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NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2013
News from the Week of 15th to 21st of September 2013
STUDY: The Great Recession Caused A Sharp Rise In Suicides Around The World (21 September 2013)
The Great Recession contributed to an uptick in the suicide rate for men, according to the first study to survey the mental health impact of the economic downturn on a global scale. In 2009, an additional 5,000 people killed themselves.
Researchers compared unemployment rates and suicide data in 54 countries around the world. In 2009, the year after the Great Recession hit, they found that a 37 percent higher unemployment rate was linked to a 3.3 percent increase in men's global suicide rate. The suicide rates for women were largely unaffected, although the study did find they rose slightly in the Americas.
There was a bigger jump in the suicide rate in countries that used to enjoy much lower unemployment -- that is, in places where most people were used to financial success. The majority of the additional deaths took place in 18 countries in the Americas, where the unemployment rate rose up by to 101 percent. In those nations, the overall suicide rate rose by 6.4 percent, nearly double the global average.
The new research falls in line with previous studies that have tracked the negative mental health effects resulting from economic downturns. One recent analysis found that the U.S. suicide rate increased four times faster between 2008 and 2010, right after the housing bubble burst, than it did in the eight years leading up to the Great Recession. Researchers have recorded similar jumps in suicides in Greece, Spain, and Italy as those countries' economies have been dragged down by austerity policies.
The GOP's No Good, Very Bad Food Stamp Cuts (21 September 2013)
As expected, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a measure Thursday night that cuts nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If signed into law, the bill would push at least 4 million people off food stamps over the next ten years, including many poor and unemployed Americans.
In case you haven't been following the extensive food stamp debate in Congress this year, here's the basic rundown: Republicans proposed a farm bill in the spring with deep food stamp cuts: about $20 billion dollars over ten years. That wasn't enough for hard-core conservatives, who helped kill the bill in June while demanding deeper cuts.
So Thursday night House leadership came back with double the reductions, and passed it this time.
We've covered (over and again) the cruelty of these cuts, but it's worth rehashing quickly how bad they are--and how dishonest the arguments marshaled for them have been.
Female business leaders discuss ways to improve gender gap (21 September 2013)
When it comes to who's who in the modern workplace, statistics show that men still rule the world.
Women earn less than men in nearly every occupation in the United States. Census data show that in 2012, women earned 76.5 cents for every dollar that men earned.
In Montana, women make 67 percent of what men earn for doing the same job.
Women make up less than 5 percent of the top positions in Fortune 500 companies, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that expands opportunities for women in business.
During her keynote address last week at the Montana Economic Summit in Butte, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg pointed out that after last year's election, when women won 20 percent of congressional seats, pundits dubbed it a "takeover."
"That's not close to 50 percent, that's not a takeover," she said.
Few take advantage of Virginia's rights restoration order (21 September 2013)
Two months after about 350,000 nonviolent felons became eligible to regain their civil rights, only a small fraction has done so.
The Free Lance-Star (http://bit.ly/1bvzk1A) reports that Gov. Bob McDonnell's office has processed fewer than 800 new registrations for rights restoration since July 15, when McDonnell eliminated the two-year waiting period before an application could be filed to restore rights. Now, a nonviolent felon who has completed all court-ordered conditions can apply and be automatically approved.
Eligible individuals must register with the Secretary of the Commonwealth via mail, email or phone to have their rights to vote, serve on a jury and work as a notary public restored.
Organizations that are working to help individuals get their civil rights restored said reaching those who are eligible is easier said than done.
In wake of Colorado floods, officials start counting oil and gas spills (20 September 2013)
As floodwaters recede following epic storms that hit the region around Boulder, Colo., a week ago, officials are trying to get a grasp on the extent of oil and gas pollution triggered by the deluge.
Oil spills and washed-out chemical tanks only add to the devastation of the unseasonable drenching, which killed 10 people. Another 200 are still unaccounted for, though that number is falling as phone and internet services come back online.
Nearly 1,900 oil and gas wells were shut down ahead of or amid the flooding, but that wasn't enough to prevent contamination. On Friday, the state's oil agency said [PDF] it was "tracking five notable releases" of oil and gas and "11 locations with visible evidence of a release, such as a sheen." It also reported "as many as two dozen tanks overturned."
More from the BBC:
"Officials from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) said they were trying to assess the damage from oil and gas spills in the north-central area of the state. ...
"Some 125 oil barrels (5,250 US gal) spilled from a tank south of the town of Milliken and another Anadarko storage tank near the St Vrain river released 323 barrels."
Solar Power & Wind Power Now Cheaper Than Coal Power In US (20 September 2013)
WASHINGTON -- It's less costly to get electricity from wind turbines and solar panels than coal-fired power plants when climate change costs and other health impacts are factored in, according to a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.
In fact--using the official U.S. government estimates of health and environmental costs from burning fossil fuels--the study shows it's cheaper to replace a typical existing coal-fired power plant with a wind turbine than to keep the old plant running. And new electricity generation from wind could be more economically efficient than natural gas.
The findings show the nation can cut carbon pollution from power plants in a cost-effective way, by replacing coal-fired generation with cleaner options like wind, solar, and natural gas.
"Burning coal is a very costly way to make electricity. There are more efficient and sustainable ways to get power," said Dr. Laurie Johnson, chief economist in the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We can reduce health and climate change costs while reducing the dangerous carbon pollution driving global warming."
Johnson co-authored the study, "The Social Cost of Carbon: Implications for Modernizing our Electricity System," with Chris Hope of the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge; and Starla Yeh in NRDC's Center for Market Innovation. Power plants are the nation's single largest source of such pollution, accounting for 40 percent of our national carbon footprint.
Algae biofuel can cut CO2 emissions by 68% compared to petroleum (20 September 2013)
Algae-derived biofuel can reduce life cycle CO2emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels, and is approaching a similar Energy Return on Investment (EROI) as conventional petroleum according to a new peer-reviewed paper published in Bioresource Technology. The study, which is the first to analyze real-world data from an existing algae-to-energy demonstration scale farm, shows that the environmental and energy benefits of algae biofuel are at least on par, and likely better, than first generation biofuels.
"This study affirms that algae-based fuels provide results without compromise," said Mary Rosenthal, ABO's executive director. "With significant emissions reductions, a positive energy balance, nutrient recycling and CO2 reuse, algae-based fuels will be a long-term, sustainable source of fuels for our nation."
The study, "Pilot-scale data provide enhanced estimates of the life cycle energy and emissions profile of algae biofuels produced via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL)," is a life cycle analysis of an algae cultivation and fuel production process currently employed at pre-commercial scales. The authors examined field data from two facilities operated by Sapphire Energy in Las Cruces and Columbus, New Mexico that grow and process algae into Green Crude oil. Sapphire Energy's Green Crude can be refined into drop-in fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
The study concluded that algae technologies at commercial scale are projected to produce biofuels with lower greenhouse gas emissions and EROI values that are comparable to first generation biofuels. Additionally, algae based biofuels produced through this pathway at commercial scale will have a significant energy return on investment (EROI), close to petroleum and three times higher than cellulosic ethanol. The system that was evaluated recycles nutrients, can accept an algae feed that is up to 90 percent water in the processing phase, and the final product can be blended with refinery intermediates for refining into finished gasoline or diesel product, resulting in significant energy savings throughout the process.
Court slaps down meat industry efforts to avoid country of origin labeling on meat products (20 September 2013)
(NaturalNews) Shady efforts by the meat industry to sidestep having to inform consumers about where its cattle are born, raised and slaughtered have ultimately failed, as a U.S. District Court recently struck down lunatic claims that the new requirements somehow violate free speech. In her 76-page ruling, Judge Ketanji B. Jackson rejected claims by the meat industry that new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meat labeling requirements violate the First Amendment, a strong judicial move that represents a solid victory for the truth-in-labeling movement.
In conjunction with new provisions outlined in the latest installment of the quinquennial farm bill, the USDA recently established updated country of origin labeling requirements for meat products that are set to take effect in November. These new requirements will expand existing country of origin labeling provisions, requiring meat companies to indicate where their meat originally came from as well as where it was ultimately processed and packaged before being sold to consumers.
Currently, meat imported from other countries, including commingled meat from multiple different countries within the same package, only has to indicate "Product of ..." on the package. Such vague wording does little to truly inform consumers about the full life-cycle of the meat they are purchasing and eating, as meat processors routinely import and mix cattle from all over the world to boost market share and cut costs, all without informing consumers.
But with an increasing number of people demanding to know the true sources of the foods they buy, this longstanding labeling inadequacy is no longer acceptable. And in a rare move of solidarity in the interests of the people rather than faceless corporations, the USDA decided to follow through with the new farm bill provisions by improving these meat labeling requirements, which will better hold the meat industry accountable and improve transparency.
Canada's wounded soldiers told not to criticize superiors online (20 September 2013)
Canada's wounded soldiers are being required to sign a form agreeing not to criticize their superiors on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, the Ottawa Citizen reported Friday.
The form reportedly also asks injured soldiers not to disclose "your views on any military subject" or post anything that could "discourage" others in the military.
The document, first obtained by the Citizen, was reportedly created in March and handed to military personnel who transfer to the Joint Personnel Support Unit, which was designed to help mentally and physically wounded soldiers.
The JPSU confirmed the form exists but said its purpose is "to educate our members and personnel on what constitutes the appropriate and inappropriate use of social media and the possible ramifications for a CAF member."
Healthcare reform heats up drugstore battle (20 September 2013)
Obamacare is driving a transformation in the way pharmacies do business, so get ready.
The healthcare reform law will expand access to medical services for millions of people. That's going to place added pressure on primary healthcare providers and challenge the system to meet the new demand.
So it may not be surprising that the nation's three major drugstore chains are gearing up to play a bigger role. They're placing retail health clinics in their stores, pushing their pharmacists to be more proactive with their prescription customers, and even entering partnerships with big medical groups.
One other thing: They're battling for market share. If there's a vacant street corner in your neighborhood where a gas station lost its lease, don't be surprised if it sprouts a new CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens within a couple of months.
G'day caller: Aussie firms offshore jobs to 'little brother' NZ (17 September 2013)
(Reuters) - When Australian customers of Quickflix ring the online video rental and streaming service's support center, the voice at the other end of the line sounds reassuringly familiar.
That's because the person speaking is not in Manila or Bangalore, but Auckland, New Zealand, where call centers have been steadily gaining clients from neighboring Australia.
While it costs more to operate in the South Pacific island nation than the Asian centers that dominate the industry, Australian firms hurt by a slowing economy can still save some 30 percent by moving roles across the Tasman Sea.
"A few years ago Australian companies wouldn't even consider outsourcing work to New Zealand," said John Chetwynd, managing director of Telnet, which operates Quickflix's call center.
"This is a window of opportunity to grow our business based in Australia."
Telnet's work from Australia has doubled this year to roughly 20 percent of its total business, as more firms shift support center operations to New Zealand, attracted by lower costs, a convenient time zone and a shared culture.
10 Non-Violent Video Games that Kick (Metaphorical) Butt (21 September 2013)
A bunch of us here at MoJo play games, love games, and cringe at the publicity that a few shoot em' up games like Call of Duty receive every time another terrible mass shooting hits the news. Despite three decades of research, we're still far from a definitive answer on whether violent video games are linked to IRL violence, as Erik Kain has noted here before. But like any art form--and yes, video games are art--there's as broad a range of expression in games as the space between Kill Bill and Amelie and well beyond. Games can be emotionally moving, intellectually challenging, deeply political, and straight-up good quirky fun.
Here's our buyers guide to perhaps lesser known but thoroughly excellent titles we think you might love and are almost entirely devoid of physical combat, whether fantastical or realistic. We figured you've already heard of the big sports titles like Madden and the FIFA series, music games like Guitar Hero, and movement games like Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Sports?; our list focuses on immersive narratives, physics-based games (think Angry Birds but way better), and "sandbox" games that let you build your own worlds.
Use the comments to yell at us about everything we missed.
If the last time you touched a game controller involved a spastic blue hedgehog, Portal is a great gateway into modern gaming. You're an unwitting subject who's just been mysteriously dropped into the test chambers of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center. You're not exactly sure why you're there, but a droll artificial intelligence being named GLaDOS informs you there's cake at the end of all the lab trials if you make it through. It so happens that you possess a blaster gun that can open portals in walls, and soon enough you're popping out of floors and zooming through ceilings, leaping and hurling yourself around the lab, timing jumps for maximum velocity. It's mind-bending gameplay that works your puzzle-solving skills and memories of 8th grade physics, so much so that the sequel, Portal 2, is popular with K-12 physics teachers as a teaching tool.
Frankly, this stunningly beautiful game feels impossible to describe. Take our word for it, or the fact that leading the Gawker gaming site Kotaku named Journey Game of the Year in 2012, it earned a profile from the New Yorker, and has even been likened to a "nondenominational religious experience." The game itself is utterly devoid of dialogue: its characters never utter a single word. So let's wrap this review up with just two: play it.
California signs state's first fracking rules (21 September 2013)
Pavley's bill passed the Legislature last week amid concerns from some conservation groups over last-minute changes affecting environmental reviews. Several groups urged Brown instead to temporarily halt fracking until officials can evaluate whether there are risks to public health.
Environmentalists across the nation have decried the practice, saying that the chemicals used pollute underground water supplies and cause other damage. New York has instituted a moratorium on fracking, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a strict set of regulations into law in June.
In his signing statement, Brown, who favors some level of fracking in the Monterey Shale, said he believed more changes would be necessary even as the law goes into effect next year.
