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NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 2nd to 8th of June 2013
Sources Identify Santa Monica Shooting Suspect (8 June 2013)
The gunman was connected to Santa Monica College as recently as 2010, police said. He died of multiple gunshot wounds after three police officers confronted him near the campus library.
Law enforcement sources in Washington and Los Angeles identified the shooting suspect as John Zawahri, who was in his 20s. Other law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the suspect had some mental problems in the past and was angry over his parents' divorce.
Police will not publicly identify the suspect until his next of kin has been notified, Seabrooks said. She said his relatives could be out of the country.
At 11:52 a.m. Friday, residents of a quiet neighborhood near the 10 Freeway reported hearing gunshots. Eyewitnesses saw a man in all black, wearing an ammunition belt and holding a semiautomatic rifle, who stood outside a home engulfed in flames near the intersection of Kansas and Yorkshire avenues. The gunman had a "familial connection" to the house, police said.
Boundless Informant: the NSA's secret tool to track global surveillance data (8 June 2013)
The National Security Agency has developed a powerful tool for recording and analysing where its intelligence comes from, raising questions about its repeated assurances to Congress that it cannot keep track of all the surveillance it performs on American communications.
The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.
The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.
The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. One document says it is designed to give NSA officials answers to questions like, "What type of coverage do we have on country X" in "near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure."
U.S., company officials: Internet surveillance does not indiscriminately mine data (8 June 2013)
The director of national intelligence on Saturday stepped up his public defense of a top-secret government data surveillance program as technology companies began privately explaining the mechanics of its use.
The program, code-named PRISM, has enabled national security officials to collect e-mail, videos, documents and other material from at least nine U.S. companies over six years, including Google, Microsoft and Apple, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
The disclosures about PRISM have renewed a national debate about the surveillance systems that sprang up after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, how broad those systems might be and the extent of their reach into American lives.
In a statement issued Saturday, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. described PRISM as "an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government's statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision."
Detroit's mountains of petroleum coke are 'dirtier than the dirtiest fuel' (8 June 2013)
It was the dirty secret of Alberta's tar sands -- until the black mountain of petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River grew to occupy an entire city block three storeys high.
Now it could become a familiar feature at storage yards and water fronts across the country as the oil industry in the US and Canada struggles to deal with a glut of waste from Alberta's tar sands production.
"This is dirtier than the dirtiest fuel," Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who represents the area where the pet-coke mountain has been accumulating, told the Guardian.
Peters has been pressing for full exposure of the potential health and environmental risks associated with petroleum coke, a byproduct of tar sands production.
Deer with jar stuck on its head saved by resourceful Duluth woman (8 June 2013)
HERMANTOWN, MINN.--A whitetail deer got its head stuck in a clear plastic jar that prevented it from eating or drinking for several days, until a resourceful Duluth-area woman managed to pop the jar off.
The deer kept showing up around Janet Murphy's Hermantown home, the jar covering its head just below its ears, the Duluth News Tribune reported. Murphy tried calling 911 and the state Department of Natural Resources for help but got nowhere, she said.
A 911 dispatcher routed her to the Minnesota State Patrol, which said it doesn't even get cats out of trees anymore, Murphy said Saturday. When she called the DNR, she said she was told to let nature take its course.
"I would let nature take its course, but this was man-made. This was a plastic container on its head," she said.
Ricin Suspect Was Tracked Via Mail Scanners (7 June 2013)
JUNE 7--A high-tech computer system that captures images of "every mail piece that is processed" by the United State Postal Service was critical in helping federal agents track the Texas woman arrested today for allegedly sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In a U.S. District Court complaint filed today against Shannon Guess Richardson, an FBI agent details how investigators traced the ricin letters back to New Boston, Texas, where the 35-year-old Richardson (seen below) lives with her husband.
The Bloomberg letter was opened at a municipal mail center in Manhattan on May 24, while the letter to Obama was intercepted May 30 at an off-site White House mail facility. A third ricin letter--sent to an anti-gun group funded by Bloomberg--was received at a Washington, D.C. office on May 26.
According to FBI Agent James Spiropoulos, investigators accessed a Postal Service computer system that "incorporates a Mail Isolation Control and Tracking (MICT) program which photographs and captures an image of every mail piece that is processed." Agents were able to obtain front and back images of about 20 mail pieces that had been processed "immediately before the mail piece addressed to Mayor Bloomberg."
A review of that mail revealed that each piece carried return addresses listing zip codes in the New Boston area.
PAM COMMENTARY: An explanation for frequent postage rate hikes?
Keystone XL isn't even built yet and already it's faulty (7 June 2013)
Property owners who watched with disgust and fear as TransCanada contractors ripped up their land to lay the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline are being treated to a repeat performance.
The pipeline isn't even in service yet, but already TransCanada is digging up stretches of faulty piping and replacing them, raising fresh safety fears. The pipeline is intended to link up with the Keystone XL northern leg -- which is still waiting for approval from the Obama administration -- and then carry tar-sands oil down to refineries in Texas.
From a Public Citizen press release:
"Dozens of anomalies, including dents and welds, reportedly have been identified along a 60-mile stretch of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, north of the Sabine River in Texas."
Actress who appeared in "The Walking Dead" and "Vampire Diaries" arrested in ricin letters to Obama, Bloomberg (7 June 2013)
A Texas woman has been arrested in connection with the mailing of three letters containing a form of the poison ricin to President Obama, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, federal authorities said.
Shannon Rogers Guess Richardson of New Boston, Texas, originally called the Federal Bureau of Investigation claiming that her husband had sent the letters, officials said. The investigators found that she had sent the letters herself, they said.
The woman was arrested in Arkansas on charges that will be filed Friday afternoon, the authorities said.
Is Big Data turning government into 'Big Brother?' (7 June 2013)
With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials.
The revelations that the National Security Agency is perusing millions of U.S. customer phone records at Verizon Communications and snooping on the digital communications stored by nine major Internet services illustrate how aggressively personal data is being collected and analyzed.
Verizon is handing over so-called metadata, excerpts from millions of U.S. customer records, to the NSA under an order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian. The report was confirmed Thursday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Former NSA employee William Binney told The Associated Press that he estimates the agency collects records on 3 billion phone calls each day.
The NSA and FBI appear to be casting an even wider net under a clandestine program code-named "PRISM" that came to light in a story posted late Thursday by The Washington Post. PRISM gives the U.S. government access to email, documents, audio, video, photographs and other data belonging to foreigners on foreign soil who are under investigation, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper said it reviewed a confidential roster of companies and services participating in PRISM. The companies included AOL Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Skype, YouTube and Paltalk.
Edison will shut down the San Onofre nuclear plant for good (7 June 2013)
"We have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if [the plant] might return to service was not good for our customers, our investors, or the need to plan for our region's long-term electricity needs," said Ted Craver, chairman and chief executive of Edison International, parent company of SCE.
SCE President Ron Litzinger said in a statement: "Looking ahead, we think that our decision to retire the units will eliminate uncertainty and facilitate orderly planning for California's energy future."
In February, Edison estimated the closure had cost the company $400 million.
San Onofre was shuttered after a tube in the plant's replacement steam generator system leaked a small amount of radioactive steam on Jan. 31, 2012. Eight other tubes in the same reactor unit later failed pressure tests, an unprecedented number in the industry, and thousands more tubes in both of the plant's units showed signs of wear.
The wear was blamed on tube vibration caused by excessively dry and high-velocity steam and inadequate support structures, particularly in one of the plant's two units. Tube vibration and wear has been a problem at other plants, but the specific type of vibration at San Onofre had not been experienced in the industry.
Hiring points to economy still in need of Fed's help (7 June 2013)
(Reuters) - Employers stepped up hiring in May, a sign the economy was growing modestly but not strong enough to convince the Federal Reserve to scale back the amount of cash it is pumping into the banking system.
The United States added 175,000 jobs last month, just above the median forecast in a Reuters poll, Labor Department data showed on Friday.
The unemployment rate ticked a tenth of a percentage point higher to 7.6 percent, with the increase actually giving a relatively hopeful sign as it was driven by more workers entering the labor force.
Still, after a winter in which the economy seemed to be turning a corner, May was the third straight month that payrolls outside the farm sector increased by less than 200,000.
Canadian job gains in May best since 2002 (7 June 2013)
Canada's economy had its best month for job creation in more than a decade last month, adding 95,000 new jobs, according to Statistics Canada.
A consensus of economists had been expecting Canada to create only about 15,000 jobs during the month.
The gain reported Friday was more than three times as much as the most optimistic expectation among closely watched economists.
"All of the employment gains in May were among private-sector employees, offsetting losses over the previous two months for this group," the data agency said.
David Petraeus At Bilderberg to Craft "Big Data" Spy Grid (7 June 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Former CIA Director David Petraeus is in attendance at the 2013 Bilderberg Group conference to help construct the "big data" spy grid, which is set to become the new frontier of clandestine statecraft as Internet connectivity becomes ubiquitous.
Bilderberg's official agenda for 2013 lists one of the areas of discussion as, "How big data is changing almost everything," a reference to how the "Internet of things" along with the ubiquitous growth of social media is transforming the world of surveillance and the ability to foresee and manipulate future events.
At almost the exact same time, a Homeland Security subcommittee in the United States will also be discussing "big data" and its implications in the context of social media.
