Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 9th to 15th of June 2013
NSA spying flap extends to contents of U.S. phone calls (15 June 2013) [InfoWars.com]
The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls, a participant said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed on Thursday that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."
If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA's formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.
James Owens, a spokesman for Nadler, provided a statement on Sunday morning, a day after this article was published, saying: "I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans' phone calls without a specific warrant." Owens said he couldn't comment on what assurances from the Obama administration Nadler was referring to, and said Nadler was unavailable for an interview. (CNET had contacted Nadler for comment on Friday.)
Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, being able to listen to phone calls would mean the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.
U.S. surveillance architecture includes collection of revealing Internet, phone metadata (15 June 2013)
Two of the four collection programs, one each for telephony and the Internet, process trillions of "metadata" records for storage and analysis in systems called MAINWAY and MARINA, respectively. Metadata includes highly revealing information about the times, places, devices and participants in electronic communication, but not its contents. The bulk collection of telephone call records from Verizon Business Services, disclosed this month by the British newspaper the Guardian, is one source of raw intelligence for MAINWAY.
The other two types of collection, which operate on a much smaller scale, are aimed at content. One of them intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words to a system called -NUCLEON.
For Internet content, the most important source collection is the PRISM project reported on June 6 by The Washington Post and the Guardian. It draws from data held by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other Silicon Valley giants, collectively the richest depositories of personal information in history.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, 29, who unmasked himself as the source behind the PRISM and Verizon revelations, said he hoped for a systematic debate about the "danger to our freedom and way of life" posed by a surveillance apparatus "kept in check by nothing more than policy."
Plains Midstream Canada shuts pipeline after leak in northern Alberta (15 June 2013)
EDMONTON - Plains Midstream Canada is dealing with a leak in one of its pipelines in northwest Alberta.
The company shut its Kemp pipeline, which carries condensates and natural gas liquids, after a spill was detected by an electronic system in the pipeline.
The spill is near Manning, north of Peace River.
Energy Resources Conservation Board spokeswoman Cara Tobin said Saturday the ERCB was notified of the spill Friday.
In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Plains said emergency response personnel and equipment are on-site dealing with the leak. The company said the cause is still unknown, and would not provide the volume of the spill.
Tobin said the leak is in a remote area that does not have any significant water reserves.
Lenders seek court actions against homeowners years after foreclosure (15 June 2013)
In November, more than three years after the foreclosure, he was stunned to learn he still owed $115,000 -- with the interest alone growing at a rate high enough to lease a luxury car.
"I'm scared, you know," Benavides said. "I can't pay."
The 42-year-old is among the many homeowners being taken to court by their lenders long after their houses were taken in foreclosure. Lenders are filing new motions in old foreclosure lawsuits and hiring debt collectors to pursue leftover debt, plus court fees, attorneys' fees and tens of thousands in interest that had been accruing for years.
It's an aftershock of the foreclosure crisis, and most homeowners don't know it's coming.
"When people take out a loan, they generally think the home is the security for the loan," said Alys Cohen, an attorney in the Washington office of the National Consumer Law Center. When they no longer have that home, "people don't expect that debt to follow them," she said.
400-year-old skeleton of aboriginal woman found in Sarnia backyard costs couple $5,000 (15 June 2013)
A Sarnia couple who set out to build a fence dug up more than they bargained for recently when they unearthed a 400-year-old skeleton and got stuck with a $5,000 bill from the province.
The archeological misadventure began two weeks ago when Ken Campbell came across some bones while digging post holes in their backyard.
He put them aside, thinking they must have belonged to an animal. The following week, his wife, Nicole Sauve, asked about the bones, which sat unceremoniously atop a bucket of earth
"I said, 'They're not animal bones, Ken. Let's dig some more and see what we can find,' "she said.
How loony is the Google Loon project? (15 June 2013)
Google figures that for each person that can get online, there are at least two who can't. That's almost 5 billion people without access to the Internet. And many of those who can't get online are in rural areas where installing fiber-optic cables or accessing the Internet via satellites is prohibitively expensive.
That's why Google Loon was in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Saturday doing their first big test of the concept.
Here's how it works. Large weather-type balloons (49 feet in diameter) are floated at an altitude of 12 miles above the Earth, well above where commercial aircraft fly. A series of stations on the ground (about 60 miles apart) bounce signals off some 300 balloons carrying solar-powered radio transmitters, which also communicate between balloons. The high-altitude balloons circle the globe untethered, riding the winds along the 40th parallel. The balloons could be steered, somewhat, "by tweaking altitude to find wind currents whooshing in the right direction. Google, which is pretty good at computation, could use the voluminous government data available to accurately simulate wind currents in the stratosphere," according to an article in Wired.
Google calculates that each balloon could provide Internet access to an area twice the size of New York City - about 1,250 square kilometers.
U.S. shale is a boon to manufacturers but not their workers (14 June 2013)
The plant, the largest capital investment by a manufacturer in northeast Ohio since the 1960s and Youngstown's first new steel mill since the 1920s, is a big example of the money that has flowed into the state's industrial sector in recent years thanks to the surge in U.S. natural gas and oil drilling.
The uptick in energy exploration has prompted companies like The Timken Co. and U.S. Steel Corp. to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into their plants in the state to boost production. Wayne Struble, the policy director for John Kasich, Ohio's Republican governor, said the flood of energy-related dollars could be a major "game changer" for the state.
But state employment data, academic research and a week-long tour of half a dozen factories in Ohio suggests the shale gas revolution has been a disappointment when it comes to job creation.
"The industries benefiting are more capital intensive than labor intensive," said Tom Waltermire, the chief executive of Team NEO, the economic development agency for northeast Ohio.
"Even a manufacturing renaissance won't require the same headcount per unit of output as we had 20 or 30 years ago. If it did require that, the renaissance would never happen."
In March, a study by Cleveland State University concluded that while gas exploration had unleashed a surge in economic activity in Ohio, job growth - even in counties directly affected by the drilling - was stagnant. The employment growth that many assumed would follow the energy investment was "not yet evident," the study's authors said.
Facebook, Microsoft reveal surveillance request figures (15 June 2013)
Facebook and Microsoft have struck agreements with the US government to release limited information about the number of surveillance requests they receive, a modest victory for the companies as they struggle with the fallout from disclosures about a secret government data-collection program.
Facebook on Friday became the first to release aggregate numbers of requests, saying in a blog post it received between 9,000 and 10,000 US requests for user data in the second half of 2012, covering 18,000 to 19,000 of its users' accounts. Facebook has more than 1.1 billion users worldwide.
The majority of those requests are routine police inquiries, a person familiar with the company said, but under the terms of the deal with the justice department, Facebook is precluded from saying how many were secret orders issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Until now, all information about requests under Fisa, including their existence, were deemed secret.
Microsoft said it had received requests of all types for information on about 31,000 consumer accounts in the second half of 2012. In a "transparency report" Microsoft published earlier this year without including national security matters, it said it had received criminal requests involving 24,565 accounts for the whole of 2012.
Improve your athletic performance naturally with beets: Research (15 June 2013)
(NaturalNews) If you want to improve your athletic performance and stamina, there's no real substitute for simply putting time into working out. But if it if you're looking for a simple, natural way to increase the length of your workouts, or if you just want to give yourself that little edge in endurance or speed, then beet juice may be the answer.
Beet juice is naturally high in nitrate (NO3), which the body uses to make both nitrite (NO2) and nitric oxide. Nitrite is known to protect the blood vessels from injury, while nitric acid expands blood vessels and therefore increases the flow of oxygen to the cells. This, in turn, increases both the power available to the muscles and the length of time that the muscles can exercise without tiring.
Early studies into the effectiveness of beet juice for exercise showed that people who drink the juice for several days before undergoing exercise tests do indeed use less oxygen in their muscles, and are correspondingly able to exercise for longer. In one study, drinking beet juice decreased oxygen needs by 19 percent and increased exercise endurance time by 17 percent.
In other studies, scientists proved that drinking beet juice increases people's blood concentration of nitrates, and that beet juice which has had the nitrates artificially removed loses its exercise-boosting power.
PAM COMMENTARY: Don't forget to check out my potato pancakes with beets in them, "Beet Cakes", along with several other beet recipes in my cookbook.
James Bamford on NSA Secrets, Keith Alexander's Influence & Massive Growth of Surveillance, Cyberwar (14 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, some of the fears that have been expressed by some U.S. officials in terms of the Snowden revelations is that he has alluded to other information that he has, potentially about U.S. cyber-attacks abroad. Could you comment on that?
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, you know, the interesting thing here is that the administration, and particularly the NSA, has been coming out with all these charges against China going after our secrets, our information, and so forth. It's caused the Congress to give enormous amounts of money to NSA, this money for defensive use against the Chinese and so forth. What never comes out is the U.S. offensive capability against the rest of the world. The U.S.--there's nobody that can even compare to the U.S. We've got an enormous Cyber Command. They're expanding NSA's secret city by a third to accommodate 14 new buildings, 10 parking garages, a new enormous supercomputer center--all this for this new, very secret Cyber Command. And it's dedicated largely to offensive, to creating wars, not preventing wars.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, there were some reports in the press in China, first commenting on the leaks of Snowden and saying that this could potentially change relationships between China and the United States because it's now become clear that the United States is involved in cyber-espionage on a massive scale around the world.
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, the U.S. have been involved in that since the very beginning. That's what NSA's job is, is espionage. And it was at the forefront of the electronic eavesdropping era, and it's at the forefront of the cyberwarfare era. I mean, the first thing you have to do when you're doing cyberwarfare is discover how their systems work. And you do that by inserting viruses, different kinds of malware into their systems, and that's what NSA's job is. So, we've got an entire command now. Fourteen thousand more people are going to be working for General Alexander now in Cyber Command. So, this is a serious command. As I said, he's got Army and Navy and Air Force under him. This is--this is the real thing.
Wisconsin State Supreme Court Will Hear Challenges To Union Bargaining Law Act 10 and Same-Sex Partnership Law (14 June 2013)
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to consider two controversial cases today.
One challenges the constitutionality of the union bargaining rights law Act 10, and the other challenges a law granting domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples.
The bargaining rights case was brought by the Madison teacher's union and a Milwaukee city employees union, claiming the law known as Act 10 violates the equal protection rights of public-employee union members. All of the major public-employee unions in the state have filed amicus briefs calling on the court to find portions of Act 10 unconstitutional and determine whether the law applies equally to state and local government employees.