"The bill needs some clarifying amendments, and I will work with the author in making those changes next year," he said, although he did not specify what changes he wanted to make.
Other provisions of the legislation, which will take effect in January, will require oil companies to test ground water and notify neighboring landowners before drilling. State officials will have to complete a study by January 2015 evaluating risks of fracking and other well-stimulation techniques, such as using acid to break apart oil-rich rocks.
Shootout inside Nairobi's Westgate centre 'kills 20' (21 September 2013)
A gun battle inside a shopping centre in the Kenyan capital Nairobi has left at least 20 people dead, the Kenyan Red Cross says.
The gunmen attacked Westgate centre - one of the city's most exclusive. Dozens of shoppers fled, several are still feared trapped inside.
Some reports suggested it was an attempted robbery - but officials say it might be a "terrorist" attack.
Somali militant group al-Shabab had threatened to strike the centre.
They are opposed to Kenya sending troops to fight in Somalia.
No group has admitted responsibility.
Kenya: Nairobi Shoot-Out at Westgate Mall (21 September 2013)
Kenyan Tweeters have been cooperating with authorities to warn people away from the Westgate area west of downtown Nairobi, where gunfire, reports of hostages and rumours of deaths have swept digital media.
Saturday is a major shopping day at Westgate Mall, where coffee houses, clothing shops, a large supermarket and a food court are among the many attractions. The Kenya Red Cross says casualties are being taken to hospital, and many tweeters have called for blood donations.
At about 3:45 PM local time, Kenya's Interior Ministry tweeted that evacuation was underway and urged media "to be sensitive to the security operation and keep off". It said a few hostages had been rescued. The public has been asked not to try to phone friends or relatives who may be in the mall, where authorities have been trying to evacuate people. Kenya's Disaster Operations Center asked media to put in a time delay on live broadcasts. It thanked motorists giving way to emergency vehicles.
Among the Twitter feeds providing official information are: @InteriorKE, @PoliceKE, @NDOCKenya, and @KenyaRedCross.
Report: US came close nuclear disaster in 1961 (21 September 2013)
LONDON (AP) -- A U.S. hydrogen bomb nearly detonated on the nation's east coast, with a single switch averting a blast which would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that flattened Hiroshima, a newly published book says.
In a recently declassified document, reported in a new book by Eric Schlosser, the supervisor of the nuclear weapons safety department at Sandia national laboratories said that one simple, vulnerable switch prevented nuclear catastrophe.
The Guardian newspaper published the document (http://bit.ly/1fi4Y2S ) on Saturday.
Two hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on Jan. 24, 1961 after a B-52 bomber broke up in flight. One of the bombs apparently acted as if it was being armed and fired -- its parachute opened and trigger mechanisms engaged.
Parker F. Jones at the Sandia National Laboratories analyzed the accident in a document headed "How I learned to mistrust the H-Bomb."
"The MK39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne-alert role in the B-52," he wrote. When the B-52 disintegrates in the air it is likely to release the bombs in "a near normal fashion," he wrote, calling the safety mechanisms to prevent accidental arming "not complex enough."
Brookfield closes iconic baboon exhibit (21 September 2013)
Brookfield announced Friday that it has closed the exhibit, once home to 70 or so animals of various species, to make room for a new, yet-to-be-determined attraction. The final decision came after the zoo euthanized the last three baboons, ages 22 to 27, on Sept. 12, for what the institution called "quality of life concerns."
But the end was foretold in 1992, when zoo administrators decided to stop the baboon breeding program. That year was the last baboon birth at Brookfield.
Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of collections and animal care at the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo, acknowledged that some might perceive the exhibit's passing as sad.
"Certainly from a guest perspective, back in the day when there were 70 animals in there, it was a pretty exciting place."
Typhoon and earthquake strike Fukushima (20 September 2013)
Two and a half years ago, the Fukushima Daiichi power facility was knocked out by a tsunami and earthquake. Myriad troubles ensued. Then this week it was hit by a typhoon, flooding, and another earthquake. Can't a nuclear plant catch a break?
On Monday, Typhoon Man-yi smacked into Japan, causing flooding in some parts of the country, and new troubles at Fukushima. From Agence France-Presse:
"The operator of the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday that it dumped more than 1,000 tons of polluted water into the sea after a typhoon raked the facility. ...
"The rain ... lashed near the broken plant run by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), swamping enclosure walls around clusters of water tanks containing toxic water that was used to cool broken reactors."
Then, early Friday morning, the Fukushima Prefecture was rocked by a 5.3 magnitude earthquake. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to have done any additional damage to the already crippled plant. From the AP:
"The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake struck early Friday at a depth of about 13 miles under Fukushima Prefecture and about 110 miles northeast of Tokyo. ..."
Chicago park shooting: outrage, again (+video) (20 September 2013)
Chicago's reputation as a "murder capital" was once again affirmed late Thursday when gunmen opened fire on a crowded city basketball court, hitting 13 people, including a three-year-old boy in the face. The shootings were among 23 total taking place across Chicago in a 12-hour period. Two people are dead.
Sadly, outrage over the incident now follows a familiar pattern: The mayor releases a statement expressing outrage, the police superintendent holds a press conference expressing outrage, and people in Chicago's most marginalized neighborhoods express outrage that they don't understand why violence in their city continues to make their streets unsafe.
"Violence is just the result of the city's inaction for about 50 years. They've abandoned these neighborhoods," says Pat Devine-Reed, a 40-year activist in Englewood, a neighborhood on the city's South Side that has long suffered population loss, blight, and crime.
"Many young people live day to day and if they die, they figure its part of life. No one else cares about their lives," she adds.
The continuation of violence in Chicago keeps the city making international headlines, a factor that Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) is trying very hard to fight. He is running for reelection in 2015 and faces constituencies in the city's South and West Sides who are already distraught over his decision to shutter 50 public schools, the majority of which are in their neighborhoods. Indeed, polling shows Mayor Emanuel's popularity is falling among black voters: 40 percent approve of his performance and 48 percent disapprove; last year, that disparity was 44-33, according to a Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV poll released in early May.
U.S. disability rolls swell in a rough economy (20 September 2013)
MILLINOCKET, MAINE -- The huge mills along the Penobscot River roared virtually nonstop for more than a century, turning the dense Maine forests into paper and lifting the thousands of men who did the hot and often backbreaking work into the middle class.
But the mills have struggled in recent years, shedding thousands of jobs. Now this area, whose well-paying jobs provided an economic foothold for generations of blue-collar workers, has become a place where an unusually large share of the unemployed are seeking economic shelter on federal disability rolls.
Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people in Penobscot County receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955 -- or nearly one in 12 of the county's adults between the ages of 18 and 64, according to Social Security statistics.
The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits.
The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 2016 -- 20 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security's old-age benefits is projected to run dry.
Two Years After Occupy Wall Street, a Network of Offshoots Continue Activism for the 99% (19 September 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Nathan, you write in the beginning of the book, you say for nearly two months in the fall of 2011 a square block of granite and honey locust trees in New York's Financial District, right between Wall Street and the World Trade Center, became a canvas for the image of another world. Two years later how has that canvas been preserved and what are some of the activities that the Occupiers are now involved with?
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: Well, to talk about that canvas itself, it is interesting to see the ways in which the movement is memorialized kind of informally in the Financial District. There is still a wall of barricades around the Charging Bull statue. There are still regularly barricades in Zuccotti Park. There are still barricades around Chase Manhattan Plaza which was the original planned sort of decoy site for the Occupation. It is amazing how the security state is still living in fear of this movement. But at the same activists who were involved in it, many of them are spread out across the country in all kinds of networks that have formed through the course of this movement, putting their bodies in the way of the Keystone Pipeline, calling attention to issues like a financial transaction tax, bringing housing activists together around the country to create a stronger movement. There are a number of campaigns that have been profoundly strengthened by networks formed in the Occupy Movement.
AMY GOODMAN: Nicole Carty, where were you two years ago?
NICOLE CARTY: Two years ago I was working for the Sundance Channel doing content management. I was just one of many precariate who didn't really have a solid job and I came in to Occupy because it was the first time I ever had seen people my own age, or anyone for that matter, talking about the deep inequality within this country. It was just kind of this secret and I feel like part of the legacy is that that so unveiled at this point. It is not even questioned.
BlackBerry to axe 4,500 jobs in wake of nearly $1-billion loss (20 September 2013)
BlackBerry Ltd. says it will post a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion (U.S.) and slash more than one-third of its global workforce as it focuses on business and high-end professional markets.
In an announcement late Friday the Waterloo, Ont.-based company said it will report sales of about $1.6 billion (U.S.) for the fiscal second quarter ended Aug. 31 -- well below the forecast for $3.06 billion. Half of that revenue was derived from services.
Its shares plunged 23.3 per cent to $8.34 (Canadian), a year low, after trading resumed following a 35-minute halt.
BlackBerry said it will cut 4,500 jobs throughout its global operations, bringing its workforce to about 7,000, and expects to post a net operating loss of between $950 million and $995 million (U.S.) for the quarter.
Statin use tied to cataract development: study (20 September 2013)
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The risk of developing cloudy lenses in the eyes may be linked to the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, according to a new study.
While the researchers can't prove the drugs caused the eye condition, they found that people who took statins - such as Zocor and Lipitor - were more likely to develop cataracts, compared to people who didn't take the medication.
"The results were consistent that there was a higher risk of being diagnosed with cataracts among statin users," Dr. Ishak Mansi, the study's senior author from UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Dallas VA Medical Center in Texas, said.
Statins are popular drugs that block a substance the body needs to make cholesterol, which can get trapped in arteries and ultimately lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Rodents, insects found in Virginia ice-cream cone warehouse (20 September 2013)
(Reuters) - U.S. authorities have seized ice-cream waffle cones from a food storage facility in Waynesboro, Virginia, after inspectors found widespread rodent and insect infestation on the premises.
U.S. marshals seized the products after Food and Drug Administration inspectors determined that the company had not taken effective measures to protect food, equipment or surfaces from contamination.
The company, Gourmet Provisions LLC, does business as Matt's Supreme Cones, the FDA said on Friday.
Authorities also seized products from Royal Cup Inc, which stores coffee service items in a separate area within the Gourmet Provisions warehouse.
On a website showing bucolic scenes of windmills, Matt's Cones says it began its baking operations in Virginia in 1992, carrying on a family tradition started in 1929 in the Netherlands.
Rain, hail, tempests, plague Europe grape harvests but wine will flow (20 September 2013)
(Reuters) - Many of Europe's grape growers have been hit by hail, windstorms, heavy rains, cold and clouds resulting in one of the worst harvests in decades.
From France, the world's biggest wine producer, to Austria and Greece and across the Atlantic in the United States, winemakers say this has been an unusual year.
Due to weather problems in much of Europe, consumers can expect to pay more for many European wines, according to economist James Thornton, professor of economics at Eastern Michigan University who specializes in the economics of wine. But warm weather for grapes in much of the United States means prices should be lower for U.S. wines, he said.
The price of European wine should "increase relative to the price of American wine," said Thornton, author of "American Wine Economics." "So American wine should be a relatively better buy."
New Tesla Patent: 400-Mile Battery Pack Using Metal-Air & Lithium-Ion Batteries (19 September 2013)
Tesla Motors is exclusively an electric car maker, with Elon Musk expressing disdain for cars like the Chevy Volt and BMW i3, which pack gas-powered range-extenders. But Tesla may be working on a different kind of hybrid; a hybrid battery pack that could extend the range of cars like the Tesla Model S by up to 40%, allowing for 400 miles of driving between charges.
A report by Global Equities Research shows that Tesla recently filed patents 20130187591 and 20130181511, which describe a combination lithium-ion and metal-air battery pack. This hybrid battery pack would primarily use the lithium-ion side, only drawing power from the metal-air battery pack on extended journeys. Metal-air batteries, which use oxygen as an electrode, have a shorter lifetime when exposed to regular charging, but use more common elements like zinc or aluminum that drastically reduce battery costs.
Drivers would use the lithium-ion battery for daily use, and would either select the secondary battery, or have it automatically switch over on extended trips. A hybrid battery of this type could offer Tesla customers greater driving ranges, while not drastically increasing costs. There's also mention of a mode whereby the metal-air battery would charge the lithium-ion battery, which powers the car's systems. 95% of driving consist of short jaunts no more than 90 miles per day, but the option of going 400 or more miles on a single charge could open up the world of electric vehicles to a much wider audience.
For now though, Tesla will still rely on Panasonic for batteries, as they have a four-year, 80,000 unit contract with the Japanese tech giant. But going forward from there, who's to say Tesla doesn't deploy ground-breaking battery technology of its own? This could be a peek at the future, folks.
Chicago alderman: Police have person of interest in shooting of 13 at park (20 September 2013)
A Chicago alderman said Friday that police told him that they have a person of interest in custody in the shooting of 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, at a South Side park.
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) said police informed him just moments before Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy was to have a news conference on the shootings Friday morning.
McCarthy said at the news conference that police were talking to "several people" concerning the shootings, which was believed to be gang-related. He called the fact that no one was killed in the shootings "a miracle."
The intended target was unclear, but there were a number of gang members on the scene, and a number of victims are gang members, McCarthy said. He said police are getting "tons of cooperation" from the neighborhood.
Officials: 87 killed by Boko Haram fighters in Nigeria (20 September 2013)
At least 87 people were killed earlier this week when Boko Haram fighters attacked a town in Borno in northeastern Nigeria, local officials told reporters Thursday.