Bilderberg's effort to push the "big data" agenda ties in with the secretive organization's close relationship with Google, which as we documentedis now merging with and taking over from Bilderberg in many aspects.
Blood test may detect colon cancer, early research suggests (7 June 2013)
Most people would rather deliver a speech naked than get a colonoscopy (and some would argue there's not much difference). New research indicates many people may one day be able to avoid the uncomfortable procedure with a simple, noninvasive and reliable test for colon cancer.
According to a study published Friday in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, the future of colorectal cancer screening may lie in the development of biomarkers for the disease.
South Korean researchers from Genomictree Inc. and Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul found that alterations of a certain gene could discriminate pretty accurately between blood samples from people with cancer and blood samples from people without cancer. Experts say that the blood test findings, while "not quite ready for prime time," are promising.
"Based on the data they presented, it looks really good," said Chhavi Chauhan, the journal's scientific editor. "But to turn this into a diagnostic test available to everyone, the research has to be duplicated by others and with more numbers."
Charity warns: Half of Britons living in 2020 will get cancer (7 June 2013)
Almost half of the UK population in 2020 will get cancer in their lifetime - but four in every 10 will survive the disease, the country's leading cancer charity has said.
The startling prediction from Macmillan Cancer Support came with a warning that, despite better survival rates, caring for cancer sufferers and survivors poses a "herculean challenge" for society and the NHS over the coming decades.
Macmillan's estimate is the first to take into account the UK's ageing population as well as ever-improving chances of surviving cancer.
The proportion of people who will get cancer at some stage in their life has increased by more than a third over the past 20 years, the charity said, and if current trends continue that number will rise to 47 per cent of the population in just seven years' time.
NSA Whistleblowers: "All U.S. Citizens" Targeted by Surveillance Program, Not Just Verizon Customers (6 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
SHAYANA KADIDAL: Sure. So I think, you know, we have had stories, including one in USA Today in May 2006, that have said that the government is collecting basically all the phone records from a number of large telephone companies. What's significant about yesterday's disclosure is that it's the first time that we've seen the order, to really appreciate the sort of staggeringly broad scope of what one of the judges on this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved of, and the first time that we can now confirm that this was under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which, you know, has been dubbed the libraries provision, because people were mostly worried about the idea that the government would use it to get library records. Now we know that they're using it to get phone records. And just to see the immense scope of this warrant order, you know, when most warrants are very narrow, is really shocking as a lawyer.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, some might argue that the Obama administration at least went to the FISA court to get approval for this, unlike the Bush administration in the past.
SHAYANA KADIDAL: Right. Well, we don't know if the Bush administration was, you know, getting these same orders and if this is just a continuation, a renewal order. It lasted for only--it's supposed to last for only three months, but they may have been getting one every three months since 2006 or even earlier. You know, when Congress reapproved this authority in 2011, you know, one of the things Congress thought was, well, at least they'll have to present these things to a judge and get some judicial review, and Congress will get some reporting of the total number of orders. But when one order covers every single phone record for a massive phone company like Verizon, the reporting that gets to Congress is going to be very hollow. And then, similarly, you know, when the judges on the FISA court are handpicked by the chief justice, and the government can go to a judge, as they did here, in North Florida, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, who's 73 years old and is known as a draconian kind of hanging judge in his sentencing, and get some order that's this broad, I think both the judicial review and the congressional oversight checks are very weak.
NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collection program (6 June 2013)
Through a top-secret program authorized by federal judges working under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the U.S. intelligence community can gain access to the servers of nine Internet companies for a wide range of digital data. Documents describing the previously undisclosed program, obtained by The Washington Post, show the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities in the wake of a widely publicized controversy over warrantless wiretapping of U.S. domestic telephone communications in 2005. These slides, annotated by The Washington Post, represent a selection from the overall document, and certain portions are redacted. Read related article.
PAM COMMENTARY: This article is mostly information flow graphs.
Should you care if the government spies on you? (6 June 2013)
In 2011, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) stood on the Senate floor and said:
"I have served on the Intelligence Committee for a decade, and I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: when the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry."
Despite the gravity of Wyden's words, it's not clear he's right. Revelations of the government treading on privacy -- warrantless wiretapping, demanding user data from Twitter and Google, snooping the Associated Press's phone records -- will always spark outrage worth a couple news cycles.
But eventually everybody goes back to their lives. And besides, the majority of Americans aren't breaking the law and have nothing of great import to hide -- so why care?
Wednesday brought another chapter when The Guardian broke that Verizon -- which the Electronic Frontier Foundation rates the lowest in terms of defending customer liberties -- had been supplying phone records to the National Security Agency so the Feds could draw a better picture of what exactly is going on in the American public.
NSA taps in to user data of Google, Skype and others, secret files reveal (6 June 2013)
The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.
The PRISM program allows the NSA, the world's largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.
The presentation claims PRISM was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a "home-field advantage" due to housing much of the internet's architecture. But the presentation claimed "Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage" because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.
Obama-Backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Expands Corporate Lawsuits Against Nations for Lost Profits (6 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
MY GOODMAN: Talk about--I mean, most people have not even heard of what--what does TPP mean?
JIM SHULTZ: Right. Well, it's the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And this is part of this global web of trade agreements that are being negotiated, that have been negotiated over the last 30 years, that, you know, from the outsider, it could seem like it's a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo, but really what's at stake is democracy. The report that we just put out looked at a very troubling part of what these agreements involve, which are these special trade tribunals that are used by corporations to directly undermine the ability of citizen movements to influence their government.
You know, the famous case, of course, is the one from Bolivia, where Bechtel from San Francisco came in, privatized--took over the privatized water system, raised people's rates up by more than 50 percent, was kicked out by a popular rebellion, and turned around on a $1 million investment and sued Bolivia for $50 million. These cases--there's almost 500 a year now of these cases being filed all over the world. Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, is suing Uruguay for the sin of putting health warnings on their cigarettes. In El Salvador--
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
JIM SHULTZ: So, Uruguay decided to put stiffer health warnings on cigarette packages. And Philip Morris doesn't like that, so Philip Morris uses a bilateral investment treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland--so, Philip Morris somehow puts on a Swiss hat and pretends it's a Swiss company--and is suing Uruguay for hundreds of millions of dollars. This is--this is everywhere.
Walmart workers speak out at annual meeting: 'I cannot survive like this' (6 June 2013)
Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, holds its annual meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Friday. The giant event attracts workers and shareholders from around the world and is usually a celebration of the company's unique corporate culture. About 14,000 people are expected at the Bud Walton arena to hear the company's executives speak. They can also expect to surprised by guest appearances from celebrities such as Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake that show the retailer's pulling power. It's also a chance to see the Waltons, Walmart's founding family and some of the richest people on the planet.
But this year's meeting may be less adulatory.
The company is facing pressure at home after a series of strikes and protests over pay and conditions. Walmart's sourcing from factories with poor safety records is also under fire. Lobby group Making Change at Walmart raised over $9,000 on the crowdsourcing site Indiegogo to bring to the meeting Kalpona Akter, a former child textile laborer from Bangladesh. She is being accompanied by Sumi Abedin, a survivor of the deadly fire that killed at least 112 garment workers at the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka last year.
Akter will call on Walmart to sign a legally binding agreement to improve working conditions in her country's textile factories that many of the company's rivals have signed following a building collapse in April that left over 1,127 dead.
Toronto transit shelters become virtual Walmarts (6 June 2013)
Walmart had a problem.
The discount retailer has more than 370 Canadian locations, most in big buildings that occupy the kind of acreage only the suburbs can provide. Reaching urban shoppers has remained a challenge.
To solve this problem, Walmart teamed with Procter & Gamble to convert 50 Toronto Transit Commission bus shelters into virtual Walmart stores.
This week, the shelters were fitted with posters featuring QR codes for Procter & Gamble products. Scanning the codes with their smartphones, riders are taken to a Walmart web page that allows them to buy the product and have it delivered for free.
The virtual stores required no special arrangement with the TTC -- Procter & Gamble spokesperson Victoria Maybee says the posters were part of a standard media purchase.
Philadelphia adopting 'doomsday' school-slashing plan despite $400 million prison project (6 June 2013) [WhatReallyHappened.com]
Days after Philadelphia officials pushed the city one step closer to a so-called "doomsday" education plan that would see two dozen schools close, construction began on a $400-million prison said to be the second-most expensive state project ever.
Pennsylvania's School Reform Commission voted on June 1 to approve a $2.4 billion budget, ignoring hours of pleas from students, parents, educators and community members who warned the budget would cripple city schools.
The plan would close 23 public schools, roughly 10 per cent of the city's total. Commissioners rejected a proposal that would have only closed four of the 27 schools that were on the block for closure.
Without the means to cover a $304 million debt, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, students can expect to go back to school in September without new books, paper, counselors, clubs, librarians, assistant principals or secretaries. All athletics, art and music programs would be eliminated and as many as 3,000 people could lose their jobs.
Only one of five state commissioners voted against the proposal, warning that Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's administration had not looked hard enough elsewhere for proper funds.
PAM COMMENTARY: Pennsylvania has a bad crime problem -- they need a good prison system, too.
Bird penises are fascinating. Wait, where are you going? (6 June 2013)
Occasionally we like to remind you that you should not mess with nature because it is weirder and scarier than you. Case in point: duck dick.
