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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012

News from the Week of 28th of July to 3rd of August 2013

Bernie Sanders: Walmart family's 'obscene' wealth subsidized by taxpayers (3 August 2013)
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) appeared on MSNBC's "The Ed Show" on Saturday and scoffed at the idea that major corporations like Walmart can't afford to pay their workers a living wage and that to raise the U.S. minimum wage would be bad for the economy.

Sanders said that the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population believes that the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is "obscene" and a "starvation wage." He said that he hopes to mount a strong push in the Senate to raise the minimum wage and that if enough grass roots support builds around the country, "we can force the House to do the right thing."

"We have to create millions of new jobs" to help the economy, he said, "but we also have to make the minimum wage a living wage."

The Senator laughed when host Ed Schultz asked what he would say to people who insist that mega-corporations like Walmart and McDonald's can't afford to raise their wages.

"Ed, do you want to hear one of the great obscenities of our time?" Sanders asked. "The wealthiest family in this country is the Walton family. They are worth about a hundred billion dollars. That's more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people."
[Read more...]

FBI gives telecom provider spying devices (3 August 2013) [InfoWars.com]
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is secretly pressurizing telecommunications providers into installing spying devices inside internal networks of companies in order to facilitate espionage programs.

Citing the authorization of the move under the Patriot Act, FBI officials have been discussing with carriers in their effort to deploy government-supplied software, which will enable intercepting and analyzing all communications streams, CNET reported.

The software, now identified as "port reader", used to be known internally as the "harvesting program."

The FBI spokesman has said the agency has the legal authority to use alternate methods to collect Internet metadata. "In circumstances where a provider is unable to comply with a court order utilizing its own technical solution(s), law enforcement may offer to provide technical assistance to meet the obligation of the court order."

But, police cannot intercept the contents of real-time communication streams, including email bodies, Facebook messages or streaming video unless a wiretap order from a judge is obtained.
[Read more...]

Stomach illness linked back to popular restaurant chains (3 August 2013)
"It went so long and nobody was able to give me answers," said Heller, a 54-year-old teacher in Crowley, Texas. "It didn't seem like anybody wanted to take you serious because there are so many stomach problems that resemble each other."

A mysterious outbreak of the parasitic illness usually found abroad is growing, with more than 400 confirmed cases in 16 states. FDA officials said Friday they had discovered the source of some of the illnesses, but not all of them. The agency said that the illnesses from Iowa and Nebraska are linked to salad mix from a Mexican farm that was served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. Those make up around half of the cases.

The rest of the illnesses -- many of them in Texas -- are still a mystery, state and federal officials say.

The source of this outbreak has proved particularly hard to trace. Doctors have to test specifically for cyclospora and many don't because it is relatively rare. So they may not order the correct tests, at least not at first. The parasite is so tiny that it's often difficult to confirm that a person has the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tests often have to be repeated with fresh samples.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I bought one bag of "fresh salad mix" years ago, and haven't bought another since. The reason? I found a few leaves with streaks of eggs stuck to them. Whether they were parasite eggs or insect eggs I didn't know, but I did know that I didn't want them in my salad. It seemed that the company bagging them didn't have a good screening process for the greens. Due to the risk of cross-contamination, I threw away the entire bag, and that memory has kept me from buying premixed greens since.

Power plant demolition in Bakersfield goes wrong (3 August 2013)
Five spectators were injured Saturday after shrapnel was sent flying at the demolition of a decommissioned steam power plant in California's Central Valley, authorities said.

More than 1,000 people had gathered at 6 a.m. in a nearby parking lot to watch the planned implosion at the plant owned by Pacific Gas and Electric in Bakersfield. After structures on the property came crashing down, a police officer at the scene heard a man screaming for help and saw his leg had been severed, police said.

"It was a piece of shrapnel that came flying out of the explosion and came across and went through a couple of chain link fences, struck him and impacted into a vehicle," said Lt. Scott Tunnicliffe.

The 44-year-old victim might lose his other leg as well due to his injuries, Tunnicliffe said.

Four other spectators were treated for minor injuries, said Kern County Fire engineer Leland Davis. All of the injured spectators were standing beyond a perimeter set up to ensure public safety, Davis said.
[Read more...]

Factors behind the growing infertility epidemic affecting millions of Americans (3 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) It seems as though everyone knows someone who struggles with infertility. It can be extremely devastating for any woman trying to conceive, when she looks at the little blue stick month after month only to see the same tell-tale negative sign. In the United States, a woman is considered to have infertility problems if she is unable to get pregnant after 12 months of trying to conceive without contraception.

According to government statistics, 6.7 million women and two million married couples are infertile. 35 percent of men are estimated to be sub-fertile and two percent of men are totally infertile. In 1968, there were only 600,000 office visits for infertility compared to the millions who fill up OB/GYN waiting rooms today.

Unfortunately, conventional medicine has little to offer in the area of infertility other than diagnostic tests, fertility drugs, and IVF (in vitro fertilization) that is mostly geared towards the female. They chalk the increase in infertility numbers up to better diagnostics, better trained or specialized physicians, and media publicity from new treatments. Because of a failure to acknowledge this growing epidemic, little government-funded research has been done into the actual causes of infertility - maybe because the findings might be controversial and go against what the drug industry promotes, or maybe because conventional medicine focuses on disease symptomology and not underlying causes.

The natural health community attributes 40 percent of infertility problems to men, 40 percent to women, and about 20 percent to unknown origin. A list of reasons for infertility in men include: an increase in body temperature from tight clothing and hot baths, cholesterol and auto-immune disease medications, amino acid, vitamin C, B, E, or zinc deficiencies, a lack of DHEA, stress, cortisol or pH imbalance, age and time of year, occupational hazards, radiation from cell phones, malnutrition, heavy metals, alcohol, infections, smoking, cottonseed oil, and genetically modified cotton and other foods, steroids, phyto-estrogens from soy, chemotherapy, STDs.

Factors known to cause infertility in women include: a pH imbalance, stress, lack of calcium needed for fertilization, pelvic inflammatory disease, an STD, HPV vaccine, allergy, cholesterol, and over-the-counter NSAID medications, hormone imbalance, emotional issues, white sugar, thyroid imbalance, malnutrition, some synthetic vitamin supplements, alcohol use, smoking, genetically modified foods which lack the nutrients necessary for fertility (because they are infertile themselves), high fructose corn syrup, phyto-estrogens from soy, vaginitis, caffeine, and a lack of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, or K.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Hulda Clark said that she found heavy metal contamination was often behind infertility, while Joel Wallach says that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are usually involved.

Babies die; hospital halts heart surgeries (3 August 2013)
Today, surgeons perform a series of three operations on babies like Waylon. They're high-stakes surgeries -- cutting into an organ the size of a newborn baby's fist is tricky, to say the least. The blood vessels can be thinner than a piece of angel hair pasta, and one wrong move, one nick, one collapsed artery or vein can be deadly.

These children are medically very fragile, and even the best surgeons lose patients. Surgeons track their deaths and complications and take great pride in the number of babies they save. Some are so proud they publish their success rates right on their hospital websites.

Kentucky Children's Hospital is not one of these hospitals.

Instead, Kentucky Children's Hospital has gone to great lengths to keep their pediatric heart surgery mortality rates a secret, citing patient privacy. Reporters and the Kentucky attorney general have asked for the mortality data, and the hospital has declined to give it to them. In April, the hospital went to court to keep the mortality rate private.

Parents of babies treated at Kentucky Children's say the hospital's effort to keep the data a secret, coupled with troubling events over an eight-week period last year, makes them suspicious something at the hospital has gone terribly wrong.
[Read more...]

Oakland's creepy new surveillance program (3 August 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Earlier this week, the Oakland City Council voted to approve the second phase of a $10.9 million surveillance center that would enable the City to engage in widespread warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever. This is a terrible blow to privacy.

The so-called Domain Awareness Center (DAC) would consolidate a vast network of surveillance data. The project was initially supposed to be about port security.

But in a classic illustration of mission creep, the project as proposed would have pulled in over 1,000 cameras and sensors pointed at Oakland residents, including 700 cameras in Oakland schools.

While surveilling schoolchildren is not going to secure the Port of Oakland, it would allow for the comprehensive tracking of innocent Oakland residents.
The DAC would enable the city to track individuals when they visit the abortion clinic, the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or the union hall, or engage in other private activities.

Although proponents of the project claimed that it did nothing more than consolidate existing surveillance systems, the mere combination of surveillance data is extremely intrusive. A mosaic depicts far more information than any individual tile.
[Read more...]

Internment camp for Jews in Second World War a little-known piece of New Brunswick history (3 August 2013)
As the situation for Jewish families in Austria worsened in the months leading up to the war, Kaufman's father decided to send his son to England -- one of 10,000 Jewish boys taken to the United Kingdom as part of a relief effort known as the Kindertransport.

"It was a tough decision to split up the family," Kaufman said in an interview from his home in Toronto.

But then-British prime minister Winston Churchill was worried there could be spies among the Jews, and he asked Canada and Australia to house them as internees.

Kaufman was one of 711 men and boys who found themselves stepping off a train on Aug. 12, 1940, and led on foot to an internment camp in Ripples, an isolated community about 30 kilometres east of Fredericton.

"The camp was in the middle of the woods and we spent our days chopping down trees into heating-sized cords of wood," Kaufman said. "It was cold."
[Read more...]

Pentagon suspended 60 personnel for criminal records after sexual assault review (2 August 2013)
Military officials confirmed Friday that 60 service members have been dismissed or suspended this year as recruiters, drill instructors or sexual assault counselors because a review of their records found previous violations for offenses from public drunkenness to sexual assault.

"The purpose of this review was to remove anyone with any blot on their service record, no matter how minor, to ensure the trust that comes with these positions," a military official told NBC News.

That trust has been called into question by a reported 35 percent rise in sexual assaults within the military from 2010 to 2012.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress in June that "there are currently, in my judgment, inadequate protections for precluding" people with histories of sexual misconduct from enlisting in the military.
[Read more...]

The first rule of fracking is: Don't talk about fracking (2 August 2013)
The Hallowich children were just 7 and 10 years old when their family received a $750,000 settlement to relocate away from their home in Mount Pleasant, Penn., which was next door to a shale-gas drilling site. By the time they're grown up, they may not remember much about what it was like to live there -- the burning eyes, sore throats, headaches, and earaches they experienced thanks to contaminated air and water. And maybe it's better if they don't remember, since they're prohibited from talking about the experience for the rest of their lives.

The terms of Stephanie and Chris Hallowich's settlement with Range Resources included, like most such settlements do, a non-disclosure agreement preventing them from discussing their case or gas drilling and fracking in general. But the agreement's extension to their children is unprecedented; one assistant law professor at the University of Pittsburgh called it "over-the-top."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

"According to the transcript [of the settlement hearing], the Hallowichs' attorney, Peter Villari, said that in 30 years of practicing law he never had seen a nondisclosure agreement that included minor children."
[Read more...]

House passes bill to improve federal customer service (2 August 2013)
The House on Friday approved a bipartisan bill aimed at improving customer service from federal agencies.

The measure, sponsored by two Texas congressmen, Henry Cuellar (D) and Michael McCaul (R), would require the Office of Management and Budget to set government-wide customer service standards, including targets for response times. It would also establish a specialized team to help agencies that consistently fail to meet the goals.

The legislation has a high likelihood of passing in the Senate, as a bipartisan companion measure was already proposed in that chamber. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who sponsored the Senate bill along with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), applauded the House vote on Friday.

"Citizens should expect federal agencies to deliver customer services at least as well as the private sector does, but this often is not the case," Warner said.
[Read more...]

McDouble debate -- the 'cheapest and most nutritious food in human history'? (30 July 2013)
In the online debate, some farmers suggested the McDonalds burger deserved more credit for feeding the poor cheaply.

Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said: "The biggest unreported story in the past three quarters of a century [is] this increase in availability of food for the common person."

But Tom Philpott, a campaigning organic farmer from North Carolina, said there were many more nutritious ways of feeding people cheaply.
"You can get a pound of organic brown rice and a pound of red lentils for about £1.30 each", Mr Philpott said.
[Read more...]

Taliban deny attack on Indian consulate in Afghanistan (3 August 2013)
Three suicide attackers killed at least nine civilians, most of them children, in a botched attack Saturday on the Indian consulate in an eastern Afghan city near the border with Pakistan, security officials said.

Authorities also reported that 22 police officers and over 70 Taliban fighters died in two days of fighting earlier in the week in the same province touched off by a feud between militants and villagers. Officials regularly announce high militant death tolls that are impossible to independently confirm.

Militants, mostly smaller groups based in Pakistan, have targeted Indian diplomatic interests multiple times in recent years. Afghanistan's main insurgent group, the Taliban, denied in a text message that it had carried out the attack.

Militant groups known for attacking Indian interests include Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people. LeT has been active in Afghanistan in recent years, often teaming up with insurgent groups operating in the eastern part of the country near the frontier with Pakistan. Last year the U.S.-led military coalition arrested a senior LeT leader in eastern Afghanistan.

India has been frustrated by Pakistan's failure to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has strong historical links with Pakistani intelligence. Pakistan has always viewed India as a potential rival in Afghanistan, which it considers its strategic backyard.
[Read more...]

