Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2013
News from the Week of 25th to 31st of August 2013
U.S. spy agencies mounted 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011, documents show (31 August 2013)
U.S. intelligence services carried out 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011, the leading edge of a clandestine campaign that embraces the Internet as a theater of spying, sabotage and war, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Washington Post.
That disclosure, in a classified intelligence budget provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, provides new evidence that the Obama administration's growing ranks of cyberwarriors infiltrate and disrupt foreign computer networks.
Additionally, under an extensive effort code-named GENIE, U.S. computer specialists break into foreign networks so that they can be put under surreptitious U.S. control. Budget documents say the $652 million project has placed "covert implants," sophisticated malware transmitted from far away, in computers, routers and firewalls on tens of thousands of machines every year, with plans to expand those numbers into the millions.
The documents provided by Snowden and interviews with former U.S. officials describe a campaign of computer intrusions that is far broader and more aggressive than previously understood. The Obama administration treats all such cyber-operations as clandestine and declines to acknowledge them.
Syria: Putin rejects chemical attack claims (31 August 2013)
Vladimir Putin has rejected US intelligence claims that Bashar al-Assad's regime used chemical weapons in Syria, saying it would be "utter nonsense" for government troops to use such tactics in a war it was already winning.
"That is why I am convinced that [the chemical attack] is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States," Putin told journalists in Vladivostok.
The Russian president also challenged the US to present its case for military intervention to the UN security council, after suggesting that if Barack Obama was worthy of his Nobel peace prize, he should think about the possible victims of any intervention by foreign forces.
UN experts left Syria on Saturday after investigating the gas attack, which killed hundreds of civilians, while the US said it was planning a limited response to punish Syria's President Bashar al-Assad for the "brutal and flagrant" assault.
Yosemite fire 'very active'; high temperatures hamper firefighters (31 August 2013)
TUOLUMNE CITY, Calif. -- Officials reported Saturday that the Rim fire has burned 219,000 acres in and around Yosemite National Park as hot conditions posed new challenges for firefighters.
The fire -- the fifth largest in state history -- is now 35% contained.
Officials said the fire was "very active" in some places overnight and that aircraft would he used again Saturday to make water drops.
More than 4,900 firefighters were battling the fire on Friday, while the cost of the operation has ballooned to $47 million. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The 'repugnant, vile truth' about sex trafficking in L.A. County (31 August 2013)
"When I turned 14, that was when I hit the track."
The track, as Jessica Midkiff calls it, was Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, where she trolled for johns and turned every cent of her earnings over to the pimp who owned her.
If you tried to skim a dollar here or there, Midkiff said, or if you got arrested and ratted out your pimp, you or someone in your family was likely to be beaten or tortured.
"When a pimp says he's going to torture you, what I've seen is girls in dog cages, girls being waterboarded, stripped down naked and put in the rain and cold outside and having to stand there all night, and if you move, you'll get beaten. I've seen girls get hit by cars and stunned with stun guns ... I've seen girls burned and strangled."
Madagascar: Slowing the Plunder of Madagascar's Fish Stocks (31 August 2013)
Tampolove -- Thin government regulation of Madagascar's fisheries industry has disguised a steady and unsustainable rise in the sector's production over the past two decades, which threatens both the long-term survival of key marine species and the livelihoods of fishing-dependent coastal communities, according to local conservation groups.
The coastline of the world's fourth largest island is about 4,800km, providing it with an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of more than 1.2 million square kilometres, but the government has no capacity to patrol, police or monitor its vast maritime asset.
According to a 2011 study led by researchers from Canada's University of British Columbia, in collaboration with Blue Ventures, a Madagascar-based conservation organization, fish catches in the country were double the official documented tally, with much of it caught by unregulated artisanal fishermen or foreign-registered fishing vessels.
Management of the country's fishing stocks is seen as a crucial component of the country's long-term food security, given the high risks associated with relying exclusively on agriculture. Subsistence farming of the staple rice is the predominant practice of Madagascar's donor-dependent economy, but insecurity, poor infrastructure, and natural disasters such as cyclones and locust infestations are all handicapping agrarian development. More than three-quarters of the country's population - about 20 million people - live on less than US$1 a day, according to government figures.
Juan González: Growing Charter School Chain Suspends Special Needs Kids in Bid to Raise Test Scores (30 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you've had a series of interesting articles about charter schools this week in the New York Daily News.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes. Well, I've been now investigating for years, really, the spread of charter schools across New York City and the nation, and in particular I've been focusing on the fastest-growing chain here in New York City, the Success Academies charter network, which now has about 20 schools and is planning to expand to a hundred schools after receiving this week a $5 million grant from the Eli Broad Foundation.
And one of the things that I've been uncovering is the enormous suspension rates of the charter schools, as more than two dozen parents have come to me complaining about their children, who are special needs, special education children, or children with behavior problems, that they feel are being pushed out or forced out by the charter school in an effort to improve its test scores, because the charter school, Success Academy, has one of the highest test scores of schools in the City of New York, and that's part of its selling points to continue to seek corporate foundation funding and to attempt to grow the charter model. So I've been trying to look into this--these numerous complaints.
In today's paper, I actually report on a parent who secretly tape-recorded her conversations with school officials trying to convince her to take her kindergarten special ed kid, child, out of the school and transfer him back into public school.
To avoid diabetes, eat fruit, don't drink fruit juice (30 August 2013)
Another study has shown that fruit is good for you. Just be sure to eat it in solid form.
Research published Thursday in the British Medical Journal analyzed the results of long-term health studies that tracked the diets of nearly 200,000 people over two decades, some of whom developed type 2 diabetes.
The scientists found that those who ate at least a couple of servings per week of certain whole fruits -- notably blueberries, grapes, and apples -- were 23 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who avoided them.
On the other hand, those who drank at least one serving of fruit juice daily were 21 percent more likely to develop the disease. The BBC breaks it down...
How whooping crane youngsters learn from their elders (30 August 2013)
When it comes to annual migrations, young whooping cranes need old dogs to teach them new tricks -- with refresher courses -- to keep the rookies on track.
That is the implication of a new study exploring the migration patterns of these majestic but endangered birds.
Such studies are important, researchers say, not only in shedding light on how large groups of animals migrate over long distances generally. Successful migration trips also help determine a species' breeding success, since the migrations take place between summer breeding grounds and winter locations where the animals can find food.
Researchers have known for a long time that whooping cranes -- long-lived, social birds -- probably can't migrate successfully without some kind of early guidance, says Thomas Mueller, an ecologist at the University of Maryland in College Park who led the team conducting the study.
Farm kills millions of bees with illegal pesticide spraying, gets slap on wrist (30 August 2013)
A huge Florida citrus farm is being fined by state officials for poisoning millions of honeybees to death -- but it's not being fined very much.
Ben Hill Griffin Inc., one of the state's largest growers and a supplier to Florida's Natural orange juice, is accused of illegally spraying pesticides (i.e., not following the directions on the labels) in ways that led to the deaths of bees kept by nearby beekeepers. One apiarist told officials that the farm used crop-dusters to douse its groves at least a dozen times -- presumably to control Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads the devastating citrus greening disease. He estimated his losses at $240,000 worth of bees and reduced honey production. Another beekeeper says he is down $150,000.
So how much is the Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Department fining the company? A paltry $1,500.
Defense cross-examines accuser in Naval Academy rape case for a third day (30 August 2013)
Defense attorneys for three former Navy football players accused of raping a fellow midshipman at an off-campus party continued questioning the alleged victim for a third straight day Friday.
By Friday evening, the 21-year-old female midshipman had been cross-examined for more than 20 hours, enduring wave after wave of hostile questions. She asked Cmdr. Robert Monahan Jr., the officer presiding over the hearing, if she could skip testifying on Saturday because she was so weary.
"This is a cumulative thing," she told him. He said he couldn't excuse her as long as she was physically able to testify. She agreed to come back, adding, "but it doesn't mean I haven't been drained."
The defense attorneys homed in on discrepancies in the accuser's past accounts of the alleged assault. The Article 32 hearing at the Washington Navy Yard will determine whether the case will go to a court-martial, the military equivalent of a trial.
Bobby Jindal Takes a Shot at BP's Gulf Oil Spill PR Campaign (Updated) (30 August 2013)
Bobby Jindal isn't happy with BP's faltering response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and he isn't shy about letting them hear about it. At an event on Wednesday, the Governor of Louisiana blasted the company for spending "more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted." Three years after the spill, in which a drilling rig blowout killed 11 men and poured 4 million barrels into the gulf, BP has started to push back on damages claims, and Jindal seems determined to make the company pay for it.
Addressing the Gulf Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Council (GCERC) Jindal said, "BP needs to stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their public relations campaign telling us how great they are and start proving it by addressing their Clean Water Act and Natural Resources Damage liabilities now." The GCERC is responsible for allocating money from the Clean Water Act fines paid after the Deepwater spill to restoration and economic recovery projects, and controls about 60 percent of the funds from those fines.
With the $8 billion dollar damages fund that BP set up after the spill has dwindled now looking like it will fall as much as $6 billion short, the company has rolled out a PR campaign alleging that it has been the target of fraud. BP has requested, and twice been denied, that the federal judge who presided over the settlement negotiation freeze payments until a state appointed investigator can look into potentially fraudulent claims, with the most recent refusal coming on Wednesday. Earlier this summer, the company set up a hotline for residents to "do the right thing" and report fraudulent claims (1-800-NO-2-FRAUD), and took out full-page ads in three of the county's largest newspapers pleading the case for honesty and fairness. ("Whatever you think about BP, we can all agree that it's wrong for anyone to take money they don't deserve," the ad read. "And it's unfair to everyone in the Gulf--commercial fishermen, restaurant and hotel owners, and all the other hard-working people who've filed legitimate claims for real losses.")
BP's cries of foul play have found some sympathetic ears. In June, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a cover that read "BP is getting rolled in the Gulf," with a story cataloging the injustices that the company was up against: a feeding frenzy for settlement money, fraudulent claims, an uncooperative judge, and a generally unsympathetic public. And on top of it all, the line that BP has been spending more on commercials than on ecological restoration has become a familiar refrain coming from the governor's office, which the company has called "both false and irresponsible."
On the Anniversary of the March on Washington, a New Fight for Voting Rights (28 August 2013)
Voting rights issues were even more front and center at Saturday's "Realize the Dream" rally and march.
"This morning, we affirm that this struggle must, and will, go on in the cause of our nation's quest for justice--until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices," said Attorney General Eric Holder, who just filed a suit challenging Texas's voter ID law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
"I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama, for the right to vote," said Congressman John Lewis, who was nearly killed during the "Bloody Sunday" march in 1965. "I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us."
Lewis spoke for everyone at the rally when he said, "We must say to the Congress: fix the Voting Rights Act."