Researchers who are probably a huge amount of fun at parties have been studying duck penises for a while, trying to figure out a) why they are so fucking disturbing (please be warned that watching the video above may ruin your enjoyment of ducks permanently); and b) why they even exist. Most birds don't have penises -- both sexes have cloaca, or genital openings. Others, like chickens, sort of have penises but they're clearly vestigial and not good for much. But ducks, a few other waterfowl, and large birds like ostriches are packing. Why?
As Ed Yong explains at National Geographic, the way it happens is even weirder than you might have been expecting: The penis cells in most birds actually kill themselves off during development.
"In ducks, the genital tubercle keeps on growing into a long coiled penis, but in the chicken, it stops around day 9, while it's still small. Why? [University of Florida scientist Martin] Cohn expected to find that chickens are missing some critical molecule. Instead, his team found that all the right penis-growing genes are switched on in the chicken's tubercle, and its cells are certainly capable of growing."
Weather weapons have existed for over 15 years, testified U.S. Secretary of Defense (6 June 2013)
(NaturalNews) The development of so-called "weather weapons" has been dismissed by many as paranoid hyperbole, the work of science fiction movie script writers and conspiracy theorists, but the fact is they have existed, at least in the laboratory, for decades.
None other than former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, in fact, has talked about the development of weather-related weaponry - or, more specifically, techniques to create weather events to support offensive military operations. During a question-and-answer session at the Conference on Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and U.S. Strategy at the Georgia Center in Athens, Ga., in 1997, Cohen addressed them:
"There are some reports, for example, that some countries have been trying to construct something like an Ebola Virus, and that would be a very dangerous phenomenon, to say the least. Alvin Toeffler has written about this in terms of some scientists in their laboratories trying to devise certain types of pathogens that would be ethnic specific so that they could just eliminate certain ethnic groups and races; and others are designing some sort of engineering, some sort of insects that can destroy specific crops. Others are engaging even in an eco-type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves.
"So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations. It's real, and that's the reason why we have to intensify our efforts, and that's why this is so important."
Your cigarette-smoking coworker costs $5,800 extra each year (6 June 2013)
Smoking doesn't just damage smokers and people who spend time with them. It also hurts the bottom line for companies that employ smokers.
According to a new study from Micah Berman at Ohio State, the average smoking private sector employee costs companies $5,800 more per year than one who has never smoked. Annual cost estimates ranged from $2,885 to $10,125.
That's a pretty significant chunk of change. According to the study, on average there's about a $517 loss from increased absenteeism, a $462 loss of productivity related to nicotine addiction, a $3,077 loss due to smoke breaks, and $2,056 in extra health care costs.
The researchers were relatively conservative in their estimates, figuring five smoke breaks in an eight hour workday, three of which took place during assigned breaks.
This is a much higher estimate than a CDC study conducted a decade ago, which pegged the number at $3,400.
6 dead, 14 pulled out alive in Philadelphia building collapse (6 June 2013)
Philadelphia (CNN) -- Equipped with search cameras, microphones and motion detectors, and bathed in harsh LED lights that illuminated the darkness, rescue workers combed through piles of bricks and rubble early Thursday, listening for the faint tap-tap-tapping of life buried in the ruins of a collapsed building.
A day earlier, the side of a building under demolition had given way and toppled onto a Salvation Army thrift store next door.
Throughout the day Wednesday, dispirited emergency responders had carried out six people in body bags. But they received a momentary jolt of joy when, shortly before midnight, they pulled out 61-year-old Myra Plekam alive.
She was the 14th survivor.
Lawmaker raises safety fears about Smithfield's sale (6 June 2013)
The chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee voiced worries Wednesday about the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods Inc. to Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. of China.
"I am concerned about Shuanghui International's possible purchase of Smithfield Foods and the implications it could have on food safety for American consumers," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a statement. "The agencies responsible for approving this possible merger must take China's and Shuanghui's troubling track record on food safety into account and do everything in their power to ensure our national security and the health of our families is not jeopardized."
Last week, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said federal officials "should take a close look at this agreement." He added: "To have a Chinese company controlling a major U.S. meat supplier without shareholder accountability is a bit concerning."
Also Wednesday, Smithfield said it would release financial results for the fourth quarter on June 14. But it will not have its usual conference call, in which its president and CEO, C. Larry Pope, and its chief financial officer, Robert W. "Bo" Manly IV, answer questions from analysts.
Ghana: Fish Consumers Fear for Their Lives (6 June 2013)
Fish consumers in the Western Region, on Monday, expressed fear over the revelation that fishmongers in Axim use formalin, the chemical used for embalming corpses, for fish preservation.
Some residents of Sekondi-Takoradi told the GNA that they now fear to consume fish because they cannot ascertain whether they contain formalin.
They suggested that the authorities should restrict the sale of formalin to the general public, and prosecute anyone found to be using formalin to preserve fish.
Madam Adwoa Boabema, a trader, said she would prefer eating insects, as recommended by the United Nations, instead of consuming poisonous fish.
Madam Florence Perry, a resident of Takoradi, suggested that the government should provide more cold store facilities at the coastal communities for the preservation of fish.
NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily (5 June 2013)
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk -- regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.
Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
Debate: Supreme Court OKs Unfettered DNA Collection -- An Invasion of Privacy or a Blow to Crime? (5 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to a major decision by a divided U.S. Supreme Court that allows police to take DNA samples when a person is arrested for a, quote, "serious" crime. The case centered on a Maryland law used to take a DNA test of a man arrested for a felony assault. The test matched DNA in a rape case six years earlier that had previously gone unsolved. This is an exchange from the case's oral arguments, between Maryland's Chief Deputy Attorney General Katherine Winfree and Justice Antonin Scalia, who later wrote in his dissent that the law violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
KATHERINE WINFREE: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court, since 2009, when Maryland began to collect DNA samples from arrestees charged with violent crimes and burglary, there have been 225 matches, 75 prosecutions and 42 convictions, including that of respondent King.
JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: Well, that's really good. I'll bet you if you conducted a lot of unreasonable searches and seizures, you'd get more convictions, too. That proves absolutely nothing.
KATHERINE WINFREE: Well, I think, Justice Scalia, it does in fact point out the fact that the statute is working. And in the state's view, the act is constitutional.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ultimately, the court upheld Maryland's law, which lets police use a swab to collect DNA from the cells inside a person's cheek. Supporters of the method call it, quote, "the fingerprinting of the 21st century." So far, 25 states have passed laws that are similar to Maryland's. Some even allow DNA swabs for misdemeanor arrests. But privacy advocates say the ruling is vague because it does not define what constitutes a "serious crime" and could create an incentive for police to make more arrests.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales admits to killing 16 Afghans (5 June 2013)
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- In an unemotional, almost rote capitulation of one of the worst atrocities of the Afghanistan war, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on Wednesday acknowledged rampaging through two villages, killing 16 Afghan civilians and burning many of their bodies.
He had little to offer as explanation for the killings.
When asked by a military judge why he had carried out the March 2012 rampage, the 39-year-old Bales was matter-of-fact in his response: "I've asked that question a million times, and there is not a good reason in the world for the horrible things I did."
The exchange occurred shortly before the judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, accepted guilty pleas from Bales on charges of murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault as well as the unlawful use of steroids and alcohol at a U.S. military camp in Kandahar province. In exchange, he will avoid the death penalty when sentenced in August.
Bales, an Ohio native and father of two, had served four combat tours before the killings. His attorneys said their client, who had suffered a brain injury, was emblematic of the post-traumatic stresses associated with prolonged periods in combat zones. Bales enlisted in the military in November 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks, and he reenlisted after six years.
The stocky and balding Bales, who wore his Army service uniform to the hearing, told the court Wednesday that before the killings he had been consuming the steroid Stanozolol for several months to get "fitter and leaner" and had a supply of four bottles, which allowed him to use the drug three times a week. He said he also consumed alcohol numerous times at the military camp with Special Forces operators.
Exclusive: Microsoft, FBI take aim at global cyber crime ring (5 June 2013)
(Reuters) - Microsoft Corp and the FBI, aided by authorities in more than 80 countries, have launched a major assault on one of the world's biggest cyber crime rings, believed to have stolen more than $500 million from bank accounts over the past 18 months.
Microsoft said its Digital Crimes Unit on Wednesday successfully took down at least 1,000 of an estimated 1,400 malicious computer networks known as the Citadel Botnets.
Citadel infected as many as 5 million PCs around the world and, according to Microsoft, was used to steal from dozens of financial institutions, including: American Express, Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, eBay's PayPal, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo.
While the criminals remain at large and the authorities do not know the identities of any ringleaders, the internationally coordinated take-down dealt a significant blow to their cyber capabilities.
Arkansas pipeline spill casts shadow over Keystone XL (5 June 2013)
About 2:45 p.m. on March 29, an underground ExxonMobil oil pipeline ruptured in the woods behind the cul-de-sac. An estimated 5,000 barrels -- or 210,000 gallons -- of oil splashed down North Starlite into a drainage ditch, snaking into a cove off Lake Conway.
The families on the street evacuated immediately. Overwhelmed by the oil's burning-tire smell, other subdivision residents left too. People came back for an hour here and there to collect their belongings. "For Sale" signs popped up on lawns like a strange bloom.
The ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline split open just as the Obama administration entered the final phases of review for the far bigger, controversial Keystone XL pipeline, handing ammunition to opponents who say that Keystone's path through major rivers like the Platte and the Missouri and over the Ogallala aquifer, the main freshwater source of the Great Plains, could lead to a catastrophe.
The Pegasus pipeline carried about 95,000 barrels a day, but Keystone XL would carry more than 800,000, making the consequences of a spill potentially far greater.
Where is the US oil industry heading? (5 June 2013)
In March of this year, a ruptured pipeline spewed more than 6,000 barrels of tar sands oil into a small Arkansas town called Mayflower.
Since then, Exxon and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality have insisted that the town's air and water are safe. But residents say they are showing symptoms of exposure to toxic chemicals - such as headaches, vomiting and nausea.
And last month, Dustin McDaniel, the state's attorney general, said that samples show benzene, a carcinogen, is still present in the air and he has set up a hotline for residents to report any health issues
Moreover, this week, documents obtained by the environmental group, Greenpeace, show that Exxon downplayed the extent of the disaster.
Some documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show a draft press release from April 8, in which ExxonMobil claims "tests on water samples show Lake Conway and the cove are oil-free." However, internal emails from just two days earlier show that Exxon was aware of benzene pollution in both the lake and cove.
Jim Crow After Roe? How States Are Regulating Abortion Out of Existence & Widening Health Inequality (5 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Who's the force behind this trend across the country?
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: Well, there's--there are several groups, and they are legislative and policy groups and then also legal arms of those groups. So we have National Right to Life, we have Americans United for Life, and then legal advocates along the lines of Liberty Counsel and the Thomas More Center, groups that really have coordinated and consolidated resources and efforts with one single goal in mind, and that's to either overturn Roe v. Wade and recriminalize abortion or to make it absolutely impossible to access, and therefore legal in name only.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what are the links to Citizens United?
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: Oh, so that's a fantastic question. I'm glad you asked that. One of the reasons why the book looks at the onslaught of legislation after 2010 is because there is an explosion at the state level. And that is in large part due to one of the driving forces, which is James Bopp Jr., who is the legal brains behind the challenge that created the Citizens United decision. He sparked, and his group, National Right to Life, sparked a lot of the initial campaign finance challenges and did so through socially, culturally conservative groups. And as a result of the unrestricted spending at the state level, it's just--well, this is where we're at right now as a result of it.
Food industry front groups exposed in new report: Monsanto, Coke, Pepsi and more (5 June 2013)
The report goes onto to describe how the combo of "Big Food" and "Big Ag" (agriculture) trot out front groups that sound consumer-friendly and oriented organizations. They include names like the "U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance"; the "Center for Consumer Freedom"; and the "Alliance to Feed the Future". All appear as though they have us, the little people, uppermost in mind when it comes to the formation of food production policy.
However, Simon notes, the notion is not to educate and inform. The goal of these shady front groups "is to fool the media, policymakers, and general public into trusting these sources, despite their corporate-funded PR agenda."
That's because of the growing concern over the negative impact of the world's increasingly industrialized and over-processed food industry, and the resultant health problems that have arisen from GM foods and other agricultural biotechnology:
"With growing concern over the negative impacts of our highly industrialized and overly-processed food system, the food industry has a serious public relations problem on its hands. Instead of cleaning up its act, corporate lobbyists are trying to control the public discourse. As a result, industry spin is becoming more prevalent and aggressive."
Wet wipes take male grooming below the belt (5 June 2013)
The newest trend in male grooming is moving below the belt.
Dollar Shave Club, known for its cheap subscription service for men's razors, announced this week it will branch out into flushable wet wipes. Meant as a toilet paper alternative, the One Wipe Charlies run $4 for a pack of 40 including shipping, but are only available with a razor purchase.
In a video announcing the launch, chief executive Michael Dubin promotes the wipes' advantages of speed, precision and cleanliness versus toilet paper. (Site advertising also touts a "gentle peppermint scent.") "I don't have time to jump back in the shower after a messy No. 6," Dubin said in the video. "I'm an executive now. I have papers to sign."
A Dollar Shave Club survey of 1,000 men claims 51 percent use wipes rather than toilet paper, but 23 percent are embarrassed by it. No surprise there, said Victor Macias, co-founder of MaleStandard.com, which follows male grooming trends. "It's a taboo topic, but we definitely hear a lot of our readers talking about it," he said. "It's about hygiene, making sure that you're well groomed down there."
'Girls Gone Wild' founder Joe Francis desperate to block release of sex tape (5 June 2013)
Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, whose company recently filed for bankruptcy, is the unwilling star of a raunchy hardcore sex tape that is currently making the rounds in search of a distributor. According to TMZ, however, the ex-convict CEO is desperate to halt its release and has called in his lawyers to intimidate media outlets that might buy the stolen video.
The video reportedly features sexual encounters between Francis and several women, including girlfriend Abbey Wilson, the 2012 winner of the Girls Gone Wild "Search for the Hottest Girl in America." The video was on Wilson's iPad, which was apparently stolen from her bag at Los Angeles International Airport.
Francis' lawyer, David Houston, said to TMZ, "It is not only unfortunate, but it is a crime. As such, this office will take all necessary steps to determine who in fact has done this and who is attempting to distribute the video."
Addressing the unknown party who is allegedly shopping the video to outlets, Houston said, "When we catch you, we will see that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of both the criminal and civil laws."
The "Girls Gone Wild" video series features women in their late teens and twenties, often very intoxicated, stripping off their clothes and mugging for hand-held cameras, sometimes engaging in simulated lesbian acts for the titillation of watching men.
Turkey's lady in the red dress identified (5 June 2013)
She quickly became the symbol of Turkey's protests. The photograph of the woman in the red summer dress carrying a white shoulder bag and getting sprayed with tear gas by riot police has been picked up by the protest movement as the emblem of their peaceful struggle against heavy handed state.
Now the woman has been identified as Ceyda Sungur, an academic in the urban planning department at Istanbul's Technical University, the Guardian reports.
Urban, secular, middle class Sungur typifies the average Turkish protester demanding more accountability from the moderately Islamist government. She had made the short journey from her office to Gezi park last Tuesday to protest the government's decision to turn the space over to developers and the diggers that were about to bulldoze the park.
Sungur did not want to discuss with the Guardian her new found fame. The newspaper reported that Turkish media briefly spoke to her last week when she said she was one person in a much larger movement. "A lot of people no different from me were out protecting the park, defending their rights, defending democracy," she said. "They also got gassed."
Turkey protests: 'Woman in red' Ceyda Sungur becomes reluctant symbol of Turkish resistance (5 June 2013)
The incongruity of the woman at the centre of the image is striking; dressed in a red cotton summer dress, shopping bag over one shoulder, she appears almost to have wandered into the scene by accident.
The photograph of an academic Ceyda Sungur wearing a red dress being pepper sprayed by police in Turkey has since gone viral and has become a symbol of the "Occupy Gezi" protests.
Endlessly shared on social media and replicated as a cartoon on posters and stickers, the image of the woman in red has become the leitmotif for female protesters during days of violent anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul.
The image of Sungur, an academic at Istanbul's Technical University, being pepper sprayed was snapped as she walking from her office to Gezi Park and encountered a line of riot police.
PETA asks for charges in fatal mauling of grizzly bear trainer (5 June 2013)
BILLINGS -- Animal-rights advocates are asking a Montana prosecutor to pursue criminal charges after a Bozeman-area animal trainer was fatally mauled by a pair of 500-pound captive brown bears.
Delcianna Winders with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Wednesday that negligent manslaughter and criminal endangerment charges are warranted against Animals of Montana owner Troy Hyde.
Benjamin Cloutier was a trainer for Animals of Montana, which provides captive-bred predators and other animals for photography shoots and motion pictures.
In a letter to Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert, Winders cited federal safety investigators who determined Cloutier's death could have been avoided if the bears had been kept in a separate enclosure while he cleaned their pen.
Santa Clara County ex-supervisor arrested (5 June 2013)
In an extraordinary DNA match, saliva left on the stamp of a scandalous and illegal San Jose political campaign mailer three years ago led to the arrest of a disgraced former Santa Clara County supervisor, prosecutors said.
George Shirakawa Jr. was arrested Wednesday on charges of impersonating City Council candidate Magdalena Carrasco in May 2010 by sending mailers that linked her to the communist government in Vietnam, said Jeff Rosen, the Santa Clara County district attorney.
"What is offensive about the flyer," Rosen said, "is that this is a photo of Magdalena Carrasco right across from the flag of North Vietnam."
The hit piece - whose origin has long been a mystery - was sent to residents of a district with a large population of Vietnamese Americans, and it may have affected the outcome of a tight council race.
Hacker who reported Manning testifies (4 June 2013)
As Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is being tried for leaking classified documents, the person who turned him into authorities has testified about instant message conversations he had with the accused. The former army intelligence analyst is charged with indirectly aiding the enemy and violations of the Espionage Act.
Adrian Lamo is a hacker Manning emailed in May 2010. The two chatted using instant messenger for about a week just before Manning was arrested in Iraq for being the source of classified US government information provided to WikiLeaks.