Congress eyes renewed push for legislation to rein in the NSA (2 August 2013)
Members of Congress are considering 11 legislative measures to constrain the activities of the National Security Agency, in a major shift of political opinion in the eight weeks since the first revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The proposals range from repealing the legal foundations of key US surveillance powers to more moderate reforms of the secretive court proceedings for domestic spying. If enacted, the laws would represent the first rollback of the NSA's powers since 9/11.

The Guardian has spoken to six key lawmakers involved in the push to rein in the NSA, and those involved in the process argue there is now an emerging consensus that the bulk collection of millions of phone records needs to be overhauled or even ended.

Justin Amash, the Republican congressman whose measure to terminate the indiscriminate collection of phone data was narrowly defeated 10 days ago, said he was certain the next legislative push will succeed. "The people who voted no are, I think, hopeful to get another opportunity to vote yes on reforming this program and other programs," he said.

In the Senate, Democrat Ron Wyden said there was similarly "strong bipartisan support for fundamental reforms", a direct consequence of revelations about the nature and power of NSA surveillance. "Eight weeks ago, we wouldn't have had this debate in the Congress," he said. "Eight weeks ago there wouldn't have been this extraordinary vote."
[Read more...]

Reps. Conyers & Massie on Bipartisan Campaign Against NSA Spying; Call for James Clapper to Resign (2 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, we're calling for an end to this metadata of phone numbers of everybody in the United States of America without any regard for a criminal investigation going on or anything else, Amy. The point that we're aiming at is to have relevance, which is written into the Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, be observed and adhered to, which it wasn't, because what they're doing is creating a haystack in which to put a needle.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Massie, the Republicans and Democrats are not usually known for working together these days in Washington. Now, this was nearly passed, this amendment. Talk about your concerns around NSA spying.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE: My concerns deal with the oversight of the programs and the reporting to Congress and the reporting to people. In March, we had the director of national intelligence come to Congress, to the Senate, and tell us that this program did not exist. Yet last week we had the head of the NSA here lobbying to fund the program. And so, what we need is more oversight. They can't both maintain that the program doesn't exist or tell us lies in Congress, and then ask us to fund them. Specifically what we need is more visibility into the FISA court rulings. We understand the need for secrecy in ongoing investigations, but we need to know how the FISA court is interpreting the laws that Congress has written. We need oversight over that from Congress, and we need redacted and declassified versions of those FISA court rulings for the public.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Massie, what are your thoughts about Russia granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, who really started this ball rolling by revealing what--what the intelligence officials of this country, from Keith Alexander to James Clapper, have long denied, but now admitted they weren't telling the truth about, that the U.S. is spying on American citizens?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE: Well, clearly his disclosures have changed the course of human history, really. And I think his initial disclosures were a service to our country, because now we're having this conversation. And we wouldn't be having this conversation. I can't speak for Mr. Snowden's actions now. He's basically a person looking out for his own life at this point. But what he did initially was a service to our country. We need to facilitate a way for whistleblowers to do that in a better fashion. And I don't think our current whistleblower laws would have provided for him to do what he's done in a better fashion, so I'd like to see some reform there, as well.
[Read more...]

"We Are Slowly Dying": Fast-Food Workers Launch Strike for Living Wage and Right to Unionize (2 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
BRANDON GARRETT: We're both from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We worked in a Baker store, Store 1102. We went on an unfair labor practice strike in early June. And when we came back from our strike, we both were fired for going on strike. But they just told us we was on--we missed a certain amount of days, which were the days that we went on strike, that that's the reason for them firing us. But we all know, doing the unfair labor practice strike, it's against the law for them to actually fire us. So, we kind of--we told them about it at the time of the situation, but they said they do not recognize us as strikers, so that's why they was terminating us.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Brandon Garrett, who worked at Wal-Mart. Josh?

JOSH EIDELSON: So, OUR Walmart, as I've reported for The Nation, is a union-backed non-union group demanding changes in wages and working conditions at Wal-Mart. And what he's describing is the greatest wave of alleged retaliation against workers by Wal-Mart for organizing that we've seen at least since 2005. There are now 60 workers who went on strike last month who have been--who have been disciplined in some way, allegedly retaliation. And it represents a major threat to that campaign. One of the things we've seen in the fast-food campaign and at Wal-Mart is workers attempting to defend workers who allegedly were retaliated against for collective action with more collective action. So, on Friday night, before the big strike wave started this week, we saw workers at Domino's walk off, reportedly 90 percent of the workers on that shift, in defense of a worker who had been fired. That challenge of retaliation is the biggest challenge facing these campaigns, which are taking on industries that increasingly not only represent inequality in the United States, but represent the face of work in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Josh Eidelson, talk about the McDonald's sample budget.

JOSH EIDELSON: So, this is a document that was put out by McDonald's and by--together with Visa, which was a guide to workers to how to do budgeting. And it brought a lot of mockery on McDonald's, understandably, because what it shows, unintentionally, is that you cannot survive in a dignified way, in a decent way, on the budget of a full-time job at McDonald's. So, in this budget, someone had two different fast-food jobs and still had no money in the budget for heat, no money in the budget for clothing, $20 for health insurance. The truth is, there is no budget that McDonald's could have created that would have worked, because the average worker in the fast-food industry makes around $9 an hour.
[Read more...]

Federal judge again blocks Wisconsin's new abortion law (2 August 2013)
A federal judge on Friday blocked until at least November a state law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.

It was the fourth time U.S. District Judge William Conley has temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. His 44-page decision placed the law on hold until the November trial that will determine whether the law is constitutional.

Higher courts are expected to ultimately decide the issue. Whichever side loses before Conley is sure to take the case to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago. Meanwhile, federal courts around the country are or will be considering similar laws.

In his decision, Conley noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that women have a right to abortion, but that the state can put limits on the procedure when there is a government interest in doing so, such as protecting the health of a woman. But the state is unlikely to succeed in doing so, Conley found.

"For reasons previously discussed, defendants are unlikely to establish as a matter of fact that there is a reasonable relationship between the admitting privileges requirement and maternal health," he wrote. "Defendants' position may have some merit if they could articulate a single, actual instance where a provider's lack of admitting privileges had been a factor in an abortion patient's negative outcome or the ability to properly consider or sanction a responsible provider for such an outcome in Wisconsin.
[Read more...]

Mississippi aims to reduce teen pregnancy with cord-blood law (2 August 2013)
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said the DNA tests could lead to prosecution of men who have sex with underage girls.

"It is to stop children from being raped," said Bryant, who started his career as a deputy sheriff in the 1970s. "One of the things that go on in this state that's always haunted me when I was a law-enforcement officer is seeing the 14- and 15-year-old girl that is raped by the neighbor next door and down the street."

Bear Atwood, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said it's an invasion of privacy to collect cord blood without consent of the mother, father and baby. She also said an underage girl who doesn't want to reveal the identity of her baby's father might skip prenatal care: "Will she decide not to have the baby in a hospital where she can have a safe, happy, healthy delivery?"

The law took effect July 1, but hasn't been used yet. Cord-blood samples would have to be taken immediately after birth, and the state medical examiner is setting administrative rules for how the blood will be collected and stored. Megan Comlossy, health-policy associate for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said she thinks Mississippi is the first state to enact a law authorizing the collection of blood from the umbilical cord -- a painless procedure -- to determine paternity.
[Read more...]

Judge denies class action for Wal-Mart bias suit (2 August 2013)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A judge rejected on Friday an attempt to file a class action discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 150,000 Wal-Mart women employees in California who claimed their male colleagues were paid more and promoted faster than them.

The lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court was a scaled-down version of an initial complaint filed in 2001 that sought to represent 1.6 million women nationwide. But the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out that class action lawsuit in 2011, ruling it found no convincing proof of companywide discrimination on pay and promotion policy. The court also said there were too many women in too many jobs at Wal-Mart to wrap into one lawsuit.

After that setback, the women's lawyers filed smaller class action lawsuits, alleging discrimination occurred in different states and Wal-Mart "regions."

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ruled the smaller suit on behalf of California women employees was still too disparate and wide ranging to qualify as a class action lawsuit. He also found that the lawyers failed to show statistical and anecdotal evidence of gender bias.

"Though plaintiffs insist that they have presented an entirely different case from the one the Supreme Court rejected, it is essentially a scaled-down version of the same case with new labels on old arguments," Breyer wrote.
[Read more...]

FBI Taps Hacker Tactics to Spy on Suspects (1 August 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Law-enforcement officials in the U.S. are expanding the use of tools routinely used by computer hackers to gather information on suspects, bringing the criminal wiretap into the cyber age.

Federal agencies have largely kept quiet about these capabilities, but court documents and interviews with people involved in the programs provide new details about the hacking tools, including spyware delivered to computers and phones through email or Web links--techniques more commonly associated with attacks by criminals.

People familiar with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's programs say that the use of hacking tools under court orders has grown as agents seek to keep up with suspects who use new communications technology, including some types of online chat and encryption tools. The use of such communications, which can't be wiretapped like a phone, is called "going dark" among law enforcement.

A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment.

The FBI develops some hacking tools internally and purchases others from the private sector. With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.'s GOOG +0.26% Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said. Google declined to comment.
[Read more...]

Groups say drilling tool will disturb Va. marine life (3 August 2013)
Surveyors use seismic air guns to send blasts toward the sea floor and measure their echoes to identify drilling prospects. The industry says the method hasn't been shown to hurt marine life and is necessary to open drilling. But environmentalists say it could injure animals and disrupt migration and mating patterns.

"The unique part about this technology is that not only is it that first step (toward offshore drilling), but in and of themselves, the air guns are really, really dangerous and destructive," said Caroline Wood, Virginia organizer for Oceana's climate and energy campaign.

The U.S. government has estimated that 138,500 whales and dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean will be deafened, injured or killed by the blasts, according to the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club website. The North Atlantic Right Whale - of which only about 500 remain - is among the species at risk.

The demonstration, which will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m., is one of many on the East Coast, Wood said, adding that similar demonstrations will take place in Virginia Beach and Alexandria.

Debate over offshore drilling, which is years away even under supporters' most optimistic scenarios, is coming to a head this year. The U.S. House in June approved a bill to lift a moratorium on drilling in Virginia waters. The federal government will release a report this fall outlining the environmental impact of East Coast drilling.
[Read more...]

Federal solar energy program could save U.S. $50 billion per year by 2050 (2 August 2013)
Solar energy could supply one-third of all electricity demand in the Western US by 2050 while and massively cutting emissions -- if the Department of Energy's (DOE) SunShot Initiative succeeds.

Researchers made the bold prediction in "SunShot Solar Power Reduces Costs and Uncertainty in Future Low-Carbon Electricity Systems," a study released this week by the University of California at Berkeley.

Using a detailed computer model that considered potential cost reductions through the SunShot Initiative and potential effects of proposed emissions reduction policies, the study found if DOE achieves its goal of reducing the cost of solar to $0.06 cents per kilowatt-hour to reach grid parity, it will displace natural gas, nuclear, and clean coal technologies while reducing emissions 80% below 1990 levels.

Solar Energy Could Save The Planet At A Modest Cost
The UC Berkeley team used SWITCH (Solar, Wind, Transmission, Conventional, and Hydro) a high-resolution electricity system planning model, to study what the future of solar energy could look like across the Western US. Fortunately, the outlook is bright for solar for states west of the Kansas-Colorado border and as far north as Alberta and British Columbia.
[Read more...]

US government whitewashed economic damage of BP oil spill (2 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) A group of scientists and experts requested by Congress to assess the total damage caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 have said the government's current methods of putting a price tag on the most sweeping eco-disaster in a generation are inadequate.

Further, the panel of 16 experts said in a report for the National Research Council, the government's bid to provide a full accounting of the accidental spill did not come close to capturing the full extent of environmental and economic losses suffered in coastal fishing regions, marine life and the deep sea.

In their study, the experts called for a major overhaul of the methods the government utilizes to put a price on environmental damage and losses, especially following a disaster on the scale of the BP spill.

Is Uncle Sam lowballing the damage figure?
"The full value of losses resulting from the spill cannot be captured ... without consideration of changes in ecosystem services - the benefits delivered to society through natural processes," said the report.
[Read more...]

U.S. Federal Railroad Administration issues safety order after Lac-Megantic disaster (2 August 2013)
The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration has issued emergency safety measures to secure trains carrying hazardous materials in response to the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.

The order was issued Friday after an internal safety audit by the rail authority determined that "additional action is necessary to eliminate an immediate hazard of death, personal injury, or significant harm to the environment," according to a U.S. Department of Transportation news release.

The emergency measures were prompted by a significant increase since 2009 in serious accidents involving flammable liquids and the rise in such shipments in the last couple of years, according to the release.

U.S. train inspection data also showed nearly 5,000 breaches of "securement regulations" since January 2009.
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Free energy breakthrough? Holy grail of water splitting technology now achieved with sunlight, mirrors and seawater (2 August 2013)
So the "holy grail" of solar power has always been finding a way to store solar energy that's portable, dense and relatively lightweight. Until now, that discovery has been elusive.

But now a team of scientists in Boulder, Colorado say they have come up with "a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel."