Bill would limit public access to part of Gogebic Taconite mine area (30 August 2013)
Madison -- A bill prompted by aggression from protesters in June could shut off public access to managed forest land within a proposed iron mine site in northern Wisconsin.
The bill calls for an exemption in the state's managed forest land law, which provides tax relief for landowners in exchange for managing land for forestry and allowing the public to take part in limited recreational activities such as hunting and hiking. The mine site is on privately owned land enrolled in a managed forest land program where mining company Gogebic Taconite has mining rights.
The bill would allow Gogebic to close the land and prevent public access until the permit was approved.
Details of the bill were made public Friday afternoon when a meeting notice on a hearing for the bill was released.
Your Facebook profile picture may be going into a facial-recognition database (30 August 2013)
SAN FRANCISCO--Your Facebook profile photo could be going into a massive facial-recognition database.
Facebook Inc. is considering incorporating most of its 1 billion-plus members' profile photos into its growing facial-recognition database, expanding the scope of the social network's controversial technology.
The possible move, which Facebook revealed in an update to its data use policy on Thursday, is intended to improve the performance of its "Tag Suggest" feature. The feature uses facial-recognition technology to speed up the process of labeling or "tagging" friends and acquaintances who appear in photos posted on the network.
Facebook also amended its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities on Thursday to expose users under 18 years to having their personal information taken.
Craigslist, Netflix, Pinterest all make it impossible for you to delete your account (30 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) The plethora of social websites online sure make it easy to join - but did you ever try to delete your account? That's much more difficult, isn't it?
Take Facebook, as an example. Joining is super-easy, but actually deleting your account is a cumbersome process. And even then, it takes a couple weeks for your account to disappear.
The same is true for other sites, including Craigslist, Netflix and others. So, what can you do about it? How can you get your account deleted?
Don't despair - yet
Per Techcrunch, there is help:
"A U.K.-based duo consisting of developer Robb Lewis and designer Ed Poole seem to understand that desire awfully well, and they teamed up to create what may be a truly indispensable resource. It's called Justdelete.me, and as the name sort of implies, it's a directory of links to pages where you can lay waste to your myriad online accounts."
Saskatoon mine firm's owner ousts Hells Angels; Atmosphere of intimidation leads to purge (26 August 2013)
The Hells Angels were purged from Xtreme's ranks following multiple death threats and other intimidation, as well as attacks on Banga and an employee.
Banga said he's got nothing against the Hells Angels, pointing to his longtime friendships with several "full patch" members. But when Banga learned of the threats and violence, he knew he had to act decisively to protect his employees and his business.
The Hells Angels, through their lawyer, say the new policy is unfair. Others disagree.
"I hope everyone supports (Banga). He has balls. This is how a community starts to stand up to organized crime," said author and international Hells Angels expert Yves Lavigne.
The Saskatoon StarPhoenix interviewed Xtreme employees and obtained company records and government documents detailing a secret culture of violence.
Now, with the possibility of revenge looming, Saskatoon police have issued Banga a rare "Duty to Warn." Police informed Banga his life is in danger. He remains unmoved.
Orca 'parade' caught on video offers rare window into their movements (30 August 2013)
On the InterWebs it is more common to see videos of huge dolphin gatherings, but recently one with many orcas was uploaded to YouTube. It is a very rare window into their movements and in a large number. The camera person does a good job of capturing them and made a great decision to used a tripod, so the images are easy to watch.
The orcas appeared at Active Pass, Galiano Island, British Columbia.
This large marine species has also been called 'killer whales', but they don't hunt or kill humans in the wild and they aren't whales, they are members of the dolphin family.
The idea that they are dangerous may have started when orcas kept in captivity have attacked their human trainers, but these incidents are very rare. They are likely due to the extreme stress of being kept in tiny swimming pools, because orcas in the wild normally swim for miles every day.
$52.6 billion; The Black Budget (29 August 2013)
The CIA, NSA and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) receive more than 68 percent of the black budget. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Program's (NGP) budget has grown over 100 percent since 2004. [graphic presentation]
U.S. spy network's successes, failures and objectives detailed in 'black budget' summary (29 August 2013)
U.S. spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats, according to the government's top secret budget.
The $52.6 billion "black budget" for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses those funds or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.
The 178-page budget summary for the National Intelligence Program details the successes, failures and objectives of the 16 spy agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, which has 107,035 employees.
The summary describes cutting-edge technologies, agent recruiting and ongoing operations. The Washington Post is withholding some information after consultation with U.S. officials who expressed concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods. Sensitive details are so pervasive in the documents that The Post is publishing only summary tables and charts online.
Snowden impersonated NSA officials, sources say (29 August 2013)
Edward Snowden accessed some secret national security documents by assuming the electronic identities of top NSA officials, said intelligence sources.
"Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was," said a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case. "This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble."
Snowden was a Honolulu-based employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor. His job gave him system administrator privileges on the NSA's intranet, NSAnet. He reportedly used his privileges to download 20,000 documents.
The NSA still doesn't know exactly what Snowden took. But its forensic investigation has included trying to figure out which higher level officials Snowden impersonated online to access the most sensitive documents.
The NSA has as many as 40,000 employees. According to one intelligence official, the NSA is restricting its research to a much smaller group of individuals with access to sensitive documents. Investigators are looking for discrepancies between the real world actions of an NSA employee and the online activities linked to that person's computer user profile. For example, if an employee was on vacation while the on-line version of the employee was downloading a classified document, it might indicate that someone assumed the employee's identity.
PAM COMMENTARY: This article shows a lack of understanding of network administration. Whether that came from the sources or the journalist, I don't know, but they're describing basic rights that a network administrator would have, and basic security risks.
From the description here, the NSA hasn't taken many precautions, if any, with its data.
'Super-size' strike: Why fast-food workers walked out for higher wages (29 August 2013)
Fast-food workers across America are going on strike Thursday in what they hope will be the largest strike ever for their industry.
Workers in at least 35 cities are expected to picket chains like McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Wendy's to demand higher wages and the right to unionize.
In July, about 2,200 fast-food workers participated in a one-day strike in seven cities, the largest effort to date. That followed nearly a year of protests that originated in New York City in November 2012.
"Hold the burgers! Hold the fries! Make our wages super-size!" chanted strikers outside a McDonald's in Detroit Thursday.
PAM COMMENTARY: I don't see why workers can't be paid more. I think customers would be glad to pay a little more if the restaurants would spend it on better employee compensation, rather than the usual profit lines or executive salaries.
Fast-food workers continue fight against low wages: 'This is our right' (29 August 2013)
Veronica Clark, a mother of three children and the sole breadwinner for her family in Detroit, has spent the last six years looking for a better paying job, to no avail.
Every day, she puts on the shirt McDonald's provides her with and a pair of work pants of her own and goes to work serving burgers for $7.40 an hour. Clark, 47, is paid less per hour in real terms than the lowest paid US workers were half a century ago, when, on 28 August 1963, hundreds of thousands of citizens flooded into Washington for the historic march for freedom and jobs for black Americans.
One of the marchers' demands was a minimum wage raise from $1.25 to $2, reflecting their belief that the wage floor did not enable hardworking men and women to live in dignity. In today's dollars, that would represent a raise from $8.37 to $13.39, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute this week, substantially less than the minimum wage of $7.25 today.
Clark works between 36 and 40 hours a week to give her daughters, Crystal, 14, and Veronique, 15, and their brother, André, 16, a decent roof over their heads. But she takes home around $800-$1,000 a month, wages so low the government subsidises her earnings with food stamps.
Scientists link weight gain from quitting smoking to shift in gut bacteria correlated with obesity (29 August 2013)
Nervous nibbles alone do not explain the weight that people tend to gain when they give up smoking, Swiss researchers said Thursday, turning the spotlight instead on a bacterial shift in the intestines.
Studies have shown that quitting smoking leads to an average weight gain of four to five kilogrammes (nine to 11 pounds) in the first year.
But according to researchers at Zurich University Hospital, former smokers who bulk up may not be eating more than before they kissed their cigarettes goodbye.
Noting that even people who cut back on calorie intake after quitting smoking tend to gain weight, Professor Gerhard Rogler said he and his colleagues had discovered another potential explanation: a change in the composition of the intestinal flora among smokers who kick the habit.
Can AFL-CIO make inroads in Texas? Richard Trumka will try. (29 August 2013)
As Labor Day approaches, here are some things on the mind of Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO: The union movement is in a period of crisis, it prefers Janet Yellen as the next chair of the Federal Reserve, and its 2014 political efforts will target Texas, where unions have historically been weak.
Mr. Trumka voiced these views at a breakfast for reporters Thursday that was hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. The AFL-CIO is a federation of 57 labor unions with 12 million members. Trumka has been the organization's president since 2009.
Government statistics confirm his diagnosis that the labor movement is in "crisis." In 2012, the number of union members fell by nearly 400,000. Among wage and salary workers, only 11.3 percent are union members, down from 20.1 percent in 1983. In the private sector, only 6.6 percent of all employees are union members.
When asked to outline the causes of the union movement's woes, Trumka said, "First I will point the finger at us. I don't think that we kept pace with the changing economy and the change in environment, both economic environment and political environment." Young people face economic circumstances "significantly different than the needs of 25, 30, 40 years ago," he noted.
Historian Taylor Branch on the March on Washington and the Kennedys' Aversion to Dr. King's Struggle (29 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: We end today's show in Baltimore, Maryland, where we're joined by the acclaimed chronicler of the civil rights movement, Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, best known for his landmark narrative history of the civil rights era, the America in the King Years trilogy. His new book is a collection from the trilogy that he's adapted for a college course. It's called The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement.
Taylor Branch, it's great to have you with us. Talk about what most people don't understand about 50 years ago. We've been speaking a lot on Democracy Now! about the background of the march. What we haven't spoken as much about is President Kennedy's relationship with Dr. King and whether he wanted this march to move forward, the effect the march had.
TAYLOR BRANCH: Well, President Kennedy was very nervous about the march and wished that it would not go forward. If it had been up to him, there wouldn't have been a march. He had just proposed the Civil Rights Act in 19--in June of '63 on national television, the best civil rights speech President Kennedy ever gave, the only one in which he addressed the race issue of segregation as a moral issue, as clear as the Constitution and as old as the Scriptures. But he was afraid that a march would lead to controversy and rioting and that sort of thing, and make it hard to get the bill through Congress. So he tried to talk them out of having the march and was immensely relieved, along with a lot of the rest of America, when the march turned out to be so peaceful.
Doubts surround Syria chemical weapon attack; no 'slam dunk' Assad ordered it, say experts (29 August 2013)
WASHINGTON-- The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no "slam dunk," with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria's chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials say.
President Barack Obama declared unequivocally Wednesday that the Syrian government was responsible, while laying the groundwork for an expected U.S. military strike.