Prosecutor Ashden Fein asked about the timeline of interactions he had with Manning and if he computers he used for the chats were secure. Lamo said his computers couldn't have been tampered with because "computer geeks don't always leave the house much".
Lamo was asked about his conviction in 2004 for hacking large corporations to expose holes in their security. Manning's lead defence attorney David Coombs said Manning was the same age as Lamo, 22, when they both got in trouble and desired to do something for the public good. Lamo said that wasn't lost on him.
Coombs asked about Manning's admission to Lamo that he was emotionally unstable and had access to information that the world should see about the US government's dealings with other countries. Coombs asked if Manning told him he wanted to help the enemy. After a short pause, Lamo replied "Not in those words, no."
Official describes rampant computer hacking at VA (5 June 2013)
At least eight foreign-sponsored organizations, mostly connected to the Chinese military, have hacked into computer networks at the Veterans Affairs Department in recent years or were actively trying to do so, a former VA computer security chief told Congress on Tuesday.
Jerry Davis, who served as the VA's chief information security officer until February 2013, testified at a House subcommittee hearing that the VA became aware of the computer hacking in March 2010 and that attacks continue "to this very day."
Davis said the hacking "successfully compromised VA networks and data," but he did not indicate to lawmakers how the information may have been used. The intrusions raise the potential for identity theft and could complicate efforts to share data with the Pentagon, long viewed as key to quicker processing of disability claims.
"The entire veteran database in VA, containing personally identifiable information on roughly 20 million veterans, is not encrypted, and evidence suggests that it has repeatedly been compromised since 2010 by foreign actors, including in China and possibly in Russia," said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs oversight and investigations subcommittee.
UCLA Anderson Forecast paints dismal picture of economic recovery (5 June 2013)
The country's tepid growth in its gross domestic product isn't creating enough good jobs to build a strong middle class, according to a UCLA report released Wednesday.
"Growth in GDP has been positive, but not exceptional," UCLA economists wrote in their quarterly Anderson Forecast. "Jobs are growing, but not rapidly enough to create good jobs for all."
The report, which analyzed long-term trends of past recoveries, found that the long-anticipated "Great Recovery" has not yet materialized.
Real GDP growth -- the value of goods and services produced after adjusting for inflation -- is 15.4% below the 3% growth trend of past recoveries, wrote Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. More robust growth will be necessary to bring this recovery in line with previous ones.
"It's not a recovery," he wrote. "It's not even normal growth. It's bad."
Chrysler refuses Jeep recall, saying fuel tanks are safe (5 June 2013)
Chrysler is refusing to recall 2.7m older-model Jeeps, saying that US regulators' concerns about the vehicles' fuel tanks causing fires and deaths are ill-founded.
In a 3 June letter to Chrysler, US road safety authority the NHTSA said an investigation had revealed "numerous fire-related deaths and injuries, fires that did not lead to deaths and fuel leaks in rear impacts". The agency said in the 13-page letter that 51 people have been killed in rear-end crashes and fires involving Grand Cherokee and Liberty vehicles.
The NHTSA is seeking to recall the Jeep Grand Cherokee for model years 1993 to 2004 and the Jeep Liberty model years 2002 to 2007. The agency says the models have fuel tanks behind the axle that leave them less protected in the event of a rear-end collision and could potentially cause a fuel leak and lead to fire.
Chrysler, the US carmaker majority-owned by Fiat of Italy, has said in a statement that it does not intend to recall the SUVs and regards them as safe.
Bradley Manning Trial: WikiLeaks Lawyer Sees Spurious "Enemy" Claims & Bid to Scare Whistleblowers (4 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Couldn't he actually face the death penalty?
MICHAEL RATNER: Yes, one of the charges, the aiding the enemy charge, which we can talk about, carries a death penalty. The prosecutor has said they're not going to ask for the death penalty, but I think it's still open to the judge to give him the death penalty. This is really serious, and it's outrageous. I mean, it's really hitting Bradley in a way that he should just not be hit, apart from the bigger issue of the people that we should be looking at are the people who committed the war crimes that Bradley Manning exposed. That's where the accountability should come in here, not about a soldier who acted on his conscience and acted because he wanted to have the American people see what America is doing. So, this was--I mean, it was almost--it would be surreal. It looked like--you know, I'd love it to have not really been happening in front of me, but there it was, these slides going across.
And in addition to what's going to happen to Bradley Manning because of this--I hope it doesn't, but the life sentence--the aiding the enemy charge, which we mentioned here, what they're really saying in that is that by giving documents to WikiLeaks, a publisher--or could have been the New York Post or The New York Times, somebody somewhere in the world who's an enemy of the United States is going to read those documents, and therefore a soldier who is a whistleblower is automatically aiding the enemy if he talks to you, if he talks to the press anywhere. That's aiding the enemy, according to our government. That's really an incredibly outrageous reading of the statute. The judge has gone a little bit toward requiring the government to prove a little more. But I think you have to have intent to aid the enemy. But the government isn't saying that at all. So, the government's conception, which you opened the show with, that he dumped millions of documents, was just belied, really, by what Coombs said.
One little detail, which I like, which shows where Bradley Manning was coming from, he had a dog tag on--not then, but when he was in the military in Iraq--and on the back of the dog tag, it had the word "humanist" stamped on it. This is the Bradley Manning that this world and this country ought to care about. So, one danger is to Bradley Manning. A second one is to the idea that we're ever going to have a whistleblower again who talks to the media. Even if a whistleblower says something like, "I'm not getting good body armor in Iraq," which actually happened with Rumsfeld--not a whistleblower, just a soldier--that soldier could be arguably aiding the enemy. And a third aspect of this trial that's really serious--
American Fascism: Ralph Nader Decries How Big Business Has Taken Control of the U.S. Government (4 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. So, the title, Told You So?
RALPH NADER: Yes. I've been impressed by how all the warmongers and the false predictors get promoted, and they get on op-ed pages, and they get jobs after they have failed in the U.S. government. We know Robert Rubin and Larry Summers and Wolfowitz and Cheney and all these people. And we don't--we don't recognize people who have predicted accurately, who have spotted problems arising, as we should. And so I decided to say--excuse me--I decided to say, "Told you so," as we told Nixon about the rise of corporate crime. We warned about the Iraq War and the consequences. We made sure that the consequences of repealing Glass-Steagall were going to lead to huge speculation and serious problems on Wall Street for trillions of dollars of workers' money. And again and again and again. And there's something wrong with a society that marginalizes, in so many ways, the people who were right, the people who predicted right, who cautioned, who sent up the warning signals to the American people; and the people who got us into Iraq and warmongering and militarism and corporatism, they're the ones who get applauded, those are the ones who get $100,000 speeches, like Bush is getting, $150,000. So, I decided--
AMY GOODMAN: Where did he get that?
RALPH NADER: I decided to throw down the gauntlet and say, "Told you so."
Two white Texas officers fired for beating black woman over $150 fine (4 June 2013)
Two police officers in Texas have been fired after they were caught on video beating a woman who was being arrested for an unpaid traffic ticket.
In an interview with KBMT last week, 25-year-old Keyarika "Shea" Diggles said that Jasper Officer Ricky Grissom was polite at first, allowing her to call her mother from the police station to raise the $150 needed to pay the fine.
But Grissom eventually became impatient and cut off the call.
"He said, 'I've been waiting here all this time when I could have been out patrolling, waiting on you. This is stupid,'" Diggles recalled. "He just went to cussing. And then I was like, 'Well, you don't have to yell at me.'"
Video obtained from the Jasper Police Department shows Grissom pushing Diggles up against a wall before Officer Ryan Cunningham comes from behind and slams her head against a counter top. Diggles is then forced to the ground and dragged by her ankle into a nearby cell.
McDonnell aides expressed concern about his role in event for Star Scientific (4 June 2013)
Top aides to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) expressed concerns about the governor's participation in a 2011 event at the governor's mansion that marked the launch of a dietary supplement made by a major McDonnell campaign donor, according to newly released e-mails.
"I don't understand this? we are doing an event with them?" McDonnell's communications director Tucker Martin wrote the evening before the event to Mary Shea Sutherland, the chief of staff for first lady Maureen McDonnell, who had organized the luncheon.
Sutherland had asked Martin to review and approve a news release that the donor, Star Scientific, intended to distribute about the event, which was to announce the launch of Anatabloc, its new dietary supplement.
A minute later, Martin wrote to Sutherland again.
"Are we sure we can do something like this?" he asked, copying a number of other senior McDonnell aides.
Gov. Robert McDonnell's tin ear on ethics (4 June 2013)
Previously, The Post reported that Mr. McDonnell failed to disclose a $15,000 gift from a Virginia businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., which helped cover the catering bill at the 2011 wedding of the governor's daughter. Mr. McDonnell insisted he was not required to disclose the gift because it was made to his daughter rather than to him. However, it was the governor who had contracted for the catering service, and the gift from Mr. Williams covered the governor's obligation, not his daughter's. Moreover, when it turned out to have been an overpayment, it was the first lady, Maureen McDonnell, who was reimbursed.
Mrs. McDonnell is also the focus of the latest embarrassing disclosure -- a $36,000 payment to her last year by the charitable arm of one of the state's biggest coal companies. Mr. McDonnell has been an advocate of coal interests, and he backed an extension of a tax credit that will mean millions of dollars for the industry.
