Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 7th to 13th of April 2013
Solar grows up -- now what? (13 April 2013)
Almost a decade ago, I was part of a group that lost a standby rate case with a Massachusetts utility, when the utility convinced the commission to approve a rate that would incentivize solar at the expense of combined heat and power (CHP). The package fractured the green coalition we'd assembled and the utility got to greenwash its terrible new rate. Yes, I'm still bitter.
When the dust settled, I told friends on the solar side of our group that they shouldn't celebrate too hard. The message wasn't that utilities liked solar, but that they liked technologies that didn't eat into their sales. (At the time, there was 80 gigawatts of CHP deployed nationwide; solar capacity was basically zero.)
With the release this Edison Electric Institute (EEI) report, it appears solar's time may have come. The gist of the report (nicely summarized here and here) is that distributed energy resources generally, and solar specifically, are eating into utility profit margins and potentially compromising their ability to attract capital. Utilities should take action to stop it. Specifically, note these passages:
[Utilities should encourage] "an immediate focus on revising state and federal policies that do not align the interests of customers and investors, particularly revising utility tariff structures in order to eliminate cross subsidies (by non-DER participants) and utility investor cost-recovery uncertainties."
High-tech solutions not the answer to ER wait times, experts say (13 April 2013)
When Edmonton resident Lyn Morrison's 80-year-old mother, Deloris, complained of sharp stomach pains last June, Morrison checked the app for the quickest wait time.
The University of Alberta Hospital, where the family usually went, showed a wait time of two and a half hours. So, instead, Morrison took her mother to Grey Nuns Community Hospital, which had a posted wait of only 18 minutes.
"I thought this was good, because she's in a lot of pain, and we needed to see somebody right away," Morrison told the CBC's the fifth estate. "At the time, I was thinking, she'll get help right away, within that time is what I thought would happen."
Instead, her mother waited three hours to be seen, and, Morrison claims, bled to death internally from an aneurism while waiting several more hours to be admitted.
Americans who ditch overpriced prescriptions save time, money, and health (13 April 2013)
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United States out-of-pocket drug consumption exceeds $45 billion annually. The agency also reports that one of every five Americans ask their doctor for a less expensive prescription.
The horrible reality is: the 11 major drug companies in the world come up with an annual $85 billion profit. This industry is obviously monopolizing on people's illness, and they're not even sharing any of the billion-dollar profit by lowering the prices!
Either way, the combination of severe side effects and high costs is detracting people from the pharmaceutical philosophy altogether. Many people are now seeking alternative answers as well.
If prescriptions are too expensive, why not try prescribing your own medicine?
As Americans look for more frugal answers to their health, the truth may be just under their nose. As awareness spreads, many are learning how to make their own medicine. Real medicine might not be in the doctor's hands anymore. Many medical doctors are beginning to encourage their patients to seek nutritional answers. Many doctors confess that they wouldn't consume the very drugs they prescribe to people. Maybe prescriptions are really just bogus disease management tools designed to keep people coming back to an overly priced, overrated juggernaut.
Teachers blast Louisiana evaluation system, say state doesn't support them (13 April 2013)
Teachers attending a Saturday town hall meeting in New Orleans hosted by NBC's Education Nation blasted new state evaluation procedures for teachers and Louisiana's adoption of national education standards, saying the state Department of Education isn't giving teachers enough support.
The standards, called the Common Core, are being phased in for English and math. The state also plans to adopt new national science standards that were unveiled this week. In 2015, a new system of standardized tests will replace Louisiana's LEAP and end-of-course exams.
The Compass evaluation system is under way now. Under it, classroom observations account for 50 percent of a teacher's grade, with the rest coming from students' scores on standardized tests. Teachers who get low marks will be the first to be laid off if their districts have to cut back.
With all these changes taking place at once, "It's a very overwhelming year for teachers," said panelist April Giddens of Natchitoches, who was named Louisiana's 2012 teacher of the year.
Victoria Brittain: "Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror" (12 April 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: What are these shadow lives? Describe who you have spent the last decade with.
VICTORIA BRITTAIN: Well, some of the women that I've written about are the wives of Guantánamo prisoners. One, in particular, who is like chapter one of the book, is one of my closest friends, and I kind of lived alongside her and her children through a very long period when her husband was in Guantánamo, and she had absolutely no information about why he was there, when he might come back, no contact with him whatsoever.
And a second woman, who I know very well, her husband is still in Guantánamo after 11 years. And he's one of the 86 people who were cleared in that task force report that President Obama ordered very early on by very senior intelligence and military people. And those 86 people, which of course included a lot of Yemenis, but it also included this British resident, Shaker Aamer, who--having been cleared as innocent, everybody expected him to be released. The British government has also asked for him. But President Obama has not managed to release him.
Mark Steel: You can't just shut us up now that Margaret Thatcher's dead;
If someone robs your house, you don't say: "I disagreed with the burglar's policy, of tying me to a chair. But I did admire his convictions." (11 April 2013)
Maybe a more modern way of broadcasting the news would have been for Davina McCall to announce it, saying: "She's gone, but let's have a look at some of her best bits." Then we could see her denouncing Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and befriending General Pinochet.
Instead it began as expected, with the Hurds, Howes and Archers phoning in their "remarkables" and "historics", and we were reminded how she brought down the Berlin Wall and rescued Britain, then an article in The Times claimed she was responsible for ending apartheid, and it seemed by today we'd be hearing she stopped Gibraltar being invaded by Daleks and made our goldfish feel proud to be British and took 8 for 35 against Australia to win the Ashes.
"Even those who disagreed with her, respected her as a conviction politician", it was said many times, as if everyone would participate in the mourning. But soon it was impossible to pretend there was a respectful consensus, not because of the odd party in the street, but from a widespread and considered contempt. In many areas it must have been confusing for Jehovah's Witnesses, as every time they knocked on a door and asked, "Have you heard the good news", they'd be told "Yes mate, I have, do you want to come in for a beer?"
Before long came the complaints, such as Tony Blair saying: "Even if you disagree with someone very strongly, at the moment of their passing you should show some respect." Presumably then, when Bin Laden was killed, Blair's statement was: "Although I didn't agree with Osama's policies, he was a conviction terrorist, a colourful character whose short films were not only fun but educational as well. He will be sadly missed."
Sun Unleashes Most Powerful Solar Flare of Year (12 April 2013)
The most powerful solar flare of the year erupted from the sun Thursday, sparking a temporary radio blackout on Earth, NASA officials say.
The solar flare occurred at 3:16 a.m. EDT and registered as a M6.5-class sun storm, a relatively mid-level flare on the scale of solar tempests. It coincided with an eruption of super-hot solar plasma known as a coronal mass ejection.
"This is the strongest flare seen so far in 2013," NASA spokeswoman Karen Fox explained in a statement. "Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun's normal 11-year cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013."
NASA's sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a stunning video of the strongest solar flare of 2013, showing it extreme detail. The spacecraft is one of several space-based observatories keeping track of the sun's solar weather events.
Music activates brain region associated with reward (11 April 2013)
Scientists know that music can give intense pleasure by delivering chemical rewards in the brain that are equal to the joy of good food or even sex, but now they think they may have identified the part of the brain where this pleasure starts.
Researchers scanned the brains of subjects while they listened to new songs and asked how much they would spend on buying the tracks. They found that the most popular songs -- those which people were prepared to pay more for -- were also the ones that elicited the strongest response in the nucleus accumbens, a structure in the centre of the brain that is involved in reward processing.
"This area is important because it's involved in forming expectations and these are expectations that could be rewarding," said Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. "What makes music so emotionally powerful is the creation of expectation. Activity in the nucleus accumbens normally would indicate that expectations are being met or surpassed."
In the experiment, which is published in Science, she and her colleagues scanned the brains of 20 people who used an iTunes-like interface to listen to 30-second clips of songs they had never heard before but were in a genre they generally liked. "Instead of just asking them if they liked the music or not, we gave them a chance to buy the music because that gives us a real understanding of what they really like and want," she said. "Immediately after they hear each clip, they make a decision. They could spend zero dollars, 99c, $1.29 or $2."
California adds BPA plastics chemical to warnings list (12 April 2013)
California's environmental science agency has added the controversial plastics-softening chemical, bisphenol A, to its official list of chemicals known to cause birth defects.
The decision was announced late Thursday by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The agency based its finding on a report by "an authoritative body," the National Toxicology Program, that the compound commonly known as BPA "causes reproductive toxicity...at high doses."
The listing, authorized under a 1986 law, Proposition 65, requires that manufacturers of goods containing BPA, such as water bottles, provide warnings or reformulate their products.
Environmentalists immediately praised the agency's decision. The plastics industry criticized it and vowed to pursue a lawsuit against the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown.
Oceans are absorbing excess heat, for now (12 April 2013)
Pity the oceans. Not only do we dump oil and plastics and all kinds of nasty chemicals and garbage into them. Turns out we're dumping heat into them too.
Studies of ocean temperatures are revealing that a lot of the excess heat we're creating by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is ending up in the oceans.
That's helping to keep the atmosphere cooler than scientists had previously projected; the rise in surface temperatures slowed during the first decade of this century. (The effects of aerosols spat out by volcanoes and other phenomena are also thought to have helped keep temperatures on the surface of Earth lower than expected.) That may seem a good thing from the perspective of terrestrial creatures like us. But the oceans won't suck up all that heat forever.
A new paper published in Nature Climate Change by scientists from Spain and France identified where much of the missing heat had ended up:
"Most of this excess energy was absorbed in the top 700?[meters] of the ocean at the onset of the warming pause, 65% of it in the tropical Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Our results hence point at the key role of the ocean heat uptake in the recent warming slowdown."