Sunlight, mirrors and a reaction chamber
The system works by exploiting a large array of ground mirrors to focus sunlight onto a tall reaction tower. There, the intense heat (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) powers a reaction chamber containing metal oxides. The heat drives oxygen atoms off the metal oxides, causing them to "soak up" the oxygen from steam vapor introduced into the chamber. Steam vapor is, of course, made of water (H2O), so stealing the oxygen atoms from water leaves hydrogen gas that can then be collected.

In effect, the tower uses sunlight to split water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. The hydrogen gas is then collected, purified and pumped into high-pressure hydrogen containers which, pound for pound, are extremely dense "batteries" of energy that far out-perform chemical batteries.

Better yet, hydrogen gas then holds all this energy with 100% efficiency, losing no potential whatsoever, even if stored for decades. From an environmental perspective, hydrogen is also a super clean-burning fuel, producing no carbon dioxide emissions or particulate matter. (The reason hydrogen does not produce CO2 when combusted is because it does not contain carbon, obviously. CO2 production requires a carbon-based source of fuel such as hydrocarbons -- coal, gasoline, diesel, etc.)
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Expensive medications rendered useless by gut bacteria (2 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) The human body appears to have its own built-in safety mechanism for breaking down questionable pharmaceutical components and rendering them inactive. A recent study published in the journal Science reveals that gut flora, which naturally populate human intestines for digestive and immune system purposes, render useless the active drug compounds in some heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia medications, a mechanistic action that has baffled scientists for decades.

For the past several decades, the scientific community has been aware of the fact that gut bacteria are capable of inactivating certain pharmacological components. A team of scientists from Columbia University in New York, in fact, identified back in the 1980s one bacterial strain in particular, known as Eggerthella lenta, that deactivates digoxin, one of the oldest glycoside compounds used in cardiac medications.

But in the decades since this groundbreaking discovery was made, scientists have been unable to determine with any sort of precision how, exactly, E. lenta deactivates digoxin, or whether or not it utilizes the synergy of other bacterial strains in the gut to perform this function. A primary reason for this is the fact that, in isolation, bacterial samples taken from the human digestive tract react unpredictably when exposed to digoxin.

This latest research, however, fills in some of the gaps surrounding how this complex process works, showing for the first time that two specific genes in the gut activate in the presence of digoxin. Though these genes already express themselves to a much lesser degree under normal circumstances, they apparently switch into overdrive when exposed to the offending drug compounds, which scientists believe provides new insights into this mystery.
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Archeologists find 200-year old probable Inuit village in Alaska from before contact with whites (2 August 2013)
Archeologists have found a village near the Kobuk River that may pre-date any Western contact in Alaska, likely dating back to the late 1700s or early 1800s, Alaska Public Media reported on Thursday.

Dr. Doug Anderson, professor of anthropology at Brown University, told the radio station, "In some other areas here we've found maybe two houses that are connected by tunnels, but nothing like this. And in other areas those houses are really quite small compared to the houses here; these are gigantic houses."

Anderson explained that the one-room homes look a lot like cabins and are dug about four feet into the earth, complete with a fireplace in the middle. The village housed around 200 people, and carbon dating indicates that the village is around 200 years old, which is just before Western explorers made it to Alaska.

Edward Cleofe, an undergraduate student working with Anderson on the project, explained that evidence indicated the villagers kept domestic dogs. "Does anyone know what coprolites are? That's a fancy archaeology word for poop. We found a bunch of dog poop right over there full of fish bones and fish scales and fish things," he said.
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No Comfort: Cuts leave hospital ship at Norfolk pier (2 August 2013)
Since the day it arrived in Norfolk, making this town its new home base, the Navy hospital ship Comfort has been sitting pierside at Norfolk Naval Station - ready to go, but stripped of its humanitarian mission.

The ship arrived March 1, the same day sequestration took effect, and became one of the earliest victims of across-the-board budget cuts.

This week, instead of being in the Caribbean as part of a planned four-month humanitarian mission to South and Central America, a skeleton crew gave hundreds of students a tour of the vessel's empty hospital wards, describing for them what the waterborne, state-of-the-art medical facility is capable of doing, given the chance.

The 550 high school and college students from 26 countries, 75 from Hampton Roads, were participating in a youth leadership conference run by Operation Smile. The Norfolk-based charity, which provides surgery for children in developing countries who have cleft lips or palates, worked closely with the Navy to help Haiti's earthquake victims in 2010 and was on the Comfort's 2009 outreach mission - known as Continuing Promise - to South and Central America.
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Paul Ryan's claim that $15 trillion has been spent on the war on poverty (2 August 2013)
The poverty rate is determined by the U.S. Census, and generally such government figures are fairly authoritative. The poverty rate is now about 15 percent, and the last time it was this high was in 1993. Ryan spokesman Conor Sweeney said that was the year that Ryan was referencing when he said "in a generation." (Okay, a generation is generally defined as 30 years, but 20 may be fine for government work.)

If you look at the table on page 13 of the Census report, the poverty rate generally jumps up during or right after a recession, which is why the rate hit 15 percent in the early 1980s, 1993 and now.

While Ryan points to the 15-percent rate as evidence of failure, increasingly scholars believe the official figure is not especially informative.

For instance, transfer payments such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or food stamps, are not recorded as income, meaning that the impact of programs for the poor is not reflected in the official estimate. The Census Bureau has tried to mitigate these concerns with a new Supplemental Poverty Measure, but that has come under attack as well.
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Glyphosate toxicity to humans: An overview (2 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) Monsanto's infamous Roundup contains the hotly debated compound called glyphosate. This merciless herbicide is also found in 750 or more U.S. products. An herbicide like this infiltrates the landscape and accumulates in mammals, especially bone, hindering cellular detoxification along the way.

A destroyer, glyphosate annihilates a plant's building blocks of life, tearing apart amino acids. By disrupting the "shikimate pathway" in plants and microorganisms, glyphosate creeps inside leaves and stalk, raping natural life processes. Glyphosate also destroys the beneficial microorganism in the human gut, destroying the human immune system.

To make matters worse, glyphosate is often mixed with adjuvants - chemical agents that increase glyphosate's destructive power. It's often mixed with surfactants and foaming agents that allow the liquid to bond to and penetrate the structures of a plant's leaves. This mass infiltration has created a chemical environment.

Glyphosate's existence welcomes GMOs
Glyphosate's mere existence has led scientists to develop Roundup-Ready seeds which are genetically modified to resist the glyphosate. This has allowed an up-rise in engineered food, which the human body cannot naturally process. Farmers can now plant the genetically engineered crop and spray their fields simultaneously with glyphosate. Weeds are expected to die and terminator crops are engineered to withstand the chemicals. This has led to global food dominance by corporations like Monsanto, who push their genetically altered food onto Third World countries all under the guise of "feeding world hunger." Now farmers feel that they must depend on these chemical companies for seed, and are cornered into using herbicides like glyphosate to have a more productive crop.
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NOAA: Puget Sound killer whales to stay protected (2 August 2013)
Seattle (AP) -- Killer whales that spend their summers in Puget Sound are a distinct population group and will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service spent a year reviewing a petition to delist the orcas. The petition was brought by the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of California farmers who faced water restrictions to protect salmon the orcas eat. They argued the Puget Sound orcas were part of a larger north Pacific population and didn't qualify for the 2005 endangered species listing.

But NOAA spokesman Brian Gorman said those arguments were rejected.

"We have decided these killer whales are a distinct population group," Gorman said. "They have their own language, own food source. They don't interbreed with other groups of killer whales. They meet the legal standard for a distinct population group."

He added officials are continuing to work on recovery plan options.
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This energy-efficient house is made of yarn and seaweed (2 August 2013)
Seaweed: stuffing your stomach, stuffing your home. And not just because you filled your pantry with those crack-like seaweed crisps from Trader Joe's. If you lived on the Danish island of Læso in the 1800s, it was common for your home to be insulated with seaweed. Now some Danish architects are reviving the slimy trend in hopes of calling attention to sustainable building solutions.

Realdania Byg, a nonprofit, and Vandkunsten, a Danish architecture company, put their heads together and built a home on Læso called the Modern Seaweed House, GizMag reports:

"The 100 sq m (1,076 sq ft) home was built for two families (eight occupants) and includes a large central family room with kitchen. At both ends of the house there is an additional living space that features a raised loft bed for additional guests.

"It was constructed with timber-frame panels and stuffed with seaweed as an alternative to mineral wool. The roof and facade were then cladded with pillows made from knitted wool and stuffed with seaweed. On the roof these pillows are thick and soft, while on the facade they are small and hard, resembling brick work. Furthermore, the peaked ceiling is also covered with panels stuffed with seaweed and upholstered with linen fabric."
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Your mouthwash might soon come in packaging made from potatoes (2 August 2013)
Among all the delicious foods associated with Maine -- blueberries, lobsters ... uh, lobsters -- potatoes don't' really stand out. But while Maine is no Idaho, it does have a potato-growing industry, and for the past few years, local companies have been looking into the possibility of turning potatoes into plastic packaging. Soon, Tom's of Maine, which produces all-natural toothpaste and other personal hygiene items, will be making potato plastic packages a reality.

It's been clear for a while that Maine's potato growers could easily supply a stock of non-edible potatoes that can turn into bioplastic. Apparently, the French and other Europeans are all over this, but in the U.S., we -- surprise -- only make bioplastic from corn. And it's GMO corn. So, Maine boosters have been plotting to create potato plastic that will appeal to people who don't want to use plastic, don't want to use GMOs, but haven't got on the just-minimize-your-waste-already train.

All that was left was to find some company to buy into this potato plot. And Tom's of Maine actually a pretty perfect match: Tom's is in Maine, its entire brand is built on appealing to people who also might want to avoid GMOs, and now it's owned by gigantic multinational corporation Colgate, which wasn't exactly about to give up plastic completely. We just hope toothpaste + potato is a less gross flavor than toothpaste + orange juice.*

* Yes, we know potato bioplastic doesn't taste like potatoes. Don't email.
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Nine years after Congress's request, FDA defines 'gluten-free' (2 August 2013)
It took a little longer than the construction of the Lincoln Memorial, but the Food and Drug Administration on Friday morning finalized its definition of what it takes for food to qualify as "gluten-free."

The official government designation came nine years after Congress asked the agency to establish a standard for companies wanting to label their products as gluten-free and five years after the deadline set by lawmakers.

In the interim, a growing number of manufacturers have leaped into the lucrative and exploding market for foods without gluten, a protein found in barley, wheat and rye. While several independent organizations certify products as gluten-free, until Friday there was no government standard for what it takes to earn that label, meaning that foods marketed as gluten-free actually contained varying amounts of the protein.

At the same time, an increasing number of Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which consuming gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine and contribute to a range of health issues, from gastrointestinal problems to increased risk for osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriages and certain types of cancer.
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Edward Snowden asylum: US 'disappointed' by Russian decision (1 August 2013)
The White House expressed anger and dismay on Thursday after Russia granted temporary asylum to the American whistleblower Edward Snowden and allowed him to leave the Moscow airport where he had been holed up for over a month.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was "extremely disappointed" by the decision, almost certainly taken personally by President Vladimir Putin. He said Moscow should hand Snowden back and hinted that Barack Obama might now boycott a bilateral meeting with Putin in September, due to be held when the US president travels to Russia for a G20 summit.

Carney added that Snowden had arrived in both China and Russia carrying with him thousands of top secret US documents. He said: "Simply the possession of that kind of highly sensitive classified information outside of secure areas is both a huge risk and a violation.

"As we know he's been in Russia now for many weeks. There is a huge risk associated with ... removing that information from secure areas. You shouldn't do it, you can't do it, it's wrong."

With US-Russian relations now at a cold war-style low, Snowden slipped out of Sheremetyevo airport on Thursday afternoon. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Russia's federal migration service had granted him temporary asylum for one year. Snowden had left the airport to stay at an undisclosed location with expatriate Americans, he added.
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PAM COMMENTARY: Obama needs to get over it and roll back the stupid and even treasonous things that George W. Bush did in office. I'm not saying that Obama needs to roll back everything -- he can keep the Medicare prescription drug benefit. That program does help some people, even though it was really introduced to throw money at Bush's father, with his big pharmaceutical investments.

But the rest of Bush's "work" was mostly criminal or worthless, and the burden to the country from Bush/Cheney's old policies should be lifted for good.

NSA Confirms Dragnet Phone Records Collection, But Admits It Was Key in Stopping Just 1 Terror Plot (1 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: That was NSA Deputy Director John Inglis being questioned by the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy. I want to go back to Spencer Ackerman. Can you please unpack what we just heard?

SPENCER ACKERMAN: What you heard was extraordinary. You heard the deputy director of the NSA say two things simultaneously--first, that the bulk phone records collection that's gone on for at least seven years of all Americans' phone records--hundreds of million, yours, mine, everyone's, your neighbors', your family members'--has in maybe one case--maybe--stopped a terrorist attack, maybe, at absolute most. And he also said--and this is the subtler thing that's easier to miss but is very important to link with yesterday's documents disclosure--he said that was the wrong way to view the program, that it wasn't a sort of, as he put it, "but for" instance of actually directly stopping a plot. That's not really the right way to view it, he said.

