Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2013
News from the Week of 29th of September to 5th of October 2013
Labs that test safety of custom-made drugs fall under scrutiny (5 October 2013)
Thousands of contaminated or potentially tainted medications have made it to market over the past year after laboratories responsible for testing custom-made pharmaceutical products failed to follow proper procedures, FDA records show.
The Food and Drug Administration uncovered the problems during a series of surprise inspections at dozens of specialty pharmacies over the past year, prompted by last fall's deadly meningitis outbreak tied to tainted steroid injections made by one of the pharmacies, New England Compounding Center (NECC).
The FDA found unsanitary conditions and sloppy procedures at 60 specialty pharmacies. Behind each one of these pharmacies, known as compounders, independent testing laboratories were affirming that the drugs were safe, sterile and mixed at the proper strength, FDA records show.
The FDA cited five labs for more than 70 safety problems, including one case in which the repeated appearance of bacteria in a so-called clean room where sterile drugs were being tested called into question the integrity of the testing procedures.
Playing Chicken With Food Safety (5 October 2013)
The other day there was this guy in a chicken suit on Pennsylvania Avenue protesting outside the White House. Silly, but the reason the chicken and other demonstrators had crossed the avenue was to deliver a petition of more than half a million names, speaking out against new rules the US Department of Agriculture wants to put into effect -- bad rules that would transfer much of the work inspecting pork and chicken and turkey meat from trained government inspectors to the processing companies themselves. Talk about putting the fox in the henhouse!
The revised regulations also call for a substantial speeding up of the disassembly line along which workers use sharp knives and often painful, repetitive hand motions to cut up and clean carcasses of dirt, blood and other contaminants that can cause infection and sickness. Not only will this increase in speed -- by 25 percent or more -- raise the chance of injury, it makes it easier to miss anything wrong -- even deadly -- with the meat. To compensate for that, the rules also call for an increase in the use of antimicrobial chemicals sprayed on the meat -- but those sprays may actually damage the health of the workers. Inspectors and meat packing employees report instances of asthma, burns, skin rashes, sinus trouble and other respiratory ailments, some of them severe. What's more, when complaints were made about health or hygiene, the response from employers often came in the form of threats and reprimands.
According to the Agriculture Department, their plan will increase food safety, but early last month, the Government Accountability Office -- the GAO -- reported on a years-old pilot program for some of these new rules and determined that the data on which they were based was, in the words of The Washington Post, "incomplete and antiquated." One study used data that was more than 20 years old.
The Agriculture Department says the new rules will save the Federal budget $30 million annually, but compared to the more than $256 million it will save the poultry industry every year, that's chickenfeed. In reality, as Tom Philpott, the food and agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones magazine, succinctly put it: "...The Obama administration has been pushing a deregulatory sop to a powerful industry based on a shoddy analysis."
Former NYPD sergeant questions sister's killing by police in Washington (5 October 2013)
Law enforcement sources said Carey did not shoot a gun and there was no indication she had one.
"I'm more than certain that there was no need for a gun to be used (by police) when there was no gunfire coming from the vehicle," Valarie Carey said. "I don't know how their protocols are in D.C., but I do know how they are in New York City."
Representatives from the Capitol Police and the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department could not be reached for comment early on Saturday.
The Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement the shooting is under investigation by its internal affairs division with assistance from the Secret Service, the Capitol Police and the FBI.
A Secret Service officer was struck by Carey's car outside the White House during the incident on Thursday, said U.S. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan.
PAM COMMENTARY: Have they ever heard of shooting the tires out? When a car is the only weapon, it's not hard to disable with a gun. It seems everyone in DC's a paranoid these days, seeing everyone acting strangely as a big-league terrorist.
Medical insanity: Prozac prescriptions rise sharply in family pets (5 October 2013)
(NaturalNews) The culture of prescription drug addiction in America seems to be spreading to the pet population, as an increasing number of pet owners opt to medicate their furry family members into behavioral compliance with mind-altering mood medications like Prozac. A recent report by MyFoxNY.com explains that more pet owners are choosing to dope up their pets with calming meds in order to address behavioral issues rather than simply spend more time exercising and playing with them, which is what they really need.
New York City-based pet expert and trainer Andrea Arden is deeply concerned about this disturbing trend, which she says has seen a massive uptick within the past 10 years. The overall number of pet prescriptions being filled for dangerous mind-altering drugs like Prozac and Xanax, for instance, is simply staggering, and the root cause of the issue likely has nothing to do with pets themselves and everything to do with overly busy and even irresponsible pet owners.
"Animals are expected to live more constrained lives," explained Arden to MyFoxNY.com. "I think people are busier and busier, especially with the economic downfall. They're working more so they have less time for their pets, and I think as a result we're seeing more behavioral problems with animals."