Palm oil health craze may push animals to extinction while destroying the environment (12 April 2013)
(NaturalNews) Red palm oil has burst onto the health scene as a miracle food, helping to heal everything from cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer's to cancer. However, as it becomes more popular worldwide, a dark secret has come to light. Due to its lucrative value, rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia are destroyed and replaced with African oil palm tree plantations -- seriously endangering the habitat of many rare birds, orangutan, pygmy elephants and clouded leopards. As this deforestation progresses at lightening speed, a hefty carbon footprint is created as well.
Exceptional healing benefit
Long popular in Asian countries, palm oil has become the healthy replacement for trans fat-containing oils around the world. And now, extra-virgin varieties (otherwise known as red palm oil) have risen to superfood status. Research has shown the oil can help boost immunity, support healthy liver and lung function, aid in fat loss, improve sugar metabolism and strengthen the bones and teeth. High in beta-carotene, vitamin E and K along with CoQ10, red palm oil has an impressive nutritional profile.
But before you rush out to buy your own miracle in a jar, here is something to consider: The devastating repercussions of production.
Hunger for palm oil creates grave outcomes
Indonesia entered into the global economy during the late 1980s and is now one of the two largest palm oil producers in the world. As a result of deforestation to clear land for plantations, "at least half of the world's wild orangutans have disappeared in the last 20 years; biologically viable populations of orangutans have been radically reduced in size and number; and 80 percent of the orangutan habitat has either been depopulated or totally destroyed," said Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas, the world's foremost authority on the orangutan. She believes the animals could be extinct within 10 years.
Five myths about taxes (12 April 2013)
"I paid my income tax today!" So went one of Irving Berlin's lesser-known patriotic jingles. "I never felt so proud before/To be right there with the millions more/Who paid their income tax today!" Few share Berlin's enthusiasm, as grumbling about taxes reaches a crescendo on April 15. Let's topple some tall tales about taxes before writing checks to -- or getting refunds from -- the dreaded Internal Revenue Service.
1. The income tax is a big-government Democratic scheme.
The first income tax in the United States was enacted under the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. Before the Civil War, Republicans were the party of big government, supporting high tariffs, infrastructure spending and centralized bank regulations.
Once the war began, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase feared that mounting deficits would spur inflation. Banks, which were funding the war, demanded action to ensure U.S. solvency, and tariffs, the country's main source of revenue, had reached a peak. "Chase has no money, and he tells me he can raise no more," Lincoln complained in 1862.
Initially 3 percent on incomes above $600 and 5 percent on incomes above $10,000, the income tax was intended to assuage class resentment of industrialists getting rich by supplying the Union. The tax was repealed after the Civil War, reenacted in 1894, declared unconstitutional in 1895, then reinstated with Theodore Roosevelt's support. Republican William Howard Taft backed the ratification process that led to the Sixteenth Amendment, adopted in 1913. Democrat Woodrow Wilson signed the tax into law that year -- and Democrats have been more inclined than Republicans to raise rates since.
Pew: 5% of Americans Love Doing Their Taxes (11 April 2013) [InfoWars.com]
And an additional 29% "like" it. Why do people enjoy doing their taxes? Well, they get a "refund." That is, they get back some of their money that the government has been holding interest-free while you work to pay them more. And what if you hold "too much" of your own money and then write the feds a check at the end of the year to cover the short fall? In that case, you probably have to pay them penalties. You see how it works.
We can thank the Great "Libertarian" Milton Friedman for helping the federal government develop tax withholding, an ingenious government scam which helps the feds maximize revenues and hold excess funds interest-free for a time, all the while convincing some people that they're actually getting some kind of gift from the feds.
All shine and no substance: the reality of gold (12 April 2013)
Let's be blunt: Gold has had nothing to do with safety over most of the past decade. During its 650-per-cent rise since 1999, whatever virtues it held as a hedge against economic calamity or inflation were pushed aside by speculative fervour.
Twelve-year bull markets can do that, instilling the belief that what goes up will keep going up and reward investors with big returns -- much like U.S. real estate or Canadian income trusts did years ago.
To be fair, the original arguments in favour of gold were largely based on its defensive characteristics.
According to its fans, gold would hold its value if inflation took hold as a result of the aggressive stimulus policies of central banks. And if the bottom dropped out of the global economy, gold would keep a roof over your head.
PAM COMMENTARY: At least gold was worth something during the crash, while "investment" or "retirement" accounts based on managed stocks hit zero.
Republicans pledge to change tone, not positions (12 April 2013)
With an eye on the White House in 2016, Republicans spent this week in Hollywood mapping a path to a resurgence -- determining how to streamline the primary process and close their deficit with Democrats among key voter blocs such as single women and Latinos.
But members of the Republican National Committee largely tiptoed around the greater challenge facing their party: The GOP's stance on issues such as marriage, reproductive rights and President Obama's healthcare plan are diametrically at odds with some of the very voters the party is trying to win over. And many members at the four-day gathering rejected any suggestion that Republican positions in 2012 alienated voters in those key groups -- insisting that the party lost because of a weak presidential candidate and that all that is needed is a change in tone.
Though the party's recently released "autopsy" report prescribed changes to the primaries -- sparking a lively debate this week about the party rules -- it largely sidestepped questions about how far, if at all, the party will bend on issues. One answer came at the RNC's general session on Friday, as members approved by voice vote a resolution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. It urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8, which forbids gay marriage in California, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act; the court recently heard arguments on both measures and is expected to rule by June.
There was some recognition among delegates that a more serious discussion lay ahead. During a fight over party rules Wednesday, North Carolina Committeewoman Ada Fisher urged fellow members to note the lack of diversity in the room: "Look around you; there ain't but three of us that are black in the RNC."
Bob McDonnell should come clean on lavish gifts (12 April 2013)
IT'S A FAIR GUESS that companies based in Virginia launch thousands of new products each year. Precious few of them get to mark the event with a luncheon hosted by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) at the Executive Mansion in Richmond or are treated to a personal plug by his wife.
A notable exception is Star Scientific Inc., based in the Richmond suburbs, whose chief executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., has lavished tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts on Mr. McDonnell and his political action committee since before he became governor.
Under Virginia's financial disclosure laws, politicians such as Mr. McDonnell may accept cash and gifts in virtually any amount; they must simply disclose any donation of more than $50. The idea is that full transparency will act as a brake on largess that looks too much like outright bribery. But in the case of Mr. McDonnell and his benefactor Mr. Williams, even those extravagantly permissive laws proved too onerous.
As The Post's Rosalind S. Helderman reported , Mr. McDonnell failed to report a $15,000 gift from Mr. Williams that covered most of a catering bill for food and flowers at his daughter Cailin's wedding nearly two years ago. He also issued a misleading statement about the nature of the gift.
John Hinckley Jr. behaving normally, Secret Service says (12 April 2013)
The Secret Service transcripts show the detail in which Hinckley is observed. During random observations, agents noted whether he bought dry or canned cat food, described a McDonald's order and noted details on his clothing color and cleanliness.
The accompanying mental evaluations are similarly detailed, and note the kinds of transgressions for which Hinckley has been disciplined.
"He reported viewing and enjoying two movies when in fact he did not view the movies at all," one report states. "He was assigned treatment consequences for his actions."
The consequences included reduced visit days and fewer unaccompanied hours. He has also been punished for perusing books related to presidential assassinations.
"Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" tops British iTunes chart after Thatcher's death (12 April 2013)
LONDON (AP) -- The BBC is in a bind after opponents of Margaret Thatcher pushed the song "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" to the top of the British charts in a posthumous protest over her divisive policies.
The online campaign to drive the "Wizard of Oz" song to the No. 1 spot on the U.K. singles chart was launched by Thatcher critics shortly after the former prime minister died Monday of a stroke at age 87.
As of Friday, the song was No. 1 on British iTunes.
Still, many people say the campaign -- which aims to see the song played this weekend on the BBC's Official Chart Show -- is in bad taste. Some have called on the BBC to promise it won't broadcast the song.
In mining ruins left by Thatcher, new economy struggles (12 April 2013)
(Reuters) - In an old-fashioned social club near what was once one of Britain's richest coal seams, former miners played cards and toasted the death of their hated old foe, Margaret Thatcher.
The past looks down solemnly from the walls: a framed list of the names of men who died underground hangs near a flag of the shuttered colliery that once employed 6,000.
Thatcher, the most polarizing prime minister in modern British history, is nowhere more thoroughly despised than here, in northern England's coal belt, where her crackdown against striking miners is blamed for wiping out an entire industry that had sustained a community for generations.
"She should have lived another 180 years and suffered every day of them, like she made the country suffer," said Gary Smith, who worked at the coal mine in the Yorkshire village of Grimethorpe for over 20 years.
Redford versus Redford on Keystone pipeline (12 April 2013)
WASHINGTON -- Alison Redford and actor Robert Redford may be distant relatives, but the Alberta premier doesn't think either her namesake or other Hollywood celebrities are contributing to society by opposing the oilsands and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
"It's fine for people who aren't really impacted by this stuff to talk about why it shouldn't happen, but these aren't the people that are out talking to the thousand guys that want jobs -- or to returning veterans who want to be able to work on pipeline construction or get trained in new technologies," she said in an interview.
"Celebrities being celebrities will never change, but at the end of the day, it is important for us to speak for the people whose lives are actually affected by these decisions."
The premier said she believes she and the anti-pipeline Redford -- the star of Hollywood movies such as The Sting and All the President's Men -- are descendants of four brothers who came to North America from Wales.
PAM COMMENTARY: ... says the Alberta Premier, as tarsands oil flows through the streets of Arkansas ...
Feds tell Norfolk it can continue removing eagle nests (12 April 2013)
The city can continue to remove eagle nests at the Norfolk Botanical Garden as long as they are removed before the birds successfully build a new home.