The high court has also agreed to consider a challenge to a 2009 law granting domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples. That challenge comes from the director of the group American Family Action, the same group that was the driving force behind the state's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
PETA: Ask California Pizza Kitchen to Stop Dehorning Cows, Deems the Practice "Pizza Cruelty" (14 June 2013)
Many people are surprised to learn that nearly all cows used for milk are born with tissue that will develop into horns. That's because most farmers remove the sensitive horn tissue or the horns themselves from the cows' skulls using searing-hot irons, caustic chemicals, blades, or hand saws.
One simple solution is for farmers to breed for naturally hornless, or "polled," cows. A single gene determines whether or not a cow will have horns, and this approach has proved effective in the beef industry. PETA has shared this information with California Pizza Kitchen and asked that it require its cheese suppliers to phase out the practice, yet the company has refused to act to stop this horrific suffering.
Please take a moment to write to California Pizza Kitchen and politely urge the company to require its cheese suppliers to end the practice of dehorning. [contact info available by clicking on link]
Batteries included: New wind turbines and solar panels come with built-in storage (14 June 2013)
If you want to use solar power at night or wind power on calm days, you need batteries that can store energy after it's produced. But why bother with two pieces of equipment when you could have one?
Engineers are now beginning to build batteries directly into wind and solar systems.
Combined renewable generation-storage systems are just starting to be deployed in the wind sector. From a report last month in Quartz:
"[W]hat if every wind turbine became a node in an energy internet, communicating with the grid and each other to adjust electricity production while storing and releasing electricity as needed? That's the idea behind General Electric's new 'brilliant' turbine, the first three of which the company said ... will be installed at a Texas wind farm operated by Invenergy."
Photo Booth Pix Could Sink Credit Card Fraudsters (14 June 2013)
JUNE 14--Maryland cops are searching for a group of teenagers suspected in the theft of a woman's credit card, which they used to pay for movie tickets--right before they posed for a series of photo booth pictures now in the custody of investigators.
According to police, the victim reported that she had misplaced her plastic last week while shopping in Crofton, a town 25 miles south of Baltimore. The woman called cops after realizing that her card was used to fraudulently purchase tickets at a Regal Cinemas theater.
A subsequent review of surveillance video revealed "a group of teenagers purchasing tickets from a movie ticket kiosk," according to the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
The same teens also piled into a "photo booth located inside the theater lobby" and posed for a series of pictures. The adjacent images (click to enlarge), released today by cops, apparently were stored digitally on the booth's computer hardware.
Google using balloons to deliver sky-high Wi-Fi (14 June 2013)
Google has a truly sky-high idea for connecting billions of people to the Internet -- 12 miles in the air -- through giant helium balloons circling the globe that are equipped to beam Wi-Fi signals below.
Google will announce Saturday it has 30 balloons floating over New Zealand to provide free Internet access to disaster-stricken, rural or poor areas. Eventually, as the balloons move across the stratosphere, consumers in participating countries along the 40th parallel in the Southern Hemisphere could tap into the service.
Called Project Loon, the experimental program was hatched by engineers at the company's top-secret Google X laboratory in Silicon Valley that invented driverless cars and eyeglasses equipped with voice-activated computers. Some of those technologies won't immediately -- or ever -- make money for the firm. Google said it pursues these "moonshot" ideas with the aim of solving big problems and creating breakthrough technologies that ultimately will bring more users to its services.
These projects also help Google extend its sprawling reach into the lives of global Internet users, amid an intensifying debate over Internet privacy. Already, the company has the leading Web search, email service and Internet video site, while its Android mobile software has become the most popular in the world.
Snowflake the albino gorilla was inbred, genome sequencing shows (14 June 2013)
The world's only known albino gorilla, Snowflake, was a product of inbreeding in the wild, according to a new study.
In a paper published in the journal BMC Genomics, researchers at Barcelona's Institut de Biologia Evolutiva report that Snowflake's sequenced genome shows markers indicating the animal's parents were closely related.
Assuming there was no previous inbreeding, the researchers estimate that Snowflake's parents were either a grandparent and grandchild, half-siblings, or an uncle/aunt and niece/nephew.
Snowflake was a Western Lowland gorilla who was found by farmers in Equatorial Guinea in 1966.
Glyphosate Found to Fuel Cancer Cell Growth, Pose Carcinogenic Threat (13 June 2013)
A groundbreaking new study has found that the active ingredient in Monsanto's best-selling herbicide Roundup is responsible for fueling breast cancer by increasing the number of breast cancer cells through cell growth and cell division. The effects are so potent, in fact, that the cancer cell proliferation is driven even when we're talking about Roundup in the parts-per-trillion (PPT) range.
The study, which is to be published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, focused on glyphosate, the main chemical ingredient within the most widely used herbicide today -- Monsanto's Roundup. After comparing how hormone-dependent and hormone-independent breast cancer cell lines were affected by glyphosate, the researchers found that glyphosate fuels cancer cell lines that are hormone dependent.
"...In summary, we found that glyphosate exhibited a weaker estrogenic activity than estradiol. Furthermore, this study demonstrated the additive estrogenic effects of glyphosate and genistein which implied that the use of glyphosate-contaminated soybean products as dietary supplements may pose a risk of breast cancer because of their potential additive estrogenicity."
Additionally, the researchers concluded that due to glyphosate's estrogenic properties, the chemical is likely considered what is known as a "xenoestrogen". As NaturalSociety has covered before, xenoestrogen is foreign estrogen which mimics real estrogen in our bodies. This type of xenohormone can cause numerous problems, including increased risk of various cancers, infertility, thyroid issues, early onset puberty, and more.
McDonald's closing all restaurants in Bolivia as nation rejects fast food (13 June 2013)
(NaturalNews) McDonald's happy image and its golden arches aren't the gateway to bliss in Bolivia. This South American country isn't falling for the barrage of advertising and fast food cooking methods that so easily engulf countries like the United States. Bolivians simply don't trust food prepared in such little time. The quick and easy, mass production method of fast food actually turns Bolivians off altogether. Sixty percent of Bolivians are an indigenous population who generally don't find it worth their health or money to step foot in a McDonald's. Despite its economically friendly fast food prices, McDonald's couldn't coax enough of the indigenous population of Bolivia to eat their BigMacs, McNuggets or McRibs.
One indigenous woman, Esther Choque, waiting for a bus to arrive outside a McDonald's restaurant, said, "The closest I ever came was one day when a rain shower fell and I climbed the steps to keep dry by the door. Then they came out and shooed me away. They said I was dirtying the place. Why would I care if McDonald's leaves [Bolivia]?"
Fast food chain remained for a decade, despite losses every year
The eight remaining McDonald's fast food shops that stuck it out in the Bolivian city's of La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, had reportedly operated on losses every year for a decade. The McDonald's franchise had been persistent over that time, flexing its franchise's deep pockets to continue business in Bolivia.
Any small business operating in the red for that long would have folded and left the area in less than half that time. Even as persistent as McDonald's was in gaining influence there, it couldn't continue operating in the red. After 14 years of presence in the country, their extensive network couldn't hold up the Bolivian chain. Store after store shut down as Bolivia rejected the McDonald's fast food agenda. Soon enough, they kissed the last McDonald's goodbye.
6 things you can do now to be stealthier on the Internet (13 June 2013)
While being invisible on the Internet is about as possible as being invisible in real life, a few easy changes of habit can make you a more elusive target for advertisers, intrusive social networks and possibly even the NSA and friends. While these are measures anyone can take, please note, they won't necessarily provide total anonymity or protection from hackers. They'll just keep much of your everyday Internet activity from being recorded and tracked.
1. Use private browsing windows
Whether you're looking up engagement rings or a sensitive medical issue, there are plenty of reasons to go off grid temporarily. All major browsers offer a mode that neither loads nor stores any information about you on any sites -- when you finish, it'll be as if the session never occurred on your computer, and visited sites won't remember much (just whatever they can glean from your home network's IP address).
Look for the option in the main menu of your browser. In Chrome it's "Incognito," in Firefox it's "Private Window," and in Internet Explorer it's "InPrivate Browsing."
2. Adjust your preferences!
Almost every app, service, game -- anything you have to download or sign up for -- has a preferences or options menu. Go through and uncheck anything that you're not totally okay with.
Native Americans decry eagle deaths tied to wind farms (13 June 2013)
(Reuters) - A Native American tribe in Oklahoma on Thursday registered its opposition to a U.S. government plan that would allow a wind farm to kill as many as three bald eagles a year despite special federal protections afforded the birds.
The stand taken by the Osage Nation against a proposed wind energy project on Indian lands in northeastern Oklahoma is based on the tribe's cultural and religious traditions tied to America's national symbol, tribal leaders said.
They spoke during an Internet forum arranged by conservationists seeking to draw attention to deaths of protected bald and golden eagles caused when they collide with turbines and other structures at wind farms.
The project proposed by Wind Capital Group of St. Louis would erect 94 wind turbines on 8,400 acres that the Osage Nation says contains key eagle-nesting habitat and migratory routes.
Abortion clinic in Va. files grievance over building rules (14 June 2013)
A Northern Virginia abortion clinic is fighting back against strict new building standards that clinics must meet for state licensure, requirements that played a role in a Norfolk facility's closing recently.
The Falls Church Healthcare Center this week filed a grievance in Arlington County Circuit Court over regulations that apply to clinics where at least five first-trimester abortions are performed monthly.
It is the first legal action by a Virginia clinic since the nearly concluded regulatory process began in 2011.
In court papers, the clinic asks that the rules be invalidated because they "lack of any rational medical or public health basis" and result from a "legally flawed process" that failed to consider the effect on small businesses.
Two years in the making, the controversial clinic regulations stem from when state lawmakers classified clinics as hospitals and ordered the health-rule-making process.
In April, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the permanent rules adopted by the state Board of Health. They take effect Thursday and hold clinics, previously treated as outpatient centers, to hospital-like hygiene, medical and record-keeping standards.
Husband of ricin suspect files for divorce (14 June 2013)
TEXARKANA, Texas (AP) -- The Texas man whose wife is accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an attempt to frame him says the experience has been "like a really bad dream."
Nathan Richardson of New Boston, a small town near the Arkansas border, told the Texarkana Gazette (http://bit.ly/15YIvln ) that he's now questioning "everything" about his pregnant wife, even the paternity of her unborn child.
Shannon Richardson was arrested last Friday and charged with mailing a threatening communication to the president. Authorities allege the actress was trying to make it appear the letters were sent by her husband.
Nathan Richardson, a 33-year-old Army veteran who works as a mechanic at the Red River Army Depot, filed for divorce last Thursday. He told the Gazette he contemplated divorce last year but, until a few weeks ago, thought the couple had patched things up.
FBI chief Mueller claims that spy tactics could have stopped 9/11 attacks (13 June 2013)
The FBI has shrugged off growing congressional anxiety over its surveillance of US citizens, claiming such programs could have foiled the 9-11 terrorist attacks and would prevent "another Boston".