"We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out," Obama said in an interview with "NewsHour" on PBS. "And if that's so, then there need to be international consequences."
However, multiple U.S. officials used the phrase "not a slam dunk" to describe the intelligence picture -- a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet's insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk" -- intelligence that turned out to be wrong.
Midwives improve pregnancy care and birth outcomes: Study (29 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) They often get looked down upon by conventional OB/GYNs, family physicians and other mainstream doctors, but midwives may actually be better equipped to safely deliver babies than the labor and delivery staff at your average hospital. This is according to a new review recently published in The Cochrane Library, which found that mothers who choose a midwife as their primary care provider throughout pregnancy are more likely to avoid experiencing pre-term birth or requiring outside care from an obstetrician during childbirth.
Researchers from both the United Kingdom and Ireland made this discovery after poring through data from 13 different trials that looked at pregnancy outcomes. Collectively, these trials included a total of 16,242 women, most of whom were considered to be at low risk of experiencing complications during labor. Rates of regional analgesia (epidural/spinal), caesarean delivery, instrumental vaginal birth (forceps/vacuum), spontaneous vaginal birth, intact perineum, preterm birth and overall fetal loss and neonatal death were all examined and compared among groups of women.
Compared to mothers who chose traditional hospital birth, those who stuck with a midwife were generally found to have a lower risk of complications in almost every evaluated category. Though midwife-attended births were found to last about 30 minutes longer than hospital births, on average, mothers who delivered their babies with the help of a midwife were less likely to require an epidural, deliver their babies early or lose their babies altogether. Other studies have also identified a decreased risk of requiring a caesarean section as another benefit of having a midwife.
As far as the health and well-being of the mothers is concerned, midwife-assisted births were also found to be a much more pleasant and happy experience for women. As opposed to medical-led and shared care, midwife care tends to be custom-tailored to the needs of individual mothers and takes a more holistic approach to the overall birthing experience. As a result, women who opt for midwife care tend to fare better than women who choose hospital care, as their personal needs are met better by someone who knows them intimately than by hospital workers who, in many cases, simply provide routine and standardized care.
PAM COMMENTARY: I read a book years ago that covered studies proving the better success rate with midwives. Unfortunately, I'm not anywhere near that book right now, and I can't remember its name...
Evidence suggests bird migration patterns are learned, not genetic (29 August 2013)
Whooping cranes learn how to migrate by following elders in their midst, suggesting that social influence has a larger bearing than genetics on the birds' behavior, scientists said Thursday.
The large, white birds are endangered in the wild of North America, with just one native population of about 250 in Canada that spends winters along the Gulf Coast of Texas.
But a growing captive-bred group in the northeastern state of Maryland has provided researchers with an unparalleled set of genetic and travel data to study, answering the critical question of whether the birds are programmed by nature to make their way south or if their behavior is learned.
"The knowledge is transmitted from older to younger birds," said study co-author Thomas Mueller, a biologist at the University of Maryland.
Colcord, Oklahoma, residents told to watch out for blood worms in water supply (29 August 2013)
(CNN) -- The people of Colcord, Oklahoma, might need something a little stronger than Brita filters to remove the impurities from their drinking water.
Blood worms -- small, red insect larvae -- have been appearing in water glasses and filters in the rural town.
Authorities have warned Colcord's 800 residents not to drink, cook with or brush their teeth with the worm-infested tap water.
Schools in the area have been closed since Tuesday as officials try to figure out where the bright-red creatures came from and how long it will take to get rid of them.
NFL, ex-players reach $765-million settlement on concussion lawsuits (29 August 2013)
The NFL and more than 4,500 retired players reached a proposed $765-million settlement of concussion-related lawsuits, a court-appointed mediator announced Thursday.
Former U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips announced the parties have agreed to a deal that would end the litigation against the NFL and NFL Properties and provide medical and other benefits, as well as compensation to qualifying injured players and their families.
"This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football," Phillips said in a written statement.
"Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that, if approved, will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed."
Quackwatch ringleader Stephen Barrett in desperate, 'calamitous' defense in defamation lawsuit, says activist (29 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) He continues to be one of the most obsessively outspoken critics of all things natural, often emerging unannounced from the outmoded realms of the internet-based "skeptics" world to bash the latest advances in alternative medicine. But former psychiatrist and ringleader of the widely-debunked anti-science website, QuackWatch.org, Stephen Barrett, is finally getting a taste of his own conventional medicine with a defamation lawsuit, which consumer health advocate and freedom fighter Tim Bolen is convinced could be Barrett's undoing.
Barrett is perhaps most known across the internet for his constant trashing of alternative treatment methods that he most likely never learned anything about in medical school way back when. These methods include things like acupuncture, chelation-based detoxification, nutritional supplementation, chiropractic -- you know, the very things that are actually helping to bring real relief and healing to a sick nation drowning in needless surgeries and dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. Barrett has actually made it one of his primary missions in life to "expose" these viable alternative treatments and warn people about their alleged ineffectiveness.
But in expressing his opinions, Barrett has also apparently crossed the defamation line by spreading all sorts of lies and misinformation about specific alternative treatments and falsely accusing companies that offer them of ripping off and deceiving their customers. These are serious accusations, and one such company aggressively targeted by Barrett in recent years, Doctor's Data, has decided to force this self-appointed "quackbuster" to put his money where his mouth is by taking him to court. And according to Bolen, Barrett is failing miserably to mount any sort of legitimate legal defense, as his attorney wastes time badgering Doctor's Data employees with useless questions.
The 'skeptics' and their ongoing war against natural medicine
It all began when Illinois-based Doctor's Data sent a letter to Barrett back in 2010 urging him to stop "transmitting false, fraudulent and defamatory information" about the company, which, according to its later-to-be-filed lawsuit, was intended to "intentionally ... harm its business and its relationship not only with doctors but also with the public." The letter went on to accuse Barrett of "conspir[ing] with and encourag[ing] individuals to seek litigation against [Doctor's Data]" and also of filing "false complaints at various government and regulatory agencies" against the company.
PAM COMMENTARY: I hope my readers will never take anything that Quackwatch says seriously. There are actually good doctors with legitimate criticisms of certain alternative therapies, for example the famous author Dr. Andrew Weil.
But Quackwatch is basically a front group for the AMA and big pharma. After the AMA lost the Federal lawsuit Wilk vs. AMA, suddenly a small group of 10th-rate doctors changed their name to "Quackwatch" and started spewing the same defamation of chiropractors that the AMA was sued over in that lawsuit.
It's just another layer of funding, basically laundering the AMA's money, so that the AMA and drug companies can continue to defame their competition without being in direct violation of Wilk vs. AMA.
IRS to allow gay couples to file joint returns (29 August 2013)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government is issuing the regulations needed to allow gay couples married in states that recognize same-sex marriages to file joint federal tax returns.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says the new rules will provide "clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide."
Lew said the regulations also make clear that legally married same-sex couples will be able to move freely throughout the country and their federal tax filing status will not change.
The new rules implement the tax aspects of the Supreme Court's ruling in June which invalidated a section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
Soldier sentenced to death for Fort Hood shooting (29 August 2013)
A military jury on Wednesday sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, handing the Army psychiatrist the ultimate punishment after a trial in which he seemed to be courting martyrdom by making almost no effort to defend himself.
The rare military death sentence came nearly four years after the attack that stunned even an Army hardened by more than a decade of constant war. Hasan walked into a medical building where soldiers were getting medical checkups, shouted "Allahu akbar" -- Arabic for "God is great!" -- and opened fire with a laser-sighted handgun. Thirteen people were killed.
Hasan, who said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression, had no visible reaction when the sentence was announced, staring first at the jury forewoman and then at the judge. Some victims' relatives were in the courtroom but none showed any reaction, which the judge had warned against.
The American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent acted as his own attorney and never denied his actions at the huge Texas Army post. In opening statements, he told jurors that evidence would show he was the shooter and described himself as a soldier who had "switched sides."
Central African Republic: Thousands Take Refuge At Airport (29 August 2013)
More than 5,000 people have taken refuge at the main airport in the Central African Republic after days of fighting and unrest in the capital.
The U.N. refugee agency says Bangui has endured more than a week of violence, looting, armed robberies and other problems, prompting many residents to flee their neighborhoods.
It says the thousands who gathered at Bangui International Airport are blocking the runway, forcing flights to be rerouted to Cameroon.
The U.N. agency urged authorities to use all means to restore security and protect the population.
Saudi Arabia cabinet passes ban on domestic violence (29 August 2013)
Saudi Arabia's cabinet has passed a ban on domestic violence and other forms of abuse against women for the first time in the Kingdom's history.
The cabinet approved the ban on physical or sexual violence earlier this week, which applies both at home or within the work place.
The legislation makes domestic violence a punishable crime for the first time. It also provides treatment and shelter for victims of abuse and holds law enforcement agencies accountable for investigating and prosecuting allegations of abuse.
The ban includes penalties of a maximum12 month jail sentence and fines of up to $13,000.
Japanese scientists create sperm bank of endangered animals 'to colonise other planets' (29 August 2013)
A Japanese university and zoo are creating a sperm bank for endangered animals that could one day be used to bring extinct species back to life and even help to colonise other planets with Earth's rarest creatures.
To date, scientists at Kyoto University's Graduate School of Medicine and the city's zoo have managed to freeze dry the sperm of chimpanzees and a Sunda slow loris, both of which are listed as primates at risk, as well as giraffes.
Takehito Kaneko, an associate professor at the university, spent a decade perfecting a method of incorporating a buffer solution in the freeze-drying process to preserve the sperm at the same time as protecting the genetic information within the sample.
The scientists were able to bring the sperm back to life by thawing it gently in water.
Thick carpets of grass lead to grand optimism as teal season approaches (29 August 2013)
"After the hurricanes of 2005 (Katrina and Rita), we had huge counts of bluewing teal in our November, December and even January surveys," Reynolds said. "Typically, they come down to Louisiana, they spend a little time and they move on."
Reynolds said the same trend was evident after 2008's passage of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and a colleague pointed out to him a report about large numbers of bluewing teal overwintering in South Louisiana after the 1957 passage of Hurricane Audrey.
Reynolds' hypothesis is that hurricanes knock back plant succession, opening new prime habitat for small waterfowl like bluewings.
"Hurricanes disturb the marsh habitat, they kill a lot of vegetation, and what I've seen in the years I've been flying the state is that the next year -- and most of the time, the next two years -- you get a really big flush of seed-producing annual plants," he said. "The disturbance in the marsh opens up shallow areas. They're the ones that close up again really fast. That's the habitat that teal like."
Reynolds said the seed-producing annuals also lead to booms in invertebrate populations, which also attract teal.