The U.S. Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service has told the city it can continue to take down the nests. The city sought the agency's opinion after an environmental attorney accused it of violating permits.
The Eagle On Alliance, an advocacy group formed after the city removed the nests in October, hired the attorney. The group argued that Norfolk violated its federal permit when it removed too many nests. The city likely will continue the work into next year and amend its permit to allow for the removal of two more nests, should the eagles succeed in rebuilding, according to an email sent to the service.
The email noted that it would be increasingly difficult to spot the nests once the foliage fully returns. The email also describes the state of each nest, describing one as "half-built."
Norfolk International Airport is adjacent to the garden, and a Wildlife Hazard Assessment said bald eagles represent an "extremely high" hazard level.
Berries, pomegranates shown to have highest anti-cancer activity of any fruits (11 April 2013)
(NaturalNews) Numerous studies have confirmed that berries are the best foods to maximize your intake of disease-fighting antioxidants, and have also identified the other fruits and vegetables with the highest antioxidant content.
Antioxidants are increasingly implicated as the chemicals behind many of the health-promoting benefits of fruits and vegetables. They act in part by cleansing the body of free radicals, which can cause cell and DNA damage that leads to the effects of aging and to many chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Just one cup per day
One major study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004, analyzed the antioxidant levels of more than a hundred separate foods including fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, nuts and spices.
The researchers found that berries were by far the most cost-effective way of consuming antioxidants. Among all the fruits analyzed, cranberries, blueberries and blackberries topped the list for antioxidant content. Just a single cup a day of berries was found to provide the recommended daily intake of antioxidants for disease-fighting purposes.
French study suggests younger women should stop wearing bras (11 April 2013)
A new French study suggests some women should throw their bras in the trash.
Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon, a sports medicine specialist from Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Besancon in Besancon, France, published a study on Wednesday that shows that wearing bras may not prevent women's breasts from sagging, and may in fact increase it.
"Our first results confirm the hypothesis that the bra is a false need," Rouillon told France Info. "Medically, physiologically, anatomically, the breast does not benefit from being deprived of gravity. Instead, it languishes with a bra."
The 15-year study involved 330 volunteers between the ages 18 and 35. Researchers measured their breasts using a slide ruler and a caliper and recorded any changes throughout the study period.
Moose that strolled through Grocery store dies in relocation effort (11 April 2013)
SMITHERS, B.C. - A moose that took a stroll through a grocery store in Smithers, B.C., has since died.
Shoppers at the Safeway were surprised when the moose walked in the front door Wednesday and took a walk through the produce and flower section.
Internet video shows a clerk coaxing the moose out of the store with an apple.
The moose had been hanging around town and the Safeway parking lot for about a week.
Operator of escalator where man died had safety violations, says L&I (11 April 2013)
A man was strangled in an accident last weekend on a downtown Seattle escalator with several safety-code violations, and the state Department of Labor & Industries is investigating.
Maurecio Bell, 42, of Renton, was found unconscious and unresponsive about 5:30 a.m. Sunday at the bottom of a King County Metro escalator at University Street Station near Third Avenue and University Street, according to the Seattle Police Department.
The King County Medical Examiner's Office said that after Bell apparently fell down on the moving escalator, his clothing became entangled in the escalator's mechanism, choking him to death.
Video of the incident confirms that's what happened, according to police. They say the King County Metro footage shows Bell, who was later found with a bottle of brandy in his back pocket, staggering and then leaning against the escalator wall at 5:19 a.m.
Hot idea to keep African farmers planting harvests 100,000th participant (11 April 2013)
An innovative insurance policy that helps protect East African farmers against failed rains or pest-swarms that would eat their crops now has its 100,000th policyholder -- growing remarkably from fewer than 200 participants four years ago.
The Kilimo Salama project, as it is known, installs weather-monitoring stations in heavily-farmed areas in Kenya and Rwanda. Those stations, fitted with cellphone SIM-cards, automatically send weather data to central computers at the project headquarters.
Using special software designed by agronomists, the computers compare the data against historic averages, and then calculate the risk of a poor rainy season and of crops withering.
If such an outcome seems likely, farmers who paid small premiums to insure against a poor harvest will then automatically receive compensation, sent to cellphone-based bank accounts.
Guantanamo dogged by new controversy after mishandling of e-mails (11 April 2013)
The military justice system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been dogged by charges of secret monitoring of proceedings and defense communications, became embroiled in a fresh controversy Thursday when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails were turned over to the prosecution.
The breach prompted Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief military defense counsel, to order all attorneys for Guantanamo detainees to stop using Defense Department computer networks to transmit privileged or confidential information until the security of such communications is assured.
Army Col. James Pohl, the chief judge at Guantanamo, also ordered a two-month delay in pre-trial proceedings in the military-commission case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of organizing the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. Defense attorneys in the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed , the professed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and four co-defendants filed an emergency motion -- via a handwritten note -- seeking a similar pause in proceedings.
Pretrial hearings in both cases were set to resume this month.
"Is there any security for defense attorney information?" said James Connell, attorney for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, one of the Sept. 11 defendants. "This new disclosure is simply the latest in a series of revelations of courtroom monitoring, hidden surveillance devices and legal-bin searches."
The Way of the Knife: NYT's Mark Mazzetti on the CIA's Post-9/11 Move from Spying to Assassinations (10 April 2013)
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what are some of the things that you find out, that you reveal in the book, about what the CIA is doing now after 9/11 that it was not previously doing?
MARK MAZZETTI: One of the things that I try to track in the book is this sort of history of the CIA and carrying out lethal operations. And there was a big fight right before September 11th about whether the CIA should be back into the killing business, over the Predator and whether they should kill Osama bin Laden and then--and be in Afghanistan. And it's kind of interesting. There was a whole generation of CIA officers who came out of--who got into the CIA in the '70s after the Church investigations, where--which revealed all of the early assassination attempts by the CIA to kill Castro and others. And this generation had now come into prominence in the CIA, and there was this morality play about whether they should be using the Predator to--
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I mean, just to explain, Senator Frank Church said end the assassinations, right?
MARK MAZZETTI: That's right, and the CIA did for several decades basically sort of give up its lethal authorities, or they were taken from them. President Ford signed a ban on assassinations of political leaders. So, pre-9/11, you had a CIA that was--you know, it had been cut back dramatically during the budget cuts of the '90s, but they also really were--and many were concerned about whether it should be back into the killing business. So, obviously, 9/11 happened, and some of those concerns were swept aside. And what we've seen over time is the CIA has really very much been involved in these targeted killings in Pakistan and Yemen and elsewhere, and in some ways has become better at it, more efficient at it, than parts of the military.
Margaret Thatcher compared to Hitler by 'death party' organiser Romany Blythe (11 April 2013)
A drama teacher who was one of the online organisers of street parties to 'celebrate' Margaret Thatcher's death has defended her actions by saying 'they danced in the streets when Hitler died too.'
Speaking to the Brighton Argus, Romany Blythe, 45, said: "People say you shouldn't speak ill of the dead -- but it depends who the dead person is.
"In normal circumstances celebrating someone's death would be reprehensible. But we are generation X, upset people that left school to find hopelessness and despair.
"She was a despot. They danced in the streets when Hitler died too."
Ms Blythe, who is a drama teacher with Theatre of Inspirations, set up a Facebook page following the former Prime Minister's death encouraging followers to "celebrate our liberty and freedom from tyranny on the day that Maggie stands down, once and for all".
PAM COMMENTARY: That's the nice thing about elections -- these days, tyrants are usually removed from power long before they die.
Why aren't people buying new PCs? Because they don't have to. (11 April 2013)
Everyone knew the market for personal computers was bad, but few realized it was this bad.
On Wednesday, market research firms IDC and Gartner released reports on PC sales for the first quarter of 2013. Though the companies' respective numbers don't match -- and in some categories diverge completely -- they both paint a bleak picture.
IDC said global shipments of PCs fell 13.9 percent in the first three months of 2013, while Gartner pegged the figure at 11.2 percent.
How bad is the situation? IDC says it's the worst drop in almost a decade. Gartner says it's the worst since the first quarter of 2001.
Gartner sees some joy in corporate sales, where businesses are continuing to buy new hardware as part of ongoing refresh cycle. The consumer market is where the weakness lies.
Both research firms say sales of smaller, more mobile devices are a big part of the downturn. When consumers have a choice, increasingly they choose to buy tablets and smartphones instead of desktops and notebook PCs. Both IDC and Gartner say the sales of hybrid PCs -- laptops that can convert to tablets -- have been minimal.
Chinese Professor: 70-80% Chance of War With North Korea (11 April 2013) [InfoWars.com]
As the reclusive state prepares another imminent missile launch, a professor with the Chinese Communist Party has warned that there is a 70-80% chance of war with North Korea.
"There is a 70 to 80 per cent chance that a war will happen because North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may want to use this opportunity to force a reunification of the Korean Peninsula," Zhang Liangui, a professor of international strategic research at the Communist Party's Central Party School, told the South China Morning Post.
"The longer we delay fixing it, the more difficult the situation will become," he added. "China needs to seriously consider how to tackle the problem."
Liangui's comments arrive in the aftermath of speculation that China is becoming increasingly exacerbated with its belligerent ally and is looking to shift away from the Hermit kingdom. In February, a deputy editor of a newspaper affiliated with the Central Party School was suspended for writing a Financial Times piece in which he urged China to abandon North Korea.
Video: Baby elephant rescued from well in India (11 April 2013)
A baby elephant in India has been lifted out of a well after it fell down it and got trapped. After initial rescue attempts failed, a crane was used to break the side of the well and hoist the elephant out.