Boko Haram wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria and has waged a deadly insurgency since 2009. A state of emergency was declared in Borno and two neighboring states in May, and communications with the area have been severely disrupted. Meanwhile, attacks have increased recently despite a massive military deployment to the worst-affected areas.
Witnesses said that in the latest violence the fighters disguised themselves in military uniforms and drove into the town of Benisheik in pickup trucks on Tuesday. They razed dozens of buildings, attacked people, set fires and set up checkpoints outside town to shoot and kill those who tried to flee.
Reports said the fighters were heavily armed and even had anti-aircraft guns.
Nigeria: Benisheik Attack Death Toll Now 161 (20 September 2013)
Maiduguri -- Environmental officers yesterday recovered 87 more corpses of travelers killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen during an attack on Maiduguri-Damaturu road near Benisheik town in Borno State on Tuesday.
This was in addition to 55 bodies earlier picked up on Wednesday, officials of the Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA) told journalists during a visit by Governor Kashim Shettima to the scene of the violence.
Heavily armed insurgents laid siege on Benisheik, Kaga Local Government Area on Tuesday evening, killing people and setting buildings ablaze.
They also blocked the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, three kilometers away from the town, sorting out and slaughtering dozens of travelers.
Apart from the 142 travellers, also killed in the attack were 2 soldiers, 3 policemen and 14 villagers,bringing the total death toll to 161.
Greenpeace Ship Seized, Crew Taken Hostage by Russian Security Agents (20 September 2013)
Armed agents--from Russia's coast guard service, its security agency the FSB, or both--stormed the ship of Greenpeace activists trying to save the Arctic region from oil and gas drilling on Thursday, and after more than 12 hours without communication, the 'seized' Arctic Sunrise on Friday morning is reportedly heading back towards Russian-controlled waters while the 30 crew members remain incommunicado and under armed guard.
According to activists on the ship, Russian FSB agents forced their way into the ship's radio room and inflicted significant damage to communication equipment. This information came from activists aboard the Arctic Sunrise who were able to communicate for some period via satellite phone, but those communications later went silent.
Director of the Greenpeace campaign to save the arctic, Ben Ayliffe, was both concerned for his colleagues aboard the Arctic Sunrise and outraged at the actions by Russian officials.
"The safety of our activists remains our top priority and we are working hard to establish what is facing them," said Ayliffe. "They have done nothing to warrant this level of aggression and have been entirely peaceful throughout."
He continued: "The real threat to the Russian Arctic comes not from the crew of the Arctic Sunrise but from Gazprom, one of the most reckless oil companies in the world today."
Insight: Oklahoma winds may spread deadly swine virus (20 September 2013)
(Reuters) - On the windswept prairies of the Oklahoma Panhandle, the hog barns of Prestage Farms are lined up like military barracks. The 20,000-sow operation near the Texas border stands at the front lines of a months-long battle to contain a virus that has already killed some 1.3 million hogs in the United States.
Since June, when Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv, first hit, Prestage workers have quarantined the area, scrubbed vehicles and sprayed buildings with antiseptic. But those precautions have not stopped a virus that can kill 80 percent of piglets that contract it.
"In the blink of an eye, 30,000 pigs were dead," said John Prestage, senior vice president at Prestage, describing the first wave of devastation the virus brought to its Oklahoma operation, which raises and sells 400,000 hogs a year.
The outbreak is spreading. And researchers have discovered evidence that the virus - which poses no threat to humans - can be carried on the wind, potentially bringing a dangerous new dimension to the swine epidemic.
Deadly brain-eating amoeba found in water supply, scaring residents (20 September 2013)
NEW ORLEANS--While officials try to pin down the source of a deadly amoeba found in the water supply of a suburban New Orleans community, bottled water sales in St. Bernard Parish have skyrocketed and some people worry about washing their faces in the shower.
That's despite experts who say the only danger is to people who manage to get the microscopic organism way up their noses. Its only entry to the brain is through minute openings in a bone about level with the top of the eyeball, said Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana's state epidemiologist.
But belief comes hard to many people. "As far as taking a bath or shower, you got no other choice," said Debbie Sciortino. "But I ain't drinking it, I ain't giving it to the dogs and I ain't cooking with it either."
The state Department of Health and Hospitals on Thursday tried to dispel common "myths and rumors" about the amoeba Naegleria fowleri -- starting with the notion that the parish water isn't safe to drink. Meanwhile, the parish held a public meeting about its water Thursday night.
The worries began Sept. 12, when the state health department reported that parish water in Violet and Arabi tested positive for the amoeba that had killed a 4-year-old Mississippi boy in August after he visited St. Bernard Parish
Jonathan Yoder, an epidemiologist in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's waterborne disease prevention branch, said Naegleria has never before been found in water treated by a U.S. water system.
House votes to defund Obamacare as shutdown battle escalates (20 September 2013)
During the debate on the House floor, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said that even Obama acknowledged his health law was flawed when his administration delayed for a year the requirement that businesses provide basic health insurance for their employees.
"We're fighting to give that same relief to all American families," Scalise said. "This law is unworkable. It's killing jobs in America. It's causing people to lose good healthcare they have today."
Freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) said the proposal was a "radical, right-wing effort to walk our economy off a cliff" before using a more explicit term to describe the conservative strategy.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said the proposal was "without a doubt, a measure designed to shut down the government."
"It is a wolf in wolf's clothing," Pelosi said. "Either you don't know what you are doing, or this is one of the most intentional acts of brutality that you have cooked up."
Natural News exclusive: Whole Foods Market whistleblower says employees were deliberately trained to lie about GMOs - new Organic Spies video (20 September 2013)
(NaturalNews) A new video from the group calling itself "Organic Spies" is once again rocking the organic food industry. In the video, a woman who identifies herself as a former employee of Whole Foods Market (WFM) testifies that she and other employees were deliberately trained by Whole Foods Market management to lie to store customers about whether the stores carry foods made with genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs).
According to this female whistleblower, whose identity is concealed for her protection, Whole Foods Market employees were deliberately instructed to lie to customers as part of their employee training. The denial of GMOs being sold in Whole Foods stores was an integral part of the training of employees, she explains:
"When we first started, we had a "Day One and a Day Two, and they teach us about the core values of Whole Foods Market, the core values of nothing's artificial, everything's natural... When I first started at Whole Foods, I didn't know what a GMO was. I had no idea what it was. They taught us what it was, and how Whole Foods Market did not carry GMOs.
"So if a customer would have came up to me and said, do you guys have anything with GMOs? Does this product contain GMOs? [I would have said] absolutely not. Does not contain GMOs. Because we were taught that we don't carry anything with GMOs, only natural, nothing artificial."
Obama takes on coal with first-ever carbon limits (20 September 2013)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Linking global warming to public health, disease and extreme weather, the Obama administration pressed ahead Friday with tough requirements to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, despite protests from industry and from Republicans that it would mean a dim future for coal.
The proposal, which sets the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants, would help reshape where Americans get electricity, moving from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy. It's also a key step in President Barack Obama's global warming plans, because it would help end what he called "the limitless dumping of carbon pollution" from power plants.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy said in a speech Friday morning to announce the proposal that, rather than damage an industry, the proposed regulations would help the industry to grow.
McCarthy pressed her case by linking global warming to a suite of environmental problems, from severe weather to disease to worsening other types of air pollution.
"We know this is not just about melting glaciers," McCarthy said. "Climate change - caused by carbon pollution - is one of the most significant public health threats of our time. That's why EPA has been called to action."
Here's where you're most likely to die from air pollution (20 September 2013)
Where on Earth are you most likely to die early from air pollution? NASA provides the answer with this mortally serious view of the planet, and it is: lots of places.
Like tar stains on a healthy lung, the sickly yellow and brown areas in this visualization represent regions with significant numbers of pollutant-influenced deaths. Heavily urbanized places in eastern China, India, Indonesia, and Europe are stippled by the darkest colors of snuff, meaning they experience rates of ruination as high as 1,000 deaths per square kilometer each year.
In good news, areas painted in blue show where humanity has managed to lower its output of choking smog since the 1850s. These safer havens include spots in the middle of South America and the Southeastern United States, where the amount of agricultural burning has decreased since the mid-19th century.
This representation of our befouled atmosphere is based on the work of Jason West, an earth scientist at the University of North Carolina who's investigating the health effects of bad air. According to computer models that West and his team constructed, an incredible 2.1 million deaths a year can be attributed to one type of pollution alone -- fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which are teensy specks that fly out of car-exhaust pipes, industrial smokestacks, and other things. (They're also what the NASA map is referencing.)
Special Report: How a German tech giant trims its U.S. tax bill (20 September 2013)
(Reuters) - In July 2012, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner traveled to an island off the German coast to meet Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister. Schaeuble was on vacation, but Geithner visited to discuss the euro zone crisis. Talk also turned to a long-running bugbear of Schaeuble's: corporate tax avoidance.
According to a letter Schaeuble later wrote to Geithner, the Treasury Secretary had explained in their conversation that the most aggressive forms of avoidance often involved technology companies parking valuable know-how in low-tax countries and making other parts of the company pay high rates to use it. In Schaeuble's letter he sought Geithner's support for international action against legal tax dodging. Profit shifting, the finance minister said, was largely a problem involving U.S. companies. Tax rules in Germany made it more difficult there. This "could explain why we do not know of German companies with comparable tax arrangements to the U.S. companies," the letter, seen by Reuters, said.
But an examination of the accounts of one of Germany's largest firms shows it uses similar techniques. Without them, it would pay more than 100 million euros ($133.53 million) in additional tax each year, some of it to the United States.
SAP AG provides software for businesses to process and analyze transactions, counts 80 percent of the Fortune 500 as customers and has a market capitalization of $90 billion, making it the fourth biggest firm in Germany. Its accounts show that it - like U.S. tech firms such as Google and Microsoft - channels profit to subsidiaries in Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is 12.5 percent. The comparable rate in Germany is 30 percent and in the United States, SAP's largest market, 39 percent, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international think tank.
Aaron Alexis Carved 'My ELF Weapon' on the Stock of his Shotgun (19 September 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Officials involved in the investigation of the Navy Yard shooting, have come forward with new insights on the weapon that was used in the shooting. Alexis had carved the words 'My ELF weapon' on his Remington 870-Express-Tactical shotgun. ELF stands for 'extremely low frequency', and usually refers to communications or weather.
For those who are familiar with this technology, it is well understood that this is used in programs such as H.A.A.R.P. It has also been reported by several government whistle blowers, and even political activists that they suspected a 'ELF weapon' was being used on them.
The report about the carvings is most interesting, because it seems to confirm the claim made by Alexis that 3 men were following him using an ELF weapon while he was in his hotel room. He even filed a report to the Newport, Rhode Island Police stating these claims. Aaron stated he had to change his hotel 3 different times because these people were using the microwave machine on him.
On August 7, the police alerted the Newport Naval Station about the incident, however they did not hear from Alexis again. Although he was being treated for multiple 'mental disorders', Aaron was still able to keep his security clearance, enabling him to use his key card to gain access into the Naval Yard Building's fourth floor and open fire.
The news about the etching on the stock of his rifle is incredible to say the least, as such information rarely reaches the public. The use of ELF waves on humans is usually thought to be science fiction to most, but to others it is very real. Researchers such as Fred Bell, who died after shooting an episode of 'Conspiracy Theory' with Jesse Ventura; spoke about said weapons.
The House vote against food stamps -- where does YOUR Congressman stand? (roll call list) (19 September 2013)
Result: Passed by a margin of 3 votes
Date of Vote: September 19, 2013
Time of Vote: 6:07 p.m.
Roll Call Number: 476
Related Story: House Republicans Pass Deep Cuts in Food Stamps
In wide-ranging interview, Pope Francis sets vision for papacy (19 September 2013)
In an extensive interview with Jesuit publications released Thursday, Pope Francis set the framework for his papacy, calling for reform of both the attitude and the structure of the church, and addressing head-on the criticism that he has not talked enough about abortion, homosexuality and contraception.
The leader of the global Catholic Church chided what he saw as the tendency of some church leaders to focus on "small-minded rules" and instead insisted that "the church's ministers must be merciful." Francis said, "the people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."
Reflecting on the response to his comment 'Who am I to judge?' on homosexuality, made during his return trip from World Youth Day in August, Francis elaborated, "Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? .... It is necessary to accompany them with mercy."
The pope also addressed some of the controversial topics inside the church, including homosexuality, the role of women, his view of a need for reform and a tendency toward legalism.
Why a Texas court overturned Tom DeLay money-laundering conviction (+video) (19 September 2013)
DeLay was accused of illegally routing $190,000 in corporate political contributions through the Republican National Committee, which then passed on the identical sum to seven Texas House candidates, who are barred by Texas law from accepting campaign contributions from corporations.
That election cycle, the Republican candidates took over the Texas House for the first time since Reconstruction and then gerrymandered Texas congressional districts to favor the GOP. The new electoral map helped give Texas Republicans a gain of five seats in the US House.
For several years, the role DeLay played in helping the Republicans gain control of the Texas Legislature was widely viewed as his crowning triumph.
But a 2005 indictment by a Texas grand jury forced DeLay to resign his position as US House majority leader, in line with GOP House rules that an indicted leader must step down. He did not seek reelection in 2006.
This Is How Private Prison Companies Make Millions Even When Crime Rates Fall (19 September 2013)
We are living in boom times for the private prison industry. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest owner of private prisons, has seen its revenue climb by more than 500 percent in the last two decades. And CCA wants to get much, much bigger: Last year, the company made an offer to 48 governors to buy and operate their state-funded prisons. But what made CCA's pitch to those governors so audacious and shocking was that it included a so-called occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling.