Well, look at what they told Congress in 2009 and 2011, the documents that the Obama administration disclosed yesterday. They present both of these programs--the one that we sort of commonly call PRISM, the Internet habits and communications collection program, and the bulk phone records program that they call 215--when you put them together, they describe them indistinctly, inseparably, and talk about how they directly disrupted terrorist plots, and tell Congress, in secret documents, that disclosing these programs would disrupt or potentially disrupt one of the most important safeguards to keeping the country safe since 9/11 and making sure that there's not another terrorist attack. That's what they told Congress ahead of key votes authorizing these programs. And now in open session, directly, they can't even say that seven years' worth of phone records collection, basically a network of everyone's social interactions conducted over the telephone, which is very easy to tell from metadata, for seven years, from all Americans, has maybe stopped one terrorist plot.
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'Most of the sex ... was consensual': Castro's blame-the-victim act all too familiar, abuse experts say (1 August 2013)
Ariel Castro's words at his sentencing hearing on Thursday are almost jaw-dropping. Given a chance to speak before he was sentenced to life in prison, plus a thousand years for aggravated murder and for holding three young women captive for 11 years, he repeatedly blamed his victims.

He denied he raped and beat Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, claiming instead that they asked him for sex and that his sexual addiction was to blame. He even said the abuse couldn't have been that bad because DeJesus "looks normal." While many onlookers were astonished, abuse experts said they hear that kind of language and justification every day.

NBC News asked them to weigh in on specific comments Castro made:

"Most of the sex that went on in that house, probably all of it, was consensual," Castro said. "These allegations about being forceful on them -- that is totally wrong. Because there was times where they'd even ask me for sex --many times. And I learned that these girls were not virgins. From their testimony to me, they had multiple partners before me, all three of them."

The denial and rationalization comes as no shock to experts on rape and abuse. In fact, they say, it's typical that men who rape or batter women will deny they did anything wrong, and even that the victim was "asking for it".

"I think it's actually very typical of an abuser," says Barbara Paradiso, who directs the center on domestic violence at the University of Colorado-Denver.
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Why commuting is bad for your health (1 August 2013)
If you drive to work solo, you're not alone.

According to a survey done by the Public Policy Institute of California, over half -- 56 percent -- of Bay Area residents drive to work unaccompanied.

Unfortunately, increasing gas prices aren't the only thing commuters must worry about. There are numerous health costs (physical, mental, and emotional) to driving long distances to-and-from work. A recent article by MarketWatch shows commuters are more likely to experience neck and back pain based on a survey done by Gallup. Of course, sitting at a desk all day won't help, but the added strain of being confined in a car for 20 or more minutes a day only exacerbates the problem. Another study from Brown University showed that long commutes detract from participation in healthy activities, which can lead to issues like weight gain and high cholesterol. Commuting has also been linked to marital dissatisfaction due to the financial burden and the likelihood of one partner becoming more responsible for childcare.

And let's not even talk about the agony of finding a decently priced parking space in the city.
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The Trials of Bradley Manning (31 July 2013)
In late July, the trial of Bradley Manning finally came to a close in a heavily air-conditioned courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland, where the young private from Crescent, Oklahoma, was prosecuted for the largest security breach in US history.

Manning had already pleaded guilty to ten of the lesser charges against him--for instance, unauthorized possession and improper storage of classified material, which together carry a maximum twenty-year term. But this was not enough for the prosecution: it pressed on with a dozen more serious offenses, including the potential capital crime of aiding the enemy as well as charges stemming from the Espionage Act of 1917, which Richard Nixon retooled as a weapon against domestic leakers in his vendetta against Daniel Ellsberg. (Such a use of the statute has never been decided on the legal merits until this case.) Judge Denise Lind announced a verdict that splits the difference, acquitting the soldier of aiding the enemy but convicting him on the Espionage Act charges. Private Manning could still face a prison term of more than 130 years (the sentence will be determined in a separate proceeding). The consequences for American journalism are grave, as the government now has even greater incentive to prosecute as a spy any confidential source who passes classified information to the press, criminalizing what has long been a vital (and tacitly accepted) conduit of essential public information. Such collateral damage to the Fourth Estate will not be mourned by a government that has become aggressively intolerant of leaks, whistleblowers and, it often seems, a well-informed citizenry.

Fort Meade is the too-perfect setting for Manning's court-martial: an Army base, it is also home to the National Security Agency, now famous for its powers of digital intrusion after the spectacular revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA is the largest bureaucracy in the bloated US security complex, a farrago of draconian harshness coupled with casual indiscipline, dodgy legality with solemn appeals to the rule of law, and state-of-the-art IT with chronic power outages and a shambolic incapacity to run a search of its own employees' e-mails.

Private Manning was an Army intelligence analyst deployed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Hammer in Iraq when, in 2010, he amassed 90,000 field logs from the Afghan War and 392,000 from Iraq, files on the Guantánamo prisoners and 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables--a huge trove, but still less than 1 percent of what Washington classified in 2010. Manning passed them all to WikiLeaks, which published most of them through well-established newspapers and magazines.
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US closing embassies in Mideast for a day amid possible Qaeda threat (1 August 2013)
The United States is closing all of its embassies Sunday in the Middle East and parts of Asia because of a possible al-Qaeda-related threat to diplomatic posts worldwide, American officials told NBC News on Thursday.

The U.S. has been "apprised of information that out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, that indicates we should institute these precautionary steps," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

She didn't say which or how many embassies would be closed or what kind of information led to the decision, but she said the closings could be extended, "depending on our analysis."

A senior State Department official told NBC News that all embassies that are usually open in Sundays -- primarily those in Muslim countries and Israel -- would be closed Aug. 4 "out of an abundance of caution." Sunday is a normal workday in those countries.
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Global Warming Could Cause 50 Percent Increase in Violent Conflict (1 August 2013)
This week the exiled head of the Syrian opposition movement said he would meet representatives of President Bashar al-Assad in Geneva, a promising turn for a conflict that has left 100,000 dead, including many civilians, since spring 2011. It has been a long, bitter battle, but for many Syrians one root of the violence stretches back to several years before al-Assad's troops began picking off anti-government protestors. Beginning in 2006, a prolonged, severe drought decimated farmland, spiked food prices, and forced millions of Syrians into poverty--helping to spark the unrest that eventually exploded into civil war.

The Syrian conflict is just one recent example of the connection between climate and conflict, a field that is increasingly piquing the interest of criminologists, economists, historians, and political scientists. Studies have begun to crop up in leading journals examining this connection in everything from the collapse of the Mayan civilization to modern police training in the Netherlands. A survey published today in Science takes a first-ever 30,000-foot view of this research, looking for trends that tie these examples together through fresh analysis of raw data from 60 quantitative studies. It offers evidence that unusually high temperatures could lead to tens of thousands more cases of "interpersonal" violence--murder, rape, assault, etc.--and more than a 50 percent increase in "intergroup" violence, i.e. war, in some places.

"This is what keeps me awake at night," lead author Solomon Hsiang, an environmental policy post-doc at Princeton, said. "The linkage between human conflict and climate changes was really pervasive."

Any cop could tell you that hot days can make people snap--last summer veteran police boss William Bratton argued that a warm winter contributed to a rash of murders in Chicago. But Hsiang and his colleagues wanted to see how this pattern held up across the globe, at different times and with different kinds of conflict, to gauge just how much the climate can lead to violence.
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Armed Wisconsin agents bust into animal shelter to kill baby deer (1 August 2013)
Armed agents with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources raided an animal shelter on the Kenosha-Illinois border and killed a fawn two weeks ago, according to WISN-TV.

The Society of St. Francis told the TV station that nine DNR agents and four deputy sheriffs, who were "armed to the teeth," corralled the shelter's employees and then searched for the baby deer.

"I was thinking in my mind they were going to take the deer and take it to a wildlife shelter, and here they come carrying the baby deer over their shoulder. She was in a body bag," shelter worker Ray Schulze said. "I said, 'Why did you do that?' He said, 'That's our policy,' and I said, 'That's one hell of a policy.'"

The shelter had planned to send the fawn to a wildlife preserve in Illinois.
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Castro's house of horrors revealed in photos at Cleveland man's sentencing hearing (1 August 2013)
Prosecutors revealed chilling photos from inside Ariel Castro's Cleveland house of horrors at a sentencing hearing on Thursday, showing a house modified on the inside to keep his captives in and the rest of the world out.

Some of the photos showed the bedroom, including stuffed animals and other children's toys, where captive Amanda Berry and her daughter spent much of their time, FBI Special Agent Andrew Burke said. Others showed chains hanging from walls where two of the women endured their nightmarish captivity.

Handcuffed and in an orange prison jumpsuit, a bearded Castro appeared to smile as he entered the courtroom where he could come face to face again with the three women he has admitted imprisoning for a decade in his Cleveland home.

Asked by the judge whether he would like to speak, Castro said he "would like to apologize to the victims," before saying he would save further comments until later in the hearing.

Prosecutors stood ready to use a model of the confessed kidnapper's house of horrors and diary entries from victims to describe his atrocities at a sentencing hearing on Thursday, as witnesses including police officers and medical experts revealed the terrifying details -- including that more than 90 pounds of chains, measuring nearly 100 feet, were recovered from the home.

The judge said the chains would not be displayed in court.
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As Edward Snowden Wins 1-Year Asylum in Russia, NSA Program Tracking Real-Time Internet Use Exposed (1 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
EDWARD SNOWDEN: Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But 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, if I had a personal email.

AMY GOODMAN: The Guardian published its exposé on Wednesday morning just minutes before the Senate Intelligence Committee opened an oversight hearing on the NSA's surveillance programs. During the hearing, NSA Deputy Director John Inglis conceded that the bulk collection of phone records of millions of Americans under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act has been key in stopping only one terror plot, not the dozens officials had previously said.

Ahead of Wednesday's Senate hearing, the Obama administration released three heavily censored documents related to its surveillance efforts, but the White House has refused to declassify the legal arguments underlying the dragnet or the original rulings by the surveillance court on which the released order to collect phone records was based. President Obama will be meeting with a group of lawmakers today to discuss the surveillance programs.

Meanwhile, the head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, spoke Wednesday at the Black Hat conference, a gathering of hackers and cybersecurity professionals in Las Vegas. His speech was repeatedly interrupted by critics of the NSA's surveillance program.
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Edward Snowden leaves Moscow airport and enters Russia - live coverage (1 August 2013)
"This is a certificate that gives him the right to temporary asylum on the territory of the Russian Federation," Kucherena said, holding up a copy of the document.

A security official said Snowden had crossed the border at about 3.30pm, and a source at the airport confirmed he had left the airport, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

According to Kucherena, the whistleblower left the airport alone in an ordinary taxi. He declined to provide details on where Snowden was located, citing safety concerns.

"Since he is the most hunted person in the world, he will address the question of security today," Kucherena told journalists.

The former National Security Agency employee will himself choose his place of residence and forms of protection.

Although Snowden had originally said he intended to eventually move on to South America, more recently he had indicated that he wants to stay in Russia for the long term. Kucherena has previously said Snowden had been reading classic Russian literature and learning the language. In an interview today with Rossiya 24 television, he said Snowden had "no plans" to leave Russia for another country.
[Read more...]

FBI Raid Reveals Govt Knee Deep in Child Sex Trafficking (1 August 2013) [InfoWars.com]
FBI agents have rescued more than 100 children forced into prostitution by sex traffickers, during a three-day sweep across the US. [Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: He doesn't get to the portion of the broadcast about the raids until about 5 minutes into it.

North Dakota judge blocks law designed to close state's only abortion clinic (1 August 2013)
A North Dakota judge has placed a temporary hold on a law designed to shut down the state's only women's health clinic that offers abortions. According to a press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), North Dakota Senate Bill 2305 was found to impose medically unwarranted restrictions on a woman's right to have an abortion.

Judge Wickham Corwin wrote in the ruling that "A woman's right to choose is one of the inalienable freedoms guaranteed by the first section of our constitution."

The bill, which was signed into law in March, required that any physician performing abortions in the state must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where the procedure is performed. A similar Mississippi law, said CRR, has been blocked by a federal judge as unconstitutional.

The New York Times reported that the Red River Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota would be forced to close if the 30-mile law were enforced because the facility is frequently forced to fly in physicians from out of state.

"As RRWC provides its physicians with the appropriate staff and facilities, there is obviously no need for a legislative mandate that each of those physicians be credentialed to also perform abortions at a local hospital," wrote Corwin Wednesday.
[Read more...]

50,000 pounds of ground beef is recalled, may be tainted by E. coli (1 August 2013)
More than 50,000 pounds of ground beef packed at a Kansas plant have been recalled over fears of a possible E. coli contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.

The ground beef was produced by National Beef Co. on July 18 and sold to retailers, wholesalers and food service distributors across the country, the USDA said.

An investigation determined National Beef was the sole supplier of the beef that tested positive for E. coli, the USDA said.

E. coli is potentially deadly and it can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and kidney failure.
[Read more...]

Alberta Tar Sands Spill Is Slowing but Not Stopping (1 August 2013)
A Canadian energy company said on Wednesday that a 10-week-old series of tar sands leaks in Alberta had slowed. But the company, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., acknowledged that it still doesn't have a way to stop the spill. Its plan? Wait it out.

The announcement came after Canadian regulators said Monday that the leaks were ongoing, stating that "[t]here is no control on this incident." The first leaks were reported on May 20, with two more appearing in mid and late June.

