infested items we encounter in our daily lives, according to Gerba, who has tested hundreds of surfaces...
4,500: Self-checkout touch screen
The dirt: Touched by thousands of strangers and rarely cleaned.
To clean: Rub your hands with hand sanitizer after using, allowing them to stay wet for 30 seconds to kill bacteria.
Big chickens - and their wings - are bad news for hoops fans (24 March 2013)
At America's sports bars, chicken wings are as essential to March Madness as man-to-man defense and the three-point shot.
But as this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament rolls ahead, the cruel economics of the chicken wing are squeezing restaurant chains and putting upward pressure on prices for customers.
With breeding advances, the size of America's chickens -- and their wings -- is relentlessly rising. As CEO Sally Smith of Buffalo Wild Wings recently explained to stock analysts: "Five wings yield more ounces of chicken than six used to."
Sounds like good news for wing joints, right? No clucking way. Chains like Buffalo Wild Wings sell by the unit -- a six-piece plate with fries and a beer anyone? -- but buy by the pound. Take one wing away, even if the rest are meatier, and customers might not be happy.
Pilot whales beach in South Africa (24 March 2013)
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Six of 19 pilot whales that were stranded Sunday on a beach in the South African city of Cape Town have died and authorities said they planned to euthanize some of the surviving whales.
Police and other rescue workers had hosed down the surviving whales at Noordhoek Beach to try to keep them alive.
The South African Press Association quoted Craig Lambinon, a spokesman for the National Sea Rescue Institute, as saying authorities had considered whether to try and refloat the whales, which washed up on the beach on Sunday morning.
"Seven are in poor health," SAPA quoted Lambinon as saying. "We are still trying our best to save them, but those that can't be saved will be humanely euthanized."
Shinseki: VA backlog will end by 2015 (24 March 2013)
More than 600,000 claims are currently backlogged (defined as pending for more than 125 days) -- a sharp increase that has many veterans and members of Congress crying foul.
"No veteran should have to wait for claims like they are today. We have a fix for this," Shinseki said on CNN's "State of the Union." "We will end the backlog in 2015."
The ramping down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to a surge in claims that has led to the backlog.
Pressed on why the VA hasn't been able to deal with the claims more quickly, Shinseki offered few answers. Asked whether it was a manpower issue, he noted that President Obama has increased VA funding at a time when other areas are being cut.
Iraq to auction off gas exploration blocks to international energy companies (24 March 2013)
Iraq plans to hold an auction of gas exploration blocks open to international energy companies later this year, the fifth of its kind since 2009, a spokesman said on Sunday.
Baghdad will offer 10 exploration blocks in the auction, the date of which has yet to be finalised, oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told AFP.
"The date will be announced after all the documents are finalised," he said. "It will be a good auction, and it will attract international companies to bid."
Iraq has held four previous bid rounds, including one in May 2012 for oil and gas exploration blocks that was widely viewed as a flop as foreign firms largely did not bid because of what were seen as unfavourable contract terms.
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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