Occupancy requirements, as it turns out, are common practice within the private prison industry. A new report by In the Public Interest, an anti-privatization group, reviewed 62 contracts for private prisons operating around the country at the local and state level. In the Public Interest found that 41 of those contracts included occupancy requirements mandating that local or state government keep those facilities between 80 and 100 percent full. In other words, whether crime is rising or falling, the state must keep those beds full. (The report was funded by grants from the Open Society Institute and Public Welfare, according to a spokesman.)
All the big private prison companies--CCA, GEO Group, and the Management and Training Corporation--try to include occupancy requirements in their contracts, according to the report. States with the highest occupancy requirements include Arizona (three prison contracts with 100 percent occupancy guarantees), Oklahoma (three contracts with 98 percent occupancy guarantees), and Virginia (one contract with a 95 percent occupancy guarantee). At the same time, private prison companies have supported and helped write "three-strike" and "truth-in-sentencing" laws that drive up prison populations. Their livelihoods depend on towns, cities, and states sending more people to prison and keeping them there.
You might be wondering: What happens when crime drops and prison populations dwindle in states that agreed to keep their private prisons 80 percent or 90 percent full? Consider Colorado. The state's crime rate has sunk by a third in the past decade, and since 2009, five state-run prisons have shuttered because they weren't needed. Many more prison beds remain empty in other state facilities. Yet the state chose not to fill those beds because Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and CCA cut a deal to instead send 3,330 prisoners to CCA's three Colorado prisons. Colorado taxpayers foot the bill for leaving those state-run prisons underused. In March, Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, estimated that the state wasted at least $2 million in taxpayer money using CCA's prisons instead of its own.
Minivan-bike collision kills former Amazon CFO (19 September 2013)
(09-19) 21:28 PDT WOODSIDE -- Joy Covey, a former chief financial officer for Amazon.com, was killed riding her bicycle in Woodside, authorities said Thursday. She was 50.
Covey was cycling northbound on Skyline Boulevard at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when a southbound Mazda minivan turned left onto Elk Tree Road and the two collided, said California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel.
"She was wearing a helmet, but the injuries were too severe," he said. "She was pronounced dead at the scene."
Covey was Amazon.com's chief financial officer and vice president of finance and administration from 1996 to 1999, overseeing the online retailer in its first years after it filed for an initial public offering, according to her Bloomberg executive profile.
She was named one of Fortune magazine's 50 Most Powerful Business Women in America during her time at Amazon.com.
Bottled water found to contain over 24,000 chemicals, including endocrine disruptors (19 September 2013)
(NaturalNews) Widespread consumer demand for plastic products that are free of the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) has led to some significant positive changes in the way that food, beverage and water containers are manufactured. But a new study out of Germany has found that thousands of other potentially harmful chemicals are still leeching from plastic products into food and beverages, including an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) known as di(2-ethylhexyl) fumarate, or DEHF, that is completely unregulated.
Martin Wagner and his colleague, Jorg Oehlmann, from the Goethe University Frankfurt, in conjunction with a team of researchers from the German Federal Institute of Hydrology, learned this after conducting tests on 18 different bottled water products to look for the presence of EDCs. Using an advanced combination of bioassay work and high-resolution mass spectrometry, the team identified some 24,520 different chemicals present in the tested water.
But of major concern, and the apparent underpinning of the study's findings, was DEHF, a plasticizer chemical that is used to make plastic bottles more flexible. According to reports, DEHF was clearly identified in the tested water as the most consistent and obvious culprit causing anti-estrogenic activity. Despite trace amounts of more than 24,000 other potentially damaging chemicals, DEHF stood out as the only possible EDC capable of inducing this particular observed activity, a highly concerning observation.
The study's published abstract explains that 13 of the 18 bottled water products tested exhibited "significant" anti-estrogenic activity, while 16 of the 18 samples were found to inhibit the body's androgen receptors by an astounding 90 percent. Additionally, the other 24,520 chemical traces besides DEHF were also identified as exhibiting antagonistic activity, which means that they, too, are detrimental to the body's hormonal system.
Galena won't receive federal funds for rebuilding in flood-prone area (17 September 2013)
FAIRBANKS -- Public facility repairs in Galena's Old Town area won't get federal funding because of concerns about future Yukon River floods
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced this month that it won't fund infrastructure reconstruction in the part of Galena that borders the Yukon River, according to a FEMA document released earlier this month explaining the policy.
"The decision, supported by our State of Alaska partner, will help ensure that FEMA funds are directed to helping Galena grow stronger and safer for the future," the document said.
Galena's Old Town contains homes and buildings including the town's post office, the Yukon Inn bar and restaurant and the office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The neighborhood, which is traditionally the most susceptible to flooding, is sandwiched between the Yukon River and a dike built around Galena's former Air Force station.
This year's flooding saw major damage to both Old Town and New Town, the larger neighborhood built on supposedly safer ground after a major flood in 1971. This year's flood came within inches of spilling into the former Air Force station that now contains the civilian airport and the Galena Interior Learning Academy boarding school. As of this week 33 Old Town residents and 120 New Town residents have applied to FEMA for assistance, said FEMA spokesman Victor Inge.
Nasa's Mars Curiosity rover finds no sign of methane, the gas linked to life (19 September 2013)
Hopes that microbial life might be found on Mars looked a little dimmer on Thursday night after Nasa announced that its Curiosity rover had found no traces of methane in the tenuous atmosphere of the Red Planet.
The 900kg rover has been searching for evidence that the planet was once habitable since it touched down in the ancient Gale crater on Mars in August last year.
Persistent levels of methane in the atmosphere on Mars could have been a sign that living microbes lurked deep beneath the rock and dust, but the absence of the gas will deflate hopes that they are there to be found.
On Earth many microbes release methane as a waste product that mixes in the atmosphere with substantial contributions from cows, pigs, and humans. But not all microbes are methane makers. The majority release other gases instead.
"The measurements we've made show that microbial activity from methane-producing microbes is insignificant on Mars," Nasa scientist Chris Webster told the Guardian.
Japan's Abe orders surviving Fukushima reactors scrapped, pledges safe Olympics (19 September 2013)
(Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the scrapping of two Fukushima nuclear reactors that survived the 2011 tsunami, a write-off that threatens to complicate a turnaround plan the operator has presented to creditors.
He also said he stood by his commitments to the International Olympic Committee of insuring a safe 2020 Summer Games.
"I will work hard to counter rumours questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant," he said.
Abe, speaking to reporters after a tour of the plant on Thursday, said he told Tokyo Electric Power Co to set a time frame for dealing with leaking contaminated water.
Egypt army storms village near Cairo (19 September 2013)
Egyptian troops and police clashed Thursday morning on the outskirts of Cairo after security forces launched an operation to arrest people accused of torching police stations and killing at least 11 police officers during July clashes. The violence is part of ongoing unrest in the country between security forces and supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi, who was removed from office in a military coup on July 3.
Egypt's official news agency MENA said troops backed by helicopters had surrounded the town of Kerdassah, a known Islamist stronghold, after exchanging fire with suspected militants there.
The clashes have so far killed one policeman -- identified by MENA as an aide to the police chief of the city of Giza -- and at least 48 people were arrested, the interior ministry said, adding that another 135 were wanted for arrest. It said police forces took control of the area and imposed a curfew.
Al Jazeera's correspondent, reporting from Cairo, said the operation began at about 3 a.m. local time.
Blocking the Public's Right to Know About ALEC (18 September 2013)
In the two years since the ALEC Exposed project revealed the role that the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council plays in shaping the laws of states across the nation, the group has had a much harder time hiding its meddling.
In fact, so much national attention has been paid to ALEC's role in promoting restrictive voter ID laws and controversial Stand Your Ground initiatives that ALEC officials announced last year that they would shut down the task force that was responsible for promoting those measures.
But ALEC is still putting representatives of corporations together with state legislators to craft "model legislation"--especially with regard to economic and regulatory issues. And the group's national treasurer has come up with a novel scheme for keeping the projects secret.
The Wisconsin Republican says she is exempt from open-records laws, and her state's Republican attorney general says that's cool with him.
Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir, a key confidante of Governor Scott Walker who serves as ALEC's national treasurer, has for months been stonewalling a legitimate open-records request from the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which worked with The Nation on the 2011 ALEC Exposed project that revealed how the corporate-funded council has been working with state legislators across the country to enact measures developed by special interest groups.
Like nearly all other mass shooters, ex-Navy shooter Aaron Alexis was also being treated with psychiatric drugs (17 September 2013)
(NaturalNews) We weren't planning to cover this story until the Associated Press confirmed that Aaron Alexis, the shooter believed responsible for the recent mass shooting at the Navy yard, "had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems."
This is proof that Aaron Alexis was on psychiatric drugs, because that's the only treatment currently being offered by the Veterans Administration for mental problems. Alexis' family members also confirmed to the press that he was being "treated" for his mental health problems. Across the medical industry, "treatment" is the code word for psychiatric drugging.
Nearly every shooter has a history of psychiatric drug use
As Natural News readers well know, the vast majority of mass shooters in U.S. history have all been on mind-altering psychiatric drugs. Those prescription medications create feelings of detachment in people, making them feel like they "playing out a video game" rather than acting out in the real world.
See a list of some of the other shootings where the perpetrators were taking psychiatric drugs in this Natural News article.
Source: Navy Yard shooter worked in Hampton Roads (19 September 2013)
The former Navy reservist who shot 12 people to death at the Washington Navy Yard spent some time recently at a base in Hampton Roads, an official with knowledge of the investigation said.
Aaron Alexis, a computer technician who worked for a private contracting company, had a "common access card" that allowed him onto most bases. He was killed in a shootout after the rampage on Monday.
The CEO of The Experts, the South Florida-based contracting firm that employed Alexis, told news outlets that he'd worked at seven military installations since July. The Washington Post cited CEO Thomas Hoshko as saying one of them was Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek.
Calls to the company and to Hoshko were not returned.
The official said there is paperwork documenting Alexis' time in the area. He was a computer technician doing work on the Navy's intranet program, the official said.
In Mississippi, America's most revolutionary mayor (19 September 2013)
Lumumba's core supporters espouse a program called the Jackson Plan, which the MXGM posted on its website in 2012. The plan's aim is to "build a base of autonomous power in Jackson that can serve as a catalyst for the attainment of Black self-determination and the democratic transformation of the economy." Many of the specifics are practical, even business-friendly -- improving Jackson's paltry recycling program; bringing hothouses and pesticide-free techniques to community gardens; building cheap, energy-efficient housing.
When I asked Lumumba how he planned to build a solidarity economy now that he is mayor, he gave a measured answer.
"You have more affluent folks who have businesses; we want to challenge them to invest in the less fortunate, to try to get people homes they can live in, to give them jobs," he said. "Show them that they're likely to get more city contracts, for instance, if they bring more subcontractors who they are developing and helping to expand our economic base, as opposed to the regular old suspects. We think we can do some solidarity with that too."
Lumumba's top challenge is Jackson's infrastructure crisis. The roads are rutted and buckled. The water and sewer systems are beset by capacity issues, decaying pipes, and obsolete metering and billing systems. Water-main breaks and flooded streets are chronic. Poorly treated sewage spews into the Pearl River; last year the city signed a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency that binds it to a $400 million investment program to restore compliance. In January 2010, a cold snap caused 70 water breaks and the whole city had to boil water. Even in normal times, tap water often runs brown. Addressing these problems has been difficult in part because Jackson's tax base is anemic. The population has shrunk by 12 percent since 1980, due to both white and black middle-class flight to suburban Rankin and Madison counties. Over 27 percent of city residents live in poverty.
Admissions Directors at Public Universities Speak Honestly (and Anonymously) About Their Goals (18 September 2013)
As we detailed last week, many public universities, suffering from state budget cuts or hungry for prestige, have made it a priority to attract out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition, and those who will help boost the schools' place in college rankings.
But a newly released survey by Inside Higher Ed asked admissions directors directly about their priorities, allowing them to respond anonymously. The survey, of course, is of admissions directors -- so it's focused more on what type of students schools are going after in the recruitment stage, and less on the students who gets financial aid as a sweetener to prompt enrollment.
Still, it's a reflection of some of the same priorities -- including a strong interest in out-of-state students and international students, who typically bring in more revenue, even with modest discounts.
For instance, 80 percent of admissions directors surveyed at public four-year universities agreed or strongly agreed that they were likely to increase their efforts to recruit out-of-state students. The percentage was slightly lower -- but still 66 percent to 72 percent, depending on the type of public institution -- for international students.
CDC Reveals Scary Truth About Factory Farms and Superbugs (18 September 2013)
Note the text on the bottom: "These drugs should be only used to treat infections." Compare that to the National Pork Producers Council's much more expansive conception of proper uses of antibiotics in livestock facilities: "treatment of illness, prevention of disease, control of disease, and nutritional efficiency of animals." Dosing animals with daily hits of antibiotics to prevent disease only makes sense, of course, if you're keeping animals on an industrial scale.
The CDC report lays out a couple of specific pathogens whose spread among people is driven by farm practices. Drug-resistant campylobacter causes 310,000 infections per year, resulting in 28 deaths, the report states. The agency's recommendations for reducing those numbers is blunt:
• Avoiding inappropriate antibiotic use in food animals.
• Tracking antibiotic use in different types of food animals.