The calf was attended to by vets who said that it had been injured during the ordeal but would make a full recovery.
PAM COMMENTARY: Indians' respect for animals has always been admirable.
Hermit caught after 27 years in Maine woods (11 April 2013)
A man who lived as a hermit for decades in a makeshift camp in the woods and may be responsible for more than 1,000 burglaries for food and other supplies has been caught by a determined game warden who was fed up with the thefts.
Christopher Knight, 47, was arrested when he tripped a surveillance sensor while allegedly stealing food from a camp for people with special needs in a small town in the far north-eastern state of Maine.
Authorities on Tuesday found the campsite where they believe Knight, known as the North Pond Hermit in local lore, lived for up to 27 years. Knight's living quarters included a tent covered by tarps suspended between trees, a bed, propane cooking stoves and a battery-run radio, which he used to keep up with the news and listen to talk radio and a rock station, authorities said.
Some residents say they have been aware of the hermit for years, often in connection with break-ins. During questioning after his arrest Knight said that the last verbal contact he had with another person was during the 1990s, state trooper Diane Vance said. "He passed somebody on a trail and just exchanged a common greeting of hello and that was the only conversation or human contact he's had since he went into the woods in 1986."
Japan carmakers recall 3.4 million vehicles for Takata airbag flaw (11 April 2013)
(Reuters) - Four Japanese automakers including Toyota Motor Corp, and Nissan Motor Co are recalling 3.4 million vehicles sold around the world because airbags supplied by Takata Corp are at risk of catching fire or injuring passengers.
The move announced on Thursday is the largest recall ever for airbags made by Takata, the world's second largest supplier of airbags and seatbelts. Shares of Takata tumbled almost 10 percent in Tokyo trading.
The recall is the largest since Toyota pulled back more than 7 million vehicles in October. The scale of the recent safety actions underscore the risk of huge global supply chain problems as automakers increasingly rely on a handful of suppliers for common or similar parts to cut costs, analysts have said.
The recall covers some of the top-selling Japanese cars, including Toyota's Camry and Corolla, and rivals like the Nissan Maxima and Honda Civic. All of the vehicles in question were manufactured in or after 2000.
Objects from JFK assassination go on display in DC (11 April 2013)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some never-before-seen artifacts from the minutes and hours following President John F. Kennedy's assassination are going on display in Washington.
The Newseum, a museum devoted to journalism and the First Amendment, is marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination with a yearlong commemoration including two new exhibitions and a new film about Kennedy.
One exhibit, entitled "Three Shots Were Fired," follows the events and news coverage that unfolded after Kennedy was shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. It opens to the public Friday, along with an extensive exhibition of photographs by Kennedy's personal photographer, entitled "Creating Camelot."
For the first time, the museum is showing items from assassin Lee Harvey Oswald at the time of his arrest. The display includes Oswald's clothing, a jacket that police believe he discarded, his wallet and a blanket used to hide his rifle in a friend's garage. The objects are on loan from the National Archives.
More than 100 rarely seen objects will be on display, including the 8 mm movie camera used by Abraham Zapruder, who was the only eyewitness to capture the entire assassination on film.
Israeli Journalist Amira Hass Sparks Furor at Home for Defending Palestinian Right to Resist (10 April 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what this article said. You wrote it for Haaretz?
AMIRA HASS: That's right. It was published last week. And I think it's not the first time that I write that Palestinians have the right to resist, like any other group which is suffering the oppression or repression. And I wrote several things. Maybe the main thing was that the Israeli occupation is the source of violence. I mean, this is violence. The Israeli policies are institutionalized violence. Even when there is no physical force used, it is always violent.
And then I was posing the question, how come that Palestinians schools do not teach kids to resist, forms of resistance? And I also wrote--I also said something about the restrictions that there are on forms of resistance, like, I said, of course, a distinction between an armed person and a civilian, or a child and a person with uniform. I made this distinction, but I didn't think it--I mean, it's not that we have always to defend and to explain why this resistance has to be so or so or so. The main thing to concentrate on is the violence of the ruler and the domination.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Amira Hass, as you point out, you've made the same points in other articles you've written.
AMIRA HASS: Yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But the criticism of this piece, in particular, was quite widespread. And I want to turn to one of the critics of your article. This is Adva Bitton, the mother of three-year-old Adele. Adele, the three-year-old, was critically injured in a stone-throwing incident last month. And the mother wrote in the Hebrew daily Ma'ariv, quote, "I agree with you that everyone deserves their freedom. Arab and Jew alike. I agree with you that we all ought to aspire to liberty, but there isn't a person on earth who will achieve freedom and liberty by means of an instrument of death. There's no reason on earth that Adele, my three-year-old daughter, should have to lie in the intensive care unit now, connected to tubes and fighting for her life, and there is no reason, Amira, for you to encourage that." Can you--
PAM COMMENTARY: Actually, "freedom and liberty" wasn't very common until after the war known as the American Revolution, and the series of revolutions and civil wars that followed.
Using aging, retrofitted pipelines to ship oil -- what could go wrong? (10 April 2013)
Until the Pegasus pipeline ruptured on March 29, leaking an estimated 147,000 to 210,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into the town of Mayflower, Ark., few Arkansans knew it was even there.
In fact, thousands of miles of pipelines snake through the heart of the United States. Proponents insist that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil -- safer than trucks or trains or tankers. Yet, in recent years, the Yellowstone River spill in Montana, the Kalamazoo River spill in Marshall, Mich., and now the Mayflower spill have alerted Americans to the dirty dangers that lurk underneath the country.
There are 175,000 miles of onshore and offshore "Hazardous Liquid" pipelines pumping petroleum and its byproducts across the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which oversees all pipelines. From 1990 to 2011, more than 110 million gallons of mostly crude oil and petroleum products spilled from these pipelines, many of which now carry chemicals that are much different than those for which they were designed.
Most of these spills go unreported by the press, but activists hope that the sight of black crude oozing through a subdivision of $200,000 brick homes in Mayflower, a town of 2,200 about 25 miles north of Little Rock, will spark the public's ire, driving change on both the local and national levels.
Biotech lies exposed: Genetically-modified corn contains practically no nutrients but is loaded with chemical poisons (10 April 2013)
Concerning energy content, as measured in terms of ERGS, non-GMO corn was found in tests to give off 3,400 times more energy per gram, per second compared to GMO corn, an astounding variance. And as far as its overall percentage of organic matter is concerned, non-GMO corn was determined to have nearly twice as much of this vital component compared to GMO corn.
Non-GMO corn contains substantially more potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur and manganese
The field comparison also evaluated individual nutrient deviations, which revealed some shocking facts. Potassium, which is necessary for energy production and proper cellular function, is barely even present in GMO corn, having clocked in at 0.7 parts per million (ppm). In non-GMO corn, however, potassium levels were more than 13 times higher, testing at 9.2 ppm.
The disparity was even worse for magnesium, which tested at a mere 0.2 ppm in GMO corn. In non-GMO corn, however, magnesium levels were found to be 46 times higher than in non-GMO corn. Similar variances were observed for calcium, sulfur and manganese as well, with the contents of each being 12.4, 14, and seven times higher, respectively.
On the other hand, non-GMO corn was found to be free of chlorides, formaldehyde, glyphosate, and other harmful chemicals, while in GMO corn they were identified in dangerously high levels. According to an analysis of the report by MomsAcrossAmerica.com, GMO corn contains about 19 times more glyphosate than is permitted as a maximum in drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and 130 times more glyphosate than has been found in tests to cause organ damage in animals.
Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities (10 April 2013)
Solar power and other distributed renewable energy technologies could lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model, which has remained virtually unchanged for a century, to the ground.
That is not wild-eyed hippie talk. It is the assessment of the utilities themselves.
Back in January, the Edison Electric Institute -- the (typically stodgy and backward-looking) trade group of U.S. investor-owned utilities -- released a report [PDF] that, as far as I can tell, went almost entirely without notice in the press. That's a shame. It is one of the most prescient and brutally frank things I've ever read about the power sector. It is a rare thing to hear an industry tell the tale of its own incipient obsolescence.
I've been thinking about how to convey to you, normal people with healthy social lives and no time to ponder the byzantine nature of the power industry, just what a big deal the coming changes are. They are nothing short of revolutionary ... but rather difficult to explain without jargon.
PAM COMMENTARY: A lot of the wind farms and solar farms are owned by existing power companies, and so it's not as though the trend has left them out in the cold. In fact, it's their own fault if they don't invest in it before all the best locations are taken.
Undercover Activist Details Secret Filming of Animal Abuse & Why "Ag-Gag" Laws May Force Him to Stop (9 April 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
PETE: Sure. Thank you for having me.
What I do is go undercover to work for an extended period of time, maybe two weeks, maybe longer, maybe six weeks or so, at farms, ranches and slaughterhouses. And the main thing that I do is focus on any and all criminal activity that exists at a facility. So, an undercover investigator's job is to show everything that occurs, whether it's legal or illegal. There's a lot of standard practices that may look cruel, but they're legal. And that is up to a campaigns department and lobbyists and the public to decide if they want to change that.
For an investigator, the main objective is to document all illegal activity and get that information to the authorities. And every single facility, whether it is a corporate facility or a family farm, whether it has a couple hundred animals or whether it has a million chickens on it, every one that I've worked at has been breaking the law. And because we keep finding illegal activity, and because we're getting more cooperation from law enforcement now, I believe that has fueled some of these ag-gag laws in an attempt to try to stop us.
AARON MATÉ: And Pete, how do you go about doing it? Obviously, here we're calling you Pete, not your real name. Do you give your real name when you're applying for these jobs?