On Wednesday morning, the company said in a conference call that it had identified a few older, inactive wells--one of which dates back to 1997--as probable culprits. At least one of the suspect wells were drilled by a prior operator, the company said. When a well casing failed, according to the company, oil started seeping out through the surrounding ground, eventually impacting a 50-acre swath. Pictures from the site show standing pools of oil, dead wildlife, and trees covered with thick, black sludge. According to figures released by the company, some 6,300 barrels of bitumen has been collected from the site so far and several dozen animals have been killed. The company says that the leaks have slowed to less than 20 barrels a day but that oil will continue to seep to the surface for some time.

The tar sands at the Cold Lake site are too deep to be mined, so the company uses a method called Cyclic Steam Stimulation, in which millions of gallons of steam are injected into the ground to heat and loosen the heavy tar, so it can be pumped back out. The process involves dozens of wells dotted across the site. Wednesday morning, the company said that bitumen--the heavy tar that can be processed into oil--migrated up from an old, compromised wellbore, eventually bubbling up at four different sites. According to the company, it's similar to a 2009 incident at the same site, when the casing of a well failed and bitumen started seeping to the surface. After that, Canadian Natural changed its standards for well construction, but it didn't address older wells, like the ones responsible for the current spill.
[Read more...]

TransCanada to go ahead with new pipeline from Western to Eastern Canada (1 August 2013)
TransCanada Corp. confirmed today that its long-awaited, $12 billion project to pipe oil east to Quebec and New Brunswick will go ahead.

The company "is pleased to announce it is moving forward with the 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East Pipeline project," it said in a release Thursday.

After inviting binding bids from companies wanting to ship oil over the line, TransCanada said it has commitments to ship 900,000 barrels a day over the line.

The mammoth project will convert 3,000 kilometres of TransCanada's main natural gas pipeline to eastern Canada to carry oil.

[Read more...]

Five ways cherries make lives happier (1 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) A powerful punch in a compact red fruit, the cherry is a vital part of our health. According to Fox News, cherries have the ability to do everything from reducing inflammation to aiding in weight loss.

Discover how these sweet little morsels can keep your body on the mend with these five health benefits.

Antioxidants are Cancer Fighters
Cherries are stuffed with super food antioxidants that are believed to help fight off cancer by destroying cancerous cells. As noted in Livestrong, cherries remove free radicals from the body, which helps in reducing aging and disease. A 2009 study from the University of Michigan, as reported in Medical News Today, noted that eating one and a half cups of tart cherries had a significant increase in the levels of anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that give cherries their brilliant red glow.

Weight Loss Aid
This little red fruit features 2.7 grams of dietary fiber per cup. Fiber is essential for generating a full feeling when eating, and it fills up the stomach to reduce the instance of overeating. Additionally, since fiber is not absorbed in the body, but rather pushed through into the stool, a person will absorb less calories per serving. Furthermore, as noted by Huffington Post, a cup of cherries has only 100 calories, making for a low calorie snack that is packed with nutrients.

Skip the Vitamin Supplement
When you eat a cup of cherries, you are getting a substantial boost in iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Cherries are also great sources of B vitamins including vitamin B6, riboflavin and thiamin. Additionally, this fruit contains no sodium or saturated fat, so you are getting all of the healthy benefits without any negative affects. Skip the bowl of sugar laden cereal for breakfast and instead get your vitamin fix from a bowl full of cherries.
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Senate Panel Presses N.S.A. on Phone Logs (31 July 2013)
WASHINGTON -- Senators of both parties on Wednesday sharply challenged the National Security Agency's collection of records of all domestic phone calls, even as the latest leaked N.S.A. document provided new details on the way the agency monitors Web browsing around the world.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the chairman, Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, accused Obama administration officials of overstating the success of the domestic call log program. He said he had been shown a classified list of "terrorist events" detected through surveillance, and it did not show that "dozens or even several terrorist plots" had been thwarted by the domestic program.

"If this program is not effective it has to end. So far, I'm not convinced by what I've seen," Mr. Leahy said, citing the "massive privacy implications" of keeping records of every American's domestic calls.

At the start of the hearing, the Obama administration released previously classified documents outlining the rules for how the domestic phone records may be accessed and used by intelligence analysts. And as senators debated the program, The Guardian published on its Web site a still-classified 32-page presentation, apparently downloaded by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, that describes a separate surveillance activity by the agency.

Called the XKeyscore program, it apparently gives N.S.A. analysts access to virtually any Internet browsing activity around the world, data that is being vacuumed up from 150 foreign sites.

Together, the new disclosures provided additional details on the scope of the United States government's secret surveillance programs, which have been dragged into public view and public debate by leaks from Mr. Snowden, who remains stranded in a Moscow airport.
[Read more...]

Lawmakers to NSA: Their intention was never to build a database of every phone call in America (31 July 2013)
In the House earlier this month, lawmakers said they never intended to allow the NSA to build a database of every phone call in America, and they threatened to curtail the government's surveillance authority. "You've got a problem," Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told top intelligence officials weeks ago.

Sensing a looming shift in the privacy-versus-security cultural calculus, the White House responded: It has ordered the director of national intelligence to recommend changes that could be made to the phone-surveillance program, and President Barack Obama invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers to the White House on Thursday to discuss their concerns about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

A White House official says the top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate intelligence panels will attend. So will Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon, two lawmakers who raised the alarm about the NSA's sweeping domestic programs. Two others calling for more NSA oversight, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sensenbrenner, will also attend.

The administration has emphasized what it describes as oversight of its activities by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, by congressional committees and by internal auditors. It has said, for example, that under rules approved by the court, only 22 people at NSA were allowed to approve searches of the phone database, and only seven positions at NSA, a total of 11 people, were authorized to disclose any results believed to be associated with persons in the United States.
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NSA acknowledges its '3 hops' get millions of Americans' phone records, not just terrorists (31 July 2013)
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's national security team acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that, when investigating one suspected terrorist, it can read and store the phone records of millions of Americans.

Since it was revealed recently that the National Security Agency puts the phone records of every American into a database, the Obama administration has assured the nation that such records are rarely searched and, when they are, officials target only suspected international terrorists.

Meanwhile, at a hacker convention in Las Vegas on Wednesday, the head of the NSA said government methods used to collect telephone and email data helped foil 54 terror plots -- a figure that drew open skepticism from lawmakers back in Washington. "Not by any stretch can you get 54 terrorist plots," said the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

More than a decade after the terror attacks of 2001, the phone-record surveillance program has stirred deep privacy concerns on Capitol Hill, where Leahy said Wednesday during an oversight hearing: "If this program is not effective, it has to end," adding that, "So far I'm not convinced by what I've seen."

In the House earlier this month, lawmakers said they never intended to allow the NSA to build a database of every phone call in America, and they threatened to curtail the government's surveillance authority. "You've got a problem," Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told top intelligence officials weeks ago.
[Read more...]

US government declassifies court order on NSA surveillance as pressure builds (31 July 2013)
A surveillance document declassified on Wednesday details the ability of National Security Agency algorithms and "technical personnel" to search through the NSA's vast databases of phone records from hundreds of millions of Americans.

Disclosed before the contentious Senate judiciary committee hearing on Wednesday, the April 25 document from the secret surveillance court known as the Fisa court bolstered assertions made by top intelligence officials about the restrictions on their ability to sift through the so-called "metadata" they collect in bulk.

But civil libertarians criticized the court's finding that mass collection of Americans' phone records is "relevant" to a terrorism investigation -- the central contention for the legality of the bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The heavily redacted document, from April, sets out the rules that govern a related order covering the Verizon telephone provider, published by the Guardian in June and provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I'm glad to see that the declassification has begun. Americans hadn't been able to challenge these obvious violations of the Constitution because the Bush administration had made them "secret," along with everything else that would have exposed their crimes.

Iraq war logs in Manning case 'hit us in the face': U.S. officer (31 July 2013)
"No one had ever had to deal with this number of documents," Carr said.

A prosecutor told the sentencing hearing that the leaks caused military intelligence officials to rethink how much access to allow low level intelligence analysts like Manning.

Judge Colonel Denise Lind began hearing arguments on Wednesday on how long a sentence he should face, with the soldier's lawyers expected to argue for leniency.

While Manning, 25, was acquitted on the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, sparing him life without parole, he could still face decades in a military prison.

The slightly built Army private first class was in Baghdad in 2010 when he was arrested and charged with leaking files including videos of a 2007 attack by an American Apache helicopter gunship in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff, diplomatic cables, and secret details on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
[Read more...]

Infamous horse-shooting company to start slaughtering horses for meat next week, despite arson and lawsuit (31 July 2013)
A New Mexico slaughterhouse plans to begin killing horses for meat on Monday -- despite a looming lawsuit and an apparent arson attack.

Refrigeration units at the Valley Meat Co. in Roswell., N.M., lit up in flames on Tuesday. Firefighters extinguished the blaze, but not before five compressors were damaged beyond repair. The company pledged to replace them in time to begin slaughtering horses and chilling their meat on Monday. From Albuquerque's KOB Eyewitness News 4:

"Chaves County Sheriff's Department said substances that could have been used to start the fire were found on the units and there is reason to believe it was arson. The owners are sure of it."

We're not endorsing arson. But this was the same meatpacking company whose worker shot a horse in the head on camera and said, "All you animal activists, fuck you."
[Read more...]

Chlorella protects against cadmium poisoning: NaturalNews Science (31 July 2013)
(NaturalNews) One of the most powerful cleansing and detoxifying "superfoods" known to man, chlorella is a fascinating single-celled algae variety that offers a plethora of unique benefits for human health and nutrition. And one such benefit, as illustrated in a 2008 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, is its ability to expel toxic cadmium from the body and prevent it from poisoning the liver and other vital organs.

Researchers from South Korea's Hanyang University learned this after testing the effects of chlorella on groups of Sprague-Dawley rats exposed to cadmium (Cd). The team divided 40 rats into four groups, three of which were exposed to 10 parts per million (ppm) of cadmium. The first of the three groups was given no chlorella (Cd-0C), while the second and third were given five percent chlorella (Cd-5C) and 10 percent chlorella (Cd-10C), respectively. The fourth group was assigned as a control.

After evaluating the health of the rats after eight weeks -- all rats had unmitigated access to water during this time -- the team observed that the Cd-0C group, which was given no chlorella, had the lowest overall body and liver weight, a clear indicator of poor health. This same group of untreated rats was also observed to have significantly higher hepatic concentrations, or concentrations of poison in the liver.

Conversely, cadmium-exposed rats given chlorella had much lower levels of poison in their livers compared to the Cd-0C group, illustrating the power of chlorella to protect this vital organ from damage. Chlorella was also shown to stimulate the expression of metallothioneins, or MTs, which bind with metallic compounds like chlorella and help remove them from the body.
[Read more...]

Mexico's peyote casts mind-bending spell on tourists (31 July 2013)
Gisele Beker, a 26-year-old Argentinian, trudged for hours in scorching sun to the sprawling Wirikuta desert, craving peyote, the cactus hallucinogen locals in Mexico deem sacred.

Joined by three Mexican friends, Beker was living her dream as part of a new wave of tourists taking a trip for a trip -- in this case to see where "lophophora williamsii" takes her.

"Did you strike gold yet?" she asks her Mexican friends anxiously -- after a 700-kilometre (435-mile) hitch-hike -- as they search the desert floor for the small, spineless cactus full of psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.

The drug is technically illegal but for centuries it has played a role in indigenous culture in northern Mexico and Texas, where it is part of transcendence and meditation for cultures such as the Wixarika, or Huicholes in Spanish.

So much so, that this remote corner of San Luis Potosi state has become a bit of a promised land for those who have trekked here to try peyote, despite the logistical challenges, since the 1960s.

The tourists just keep trickling in.

They have not been deterred by the difficult topography, and there is no indication they have paid any heed to rusty, metal signs announcing regularly that "HARVESTING AND SELLING PEYOTE IS A FEDERAL CRIME."
[Read more...]

Consumer alert: Most common vitamins, including children's vitamins, found to contain GMOs (31 July 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Natural News investigation reveals that an alarmingly large number of multivitamins and individual nutrient vitamins are formulated with ingredients derived from genetically modified corn.

This is the "dirty little secret" of the vitamin industry, but it's not one the mainstream media will touch because they refuse to admit GMOs are a problem to begin with. Those in the know, however, realize that eating any ingredients derived from GMOs may expose them to the BT insecticide chemicals found in GM corn.

GMOs are truly "hidden" in vitamins because the GM-derived ingredients are so heavily processed that all DNA is destroyed in the process, thereby destroying any footprint of genetic modification. Genetic ID tests, in other words, require particles of the food to remain relatively intact so that PCR lab equipment can replicate genetic sequences. Heavily processed ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin and ascorbic acid have no genetic material remaining, thereby sweeping their origins under the rug.

This is one reason who so many vitamins sold today are formulated with GMOs. This includes virtually ALL the popular multivitamin brands sold at grocery stores and pharmacies, by the way.
[Read more...]

Here's what it would look like if L.A.'s freeways magically turned into subways (31 July 2013)
Peter Dunn says he tries to design maps "that show places a little differently -- like measuring time instead of distance on the subway, or showing 50 states on a city street map." His latest project, Atlantic Cities reports, shows the Los Angeles freeway system in the style of a subway map:

"The map elegantly displays 31 freeways, 75 interchanges, and more than 850 exits on one poster.