Uh, yes, chicken stock counts as meat to both the chickens and the climate (18 September 2013)
Slate is straight up trolling vegetarians: Today, it published a piece by J. Bryan Lowder with the headline "Chicken Stock Doesn't Count as Meat." The sub-head: "Vegetarians won't die if they sometimes eat food with poultry broth in it." We know that you're supposed to ignore the trolls, but we are weak (and, according to Lowder, rude, impolite, partisan, radicalized, and militant) and cannot resist.
Here is the crux of Lowder's argument:
"One version of a saying by none other than famed gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin tells us that 'stock to a cook is like voice to a singer.' Can you really justify taking away my voice? When I have vegetarians over for dinner, I'm already making a sacrifice by forgoing a real entrée in favor of a meatless one. Fairness and common sense would argue that, in return, vegetarians shouldn't make a big deal about some small amount of a near-invisible (if crucial!) liquid. I've compromised my culinary integrity enough already -- now it's your turn: Vegetarians and vegans, chicken stock does not count as meat."
Hm. Does it involve dead animal parts? Then, for vegetarians who object to the killing of animals, it is meat. Does it involve spending extra resources of food, land, and water to concentrate energy from sources of vegetable matter into animal protein? Then, for vegetarians who are trying to minimize their impact on the climate by eating low-energy sources of food, yes, it is meat.
PAM COMMENTARY: I cover several different types of soup stock in my cookbook that are 100% plant-based. The reason chicken stock tastes good is often because of its high salt content, along with MSG in some cases. People think they like it because of the chicken, when in fact they really just like the taste of added salt.
You can add that extra salt to an onion, tomato, or bean-based soup with a taste that's just as good as chicken stock, and it's best to omit the MSG entirely.
For those who really want to cut back on salt, spice- or citrus-based soups can be a better option. Notice that my onion/tomato stock-based recipe for Tomato-Brazil Nut Soup has 3/4 teaspoon of salt, whereas the spice-based Yam Coconut Curry Soup has no salt at all. Both are delicious, and neither needs animal-based soup stock.
Sugar is most dangerous drug of all -- health chief (18 September 2013)
Soft drinks should carry tobacco-style warnings that sugar is highly addictive and dangerous, a senior Dutch health official has warned.
Paul van der Velpen, the head of Amsterdam's health service, the Dutch capital city where the sale of cannabis is legalised, wants to see sugar tightly regulated.
"Just like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is actually a drug. There is an important role for government.
"The use of sugar should be discouraged. And users should be made aware of the dangers," he wrote on an official public health website.
"This may seem exaggerated and far-fetched, but sugar is the most dangerous drug of the times and can still be easily acquired everywhere."
Mr Van der Velpen cites research claiming that sugar, unlike fat or other foods, interferes with the body's appetite, creating an insatiable desire to carry on eating, an effect he accuses the food industry of using to increase consumption of their products.
Under Republican plan, 3.8 million would lose food stamps in 2014 (17 September 2013)
Yes, the Republican proposal for $40 billion in food stamp cuts over the next 10 years would have horrific effects on millions of people, the dirty hippies over at the Congressional Budget Office confirm:
"According to the CBO, 1.7 million people would be forced off the rolls in the coming year if the state waivers are repealed as proposed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Another 2.1 million would be dropped in 2014 as a result of the tighter eligibility rules backed by the GOP.
"In both cases, the impact would decline as the economy improves and more jobs become available. But on average, CBO estimates that a total of 2.8 million people would lose their benefits over the next decade, and another 850,000 households will see an average reduction of about $90 a month in benefits."
That's 1.7 million people going hungry or being forced onto severely restricted diets now, with millions more to come. A $90 cut in the groceries a family can buy in a month is also a Big F'ing Deal, especially for a family that's already pinching every penny to get enough to eat. Taking $90 out of a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotment that already only lasts most families two and a half weeks is in itself cruel--and, from the most coldly financial perspective, shortsighted, since forcing people to eat more cheaply means increased risk of diabetes and other chronic conditions that will raise health care costs for the nation.
Michelle Obama pushes for ads for healthful foods for kids (18 September 2013)
WASHINGTON -- First Lady Michelle Obama urged food industry executives to increase their advertising of healthful products for kids, carefully returning to the debate over food marketing and childhood obesity after facing criticism for largely avoiding the controversial fight.
"All of you, more than anyone else, have the power to shape our kids' tastes and desires," Obama said Wednesday in remarks directed at food and media companies that have resisted attempts to link advertising to obesity.
"You all know that our kids are like little sponges. They absorb whatever is around them," she said. "But they don't yet have the ability to question and analyze what they're told."
Obama made the remarks before she convened dozens of business representatives, lobbyists, nutrition advocates and government officials for a meeting on the issue. The private session, organized by both the first lady's office and the president's policy advisors, now positions Michelle Obama as the facilitator of the debate.
China's transformation frays traditional family ties, hurting many seniors (18 September 2013)
LUZHAI, China -- The elderly couple sat on their metal frame bed surrounded by the detritus of their lives: hopelessly worn-out shoes, empty tin cans, dried-out corncobs, plastic bags, filthy clothes, all strewn across the uneven dirt floor. On a small table, two dirty cups sat beside an ancient television and an overturned electric fan.
Their five daughters have all moved away from the village of Luzhai in eastern China and are working with their husbands in China's booming cities. Ma Jinling, 81, and his wife, Hou Guiying, don't own a phone or know where their children are living; their daughters rarely visit and even more rarely help financially. The frail Ma survives, as he always has, by tending his small plot of land.
"If he doesn't farm, we won't have enough food to eat," said Hou, 71, her hair in pigtails and her hands shaking as she spoke. "When we run out of money for our medical bills, we just stop treating ourselves.
"We can live like this, it's okay. But please, don't let us become really ill."
Decades of societal turmoil -- radical communism followed by rampant capitalism -- have frayed the ties that once bound China's families together extremely closely. In a country famous for its Confucian traditions of filial obedience, tens of millions of elderly Chinese are being left behind by the country's transformation, suffering poverty, illness and depression. It has become such a serious problem that the Chinese government put into effect a law in July allowing parents to sue their children if they failed to visit and support them.
Africa: Electrifying Africa - but At What Cost to Africans? (17 September 2013)
As children throughout the United States head back to school, it's a good time to remember that schoolchildren throughout Africa often attend schools with no electricity. In areas that do have the utility, frequent power outages are a constant reminder of the need for dependable access to electricity.
In June, U.S. policymakers announced two initiatives aimed at increasing electricity production in Africa. President Obama launched Power Africa, an initiative that makes a $7-billion U.S. commitment to the energy sector in six African countries.
And Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced the Electrify Africa Act in the House, which sets a goal of providing access to electricity for at least 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020. Both initiatives place increasing investment by U.S. companies in Africa at their center.
Africa is home to almost 600 million people without electricity, all of whom struggle to meet their basic needs as a result. Access to power translates into refrigerating vaccines, keeping food from spoiling, studying after dark-the kinds of activities that can dramatically improve basic health, education, and economic opportunity.
While rhetoric around the two U.S. initiatives is about reducing poverty and improving Africans' quality of life, the approaches being outlined seem likely to lead to large, climate-polluting, centralized power projects-not the decentralized, renewable energy systems that are the most efficient and cleanest means of reaching Africa's poorest families.
Long-range forecast: sunny spell will wipe out life on Earth (18 September 2013)
The scientists' work centres on the concept of habitable zones -- the "Goldilocks regions" of space around stars where the surface of a planet is neither too hot nor too cold for that essential for life, liquid water, to flow.
A habitable zone is only a rough measure of a planet's ability to sustain life. It depends on many factors, but crucial among them are the atmosphere of the planet and the brightness -- or temperature -- of the star it circles.
Unlike climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions, the culprit behind the looming disaster is found in the equations of stellar evolution, which describe how stars burn brighter as they age. As they burn through what is called their main sequence, when they are fusing hydrogen into helium, they emit ever more heat. This pushes the habitable zone outwards in space so regions nearby become too hot for life, while more distant frigid stretches get warmer and more inviting.
Writing in the journal Astrobiology, the scientists explain how they worked out how long Earth and planets beyond the solar system would spend in their habitable zones. They found that the habitable zone around the sun was creeping outwards at about a tenth of an astronomical unit (the distance from the Earth to the sun) every billion years.
The Earth has some time left before the sun gets too hot. Based on their models, the scientists calculate that the planet will fall out of the habitable zone some time in the next 1.75bn to 3.25bn years. Then, the habitable zone will start beyond Earth's orbit, and make Mars, the fourth rock from the sun, more balmy.
Long airport waits cost economy, travel group says (18 September 2013)
Lines for international passengers waiting to go through customs and immigration at Miami International Airport have been so lengthy that airport workers have handed out water to tired travelers. The airport has installed televisions to keep people entertained and is working to quicken the process.
Those waits -- approaching a maximum of five hours in Miami earlier this year -- are not just annoying to passengers, a travel-industry group said Wednesday. The delays could also cost the U.S. billions of dollars.
In a report released Wednesday, the U.S. Travel Association argued that long lines and delays to enter the country could cost the economy more than $12 billion a year and thousands of jobs. That's both because of money not being spent during the wait in line -- $416 million -- as well as $11.8 billion in potential spending lost because travelers decided against coming to the U.S. because of the entry process.
The report called for several changes, including:
• Hiring 3,500 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
Baby actually can be 'Messiah,' judge rules (18 September 2013)
NEWPORT, TENN.-- A Tennessee woman will be allowed to name her 8-month-old son "Messiah," a judge ruled Wednesday, overturning an order from another judge who said the boy's name should be changed to Martin because "'Messiah' is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ."
Jaleesa Martin said she couldn't believe it when child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew last month ordered Martin's 8-month-old son's name changed during a paternity hearing. The parents were disputing the baby's surname, with Martin hoping to keep the name she had given him -- Messiah Deshawn Martin -- and father Jawaan McCullough wanting the baby to bear his last name.
Ballew surprised both parents by ordering that the baby's name change to Martin Deshawn McCullough, saying that the name Messiah was not in the baby's best interest. Her written order stated that "'Messiah' is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ," and "Labeling this child 'Messiah' places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfill."
She also said that the name would likely offend many residents of Cocke County, with its large Christian population.
Simulation suggests Musk's Hyperloop 'quite viable' (18 September 2013)
When billionaire Elon Musk unveiled the Hyperloop in August, his critics were quick to scoff at his proposal for a new, super fast mode of transportation. A number of people derided Musk's white paper as cartoonish and vague. Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, vowed to prove the naysayers wrong by building an actual physical prototype, but that's not expected to arrive for years.
Meanwhile, some evidence has just appeared that shows Musk may indeed be onto something.
Ansys, the maker of very high-end simulation software used to design planes, trains, automobiles and all manner of other things, has fed the Hyperloop specifications into a computer and come away impressed.
"I don't immediately see any red flags," says Sandeep Sovani, the director of land transportation strategy at Ansys. "I think it is quite viable."
Musk's design called for an elevated tube to be built between two cities. Pods would be shot back and forth inside of the tube at speeds reaching up to 800 miles per hour. Air bearings placed near the underside of the pods would create a cushion to reduce friction, and the pods would be accelerated by pulses from electric motors. To cut down on resistance, Musk proposed having vacuums at the front of the pods that would suck in air, while also having the tube in a low pressure state. The end result? A 30-minute ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Government Hands More Than $1 Trillion to Wealthy While Deficit Is $642 Billion (17 September 2013)
While our government is laying off hundreds and hundreds of thousands and cutting services in the name of cutting deficits, a new report exposes that taxpayers are handing more than $1 trillion a year to the wealthiest.
DC Focused On Deficits Not Jobs
Instead of focusing on jobs, Congress and the White House obsess on how to cut the budget --- the things We the People do to make our lives and economy better. While the "sequester" has already cost 900,000 jobs -- 1.6 million thru 2014 -- Republicans are threatening to shut down the government and force the country to default on its debt as leverage to force even more cuts.
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has repeatedly said the country is "broke." For example, "We're broke, broke going on bankrupt," Boehner said Feb. 28, 2011. Here he is saying it on Dec. 11, 2012, "Let's be honest. We're broke."
So we have to cut and cut and cut, even though the cuts are costing millions of jobs and damaging the economy and the prospects for our country and peoples' future, because supposedly "we're broke."
Poverty Rate and Income Stagnate as Conservatives Attack the Safety Net (17 September 2013)
Exactly five years since the onset of the financial crisis, income data released this morning by the Census Bureau indicates that the spike in poverty triggered by the recession has become the status quo. Middle-class incomes are stagnant, too.
The numbers come as House Republicans move to kick as many as 4 million Americans off food stamps by cutting $40 billion from the program. In their budget proposals, conservatives are also proposing to maintain the deep sequestration reductions that have cut tens of thousands of young children out of Head Start, as well as childcare assistance, Meals On Wheels for seniors, unemployment benefits, and housing assistance.
More than 46 million Americans lived in poverty last year, representing 15 percent of the population. For three years now there have been more Americans in poverty than at any other point since the Census Bureau began collecting data in 1959, and the poverty rate is hovering at its highest level since 1997. While many economists had hoped to see a small decrease in the poverty rate, the only statistically significant change was the additional 300,000 elderly Americans who fell below the poverty line.
"This far out from the great recession it would have been really nice to see gains to income, and reductions in poverty and large increases in health insurance coverage, and we didn't see any of that," said Elise Gould, an Economist at the Economic Policy Institute. Overall, she said, the Census figures show that the economic recovery has passed over most Americans. "When I think about economic growth, I think about economic growth for everyday Americans. There we're talking about median households, median families; we're also talking about people at the bottom."