PETE: Yes, I do. I give--you know, because I have to fill out a W-2, and so I'm obligated to put my real name. You know, these investigations are done legally, so we don't use fake IDs. You know, we don't use fake names. And the most critical point is that when we're hired, we do everything how they tell us to do it, so, you know, we try to fit in. We generally--you know, an investigator's--part of the job is to always make sure that if you're doing a good job, you get them to note that and let you know you are in fact doing your job: They can't blame any problems on you.
China pollution may hold silver lining for California (10 April 2013)
BEIJING -- As Gov. Jerry Brown tours some of China's economic hubs this week, he is breathing the kind of heavy, soiled air that blanketed Los Angeles decades ago.
The soot and smog that are byproducts of this country's industrial progress are choking its people and threatening its economy. Chinese leaders are talking openly about the need to clean up the air, and to learn how from California.
So Brown and a large delegation of business and political leaders have come to lend a hand, as well as to leverage China's need into business deals.
Brown made his agenda clear not long after he arrived in Beijing, a city so gridlocked in traffic that parts of his schedule are being upended to account for the time he spends trapped in it.
Victims step forward to help bust St. Paul sex-trafficking ring (10 April 2013)
For two years a St. Paul family allegedly posted hundreds of online ads selling sex with several women, some as young as 15, who were coerced, threatened and assaulted into a life authorities described as "modern day human slavery."
The family preyed on young vulnerable girls -- girls diagnosed as bipolar or mentally challenged. The suspects' checkered pasts (one was required to register as a sex offender for five years) placed them on police radar for years, but it wasn't until recently that the scope of their alleged sex trafficking ring was exposed and dismantled by a joint effort of St. Paul police, the Ramsey County attorney's office and the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.
But the takedown of the Washington family rested on the shoulders of 10 women and girls who stepped forward, authorities said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
"I want to thank these courageous young women and girls who shared their stories with investigators," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "It saddens me for the victims that it took so long for us to get to this point."
Dinosaur embryos yield organic material in 'mind boggling' discovery by Canadian-led team (10 April 2013)
With the discovery of some of the oldest known fossilized dinosaur embryos, a Canadian-led research team has also found evidence of what may be preserved collagen -- organic remains of an animal that lived in the early Jurassic, 190 million years ago.
Jurassic embryos do not a Jurassic Park make. For lead author Robert Reisz, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto Mississauga, the discovery is quite a bit better.
"People have focused on the great possibilities of DNA, which is much more delicate," says Reisz. While DNA degrades quickly as bones become fossils, collagen lasts longer and has become a cutting-edge research tool for probing molecular links between species.
Preserved collagen was how another Canadian research team recently showed that a 3.5-million-year-old fossil found in the high Arctic belonged to an animal in the camel family.
"The Kissinger Cables": Three Years After "Collateral Murder," WikiLeaks Explores U.S. Diplomacy (8 April 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, what we have is created a database which is easily searchable, and people can access them--the general public, as well as journalists and academics--without any problems. It has shown the credibility that we have in handling huge databases. This is what we've been working on for quite some time now. This is a part of our commitment to make accessible historical documents that are hard to find for the general public.
One element of all this is to keep in mind that there has been a trend in the last decade and a half to reverse previously declassified policy. A policy set out, for example, by Clinton in the mid-'90s was, a few years later under Bush, reversed. It was revealed in 2006, for example, that over 55,000 documents that were previously available had been reclassified by the demand of the CIA and other agencies. And it is known that this program continued at least until 2009. So, it is very worrying when the government actually starts taking back into behind the veil of secrecy what was previously available. It doesn't really increase the trust in government. So, now at least you have all these documents available, and they will be available in the future.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, talk about--you're an investigative journalist--what you found most significant about these documents, the content of the documents. You know, in the United States, when talking about either Bradley Manning or Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, it's always about the process or what they did, but rarely, unlike other countries which have, you know, front-page news, like, for example, in India right now, Rajiv Gandhi, what the documents show about him acting as a middleman for a Swedish military company. Talk about these revelations in the documents, Kristinn.
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, the revelations are coming out as we speak and will come out in the next few days. We did cooperate with 18 media organizations around the world in analyzing these documents, and they found terrific stories. I hesitate to steal their headlines before they publish it. It will come out in the next hours and days. There are documents there that shed light on the U.S. relation regarding--with regard to dictatorships in Latin America. I just talked yesterday with a Brazilian journalist who had been diving into this, and it is extremely important what is revealed there. Keep in mind that just recently the Brazilians decided to come to terms with their period of dictatorship after President Dilma set up a truth commission. So, there's a lot of things from this period that has not been reconciled with and come to terms with, and these documents are really helping this effort in these countries.
Bradley Manning trial: Bin Laden raid member to testify in 'light disguise' (10 April 2013)
The judge presiding over the court martial of Bradley Manning, the US soldier who has admitted leaking a trove of state secrets to WikiLeaks, has begun to outline some of the exceptional security arrangements that will be in place during his high-profile trial.
The most unusual stipulations apply to a member of the team that raided al-Qaida's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011 and killed Osama bin Laden. The squad member will testify that he removed digital material from the compound that was later found to have contained WikiLeaks documents apparently requested personally by Bin Laden.
Colonel Denise Lind, the judge hearing the Manning case at Fort Meade in Maryland, ruled that the individual known as "John Doe" will be allowed to testify in closed session at the trial, due to begin on 3 June. His evidence will be given at an undisclosed alternate location in the course of which he will be allowed to dress in civilian clothes and "light disguise".
Manning's defence team will not be allowed to stray in their cross-examination of the individual from a narrowly defined and pre-agreed list of questions relating directly to the charges that he faces. Specifically, the defence lawyers will not be allowed to quiz him about his training or preparation for the Abbottabad raid, or anything about how the Bin Laden killing was carried out.
However, the defence will be granted such access to the witness that they will be able to detect his "body language, eye movements and demeanour", Lind said. The defence has also been handed in discovery documents by the prosecution indicating the likely questions that John Doe will be asked by the government and his probable answers.
Air show at Oceana canceled due to budget cuts (10 April 2013)
The annual airshow at Oceana Naval Air Station has been canceled as a result of federal budget cuts, the Navy announced Tuesday.
The cancellation came less than an hour after Naval Air Forces announced that the Navy's famed Blue Angels aerial demonstration squadron would not fly the rest of its 2013 schedule, a result of across-the-board cuts demanded by sequestration.
The Navy must cut its budget by $4 billion this fiscal year; grounding the Blue Angels will save about $20 million.
"This is one of many steps the Navy is taking to ensure resources are in place to support forces operating forward now and those training to relieve them," the Navy said in an official statement.
Oceana's September show includes several other performances, but the Blue Angels display is always the biggest draw, said Kelley Stirling, a spokeswoman for the base. Without the squadron of F/A-18 Hornets, the show is not financially viable, she said.
Refineries sprout in North Dakota, bucking the trend (10 April 2013)
Despite producing thousands of barrels of oil each day, North Dakota relies on refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast and elsewhere for much of its diesel. Dalrymple and others are counting on the MDU/Calumet project attracting a new wave of investors eager to construct Bakken refineries.
"Diesel fuel is something that's highly valued around North Dakota," Dalrymple, a Republican, said in an interview after the groundbreaking. "Refineries will allow us to use our Bakken crude right here at home."
When it comes to the economics and politics of building a refinery, North Dakota is an unusual case.
The state has one of the lowest population densities in the United States and has little of the political, environmental or community opposition that's helped scuttle all other refinery projects since Jimmy Carter was president.
Most rape victims in conflict zones are children: report (10 April 2013)
LONDON- Most victims of sexual violence in conflict zones are children who are suffering rape and abuse at an appalling rate, said campaigners who described the attacks as the "hidden horrors of war."
In the worst-affected countries, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, children made up more than 70 per cent of victims, said a report by charity Save the Children published on Wednesday.
The study contained harrowing stories of children being killed after being raped and of others who were abducted and abused by armed forces and groups. It also said children as young as 2 were being attacked by opportunistic predators including teachers, religious leaders and peacekeepers.
Many survivors were cast out from society after the attacks.
Cuba returns two U.S. children who were abducted in Tampa; Hakken parents face charges (10 April 2013)
A saga that began when a troubled Tampa couple kidnapped their two young sons and sailed with them to the Marina Hemingway west of Havana has come to an end, with the parents booked into a Tampa-area jail on Wednesday morning.
Joshua Michael Hakken and his wife, Sharyn, were being held at the jail early Wednesday on charges including kidnapping, child neglect and interference with custody, according to a website for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
On Tuesday, Cuba sent back the Hakken family to the United States. The case had threatened to revive memories of Elián González, the 5-year-old boy-rafter at the center of a heart-rending tug-of-war between his relatives in Miami and Cuba in 2000.
All four family members were aboard the U.S. plane, which arrived early Wednesday in Tampa.
New documents raise more questions about financing of McDonnell's daughter's wedding (9 April 2013)
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has said his daughter and her husband paid for their own wedding. So a $15,000 check from a major campaign donor to pay for the food at the affair was a gift to the bride and groom and not to him and therefore did not have to be publicly disclosed under the law, the governor says.
But documents obtained by The Washington Post show that McDonnell signed the catering contract, making him financially responsible for the 2011 event. The governor made handwritten notes to the caterer in the margins. In addition, the governor paid nearly $8,000 in deposits for the catering.
When the combination of the governor's deposit and the gift from the donor resulted in an overpayment to the caterer, the refund check of more than $3,500 went to McDonnell's wife and not to his daughter, her husband or the donor.
The new documents suggest that the governor was more involved with the financing of the wedding than he has acknowledged.
The question of who was responsible for paying the catering bill is a key one because Virginia law requires that elected officials publicly report gifts of more than $50. But the law does not require the disclosure of gifts to the official's family members.