In Victory for Activists, Entergy to Close Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant; Will More Follow? (28 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: You know, it certainly is a victory for the Legislature in Vermont. You'll remember that vote back in 2010 was 26 to four. It was pretty darn near unanimous to shut the plant down. Now, it took three years, but it was citizen pressure that got the state Senate to such a position, so my hat's off to the citizens of Vermont for applying pressure to the Legislature for years, that culminated in this 26-to-4 vote.
The straw that broke the camel's back is economics. You know, five nuclear plants have been shut down this year. We came into the year with 104, and now we're at 99, and the year isn't even over yet. These small single-unit nuclear plants, especially the ones that are like Fukushima Daiichi, are prone to more closures in the future, because it just makes no economic sense to run an aging nuclear plant that's almost 43 years old and to invest hundreds of millions of dollars more to meet the modifications related to Fukushima Daiichi.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So you think that the closure of Vermont Yankee might lead to subsequent closures of the 99 remaining plants?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Well, there's a paper out by Dr. Mark Cooper at the Vermont Law School, and he predicts that as many as 30 nuclear plants are on the cusp of shutting down because of economic considerations. You know, a nuclear plant has 650 employees, as Governor Shumlin said, but the real comparison is against a comparable plant. A comparable plant of a fossil plant would have a hundred people. So the cost to keep a nuclear plant running is extraordinarily high. The nuclear fuel is not as expensive as coal or gas, but, in comparison, all the other costs are extraordinarily high. So there's a lot of downward pressure on plants like Pilgrim, plants like Hope Creek and those in New Jersey that--Oyster Creek, that was hit by Sandy just six months ago. There's a lot of cost pressures that likely will shut down, you know, another dozen nuclear plants before--before this all shakes out.
Marijuana more risky for teens than previously thought (28 August 2013)
As the debate about legalizing marijuana heats up in Canada, a new study suggests the drug might be riskier for teens to consume than had been previously thought.
Researchers from the Université de Montréal and New York's Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital conducted a review of 120 studies examining cannabis and teenage brain development, and concluded there is strong evidence early cannabis use puts some teens at risk of developing addiction and mental health problems as adults.
Dr. Didier Jutras-Aswad, with the Université de Montréal's psychiatry department, is a co-author of the review, which was published this month in the journal Neuropharmacology. He says that in adolescence, the brain is still fine-tuning how different areas, such as learning and memory, interact and it appears that marijuana use alters that process.
"When you disrupt this, actually, development, during adolescence, notably through cannabis use, you can have very pervasive, very negative effects in the long-term, including on mental health and addiction risk," he told CBC News.
Some studies have also found links between early cannabis use and schizophrenia, but Jutras-Aswad says it seems clear there is a wide risk profile that includes genetics and behavioural traits in addition to age.
You're not a helicopter parent just because you care (28 August 2013)
So at what point does parental involvement shift from what is called "concerted cultivation" to "helicopter parenting"?
Parents act on behalf of their children in a thousand ways, providing sage advice that may or may not be taken, and guiding them through the messy obstacle course from childhood to adulthood. They also intervene in their children's relationships with educators.
Called "concerted cultivation" by Annette Lareau, sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, parents who are especially good at navigating these relationships tend to be from middle and upper-class backgrounds and are university educated.
In 2011, the term "helicopter parent" was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The term pathologizes a parent for being too proficient at this kind of care and being overly involved in the life of his or her child.
California launches drone to help battle growing Rim Fire (28 August 2013)
The 4,000 firefighters battling the giant 12-day-old Rim Fire in the Sierra Nevada that has now burned more than 192,000 acres added a California National Guard Predator drone to their arsenal Wednesday to give them almost immediate views of any portion of the flames chewing through rugged forests in and around Yosemite National Park.
Three firefighters sustained minor injuries while battling the blaze on Wednesday, bringing the total number of firefighters injured to six out of the 4,200 staff members who have been working on the fire for the past 11 days.
"This one's a beast and the beast is spreading," one firefighter told Al Jazeera.
Though the fire continues to grow and is moving at the equivalent pace of a fast walk, California officials said they expect to fully surround the blaze in three weeks, although it will burn much longer that that. Containment is now at 30 percent.
Pointed talk: Michael Pollan and Amy Harmon dissect a GM controversy (28 August 2013)
Last month, the New York Times put its front-page spotlight on a lengthy feature by Amy Harmon -- a story that followed an orange grower's quest to make the fruit disease-resistant through genetic engineering. The piece occasioned plenty of debate. But one tweet from Michael Pollan, in particular, triggered a cascade of puzzlement, debate, and anger.
Here's what Pollan said about Harmon's piece:
"Important NYT story on GM oranges; 2 many industry talking pts, but poses questions: is prob tech? reg? or Monsanto? http://nyti.ms/14pVZTY"
The barrage of angry responses was immediate and sustained, mostly focusing on the part about "industry talking points." What did Pollan mean by that? Was he simply knocking the story because it showed genetic modification in a positive light? Some felt he was calling Harmon, a widely admired feature writer who has won two Pulitzers, a shill. Many science writers leapt to Harmon's defense.
Legal brothels claim business has been ruined by the internet and high fuel prices that are squeezing truckers (29 August 2013)
Legal brothels are being forced to close because of competition from the internet, the stagnant economy and rising fuel costs that are squeezing truckers.
Industry insiders say clients are turning in ever greater numbers to the web to arrange meetings with prostitutes rather than visiting establishments in person.
Those that do frequent are looking for bigger and bigger discounts.
In Nevada, these factors have been blamed for a huge decline in the number of brothels - down from 36 in 1985 to around 19 today - many of which had been the highest-profile businesses in their areas.
Obama address, bells to mark 50 years since King's 'Dream' speech (28 August 2013)
(Reuters) - Words from the first black U.S. president and bell ringing around the world on Wednesday will mark 50 years to the minute that civil rights leader Martin Luther King ended his landmark "I have a dream" speech.
Capping a week long celebration of King's historic call for racial and economic justice, President Barack Obama will speak at the Lincoln Memorial, site of King's address on August 28, 1963.
The "Let Freedom Ring and Call to Action" ceremony comes as almost half of Americans say much more needs to be done before the color-blind society King envisioned is realized.
Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also will address the crowd at the ceremony, which includes bell-ringing at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT), 50 years to the minute after King ended his clarion call of the civil rights movement with the words "let freedom ring."
Some school districts quit healthier lunch program (28 August 2013)
After just one year, some schools around the country are dropping out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at meals packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables that the cafeterias were losing money.
Federal officials say they don't have exact numbers but have seen isolated reports of schools cutting ties with the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for meals served and gives them access to lower-priced food.
Districts that rejected the program say the reimbursement was not enough to offset losses from students who began avoiding the lunch line and bringing food from home or, in some cases, going hungry.
"Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn't eat," said Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year.
PAM COMMENTARY: Here are the issues that I think are involved:
1.) Food Marketing - It's difficult to convince kids to eat healthy food when they're accustomed to eating high-fat, high-salt, high-starch food at home. Some parents ridicule healthy food to their children -- even I have relatives like that.
I think in those situations, it helps to market healthy food to kids, letting them sample many different fruits, vegetables, cooked dishes, and other natural foods to let them decide which ones they'd like to eat.
A book that may help with ideas on "marketing" food to children is French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters.
2.) Food Quality: Taste and Preference - I think the assumption with these meal programs is that "food quality" means nutritional value only. Children deserve food that's no less than an adult would expect -- with customized choices and great taste.
One problem with "healthy" food is that many chefs and cooks don't bother to make the food taste good. That picture they have in this article, with a salad of raw green bell peppers and broccoli? Even I wouldn't eat that.
Everyone has their own preferences. I don't like raw green bell peppers for example, but I will eat them cooked, and I like almost every other type of pepper. Providing some choice for consumers can cure a part of the "picky eater" problem. After all, would you go to a sub shop if they didn't give you a choice of the toppings on your sub? Would you expect your child to accept fewer choices than an adult?
The problem of bland- or awful-tasting healthy food seems to be prevalent in the health food industry. I've rarely found a health food store with delicious food in its deli, yet people line up for anything the store has, and pay a lot, because they have serious health problems and aren't feeling well enough to cook for themselves.
I've mentioned this problem many times to various food vendors, urging them to improve their market share with better food. Their response is almost always the same -- there's nothing wrong with their food, "It's healthy," they repeat like a mantra, as if healthy food is meant to taste terrible.
Perhaps they've trained themselves to like any old jumble of unseasoned vegetables thrown together, but expecting children to do the same is unrealistic. If you'll check the recipes on VeggieCooking.com, they're delicious, and the actual cookbook has many more recipes with a good variety of food choices. I'm not the type to cook if the end result isn't worth eating.
3.) Food Variety - I see the issue of kids throwing apples and pears away as a lack of variety. Fruit is sweet and delicious, but what if someone fed you the same few different fruits every day for a month? Not everyone can tolerate the apple-banana-orange rotation day after day. Maybe they should rotate some plums, peaches, kiwis, berries, melons, and other variety into the mix.
Facebook reveals governments asked for data on 38,000 users in 2013 (28 August 2013)
Government agencies around the world demanded access to the information of over 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, and more than half the orders came from the United States, the company said on Tuesday.
Facebook's first "global government requests report" covers the first six months of 2013, ending 30 June. It comes as the social network giant and its peers are coming under intense scrutiny following revelations about their co-operation with the National Security Agency's mass surveillance of US and foreign citizens.
"Transparency and trust are core values at Facebook. We strive to embody them in all aspects of our services, including our approach to responding to government data requests," Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel, said in a blogpost. "We want to make sure that the people who use our service understand the nature and extent of the requests we receive and the strict policies and processes we have in place to handle them."
US authorities made 11,000-12,000 requests for information on 20,000-21,000 individuals over the six months. The company complied in 79% of cases. Facebook said it had to give a range for the US figures in order to give an indication of "all criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law".
Containment of Yosemite fire now 23% as blaze climbs record books (28 August 2013)
Firefighters capitalized on a blanket of moist air that settled over the mountains near Yosemite National Park on Tuesday night to increase containment of the Rim fire to 23%.
The blaze -- now entering its 12th day -- has burned 187,466 acres and is on pace to soon become the sixth-largest fire in state history. Containment was up from 20% Tuesday.
Overnight, firefighters continued to build and strengthen containment lines and conduct backfiring operations to slow the blaze as it rages farther into Yosemite National Park.
Authorities also ordered evacuations for residents in the fire's path south of California 120 and north of Old Yosemite Road.
The U.S. Forest Service said Tuesday that ground crews planned to work through the night to build containment lines on the northern flank of the fire. Communities north of the blaze, along the Highway 108 corridor from Tuolumne City to Pinecrest, also remained under evacuation orders.
Why Syria's chemical weapons would be difficult target for US strike (28 August 2013)
It looks as if the US is about to attack Syria because the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people. US officials have made it clear that a main goal of such a strike would be to deter future use of this particular weapon of mass destruction, by Syria or anyone else.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday said that since the end of World War I the Chemical Weapons Convention and other multilateral efforts have established an international norm against use of poison gas.