In what appears to be a dodge of state laws, the governor listed his wife as a paid trustee of the charity, which she was not, rather than as a consultant, which she was. Under state law, that distinction allowed Mr. McDonnell to withhold the information that his wife received an annual salary exceeding $10,000 in return for attending two or three meetings and giving advice.
The FBI and state prosecutors and police have been looking into Mr. McDonnell's finances. At the same time, the governor has refused to discuss other compensation or gifts his wife may have received. His reticence and what appear to be repeated instances of using definitional sleight of hand to skirt state disclosure laws have deepened suspicions that more damaging revelations about the governor may be forthcoming.
PAM COMMENTARY: As always, I don't agree with every article I post here. Terms like "reformist achievements and the evasive shenanigans" imply that McDonnell has been good for the commonwealth, but with a personal weakness for money.
Yet McDonnell has only one real accomplishment, the restoration of voting rights for former felons -- and that was handled in a way that depends upon the policy of future governors, not codified into state law.
In fact, "Trans-Vag Bob" has done little but promote Christian extremist legislation, attacking women's rights and voting rights for minorities and the poor. Meanwhile, people in his state needed economic help more than anything else -- something that he and other Republicans have proven incapable of delivering.
Are Chinese spy ships in U.S. waters? (4 June 2013)
After decades of American surveillance operations off China's coast, the Chinese military may be starting to respond in kind, according to reports coming out of the giant Asian security confab known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, which took place in Singapore over the weekend.
While Chinese surveillance ships and aircraft won't be skirting the fringes of the California coast anytime soon, they may have already begun sniffing around Guam and Hawaii, writes former Australian diplomat Rory Medcalf, now with the Lowy Institute for International Policy - an Australian think tank - who attended the conference.
"It was striking to hear a Chinese military officer reveal in an open discussion at the conference this week that China had "thought of reciprocating" by "sending ships and planes to the US EEZ exclusive economic zone," and had in fact done so "a few times," although not on a daily basis (unlike the U.S. presence off China)."
This was news to me. It turns out, from discussions with several maritime security experts in the margins of the conference, that rumours have been circulating for some time of China sending ships on missions to waters off U.S. territory - not the continental U.S., but probably Hawaii and possibly Guam too.
ACLU: Ibragim Todashev shooting in Orlando should be subject to independent probe (4 June 2013)
Almost two weeks after Ibragim Todashev was shot and killed by an FBI agent in Orlando, one of the nation's leading civil liberties groups has joined calls for the FBI to release details of the shooting as well as for an independent investigation.
With few details released so far by the government, the American Civil Liberties Union told the Globe today that it is monitoring the case.
"We're concerned, like many other groups, about the way this story has changed," said Michael German, senior policy counsel in the ACLU's legislative office. "What we'd like to see is an independent and transparent investigation into what happened in this case."
Todashev, 27, was shot and killed after spending hours being interviewed in his Orlando apartment by FBI agents. A Chechen man and friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Todashev had been monitored since the days immediately following the Marathon bombing and had been previously questioned about his relationship with Tsarnaev.
During the May 22 interview, Todashev was shot and killed after what the FBI termed a "violent confrontation." The FBI has refused to officially disclose what led to the shooting, or if Todashev had a weapon. However, unnamed law enforcement officials have spread wildly inconsistent versions of what happened in the apartment through the Globe and other media outlets.
FBI raids office of Calif. state lawmaker (4 June 2013)
"I have a sense that they're on a witch hunt," Geragos said in a telephone interview. "My client refused to read their script and so this is what resulted....My client has done absolutely nothing wrong."
He said he does not know what the FBI is investigating or if others also are targets of the investigation.
He contended the Justice Department is targeting his client, a Democrat, as "a bait and switch" to mute congressional Republicans' outcry over recent disclosures, including that the department obtained telephone records from AP reporters and editors and private emails from a Fox News correspondent.
Beard told reporters who gathered outside Calderon's office Tuesday night that the office of the Latino Legislative Caucus, which is across the street from the Capitol in the Legislative Office Building, also was searched. A spokeswoman for the caucus, Lizette Mata, did not return telephone and email messages.
Sacramento defense attorney William Portanova entered and left the Capitol office during the search. He told the AP he was retained to represent the interests of the Senate as a whole, not any particular lawmaker.
National weather forecasters won't be furloughed after all (4 June 2013)
A swarm of tornadoes that killed three professional storm chasers, one amateur storm chaser, and nine other people in Oklahoma on Friday night convinced NOAA to make sure its meteorologists and other staff members stay on the job. That, and some pressure from Congress.
NOAA Acting Administrator Kathryn Sullivan sent an email to all of her staff as midnight approached on Friday, telling them that the agency was canceling its furlough plans for employees, including those at the National Weather Service.
The furloughs had been intended to help the agency deal with the mind-numbing sequester cuts that are being imposed on all federal agencies. But the furlough plans had been sharply criticized by members of Congress, including Republicans, who feared that forcing the agency's weather forecasters to stay at home on certain days could cost American lives.
From Sullivan's email, which was posted online by The Washington Post:
"The events over the past week, including more devastating tornadoes tonight in Oklahoma and Missouri, remind us how important every single employee within NOAA is to the health, safety, and well-being of this nation. ..."
The toxic soup you're swimming in (4 June 2013)
But millions of us humans are the nonpoint source of this chemical spill -- not because we want to destroy the world's beauty or health, but ironically because we're seeking beauty and health.
Most of us assume the products we wash and coat ourselves with -- buying them because the nice label says they'll do us good -- won't wash ashore in our kidneys, liver, brain or bloodstream, where researchers are now finding them.
Nor do we imagine detergent, sunscreen and hairspray will flow into a stream "out there," destroying fragile aquatic ecosystems and causing gender mutations in fish, frogs and sea turtles. It rarely occurs to us that the world is one common, public bath.
In recent years, the antibacterial triclosan -- a cheerfully-packaged pesticide now linked to a raft of human and ecological troubles, from cardiac damage to endocrine disruption to its byproducts of dioxin and drug-resistant superbugs -- has been showing up in waters and soil, fish and even earthworms. It's also commonly present in human blood and breast milk.
The average swimming pool is a reservoir of triclosan, now a common ingredient in sunscreen, soap, dish detergents, shampoo, cosmetics, lotion, even some toothpaste. No pool disinfectant can purify this toxin that is, ironically, created to disinfect.
It and other toxic "hygiene" ingredients like phthalates, formaldehyde, parabens and 1,4-dioxane cannot be laundered and showered out of the human system, pools, rivers or seas -- until we stop pouring them in.
Turtle conservation groups reassess after guardian is killed on Costa Rican beach (4 June 2013)
Jairo Mora Sandoval knew his work was dangerous. The 26-year-old Costa Rican, who was paid to protect endangered leatherback sea turtles and their eggs on a Caribbean beach in the tiny Central American nation, had been threatened many times -- probably by poachers, possibly by drug traffickers. Both kinds of criminals share a keen interest with conservationists in the 11-mile stretch of public sand just outside the city of Limon, in the country's poorest province.
But in what is quickly becoming a watershed moment for environmental activists, Mora was kidnapped with four foreign volunteers and killed Friday, the first slaying anyone can remember among the legions who flock to eco-friendly Costa Rica to help protect endangered species. The four female volunteers, three from the United States and one from Spain, were tied up and robbed but left unharmed.
The killing already has begun to scare away volunteers, many of whom are young Americans, according to Mora's nonprofit employer. Some believe the slaying could even affect the Costa Rican economy, which depends heavily on eco-tourism. It has drawn reaction from the Costa Rican president and the U.S. Embassy and has prompted a meeting of interested organizations held by the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment on Tuesday.
The slaying also is seen as another sign that drug trafficking, once a small concern in Costa Rica, could be encroaching on a nation that prides itself on the many ways it is different from the rest of Central America.
Ben & Jerry's is going GMO-free (4 June 2013)
Gotta hand it to Ben & Jerry's: It knows how to please its core audience (the hippies, at least; not necessarily the recently dumped). The company is already making ice cream with 80 percent of its ingredients GMO-free. By the end of the year, Ben & Jerry's says, there will be no GMO ingredients at all in its ice cream.
It's a little bit tricky, considering how many things go into Ben & Jerry's flavors, but the company already does it in Europe. So it's possible -- it just needs to find the right suppliers.
Here's why it's doing it:
"We have a long history of siding with consumers and their right to know what's in their food. We fought long and hard for labeling of rBGH, which was the first genetically engineered technology used in the US food system. We thank and encourage all those who are continuing this fight in support of transparency and the consumer's right to know."
Amazon plans big expansion of online grocery business: sources (4 June 2013)
(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc is planning a major roll-out of an online grocery business that it has been quietly developing for years, targeting one of the largest retail sectors yet to be upended by e-commerce, according to two people familiar with the situation.
While food is a low-margin business, Amazon could outperform similar online grocery services by delivering orders for higher-margin items like electronics at the same time.
One of the people familiar with AmazonFresh's expansion plans said new warehouses will have refrigerated areas for food, but also space nearby to store up to one million general merchandise products, in some cases.
The company has been testing AmazonFresh in its hometown of Seattle for at least five years, delivering fresh produce such as eggs, strawberries and meat with its own fleet of trucks.