Back in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually granted approval for a Prozac medication specifically designed for dogs. Drug giant Eli Lilly, in conjunction with Elanco, created a once-daily chewable Prozac drug known as Reconcile, which quells the nervousness and anxiety often experienced by dogs when their owners leave the house or are gone for long periods of time.
15,000 women turned away from shelters (5 October 2013)
EDMONTON - Alberta's 42 women's shelters turned away almost 15,000 potential clients during a 12-month period in 2012 and 2013, according to data released this week by The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.
"This certainly validates what shelter directors have been telling us from across the province," said the organization's executive director, Jan Reimer, on Friday.
Women have been turned away for reasons such as unavailable beds or because other services were considered more appropriate for their needs. The shelters accepted almost 6,000 clients between April 2012 and March 2013.
A lack of affordable housing and poor income assistance in Alberta often contribute to longer shelter stays, Reimer said.
"They end up staying longer to try to find that housing, and in the meantime, because they're staying longer, there's not a place for other women coming in. That exacerbates turn-away rates in the province."
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimates the current vacancy rate in Edmonton is 1.4 per cent. The organization predicts the average cost for a two-bedroom apartment in the city will hit $1,120 this fall.
NSA and GCHQ target Tor network that protects anonymity of web users (4 October 2013)
The National Security Agency has made repeated attempts to develop attacks against people using Tor, a popular tool designed to protect online anonymity, despite the fact the software is primarily funded and promoted by the US government itself.
Top-secret NSA documents, disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveal that the agency's current successes against Tor rely on identifying users and then attacking vulnerable software on their computers. One technique developed by the agency targeted the Firefox web browser used with Tor, giving the agency full control over targets' computers, including access to files, all keystrokes and all online activity.
But the documents suggest that the fundamental security of the Tor service remains intact. One top-secret presentation, titled 'Tor Stinks', states: "We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time." It continues: "With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users," and says the agency has had "no success de-anonymizing a user in response" to a specific request.
Another top-secret presentation calls Tor "the king of high-secure, low-latency internet anonymity".
Tor -- which stands for The Onion Router -- is an open-source public project that bounces its users' internet traffic through several other computers, which it calls "relays" or "nodes", to keep it anonymous and avoid online censorship tools.
It is relied upon by journalists, activists and campaigners in the US and Europe as well as in China, Iran and Syria, to maintain the privacy of their communications and avoid reprisals from government. To this end, it receives around 60% of its funding from the US government, primarily the State Department and the Department of Defense -- which houses the NSA.
Shock: Obamacare fines to be seized directly from Americans' bank accounts (3 October 2013)
Fines? Home levies? Seizing fines from bank accounts?
"A man who attempted to sign up for Obamacare online was told that a fine of over $4,000 dollars a year for refusing to take out mandatory health insurance could be taken directly from his bank account, and that his drivers license would be suspended and a federal tax lien placed against his home, according to an entry on the HealthCare.gov Facebook page."
If that information is legitimate, Obamacare's implementation is going to be a helluva lot more draconian than anyone, from Nancy Pelosi, to Harry Reid, to President Obama himself, led the country to believe.
Potential Obamacare customer Will Sheehan says that, when he tried to sign up for Obamacare and then register to opt out, he received a most threatening warning. His full post reads:
"I actually made it through this morning at 8:00 A.M. I have a preexisting condition (Type 1 Diabetes) and my income base was 45K-55K annually I chose tier 2 'Silver Plan' and my monthly premiums came out to $597.00 with $13,988 yearly deductible!!! There is NO POSSIBLE way that I can afford this so I 'opt-out' and chose to continue along with no insurance.
"I received an email tonight at 5:00 P.M. informing me that my fine would be $4,037 and could be attached to my yearly income tax return. Then you make it to the 'REPERCUSSIONS PORTION' for 'non-payment' of yearly fine. First, your drivers license will be suspended until paid, and if you go 24 consecutive months with 'Non-Payment' and you happen to be a home owner, you will have a federal tax lien placed on your home. You can agree to give your bank information so that they can easy 'Automatically withdraw' your 'penalties' weekly, bi-weekly or monthly! This by no means is 'Free' or even 'Affordable.'"
Sheehan also said that the site requires you to input all of your personal information before providing you with information regarding costs, which means a database of "insured" people is being built, according to Infowars.com. He went on to say that, since he couldn't afford the coverage, he'll simply have to forego it, thus breaking the law, and pay the fine - which of course now leaves him with nothing in the way of health insurance coverage (and with a major health condition).
"A Corporate Trojan Horse": Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws (4 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
LORI WALLACH: Well, one of the most important things to understand is it's not really mainly about trade. I guess the way to think about it is as a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.