"The use of chemical weapons on the scale that we saw on Aug. 21 cannot be ignored. It must be responded to, because to allow it to happen without a response would be to invite further use of chemical weapons and to have that international standard dissolved," said Mr. Carney.
But here is one complication: From a military standpoint, chemical weapons themselves are a difficult target. Deterrence in this case might involve US strikes against the infrastructure that supports their use, including missiles and other delivery systems, and command-and-control sites, as opposed to chemical stocks.
For one thing, chemical weapons would not just harmlessly vaporize in an attack. If hit by US munitions, chemical dumps could release some poisons into the air or in liquid form on the ground. Predicting the environmental effect in the surrounding area would be extremely difficult.
Chemical 'substance' used in Syria, says UN envoy; team in Damascus starts second tour (28 August 2013)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA--UN chemical weapons experts headed to a Damascus suburb on Wednesday for a new tour of areas struck by a purported poison gas attack, activists said, as Western powers laid the groundwork for a possible punitive strike and the UN chief pleaded for more time for diplomacy.
U.S. leaders, including Vice-President Joe Biden, have charged that Syrian President Bashar Assad's government fired deadly chemical weapons near Damascus last week.
The U.S. has not presented concrete proof and UN inspectors have not endorsed the allegations.
The UN's envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said Wednesday that evidence suggests some kind of "substance" was used in the Aug. 21 attacks that, according to the group Doctors Without Borders, killed 355 people.
Syria, which sits on one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, has denied the charges.
Africa: Sun, Sea and Sex Scandal - Morocco's Shady Status As a Sex Tourism Hotspot (28 August 2013)
Could the public outrage around the Daniel Galvan paedophilia scandal jolt the government into taking sex tourism and sexual abuse more seriously?
On 31 July, 2013, news that 64-year-old Spanish citizen, Daniel Galvan, had received a royal pardon spread like wildfire on social media sites across the North African kingdom. Moroccans have rarely, if ever, questioned the royal pardon on the annual celebration of the King's Fête de Throne, but Galvan was no ordinary criminal; in 2011, a Moroccan court had sentenced Galvan to 30 years in prison for raping 11 Moroccan children between the ages of 4 and 15.
Following news that Galvan was to be allowed to go free, outraged Moroccans took to the streets to contest his release and demand justice. This pressure from the street prompted the official revoking of the pardon only 48 hours after its release. During those hours of rage and anger, however, Moroccans openly asked and hotly debated questions such as: Why would the King forgive a paedophile? Who is responsible for the sale of 'our' poor children to predators? How do we toughen laws against sex tourism? And when did Morocco become a destination for sex tourism?
Not the first
Danielgate, as the scandal has become known, has been the scandal of all scandals. It involved the questioning of two royal decisions - the pardon and its revoke - and an unexpectedly bold response from the Moroccan public.
Tanzania: Group Shines Spotlight On Mines Over Child Labour (28 August 2013)
Nairobi -- Thousands of children, some as young as eight years old, are working in Tanzania's small-scale gold mines, exposed to numerous health risks, says a report published today.
The international rights group, Human Rights Watch, has called on the government and international community to help end this vice, in which children are exposed to the dangers of mercury poisoning and working in unstable underground mining pits for shifts of up to 24 hours.
The government has been accused of doing very little to curb child employment in dangerous mines, despite the country's strong laws against child labour in mining, one of the worst forms of child labour under the international agreements to which Tanzania is a party.
In the report, poverty is cited as one of the reasons young boys and girls are lured into the gold mines, with many being orphans or lacking basic necessities. The girls are sexually harassed and pressurized to engaged in sex work, putting them at risk of contracting HIV/Aids or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Vitamin C lowers the harmful effects of air pollution, study finds (28 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants on Earth, and its ability to aid tissue growth and repair is well-known. However, British researchers at the Imperial College of London have found another good reason to eat more oranges and lemons - vitamin C can also guard us against the negative effects of air pollutants such as car exhaust and power plants.
The researchers studied 209 London-based patients between the years of 2008 and 2009 to determine the link between oxidative stress and coarse particulate matter (air pollution produced mainly through fossil fuel combustion). Most of the patients were between the ages of 54 and 74, and all of them were hospitalized due to asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
The researchers found that there was a 35 percent increased risk of hospitalization for asthma or COPD for every additional 10 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3) in coarse particulate matter to which the patients were subjected. They also found that the risk of hospitalization was 1.2 times greater among patients with low vitamin C levels - a correlation that remained true even when elderly patients and former smokers were excluded from the analysis.
"The protective effect of vitamin C was still present after excluding smokers and elderly subjects, implying that the effect of this antioxidant was not explained by smoking or age," said Dr. Cristina Canova, study co-author and research associate at the university's Respiratory Epidemiology and Public Heath Group.
Scientists achieve first human-to-human 'mind meld' (28 August 2013)
Scientists said Tuesday they have completed the first human-to-human mind meld, with one researcher sending a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motion of a colleague sitting across the Seattle campus of the University of Washington -- an achievement one of the researchers jokingly referred to it as a "Vulcan mind meld."
"The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains," said Andrea Stocco, of the university's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. "We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain."
The feat is less a conceptual advance than another step in the years-long progress that researchers have made toward brain-computer interfaces, in which electrical signals generated from one brain are translated by a computer into commands that can move a mechanical arm or a computer cursor -- or, in more and more studies, can affect another brain.
Much of the research has been aimed at helping paralyzed patients regain some power of movement, but bioethicists have raised concerns about more controversial uses.
Breaking research: Inducing childbirth raises autism risk (28 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) On August 12, the famed Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics published a study suggesting inducing childbirth increases risk for developing autism. The study analyzed North Carolina Detailed Birth Records and featured 625,042 live births linked with school records, including more than "5,500 children with a documented exceptionality designation for autism."
Results from the analysis proves that - in comparison to children who were born to mothers who were not pharmacologically-induced or augmented - "induced only, or augmented only experienced increased odds of autism after controlling for potential confounders related to socioeconomic status, maternal health, pregnancy-related events and conditions, and birth year."
The ramifications for this study are paramount as 25 percent of all labors are induced in the U.S.
It all starts in the gut
In light of the anti-gluten/anti-casein campaigns that have reached American mainstream, it is becoming common knowledge that autism spectrum disorders (ASD), like autism, Asperger's and ADHD, are heavily related to GI issues and the inability to digest specific food items. The role that drug therapies play during birth and the development of these disorders is now becoming a hot topic and more research is being conducted to understand what seems like an obvious correlation: more mothers than ever are utilizing drugs of various sorts during labor, and more children than ever are being diagnosed with ASD.
Civil Rights Pioneer Gloria Richardson, 91, on How Women Were Silenced at 1963 March on Washington (27 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: But, then this is amazing. Rosa Parks was there, but she was not asked to speak.
GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yeah, No.
AMY GOODMAN: Rosa Parks, who launched Dr. Martin Luther King in Montgomery.
GLORIA RICHARDSON: That's right. And that's why Lena was taking and saying this is the woman that... So I joined that little effort and went with them to two or three places and then back on the stage. I don't think any of it really soaked into me until afterwards. And I must say, I probably would not even have gone that far to participate. I only found out in the last two or three weeks on the Internet that they had a separate place for, separate street for the women to march from. Then when I look at the pictures, it is totally man. And most of whom had not been out in those streets.
AMY GOODMAN: So your name is called to speak.
GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, they called the name and I went up. People kept saying, go up anyhow. So I went up. So, I said hello, and I, really, by that time, was so annoyed, I was going to tell them, you all just sit here until they pass that civil rights bill, even if it is a week from away. And I said, hello. I guess they were right.
U.S. intelligence has established timeline of Syrian chemical attack, officials say (27 August 2013)
The Obama administration believes that U.S. intelligence has established how Syrian government forces stored, assembled and launched the chemical weapons allegedly used in last week's attack outside Damascus, according to U.S. officials.
The administration is planning to release evidence, possibly as soon as Thursday, that it will say proves that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bears responsibility for what U.S. officials have called an "undeniable" chemical attack that killed hundreds on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.
The report, being compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is one of the final steps that the administration is taking before President Obama makes a decision on a U.S. military strike against Syria, which now appears all but inevitable.
"We are prepared," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday. "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take. We are ready to go." The assets include four cruise-missile-armed destroyers in the Mediterranean.
The timing of such a military response is being dictated by the need not only to assemble incontrovertible evidence against Assad -- an important prerequisite for the administration, and the country, given the recent memories of a war based on false claims of weapons of mass destruction -- but also to allow consultation with Congress and international partners.
'We are ready to go': American-led forces move cruise missiles into position for anticipated 48 hour blitz on Syrian targets within days (27 August 2013)
An anticipated U.S.-led military attack to punish Syria for using chemical weapons would see American forces, and their allies, launch more than 100 missiles in a blitz lasting up to 48 hours, according to administrative officials.
The U.S. Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea positioned within range of targets inside Syria, as well as U.S. warplanes in the region.
In an attack expected within the next 48 hours, missiles would be fired at President Bashar al-Assad's command and control facilities, weapons delivery centers, intelligence bases and military training camps.
U.S. forces are 'ready to go' if called on to strike the Syrian regime, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday.
Starbucks won't cut worker benefits ahead of Obamacare: CEO (26 August 2013)
(Reuters) - Starbucks Coffee Co (SBUX.O) will not follow the lead of other companies that are cutting health insurance benefits or reducing hours for employees in anticipation of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, the coffee shop chain's CEO Howard Schultz told Reuters on Monday.
"Other companies have announced that they won't provide coverage for spouses; others are lobbying for the cut-off to be at 40 hours. But Starbucks will continue maintaining benefits for partners and won't use the new law as excuse to cut benefits or lower benefits for its workers," Schultz said in a telephone interview.
The 2010 healthcare reform law, often called Obamacare, requires companies with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance for employees who work 30 hours a week or more. Starbucks currently provides healthcare to part-timers who work 20 hours a week or more.
Last week, United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) told non-union employees that their spouses would no longer qualify for company-sponsored health insurance if they could get coverage through their own jobs.
Beer vs. oil: Beer wins (27 August 2013)
Beer lovers of America, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Michigan's Bell's Brewery won a decision against Enbridge Oil Thursday night that nixed a proposal the brewery claims would have shut it down for what could have been months. After almost five hours of deliberation, Comstock Township Planning Commission rejected Enbridge Oil's plan to drop an oil cleanup dredge pad in the lot next to the brewery -- and practically in the backyards of some 40 homeowners -- and proved that there is still some lingering good in the world.