'Pretty wild' photo of Taco Bell worker licking shells goes viral (4 June 2013)
Here's a Taco Bell employee who was thinking a bit too outside the bun.
On Monday, the Consumerist, a blog that's a subsidiary of Consumer Reports, posted a hard-to-swallow photo of a Taco Bell employee holding a long stack of about 25 empty taco shells -- while licking them with his long tongue fully exposed.
The posting -- which the employee originally posted on his Facebook page, has since gone seriously viral. The situation is eerily reminiscent of a video from 2009 that a Domino's Pizza employee posted of another worker putting pizza cheese into his nose and blowing mucous on a sandwich. The unfortunate message to consumers: Unhappy fast-food employees will do disgusting things to the food they sell.
"It's not a brand problem -- it's a brand practices problem," says Erika Napoletano, a brand strategy consultant. "If you hire people who treat your brand as disposable, that's the kind of PR you'll get."
100 students ejected from NYC-to-Atlanta flight (4 June 2013)
NEW YORK (AP) -- A group of about 100 high school students traveling from New York to Atlanta were thrown off a flight, along with their chaperones, after the pilot and crew lost patience with some kids who wouldn't sit down and put away their cellphones.
The teenagers, all seniors at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, in Brooklyn, were ordered off the AirTran flight around 6 a.m. Monday as it sat at a gate at LaGuardia Airport.
AirTran's parent company, Southwest Airlines, said in a statement that flight attendants asked passengers several times to take their seats and put their mobile devices away. The airline said that when some didn't comply, the captain repeated the request. When that didn't work, either, the whole group of students was ordered to disembark for safety reasons, the airline said.
The flight was delayed for about 45 minutes while the students filed out of the Boeing 737, which seats about 137 people, leaving the plane mostly empty.
Rabbi Seth Linfield, executive director at Yeshiva of Flatbush, said that administrators were still looking into the matter Tuesday, but that he believed adults on the trip who said the students weren't behaving that badly.
Science journal hires former Monsanto scientist to decide which papers should be accepted or rejected (3 June 2013)
(NaturalNews) Scientific journals, by their very nature, ought not to be biased towards a particular point of view because such bias can lead that journal's editorial staff to quash or ignore any legitimate scientific research and data refuting any pre-determined viewpoints.
And yet, as reported online by Earth Open Source, it appears as though the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology may have compromised itself recently by hiring a biotechnology insider who, on the surface, would sure seem to have a pro-industry prejudice.
From the website:
"Just months after a study was published showing that two Monsanto products, a genetically modified (GM) maize and Roundup herbicide, damaged the health of rats, the journal that published the study appointed a former Monsanto scientist to decide which papers on GM foods and crops should be published, a new article reveals."
Supreme Court upholds Maryland law, says police may take DNA samples from arrestees (3 June 2013)
A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that police may take DNA samples when booking those arrested for serious crimes, narrowly upholding a Maryland law and opening the door to more widespread collection of DNA by law enforcement.
The court ruled 5 to 4 that government has a legitimate interest in collecting DNA from arrestees, just as it takes photographs and collects fingerprints. Rejecting the view that the practice constitutes an unlawful search, the majority said it was justified to establish the identity of the person in custody.
"DNA identification represents an important advance in the techniques used by law enforcement to serve legitimate police concerns for as long as there have been arrests," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority.
The decision will reinstate Alonzo Jay King Jr.'s conviction in a 2003 rape in Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern Shore. He was connected to the crime after a DNA sample was taken following an unrelated 2009 arrest for assault.
Law enforcement has found DNA to be a powerful tool in solving cold cases, and the federal government and 28 states allow the practice.
Baby boomers are killing themselves at an alarming rate, begging question: Why? (3 June 2013)
There are no large-scale studies yet fleshing out the reasons behind the increase in boomer suicides. Part of it is likely tied to the recent economic downturn -- financial recessions are in general associated with an uptick in suicides.
But the trend started a decade before the 2008 recession, and psychologists and academics say it likely stems from a complex matrix of issues particular to a generation who vowed not to trust anyone over 30 and who rocked out to lyrics like, "I hope I die before I get old."
"We've been a pretty youth-oriented generation," said Bob Knight, professor of gerontology and psychology at the University of Southern California, who is also a baby boomer. "We haven't idealized growing up and getting mature in the same way that other cohorts have."
Even as they become grandparents and deal with normal signs of getting old, such as hearing and vision losses, many boomers are reluctant to accept the realities of aging, Knight said.To those growing up in the 1950s and '60s, America seemed to promise a limitless array of possibilities. The Great Depression and World War II were over; medical innovations such as the polio vaccine and antibiotics appeared to wipe out disease and disability; the birth control pill sparked a sexual revolution. The economy was thriving, and as they came of age, boomers embraced new ways of living -- as civil rights activists, as hippies, as feminists, as war protesters.
Bradley Manning Trial: After 3 Years, Army Whistleblower Begins Court-Martial Shrouded in Secrecy (3 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Bradley was an extraordinary American who went on record and acted on his awareness that it was wrong for us to be killing foreigners. He was not doing it only for American citizens, although--I'll come back to that in a moment--I think he saved American lives, but he was concerned that the people of the world should be informed of the way, as he put it, the First World, or the West, he said, treats the Third World. And, of course, these Europeans are not in the Third World, but they do have an interest in the fact that America has been asking for--acting for a long time, and above all, in the last decade, as if the lives of foreigners meant nothing.
AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Ellsberg, speaking Saturday at a protest in support of Bradley Manning outside Fort Meade.
Last month, a military judge ruled that some testimony in Manning's trial will be kept from the public. Colonel Denise Lind granted the government's request to call 24 witnesses behind closed doors. The Obama administration has argued for the secretive testimony by citing the need to protect classified information.
The trial begins today, is expected to run to the end of August. A leaked audio recording emerged earlier this year of the statement Manning delivered at his pretrial hearing at Fort Meade in February. Manning acknowledged he gave the classified documents to WikiLeaks and explained what he wanted people to learn from his revelation. It is not an easy, clear recording, so listen carefully.
BRADLEY MANNING: I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure-cooker environment of what we call "asymmetric warfare."
Bradley Manning trial begins with clash of interpretations over soldier's actions (3 June 2013)
The highest-profile trial of an official leaker in a generation got under way on Monday when the US government accused Bradley Manning of betraying his nation to satisfy a craving for notoriety, while the defence presented him as a young, naive humanist who just wanted to make the world a better place.
In two hours of intense opening statements, the courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland, heard the outlines of a fundamental clash of interpretations about the US soldier's actions. The court was also told of new allegations about the links between Manning and Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing website to which Manning is accused of sending the information.
The statements framed a legal battle that has been slated to last as long as three months with almost 200 witnesses scheduled to give evidence. Outside the military base where Manning's court martial is taking place, a large crowd of protesters gathered for what they billed as a "show trial".
As proceedings began, three years after Manning was arrested in Iraq, the slightly built soldier sat calmly on the defence bench, wearing a dark green dress uniform. The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, opened the trial by asking Manning a number of procedural questions, including to confirm his decision not to have the case decided by a jury, and whether he was satisfied with his defence team. "Yes, your honour," Manning replied.
U.S. military chiefs balk at taking sex-assault cases out of commanders' hands (3 June 2013)
Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, warned the senators in a May 20 letter that taking away commanders' authority in matters of military justice "will adversely impact discipline and may result in an increase in the problems we seek to resolve."
"Sexual assault remains an unacceptable problem for our military and society," Odierno added. "We cannot, however, simply 'prosecute' our way out of this problem. At its heart, sexual assault is a discipline issue that requires a culture change."
The chiefs' stance puts them at odds with advocacy groups and a rising number of lawmakers who note that commanders are legally untrained and argue that they have failed to address a pervasive problem of sexual assault in the ranks. Last month, the Pentagon released a report estimating that the number of active-duty military personnel victimized by "unwanted sexual contact" had surged by about 35percent in the past two years.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has introduced the bill that most worries the chiefs. It would give prosecutors, not commanders, primary responsibility for handling sexual-assault cases and many other serious crimes. The measure has attracted 19 co-sponsors in the Senate, including four Republicans, and has gained momentum as the military has grappled with a string of sex-crime scandals in recent weeks.
Famous storm chasers killed by Oklahoma tornado (3 June 2013)
Three researchers including a father and son who starred on the TV reality show Storm Chasers died doing what they loved on Friday night: venturing treacherously close to killer tornadoes to help the rest of us understand how they work.
Tim Samaras, founder of the tornado research company Twistex, and his son Paul Samaras were killed after a tornado struck the Oklahoma City suburb of El Reno on Friday. Their partner, Carl Young, also died.
"They all unfortunately passed away doing what they LOVED," wrote Tim Samaras's brother, Jim, in a post on Facebook. "I look at it that he is in the 'big tornado' in the sky."
"As far as we know, these are the first documented storm intercept fatalities in a tornado," NOAA said in a statement. "Scientific storm intercept programs, though they occur with some known measure of risk, provide valuable research information that is difficult to acquire in other ways."
Virginia man sentenced for toddler death during exorcism (3 June 2013)
A Virginia man who said his 2-year-old daughter was possessed by a demon has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for her death.
Thirty-year-old Eder Guzman-Rodriguez was sentenced Monday in Floyd County after pleading no contest to first-degree murder. His daughter, Jocelyn, was found dead in November 2011.