Family outraged after Rehtaeh Parsons photo appears in dating ad on Facebook (17 September 2013)
Facebook has apologized and banned a dating company from advertising on its website after an ad featured a photo of Rehtaeh Parsons, a Halifax teen who died in April after a suicide attempt.
"This is an extremely unfortunate example of an advertiser scraping an image from the Internet and using it in their ad campaign," Facebook said in a statement emailed to the Star.
The company said it removed the ad and permanently deleted the account of Ionechat.com.
"We apologize for any harm this has caused," the Facebook statement said.
Danziger Bridge Convictions Overturned (17 September 2013)
A federal judge on Tuesday overturned the convictions of five New Orleans police officers tied to the shooting of unarmed civilians during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, finding that prosecutors in the case had engaged in "grotesque" misconduct.
In a blistering and meticulously detailed 129-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt found that federal prosecutors in New Orleans had anonymously posted damning online critiques of the accused officers and the New Orleans Police Department before and during the 2011 trial, a breach of professional ethics that had the effect of depriving the officers of their rights to a fair trial.
The judge granted the officers' request for a new trial.
"Re-trying this case is a very small price to pay in order to protect the validity of the verdict in this case, the institutional integrity of the Court, and the criminal justice system as a whole," Judge Engelhardt wrote.
Reversal of Danziger Bridge convictions a 'bitter pill' for Hurricane Katrina survivors (17 September 2013)
For many metro area residents, the day when former police officers were convicted for their roles in gunning down unarmed people on the Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina marked a cathartic moment.
On Tuesday, however, a federal judge toppled those hard-won convictions, not citing faulty evidence, but because of the "grotesque" conduct of prosecutors who never even talked to the jury.
In an order upending one of the region's most important civil rights cases in years, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt granted a new trial for five former New Orleans Police Department officers convicted in the Danziger Bridge shooting and the subsequent cover-up.
In a 129-page order that blasted former prosecutors in then-U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office, Engelhardt pointed to "unprecedented events and acts" that "has taken the court on a legal odyssey unlike any other."
The order granted a new trial for former police officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso as well as Arthur Kaufman, who was convicted of orchestrating the cover-up after being assigned to investigate the shooting.
From Mosques to Soccer Leagues: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spy Unit Targeting Muslims, Activists (17 September 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the NYPD spy program was first exposed in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by the Associated Press. Two lead reporters on the story have just come out the new book that expands on their ground breaking reporting. Their book is called, "Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America." Co-authors Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman join us here in New York. They shared the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Matt, lay it out. Lay out this book for us. In a nutshell, how you got on this story, and what you found.
MATT APPUZO: Sure, well, our book really goes a lot deeper and a lot broader than we were able to do even in all the many stories we wrote for the AP. What we really focused on is how in the aftermath of 9/11, about how the NYPD working hand-in-hand with the CIA, built an intelligence apparatus that focuses on American citizens like no other police department in the country. This active-duty CIA officer and a retired CIA officer built in apparatus by which, you know, a sort of army of informants is out there and we have these demographics officers who their job is just to hang out in neighborhoods and listen for what people are talking about.
Some of what we have seen in these files, it's a file says, we saw two men speaking at a cafe and they were talking about what they thought about the president's state of the union address, and here's what they thought. What do they think about drones, what do they think about foreign policy, what do they think about American policies toward civil liberties, you know, TSA. Are we too discriminatory against Muslims? All the stuff ends up in police files and their justification is, we need to know what the sentiment of these communities are so we can look for hotspots.
Fisa court: no telecoms company has ever challenged phone records orders (17 September 2013)
No telecommunications company has ever challenged the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court's orders for bulk phone records under the Patriot Act, the court revealed on Tuesday.
The secretive Fisa court's disclosure came inside a declassification of its legal reasoning justifying the National Security Agency's ongoing bulk collection of Americans' phone records.
Citing the "unprecedented disclosures" and the "ongoing public interest in this program", Judge Claire V Eagan on 29 August not only approved the Obama administration's request for the bulk collection of data from an unidentified telecommunications firm, but ordered it declassified. Eagan wrote that despite the "lower threshold" for government bulk surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act compared to other laws, the telephone companies who have received Fisa court orders for mass customer data have not challenged the law.
"To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order," Eagan wrote. "Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an order, despite the mechanism for doing so."
Foundation says money spent on homeless is a good investment (18 September 2013)
Providing housing and support to 72 previously homeless Calgarians has saved taxpayers nearly $2.5 million per year, according to recent figures collected and analyzed by the Calgary Homeless Foundation.
"This data proves providing people experiencing homelessness with housing and support saves taxpayers money and relieves the burden on more expensive public systems," said president and CEO John Rook, in a statement released Tuesday during the foundation's annual general meeting.
The organization took a sample of 72 "high acuity" clients and examined the costs they were incurring on public systems while they were living on the streets.
It's estimated the individuals were staying in emergency shelters full time at a cost of nearly $10,000 per year. Their average use of public systems -- mainly hospital stays but also ambulance fees, emergency room usage, jails, police and courts -- cost nearly $46,000 per year.
US to extend wage protections to home health care workers (17 September 2013)
The Obama administration pledged Tuesday to extend U.S. minimum wage protection and overtime law to almost two million home health workers who assist the elderly and disabled, closing a legal loophole that has been in place for nearly 40 years.
Setting an assertive tone just two weeks after being sworn in as U.S. labor secretary, Thomas Perez said in a statement that home health workers provide "vital services."
"Today we are taking an important step toward guaranteeing that these professionals receive the wage protections they deserve while protecting the right of individuals to live at home," he said.
Under a new rule, the department said home health workers, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants will be brought under the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act starting in January 2015.
Home care aides have been exempt from federal wage laws since 1974, when they were placed in the same category as neighborhood baby sitters. But their ranks have surged with the aging population and the field is now one of the fastest-growing professions. Perez said the workers deserve the same legal protections as most other employees.
Analysis: Bribery scandal dents Big Pharma sales in China, GSK hardest hit (18 September 2013)
(Reuters) - A crackdown on corruption in China's pharmaceutical sector has hurt sales at international and local firms, with many doctors at Chinese hospitals refusing to see drug representatives for fear of being caught up in the widening scandal.
Britain's GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the group at the center of the furore, has suffered the most. Industry insiders expect its China drug sales growth to slow sharply or even reverse in the third quarter after a 14 percent year-on-year rise in the three months to end-June.
But GSK - accused by Chinese police in July of using travel agencies as intermediaries to make illegal payments to doctors - is not alone, and a number of companies say their China sales in the second half of the year may take a substantial hit.
With the country's healthcare spending forecast to nearly triple to $1 trillion by 2020 from $357 billion in 2011, according to consulting firm McKinsey, China is a magnet for makers of medicines and medical equipment.
Blue-footed boobies delighting California bird-watchers (17 September 2013)
"This is the first invasion of boobies since the numbers of birders have swelled," Garrett said. "So, there's a lot of happy bird-watchers seeing them for the first time."
Some scientists are wondering if the visiting boobies are somehow related to a recent series of distressing biological mysteries in Southern California's coastal waters.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is trying to determine whether a sudden reduction in sea lion pups in 2012 was linked to a dearth of sardines and anchovies that year. In the Channel Islands, the reproduction rates of the only breeding colonies of brown pelicans in the Western United States have plunged since 2010, a year after the bird was removed from the endangered species list. In August, at least three brown pelicans were found dead in Malibu Lagoon.
"There's a lot of weird things happening out there," Dan Anderson, a professor of wildlife biology at UC Davis, said. "No one is sure of what the cause is."
This video explains almost everything you want to know about fracking (17 September 2013)
Still trying to figure out what the big deal with fracking is? Hydraulic fracturing -- fracking for short -- is the controversial process that has fueled the new energy boom in the U.S., making it possible to tap reserves that had previously been too difficult and expensive to extract. It works by pumping millions of gallons of pressurized water, with sand and a cocktail of chemicals, into rock formations to create tiny cracks and release trapped oil and gas. It's been tied to earthquakes and has led to a number of lawsuits, including one that resulted in a settlement agreement that barred a 7-year-old from ever talking about it. At the same time, fracking has also created a glut of cheap energy and is helping to push coal, and coal-fired power plants, out of the market.
But for all the fighting about whether fracking is good or bad (and research has shown the more people know, the more polarized they become), many people don't understand what fracking actually is. The Munich-based design team Kurzgesagt has put together a video that explains why fracking -- which has been around since the 1940s -- just caught on in the last 10 years, and why people are worried. The video, which was posted earlier this month, has gone viral, and racked up over 1 million views in less than 10 days.
The video gets a lot right, but critics have also taken issue with a few of its claims. For example, the video states that fracking companies "say nothing about the precise composition of the chemical mixture but it is known that there are about 700 chemical agents which can be used in the process." Energy in Depth, an industry group, has released a response noting that companies do disclose some information about chemicals used in fracking. What that group doesn't mention, however, is that companies don't have to disclose chemicals that are designated as "trade secrets," which is a pretty serious exception.
Bobby Jindal to axe officials who took on Big Oil (16 September 2013)
We told you last month that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) doesn't want Big Oil to be forced to spend billions of dollars to repair the marshes that once protected his state from floods.
Now comes news of the extreme steps Jindal is willing to take to ensure that the gas and oil industry, which has paid more than $1 million into his election campaigns, is protected from a lawsuit filed in July by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.
The flood authority is suing BP, ExxonMobil, and other oil companies in a bid to force them to spend billions restoring shorelines that they tore up while exploring and drilling for gas and oil and building pipelines. Those shorelines had been home to marshes and other coastal ecosystems that naturally buffered the New Orleans area from rising seas and storm surges.
The flood-control officials would like those marshes back, pretty please. But Jindal thinks their lawsuit is an outrageous attack on a wholesome industry that shouldn't be held accountable for its own actions. He's moving to kill the lawsuit by reshaping the authority's 11-person board, axing members who support it. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
"Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said Friday that Jindal "will not" reappoint Tim Doody, president of the levee authority, and Vice President John Barry. Both Doody and Barry, whose terms officially expired June 30, have faced attacks from the Jindal administration, which opposes the levee authority's controversial lawsuit demanding that 97 energy firms repair wetlands damage or pay to repair the damage. ..."
Year-end tax cuts have nearly doubled projected size of national debt, CBO says (17 September 2013)
Broad tax cuts made permanent during the fiscal-cliff fight last year have dramatically darkened the nation's long-term budget outlook, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday, nearly doubling the projected size of the national debt over the next 25 years.
The biggest driver of federal spending -- health care programs -- is rising more slowly than in the past, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But a New Year's Day law that permanently extended the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the vast majority of Americans is projected to drive borrowing from outside investors to 100 percent of the economy by 2038. Previous projections showed the debt drifting down to 52 percent of GDP by that time.
As Washington embarks this fall on yet another battle over taxes, spending and health reform, the CBO projects that Congress would have to enact savings of roughly $2 trillion over the next decade just to keep the debt at its current elevated level -- around 70 percent of the economy -- by 2038.
To shrink the debt back down to historic levels -- under 40 percent of the economy -- Congress would have to raise taxes or cut spending by roughly $4 trillion over the next decade, the CBO said. That means enacting savings worth 2 percent of the economy for each of the next 25 years, or $350 billion in 2014.
So far, no one has proposed a deficit-reduction package of anything near that size. President Obama has proposed $1.6 trillion in new savings by raising taxes on the rich and trimming spending on health and retirement programs. But much of the savings would go to replace the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester, leaving fresh deficit reduction of only around $400 billion over the next decade.
Former sailor kills 12 at Washington Navy Yard (17 September 2013)
The deadly attack at the Washington Navy Yard was carried out by one of the military's own: a defense contract employee and former Navy reservist who used a valid pass to get onto the installation and started firing inside a building, killing 12 people before he was slain in a gun battle with police.
The motive for the mass shooting -- the deadliest on a military installation in the U.S. since the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 -- was a mystery, investigators said. But a profile of the lone gunman, a 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, was coming into focus. He was described as a Buddhist who had also had flares of rage, complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination and had several run-ins with law enforcement, including two shootings.
This morning, sources confirmed to the Associated Press that Alexis had been treated for a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder. He also had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said.
Alexis had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for his mental problems, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation in the case was continuing. The Navy had not declared him mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance that Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.
Edward Snowden 'living incognito in Russia' (17 September 2013)
Edward Snowden is living under guard at a secret location in Russia, but is able to travel around the country freely without being recognised, according to the former NSA contractor's Russian lawyer.
"We believe the danger remains quite high and, as I see it, it is impossible at the moment to reveal where he's living or to talk openly about it," said Anatoly Kucherena in an interview with the Kremlin-funded television station Russia Today, excerpts of which were released on Tuesday.
Kucherena said Snowden has security protection, but was evasive on whether this was provided by the Russian state, noting that there were many private security firms in Russia.
Snowden is wanted by the US for leaking details of government surveillance programmes to the GuardianHe has not been seen in public since he landed in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong in June. He spent several weeks in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, before he was granted asylum by Russia and left the airport on 1 August.
New Mexico's drought threatens a way of life (17 September 2013)
Across the state, a historic drought has reduced the water to a shallow stream in some acequias, a trickle in others. Some channels are parched. Some people, even elders leery of change, are asking whether it's time to try more modern methods of irrigating the land.