Just how did the makers of Michigan's best known microbrews find themselves in a fight with one of the biggest oil companies in North America? The story starts in July 2010, when the Enbridge Oil pipeline near Marshall, Mich., ruptured, spilling more than 840,000 gallons of Canadian heavy crude into the Kalamazoo River in the largest overland oil spill in U.S. history. Three years later, the U.S. EPA estimates there's still some 180,000 gallons of diluted bitumen clinging to the river bottom, and the agency has ordered the company to complete additional dredging. In July, when Enbridge plotted a holding site for the oil-contaminated muck, called a dredge pad, it stuck one next door to Bell's main brewery -- and that was something that Larry Bell, the brewery's owner, wasn't going to stand for.
"We were going to be downwind," says Bell. "It was going to contaminate our ingredients. It was going to contaminate our employees -- it would have put us out of production." He filed a lawsuit in late July after work had already begun on the site and says he's spent roughly $50,000 fighting for the site to be moved. According to a complaint filed by township supervisor Ann Nieuwenhuis in early July, "substantial work ... occurred without Enbridge applying for and obtaining the necessary Township permits," squelching locals' chance to air their concerns. "Their MO is to set up next to people who can't fight 'em," says Bell. "They never bargained for setting up next to me."
In March, the U.S. EPA set a Dec. 31 deadline for Enbridge to complete the dredging, and the company claims that this setback will make it hard for it to complete the work in time -- especially when the agency has already denied a request for extension. "Not getting site plan approval tonight for (Comstock Commerce Park) does make it more challenging to complete that initiative by the timeline in front of us," said Jason Manshum, senior advisor of community relations for Enbridge. "So now, we'll go back and work with both federal and state regulators. Before any other action is done, we need to have those discussions at that level." Two other dredge pad sites were approved last Monday.
Four new wind farms in upper Midwest could power 750,000 homes (27 August 2013)
Last week, Minneapolis-based utility Xcel Energy proposed its fourth wind farm in the Upper Midwest since mid-July. If approved, the 150-megawatt Border Winds Project would be developed in North Dakota near the U.S.-Canadian border and produce enough electricity to save customers an estimated $45 million over its lifetime while reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 320,000 tons.
In July, Xcel Energy -- the nation's top utility for wind-based power -- proposed to add 600 megawatts of wind energy through three wind farms in North Dakota and Minnesota. With the addition of the Border Winds Project, Xcel could save customers more than $220 million and add a total of 750 megawatts of wind power to its existing Midwest portfolio, which would bring its wind capacity total in the region to 2,550 megawatts -- or enough power to serve over 750,000 homes.
"These projects will lower our customers' bills, offer protection from rising fuel costs, and provide significant environmental benefits," Dave Sparby, CEO of Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power Co., said in a statement last month. "Wind prices are extremely competitive right now, offering lower costs than other possible resources, like natural gas plants."
Xcel has submitted the four projects to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the North Dakota Public Service Commission for consideration and expects to hear the regulators' decisions by late fall. If approved, construction will begin immediately in order for the projects to qualify for the federal renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC).
The PTC, which was set to expire at the end of 2012, was extended in January to projects that begin construction by the end of 2013. The tax credit provides 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity produced over the first ten years of operation.
Defense attorney to seek up to $300,000 from Fla. to pay Zimmerman's non-lawyer defense costs (27 August 2013)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- George Zimmerman's attorney said Tuesday that he is going to ask the state of Florida to pay for some of his client's non-lawyer legal bills, including for experts, printing and court reporters, and that the price tag could reach $300,000.
Zimmerman was acquitted last month of all charges in the 2012 fatal shooting of Miami teenager Trayvon Martin. The decision in the nationally televised trial touched off protests across the country.
Since he was found not guilty, Zimmerman is entitled under a Florida law to recoup the defense costs, minus private attorney fees, said his lawyer Mark O'Mara. It also says that any costs already paid can be refunded with the approval of a judge, he said.
"I just think it's patently unfair that the state by overcharging a case they could not prove at trial gets to cost either Mr. Zimmerman or me, or the donors a whole bunch of money that they're not responsible for," said O'Mara, who also said the defense team has totaled the expenses yet.
Die-off of bottlenose dolphins, linked to virus, is worst in 25 years (27 August 2013)
Marine scientists said Tuesday that a die-off of bottlenose dolphins along the Atlantic Seaboard is the largest in a quarter-century and is almost certainly from the same cause as the 1987-88 outbreak: cetacean morbillivirus, which is spreading throughout the population.
From New York to North Carolina, 357 dead or dying dolphins have washed ashore since July 1, and authorities have received numerous additional reports of carcasses floating in the ocean, said Teri Rowles, director of the marine mammal health and stranding response program for the National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. More than half the carcasses have come ashore in Virginia, she said.
The measles-like virus has been confirmed or is suspected in 32 of 33 dolphins tested so far, Rowles said. Marine officials are looking at possibility of other factors, including high levels of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) and other chemicals in the water, but they have not linked anything else to the die-off.
From 2007 to 2012, the average number of yearly strandings in the same states was 36, Rowles said. The last big outbreak, in 1987 and 1988, killed more than 700 dolphins.
"If, indeed, this plays out the way that die-off occurred, we're looking at the die-off being higher and the morbillivirus spreading southward," Rowles said.
50 Years After March on Washington, Tens of Thousands Say Struggle for MLK's "Dream" Continues (26 August 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
Well, today we spend the hour featuring voices from Saturday's march, beginning with some of the veteran civil rights leaders who spoke: Reverend Jesse Jackson; Julian Bond, the former chair of the board of the NAACP and one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a state legislator in Georgia for more than two decades. But first, this is 13-term Georgia Congressmember John Lewis, the only surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington.
REP. JOHN LEWIS: Fifty years ago--50 years ago, I stood right here in this spot, 23 years old, had all of my hair and a few pounds lighter. So I come back here again to say that those days for the most part are gone, but we have another fight. We must stand up and fight the good fight as we march today, for there are forces, there are people who want to take us back. We cannot go back. We've come too far. We want to go forward.
Back in 1963, hundreds and thousands and millions of our brothers and sisters could not register to vote. When I stood here 50 years ago, I said, "'One man, one vote' is the African cry. It is ours, too. It must be ours." I also said some people tell us to wait, tell us to be patient. I say, 50 years later, we cannot wait. We cannot be patient. We want jobs, and we want our freedom now. All of us. It doesn't matter whether we're black or white, Latino, Asian American or Native American. It doesn't matter whether we're straight or gay. We are one people. We are one family. We are one house. We all live in the same house. So I say to you, my brothers and sisters, we cannot give up. We cannot give out. We cannot give in. We must get out there and push and pull.
Now I, a few short years ago, or almost 48 years ago--well, 40 years ago, or almost 50 years ago, I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama, for the right to vote. I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.
Arlington garage where 'Deep Throat' spilled secrets is marked for demolition (27 August 2013)
Just two years after a historical marker went up commemorating the spot where FBI official Mark Felt secretly met with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation, the spot itself is set to come down.
The spot was in a parking garage at 1401 Wilson Blvd. in the Rosslyn area of Arlington, which Felt apparently selected as both an inconspicuous site and a halfway point between his own home near Prosperity Avenue in the Fairfax area and Woodward's apartment in the District. Woodward and his colleague on the Post Metro desk, Carl Bernstein, used information provided by Felt, then the associate director of the FBI, to expose the Nixon administration's role in obstructing the Watergate investigation. Nixon wound up resigning, you may have heard.
Scott Brodbeck of ARLNow.com reports that the Wilson Boulevard building and one other nearby are targeted for demolition so that new office buildings can go up. The approval process for all that is expected to take from one to four years. The chief development officer of Monday Properties, which owns the building, told Brodbeck that he hoped to preserve the plaque and incorporate it into the new design. Arlington has been pretty good about this in the past, as the Bob Peck Chevrolet homage on Glebe Road suggests.
Felt was dubbed "Deep Throat" by a Washington Post editor as a different sort of homage, to the renowned pornographic film of the same name. His identity was known only to Woodward, Bernstein and then-Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, until Felt revealed himself in 2005. Felt died in 2008.
Nissan: We'll have a self-driving car on roads in 2020 (27 August 2013)
(CNN) -- Nissan has just joined Google in the race to make driverless cars a reality.
The Japanese automaker is aiming to have such driverless autos on the road by 2020.
"Nissan Motor Company's willingness to question conventional thinking and to drive progress is what sets us apart," said CEO Carlos Ghosn, in a press release. "In 2007 I pledged that --- by 2010 --- Nissan would mass market a zero-emission vehicle. Today, the Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric vehicle in history. Now I am committing to be ready to introduce a new ground-breaking technology, Autonomous Drive, by 2020, and we are on track to realize it."
Nissan intends to start testing such vehicles by 2014. It's unclear how long Nissan has been testing the technology, though the release refers to "years." Google began road-testing its self-driven autos in 2010. The search giant has no stated intention to use the cars for commercial purposes. However, the company could benefit from selling its technology to automakers.
Brain-eating parasite kills Florida boy (25 August 2013)
"Miami Children's Hospital expresses heartfelt condolences to this devoted family," the hospital said in a statement. "We respect the family's wishes and honor their privacy at this time."
Zachary's doctors believe he contracted the parasite while knee-boarding in a watery ditch near his family home in LaBelle. His family noticed that something was wrong when the normally energetic boy spent all day sleeping.
After he was hospitalized and diagnosed with primary amoebic encephalitis, the infection caused by the parasite, Zachary's doctors gave him an experimental anti-amoeba drug used successfully on a 12-year-old Arkansas girl who had contracted the bug a few weeks before. Over the weekend, however, tests on Zachary's brain showed no activity.
In another Facebook post, the Reyna family said they intended to donate their son's organs.
The fight to investigate Detroit's 11,000 forgotten rapes (26 August 2013)
Not for nothing did Essence magazine describe her as the "toughest woman in Detroit", a moniker which came in particularly handy one afternoon in August 2009, when Worthy's staff made a startling discovery.
"I was sitting in my office one day when assistant prosecutor Rob Spader came in and told me he had been doing an inventory of Detroit police department evidence," she explains during a rare break in her schedule. "There was this warehouse of old evidence that none of us knew about. And that's where he found the rape kits."
A rape kit is a sexual assault forensic kit used to take and preserve medical evidence through DNA swabs following an allegation of rape. Spader had stumbled across approximately 11,000 of these kits lying in random order, uncatalogued, unattended and uninvestigated.
Worthy's initial reaction was one of disgust and she immediately contacted the then police commissioner. She faced a lack of interest "until a local reporter picked it up, and then the whole thing blew up".
With the commissioner on board, Worthy soon assembled a team of volunteers to begin the lengthy process of cataloguing the rape kits. "It took us six to nine months to build a database; we had to open each one of the what we now know is 11,304 kits. There was no previous nexus to go on, so we started from scratch. We had volunteers going over these kits for hours each day (without opening the evidence itself), using any identifiable information about the assault to build a database. We combed through years of records to try to match the kits with any police records there may have been. And at times we were literally blowing off the dust of old books that they used to keep back in the day to record the cases."