McDonnell has cited the statute in explaining why he did not disclose the payment in annual forms he has filed with the state.
Tennessee politician arrested for habit of masturbating out car window at 90 mph (9 April 2013)
Another woman, Kelly Street said, "After the waving, it turned into a lot of beeping, him grabbing his chest area, and asking me going 'please, please' (clasping hands together) with his hands, may I... show me yours."
"He was taking his hand, wetting his mouth, and masturbating," said Deborah Sturgill. "I was scared that I was gonna wreck, he was gonna cause me to wreck."
"At over 90 miles per hour, he had his penis out [the window]," said Sturgill "He was masturbating... and that's when it got really, really bad. I wouldn't look over any more, and I wrote his tag number down on my hand, which I believe he noticed, and he exited very quickly."
Detective Terry Christian of the Kingsport, Tennessee Police Department said that her department has received dozens of complaints over the years about Blakely from women ages 16 to 65, but it was Rice's quick thinking in writing down his tag number that enabled authorities to track him down.
Dateline TV producer tests her own urine for BPA and chemicals after changing daily habits, finds shocking results (9 April 2013)
(NaturalNews) A recent investigative report by NBC Dateline producer Andrea Canning has revealed some shocking new details about the pervasive nature of chemicals in both everyday consumer products and the general food supply. As relayed by ElephantJournal.com, using conventional cleaning and sanitary products and eating standard food items significantly increases levels of bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, and triclosan, not to mention hundreds or even thousands of other chemical additives, inside the body.
As little as five years ago, most Americans were likely unaware of the existence of BPA, phthalates, or triclosan, let alone have any understanding of their pervasive use, even though these three chemicals are widely used in hand soaps, canned foods, cash register receipts, plastic containers, and many other products we are exposed to on a daily basis. But awareness is growing, especially as elevated levels of these "deadly three" have been detected in at least 90 percent of the population.
This fact came as a surprise to Canning, who decided to test her own urine, as well as the urine of her daughters, as part of a segment on chemical exposure and persistence. Canning began her investigation by taking baseline urine samples that reflected her everyday eating and living habits. She then cut out all the things that admittedly or may potentially contain the "deadly three," and took new samples. Following this, Canning went back to her original lifestyle and took another set of samples.
Upon analysis, it was determined that, from the start, Canning and her family had high levels of BPA, phthalates, and triclosan in their bodies. According to ElephantJournal.com, Canning's six-month-old baby had levels of triclosan 10 times higher than the national average, while her toddler had triclosan levels 100 times higher. Canning also observed that when she went off the chemical-containing products, her levels of all three chemicals dropped dramatically, only to return to high levels once she began using her former chemical-containing products.
"We see where bisphenol over and over again in mouse and rats causes anxiety, and what I'm talking about are things like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)," says Dr. Emilie Rissman, a widely-published professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Virginia. Research conducted by Dr. Rissman and others has linked hormone disruptors like BPA to causing a range of health problems such as childhood obesity, autism, and infertility.
Super-strong 'wonder material' is made with just algae, water, and sunlight (9 April 2013)
Nanocellulose could, in theory, be the miracle material that solves humanity's every problem. It's derived from cellulose, the stuff that's found in plants, but its extra-tiny nano-scale fibers give it superpowers, like incredible strength. Here are just a few of the things you could make with it:
• a boat that can carry 1,000 pounds of cargo
• bulletproof glass
• wound dressings
• electronic wallpaper
Scientists have been trying for decades to figure out how to make nanocellulose efficiently. And now, one team of scientists has announced that they've genetically engineered algae to produce it. That means that all that's required is sunlight, water, and a whole bunch of algae.
This team had been working for years with a bacterium -- the same one used in kombucha -- that was able to manufacture nanocellulose out of wood pulp. But that was a resource-intensive process, involving large vats of bacteria that needed large amounts of food. Recently, though, they started working with algae, which can produce its own nourishment through photosynthesis. They took genes from the first type of bacterium, threw it into the algae, and -- voila! -- it produced nanocellulose. The Verge explains:
"By genetically engineering vinegar bacterium into blue-green algae, Brown's lab has effectively created organic factories capable of making nanocellulose on a potentially industrial scale. ..."
Tell Congress: Don't Expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: Fix It! (9 April 2013)
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the law under which Aaron Swartz and other innovators and activists have been threatened with decades in prison. The CFAA is so broad that law enforcement says it criminalizes all sorts of mundane Internet use: Potentially even breaking a website's fine print terms of service agreement. Don't set up a Myspace page for your cat. Don't fudge your height on a dating site. Don't share your Facebook password with anybody: You could be committing a federal crime. (Read more here.)
It's the vagueness and over breadth of this law that allows prosecutors to go after people like Aaron Swartz, who tragically committed suicide earlier this year. The government threatened to jail him for decades for downloading academic articles from the website JSTOR.
Since Aaron's death, activists have cried out for reform of the CFAA. But members of the House Judiciary Committee are actually floating a proposal to expand and strengthen it -- that could come up for a vote as soon as April 10th! (Read more here.)
PAM COMMENTARY: This link was circulated by the group Demand Progress. The site allows you to electronically sign a petition -- probably putting your e-mail address onto someone's e-mail list, but it's a quick way of contacting political representatives.
For the price of the Iraq War, the U.S. could have gotten halfway to a renewable power system (8 April 2013)
Discussions of how to respond to climate change often involve Very Large Numbers -- the needed investments to transition to a fully renewable energy system are in the hundreds of billions. The brain sort of shuts down when it encounters numbers like that. They are too big to fathom. The one thing that does seem true about them is that nobody's ever going to spend that kind of money on anything. Right? It seems hopeless.
So I always enjoy it when someone comes along to provide some perspective, a comparison that can give us context and help us see the numbers afresh. Today, wind analyst Paul Gipe asks, how much renewable energy could we have gotten from what we spent on the Iraq War?
The total cost of the Iraq War, including future costs to care for veterans, is $2.2 trillion. If we include the interest we have to pay on the debt we used to finance the war, that figure rises to $3.9 trillion by 2053. (See Gipe's article for sources and details.)
So what could that get us? Gipe gets deep into the weeds on renewables cost and yields, but here's the top-line conclusion:
"If we had invested the $2.2 trillion in wind and solar, the US would be generating 21% of its electricity with renewable energy. If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply."
Sun's Magnetic 'Heartbeat' Revealed (8 April 2013)
A magnetic "solar heartbeat" beats deep in the sun's interior, generating energy that leads to solar flares and sunspots, according to new research.
A new supercomputer simulation, described in the April 4 edition of the journal Science, probes the sun's periodic magnetic field reversals. Every 40 years, according to the model, the sun's zonal magnetic field bands switch their orientation, or polarity.
That cycle is about four times longer than the 11-year sunspot cycle that governs the level of solar activity. Being able to model such a regular, long-term process is remarkable, the scientists said.
The new research, led by the University of Montreal's Paul Charbonneau, describes work from both his research group and other, independent coalitions simulating the sun's interior.
Construction - and hiring - rebounding in San Francisco (6 April 2013)
After three years of unemployment and scrounging odd jobs, Valdemar Chiprez was hired in October as a carpenter on two apartment complexes going up at Folsom and Fifth streets, among dozens of new buildings under construction in San Francisco.
Now he bunks with his brother in East Palo Alto and sees his wife and four children in Stockton only on weekends, but it's worth it to return to full-time work with benefits and the chance to earn overtime.
"My wife tells me, 'I miss you,' " he said, standing outside the massive South of Market construction sites swarming with dozens of orange-vest-clad workers - many of them also long-distance commuters from the hard-hit Central Valley. "But it's good to catch up on the bills."
After a long, grueling downturn that devastated the construction industry - with 2.2 million construction workers nationally and about 380,000 statewide losing their jobs - the industry is finally recovering in California and the Bay Area. Nationwide, sustained growth in residential construction jobs was the brightest spot in Friday's otherwise-disappointing Bureau of Labor Statistics report on March employment.
WikiLeaks publishes 1.7m US diplomatic records (8 April 2013)
WikiLeaks has published more than 1.7m US records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world.
The data, which has not been leaked, comprises diplomatic records from the beginning of 1973 to the end of 1976, covering a variety of diplomatic traffic including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.
Julian Assange said WikiLeaks had been working for the past year to analyse and assess a vast amount of data held at the US national archives before releasing it in a searchable form.
WikiLeaks has called the collection the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), describing it as the world's largest searchable collection of US confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.
Assange told Press Association the information showed the vast range and scope of US diplomatic and intelligence activity around the world.
Icelandic Lawmaker Birgitta Jónsdóttir on Challenging Gov't Secrecy from Twitter to Bradley Manning (8 April 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: You're an Icelandic member of Parliament. Have you spoken to any of your counterparts here in the United States, members of Congress?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: I haven't yet, but I plan to come back in June. So, if there is anybody watching this show and wants to speak to me, I would be very grateful if we could speak together about Bradley Manning and the significance of his work.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about how you have been targeted by the U.S. government?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yes. It's actually--like, most people don't understand how serious it is, because--like somebody asked me, "Have you been followed since you came to the States or in Iceland?" And yes, I am followed all the time. But it's not with the people in the offline world; it is online. And it is much easier to follow people there--everything they do and everybody they meet and at what time.
So, what happened in January 2011, I get an email from Twitter saying that they had taken a subpoena to court and unsealed it. And in it, it said that the Department of Justice wanted all my personal messages and IP numbers and so forth, without my knowledge, within three days. And I was fortunate enough to be represented by EFF and ACLU to try to--
New Orleans ordered to pay firefighters $17.5 million to cover pension obligations (8 April 2013)
A Civil District Court judge has ordered the financially hard-pressed city to immediately pay New Orleans firefighters $17.5 million to cover the city's 2012 obligations to the firefighters' pension fund. Judge Robin Giarrusso issued the order March 28, but it only became public Monday.