"Dunn has worked nights and weekends on the map since January, fitting it in around his full-time job as an urban planner. 'If I'd known ahead of time the real size of the freeway system in L.A., I would have picked something different,' he says. 'It's a tedious hobby. It's like knitting.'"

It's also a sort of fantasy map for transit geeks -- this is what Los Angeles' public transit might look like if the city had a healthy system of subways, or rapid-transit bus lanes, or trolleys. We know it's not going to happen, but we can't help but keep California dreaming about jumping on the Hollywood Red Line from Silver Lake to downtown L.A.
[Read more...]

Bradley Manning verdict: cleared of 'aiding the enemy' but guilty of other charges (31 July 2013)
Bradley Manning, the source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of secret disclosures, faces a possible maximum sentence of 136 years in military jail after he was convicted on Tuesday of most charges on which he stood trial.

Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language. "Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty," she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison sentence for Manning -- on top of the three years he has already spent in detention -- dawned.

The one ray of light in an otherwise bleak outcome for Manning was that he was found not guilty of the single most serious charge against him -- that he knowingly "aided the enemy", in practice al-Qaida, by disclosing information to the WikiLeaks website that in turn made it accessible to all users including enemy groups.

Lind's decision to avoid setting a precedent by applying the swingeing "aiding the enemy" charge to an official leaker will invoke a sigh of relief from news organisations and civil liberties groups who had feared a guilty verdict would send a chill across public interest journalism.

The judge also found Manning not guilty of having leaked an encrypted copy of a video of a US air strike in the Farah province of Aghanistan in which many civilians died. Manning's defence team had argued vociferously that he was not the source of this video, though the soldier did admit to the later disclosure of an unencrypted version of the video and related documents.
[Read more...]

Analysis: Manning damage has fallen well short of worst U.S. fears (31 July 2013)
(Reuters) - Accused of the nation's biggest-ever security leak, U.S. soldier Bradley Manning was vilified by the government for causing irreparable damage to American national interests. In retrospect, the harm he caused seems to have been overplayed.

A U.S. military judge cleared Manning on Tuesday of the most serious charge against him - aiding the enemy - in a verdict that indicated the soldier's secrecy violations, while criminal, were not as dire as prosecutors had alleged.

Manning's revelations to WikiLeaks, including hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables and raw intelligence reports from the Iraqi and Afghan battlefields, violated his military oath and "put real lives and real careers at risk," said former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

But the strategic damage to the United States - to its reputation and its ability to work with allies and conduct diplomacy - "was transitory," said Crowley, who resigned in 2011 after publicly criticizing the Pentagon's treatment of Manning in a military prison.

As reams of classified State Department cables - some containing unflattering portraits of foreign leaders or detailing U.S. envoys' contacts with human rights groups - leaked to the public, some saw catastrophe for U.S. diplomacy.
[Read more...]

U.S. student abandoned in jail cell gets $4 million (31 July 2013)
SAN DIEGO--A 25-year old college student has reached a $4.1 million settlement with the federal government after he was abandoned in a windowless Drug Enforcement Administration cell for more than four days without food or water, his attorneys said Tuesday.

The DEA introduced national detention standards as a result of the ordeal involving Daniel Chong, including daily inspections and a requirement for cameras in cells, said Julia Yoo, one of his lawyers.

Chong said he drank his own urine to stay alive, hallucinated that agents were trying to poison him with gases through the vents, and tried to carve a farewell message to his mother in his arm.

It remained unclear how the situation occurred, and no one has been disciplined, said Eugene Iredale, another attorney for Chong. The Justice Department's inspector general is investigating.
[Read more...]

Aaron Yoon's return to Canada a government secret (31 July 2013)
Foreign Affairs and RCMP officials are keeping all details surrounding the return of Aaron Yoon secret, including whether the government helped secure his release, paid for his plane ticket or even took him in for questioning.

The 24-year-old London, Ont. man spent 18 months in a Mauritanian jail after being convicted of terrorism-related ties. Last week, he was released nearly six months before his sentence was to end and deported from the North African nation.

Federal officials have since refused to divulge any information about his return, and won't even refer to him by name. When asked to explain the secrecy surrounding the case, a Foreign Affairs spokesperson would only speak off the record. But that off-the-record information only outlined the government's regular policy and procedure on privacy.

The lack of disclosure leaves Canadians without answers about the return of a man convicted of terrorism-related activities -- possibly without having to face police questioning or scrutiny.

With links to Ali Medlej and Xris Katsiroubas, the two London men who died in a terrorist attack in January at an Algerian gas plant where 37 hostages were killed, Yoon's return also raises questions about whether the Mounties consider him a threat to public safety.
[Read more...]

Effort to get NSA leaker Edward Snowden's father to Moscow collapses (30 July 2013)
The FBI tried to enlist the father of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to fly to Moscow to try to persuade his son to return to the United States, but the effort collapsed when agents could not establish a way for the two to speak once he arrived, Snowden's father said Tuesday.

"I said, 'I want to be able to speak with my son. . . . Can you set up communications?' And it was, 'Well, we're not sure,' " Lon Snowden told The Washington Post. "I said, 'Wait a minute, folks, I'm not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.' "

In a wide-ranging interview, the elder Snowden offered a vehement defense of the young man some have labeled a traitor. He said that Edward, who is holed up at an airport in Moscow, grew up in a patriotic family in suburban Maryland, filled with federal agents and police officers, and that he "loves this nation.''

Asked what triggered his son's decision to leak top-secret intelligence documents, Snowden, a retired Coast Guard officer, said he didn't know. Although Edward had seemed troubled in April during their final dinner together, he said his son had recently put up a "firewall between himself and his family."

"We had no idea what was coming,'' he said.
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Lawmakers Protecting NSA Surveillance Are Awash In Defense Contractor Cash (28 July 2013)
Though it failed by a twelve-vote margin, Congressman Justin Amash's (R-MI) amendment last week to curtail the NSA's dragnet surveillance efforts reveals new fault lines in the debate over privacy. The roll call for the vote shows that 111 Democrats and ninety four Republicans supported the measure, which was co-sponsored by Amash's Democratic colleague, John Conyers.

The amendment failed as the White House and NSA director General Keith Alexander personally lobbied lawmakers to oppose the measure. At first glance, a look at the 'no' votes seems to suggest an odd coalition of establishment Republicans and Democrats rallying to support the administration's position. Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican who casts himself as a leader on privacy issues and as a tough opponent of most of President Obama's domestic policies, voted against the Amash bill. So did minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who, as The Huffington Post reported, previously criticized the section of the Patriot Act enabling large-scale data-mining as a "massive invasion of privacy."

Why would an anti-Obama Republican and a supposedly pro-privacy Democrat join forces to uphold the NSA's surveillance policies?

MapLight, the Berkeley-based campaign finance website, has aggregated the numbers and found that lawmakers "voting to continue the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs received on average 122 percent more money ($41,635) from defense contractors and other defense industry interests than did representatives who voted to end the programs (18,765)." Amash has received a mere $1,400 from industry PACs and individuals.
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Schooled by Occupy movement, fast-food workers put demands on the table (+video) (30 July 2013)
Along with thousands of fast-food workers in at least seven cities this week, Naquasia LeGrand decided to walk off her job at KFC for a day and demand a "living wage" of $15 an hour.

Chanting "we can't survive on seven twenty five" -- a reference to the federal minimum wage -- Ms. LeGrand marched with hundreds of other workers yesterday in a nation-wide effort to draw attention to what they say is an ever-widening income gap.

New York's contingent of protesters, some of whom carried signs saying "supersize my pay," demonstrated all day in front of a number of McDonald's, Wendy's, and KFC's throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.

It is a scene playing out in other cities as well: Kansas City fast food and retail workers walked out Tuesday, and Milwaukee workers plan their one-day strike on Thursday. Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis workers have also walked off the job -- each asking for a $15-an-hour wage and the ability to unionize without reprisals from their employers.
[Read more...]

New Mideast Talks Hang on Old Question: Will U.S. Drop Support for Israeli Annexation of West Bank? (30 July 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AARON MATÉ: Well, despite Tzipi Livni's assertion that details of the talks will be kept private, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas laid out the Palestinian position on Monday during a visit to Cairo. Speaking to journalists, Abbas said the Palestinian demand for an Israeli withdrawal to 1967 is non-negotiable. Abbas's comments reinforce the doubts surrounding the new talks, with the two sides as far apart as ever on the key issues of borders, settlers, refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we're joined by two guests. Yousef Munayyer is the executive director of The Jerusalem Fund, its educational program, The Palestine Center, based in Washington, D.C. Here in New York, we're joined by Norman Finkelstein, a scholar and author of many books, including Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History and Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End.

Let's go to Washington first. I want to ask just about the issue of these talks happening right now, Yousef Munayyer, what is wanted by the Palestinians and the Israelis, how it's being run in Washington. Can you respond?

YOUSEF MUNAYYER: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think, first, to put this in context, we have to remember that, you know, Israel has no greater ally in the world than the United States. It relies heavily on the United States both economically, diplomatically and militarily for support. So the United States has a good bit of leverage over Israel. It also has a good bit of leverage over the Palestinian Authority. It provides a significant amount of money for its annual budget. And so, you know, it's not miraculous that the United States is able to bring two, essentially, clients to the table to do something.

The question is: Why has it been so difficult to do so? And the answer to that is: because of a failure of U.S. mediation over the years, time and time again. And so, I think what we should be looking for here, if these talks are going to have any--any hope of moving forward in any positive direction, is the way in which the U.S. approaches handling its role as a mediator. In the past, unfortunately, instead of acting as an enforcer of international law, as an enforcer of Israeli obligations and previous commitments, the United States has only acted instead as an enforcer of Israeli positions in the negotiations. And so, if you're on the Palestinian end, there's really no interest for you to keep going back to negotiations that only act as a cover for Israel's continued colonial activities in the West Bank.
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EPA chief: Stop saying environmental regs kill jobs (30 July 2013)
Tuesday, in her first speech as EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy got real with a crowd at Harvard Law School, the AP reports:

"Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs? Please, at least for today," said McCarthy, referring to one of the favorite talking points of Republicans and industry groups.

"Let's talk about this as an opportunity of a lifetime, because there are too many lifetimes at stake," she said of efforts to address global warming.

The GOP has resorted to calling pretty much every Obama plan, especially those related to the climate, "job-killing." McCarthy hammered home the emptiness of that claim. The Hill relays what she said:

"The truth is cutting carbon pollution will spark business innovation, resulting in cleaner forms of American-made energy ..."
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Bank of America whistleblowers say they were told to lie about mortgages (30 July 2013)
(NaturalNews) Americans still reeling from the collapse of the U.S. housing market and who lost homes or tens of thousands of dollars in equity are going to be especially upset by news that one of the lenders at the heart of the collapse, Bank of America, is guilty of fleecing borrowers and rewarding foreclosures.

According to BoA employees-turned-whistleblowers who have signed sworn statements attesting to the validity of their accusations, "Bank of America employees regularly lied to homeowners seeking loan modifications, denied their applications for made-up reasons, and were rewarded for sending homeowners to foreclosure," investigative journal ProPublica is reporting.

The statements were filed in mid-June in a Boston federal court as part of a multi-state class-action lawsuit brought by homeowners who attempted to avoid foreclosure via the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), a government program, but say their cases were botched by BoA.

Homeowners denied en masse
As expected, BoA is officially denying any wrongdoing, with a spokesman telling ProPublica that to a person, the former employees' claims are "rife with factual inaccuracies," adding that the bank planned to address the accusations more fully in July.
[Read more...]

Woman linked to vandalism at Washington sites (30 July 2013)
Authorities believe the green paint vandalism was part of a pattern of similar acts. Green paint was discovered splattered onto the Lincoln Memorial early Friday morning, and symbols were later found painted in green on a statue outside the Smithsonian headquarters on the National Mall.

The woman, who has a Chinese passport, arrived in Washington a few days ago and was traveling on an expired visa, prosecutors said. Police said she had no fixed address but that she told officers she lived in Los Angeles. She refused to give her phone number, email address or home address, police said, and a language barrier complicated initial efforts to interview her.

Prosecutors asked the judge to keep Tian locked up, calling her a flight risk and a danger to the community. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Chambers said there was no way to guarantee her presence at future court appearances without jailing her.

"While that danger to the community is not violent, it is nonetheless serious," he said.

Tian was arrested inside the cathedral's Children's Chapel on Monday afternoon, shortly after the still-wet green paint was discovered there. When a police officer approached her, she walked away and placed the soda can with green paint inside one of three bags that were sitting on chairs in the chapel, documents show. She also had green paint on her clothing, shoes and body, authorities say.
[Read more...]

New study shows magic mushrooms repair brain damage caused by extreme trauma (29 July 2013)
(NaturalNews) A new study by The University of South Florida has found that low doses of the active ingredient in magic mushrooms repairs brain damage caused by extreme trauma, offering renewed hope to millions of sufferers of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The study confirms previous research by Imperial College London, that psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound present in "shrooms", stimulates new brain cell growth and erases frightening memories. Mice conditioned to fear electric shock when hearing a noise associated with the shock "simply lost their fear", says Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, who co-authored the study. A low dose of psilocybin led them to overcome "fear conditioning" and the freeze response associated with it faster than the group of mice on Ketanserin (a drug that counteracts the receptor that binds psilocybin in the brain) and a control group on saline.