Such an idea was once unthinkable. For Boney and other old families of New Mexico, a land where the past seems ever present, the water crisis threatens not just livelihoods but also the connection they feel to their Spanish ancestors.
New Mexico has more than 800 acequias, some dating to the 1600s, said Paula Garcia, executive director of the New Mexico Acequia Assn. The waterways can be several feet across or as compact as a narrow ditch.
The communal watercourses carry snow runoff to distant fields. Engineered to use gravity and the natural contours of the land, the acequias feed arterial channels, which spread out like capillaries in the fields.
Des Plaines sued after rejecting plans for mosque (17 September 2013)
A Bosnian Muslim congregation filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Des Plaines and five aldermen, alleging they violated its religious freedom when they denied permission to convert a vacant office building into a community center and Muslim house of worship.
The American Islamic Center claims in the suit that aldermen violated its constitutional rights by refusing to rezone an industrial park to accommodate a mosque.
"We are not happy that we have to file this lawsuit," said Imam Senad Agic. "We are hoping the City Council of Des Plaines would understand our religious needs."
But aldermen say allowing any house of worship in an industrial park would endanger pedestrians and impede neighboring manufacturers.
Family of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark fights over $300m copper mining fortune she left to charity and her care staff (17 September 2013)
As the daughter of America's second-richest man, Huguette Clark was born into phenomenal privilege, with luxury homes on both the east and west coasts, and the social life of a debutante who came of age in the Roaring Twenties. Yet by the time she died in 2011, at the age of 104, Ms Clark had lived as a recluse for more than half a century, and spent her final 20 years confined to a New York hospital room. When she divvied up her $300m fortune, she left it not to her surviving relatives, but to the few people who cared for her in her last decades.
Now, 20 distant family members -- most of whom she never met -- are challenging the will in court, claiming that the centenarian multi-millionairess was coerced into composing it by her beneficiaries. Next week's trial in Manhattan, for which jury selection is due to begin on Tuesday, centres on two wills, reportedly written six weeks apart in 2005.
The first left Ms Clark's fortune to her family. The second, however, left 75 per cent to charity and the remainder to her goddaughter and a handful of medical and business employees. "I intentionally make no provision in this, my last will testament, for any members of my family, having had minimal contacts with them over the years," the document reads.
Ms Clark was born in Paris in 1906, the younger daughter of the industrialist and US Senator William Clark and his second wife. The relatives challenging her will are descendants of Clark, a copper mining and railway magnate, and his first wife. In 1928, Huguette married the son of one of her father's business associates, but divorced a year later, having had no children.
In the subsequent decades, despite owning several magnificent homes, she became increasingly reclusive and stayed in a single candlelit room in her Fifth Avenue apartment. According to Empty Mansions, a new book co-written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Bill Dedman, she was a virtual hermit until 1991 when, at 85, she was forced to admit herself to New York's Beth Israel hospital with facial skin cancer. According to the notes of her doctor, Henry Singman, Ms Clark "resembled an advanced leper patient". After surgery, she refused to be discharged and stayed there under a pseudonym, paying for private care for the rest of her life.
Blood tests show elevated health risks for Gulf spill cleanup workers (16 September 2013)
People hired to clean up Gulf of Mexico beaches and marshes during the 2010 oil spill have significantly altered blood profiles that put them at increased risk of developing liver cancer, leukemia and other disorders, according to a report published Tuesday.
The study, conducted by doctors at Houston's University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers and reported in the Journal of American Medicine, sheds new light on the potential health repercussions for the more than 170,000 people who worked in some capacity to clean up the 2010 spill.
Clean-up workers encountered oil that gushed from BP's failed Macondo well but also may have come into contact with chemical dispersants used to help break up the crude. And while they were outfitted with protective suits and gloves, some workers may have removed the gear amid sweltering summer conditions or used diluents to scrub off any residue.
Oil contains benzene, a powerful carcinogen.
"Benzene is a very toxic substance. It's easily absorbed through tissues, such as your skin," said Mark A. D'Andrea, the lead author of the study and medical director for the University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers. "Once it enters your system, it affects several organs."
Defecting Democrats doomed Summers bid for Fed job (16 September 2013)
(Reuters) - The death knell for Lawrence Summers' candidacy to lead the Federal Reserve came on Friday morning with a shock phone call message left for President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough.
The message was from Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Senate Banking Committee from Oregon and a vocal critic of the prospects of a Summers nomination for the central bank's chairmanship.
Merkley told the White House that there were now five Democrats on the committee, which would have to clear the nomination before a final Senate vote, who would oppose Summers, a former Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and a close confidante of Obama's.
Up until Friday, only two - Merkley and Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio - had publicly signaled how they would vote.
But fierce Wall Street critic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had privately told the White House she was uncomfortable with the prospective nomination and, according to a Senate aide, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota also had concerns.
The surprise on Friday was not only the number of senators deciding to vote no but that one of them was centrist Democrat Jon Tester of Montana, whose opposition showed that concerns about the former Treasury secretary were not confined to the liberal wing of the party.
Living near hog waste linked to drug-resistant infections (16 September 2013)
Living by a hog farm or near crop fields fertilized with the animals' manure can raise your risk of getting a drug-resistant infection, a new study finds.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found a link in Pennsylvania between intensive hog farming and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
In poring over medical records of more than 446,000 Pennsylvanians in the Geisinger Health System, the researchers found 3,000 patients with MRSA and 50,000 with skin and soft-tissue infections from 2005 through 2010. Of the MRSA cases, 1,539 were community-acquired and 1,335 deemed hospital-acquired.
Overall, researchers concluded that 11 percent of the MRSA and soft-tissue infections could be attributed to living near farm fields treated with pig manure. They found a similar, but weaker link to living near the actual hog herds.
In Ethiopia, more land grabs, more indigenous people pushed out (16 September 2013)
As night wore on in a remote valley in southern Ethiopia, one policeman dozed and another watched a DVD comedy on a battery-powered laptop.
Close by, in a clutch of thorn trees and grass huts, an ethnic Mursi man tried to explain to outsiders why he is so concerned for his people, who have lived here as semi-nomads for generations but may soon be evicted to make way for a giant sugar plantation.
"We Mursi [people] do not accept this ambitious government ideology," the man said of an official state plan to house them in new villages in exchange for their compliant departure. He is speaking in the village of Hailewuha, his face lit by flashlight. Cattle shuffle and grunt nearby.
"What we want is to use our own traditional way of cultivation," he says.
Ethiopian officials say the Mursi, like a growing number of ethnic or tribal groups in Ethiopia, are voluntarily moving out of their ancient lands; human rights groups say this is untrue.
How one group of plants help regrow an entire forest (16 September 2013)
Legumes rise to meet the challenge of deforestation, scientists have found.
A team of researchers report in Nature that legumes, which fix atmospheric nitrogen into a useable form for other plants, grow faster than other trees in the earliest phase of a forest's re-growth. The find highlights the pivotal role that just one group of plants -- in collaboration with some useful bacteria -- plays in growing up an entire forest that, as a carbon dioxide absorber, ultimately becomes the entire planet's ally against global warming.
"This is a group of species that are helpers to the rest of the forest," says Lars Hedin, a professor at Princeton University and a co-author on the paper.
"It's super cool," he adds.
For decades, the Americas' forests, once unfurling like rumpled blankets across the continent, have been cut into to make room for booming cities and sprawling commercial farms and ranches. Those cuts, scientists note, have brought about the extinction of an unknown amount of species, as well as troubling losses in the ranks of an efficient carbon dioxide reducer: the tree.
An artist at Guantanamo Bay (16 September 2013)
Artist Janet Hamlin has been sketching the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay since 2006. She is the sole sketch artist permitted to cover the trials, which otherwise do not allow cameras or video, making her artwork the only visual record of the proceedings.
In her work, we see the faces of many of the prison's infamous detaines -- Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and Ramzi bin al Shibh -- as well as the mundane workings of the court.
Hamlin was first sent to the court by The Associated Press to sketch the young Canadian detainee Omar Khadr in 2006. AP sent her twice more at which point she began to make regular trips to the base.
By the rules of the tribunal, she must submit her work to the Pentagon for approval. The Pentagon office's seal is affixed to each of the drawings.
Keystone soon will carry crude through Texas, with or without Obama (16 September 2013)
The president has delayed it. Protesters tried to stop it. But the Keystone XL pipeline is approaching a major finishing line anyway, setting the stage for a rush of new oil to move through Texas.
The southern leg of Keystone XL is more than 90 percent complete and will be shipping oil through Texas by the end of the year, pipeline owner Trans-Canada says.
Refineries are cheering the new line, which will bring up to 700,000 barrels per day of oil to the Gulf Coast -- with or without the proposed northern connection to Canada that has drawn intense environmental opposition.
The milestone will play into the plans of refineries, some of which are making changes to process more of the kind of light crude from U.S. shale plays that will be increasingly available because of the Keystone XL southern leg.
What was behind Venezuela's deadly oil refinery explosion? (16 September 2013)
Authorities say foul play was involved in the deadly gas explosion that tore through Venezuela's largest oil refinery last year. The blast claimed at least 40 lives, displaced hundreds of families and caused an estimated $1.7 billion in damages.
"I have the conviction that it was an act of sabotage by factors external to our refinery, our industry," said Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) president and petroleum energy minister, Rafael Ramírez, upon releasing a 117-page report of a state-sponsored investigation last week. The report indicates that intentionally-loosened bolts in a gas pump caused a leak that led to the ensuing blast.
Prior to the probe's release, opposition lawmakers decried the tragedy at the Amuay Refinery as "completely avoidable," citing a recent report by Profesionales del Petróleo, an oil industry group.
While the disaster is being dragged further into Venezuela's bitter political strife, industry observers say the Aug. 25, 2012 explosion is more likely a symptom of the overall deterioration at PDVSA. Despite increased investment and a burgeoning staff, the frequency of accidents and reliance on refined oil products is stoking fear of mismanagement in this oil rich South American nation.
"Safety is ... part of running a business in this inherently high risk industry " says Jorge Piñon, energy analyst and Latin American specialist at the University of Texas at Austin. "PDVSA has lost sight of that."
Here Are The Miley Cyrus FCC Complaints (13 September 2013)
SEPTEMBER 13--Following Miley Cyrus's raunchy performance at last month's MTV Video Music Awards, 150 traumatized viewers wrote the Federal Communications Commission to express their outrage about the 20-year-old singer's twerking, foam-fingering, skimpy costume, bumping, grinding, omnipresent tongue, and her interaction with oversize teddy bears.
The correspondence to the FCC, which was provided to TSG in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, demanded that government officials somehow fine or penalize Cyrus, singer Robin Thicke (upon whom Cyrus grinded), and the network for the August 25 broadcast.
However, the FCC only has authority to sanction broadcast television outlets--like CBS or NBC--for indecent conduct, not cable networks. So the complaints sent to the agency by outraged, scarred, and offended Americans must, statutorily, fall on deaf ears.
But that does not lessen their pure entertainment value, as seen in the following sampling of the missives. Click on each excerpt for a larger version of the respective letters.
At least 13 dead in Navy Yard shooting; possible suspect at large (16 September 2013)
At least 13 people are dead and several others were wounded after a gunman opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, police said, spreading fear and chaos across the region as authorities sought to contain the panic.
The incident, in which the death toll rose almost hourly, represents the single worst loss of life in the District since an airliner plunged into the Potomac River in 1982, killing 78.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced the mounting number of casualties in a series of news conferences. The suspected shooter, identified by the FBI as Aaron Alexis, 34, living in Fort Worth, is among the 13 dead. Alexis was a military contractor, one official said.
But even hours after the rampage began, it was still unclear whether the shooting was the act of a lone gunman, or if other shooters were involved. Lanier initially said authorities were looking for two more potential shooters dressed in military style clothing. But shortly after she announced a detailed description of two suspects, city officials said one had been located and cleared.
The fight for food stamps (16 September 2013)
Four to six million Americans stand to lose benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a new bill pushes to cut funding by $40 billion. The move outraged SNAP advocates who argue it's a critical safety net for nearly 48 million Americans. Critics say SNAP has become too large to escape budget cuts. Will Congress find a solution before SNAP benefits expire on November 1? Join the conversation at 7:30pmET.
Keystone XL protesters arrested in downtown Houston (video) (16 September 2013)
Thirteen Keystone XL opponents were arrested Monday during a protest in downtown Houston after they refused to move from the front of pipeline owner TransCanada's offices.
The 13 activists were among dozens of demonstrators to gather outside of the office building at 717 Texas Ave., chanting slogans like "climate change has gone too far," as they stood in opposition to the pipeline. Keystone XL will move oil sands crude from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast if President Obama approves a connection that will extend across the international border.
Two former oil company employees, including an auditor for Exxon Mobil Corp. and a geologist for Chevron who quit this year, were among those arrested, said Becky Bond, political director of CREDO, one of the groups behind the demonstration.
Police advised those arrested that they faced up to a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.
"They feel strongly enough that they're going to take that risk," said Amanda Starbuck, a spokeswoman for the Rainforest Action Network, which also organized the protest.
PAM COMMENTARY: They appear to be standing on a public sidewalk, so... were these arrests a violation of First Amendment rights?
NAACP plans mass march on N.C. governor's mansion (16 September 2013)
The North Carolina branch of the NAACP plans a mass march around the governor's home to protest Republican-backed voting changes that critics say are designed to make it harder to vote for groups that lean toward Democrats.
The latest Moral Monday protest is to start this afternoon at First Baptist Church on South Wilmington Street and move to the nearby Executive Mansion.