The city and firefighters have been battling in the courts for decades over how much the city owes in pension obligations and pay, with the firefighters generally emerging victorious.
Giarrusso's order comes as Mayor Mitch Landrieu already has said the city cannot afford to pay millions of dollars to carry out pending consent decrees mandating improvements to the New Orleans Police Department and the city jail.
Firefighters union head Nick Felton said he hopes the city will meet with his group and "work something out."
Tracking workers' every move can boost productivity -- and stress (8 April 2013)
Phil Richards used to like his job driving a forklift in a produce and meat warehouse. He took pride in steering a case of beef with precision.
Now, he says, he has to speed through the warehouse to meet quotas, tracked by bosses each step of the way. Through a headset, a voice tells him what to do and how much time he has to do it.
It makes the Unified Grocers warehouse in Santa Fe Springs operate smoothly with fewer employees, but it also makes Richards' work stressful.
"We're just like human machines," said Richards, 52. "But with machines, they don't care whether you feel good, or if you're having a bad day."
Technology has eliminated many onerous work tasks, but it's now one of the factors contributing to a harsher work environment.
PAM COMMENTARY: Sounds like a good way to alienate the talent pool, maybe drive them to work for the competition.
Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013): Tariq Ali on Late British PM's Legacy from Austerity to Apartheid (8 April 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Tariq, can you talk about the legacy of Thatcherism for the working class in Britain?
TARIQ ALI: Well, basically, she took on the workers' movement, which had become very strong. Trade unions were very powerful in this country, and they were effectively challenging capital by demanding a share of the take, and being quite successful. The miners' union, one of the most respected unions in the country, challenged her. She organized the state, the use of the police, use of the secret services, to defeat them. And she did it, and she referred to union militancy as "the enemy within." She was very hot on enemies, either abroad or at home. And that phrase, "the enemy within," has been used subsequently against dissidents of other sorts by her successors.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about her foreign policy, from the Falklands War--and we only have a minute--to her support of the apartheid regime, calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist?
TARIQ ALI: Well, she did call Nelson Mandela a terrorist, but one should remember that the Western governments as a whole were not at all friendly to the ANC, sustained and maintained apartheid, with a few exceptions in Scandinavia, throughout it. And Thatcher was upfront about it. Her foreign policy was deeply conservative and reactionary, and that foreign policy has not changed since she was forced out on Europe. Europe is still a big, big divisive issue in the country and within the Conservative Party as a whole.
And so, on every level, Amy, domestic level, international level, Thatcherism continues. One shouldn't imagine that it's over. And I hate to say this, but the fact that we haven't come up, or no one has--neither the center-left or anyone else has managed to come up with an alternative to the Wall Street crash of 2008, does indicate that there was some truth in her statement that there is no alternative, at least as far as the mainstream is concerned.
Britain remembers its 'Iron Lady' (8 April 2013)
In death as in life, no figure seems to polarize Britain more. Ned Donovan, a 19-year-old university student and resident of the upscale Chelsea neighborhood, went by Mrs. Thatcher's cream-colored Georgian townhouse in London's Chester Square on Monday to lay a massive bouquet of lilies, joining a stream of people leaving notes and mementos outside her home. "I wasn't alive for her premiership, but .?.?. if it weren't for her, Britain would be a very different place today. I thought I should do my best to honor her."
Yet, a few moments later, Mez Tyson-Brown, 23, a London electrician, plunked a pint of milk at her doorstep in what he called a statement against her assault on social welfare in the 1970s and 1980s -- including her bid to eliminate free milk in schools -- which forever changed the lives of the British underclasses.
"As a child, she took my milk away," he said. "I'm not a big a fan of hers. She tore apart the unions. She messed up social housing. She basically tore apart this country."
As her health declined in recent years, Mrs. Thatcher largely faded from public life. Occasionally she was spotted walking, with aid, up the stairs of the Ritz Hotel -- to calls from bystanders with smartphone cameras of, "Maggie, Maggie! This way!" Thatcher, in fact, suffered her fatal stroke at the Ritz, the lavish London landmark and her long-beloved haunt. A hotel employee said she had recently been staying in a room there under the watchful eye of her caregivers.
PAM COMMENTARY: I don't know who was crazier -- Thatcher or Reagan.
The truth behind medical emergencies at 40,000 feet (8 April 2013)
The FAA, she writes, requires flight crews to be trained to coordinate responses to medical emergencies, to use first aid kits, to be familiar with the contents of the emergency medical kit, to use an automated external defibrillator, and to perform CPR.
"But flight crews also rely heavily on the assistance of health care providers aboard the aircraft. Studies by the airlines and ground-based medical support services have found that a health care provider is available and responds in upwards of 80 percent of in-flight medical events," Gounder writes in her piece.
But she points out many health care providers find themselves attending to issues they don't see in their medical practices.
If asked, many health care providers will volunteer to help, especially if no one else is available, and this can lead to problems, she says.
Pharmaceuticals, other non-traditional chemicals, found in southern California drinking water, scientist says (8 April 2013)
A wide mix of modern chemicals, including popular prescription drugs, chemical constituents of plastics, and ingredients of sunscreen, were found in both raw water and treated drinking water at five water treatment plants in southern California, according a research paper presented in New Orleans Monday during national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
The emerging study of pharmaceuticals and other non-traditional chemical compounds and their discovery in drinking water and wastewater that enters rivers and streams was the focus of a series of scientific papers presented at the conference
The California sampling found measureable amounts of butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, a chemical used to preserve food; phthalates, a family of chemicals found in plastics; the common pain reliever ibuprofen; triclosan, an antibacterial compound commonly used in dishwashing liquids; and several chemicals used in sunscreens.
Gregory Loraine, a research scientist with Dynaflow Inc., said the minute amounts of the chemicals measured in the raw and treated water were highest from August through September, the driest months of the years. Los Angeles and San Diego average only about 10 inches of water a year, while the valleys average between 15 and 20 inches of rain a year.
Korean nuke conflict may make Chernobyl look like 'fairytale' -- Putin (8 April 2013) [Rense.com]
If a nuclear conflict erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Chernobyl would look like a "kids' fairytale," Russia's president said. Tensions have been escalating rapidly, with last week seeing conflicting reports about North Korean nuclear activity.
Speaking at the annual industrial fair in Hannover, Vladimir Putin compared the possible nuclear brawl between Seoul and Pyongyang with the worst nuclear disaster in history - the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
According to Putin, the consequences of the nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula would far exceed the industrial disaster in Chernobyl.
The situation on the peninsula remains highly destabilized. On Monday, South Korea said a new nuclear test by the North was 'not imminent'. However, the statement came shortly after Seoul had accused Pyongyang of gearing up for its fourth nuclear test.
"Artificial leaf" promises to provide electricity for small electronic devices around the world. (8 April 2013)
An "artificial leaf," a device using catalyst compounds attached to silicon to inexpensively and efficiently turn water into bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen, was described to attendees of the American Chemical Society national conference in New Orleans Monday night.
The new energy production method was described by Daniel Nocera, a Harvard University chemist and leader of a team of scientists who created it. The hydrogen from the first, small versions of the device can be used to produce electricity in fuel cells small enough to recharge cell phones or other small electrical devices.
About 100 gallons of drinking water can produce about 100 watts of electricity 24 hours a day, making the devices a potential alternative for areas in the world far from electricity or other sources of power.
In a news conference before his talk, Nocera explained that the most recent improvements in the catalysts used in the leaf allow it to use untreated water. The new materials seem to heal themselves when damaged by contaminants in the water, he said.
College student invents device capable of charging batteries with radio waves, wifi signals (8 April 2013)
(NaturalNews) Building upon a concept originally hatched by the famous Serbian inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla, a German university student has come up with a novel way to harvest stray radio waves and wifi signals and turn them into usable energy. As reported by Activist Post, Dennis Siegel's prototypical device is already capable of charging a small battery in as little as one day, and has the potential to power a whole lot more, a whole lot faster, with the right modifications.
The second-place winner in a technology competition at the University of the Arts Bremen, Hochschulpreis in Germany, Siegel's device takes advantage of the various stray electromagnetic fields that constantly surround us. Radio waves, mobile phone signals, wireless router frequencies, and even stray energy emitted from overhead power lines can all be harvested by the device and reused as battery power in the many electrical devices we all rely on today.
"We are surrounded by electromagnetic fields which we are producing for information transfer or as a byproduct," explains Siegel on his blog about the device. "Many of those fields are very capacitive and can be harvested with coils and high frequency diodes. Accordingly, I built special harvesting devices that are able to tap into several electromagnetic fields to exploit them."
Siegel's device is small, about the size of mobile phone, and is equipped with a simple light-emitting diode (LED) indicator that detects the presence of usable energy waves. And there are currently two types of harvester available, one that picks up lower frequencies below 100 Hz, which can be obtained from general mains, and another that pick frequencies both lower and higher frequencies, including those originating from radio broadcasts, mobile phones, Bluetooth devices, and WLAN.
"Depending on the strength of the electromagnetic field it is possible to charge a small battery within one day," adds Siegel. "The system is meant to be an option for granting access to already existing but unheeded energy sources. By exploring these sources it can create a new awareness of the invisible electromagnetic spaces while giving them a spatial dimension."
Here's what it look like if we connected every subway from Canada to Mexico (8 April 2013)
What would it look like if we all put aside our differences, beefed up our infrastructure, and connected North America's existing subway lines into a pan-continental Voltron subway -- a Voltrain, if you will -- running from Far Rockaway to Redondo Beach and from Mexico to Montreal? Randall Munroe of XKCD has a map, plus some secret innovations (look for the Puerto Rico submarine shuttle).