How Snowden did it (26 August 2013)
As a Honolulu-based employee of Booz Allen Hamilton doing contract work for the NSA, Snowden had access to the NSA servers via "thin client" computer. The outdated set-up meant that he had direct access to the NSA servers at headquarters in Ft. Meade, Md., 5,000 miles away.
In a "thin client" system, each remote computer is essentially a glorified monitor, with most of the computing power in the central server. The individual computers tend to be assigned to specific individuals, and access for most users can be limited to specific types of files based on a user profile.
But Snowden was not most users. A typical NSA worker has a "top secret" security clearance, which gives access to most, but not all, classified information. Snowden also had the enhanced privileges of a "system administrator." The NSA, which has as many as 40,000 employees, has 1,000 system administrators, most of them contractors.
As a system administrator, Snowden was allowed to look at any file he wanted, and his actions were largely unaudited. "At certain levels, you are the audit," said an intelligence official.
He was also able to access NSAnet, the agency's intranet, without leaving any signature, said a person briefed on the postmortem of Snowden's theft. He was essentially a "ghost user," said the source, making it difficult to trace when he signed on or what files he accessed.
If he wanted, he would even have been able to pose as any other user with access to NSAnet, said the source.
Watch: Wisconsin Capitol police tackle man for photographing progressive protest (26 August 2013)
Video of the incident uploaded to YouTube showed two police officers approaching Damon Terrell, who can be heard saying, "This is not illegal." As Terrell backed away, one of the officers grabbed him. Terrell ended up on the ground with three officers on top of him.
Another video uploaded to YouTube showed four officers carrying Terrell out of the rotunda by his arms and legs.
Christopher J. Terrell, Damon's brother, was also arrested for participating in the "Solidarity Sing Along" demonstration in the Capitol.
"The brothers have had a history of demonstrating and arrests by the capitol police, at times that has involved the brothers shouting at officers," said Michael Phillis of the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The daily demonstrations began during the 2011 budget protests. A judge ruled in July that groups of more than 20 people could not gather in the Wisconsin Capitol without a permit, igniting a wave of arrests and citations.
Earlier this month, a Wisconsin lawmaker and a state official were both threatened with arrest for merely observing the demonstration.
North Carolina cops threaten to arrest charity groups for feeding the homeless (26 August 2013)
Charity groups in Raleigh, North Carolina are criticizing local police over what they call a sudden enforcement of a local ordinance prohibiting them from feeding the homeless.
"The police are caught up in a system," Rev. Hugh Hollowell told WRAL-TV on Sunday. "The police work for the mayor and the City Council, who is ultimately responsible to the developers who spend lots and lots of money to revitalize downtown."
Hollowell attracted attention to the police's activities on Saturday after his group, Love Wins Ministries, was barred from its weekly food distribution at a local park, Moore Square, for the first time in six years.
"No representative from the Raleigh Police Department was willing to tell us which ordinance we were breaking, or why, after six years and countless friendly and cooperative encounters with the Department, they are now preventing us from feeding hungry people," Hollowell wrote on the group's website. "When I asked the officer why, he said that he was not going to debate me. 'I am just telling you what is. Now you pass out that food, you will go to jail.'"
Another charitable group, Human Beans Together, told WRAL it was also forced out of the park. When it relocated to a nearby parking lot to continue, police also stepped in before the owner arrived and allowed them to remain on the premises while they negotiate a long-term solution.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported that enforcement of Sec. 9-2022 of local ordinances regarding city parks -- which mandates permits for food distribution efforts -- has increased over the past few weeks. Hollowell wrote on his group's website that permits for these kinds of outings would cost $800 apiece.
Sandhill Crane Hunt First-Ever Season Set In Tennessee (26 August 2013)
There will be a sandhill crane hunt in Tennessee running from November 28 to January 1. That's the result of a unanimous vote by the 14-member Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC) that met Friday in Knoxville. According to a report in the Tennessean, the wildlife agency will issue 400 sandhill crane permits that will allow each hunter to take up to three birds. The permits will be awarded using a lottery system.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service had originally proposed a 60-day season offering 775 permits. The upcoming hunt is somewhat smaller than originally planned. And the season was also scheduled to avoid conflicts with a popular crane festival that takes place in Tennessee each January.
WATE noted that it's the first-ever hunting season offered for the sandhill cranes in Tennessee. As I reported last week, TFWC met in Knoxville, Tennessee to decide whether or not to open a historic sandhill crane hunting season.
Once little seen in the state, the population of migratory sandhill cranes has exploded from eight or less in 1969 to 70,000 to 87,000 winter visitors in recent years.
MCPS implements mandatory baseline concussion testing for student-athletes (26 August 2013)
Inspired by Montana's newly enacted Dylan Steigers Protection of Youth Athletes Act and in accordance with a new Missoula County Public Schools policy, student-athletes are required to take the test so coaches, medical professionals and parents have baseline data for each student should they suffer a concussion or brain injury while on the field.
It is just one of many tools now used to better understand and diagnose the severity of an often silent and sometimes life-altering injury, said Brian Fortmann, the assistant principal at Big Sky High School who over the past few years has helped lead the district to improve protocols with regard to concussions.
"The concern is that we are learning more and more about the serious impacts of concussions, and we want to know how to better identify and treat our kids," Fortmann said. "We have to take this very seriously -- we are talking about the health and future of our children."
Steigers, who was a graduate of Sentinel and played on the football team, died in 2010 from a traumatic brain injury suffered during a spring football game at Eastern Oregon University.
This is your (mouse) brain on drugs (25 August 2013)
Just a couple of doses of cocaine can change the composition of the part of the brain associated with memory-based decision making, according to a team of researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco.
Almost immediately, mice that were administered cocaine grew far more new dendritic spines, which can form synapses and create new connections, than did mice that just got saline, according to a study published online Sunday in Nature Neuroscience.
"The fact that cocaine appears to rewire executive centers with one dose is pretty shocking," said Linda Wilbrecht, a UC Berkeley neurology researcher affiliated with the center. "It isn't that they came up over night, while the mouse was sleeping. They actually came up within two hours of the cocaine experience."
Subsequent experiments suggested that those new spines correlated with what appeared to be addict behavior: Given a choice, mice with those new neuron spines headed back to the cocaine lounge. In scientific terms, they exhibited a "conditioned place preference" for the chamber where they got the cocaine, over the one where they got saline.
UN chemical weapons investigation team attacked in Syria (26 August 2013)
United Nations chemical weapons investigators were fired at on Monday while traveling on the outskirts of Damascus as they attempted to enter the site of Wednesday's alleged gas attack.
The spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the U.N Chemical Weapons Investigation Team that earlier left Damascus for nearby Eastern Ghouta were hit by a barrage of bullets from unidentified rooftop snipers.
"The first vehicle of the Chemical Weapons Investigation Team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area," the statement read.
"It has to be stressed again that all sides need to extend their cooperation so that the team can safely carry out their important work," it added.
The statement said the team retreated back to its checkpoint, where it will replace the vehicle damaged in the attack before attempting to return to the site.
Edward Snowden got stuck in Moscow 'after Cuba blocked entry' (26 August 2013)
US whistleblower Edward Snowden got stuck in the transit zone of a Moscow airport because Havana said it would not let him fly from Russia to Cuba, a Russian newspaper reported on Monday.
Snowden, who is wanted in the US for leaking details of government surveillance programmes to the Guardian, had planned to fly to Havana from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport a day after arriving from Hong Kong on 23 June.
But Snowden, who eventually accepted a year's asylum in Russia after spending nearly six weeks at Sheremetyevo, did not catch the flight although he had been allocated a seat.
Citing several sources, including one close to the US state department, Kommersant newspaper said the reason was that at the last minute Cuba told officials to stop Snowden from boarding the Aeroflot flight.
It said Cuba had changed its mind after pressure by the US, which wants to try Snowden on espionage charges.
Government plans to euthanize hundreds of desert tortoises after budget cuts to refuge (25 August 2013)
A combination of federal budget austerity and the dramatic decline of the Nevada housing market may claim some unlikely victims: desert tortoises.
The Desert Tortoise Conservation Center -- a 23-year-old federal refuge in Las Vegas for the threatened species -- has collected only $290,000 from its primary funding source of local developer fees over the last 11 months, the AP reports. The center can't count on the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Nevada Department of Wildlife to make up the shortfall on the center's $1 million annual operating budget because of federal and state budget constraints.
The result? Center administrators are planning to close the 220-acre facility in 2014 and euthanize about half of the 1400 tortoises under their protection, the AP reports. No more than 100,000 of the desert tortoises are believed to exist in the wild. Most of the tortoises there are former pets returned to their habitat once the government classified the species as threatened -- one step short of endangered. And most are too feeble to be returned to the wild, the AP reports.
B.C. wouldn't be able to manage a spill from proposed Northern Gateway pipeline activities: internal documents (25 August 2013)
VANCOUVER - Officials in British Columbia privately warned the province lacks the ability to manage oil spills from existing and future oil traffic, and even a moderate spill would overwhelm their ability to respond, documents show.
Ottawa's decision to deal with coastal oil spills from a base in Quebec would make it much harder to contain spills, and Transport Canada and the Coast Guard lack the needed "environmental expertise" to manage them, officials said the documents obtained by The Canadian Press under freedom of information laws.
The notes were written by B.C. environment ministry bureaucrats for the incoming minister's briefing book in June, and other concerns were detailed by emergency response officials in memos from last year.
B.C. environment ministry bureaucrats voiced a range of misgivings for minister Mary Polak.
"The Ministry of Environment, as the ministry responsible for preparedness, prevention, response and recovery for spills, is not adequately staffed and resourced to meet the existing and emerging expectations to address spills," they wrote in the briefing book.
Media critic: Al Jazeera appealing because it's not identified with corporate interests (25 August 2013)
The Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera is an important contributor to the political landscape of the United States, according to the media critic for The Baltimore Sun.
"We have had a narrowing of the conversation about democracy, especially on television," David Zurawik said Sunday on CNN. "Throughout the media, we've become sort of identified with corporate interests and with the powers that be. I think part of that is the economic crunch we have all gone through. Al Jazeera in general is oriented towards what is called global south, which is people south of the equator -- people who have been the victims of colonization."
"You know, in the Middle East, we say Al Jazeera is much more in touch with the street," he continued. "Well, there's a street in America, too, that a lot of television, a lot of network, a lot of cable is not in touch with. And in their first week, their first night, I saw them. They did a story on a woman who makes coats for homeless people. You know, in America, we drive right by the homeless. Driving in Washington today, how do the congressmen, how does the president drive down this street and not see what I see today? Al Jazeera sees it."
The Al Jazeera America cable channel went live on Tuesday.