Prosecutors say Guzman-Rodriguez told police that his daughter had a demon inside of her and that he had attempted to exorcise her of the demon.
Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Shortt said the first deputy who arrived saw "several Hispanics holding Bibles" standing on the deck of the mobile home.
Deadly fire at Chinese poultry plant highlights industrial-ag safety concerns (3 June 2013)
We're still reeling from April's garment-factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,100 people, making the 112 fatalities of a clothing-factory fire in the same country five months earlier seem tragically routine in comparison. Today's news, then, of at least 119 deaths in a fire at a poultry plant in northeast China, not only adds another unwanted entry to this history of horror, but also shows that mortally unsafe working conditions are not limited to the apparel industry.
According to Chinese news reports cited by The New York Times, when a fire broke out inside the Baoyuanfeng Poultry Plant, "a major domestic poultry supplier," workers rushed to the factory's few exits only to find some of them blocked -- the same safety hazard that made November's fire in a Bangladesh factory so lethal, and that killed workers in the U.S.'s notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire a century ago (which spurred important safety reforms in this country).
Industrial-scale ag is taking off in China thanks to a growing middle class with an appetite for meat. The Baoyuanfeng plant began operations just four years ago in Jilin Province, whose administrative city, Dehui, "has promoted itself as a base for commercial agriculture," and claims it can produce 250 million broiler chickens a year. Last week's announcement that Chinese meat company Shuanghui hopes to buy U.S. pork behemoth Smithfield demonstrated the global implications of a rapidly expanding Chinese meat market. This week's tragedy shows the human consequences.
Sharks worth more in seas than in soups: study (3 June 2013)
Sharks that are free to swim around in their natural habitats are a valuable part of tourism around the world, a new study finds, which suggests sharks are worth more in the world's oceans than they are on restaurant menus.
The new research provides evidence of the value of conservation against the rampant killing of sharks for food, said study lead author Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, a Ph.D. candidate in the fisheries economics research unit at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada.
A team of scientists pored through data from 70 sites in 45 countries to compare how much money is generated each year by fisheries that fuel the global shark fin trade, and how much is generated by ecotourism, which encompasses all forms of shark-watching activities.
Currently, shark ecotourism brings in $314 million annually worldwide, and this sector is expected to continue growing. Surges in shark tourism are particularly evident in the Caribbean and Australia, the researchers said.
"Rates of thyroid problems in children near Fukushima nuclear plant are high" -- Expert: Parents have reason to worry -- Gov't accused of cover-up (2 June 2013) [WhatReallyHappened.com]
Rates of thyroid problems in children near the nuclear plant are high
[...] Last December, the eldest of the two was diagnosed with adenoidal cysts, the prelude to a type of cancer that often strikes the salivary glands. "I was told by the doctor that it's very rare," [Yoji Fujimoto] says. [...]
"I'm convinced this is because of the Fukushima accident." [...]
[Steve Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina] says that parents like Mr Fujimoto do have reason to worry. "We know that doses to populations are both unquantified by the official agencies, that evidence suggests relatively high doses, and that children and women are more vulnerable to radiation. So the questions and deep concerns for the people in Fukushima will continue for the rest of their lives." [...]
"I expect a growth in the numbers of thyroid cancers in Japan from next year," [Dr Alexey Yablokov, a Russian biologist] said. [...]
Data Shows that Palestinians now Own just 8 percent of Historic Palestine (2 June 2013) [WhatReallyHappened.com]
New data published by the Lands Research Centre (LRC) shows that Palestinians own only eight per cent of historic Palestine. The LRC is affiliated to the Arabic Studies Association in Jerusalem. In a press conference held in Ramallah, it announced the publication of its latest Year Book, in which it documents Israeli violations of Palestinian rights concerning lands and houses. The book is published in English and Arabic.
LRC director Jamal Al-Emla described 2012 as "the year of settlements", a reference to the massive increase in settlement expansion by the occupation authorities. He used photographs, charts and maps to demonstrate that the amount of historic Palestine owned by Palestinians has been in decline since the British Mandate era right up to last year. They now own just 8 per cent of their own country. The decline, claimed Al-Emla, is due to Israel's ethnic cleansing, expulsion of Palestinians and confiscation of their land followed by its colonisation by Jewish settlers.
"The occupation destroyed 189 houses during 2012," he pointed out. "About 1,215 Palestinian residents, who used to live in those houses, were made homeless." The Israeli occupation destroyed 415 commercial and agricultural properties, including wells. They also threatened to destroy 772 houses while 590 other facilities under construction, including houses, have been halted.
"The city which is endangered the most is Nablus," said the LRC director, "followed by occupied Jerusalem."
The data also showed that the Israeli occupation has destroyed 64,000 trees on Palestinian property, including 53,122 olive trees, which have been uprooted, burnt or drenched in raw sewage.
Heracleion Photos: Lost Egyptian City Revealed After 1,200 Years Under Sea (2 June 2013) [Rense.com]
It is a city shrouded in myth, swallowed by the Mediterranean Sea and buried in sand and mud for more than 1,200 years. But now archeologists are unearthing the mysteries of Heracleion, uncovering amazingly well-preserved artifacts that tell the story of a vibrant classical-era port.
Known as Heracleion to the ancient Greeks and Thonis to the ancient Eygptians, the city was rediscovered in 2000 by French underwater archaeologist Dr. Franck Goddio and a team from the European Institute for Underwater Acheology (IEASM) after a four-year geophysical survey. The ruins of the lost city were found 30 feet under the surface of the Mediterranean Sea in Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria.
A new documentary highlights the major discoveries that have been unearthed at Thonis-Heracleion during a 13-year excavation. Exciting archeological finds help describe an ancient city that was not only a vital international trade hub but possibly an important religious center. The television crew used archeological survey data to construct a computer model of the city (below).
According to the Telegraph, leading research now suggests that Thonis-Heracleion served as a mandatory port of entry for trade between the Mediterranean and the Nile.
Corporate sustainability is not sustainable (2 June 2013)
Green initiatives are ubiquitous these days, implemented with zeal at companies like Dupont, IBM, Walmart, and Walt Disney. The programs being rolled out -- lighting retrofits, zero-waste factories, and carpool incentives -- save money and provide a green glow. Most large companies are working to reduce energy use and waste, and many have integrated sustainability into strategic planning. What's not to like?
Well, for starters, these actions don't meaningfully address the primary barrier to sustainability, climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, without action, global temperatures will likely increase 6 degrees C by 2100, "which would have devastating consequences for the planet." This means more super droughts, floods, storms, fires, crop failures, sea-level rise, and other major disruptions. "Sustainability" simply isn't possible in the face of such a problem, as Superstorm Sandy demonstrated.
So despite perceptions that "sustainable business" is up and running, the environment reminds us we're failing to deal with the problem at anywhere near sufficient scale. Because climate change requires a systemic solution, which only governments can provide, firms serious about addressing it have a critical role well beyond greening their own operations. They must spur government action. But few are.
"Green business" as currently practiced focuses on limited operational efficiencies -- cutting carbon footprint and waste reduction -- and declares victory. But these measures fail to even dent the climate problem. And the proof is easy: Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Last month, we hit 400 parts per million atmospheric CO2 for the first time in 3 million years. Worse, though, such small-ball initiatives are a distraction: We fiddle around the edges thinking we're making a real difference (and getting accolades), while the planet inexorably warms.
Monsanto set to halt GMO push in Europe (1 June 2013) [WhatReallyHappened.com]
Monsanto plans to halt lobbying for its genetically modified plant varieties in Europe due to low demand from local farmers, a representative from the US agricultural giant told a German daily.
"We are no longer working on lobbying for more cultivation in Europe," Brandon Mitchner a representative for Monsanto's European branch, Tageszeitung, said in an interview set to be published on Saturday.
"Currently we do not plan to apply for the approval of new genetically modified crops. The reason is, among other things, low demand of the farmers," he continued.
A spokeswoman for Monsanto Germany, Ursula Luttmer-Ouazane, admitted that Monsanto recognizes that GMO crops were currently not embraced on the European market.
"We've understood that such plants don't have any broad acceptance in European societies," Luttmer-Ouazane said. "It is counterproductive to fight against windmills," she added.
Court orders feds to review oil dispersant risks (31 May 2013)
A legal victory for environmentalists this week means that sea turtles, whales, and other endangered species may be sheltered from the use of oil dispersants off the California coastline.
Dispersants, which are used to dissolve oil spills, can cause crippling injuries to cleanup workers and wildlife, but regulations governing their use are extremely lax. The EPA successfully fended off a lawsuit recently that tried to force it to regulate where dispersants can be used and in what quantities.
But on Thursday, conservation groups clinched a settlement that will force the federal government to measure and find ways to minimize impacts from dispersants when they are used to battle oil spills under the California Dispersants Plan.
From a Center for Biological Diversity press release:
"During the BP oil spill, no one knew what the long-term effects of chemical dispersants would be, and we're still learning about their harm to fish and corals," said Deirdre McDonnell of the Center for Biological Diversity, which brought suit with Surfrider Foundation and Pacific Environment. "People can avoid the ocean after an oil spill, but marine animals can't. They're forced to eat, breathe and swim in the chemicals we put in the water, whether it's oil or dispersants." ...
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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