An estimated 5 percent of Americans - more than 13 million people - have PTSD at any given time, according to the PTSD Alliance. The condition more often associated with combat veterans, is twice as likely to develop in women because they tend to experience interpersonal violence (such as domestic violence, rape and abuse) more often than men.

PTSD is not just psychological
Common symptoms, such as hyper-vigilance, memory fragmentation, flashbacks, dissociation, nightmares and fight or flight responses to 'triggers', are generally thought to be psychological and therefore treatable by learning to change thought processes. But new research suggests that they may in fact be the result of long term physiological mutations to the brain.
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Groundbreaking investigation reveals Monsanto teaming up with US military to target GMO activists (29 July 2013)
(NaturalNews) A hard-hitting investigative report recently published by a prominent German newspaper has uncovered some shocking details about the tactics being used by chemical giant Monsanto in assuming control of global agriculture. According to this thorough analysis, Monsanto appears to be aggressively targeting independent researchers, scientists, activists, and others opposed to genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) by utilizing the vast resources and manpower of both the United States federal government and the American military-industrial complex

The report, which recently appeared in the July 13 print edition of Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), explains in rigorous detail how both individuals and groups opposed to GMOs and other chemical-based crop technologies have been threatened, hacked, slandered and terrorized for daring to digress from the pro-GMO status quo. On numerous documented occasions, pertinent information about the dangers of GMOs or lack of GMO safety data has been effectively blocked from timely release by mysterious forces that many say are the chemical industry in disguise.

"A conspicuously large number of Monsanto critics report regular attacks by professional hackers," explains an English-translated snippet from the SZ report. "There are (Monsanto) ties with the U.S. secret services, the U.S. military, with very hard operating private security companies and of course, with the U.S. government."

A telling example of this was when the European environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOTE), together with the German Environmental and Nature Protection Association (BUND), was targeted prior to releasing a damning study on the health-damaging effects of glyphosate, the primary active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. A mysterious virus infected the computer of the study's main organizer just days before publishing, which threatened to delay several important press releases.
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Will a Botched Coast Guard Contract Come Back to Bite James Comey? (29 July 2013)
When the ten Democrats and eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned James Comey in his hearing on July 9 for confirmation as director of the FBI, the words "Lockheed Martin," where Comey was general counsel and senior vice president between 2005 and 2010, were mentioned only twice. The first was when Chairman Patrick Leahy reviewed his career highlights. The second was when Senator Chuck Grassley noted that the FBI had cancelled Lockheed's contract to build its next-generation case-management system for their poor performance and asked if Comey had any involvement the case. "None," Comey replied. And that was that. The committee then unanimously voted to send his nomination on to the full Senate. Had the feckless solons the wit to ask the right questions about Comey's role in another disastrous Lockheed contract, they might have concluded he isn't fit for federal office at all.

In 2002, the Coast Guard retained Integrated Coast Guard Systems, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman, for a $24 billion project called Deepwater, the largest in Coast Guard history. The contract included building a new fleet of forty-nine 123-foot patrol boats. Soon, though, the lead engineer, Michael DeKort, discovered that there were environmental concerns with much of the ship's equipment, including radios that were not waterproof and hulls that buckled on the high seas. He tried to persuade his superiors to address the problems, but they weren't interested. Then, when he couldn't interest the press, he posted a 2006 cri de coeur on YouTube; he did so after receiving a letter from Lockheed's board of directors reporting that they had "determined that the Corporation's responses to those issues, beginning in October 2004 and continuing to the present, were appropriate and no further action is warranted. Each of the issues has been disclosed to the Coast Guard and the resolution of each issue was coordinated with and was or is being resolved to the satisfaction of the Coast Guard customer."

That letter was signed by Lockheed's senior vice president and general counsel, James Comey [PDF].

But Comey's claim in the letter was remarkable, given that the Coast Guard had already pulled the first eight of the completed ships from service because of their buckled hulls. In April 2007, the commandant of the Coast Guard, according to Corporate Counsel magazine, "tacitly acknowledged mistakes by reorganizing the program," reverting management of Deepwater directly to the Coast Guard and taking it away from Integrated Coast Guard Systems. Then, eleven months after Comey's claim that all was hunky-dory, the Coast Guard delivered a formal "revocation of acceptance" to ICGS for the eight vessels, citing many of the problems DeKort specified.
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Massive explosions rock central Fla. gas plant (30 July 2013)
TAVARES, Fla. (AP) -- A series of explosions rocked a central Florida propane gas plant and sent "boom after boom after boom" through the neighborhood around it. Eight people were injured, with at least three in critical condition.

John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said early Tuesday there were no fatalities despite massive blasts that ripped through the Blue Rhino propane plant late Monday night. Officials initially scrambled to find more than a dozen employees after the explosions.

"Management is comfortable saying all of those they knew were there tonight have been accounted for," he said.

Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith said possible causes of the explosion may be either equipment malfunction or possibly human error. Sabotage was not suspected.
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Holder Tells Russia Snowden Won't Face Torture or Death, But Does U.S. Record Undermine Its Pledge? (29 July 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald announced Sunday he would soon publish new details to confirm former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's claim that low-level analysts can listen to the phone calls of any American, or even read President Obama's emails.

GLENN GREENWALD: The story I've been working on for the last month, that we're publishing this week, very clearly sets forth what these programs are that NSA analysts--low-level ones, not just the ones who work for the NSA, but private contractors like Mr. Snowden--are able to do. The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they've collected over the last several years. And what these programs are are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things: It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you've entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future. And it's all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval from on the part of the analyst. There are legal constraints for how you can spy on Americans. You can't target them without going to the FISA court. But these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing history, Microsoft Word documents. It's an incredibly powerful and invasive tool, exactly of the type that Mr. Snowden described. And NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, and I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I just said.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald speaking Sunday on ABC's This Week. Now, Greenwald is expected to testify, not in person, not coming into the United States, but by video link from Brazil Wednesday at a separate congressional hearing alongside other critics of NSA spying. Later on the same show, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia disputed Greenwald's report. He is vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: I was back out at NSA just last week, spent a couple hours out there with high-level and low-level NSA officials. And what I have been assured of is that there is no capability in--at NSA for anyone without a court order to listen to any telephone conversation or to monitor any email. In fact, we don't monitor emails. That's what kind of assures me that what the reporting is is not correct, because no emails are monitored now. They used to be, but that stopped two or three years ago. So I feel confident that there may have been some abuse, but if it was, it was pure accidental.
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Bradley Manning judge to release verdict on Tuesday in WikiLeaks trial (29 July 2013)
Bradley Manning, the self-confessed source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of US state secrets, will learn his fate on Tuesday when a military judge announces her verdict in the most high-profile prosecution of an official leaker in at least a generation.

The army private faces a possible sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole should Colonel Denise Lind find him guilty of the most serious charge -- that he knowingly "aided the enemy" by transmitting intelligence to WikiLeaks.

In the course of the eight-week trial, which ended on Friday, the US government sought to create a new precedent by arguing that Manning knew he was helping al-Qaida when he released more than 700,000 documents to the anti-secrecy website.

The verdict will be issued at 1pm ET by Lind sitting alone in the courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland, in the absence of a jury -- an arrangement made at Manning's own request. The soldier's decision to put his faith in a military judge, rather than in a panel of his peers -- the military equivalent of a jury -- was a big legal gamble whose merits will become clear when the verdict comes in.
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FBI rescues 105 victims of child sex-trafficking in nationwide operation (+video) (29 July 2013)
Federal agents recovered 105 juveniles involved in prostitution and arrested 150 adults allegedly acting as pimps during a three-day nationwide crackdown against child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, the FBI announced on Monday.

Arrests were made in 76 cities in a massive operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in concert with 230 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The enforcement action marked the seventh version of Operation Cross Country designed to identify and free children forced into the sex industry.

"Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America," Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, said in a statement.
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Leaked EPA document raises questions about fracking pollution (29 July 2013)
The EPA doesn't seem very interested in finding out whether fracking pollutes groundwater. The latest indication of this emerged over the weekend in the Los Angeles Times.

Residents of the small town of Dimock in northeastern Pennsylvania have long been convinced that Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. was poisoning their drinking water by fracking the land around them. In July of last year, the EPA announced that although water from some local wells contained "naturally occurring" arsenic, barium, and manganese, the agency was ending its investigation there without fingering the any culprits.

Now we find out that staff at a regional EPA office were worried about the role of fracking in polluting the town's water, but their concerns appear to have been ignored by their bosses.

An internal EPA PowerPoint presentation prepared by regional staffers for their superiors and obtained by the L.A. Times paints an alarming picture of potential links between water contamination and fracking. And it reinforces the perception that the EPA is giving a free pass to the fracking industry, perhaps because natural gas plays a key role in President Obama's quest for "energy independence" and an "all of the above" energy portfolio. From the L.A. Times article:

"The presentation, based on data collected over 4 1/2 years at 11 wells around Dimock, concluded that 'methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality.' The presentation also concluded that 'methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] and other gas well work.' ..."
[Read more...]

Pfizer earnings top estimates, reiterates forecast (30 July 2013)
(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc reported second-quarter earnings slightly ahead of estimates on Tuesday as the largest U.S. drugmaker lines up a business split that could lead to the spinoff of its generics division.

The company, hit by falling sales of its now off-patent cholesterol fighter Lipitor, reaffirmed its financial outlook for the year.

For the second quarter, adjusted income fell 10 percent to $4.00 billion, or 56 cents a share, from $4.45 billion, or 59 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue dropped 7 percent to $12.97 billion.

Analysts, on average, expected second-quarter income of 55 cents a share, on revenue of $13.01 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Atlantic Equities analyst Richard Purkiss said improved profit margins, helped by cost controls, were responsible for the slightly better-than-expected profit.
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Overpicking threatens Greek herbs (30 July 2013)
Forestry officials on the Greek island of Crete have slapped a five-year ban on the collection of a variety of wild herbs snipped to near-extinction, the state-run ANA agency said.

The forestry department of Hania, one of the island's main towns, placed restrictions on picking sage, marjoram, oregano and sideritis, better known as Cretan mountain tea, in protected areas.

The department has outlawed the piecemeal uprooting of the plants until the end of 2018.

Special permission is required for commercial collection, and an allowance of up to 500 grammes is made "for personal use".
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Senator targets military law over sexual assault (29 July 2013)
Earlier this year, lawmakers were furious after learning that a senior Air Force official had overturned the conviction of a lieutenant colonel after a jury found him guilty of aggravated sexual assault, and there was no further recourse, not even by top leaders at the Pentagon.

Other episodes at the U.S. Naval Academy and West Point, combined with a Pentagon report on a survey estimating that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, spurred lawmakers to act. The survey said thousands of victims were still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing the crimes.

Gillibrand's measure would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial. That judgment would rest instead with seasoned trial lawyers who have prosecutorial experience and hold the rank of colonel or above.

"The chain of command is really an impediment for solving it because it's resulting in underreporting, no transparency, no accountability," Gillibrand said in an interview last week. "The crux of the issue is objectivity. They (victims) don't believe the commanders can be objective, that commanders either know the victim or know the perpetrator or have a reason to support the perpetrator, who is more senior, more decorated, gone on more missions than the victim."
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After the whistle: Revealers of government secrets share how their lives have changed (28 July 2013)
The former high-ranking National Security Agency analyst now sells iPhones. The top intelligence officer at the CIA lives in a motor home outside Yellowstone National Park and spends his days fly-fishing for trout. The FBI translator fled Washington for the West Coast.

This is what life looks like for some after revealing government secrets. Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing, according to those who did it. Jeopardizing national security, according to the government.

Heroes. Scofflaws. They're all people who had to get on with their lives.

As Edward Snowden eventually will. The former NSA contractor who leaked classified documents on U.S. surveillance programs is now in Russia, with his fate in limbo. The Justice Department announced last week that it won't seek the death penalty in prosecuting him, but he is still charged with theft and espionage.
[Read more...]

Amazon hiring 7,000 workers (29 July 2013)
Amazon announced plans Monday to hire 7,000 workers for its U.S. operation, with most jobs offering pay and benefits far above typical retail wages, the company said.

Amazon did not give specific pay scales for the positions, but said the 5,000 warehouse jobs will pay 30% more than jobs in traditional retail stores.

The jobs are full-time permanent positions and also include stock grants that, over the last five years, have averaged 9% of pay for Amazon's full-time workers. And the company said many workers would also be eligible for 95% tuition reimbursement for those attending college, whether or not their field of study is related to their job.

In addition, Amazon is looking for 2,000 workers for its customer service department, with those jobs being a mix of full-time, part-time and seasonal positions.
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ALEC's America (25 July 2013)
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) leads willing politicians like former Governor Tommy Thompson, his 21st Century successor Scott Walker -- and thousands more in the U.S. -- on a short rope.

Thompson joined ALEC nearly 40 years ago when he was a Wisconsin legislator. In a 2002 speech, excerpted last year on Bill Moyers' TV show, Thompson bragged: "I always loved going to those (ALEC) meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that's mine."

As a guest on Fighting Bob Radio July 18, Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, recalled Thompson's willingness to accept ALEC's anti-government agenda. The center operates "ALEC Exposed" with watchdog updates about ALEC's operations on the website PRWatch.org.