All GMO approvals in Brazil are illegal, says whistleblowing regulator (25 August 2013)
(NaturalNews) It may not come as much of a surprise to our regular readers, but the biotechnology industry as we currently know it is intrinsically corrupt. And a government official-turned-whistleblower from Brazil recently admitted in a government report that every single industry-prompted approval for genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in his country has taken place outside the realm of sound science and without proper legal precedent, which means all current plantings of GM crops in Brazil are illegal.
These are sweeping claims, but they are backed by a lengthy report recently published by Brazil's National Council for Food and Nutrition Security. In this report, a man by the name of Leonardo Melgarejo divulges key information about how GMOs have never lived up to the promises made about them by their creators, nor have any of the studies used to back their approval proven to be legitimate. To the contrary, most of the currently accepted safety data on GMOs is utter rubbish, he claims, because it relies on flawed methodologies and dishonest protocols.
One of the hallmarks of GMO technology has always been that GM crops will help end world hunger by increasing crop yields. During the last 20 years that GMOs have been on the scene, however, this simply has not been the case. Yields have remained the same or even decreased as a result of GMOs, while the use of dangerous and potentially deadly crop chemicals to keep weeds and pests under control has increased dramatically, a fact that is often omitted from mainstream reports about the "benefits" of GMOs.
"The argument that world hunger will be overcome by productivity gains offered by genetic engineering remains an unfulfilled promise," writes Melgarejo in an English translation of his report compiled by GMWatch.org. "In these 20 years of development of transgenics, almost all ... GMOs involve Bt and herbicide-tolerant (HT) technologies, which are not designed to achieve productivity gains."
At National Zoo, 'five minutes of pure terror' over panda cub (25 August 2013)
For a few terrifying minutes Saturday night, keepers at the National Zoo thought their precious day-old giant panda cub might be dead.
The zoo's panda cameras appeared to show the vibrant, squirming cub of Friday now lying silent and unresponsive on the abdomen of its mother, Mei Xiang.
Memories of the death of the zoo's 6-day-old panda cub last September came flooding back.
Then the keepers heard robust squealing coming from elsewhere. They realized -- to their joy and sorrow -- that what they were seeing on camera wasn't the first cub, but the stillborn body of a second cub.
Massive Rim fire continues to reshape lives and topography (25 August 2013)
But even as firefighters worked furiously to hold a line outside of town, officials warned that this blaze was so hot it could send sparks more than a mile and a half out that could jump lines and start new hot spots. Evacuation advisories remain in effect for Tuolumne City and nearby areas.
On the north edge, the fire -- now 134,000 acres -- pushed into the Emigrant Wilderness Area and Yosemite National Park. It's the one side of the fire with a natural last stand: Eventually it will run into granite walls that have snuffed out fires in this region for centuries.
Each day, what the massive blaze does depends on the wind. But officials were particularly attuned to each shift of breeze Sunday because of the weather's eerie similarities to the day when the fire first exploded out of control.
Flames from what would become one of California's largest wildfires in recent history were first spotted on a ridge in the Stanislaus National Forest on Aug. 17 by a plane flying to another small fire. An air team was called in and dropped water until nightfall.
Fears for seabirds as global warming affects coastline (25 August 2013)
Puffins, terns, and butterflies are among the key species in the U.K. being put at risk from global warming, which is transforming the U.K.'s coastal areas as sea levels rise and storms grow fiercer, a study by the National Trust has found.
Sea levels are predicted to rise by up to half a meter by the turn of the century, and coastal erosion is accelerating, with a fourfold increase in landslips reported.
Puffin chicks are having a particularly hard time -- their preferred meal of sand eels is disappearing, owing to overfishing and changing ocean temperatures, and in their place a new fish has moved into U.K. waters that the chicks find indigestible. The newcomer is the snake pipefish, normally found in warmer waters but moving northwards as the climate changes -- with devastating effects for puffins, as it is bony and hard for the birds to eat. Some chicks have been found dead, the trust reports, having choked trying to swallow pipefish.
Another problem for the species, colonies of which can be found in the Farne Islands and at Lundy Island in Devon, is that their burrows were flooded during last year's exceptionally wet summer, which was followed by the unusually long winter, causing many to die of starvation.
An amendment that hurts chickens -- and Americans (25 August 2013)
Citing the commerce clause, Mr. King's Protect Interstate Commerce Act, which the House passed in its version of the farm bill this summer, would repeal state laws dictating production standards for agricultural goods produced out of state. In particular, Mr. King was targeting a California law barring the sale of eggs produced under conditions cruel to hens.
Mr. King criticized the law for compelling producers nationwide to spend billions to meet large-market California's production standards, a consequence the representative aims to halt, lest "radical organizations" create "a network of restrictive state laws that will slowly push agriculture production towards the demise," he said in a May statement.
If approved by the Senate after the summer recess, Mr. King's reactionary amendment would precipitate a disaster. Not only would laws regarding animal cruelty be upended, but so would laws protecting the environment, workers' rights and public health, because Mr. King's amendment bars any state-imposed condition on agricultural products. The Congressional Fire Services Institute wrote to leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees to express its concern that Mr. King's amendment would overturn state laws requiring cigarettes to be fire-safe.
Mr. King claimed that his act will prevent organizations such as the Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals from "establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence." In fact, such state laws are relatively few, modest and essential. The California law that Mr. King objects to calls for cages that allow chickens to spread their wings, turn around and lie down. It is one of nine state laws protecting farm animals, including pigs, cows and chickens, from spending their whole lives in containers only slightly larger than their bodies. Mr. King's amendment would likely eliminate these safeguards in one fell swoop.
The Lifesaver That Costs...Peanuts (25 August 2013) [BuzzFlash.com]
It was dubbed the wonder product that "may just be the most important advance ever" when it comes to battling acute child hunger. Now the life-saving peanut paste, first trialled during a famine in Niger eight years ago, is reaching two million of the world's most severely malnourished children a year.
The beauty of Plumpy'Nut, which was once said to be as important as the discovery of penicillin, is in its simplicity. The high-energy peanut-based paste, invented by a crusading French paediatrician, includes skimmed milk powder, sugar, vegetable fat and vitamins and minerals.
It does not need clean water to swallow; it does not need to be cooked or refrigerated, and it stays fresh after opening. It can also be given to any child in the most advanced stage of malnutrition, anywhere, by anyone.
Experts say the paste has "radically" changed the care of severely malnourished children in developing countries. Importantly, it has allowed them to be treated in their homes, rather than in hospitals, and it has "drastically" reduced their mortality rates. Now, with increased supply in the developing world, experts suggest that Plumpy'Nut, alongside generic versions of the product, could become Africa's "home-grown" cure for severe acute malnutrition. It could even, they add, be used to prevent it.
Donald Trump sued for $40m over allegedly bogus university (25 August 2013)
New York's attorney-general has sued Donald Trump for $40 million, saying the real estate mogul helped run a phoney "Trump University" that promised to make students rich but instead steered them into expensive and mostly useless seminars, and even failed to deliver promised apprenticeships.
Trump shot back that the Democrat's lawsuit was false and politically motivated.
Attorney-general Eric Schneiderman says many of the 5,000 students who paid up to $35,000 thought they would at least meet Trump, but instead all they got was their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of the star of The Apprentice.
"Trump University engaged in deception at every stage of consumers' advancement through costly programmes and caused real financial harm," Schneiderman said. "Trump University, with Donald Trump's knowledge and participation, relied on Trump's name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand."
FIRST NATIONS WOMEN ARE BEING SOLD INTO THE SEX TRADE ON SHIPS ALONG LAKE SUPERIOR (24 August 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Native women, children, and unfortunately even babies are being trafficked in the sex trade on freighters crossing the Canadian and U.S. border on Lake Superior between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Duluth Minnesota.
Next month, Christine Stark--a student with the University of Minnesota, Duluth, who is completing her Master's degree in social work--will complete an examination of the sex trade in Minnesota, in which she compiles anecdotal, first hand accounts of Aboriginal women, particularly from northern reservations, being trafficked across state, provincial, and international lines to be forced into servitude in the sex industry on both sides of the border.
Stark's paper stems from a report she co-wrote, published by the Indian Women's Sexual Assault Centre in Duluth in 2011, entitled, "The Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota." Through the process of researching and penning this report, Stark kept hearing stories of trafficking in the harbours and on the freighters of Duluth and Thunder Bay. The numerous stories and the gradual realization that this was an issue decades, perhaps centuries, in the making, compelled Stark to delve further into what exactly is taking place.
She decided to conduct an exploratory study, "simply because we have these stories circulating and we wanted to gather information and begin to understand what has happened and what currently is happening around the trafficking of Native American and First Nations women on the ships" said Stark, in an interview with CBC Radio's Superior Morning. "Hearing from so many Native women over generations talking about the 'boat whores,' prostitution on the ships or the 'parties on the ships,' this is something that... was really entrenched in the Native community and we wanted to collect more specific information about it."
New York Times And Guardian Will Publish More Snowden Revelations (24 August 2013) [Rense.com]
The New York Times is in the Snowden game.
The paper -- which NSA leaker Edward Snowden deliberately avoided over his fear that it would cooperate with the United States government -- is now working with the Guardian on a series of stories based on documents that detail National Security Agency cooperation with its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, known as GCHQ.
"In a climate of intense pressure from the UK government, The Guardian decided to bring in a US partner to work on the GCHQ documents provided by Edward Snowden," Guardian spokeswoman Jennifer Lindenauer said in an email. "We are continuing to work in partnership with the NYT and others to report these stories."
The London-based newspaper has been under intense British government pressure this summer, its editor, Alan Rusbridger, revealed earlier this week.
He quoted a top government official as telling him last month: "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more." Officials then demanded that the paper physically destroy files of which it in fact had other copies in other countries -- a surreal demand Rusbridger described as "one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history."
DOJ wants Bush, senior cabinet members exempt from Iraq War trial (23 August 2013)
The United States Department of Justice has requested that former President George W. Bush and the highest figures in his administration receive full exemption from being tried for the Iraq War, which the DoJ says was in line with international law.
Apart from Bush, the names listed in the paper the DoJ filed on Tuesday are former Vice President Richard Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, retired four-star General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and former Deputy Secretary of Defense and President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz.
Sundus Saleh, an Iraqi single mother of three who became a refugee, filed a complaint in March in the San Francisco federal court, claiming that the war in her country can be judged as a 'crime of aggression', according to the same legal standards that the Nuremberg Tribunal used for convicting Nazi war criminals of World War II.
Saleh is the lead plaintiff in this class action lawsuit.
The reason for the decision is connected with the 'Westfall Act' certification. The 1988 law gives the Attorney General the power to personally decide whether the United States is actually a defendant in the case. This in turn allows the granting of absolute immunity to politicians for actions carried out while in the government's employ.
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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