The FBI director, Robert Mueller, also revealed that US authorities would be taking action against whistleblower Edward Snowden for revealing the extent of its activities, confirming that the FBI and department of justice were taking "all necessary steps to hold the person responsible".
But Mueller's testimony before the House judicial oversight committee brought angry responses from many congressmen, who questioned whether such surveillance was lawful and demanded to know why it had failed to prevent the Boston bombing if it were so effective.
In a frequently heated debate over balancing privacy and security, Mueller went further than other government officials in claiming that the collection of data on all American phone calls had become an essential part of counter-terrorism efforts and would make the US "exceptionally vulnerable" if watered down.
PAM COMMENTARY: They COULD HAVE stopped the attacks... IF the attacks were actually perpetrated by "terrorists" instead of the Bush administration orchestrating its pre-planned oil war. And they COULD HAVE stopped the Boston marathon bombing... BUT, they didn't.
It'd be nice if the man were honest enough to come clean with the number of women stalked, raped, and murdered because their data was readily available to any government employee or contractor with predatory tendencies. The system not only fails to stop terror attacks, but adds to the risk of losing family members to predators.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden smuggled out secrets with an everyday thumb drive banned from NSA offices (13 June 2013)
A former NSA told the Los Angeles Times that 'there are always exceptions' to the thumb drive ban, especially for employees like Snowden who work as network administrators.
Nevertheless, the source added: 'There are people who need to use a thumb drive and they have special permission. But when you use one, people always look at you funny.'
Another official claimed that the authorities 'know how many documents he downloaded and what server he took them from.'
We also now know how Snowden physically removed the information from the NSA offices.
Alcohol abuse is fueling military sexual assault (13 June 2013)
To what should my luck be attributed? I am physically fit, friendly and attractive. I have deployed overseas and sometimes work alone late at night. I attend social events and occasionally enjoy a nice glass of pinot grigio.
But fortune favors the prepared, and I have always understood that the brotherhood of arms ends at the first drink. Upstanding, highly disciplined soldiers can become leering fools under the influence of alcohol, and I know from hard experience that in off-duty social settings, it is best to drink lightly and leave early.
The reasons for the growing sexual assault problem in our military are complex and require serious investigation. Sexual assault is not confined to places and times when alcohol is consumed. But it has been known for years that alcohol abuse is a dominant factor in most military sexual assault cases. Most offenses occur in the barracks, most victims are junior enlisted personnel, and most perpetrators are their peers or noncommissioned officers. Nearly all recent high-profile cases of military sexual assault involved alcohol in some form.
It is painful to warn young soldiers, who understandably revere the brotherhood of arms, that that brotherhood ends when consuming alcohol begins. Civilians know about our fraternity from movies and history books, and in my experience all that is true. Soldiers will willingly die to protect each other, and this love rivals all other great passions. It is exhilarating to work toward meaningful goals, serving side by side with admirable people. My experience has also been that women are full and valued members of the team, whether deployed overseas or stationed at the Pentagon. But off-duty, when drinks are in hand, this can quickly change.
Turtle painted with nail polish at Wildlife Center of Virginia (13 June 2013)
WAYNESBORO, Va. (AP) - Glitter and nail polish aren't glamorous for a box turtle found in Augusta County.
Someone covered the turtle's shell with multiple shades of polish and glitter. Amanda Nicholson at the Wildlife Center of Virginia says the paint job makes the turtle a target for predators.
Nicholson tells The Daily News Leader that it could take several days to weeks to restore the shell to normal.
But that's not the only problem.
Nicholson says the turtle is carrying five eggs. To live in the wild, her offspring should be returned to where they were conceived.
Five pest species now immune to GMO corn and cotton (13 June 2013)
Yum, genetically engineered corn and cotton.
That isn't what most people would think. (Especially the cotton bit. And especially the GMO bit.)
But a growing number of pests appear to share this sentiment. They've developed immunity to corn and cotton crops genetically engineered to contain the pesticide Bt, so they're now munching away with impunity.
As of 2010, five of 13 major pest species had become largely immune to the Bt poisons in GMO corn and cotton, compared to just one species in 2005, scientists write in a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
"Three of the five cases are in the US, where farmers have planted about half of the world's Bt crop acreage," reports Business Standard. "[The study] indicates that in the worst cases, resistance evolved in 2 to 3 years; but in the best cases, effectiveness of Bt crops has been sustained more than 15 years."
U.S. top court bars patents on human genes unless synthetic (13 June 2013)
(Reuters) - A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday prohibited patents on naturally occurring human genes but allowed legal protections on synthetically produced genetic material in a compromise ruling hailed as a partial victory for patients and the biotechnology industry.
The ruling by the nine justices, the first of its kind for the top U.S. court, buttressed important patent protections relied upon by biotechnology companies while making it clear that genes extracted from the human body cannot be patented.
Researchers and advocates for patients said it could make it easier for people to get cheaper genetic tests for disease risk.
The court's ruling came in a challenge launched by medical researchers and others to seven patents owned by or licensed to Salt Lake City, Utah-based biotechnology company Myriad Genetics Inc on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.
Catholic school fires teacher because she's a domestic violence victim (13 June 2013)
A Catholic school in California has fired a teacher who was the victim of domestic violence because they said her presence threatened "the safety of the students, faculty and parents."
Carie Charlesworth told KNSD that she had worked in her school district for 14 years before Holy Trinity School in San Diego decided that her husband's threatening behavior made her too unsafe to have around -- even though he was incarcerated.
"They've taken away my ability to care for my kids," she explained to the station in an interview published on Thursday. "It's not like I can go out and find a teaching job anywhere."
Charlesworth said that the school learned about her situation after she requested a leave of absence following abuse by her husband in January.
Scott Walker withdraws regent nomination of UW-Platteville student (13 June 2013)
Gov. Scott Walker refused to say Thursday why he withdrew his nomination to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents of a UW-Platteville student who signed a petition to recall him from office.
Walker announced Monday that he was appointing Josh Inglett, 20, to the Board of Regents as one of two student representatives. Then on Wednesday, just hours after Inglett said he told the governor's office he signed the recall petition, the appointment was rescinded.
A pair of state senators, one Republican and one Democrat, urged Walker on Thursday to reconsider and not use signing the recall petition as a litmus test for state service. But Walker wasn't budging, or explaining his reversal.
"We've got plenty of other good candidates and we're not going to get into specifics about it," Walker told reporters after a speech. "I'm not going to comment one way or the other."
One dead, scores injured in Louisiana chemical plant explosion (13 June 2013)
An explosion and fire at a Louisiana chemical plant Thursday morning killed one person and injured 73 more, Gov. Bobby Jindal said.
The explosion took place at Williams Chemical Plant in Ascension Parish, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, state police said. A fire after the explosion was contained, and preliminary tests showed the air was safe.
Chemicals were being burned off, but there was no immediate threat to the public, said Jared Sadifer, a state police spokesman.
"They're not leaving a compound, they're not going into the air, they're burning off," Sgt. J.B. Slaton of the Louisiana State Police told NBC affiliate WVLA.
The injured were taken to hospitals, and a total of 300 workers were evacuated, Jindal said. Ten people remained in a safe room at the plant, he said.
Agent Orange chemical exposure left Ontario workers prone to disease: study (13 June 2013)
Hydro, road and forestry workers in Ontario were exposed to Agent Orange -- the same weed-killing, disease-causing chemical used during the Vietnam War -- in some cases by levels 700 times what is considered safe, a government-commissioned report confirms.
"These are conditions that just wouldn't be tolerated today . . . and it is not surprising that some people are going to be sick," said Jeanne Stellman, a Columbia University public health professor who co-authored the long-awaited, independent report on the use and impact of the herbicide 2,4,5-T by provincial agencies from 1947 until 1979. The 219-page report was commissioned by the province more than two years ago and presented on Thursday.
Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti apologized to exposed workers and encouraged those who may have handled the chemical to file a claim with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board if they haven't already.
"We are sincerely sorry," he said.
"I feel vindicated," said Don Romanowich, 66, a former forestry worker who supervised spraying crews for a logging company in Kapuskasing, Ont., during the 1960s and 1970s. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with follicular cancer, a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma associated with exposure to the herbicide, which is contaminated with dioxin.
At least two dozen injured as Florida restaurant deck collapses into Biscayne Bay (13 June 2013)
As fans packed Shuckers Waterfront Grill to cheer on the Miami Heat against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night, the waterfront patio deck gave way, crashing into Biscayne Bay, spilling dozens of terrified patrons into the water.
The accident happened at the popular North Bay Village spot, in back of the Best Western Plus on the Bay Inn & Marina, 1819 79th Street Causeway.
Dozens of police and fire-rescue units from around Miami-Dade rushed to the scene after the sudden collapse, which happened about 9:45 p.m., minutes before the game's halftime, as the Heat was pulling away from the Spurs.
As many as two dozen people were injured. By 11:20 p.m., 15 people had been transported to various hospitals, two of them in serious condition, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Eugene Germain Jr. Another fire captain said one person might be missing and that a search was underway as rain fell.
Germain said approximately 100 people were on the deck when it fell into the water. The deck's official capacity was not immediately known.
Beijing: Edward Snowden's NSA revelations strain China-US relations (13 June 2013)
China has warned that revelations of electronic surveillance on a huge scale by American intelligence agencies will "test developing Sino-US ties" and exacerbate their "soured relationship" on cybersecurity.
The assessment in an article and editorial carried by the state-run China Daily represents the first official comment in state media as China grapples with the presence in Hong Kong of Edward Snowden, the US analyst who revealed himself as the source of the Guardian exposé.
Quoting analysts, the China Daily article said the "massive US global surveillance programme ... is certain to stain Washington's overseas image" and pointedly referred to Washington recently levelling claims of hacking at other governments, including China's.
"Observers said how the case is handled could pose a challenge to the burgeoning goodwill between Beijing and Washington given that Snowden is in Chinese territory and the Sino-US relationship is constantly soured on cybersecurity," the paper said.
PAM COMMENTARY: The U.S. is too hooked on cheap junk from Wal-Mart to take any real action against China, and China is too hooked on American money.
Mexico arrests many over slaying of 11 women (13 June 2013)
Mexican prosecutors have arrested 12 people in connection with the killings of 11 young women whose skeletal remains were found near the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez early last year.
The suspects include alleged drug dealers, pimps and small store owners.
They allegedly belonged to a gang that forced young women into prostitution and drug dealing and then killed them when they were "no longer of use," the prosecutors' office for the northern state of Chihuahua, said in a statement late on Tuesday.
The 10 men and two women face charges of human trafficking and homicide.
Six were already in local jails for other offenses, and six other were detained early on Tuesday.
Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, was the scene of a series of killings of more than 100 women beginning in 1993.
Egypt frets, fumes over Ethiopia's Nile plan (13 June 2013)
GIZA, EGYPT -- Since long before the Pyramids towered above the rich soil of this riverside town, Egyptians have given thanks to the muddy waters of the Nile.
"Plants, animals, humans," said Ibrahim Abdel Aziz, a 45-year-old farmer, "we all come from this river."
But trace the Nile about 1,400 miles upstream and there's a rising colossus that threatens to upset a millennia-old balance. There, in the Ethiopian highlands, one of the world's largest dams is taking shape.
For Ethiopia, the dam promises abundant energy and an escape from a seemingly permanent spot in the lowest rungs of the world's human development index. But for Egypt, the consequences could be dire: a nationwide water shortage in as little as two years that causes crop failures, power cuts and instability resonating far beyond even the extraordinary tumult of the recent past.
Senate panel bolsters effort to deal with military sex assault (12 June 2013)
Levin's proposal replaced a controversial plan by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that would have taken the decision over prosecuting sexual assault out of the hands of a victim's commander and placed it with independent military prosecutors.
The vote, which defied party ideology, followed an emotional debate during a rare open working session by the committee to draft measures to combat sexual assault for the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which sets military policy.
The panel usually writes the bill behind closed doors and unveils it once the measure is ready for full Senate consideration. After debating the sexual assault provisions, the committee went back into closed session to discuss other portions of the bill.
Rejection of the proposal to remove sexual assault prosecution from the chain of command set the stage for a fight over the issue on the Senate floor. Aides for Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, have indicated she will push for consideration of the proposal by the full chamber.
"The chain of command has told us for decades that they will solve this problem and they have failed," Gillibrand said in pressing fellow senators to accept her subcommittee's draft proposals on sexual assault for the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
Is Edward Snowden a Hero? A Debate with Journalist Chris Hedges & Law Scholar Geoffrey Stone (12 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, what we're really having a debate about is whether or not we're going to have a free press left or not. If there are no Snowdens, if there are no Mannings, if there are no Assanges, there will be no free press. And if the press--and let's not forget that Snowden gave this to The Guardian. This was filtered through a press organization in a classic sort of way whistleblowers provide public information about unconstitutional, criminal activity by their government to the public. So the notion that he's just some individual standing up and releasing stuff over the Internet is false.
But more importantly, what he has exposed essentially shows that anybody who reaches out to the press to expose fraud, crimes, unconstitutional activity, which this clearly appears to be, can be traced and shut down. And that's what's so frightening. So, we are at a situation now, and I speak as a former investigative reporter for The New York Times, by which any investigation into the inner workings of government has become impossible. That's the real debate.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Chris, how do you respond to the point that Geoffrey Stone made and how Snowden identified himself as an ordinary guy? Should any regular government employee or contractor be allowed to disclose whatever information he feels the public ought to be privy to, whether it's classified by the government and his employer or her employer or not?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, if--that is what an act of conscience is. And reporters live--our sort of daily fare is built, investigative reporters, off of people who, within systems of power, have a conscience to expose activities by the power elite which are criminal in origin or unconstitutional. And that's precisely what he did. And he did it in the traditional way, which was going to a journalist, Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian, and having it vetted by that publication before it was put out to the public. Was it a criminal? Well, yes, but it was--I suppose, in a technical sense, it was criminal, but set against the larger crime that is being committed by the state. When you have a system by which criminals are in power, criminals on Wall Street who are able to carry out massive fraud with no kinds of repercussions or serious regulation or investigation, criminals who torture in our black sites, criminals who carry out targeted assassinations, criminals who lie to the American public to prosecute preemptive war, which under international law is illegal, if you are a strict legalist, as apparently Professor Stone is, what you're in essence doing is protecting criminal activity. I would argue that in large sections of our government it's the criminals who are in power.
How can NSA whistleblower Snowden be guilty of treason if the NSA claims it isn't spying on you after all? (12 June 2013)
(NaturalNews) All across the mainstream media, you're hearing Republicans and Democrats accuse Edward Snowden of "treason" for blowing the whistle on the NSA surveillance scandal. Feinstein, Boehner, Bolton and others are all joining in the chorus of the absurd by screaming about how Edward Snowden is a "traitor" to the United States because he betrayed the nation by disclosing highly sensitive secrets.
But at the same time, the NSA claims it isn't spying on you at all. National intelligence director James Clapper says, "The notion that we are trolling through everyone's emails, and voyeuristically reading them, or listening to everyone's phone calls, is on its face absurd. We couldn't do it even if we wanted to, and I assure you, we don't want to."
So then how is Edward Snowden guilty of treason if everything he leaked isn't true?
See, treason can only apply if Snowden's leaks are factually correct. So by claiming he's guilty of treason, people like Sen. Feinstein are actually admitting his leaked PRISM slides are, in fact, correct and true. That's why they're so angry about it...
More Intrusive Than Eavesdropping? NSA Collection of Metadata Hands Gov't Sweeping Personal Info (12 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, John Negroponte, the nation's first director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush, has defended the surveillance program and the collection of metadata. He described metadata as, quote, "like knowing what's on the outside of an envelope." Susan Landau, your response to that?
SUSAN LANDAU: That's not really true. That was the case when we had black telephones that weighed several pounds and sat on the living room table or the hall table, and you knew that there was a phone call from one house to another house. Now everybody carries cellphones with them. And so, the data is, when I call you, I know that I'm talking to you, but I have no idea where you are. It's the phone company who has that data now. And that data is far more revealing than what's on the outside of an envelope. As I said earlier, it's what you do, not what you say. And because we're carrying the cellphones with us and making calls all during the day, that it's very, very revelatory.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you explain, Susan, the significance of location data? Can the government map a person's whereabouts through this metadata?
SUSAN LANDAU: Of course. In fact, all it takes is four data points to be 95 percent sure who the person is. I noticed President Obama said no names, but in fact, if you know four locations, because home and work are often unique pairs for most people, 95 percent location of--of times when you have four location points, you know who it is you're listening to. So, you follow somebody, and they make calls from work every day, and then one day you notice they've made some calls from a bar at the end of the day. And then you discover somebody in middle age, somebody who ought to be working, is now making calls only from home. You know they've been fired, even though you haven't listened to any of the content of the calls.
Feds hunted for Snowden in days before NSA programs went public (12 June 2013)
For his first week or two with Booz Allen, Snowden attended training sessions near Fort Meade, the Maryland military installation where NSA headquarters is located and where numerous agency contractors have offices.
After that, Snowden moved to take up his assignment with a company team based at the NSA installation in Hawaii. He was only on the job for around four weeks when he told his employers he was ill and requested leave without pay, the sources said.
When Booz Allen checked in with him, Snowden said he was suffering from epilepsy and needed more time off. When he failed to return after a longer period, and the company could not find him, it notified intelligence officials because of Snowden's high-level security clearance, one of the sources said.
Government agents spent several days in the field trying to find Snowden, according to the source, but they were unable to do so before the first news story based on Snowden's revelations appeared in the Guardian and then in the Washington Post.
NSA leaker gives interview to Hong Kong newspaper (12 June 2013)
Hong Kong (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks around the world for years, apparently targeting fat data pipes that push immense amounts of data around the Internet, NSA leaker Edward Snowden told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday.
Among some 61,000 reported targets of the National Security Agency, Snowden said, are thousands of computers in China -- which U.S. officials have increasingly criticized as the source of thousands of attacks on U.S. military and commercial networks. China has denied such attacks.
The Morning Post said it had seen documents provided by Snowden but was unable to verify their authenticity. The English-language news agency, which operates in Hong Kong, also said it was unable to independently verify allegations of U.S. hacking of networks in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009.
Snowden told the paper that some of the targets included the Chinese University of Hong Kong, public officials and students. The documents also "point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets," the newspaper reported.
The claims came just days after U.S. President Barack Obama pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping to address cyberattacks emanating from China that Obama described as "direct theft of United States property."
Bee-killing pesticide companies are pretending to save bees (12 June 2013)
Even as bees drop dead around the world after sucking down pesticide-laced nectar, pesticide makers are touting their investments in bee research.
Nearly a third of commercial honeybee colonies in U.S. were wiped out last year, for a complicated array of reasons, scientists say: disease, stress, poor nutrition, mite infestations, and -- yes -- pesticides. Neonicotinoid pesticides seem to be particularly damaging to bees, so much so that the European Union is moving to ban them (but the U.S. is not).
Now the two main manufacturers of neonicotinoids, Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, are promoting their commitments to bee health, as is agro-giant Monsanto. From a feature story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
"Monsanto Co., which two years ago bought an Israeli bee research company, hosts an industry conference on bee health at its headquarters in Creve Coeur this month. Bayer CropScience is building a 5,500-square-foot 'bee health center' in North Carolina, and with fellow chemical giant, Syngenta, has developed a 'comprehensive action plan" for bee health.
GMO feed turns pig stomachs to mush! Shocking photos reveal severe damage caused by GM soy and corn (12 June 2013)
(NaturalNews) If you have stomach problems or gastrointestinal problems, a new study led by Dr. Judy Carman may help explain why: pigs fed a diet of genetically engineered soy and corn showed a 267% increase in severe stomach inflammation compared to those fed non-GMO diets. In males, the difference was even more pronounced: a 400% increase. (For the record, most autistic children are males, and nearly all of them have severe intestinal inflammation.)
The study was conducted on 168 young pigs on an authentic farm environment and was carried out over a 23-week period by eight researchers across Australia and the USA. The lead researcher, Dr. Judy Carman, is from the Institute of Health and Environmental Research in Kensington Park, Australia. The study has now been published in the Journal of Organic Systems, a peer-reviewed science journal.
The study is the first to show what appears to be a direct connection between the ingestion of GMO animal feed and measurable damage to the stomachs of those animals. Tests also showed abnormally high uterine weights of animals fed the GMO diets, raising further questions about the possibility of GMOs causing reproductive organ damage.
Proponents of corporate-dominated GMO plant science quickly attacked the study, announcing that in their own minds, there is no such thing as any evidence linking GMOs to biological harm in any animals whatsoever. And they are determined to continue to believe that, even if it means selectively ignoring the increasingly profound and undeniable tidal wave of scientific studies that repeatedly show GMOs to be linked with severe organ damage, cancer tumors and premature death.
'Exponential' progress in prosthetics helps ease tough path for amputees (12 June 2013)
Response to the victims who lost limbs in the Boston Marathon bombings has thrown a spotlight on just how far the field of limb replacement and rehabilitation has come in a short period. Not only were doctors on the scene with extensive field experience with limb trauma, but a broad coalition of manufacturers also stepped up to pledge an array of prostheses, no matter the cost. Waiting in the wings has been an extensive peer support program designed to help amputees navigate the difficult road ahead.