Many Wisconsin legislators have fed or remain at the ALEC trough, Graves told Fighting Bob Radio hosts Ed Garvey and Eric Schubring. Politicians are wined and dined with "scholarships" at ALEC conventions where hotel rooms at resorts, day care, cigar parties, liquor, and food are provided. All the willing politicians must do is sell their souls, and any semblance of good judgment in the public interest. In exchange, politicians and corporate executives decide which laws to push back home. In the current wave of right wing state governments, the corporate/privatization takeover is moving at a dizzying pace.
[Read more...]

Woman arrested after green paint found on Smithsonian statue, organ at National Cathedral (29 July 2013)
D.C. Police announced the arrest of a woman Monday afternoon in connection with pouring green paint in two chapels at the Washington National Cathedral, according a police spokeswoman.

It remains unclear whether the woman is also suspected of defacing a statue in front of the Smithsonian Castle and the Lincoln Memorial, both of which were also spattered with green paint. Police did not release her identity.

The vandalism at the cathedral and of the statue of Joseph Henry on the National Mall was found Monday. At the cathedral, the paint was found poured atop an organ in a chapel and in the children's chapel on the main level. The incidents occurred just three days after the Lincoln Memorial was vandalized in a similar manner.

D.C. police have now joined the U.S. Park Police in the investigation.
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Inca child sacrifices were drugged weeks before death, study finds (29 July 2013)
They analyzed carbon and nitrogen isotopes to determine if the quality of their food had improved, indicating a rise in status. They examined changes in sulfur and oxygen isotopes to find out if there were any changes in area or altitude that hinted of ritual journeys.

The scientists found that the 13-year-old's food had improved about a year before her death, a sign that her status had risen. They also found in the hair signs of alcohol and cocaine, found in the coca leaf. She had been given far higher doses of alcohol and coca than the boy and girl had received, though the amount had varied over time. Cocaine use peaked around six months before death -- nearly three times higher than earlier levels -- and alcohol use peaked in the 13-year-old's final weeks, the authors found.

The mounting evidence raises a question of "whether, in the final weeks, the consistently higher levels of [cocaine] and alcohol found in the Maiden's hair, compared with the younger children, may suggest a greater need to sedate her," the authors wrote.

Unlike at other Inca sacrifice sites, the children hadn't suffered any blows to the head; they must have died in some other way. The 13-year-old was sitting cross-legged with her hands loosely resting in her lap, surrounded by an arrangement of plates and drinking vessels. Given that the ceremonial dishes were undisturbed, it's possible she was placed there either while sedated or shortly after her death. It's unclear what killed the children, though hypothermia is a possibility, the authors said.
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Orange you ready for a tall glass of GMOs? (29 July 2013)
It's rare that us lowly eaters experience any personal gain from genetically modified food. But over the weekend the New York Times published a long piece by Amy Harmon that made the benefits of genetically modified oranges explicit.

That benefit? Having any oranges at all. An insect-spread disease, which turns oranges green and sour, is spreading throughout the world. Harmon quotes one scientist as saying:

"People are either going to drink transgenic orange juice or they're going to drink apple juice."

That may be a bit of an overstatement: Orange groves are succumbing fast, but growers are fighting back.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: It's possible that the lack of genetic diversity, caused by making so much of the orange crop seedless, contributed to the infestation.

BMW Driver, 72, Cops To Intentionally Running Over Mother Duck And Ducklings Crossing Road (25 July 2013)
A South Carolina motorist has copped to intentionally running over a "female mallard duck and several ducklings" with his BMW coupe as the birds crossed a road last month.

Robert Allen Willard, 72, was cited for mistreatment of animals, a misdemeanor, following the June 2 incident near his Myrtle Beach condominium. Willard, who did not contest the charge, paid a $469 fine to settle the case, according to court records.

According to witnesses cited in a Myrtle Beach Police Department report, when the ducks began crossing the road, "all vehicular traffic stopped." Except for the impatient Willard, who "intentionally sped up and hit the mother duck and several ducklings."

The mother duck and several of her ducklings were killed by Willard's vehicle. The "remaining orphan ducklings" were gathered up by an animal control firm.
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Barack Obama expresses reservations about Keystone XL pipeline project (28 July 2013)
Obama has been under growing pressure from campaigners, party donors, and Democrats in Congress to reject the pipeline, which would expand production from Canada's tar sands.

He adopted some of their arguments in his comments on Saturday, knocking down pipeline supporters' claims of a big jobs boost, saying Keystone would register little more than a "blip" on the employment rolls.

"Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that's true," Obama said in the interview.

"The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we're talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in a economy of 150 million working people."

The president -- without prompting by the reporter -- then noted that the project would not bring down gas prices, and might even raise them.

However, Obama said -- as he did in his climate change address last month -- that his decision on the pipeline would be based on the pipeline's effects on climate change.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: The big issue not mentioned here is SPILLS. There have been a lot of pipeline spills over the past few years, even in residential areas, and the new pipeline would give us more of them.

New beer lawsuit could spell trouble for Keystone XL pipeline (28 July 2013)
Bell's Brewery, which bills itself as the oldest and largest brewery in Michigan, has just filed a lawsuit against the company Enbridge and if that name doesn't ring a bell, think back to July 26, 2010 when an Enbridge pipeline broke and spilled an estimated 843,00 gallons of Line 6B oil into the Kalamazoo River, making it the largest tar sands oil spill in US history. How does that affect the proposed Keystone XL pipeline? Just for starters, it undercuts the safety claims of pipeline advocates. The Enbridge cleanup is not nearly complete after three full years, and EPA has all but admitted that up to 168,000 gallons of oil will remain in the Kalamazoo River indefinitely.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the lawsuit, let's note for the record that the beer from Bell's Brewery is not affected by the Enbridge Pipeline spill, since the company's Comstock brewery uses the municipal water system. However, the company became concerned about the latest phase of Enbridge's cleanup work, which involved constructing a facility to process dredged sediment a few hundred feet from the brewery.

In a statement issued on July 2, Larry Bell, President of Bell's Brewery, explained:

"As Michigan's oldest and largest brewery, Bell's has a longstanding commitment to quality. While Bell's uses water from the municipal water system to brew our beer, the pristine cleanliness of the water and air around our brewery and neighbors is of the utmost importance to us."
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Landmark California regulations under federal fire (28 July 2013)
WASHINGTON -- California has a reputation for having some of the nation's most aggressive rules on workplace safety, consumer protection and environmental quality -- regulations that force companies to make costly adjustments to the way they do business worldwide.

Now some of those companies, banking on congressional gridlock and sympathetic Republican leaders in the House, are fighting back. And officials in Sacramento worry that some of the state's landmark laws may be in danger.

At the top of their worry list is a measure with bipartisan support that would strengthen federal environmental laws on dangerous chemicals, but at the price of rolling back a pioneering California law that tries to protect consumers from the most toxic materials. State leaders are scrambling to fend off the bill, which they say is written so broadly that it also could undermine California's clean water laws and its effort to combat global warming.

"We are alarmed," said Debbie Raphael, director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. "We have programs in place that are very effective and have moved the marketplace to benefit not just California but the entire world. This ... puts all that at risk."
[Read more...]

Wide open spaces: How unused parking adds up (28 July 2013)
My younger son, almost 19, and my daughter, 20, are learning to drive this summer. (Car-less folks like us are sometimes late to the car-head rites of passage.) So I'm temporarily appreciating the wide open spaces of empty pavement at regional malls and big-box stores. Some of these parking lots are so big they generate their own mirages, and they're vacant enough that my kids can't do much damage.

Such parking expanses are a modern puzzle: They are so rarely full that you have to wonder why hard-headed business types ever built them. The answer is simple. They had no choice. Local laws made them do it.

For more than half a century, cities have mandated oversized quotas of on-site parking at stores, offices, houses, apartments, and condominiums, and all other types of new buildings -- even bars. The result has been millions of parking stalls that stand empty even at their hour of peak demand. No doubt about it: We have legislated the waste of land.

In the Old Town area of suburban Beaverton, Ore., for example, barely half of legally required parking spaces had cars in them when surveyed in 2007, leaving some 1,500 local slots idle. Many cities demand five stalls (or about 1,500 square feet of parking) for every 1,000 square feet of retail space; the big-box hardware-merchandiser Home Depot surveyed actual parking utilization at 17 of its stores and found only half that many spots used at peak hours, Donald Shoup writes in The High Cost of Free Parking.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: But they need all of those parking spots, and more, during the Christmas shopping season. Statistically, half of their profits come from the Christmas season.

Egypt's Brotherhood stays on streets despite killings (28 July 2013)
(Reuters) - Thousands of supporters of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood stood their ground in Cairo on Sunday, saying they would not leave the streets despite "massacres" by security forces who shot dozens of them dead.

Egypt's ambulance service said 72 people were killed in Saturday's violence at a Cairo vigil by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi, triggering global anxiety that the Arab world's most populous country risked plunging into the abyss.

Mursi's Brotherhood, which won repeated elections after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, has vowed not to leave the streets unless Mursi is restored to power. His supporters accuse the military of reversing the uprising that brought democracy to the most populous Arab state.

"They will not be content until they bring back everything from the era of the corrupt, murderous security and intelligence state," senior Brotherhood official Essam el-Erian said on Facebook. "They've stepped up their efforts to do so by committing massacres never before seen in Egyptian history."
[Read more...]

Bananas thrown at Italy's first black minister Cecile Kyenge (28 July 2013)
Police have yet to find the person who hurled the bananas.

They fell short of the stage, landing between the first and second row of spectators, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

As she has with the other incidents, Kyenge shrugged off the episode.

In a Twitter post, she called it a sad waste of food when so many people are dying of hunger.

Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, moved to Italy in the 1980s to study medicine. She became an Italian citizen and is an ophthalmologist in Modena.

While her ascent to a top government position reflects the success of immigrants, it also has stoked the flames of nativism.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: "I hurl these bananas because your skin is slightly darker than mine!" (Not exact quote, but you knew that.)

I'd say this was an embarrassment to Italians everywhere, but the incident sounds like it's just the one guy. And he can't even throw, apparently. It may be more of a drinking problem than heartfelt racism.

Va. first lady McDonnell spent thousands from husband's PAC on clothes, other items (27 July 2013)
RICHMOND -- Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell bought nearly $9,800 in clothing with money from her husband's political action committee and tapped into his campaign and inaugural funds to buy $7,600 in mostly unspecified items, according to records and a representative for the PAC.

The spending is legal under Virginia's lax campaign finance laws, which prohibit the conversion of political funds for private use only when a PAC or campaign committee disbands -- not while it is operating.

But the purchases are unusual in Virginia, where campaign finance records indicate that candidates do not routinely dip into political funds to buy personal items such as clothing for themselves or their spouses.

Maureen McDonnell's use of political donations comes to light at a time when she and her husband, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), are under intense scrutiny for accepting luxury items and $120,000 in loans from wealthy Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. Federal and state investigators are probing the Star Scientific executive's ties to the McDonnells, who promoted his firm's nutritional supplement, Anatabloc. Last week the governor apologized for embarrassing the commonwealth and repaid the loans.
[Read more...]

Be mindful when networking with LinkedIn (28 July 2013)
Do you use LinkedIn? If so, have you given any thought to the invitations you send when you invite people to join your network? You should.

If your LinkedIn invitations are generic, it sends the same message as a greeting card that's addressed to "a valued customer" with no name. It's mass marketing. In today's marketplace, where interactions are endless, it's the way you connect that makes an impression.

Invitations get to the heart of networking -- the exchange of information that forms a give-and-take relationship. Whether relationship building takes place in a social context or face-to-face, the art of creating a perception sets the tone of your interactions. Nowhere is this as true as it is when you're sending LinkedIn invitations. The way you invite others to join says a lot about you.

I recently sat down with one of the best networkers I know, and we had a great discussion about the way people invite others to join their LinkedIn group. He's a big fan of LinkedIn and uses it on a consistent basis. Over time, he has developed a rather strong reaction to generic invitations that include no personal comments. In fact, when he receives a template version of a request to "join my LinkedIn," it sends the message that someone is looking to build a database of numbers rather than make a meaningful connection.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: LinkedIn, Facebook, and other "social networking" sites are a security nightmare. You wouldn't want your teenage daughter revealing details of her life on those sites, so why would you reveal your own? And why do complete strangers need to know your personal contacts? If one person on your list has a stalker -- known or unknown -- it puts every person in that network at risk.

Amanda Berry joins rapper Nelly onstage in first public appearance (slideshow) (28 July 2013)
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The day after her captor was sentenced to life and 1,000 years in prison, Amanda Berry made her first appearance at a public event.

Rapper Nelly introduced her onstage early Saturday evening during the day-long RoverFest concert at Voinovich Park.

"He said, 'Everyone, here's Amanda Berry,' and she came out with a friend, another young woman," concertgoer Kayleigh Fladung said. "She didn't say anything, but she was smiling and happy.

"She waved to the crowd, everyone went crazy cheering, and she went backstage. Nelly did his set, 4 or 5 songs, and then he brought her out again and everyone cheered."
[Read more...]

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Sources (if found on major news boards):
[AJ] - InfoWars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, or other Alex Jones-affiliated sites
[BF] - BuzzFlash.com
[DN] - DemocracyNow.org
[R] - Rense.com
[WRH] - WhatReallyHappened.com


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