Gov. Pat McCrory has touted the new election law that includes requiring voters to present specific kinds of government-issued identification at the polls. The measure McCrory signed last month has more than 40 other provisions, including an end to same-day voter registration and trimming early voting by a week.
Two new polls tell us Americans are very, very confused about Obamacare (16 September 2013)
Obamacare opens for enrollment in 15 days and, if two new polls are any indication, the White House has a whole lot of work to do in the next two weeks. Taken together, the polls from Pew Research Center/USA Today and Wall Street Journal/NBC News take a pretty good snapshot of where Americans are right now, just days before open enrollment starts. Let's get right to it.
The uninsured are unsure of what the health care law means. The Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll found that those most likely to benefit from the health care law are largely unaware of the overhaul--and also skeptical that they will use the new programs, when they launch on Oct. 1. From the Journal's Louise Radnofsky:
"Among the uninsured, 76% of respondents said they didn't understand the law and how it would affect them. Only 32% of the uninsured thought they were 'fairly' or 'very' likely to use the exchanges. That proportion was even lower among people who are currently getting insurance on the individual market. Of those, 23% believed they would use the exchanges."
Syria crisis: UN report confirms sarin gas 'war crime' (16 September 2013)
A UN report says sarin gas was used in a rocket attack in the Syrian capital, Damascus, last month, although it has not attributed blame.
"This is a war crime," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
US allegations that the government was responsible led to threats of military action and then a US-Russia deal for Syria to make safe its chemical arms.
World powers will now try to hammer out a UN Security Council resolution.
Earlier, UN investigators said they were probing 14 alleged chemical attacks in Syria since September 2011.
Meanwhile, Turkey said it had shot down a Syrian helicopter close to its border. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the aircraft was engaged by fighter jets after violating Turkish air space.
Are Latinos Turning Away From Traditional Media For Information? (16 September 2013)
NPR's Tell Me More with Michel Martin is hosting a Google+ Hangout on air, focusing on "Emerging Latinos and Innovations."
Latinos are an emerging force in social media. According to the ratings company Nielsen, "Hispanic adults are 25 percent more likely to follow a brand and 18 percent more likely to follow a celebrity than the general online population."
Two of Tell Me More's regular contributors, Aracely Panameno and Manny Ruiz, shared these thoughts in advance of our Hangout.
Panameno, of the Center for Responsible Lending, says Latinos are the "come-from-behind kids" when it comes to digital media.
"Our communities accessed the Internet on the palm of their hands through smartphones," Panameno says. "Early on, few Latino families could purchase computers and Internet service at home. As cellphone technology improved, coverage grew, and data plans came down in price. Latinos embraced technology and never looked back."
Hawaii molasses spill less delicious, more disastrous than it sounds (16 September 2013)
Um, did you hear about the gigantic molasses spill in Hawaii last week? Because despite sounding like a cute Candyland mishap, it's killing thousands of fish. Honolulu Civil Beat:
"State officials are rushing to head off an environmental and health disaster in Honolulu Harbor, where nearly a quarter million gallons of molasses from a ruptured pipeline have caused a massive marine die-off.
"On Wednesday, colorful surgeonfish, pufferfish, and eels were swaying limp or lifeless in the currents."
Health Department employee Gary Gill said it was "the worst environmental damage to sea life" in Hawaii's history, according to NBC. The molasses is sucking the oxygen out of the water, suffocating fish, eels, and crabs, and then the decaying fish are making the situation worse. It's setting off a huge chain reaction:
"The massive numbers of dead fish could even cause algae blooms that further deplete the water's oxygen levels. Algae blooms can sicken or kill fish, as well as create elevated toxins and bacterial growth that can make people ill, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."
Golden apple or forbidden fruit? Following the money on GMOs (16 September 2013)
Farmers pay more to buy the GM seed, and more for the herbicides to treat herbicide-resistant crops, but they save on labor costs. Rather than meticulously spritzing individual weeds by hand to avoid killing the crop, farmers can quickly spray an entire field when using herbicide-resistant plants, Kimbrell said.
Beneficiary No. 3? There is none, according to Kimbrell. "These companies have completely failed, in over 30 years, to come up with a trait that benefits a consumer. Nobody gets up in the morning wanting to buy a genetically engineered food."
I could think of exceptions: Papaya genetically engineered to resist ringspot virus is more appealing to many consumers than diseased fruit. But these are exceptions that prove the rule; the vast majority of transgenic plants are designed to make farmers, rather than eaters, happy.
What about price? I asked Kimbrell. Do we eaters see lower prices because of genetic modification?
"No. There are no lower prices. GMOs have not lowered prices at all. They have massively increased prices for seed."
The giant jellyfish invasion mystery (16 September 2013)
TSUSHIMA ISLAND, JAPAN--The gelatinous masses on the deck of the Myoho-maru could charitably be described as the colour of weak tea. They quivered as the boat pitched in the choppy morning waves. The blobs had been pulled in from the sea along with an octopus, a clutch of squid and a thousand frantically flopping finfish, the day's intended catch.
Yoshifumi Sakumoto, the fisherman who captains the Myoho-maru, accidentally stepped on the jelly mess and skidded before regaining his balance.
But underfoot, the blobs were not nearly as troublesome as underwater and intact. They were pieces of Nemopilema nomurai, the giant jellyfish that in recent years have swarmed Japan's seas with alarming frequency, decimating fisheries and damaging the country's marine economy.
In the last century, Nomura "blooms," as dramatic jellyfish aggregations are called, were recorded just three times: in 1920, 1958 and 1995. Then, starting in 2002, blooms hit six times in eight years. In 2009, the last and worst bloom year, a Japanese fishing trawler capsized trying to pull a net full of Nomura, which can grow to the size of a Smart car.
Amid slow economic recovery, more Americans identify as 'lower class' (15 September 2013)
Chris Roquemore once thought of himself as working class. But it's hard to keep thinking that, he said, when you're not working.
The 28-year-old father said he sparred with his supervisors at a retail chain about taking time off after his mother died -- and ended up unemployed. Since then, Roquemore has worked odd jobs and started studying nursing at Long Beach City College, trying to get "a career, not a job." All those changes, in turn, changed the way he thought of himself.
Roquemore is among the small but surging share of Americans who identify themselves as "lower class." Last year, a record 8.4% of Americans put themselves in that category -- more than at any other time in the four decades that the question has been asked on the General Social Survey, a project of the independent research organization Norc at the University of Chicago.
The rising numbers surprised some researchers and activists even in light of the bruising economy. For decades, the vast majority of Americans have seen themselves as "middle class" or "working class." Even during earlier downturns, so few people called themselves lower class that scholars routinely lumped them with working class. Activists for the poor often avoid the term, deeming it an insult.
How to Keep the NSA Out of Your Computer (15 September 2013)
JOSEPH BONICIOLI mostly uses the same internet you and I do. He pays a service provider a monthly fee to get him online. But to talk to his friends and neighbors in Athens, Greece, he's also got something much weirder and more interesting: a private, parallel internet.
He and his fellow Athenians built it. They did so by linking up a set of rooftop wifi antennas to create a "mesh," a sort of bucket brigade that can pass along data and signals. It's actually faster than the Net we pay for: Data travels through the mesh at no less than 14 megabits a second, and up to 150 Mbs a second, about 30 times faster than the commercial pipeline I get at home. Bonicioli and the others can send messages, video chat, and trade huge files without ever appearing on the regular internet. And it's a pretty big group of people: Their Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network has more than 1,000 members, from Athens proper to nearby islands. Anyone can join for free by installing some equipment. "It's like a whole other web," Bonicioli told me recently. "It's our network, but it's also a playground."
Indeed, the mesh has become a major social hub. There are blogs, discussion forums, a Craigslist knockoff; they've held movie nights where one member streams a flick and hundreds tune in to watch. There's so much local culture that they even programmed their own mini-Google to help meshers find stuff. "It changes attitudes," Bonicioli says. "People start sharing a lot. They start getting to know someone next door--they find the same interests; they find someone to go out and talk with." People have fallen in love after meeting on the mesh.
The Athenians aren't alone. Scores of communities worldwide have been building these roll-your-own networks--often because a mesh can also be used as a cheap way to access the regular internet. But along the way people are discovering an intriguing upside: Their new digital spaces are autonomous and relatively safe from outside meddling. In an era when governments and corporations are increasingly tracking our online movements, the user-controlled networks are emerging as an almost subversive concept. "When you run your own network," Bonicioli explains, "nobody can shut it down."
Japan switches off last nuclear reactor (15 September 2013)
Japan has started the process of switching off its last working nuclear reactor for a scheduled inspection with no restart date in sight due to public hostility towards atomic power.
The move Sunday leaves the world's third largest economy without atomic energy for the second time since the Fukushima crisis erupted in March 2011.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has openly supported the use of nuclear energy, but the public has remained largely opposed to it for fears of possible serious accidents following the world's worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Kansai Electric Power will gradually take offline the No. 4 reactor at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture in western Japan.
The work began Sunday evening, with the reactor expected to stop power generation after several hours before coming to a complete stop Monday, according to the utility.
Japan was previously without any nuclear energy in May 2012, when all of the country's 50 commercial reactors had stopped for scheduled checkups, with utilities unable to restart them due to public opposition.
India tests nuclear-capable missile (15 September 2013)
India has successfully test-fired for a second time a nuclear-capable missile that can reach Beijing and much of Europe, bringing a step closer production of a weapon designed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent.
"The test was successful," Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said on Sunday.
"It hit the target in a predefined trajectory. It met all the mission objectives."
A video distributed by the DRDO showed the Agni-V rocket blasting off from a forest clearing on an island off India's east coast state of Odisha.
The Agni-V is the most advanced version of the indigenously-built Agni, or Fire, series, part of a program that started in the 1960s.
Earlier versions could reach old rival Pakistan and western China.
Deadly 1,000-year floods strike Colorado (15 September 2013)
Biblical hell has broken out in Colorado, where more than six inches of rain fell in 24 hours, contributing to flash floods that killed at least three people.
(Before you complain about our use of "biblical," note that it's the word federal forecasters chose to describe the flooding in an official update on the National Weather Service website.)
"It's insane right now, I've lived in Colorado my whole life, and this is nothing that I've ever, ever seen before," Andra Coberly, spokesperson for the YMCA in Boulder, where soggy residents were taking shelter, told NBC. "Streets were turned into rivers and streams were turned into lakes." From the NBC report:
"The torrential downpours that lashed parts of Colorado drove hundreds of people from their homes, shut down Boulder and the nearby university, and had police and fire responders scrambling all day as they worked to help stranded residents in what they described as a still-developing disaster."
AP IMPACT: Many US bridges old, risky and rundown (15 September 2013)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Motorists coming off the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge into Washington are treated to a postcard-perfect view of the U.S. Capitol. The bridge itself, however, is about as ugly as it gets: The steel underpinnings have thinned since the structure was built in 1950, and the span is pocked with rust and crumbling concrete.
District of Columbia officials were so worried about a catastrophic failure that they shored up the horizontal beams to prevent the bridge from falling into the Anacostia River.
And safety concerns about the Douglass bridge, which is used by more than 70,000 vehicles daily, are far from unique.
An Associated Press analysis of 607,380 bridges in the most recent federal National Bridge Inventory showed that 65,605 were classified as "structurally deficient" and 20,808 as "fracture critical." Of those, 7,795 were both -- a combination of red flags that experts say indicate significant disrepair and similar risk of collapse.
Silicon Valley 'well' backs world water charity (15 September 2013)
At age 28, Scott Harrison felt he had spent a decade of his life selfishly.
For 10 years he had been promoting nightclubs and wanted to give back to the world. So he volunteered with a group that exposed him to poverty and disease around the globe.
Most afflictions, he found, started with water.
"We would see people drinking from swamps and ponds and rivers, sources so unthinkable," said Harrison, now 38. "It seemed simple to attack the root cause by giving people clean water."
He founded Charity: water in New York to tackle the world's water crisis after returning from a volunteer trip to Liberia in 2006. The organization relies heavily on large donors from Silicon Valley, who are responsible for one third of its funding.
Poop power: Ghana turning human waste into energy (15 September 2013)
ACCRA, GHANA--Standing on the beach, Fredrik Sunesson points to a thick, 100-metre-long brown line in the ocean.
"Would you believe it?" he says. "That's all human poop."
This is "Lavender Hill," an unexpectedly pastoral name for an area that smells only of feces. For the past 20 years, 150 dump trucks, each full of human waste from Ghana's capital city, have been unloaded here every day. The sewage goes directly into the ocean.
"Sanitation is a challenge," says Nuumo Blafo III, a spokesman for the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), the government organization in charge of the city's waste management.
But it might not be for long.
Groundbreaking disposal methods, which leapfrog Western technologies, are now allowing human waste to be transformed into fertilizer, biofuel and biodiesel.
November auction set for Virginia landmark Natural Bridge, caverns and hotel (15 September 2013)
NATURAL BRIDGE, Va. (AP) - A November auction has been set for a Virginia landmark and tourism attraction once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
The privately owned Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County will be auctioned off on Nov. 14, along with Natural Bridge Caverns and a 150-room hotel.
The 1,600-acre property includes the 215-foot-high limestone arch that was carved naturally by the creek that runs under it.
Roanoke-based Woltz & Associates is marketing the tourist attraction that has drawn visitors for hundreds of years.
The property's primary owner is Washington, D.C., businessman Angelo Puglisi. There were no buyers in 2007, when the entire property was listed for sale for $39 million.
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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