"People who lost legs in this tragedy will face many challenges," says Rose Bissonnette, founder of the New England peer visiting program for the Amputee Coalition, a national advocacy group assisting the 16 people who lost limbs in the Boston bombings. But, she adds, there are people and equipment and services that no previous generation has had.
"Those who lost limbs will face many issues besides what [prosthetic] leg to use," says David Shurna, executive director of the nonprofit No Barriers USA, which has launched a fund to provide the most advanced athletic devices available to the athletes among the Boston bombing victims. "We want to help turn adversity into opportunity."
The terrible efficiency of the Boston bombs in targeting lower limbs has highlighted a growing population of Americans -- currently some 2 million -- living with limb loss.
Yet this comes at a time when the prosthetics industry itself is undergoing unprecedented expansion. There's the reality of carbon-fiber blades, which allowed South African double amputee Oscar Pistorius to compete in the 2012 London Olympics. And the goal of creating artificial hands nuanced enough to play a Brahms concerto has already led to prostheses that give people the ability to open a soda can or slap a high-five.
Scientists decry 'the worst case of scientific censorship since the church banned Copernicus' (12 June 2013)
LONDON (Reuters) -- The outlawing of drugs such as cannabis, magic mushrooms and other psychoactive substances amounts to scientific censorship and is hampering research into potentially important medicinal uses, leading scientists argued on Wednesday.
Laws and international conventions dating back to the 1960s have set back research in key areas such as consciousness by decades, they argued in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
"The decision to outlaw these drugs was based on their perceived dangers, but in many cases the harms have been overstated," said David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London.
In a statement accompanying the Nature Reviews paper, he said the laws amounted "to the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo".
"The laws have never been updated despite scientific advances and growing evidence that many of these drugs are relatively safe. And there appears to be no way for the international community to make such changes," he said.
Organic farming sucks (up carbon) (12 June 2013)
We've known for a while now that organic agriculture is good for the climate: It does a better job at grabbing carbon from the air and turning it into soil than industrial agriculture, which often does just the opposite.
Last year, researchers reexamined all 74 studies that had looked at organic farming and carbon capture. After crunching the numbers from the results of these studies they concluded that, lo and behold, organic farms are carbon sponges.
This makes some intuitive sense: It's generally the organic farmers who are most concerned with building up the soil -- they can't rely on synthetic supplements if the soil chemistry runs low, after all. And when farmers talk about building up the soil what they mean -- on a fundamental level -- is creating more dirt. The new dirt comes from plants, which, in turn, are made of carbon (in part). More topsoil means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
But it's still a mystery as to exactly how this works. Why don't microbes chomp up every new organic molecule introduced into the soil and fart it back into the air? And why would a different form of agriculture change microbial behavior? Figure that out, and there would be hard evidence to spread the practice.
This video about the gross side of food will ruin your appetite for basically everything (12 June 2013)
In case you or any of your loved ones missed the Grist posts about pink slime, Greek yogurt waste, fake honey, and so on, BuzzFeed has collected all the least appetizing food facts into one handy video.
You'll pry my maraschino cherries out of my cold dead Manhattan, but as for the rest of these ... I suddenly find myself not very hungry.
Bad teeth, broken dreams: Lack of dental care keeps many out of jobs (12 June 2013)
"I really don't smile a lot," said Kennedy, whose husband, Lucas, also 53, lost his job five years ago when California's construction economy tanked. "I know that when you have a job, you want to have a pleasant attitude and you've got to smile and be friendly."
Lack of access to dental care is a particular problem in California, where budget woes virtually eliminated access to the state's Denti-Cal program in 2009, leaving an estimated 3 million poor, disabled and elderly people without oral health services. In 2012, CDA events provided about $2.8 million in free care to nearly 4,000 people.
But barriers to dental services are a problem nationwide, with more than 47 million people in the U.S. living in places with difficult access to care, according to the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA. Low-income adults are almost twice as likely as those with higher incomes to have no dental care in the previous year, according to a 2008 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which take effect in 2014, guarantee dental care for children, but not for adults. And without such care, adults already struggling to get by find that obvious dental problems -- teeth that are missing, discolored, broken or badly crooked -- make their situation even harder, said Susan Hyde, a dentist and population scientist at the University of California at San Francisco.
Ariel Castro pleads not guilty to charges of kidnapping, rape and murder (video) (12 June 2013)
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Accused kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro, who police say kept Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight captive in his West Side home for a decade, pleaded not guilty this morning to 329 separate crimes, including two aggravated murder charges.
Lawyer Jaye Schlachet made the plea on Castro's behalf during a brief court appearance. Castro, wearing orange jail-issued clothing, remained silent and kept his head bowed.
The case was assigned to Common Pleas Judge Michael Russo.
Jim Wooley, the lawyer representing the three women, said in a written statement after the arraignment that "days like today are not easy."
"We understand the legal process needs to run its course," Wooley said. "We are hopeful for a just and prompt resolution. We have great faith in the prosecutor's office and the court."
Three fringe Boston University professors say Guantánamo is "ethics-free zone," urge doctors to refuse force-feeding hunger strikers (12 June 2013)
A group of senior American doctors has called on military physicians at Guantánamo Bay to refuse to work in a mass force-feeding programme that is being used to keep hunger-striking detainees alive.
Writing in the prestigious and influential New England Journal of Medicine, the three doctors called Guantánamo "a medical ethics free zone" and said that medical staff had a moral duty to allow the prisoners to go on hunger strike without coercing them into treatment. They also called on doctors to refuse to take part in force-feeding.
"Military physicians should refuse to participate in any act that unambiguously violates medical ethics," wrote Dr George Annas, Dr Sondra Crosby and Dr Leonard Glantz, in a three-page article outlining an ethical case against force-feeding of the detainees. All three are senior medical professors at Boston University.
The doctors urged others in the American medical profession to speak out on the issue and provide support for any army doctor who might refuse to participate in the procedure. The article said:
"Military physicians who refuse to follow orders that violate medical ethics should be actively and strongly supported ... Guantánamo has been described as a 'legal black hole'. As it increasingly also becomes a medical ethics free zone, we believe it's time for the medical profession to take constructive political action."
Virginia's Cuccinelli plays fast and loose with the facts on abortion (12 June 2013)
E.W. JACKSON, the fire-breathing pastor who stunned the Republican establishment by storming the party convention in Virginia and snatching the nomination for lieutenant governor, has been roundly mocked for saying Planned Parenthood has been "far more lethal to black lives" than has the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, the idea that Planned Parenthood is a racist, even genocidal enterprise, while scurrilous and estranged from the truth, is an article of faith among some right-wing Republicans -- among them Herman Cain, the flash-in-the-pan presidential contestant in last year's GOP primaries, and Mr. Jackson's running mate, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, the party's candidate for governor.
The history of Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger, has been used pliably by Mr. Jackson, Mr. Cuccinelli and their ilk. Their thesis is that Ms. Sanger, who died in 1966, was a racist, intent on exterminating African Americans by means of abortion, and that her chosen vehicle was Planned Parenthood. (Mr. Cain said, shamelessly, that the organization's founding mission was "planned genocide" to "help kill black babies before they came into the world.")
In a wobbly attempt to bring that indictment up to date, conservatives and pro-life activists, including Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. Jackson, like to suggest that Planned Parenthood targets African Americans for abortions today by concentrating its clinics in black communities.
The accusations are baseless. According to investigations by PolitiFact and The Post's Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, Ms. Sanger was enamored of the eugenics movement, broadly popular a century ago, which held that better breeding would produce a superior society. However, according to PolitiFact, there is no evidence that she either advocated "genocide" for blacks or believed they were genetically inferior. The birth control clinic she opened in Harlem in the 1930s didn't perform abortions, and it was supported by black leaders, including W.E.B. Du Bois.
Emission cuts lead to cleaner Calif. air (12 June 2013)
Cuts in diesel emissions have drastically reduced the amount of pollutants in the air that cause global warming in California, potentially valuable information in the fight to save the world's climate from a predicted catastrophe, a study by University of California and government researchers said Wednesday.
The study found that regulations limiting emissions from diesel-powered trucks, buses and off-road vehicles have taken the equivalent of 4 million cars off California roads every year since the late 1980s.
"We are all breathing cleaner air because of regulations in diesel combustion, but this study shows there was a huge co-benefit of mitigating climate change," said the lead researcher, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a scientist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UC San Diego. "I'm now very, very interested in taking this message to the rest of the planet, because if the California experience can be replicated around the world, then we can make a substantial dent in climate change."
The study, paid for by the California Air Resources Board, was the first regional assessment of the effect on the atmosphere of black carbon, the soot particles from burning diesel fuel. Black carbon is the primary ingredient in smog, the clouds of soot that for decades turned the air in Los Angeles and other places brown.
George Zimmerman trial: Day 3 of jury selection in Trayvon Martin shooting (12 June 2013)
SANFORD -- Fifteen months ago 8,000 demonstrators poured into downtown Sanford and cheered as the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded the arrest of George Zimmerman.
On Wednesday, Sharpton was nowhere in sight, but protesters and the civil-rights leader were subjects that popped up time and again on Day 3 of jury selection at Zimmerman's second-degree-murder trial.
In most cases, prospective jurors were unhappy about the Sharpton and other Sanford rallies, gatherings with a stated goal of pressuring authorities to arrest Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot and killed TrayvonMartin, an unarmed Miami Gardens teen, on Feb. 26, 2012.
"After the protesters it seemed to turn more into a racial issue. ... I don't think it's a racial issue," a young white woman identified only as prospective juror B-61 said of the shooting.
U.S. charges eight hackers over alleged cyber theft of at least $15 million (12 June 2013)
(Reuters) -- Federal prosecutors in New Jersey on Wednesday unveiled criminal charges against eight people accused of trying to steal at least $15 million from U.S. customers in an international cybercrime scheme targeting accounts at 15 financial institutions and government agencies.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said the conspiring hackers gained unauthorized access to computer networks, diverted customer funds to bank accounts and pre-paid debit cards and used "cashers" to make ATM withdrawals and fraudulent purchases in Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere.
Among the entities targeted were Automatic Data Processing Inc, Citigroup Inc, eBay Inc's PayPal, JPMorgan Chase & Co, TD Ameritrade Holding Corp and the U.S. Department of Defense, Fishman said.
The charges come as law enforcement officials crack down on cybercrime heists. This has included arrests announced last week of 11 people in the United States, United Kingdom and Vietnam in a worldwide credit card fraud ring, and a May raid on Liberty Reserve, a Costa Rica company that provided a "virtual currency" system to move money without using traditional banking.