What's striking about this, besides how pathetic Baltimore is (hi, Baltimore, I love you), is the fact that there would be no coverage west of Chicago until you hit California. Not a single city in the Mountain time zone, and only one in Central, has a subway fitting Munroe's definition ("a network containing high capacity grade-separated passenger rail transit lines which run frequently, serve an urban core, and are underground or elevated for at least part of their downtown route"). If you go by landmass percentages, an all-North-America subway made by connecting existing subways would do just as crappy a job covering everyone as Baltimore's sad excuse for rail.
Fat and cholesterol aren't only heart dangers of red meat (7 April 2013)
The fat and cholesterol found in steak may not be the only components bad for the heart, according to researchers who have found another substance in red meat that can clog the arteries.
The substance is called carnitine, and as bacteria in the gut breaks it down, it turns into a compound known to harden arteries, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Medicine.
What's more, people who eat a lot of meat allow more of the bacteria that convert carnitine to the harmful compound to grow, increasing its effect.
Previous research has shown that high levels of meat-eating are linked to cardiovascular risk, partly because of the saturated fats and cholesterol in meat. However, the higher levels of these ingredients aren't enough to explain the difference in heart disease between meat eaters and vegans or vegetarians. The study, which takes into account the differences in the stomach's inhabitants, may begin to explain the difference.
Blue Crabs, supersized by carbon pollution, may upset Chesapeake's balance (7 April 2013)
It is the dawn of the super crab.
Crabs are bulking up on carbon pollution that pours out of power plants, factories and vehicles and settles in the oceans, turning the tough crustaceans into even more fearsome predators.
That presents a major problem for the Chesapeake Bay, where crabs eat oysters. In a life-isn't-fair twist, the same carbon that crabs absorb to grow bigger stymies the development of oysters.
"Higher levels of carbon in the ocean are causing oysters to grow slower, and their predators -- such as blue crabs -- to grow faster," Justin Baker Ries, a marine geologist at the University of North Carolina's Aquarium Research Center, said in an recent interview.
Over the next 75 to 100 years, ocean acidification could supersize blue crabs, which may then eat more oysters and other organisms and possibly throw the food chain of the nation's largest estuary out of whack.
Activists claim Arkansas oil spill diverted into wetland (7 April 2013)
Activists with the group Tar Sands Blockade published new videos on Sunday showing oil from the Arkansas pipeline rupture purportedly diverted from a residential neighborhood into a wetland area to keep it out sight and, most importantly, out of the media.
While it's not clear if the oil was intentionally moved into the wetland, the company says it is cleaning pavement with power washing devices, which could cause some of the oil to be pushed off neighborhood streets and into other areas.
Activists also interviewed a local resident who claimed the oil has continued "flowing" into Lake Conway since the spill happened.
A letter sent by ExxonMobil to residents of Mayflower on March 31 claims the oil did not reach Lake Conway.
"I don't have allergies," a man who lives on Lake Conway told tar sands activists. "But now my sinuses are bothering me. My throat's bothering me. My eyes water constantly. But they [Exxon] act like nothing's wrong. They don't have to live here, we do. And we're not moving just because of them."
The activists noted that they were turned away from the area several times before by police and Exxon spill cleanup workers, but they returned on Saturday just before sundown and managed to sneak in to capture footage of the oiled wetlands. In two separate videos, nearby residents say they've been made sick my the spill, which has tremendously affected their air quality.
ExxonMobil spills chemicals in Louisiana while cleaning spilled oil in Arkansas (5 April 2013)
Even as ExxonMobil was mopping up after its disgusting tar-sands oil spill in Arkansas on Wednesday, it spilled an unknown amount of unknown chemicals -- possibly hydrogen sulfide and cancer-causing benzene -- during an accident at a riverfront refinery in Louisiana.
The Chalmette refinery chemical spill might have gone unnoticed, except that it stank out the city of New Orleans and several nearby parishes, leading to state and federal investigations (we told you about that mysterious odor yesterday). Frankly, ExxonMobil's track record here sucks: The same refinery spilled 360 barrels of crude oil in January.
From The Times-Picayune:
"ExxonMobil first reported releasing 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and 10 pounds of benzene, a volatile organic carbon compound known to cause cancer, because those amounts are the minimum required for reporting, [Coast Guard Petty Officer Jason] Screws said. But the company has since said it is unsure exactly what chemicals were involved or how much may have been released, he said."
Calls to ban dangerous chemicals (7 April 2013)
With animal tests revealing impacts as diverse as cancers, damaged immune systems and lowered fertility, scientists believe that these substances could be hazardous to human health. Kevin Brigden, a scientist for Greenpeace, said: "The critical thing about phthalates is they're not locked into the material. They leach out, and because of that you find household dust which contains phthalates."
L'Oréal, Johnson & Johnson and The Body Shop all confirmed that they used OMC in their sunscreens. In a statement, The Body Shop said it used the chemical only in a "limited number of products", and had "prohibited the use of phthalates in all of its cosmetics in 2007". Johnson & Johnson said it had "stopped using phthalates and triclosan in new consumer products and our goal is to phase out of them in our existing products by 2015"; L'Oréal said all of its products are "rigorously tested for safety... including possible endocrine disruption".
Colgate-Palmolive said it used triclosan in its Colgate Total toothpaste because "it is clinically proven to reduce plaque and gum disease", and because scientific bodies had declared "its use in a maximum concentration of 0.3 per cent is safe for consumers". Studies on animals suggest it could affect hormonal balance and the immune system.
Unilever said it had phased out DEP, and that ingredients such as triclosan and cinnamate would be labelled on the pack. Reckitt Benckiser, which produces cleaning products such as Dettol and Vanish, would not confirm that its products were free from the five chemicals, but said they were on a "guideline of ingredients not to be used". P&G said that triclosan, DEP and OMC "are legally allowed for safe use in cosmetic products under very strict European cosmetic legislation". Kimberly-Clark said it did not use any of these chemicals in its products.
Questions raised about Greek bank merger (7 April 2013)
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- A statement by the Bank of Greece has raised speculation that an expected merger between the National Bank of Greece (NBG), the country's largest, and EFG Eurobank may not happen.
The bank statement refers to the recapitalization of Greek banks, saying that it will be over by the end of April.
It says Greece's "four systemic banks" will proceed with their recapitalizations and that they will all call shareholder meetings to approve the move. The statement suggests the banks will act separately.
A finance ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity Sunday because he was not authorized to brief the media, says both NBG and Eurobank have told the Bank of Greece they cannot raise their part of the capital separately.
Rick Warren's son's suicide - What is mental health? (7 April 2013)
(NaturalNews) Suicide. Just the word conjures a dark place that some know all too well, while some can never fathom. Most have glimpsed a place like this, as a part of natural emotion cycles, and been able to let it go and, after a time, re-embrace life.
What do you die from when you die from suicide?
What the psychiatric field terms "depression" can be seen in many ways and called by many names. Predominantly in modern medicine, it is seen as a neural imbalance to be dealt with through brain chemistry.
One growing alternative view coined by Richard Louv is that what one is actually experiencing is part of what is aptly named, Nature Deficit Disorder.
Still another view is that the experience of deep depression is not a disorder, but rather, in our world of problems, is a gift for knowing the depths of the human spirit. It is a heightened talent for empathizing with human suffering, as sages throughout time have been capable. The gift of sensitivity and horror, when properly groomed and channeled, is an important qualification for being a canary in the coalmine of humanity screaming, "Something is wrong here."
'They stole our dreams': blogger reveals cost of reporting Mexico's drug wars (3 April 2013)
For three years it has chronicled Mexico's drug war with graphic images and shocking stories that few others dare show, drawing millions of readers, acclaim, denunciations -- and speculation about its author's identity.
Blog del Narco, an internet sensation dubbed a "front-row seat" to Mexico's agony over drugs, has become a must-read for authorities, drug gangs and ordinary people because it lays bare, day after day, the horrific violence censored by the mainstream media.
The anonymous author has been a source of mystery, with Mexico wondering who he is and his motivation for such risky reporting.
Now in their first major interview since launching the blog, the author has spoken to the Guardian and the Texas Observer -- and has revealed that she is, in fact, a young woman.
Tony Blair and Iraq: The damning evidence (7 April 2013)
During a closed session with former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove, redacted evidence claims Mr Blair "had understood that Libya posed a bigger threat than Iraq, and understood the risk, therefore, of focusing on WMD in relation to Iraq". It refers to a meeting held by Mr Blair at Chequers days before the visit to Mr Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, but is unclear whether the claims were made by Sir Richard or another individual. What is clear is that in 2002, British intelligence "discovered that Libya has an active nuclear weapons programme", according to Sir Richard.
By contrast, Iraq had no nuclear weapons and any actual WMD would be "very, very small" and would fit on to the "back of a petrol lorry", according to one senior MI6 officer. They admitted the danger from WMD was "all in the cranium of just a few scientists, who we never did meet and we have been unable to meet ever since".
Yet the weekend at Crawford in April 2002 marked Mr Blair's conversion to Mr Bush's way of thinking. The former US president was determined to deal with Saddam Hussein. On Friday 5 April, Mr Blair and Mr Bush spent the evening alone, without their advisers. By the end of the weekend Mr Blair appeared to be a changed man, where previously he had said "we don't do regime change", according to Admiral Lord Boyce, former Chief of the Defence Staff.
The findings will inform a highly critical attack on Mr Blair when the Chilcot Inquiry publishes its report later this year. "Chilcot has the full story and it's a very complex one," a former senior MI6 officer, who would not be named, told The IoS.
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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