Scientists' dire warning: GM salmon will breed with trout and permanently harm the ecosystem (11 June 2013)
(NaturalNews) Remember all those industry claims that genetically-modified (GM) AquAdvantage salmon would not be harmful to the environment in any way, and would not breed with other fish because it is inherently sterile? These are both lies, according to a new study out of Canada, which found that "Frankensalmon" is fully capable of breeding with other salmon, as well as other fish species such as trout. This same study also found that the resulting hybrid fish can persist in the wild, permanently damaging entire ecosystems.
Researchers from McGill University in Quebec, Canada, arrived at this dire conclusion after conducting their own independent experiments on what would happen if GM salmon escaped from their fish pens into the wild. In a simulation that looked at how GM salmon would behave in a simple stream environment, it became apparent that Frankenfish are not sterile, and that they reproduced with other fish. The Frankenfish also "out competed" wild fish in the study, proving that they can very easily become a dominant and invasive species.
Published in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, the findings basically contradict everything that AquaBounty, creator of AquAdvantage GM salmon, has ever alleged concerning the "safety" of its Frankensalmon. The modified fish, which supposedly grows twice as fast as natural salmon, is a serious threat to the environment at large, and if it were to ever escape into the wild the consequences would be disastrous and irreversible.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating transmission and ecological consequences from interspecific hybridization between a GM animal and a naturally hybridizing species," says Dr. Krista Oke, who led the study. "Ultimately, hybridization of transgenic fishes with closely related species represents potential ecological risks for wild populations."
Did this man die for saving sea turtle eggs from poachers? (11 June 2013)
On Friday, Jairo Mora, 26, was travelling with four female volunteers to Nueve Millas, a remote beach off the Caribbean coast near the town of Mohín where Leatherback sea turtles, a critically endangered species, nest on the surrounding beaches during this time to lay eggs. The five planned to patrol several miles of sand to protect the nests from poachers, who were stealing eggs at night.
Hours later, Mora was dead and the four women would be tied up alone in a nearby abandoned house.
It's a story that has sent ripples across the country, alarming environmentalists.
Leatherback sea turtles are one of the largest reptiles on Earth and can be found on beaches along Costa Rica's Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
According to reports, the five stopped that night to remove an obstacle in their path -- a tree trunk that blocked a road not far from the beach. Mora, reportedly, walked over to move it and was suddenly surrounded by four masked men. They locked him in the back of a car and took the women to the empty house.
When the women managed to break free, they walked to town and alerted the police. Authorities found Mora's body next to the empty truck; he had been struck with a blunt object of his head, he had no clothes on.
Istanbul clashes extend into night (11 June 2013)
Riot police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets in day-long clashes that lasted into the early hours Wednesday, overwhelming protesters who have been occupying Istanbul's central Taksim Square and its adjacent Gezi Park in the country's most severe anti-government protests in decades.
The crisis has left Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looking vulnerable for the first time in his decade in power and has threatened to tarnish the international image of Turkey, a Muslim majority country with a strongly secular tradition, a burgeoning economy and close ties with the United States.
Thousands of police moved in early Tuesday, pushing past improvised barricades set up by the protesters who have swarmed through the massive square and park in their tens of thousands for the past 12 days.
Police fired repeated rounds of tear gas that rose in stinging plumes of acrid smoke from the square in running battles with protesters hurling fireworks, bottles, rocks and firebombs. In a cat-and-mouse game that lasted all day, the police repeatedly cleared the square, only for demonstrators to return.
Here's the ACLU's Lawsuit on NSA Surveillance (11 June 2013)
The big problem facing legal challenges to the National Security Agency's surveillance powers has always been standing--the legal requirement that, before you can sue, you must prove you've been harmed. The trouble with proving that you've been illegally spied on is that who gets spied on is generally secret. In Amnesty International v. Clapper, the Supreme Court court ruled that a collection of journalists and advocates lacked standing to sue the NSA for warrantless wiretapping because they couldn't prove that they had, in fact, been spied on. In Al-Haramain v. Obama, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an Islamic charity that had been wiretapped couldn't challenge the surveillance in court because the documents it had been inadvertently provided that did prove wiretapping were state secrets and thus inadmissible. (The case was remanded back to the lower court, Al-Haramain tried again, and was finally defeated by the Ninth Circuit in 2012.)
But now, thanks to the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the ACLU thinks it has an in. The leaked documents specifically implicate Verizon Business Network Services, Inc. as providing metadata from phone calls to government databases. The ACLU is a client of Verizon Business Network Services--and the government has already declassified the existence of its program to gather phone data, so it will have trouble claiming that the program is a state secret. On Tuesday, the ACLU filed suit in federal court to "obtain a declaration that Mass Call Tracking is unlawful" and "to enjoin the government from continuing the Mass Call Tracking under the VBNS order."
Bradley Manning vs. SEAL Team 6 (11 June 2013)
Why have our strategic choices been so disastrous? In large part because they have been militantly clueless. Starved of important information, both the media and public opinion were putty in the hands the Bush administration and its neocon followers as they dreamt up and then put into action their geopolitical fantasies. It has since become fashion for politicians who supported the war to blame the Iraq debacle on "bad intelligence." But as former CIA analyst Paul Pillar reminds us, the carefully cherry-picked "Intel" about Saddam Hussein's WMD program was really never the issue. After all, the CIA's classified intelligence estimate on Iraq argued that, even if that country's ruler Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction (which he didn't), he would never use them and was therefore not a threat.
Senator Bob Graham, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003, was one of the few people with access to that CIA report who bothered to take the time to read it. Initially keen on the idea of invading Iraq, he changed his mind and voted against the invasion.
What if the entire nation had had access to that highly classified document? What if bloggers, veterans' groups, clergy, journalists, educators and other opinion leaders had been able to see the full intelligence estimate, not just the morsels cherry-picked by Cheney and his mates? Even then, of course, there was enough information around to convince millions of people across the globe of the folly of such an invasion, but what if some insider had really laid out the whole truth, not just the cherry-picked pseudofacts in those months and the games being played by other insiders to fool Congress and the American people into a war of choice and design in the Middle East? As we now know, whatever potentially helpful information there was remained conveniently beyond our sight until a military and humanitarian disaster was unleashed.
Any private-sector employee who screwed up this badly would be fired on the spot, or at the very least put under full-scale supervision. And this was the gift of Bradley Manning: thanks to his trove of declassified documents our incompetent foreign policy elites finally have the supervision they manifestly need.
Santa Monica Killer John Zawahri: A Familiar Profile (11 June 2013)
Weapons used: Zawahri committed the killings using an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and high capacity-magazines. According to the LA Times, investigators say he carried nearly 40 magazines capable of holding 30 bullets each. Some were in a duffel bag along with a handgun; he also wore ammunition strapped to his chest and thighs. Investigators believe he fired more than 1,000 rounds during last Friday's rampage. As our study showed, more than half of all mass shooters had assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and many were armed with multiple guns: [see original for graphic]
The data we gathered also shows that most mass shooters--nearly 80 percent of them--obtained their weapons legally. We don't yet know how Zawahri got his guns; law enforcement officials say they're in the process of tracing them. But it's possible he obtained them using the Internet: As early as 2006, according to the LA Times, word had spread among Zawahri's high school classmates and teachers that he'd spent time surfing for assault weapons online. It remains very easy to buy guns on the Internet, a key issue addressed by the legislation mandating broader background checks that died in the Senate in April.
Mental health problems: Zawahri had shown troubling signs years ago, according to the LA Times. In 2006, a teacher learned of Zawahri's interest in assault weapons--as well as violent threats he'd voiced about specific classmates--and reported Zawahri to the police. Soon after, Zawahri was admitted to UCLA's psychiatric ward for a brief period. In the 62 cases we studied, a majority of the killers were mentally ill, with many showing signs of it prior to their attacks.
There's another pattern that Zawahri fits: Like the young male killers in Newtown, Aurora, and Columbine before him, he was apparently into video games. According to the LA Times, his school transcripts show that he was "sporadically" enrolled in his high school's entertainment technology program in 2009 and 2010, taking courses in animation and video game development. But as Erik Kain cautions in an in-depth explainer on violent video games published on our site today, that fact may ultimately tell us nothing about what caused Zawahri to bring horror to Santa Monica late last week.
Tech companies urge U.S. to ease secrecy rules on national security probes (11 June 2013)
Technology companies stung by the controversy over the National Security Agency's sweeping Internet surveillance program are calling on U.S. officials to ease the secrecy surrounding national security investigations and lift long-standing gag orders covering the nature and extent of information collected about Internet users.
The requests, made by Google, Facebook and Microsoft and echoed by a top official from Twitter, came as debate intensified over whether oversight of government spying programs grew too lax in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when security concerns combined with soaring technological capabilities led to individuals being monitored on a vast new scale.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, whose chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has defended the surveillance efforts, on Tuesday asked the NSA to publicly explain programs that use telephone and Internet records "so that we can talk about them, because I think they're really helpful," she said.
Calls for greater transparency, rather than new limits on government powers, have been the main public fallout in the days since The Washington Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that the NSA was collecting and analyzing data flowing through nine U.S. Internet companies. The program, called PRISM, reportedly was focused on foreigners but also collected data on U.S. citizens and residents that could, under certain conditions, be reviewed by officials.
ACLU sues over NSA surveillance program (11 June 2013)
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the U.S. government surveillance program that collects the telephone records of millions of Americans from U.S. telecommunications companies.
It is the first substantive lawsuit following reports in The Washington Post and The Guardian last week that detailed two vast surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency under laws authorized by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The ACLU suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, challenges the legality of the spy agency's collection of customer "metadata," including the phone numbers dialed and the length of calls. The lawsuit asks the court to force the government to end the program and purge any records it has collected, and to declare that the surveillance is unconstitutional.
The program, details of which were first disclosed by the Guardian, collects such information, used by intelligence analysts to detect patterns and personal connections, on every phone call made or received by U.S. customers of major American phone companies. The once-secret program was acknowledged last week by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, who is named in the ACLU lawsuit.
Journalist in US surveillance case: More to come (11 June 2013) [Rense.com]
HONG KONG (AP) -- The journalist who exposed classified U.S. surveillance programs leaked by an American defense contractor said Tuesday that there will be more 'significant revelations' to come from the documents.
"We are going to have a lot more significant revelations that have not yet been heard over the next several weeks and months," Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.
Greenwald told The Associated Press the decision was being made on when to release the next story based on the information provided by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton who has been accused by U.S. Senate intelligence chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California of committing an "act of treason" that should be prosecuted.
Greenwald's reports last week exposed widespread U.S. government programs to collect telephone and Internet records.
27 Edward Snowden Quotes About U.S. Government Spying That Should Send A Chill Up Your Spine (11 June 2013)
#5 "The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything."
#6 "With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your e-mails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards."
#7 "Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere... I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President..."
#8 "To do that, the NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that's the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government, or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they are collecting YOUR communications to do so."
Obama administration to drop limits on morning-after pill (11 June 2013)
(Reuters) - The Obama administration will scrap age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraception pills, making the morning-after pill available to women and girls without a prescription.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a letter on Monday that it would comply with a court's ruling to allow unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step, withdrawing its appeal on the matter. The move closes a battle over the pill that has lasted over a decade, but could raise new controversy for President Barack Obama.
Until recently, the pill was only available without a prescription to women 17 and older who presented proof of age at a pharmacist's counter. Critics say unfettered access could lead to promiscuity, sexual abuse and fewer important doctor visits if readily available for purchase.
Advocates for such emergency pills say they help reduce unwanted pregnancies or abortions and that quick access for women of all ages is critical for the medicines to work. The pill is most effective when taken within 72 hours of intercourse.
Lawsuit: Police accused girl of making up rape claim about serial rapist (10 June 2013)
A woman in Lynnwood, Washington has sued several police and city officials after she was accused of lying about being raped, according to Courthouse News Service.
The man she accused of raping her, Marc Patrick O'Leary, was later sentenced to more than 300 years in prison in 2011.
In 2008, when the women was 18, she reported that O'Leary had tied her up and assaulted her. Police found physical evidence that supported her story, and doctors documented abrasions on her wrists and vagina.
However, the detectives accused her of fabricating the incident because of "inconsistencies" in her account of the crime. The detectives forced her to confess to making up the story, according to the lawsuit, and charged her with filing a false police report. The charge against her was later dropped.
Three years later, O'Leary was arrested and federal agents uncovered hundreds of photos of his victims, including the woman accused of filing a false report.
From dropout to high profile leaker (10 June 2013)
WASHINGTON -- He was a high school dropout, sometime junior college student and failed Army recruit.
But Edward Joseph Snowden found his calling in America's spy services, using his computer skills to rise from a lowly security position to life as a well-paid private contractor for the National Security Agency. At age 29, he rented a bungalow with his girlfriend north of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and claimed to earn $200,000 a year.
On Monday, hours after he admitted disclosing a trove of intelligence secrets to the media, Snowden checked out of the glitzy Mira Hotel in Hong Kong, where he had holed up for weeks, and dropped out of sight. Whether he has gone into hiding, is seeking asylum with a sympathetic government, or been taken into custody by U.S. or Chinese authorities is unclear.
U.S. intelligence officials scrambled to evaluate the damage and worried about whether Snowden would give away, among other intelligence secrets he claimed to know, the locations of every CIA base overseas and identities of its undercover officers. The FBI is investigating and has begun interviewing his family. House and Senate intelligence committees called urgent closed-door hearings for Tuesday.
Edward Snowden's NSA leaks are backlash of too much secrecy (10 June 2013)
Keep your distance: The director of national intelligence is having intestinal distress.
"For me, it is literally -- not figuratively, literally -- gut-wrenching to see this happen," James Clapper told Andrea Mitchell over the weekend, referring to leaks about the government's secret program to collect vast troves of phone and Internet data.
There might be a bit more sympathy for Clapper's digestive difficulty if he hadn't delivered a kick in the gut to the American public just three months ago.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper at a Senate hearing in March, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
"No, sir," Clapper testified.
"On a Slippery Slope to a Totalitarian State": NSA Whistleblower Rejects Gov't Defense of Spying (10 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: There is a great irony in Snowden revealing his identity from Hong Kong, President Obama at the time wrapping up a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California. The outgoing national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said Obama confronted Xi on U.S. allegations of China-based cyberpiracy, Glenn.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. Well, that was one of the main reasons why we published the article is because the Obama administration has spent three years now running around the world warning about the dangers of cyber-attacks and cyberwarfare coming from other nations like China, like Iran, like other places, and what is unbelievably clear is that it is the United States itself that is far and away the most prolific and the most aggressive perpetrator of exactly those cyber-attacks that President Obama claims to find so alarming. And as you say, we published the story on the eve of his conference with the president of China, in which the top agenda item, because of the United States' insistence, was their complaints about Chinese cyber-attacks and hacking. And it just shows the rancid, fundamental hypocrisy of the statements the United States makes, not just to the world, but to its own people about these crucial matters.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring William Binney into the conversation, as well. William Binney, you quit after almost 40 years at the NSA, deeply involved in developing the whole surveillance mechanism, and yet you quit over it, as well. Your response to these series of revelations?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, it's certainly an extension of what I've been trying to say, that we were on a slippery slope to a totalitarian state. And that was simply based on the idea that the government was collecting so much information about all the citizens inside the country, that it gave them so much power. They could target people in the--for example, use it, use the knowledge to collectively assemble all of the people participating in the tea party, target them, and do--they could even do active attack on them with, going across the network, taking material out of their computers. So it was a very dangerous situation, in my mind. And still is.
Government wants all cars to track driver behavior, seatbelt usage and more (10 June 2013)
As with most government invasions of privacy, the event data recorders are all for driver "safety."
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood believes that, "By understanding how drivers respond in a crash and whether key safety systems operate properly, [government safety officials] and automakers can make our vehicles and our roadways even safer."
Up to five seconds before a crash, all inputs from the vehicles sensors are stored, preserved, and can be retrieved by officials for later use, such as in court. The new legislation gives the government power of collecting and overseeing up to 30 new types of data, including electronic stability control engagement, driver seat position, passenger seat belt use and more. Some engineers have proposed up to 80 more data points that could be helpful in an investigation!
The computerization of modern vehicles
In essence, vehicles are becoming one giant computer, with sensors underneath everything imaginable. The increasing computerization of vehicles is raising concerns whether systems like GPS navigation and the OnStar system could also be misused.
PAM COMMENTARY: Interesting. Ever had a car where a sensor went bad? I have one right now. Every part in a car is vulnerable to damage or breakdowns, and sensors are more delicate than most.
Depending on the type of sensor involved, people may have no indication that a sensor is putting out bad data. So how will a "black box" know whether the data is good? I'm sure this data will invite class action lawsuits and case law restricting its use in court.
Top natural remedies for common skin problems like wrinkles, stretch marks and acne (10 June 2013)
Skin cancers (non-melanoma) and warts are reportedly cured by extracts from eggplant. UK physician Dr. Bill Cham, MD, PhD, observed Australian farmers and veterinarians curing farm animals of skin cancer with a folk remedy extracted from the Australian Devil's Apple plant.
So he took samples of Devil's Apple and studied them to determine their active ingredients. Since Devil's Apple is not easily found everywhere, he looked for an easier alternative source that contained the same phytonutrient glycocides and glycoalkaloids that were the cancer curing agents of Devil's Apple.
That turned out to be eggplant. So Dr. Cham created a cream using those compounds from eggplant to sell commercially known as BEC5. Though condemned by mainstream dermatology, which insists you avoid sunshine to escape skin cancer,
Dr. Jonathan Wright MD, founder of the holistic Tahoma Clinic in the Seattle, Washington area promotes Dr. Cham's BECS product.
You can even make your own extract of eggplant solution that some have tried with success, explained here: http://www.naturalnews.com/035471_skin_cancer_cure_eggplant.html
PAM COMMENTARY: Again, I don't endorse everything that I quote or link to here.
Late and lame, farm bill finally clears Senate (10 June 2013)
Today the U.S. Senate passed its version of the farm bill, a massive piece of legislation that sets U.S. agricultural policy until 2023. The bill is 353 days overdue, and lawmakers will still have to reconcile it with the version making its way through the House before it becomes a law. You may recall that once there was hope for major reform in the legislation: Strip away the subsidies supporting giant monocultures, and move that money to support the kind of farming that makes people, and the environment, healthier.
Remember that? Yeah, not going to happen.
The bill is called S. 954, Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, which is a bit misleading. A small fraction of the bill is concerned with risk management and even less devoted to reform. The most accurate part is the 954 -- which is about how much the bill would cost over a decade, in billions of dollars. A better title would be the Crop Insurance, Conservation and Food Stamps Act.
Here's what changes actually made it into the bill: The Senate cut $41 billion in direct payments to farmers, but added a lot of that back in the form of crop insurance and disaster relief. Senators reduced the money for food stamps by $4 billion and cut conservation programs by $3.5 billion. (Details here [PDF], and Brad Plumer at Wonkblog has done a nice job breaking this down in plain English.)
China destroys multiple shipments of GM corn from US (10 June 2013)
(NaturalNews) Several large shipments of genetically-modified (GM) corn and corn seeds originating from the U.S. have been destroyed by the Chinese government after being discovered by import officials at numerous locations across the country. At least three shipments of GM corn detected at the Wanzai Port in Zhuhai City near Macau were reportedly destroyed after being successfully intercepted by government officials, while another 21 cartons of GM corn seeds weighing more than 250 pounds were destroyed in the northern Chinese city of Harbin.
According to Chinese law, any import containing GMOs must be accompanied by the appropriate environmental and food safety tests conducted by Chinese institutions, not the biotechnology industry. This data is first submitted to the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture for review, and next passed on to the National Biosafety Committee for further review. If said data is eventually deemed adequate and meets strict guidelines, the corresponding shipment will be issued an appropriate safety certificate verifying its integrity and permitting its import.
But none of this was done for any of the GM corn, which had been shipped directly into China by an unnamed U.S. biotechnology company (the name of which you can probably guess). This company apparently tried to bypass Chinese law and sneak its toxic crops and seeds into the country without proper government oversight, which is technically an international human rights violation, knowing that these genetic poisons would likely be rejected if they had to go through the normal import process for GMOs.
"The deeply pro-GMO old government would not have made such a thing public," said a local Chinese citizen about the new Chinese government's swift action in dealing with the offending imports. "It would have secretly returned the shipments, or in most cases it would not even have inspected shipments that could contain GM ingredients."
Glenn Greenwald on How NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Helped Expose a "Massive Surveillance Apparatus" (10 June 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
GLENN GREENWALD: This is just the same playbook that U.S. government officials have been using for the last five decades whenever anything gets done that brings small amounts of transparency to the bad conduct that they do in the dark. They immediately accuse those who brought that transparency of jeopardizing national security. They try and scare the American public into believing that they've been placed at risk and that the only way they can stay safe is to trust the people in power to do whatever it is they want to do without any kinds of constraints, accountability or light of any kind. This has been going on since Daniel Ellsberg, who now is considered a hero, but back then was accused by the Clappers of the world of being a traitor who jeopardized national security and put the lives of men and women in American uniform in harm's way.
The reality is that if you look at what it is that we disclosed, we disclosed things like the fact that the U.S.--the National Security Agency is collecting the telephone records of millions of Americans without regard to any wrongdoing, or that they're tapping into the servers of the largest Internet companies that people around the world use to communicate with one another. It is inconceivable--there's just no rational, sane argument that one can make that anything that we disclosed in any way alerts the terrorists, who all knew already for many years that the government is trying to monitor them, or in any way enabled attacks to be done on the United States. The only thing that we exposed is the wrongdoing of these political officials. And the only thing that has been damaged is their reputation and credibility. Top-secret designations are more often than not used to protect the political officials from having known what they're--what they are doing in the eyes of the American people, not protecting national security. And that's certainly the case of the stories that we published.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, can you tell us more about Edward Snowden, why he came forward, what he risks, and why even you both are in Hong Kong, why he chose Hong Kong?
GLENN GREENWALD: It's really one of the most remarkable experiences I've ever had, meeting him and having interviewed him for several months now, really, and for the last eight days in person here in Hong Kong. And I say that because he has undertaken actions that he knows are going to result in serious harm to his personal interest and to his well-being, whether that means that he will never see his home again, or he will spend many decades or the rest of his life in a cage or will be passed around from government to government. In the short term, he knows his life has been turned upside down, and he knew that when he did it. And there are all kinds of ways that he could have personally benefited from this information. If he had wanted to get rich, he could have sold it to all sorts of intelligence agencies. If he wanted to harm the United States, he could have dumped it indiscriminately on the Internet or passed it to U.S. enemies and uncovered all sorts of covert operations and covert agents. He chose to do none of that. He did something that doesn't really benefit him at all. It just benefits the public. It benefits the rest of us, because we learn what our government is doing and how our world is being affected by it. And yet he did that knowing that he would be put into that situation, and he never betrayed, when he talked to us, any degree of fear about it. He was worried about what would happen. We was tense about getting--about seeing what was going to happen. But he never had any regret. He had made his choice, and he was very at peace with it, because he knew that it was the right thing.
As far as coming to Hong Kong, the main reason that he did that was because he has watched, over the past four years, as the U.S. government, under President Obama, has prosecuted whistleblowers more aggressively and more prolifically than any other prior administration in American history by far. And he has watched as the trial of Bradley Manning, that is now underway, takes place in extreme amounts of secrecy, very little transparency, hardcore fundamental abridgments of due process. And he knew that if he stayed in the United States, he was going to be subjected to exactly that treatment, and so he came to a place where he believed that the political values that prevailed were ones that he found amenable, that there's lots of robust free speech and political dissent. But also he believed that he was coming to a place where the government would not instantly succumb to the demands of the American government when it came to what was done to him, but instead would assert its own interest and principles of law, and he felt like this was the ideal place for that.
Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations (9 June 2013)
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations -- the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."
Apes, toddler show that language may have evolved from gestures (9 June 2013)
What do a chimpanzee, a bonobo and a toddler all have in common? They all use gestures to communicate.
By studying hours of video of a female chimp named Panpanzee, a female bonobo named Panbanisha and a little girl with the initials GN, a team of psychologists hope to gain some insight into how spoken language evolved in humans.
Skeletons can be fossilized, but language cannot, the researchers noted in a study published this week in Frontiers in Psychology. To figure out how it came to be, they looked for similarities between the three closely related species to infer ways that our common ancestor would have communicated more than 5 million years ago.
"This is one line of evidence for the gestural foundation of human language evolution," the wrote.
Exclusive: U.S. finds long-lost diary of top Nazi leader, Hitler aide (9 June 2013)
(Reuters) - The government has recovered 400 pages from the long-lost diary of Alfred Rosenberg, a confidant of Adolf Hitler who played a central role in the extermination of millions of Jews and others during World War Two.
A preliminary U.S. government assessment reviewed by Reuters asserts the diary could offer new insight into meetings Rosenberg had with Hitler and other top Nazi leaders, including Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering. It also includes details about the German occupation of the Soviet Union, including plans for mass killings of Jews and other Eastern Europeans.
"The documentation is of considerable importance for the study of the Nazi era, including the history of the Holocaust," according to the assessment, prepared by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. "A cursory content analysis indicates that the material sheds new light on a number of important issues relating to the Third Reich's policy. The diary will be an important source of information to historians that compliments, and in part contradicts, already known documentation."
How the writings of Rosenberg, a Nazi Reich minister who was convicted at Nuremberg and hanged in 1946, might contradict what historians believe to be true is unclear. Further details about the diary's contents could not be learned, and a U.S. government official stressed that the museum's analysis remains preliminary.
Virginia delegate will be witness before grand jury in probe related to McDonnell (9 June 2013)
A Virginia state delegate has confirmed that he's been called to appear next month as a witness before a federal grand jury as part of an investigation related to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.
Del. David Ramadan (R-Loudoun) declined to comment further, saying that the federal subpoena prohibits him from disclosing its details, which might reveal what authorities are seeking from the first-term legislator.
The Washington Post has previously reported that the FBI has been conducting interviews about the relationship between McDonnell (R) and his wife and the chief executive of a dietary supplement company who paid for the catering at the 2011 wedding of the governor's daughter. The agents are exploring whether McDonnell assisted the company in exchange for gifts.
Ramadan's subpoena, however, is the first public indication of the impaneling of a grand jury to review evidence in the McDonnells' case -- a significant escalation in the investigation.
Florida Deputies Remove Doritos Bag From Head of Endangered Key Deer (9 June 2013)
Florida deputies spotted an endangered Key Deer with a bag of Doritos over its head early Sunday.
Deputy Joshua Gordon removed the bag from the deer's head and snapped a photo of it, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said.
Two deputies on patrol saw the deer in the Port Pine Heights Subdivision on No Name Road on Big Pine Key just after midnight, said sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin.
"It must have wanted that last chip in the bottom of the bag," Herrin was quoted as saying by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
REPORT: HOMESCHOOLING GROWING SEVEN TIMES FASTER THAN PUBLIC SCHOOL ENROLLMENT (8 June 2013) [InfoWars.com]
As dissatisfaction with the U.S. public school system grows, apparently so has the appeal of homeschooling. Educational researchers, in fact, are expecting a surge in the number of students educated at home by their parents over the next ten years, as more parents reject public schools.
A recent report in Education News states that, since 1999, the number of children who are homeschooled has increased by 75%. Though homeschooled children represent only 4% of all school-age children nationwide, the number of children whose parents choose to educate them at home rather than a traditional academic setting is growing seven times faster than the number of children enrolling in grades K-12 every year.
As homeschooling has become increasingly popular, common myths that have long been associated with the practice of homeschooling have been debunked.
Any concerns about the quality of education children receive by their parents can be put to rest by the consistently high placement of homeschooled students on standardized assessment exams. Data demonstrates that those who are independently educated generally score between the 65th and 89th percentile on these measures, while those in traditional academic settings average at around the 50th percentile. In addition, achievement gaps between sexes, income levels, or ethnicity--all of which have plagued public schools around the country--do not exist in homeschooling environments.
PAM COMMENTARY: WARNING: The video on this page starts playing, with loud sound, without the reader taking any action.
Should we all eat less meat? (8 June 2013)
Jay Rayner, Observer restaurant critic and broadcaster: Let's not pretend: I don't have much of a fan base among vegans. I respect their views, but not their menus. I love eating meat; it's a part of who I am. And that makes the next sentence all the harder, but it has to be said. We need to reduce the amount of it that we are eating. The way we produce meat, and the amount we produce, is simply unsustainable and in the 21st century sustainability in food production is paramount. The evidence for the prosecution is pretty unanswerable. Globally, livestock stands accused of producing 37% of the world's methane (which has 23 times the global warming potential of CO2). More than 55% of the agriculture sector's emissions come from rearing livestock alone. The meat and dairy sector uses 70% of agricultural land.
There is a place in an integrated agriculture system for meat production. Livestock can be a great way for using up biomass that might otherwise be wasted. They help maintain the landscape. But with an exploding global population we cannot go on feeding seven kilos of grain, that could feed people, to cattle just to get one kilo of beef. We need to reduce our meat consumption substantially, probably by half. Meat-free Mondays have arrived in the Rayner household. Sometimes we have meat-free Tuesdays and Wednesdays too. Meat-free days need to arrive in your house too.
Charles Sercombe, National Farmers Union livestock board chairman and sheep farmer: I share your love of eating meat but it must always be considered as part of a balanced diet. It's clear that some people do eat more meat than they should, but it's equally clear that some parts of society could benefit from increased consumption. We have 30% of female teenagers and 16% of adult women with low iron stores. Meat is a valuable source of iron and so it can play an important role here.
Whatever level people choose to eat meat, as a farmer, it's important to me that I'm producing that meat as efficiently as possible. This means getting the maximum amount of production from rain-fed grassland, one of our most abundant natural resources in the UK. Despite the stats around the grain that is used, most of the energy needs of beef cattle and sheep raised in the UK are actually met by grazing and conserving forage -- around 95% for sheep and 85% for beef cattle -- so the demand for additional foods to be grown to feed these animals is minimal.
PAM COMMENTARY: There are many good sources of plant-based iron.
If convicted of hacking-related charges, Deric Lostutter could get more jail time than the rapists he went after (6 June 2013)
Lostutter may deserve more credit than anyone for turning Steubenville into a national outrage. After a 16-year-old girl was raped by two members of the Steubenville High football team last year, he obtained and published tweets and Instagram photos in which other team members had joked about the incident and belittled the victim. He now admits to being the man behind the mask in a video posted by another hacker on the team's fan page, RollRedRoll.com, where he threatened action against the players unless they apologized to the girl. (The rapists were convicted in March.)
A 26-year-old corporate cybersecurity consultant, Lostutter lives on a farm with his pit bull, Thor, and hunts turkeys, goes fishing, and rides motorcycles in his free time. He considers himself to be a patriotic American; he flies an American flag and enjoys Bud Light. He's also a rapper with the stage name Shadow, and recently released a solo album under the aegis of his own label, Nightshade Records. The name dovetails with that of his Anonymous faction, KnightSec.
Lostutter first got involved in Anonymous about a year ago, after watching the documentary We Are Legion. "This is me," he thought as he learned about the group's commitment to government accountability and transparency. "It was everything that I'd ever preached, and now there's this group of people getting off the couch and doing something about it. I wanted to be part of the movement."
He'd read about the Steubenville rape in the New York Times, but didn't get involved until receiving a message on Twitter from Michelle McKee, a friend of an Ohio blogger who'd written about the case. (You can read about her story here.) McKee gave Lostutter the players' tweets and Instagram photos, which he then decided to publicize because, as he put it, "I was always raised to stick up for people who are getting bullied."
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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