For instance, there are the same investor privileges that promote job offshoring to lower-wage countries. There is a ban on Buy Local procurement, so that corporations have a right to do sourcing, basically taking our tax dollars, and instead of investing them in our local economy, sending them offshore. There are new rights to, for instance, have freedom to enter other countries and take natural resources, a right for mining, a right for oil, gas, without approval.
And then there's a whole set of very worrisome issues relating to Internet freedom. Through sort of the backdoor of the copyright chapter of TPP is a whole chunk of SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, that activism around the country successfully derailed a year ago. Think about all the things that would be really hard to get into effect as a corporation in public, a lot of them rejected here and in the other 11 countries, and that is what's bundled in to the TPP. And every country would be required to change its laws domestically to meet these rules. The binding provision is, each country shall ensure the conformity of domestic laws, regulations and procedures.
Now, the only reason I know that level of detail is because a few texts have leaked, and I have been following the negotiations and grilling negotiators from other countries to try and find between the lines what the hell is going on; otherwise, totally secret.
Man who set himself on fire on the Mall dies of injuries (4 October 2013)
A man who was critically injured when he poured gasoline over his body and set himself on fire on the Mall on Friday has died of his injuries, according to D.C. police.
The man was airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Medical Center, where he died about 9 p.m. Friday, said Officer Araz Alali, a D.C. police spokesman.
The man could not immediately be identified because his burns were so severe. Medical personnel will try to determine who he was using DNA analysis, Alali said.
Authorities did not say what might have motivated him.
Ottawa using U.S. government shutdown to advance campaign for Keystone XL pipeline (4 October 2013)
WASHINGTON--Four days into the U.S. government shutdown, the Blame Canada meme popped up Friday with suggestions Ottawa may be meddling in Washington's fiscal nightmare to advance its perennial quest for a new oil pipeline.
The inference came in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper from Tom Steyer, the San Francisco hedge fund billionaire and vocal opponent of Trans Canada Corp.'s Keystone XL project.
Specifically, Steyer wants to know more about a possible Canadian role in the placement of approval of the pipeline in a laundry list of Republican demands to end the crisis, which has thrown all but "essential" federal workers out of work -- some 800,000 Americans.
Linking a new pro-Keystone lobbying campaign in Washington to Harper's assertion last week that Canada won't "take no for an answer," Steyer asks "whether your office is working hand in hand with TransCanada to try and exploit the current situation in Washington, D.C., at the expense of the American people."
Harper, travelling in Asia on a round of Pacific Rim diplomacy, offered no response.
But here in D.C., the suggesting was met with eye-rolls. Not only is the Keystone XL approval process not getting any faster, sources in Washington say, the interaction between Canadian and U.S. officials has come to a standstill.
Virginia Democrats sue to stop use of voter 'purge list' (2 October 2013)
A federal lawsuit filed by the Virginia Democratic Party claims that some voters in the state may be kept from casting a ballot in November after their names were wrongly placed on a list meant to weed out fraud.
The court action names Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II as defendants and alleges that there were political motivations behind a "purge list" of about 57,000 voters whose names were also found on voter rolls in other states.
The lawsuit, which comes as the contentious governor's race enters its last month, contends that the list is inaccurate and that many of those voters are eligible to vote Nov. 5 in Virginia.
Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, the complaint seeks to stop state and local election officials from striking those names from voter rolls. The names were discovered as part of a data-sharing program with 25 other states, which the lawsuit contends is "deeply flawed."
Hillary Clinton: It's Not Her Turn (2 October 2013)
Here's how I see it: America has a lot of problems, the most acute of which is the yawning gap between the rich and everyone else. According to Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of all income gains in the so-called recovery, while the bottom 99 percent barely gained at all. And the chances of anyone breaking into that uppermost echelon are dwindling. As a slew of recent studies have shown, America has less class mobility than it used to and less than Canada or Western Europe; an American child born in the lowest quintile has just a 6 percent chance of rising to the top quintile--42 percent will stay at the bottom.
These grim data are more than just an abstraction; they are, as Peter Beinart argues in a Daily Beast article on "The Rise of the New New Left," the defining condition of the millennial generation, who face scarcer job prospects, lower wages, fewer benefits and a weaker social safety net than those before them. All that anger and discontent that boiled up at Occupy Wall Street two years ago wasn't swept away with the encampments. It's simmering, waiting, and even if elections aren't always the conduit for youth insurrections, it's hard to see a whole cohort sitting the next big one out as the American dream crumbles around them.
It's also hard to imagine a Democrat of national stature more ill-equipped to speak to this populist mood than Hillary Clinton. Yes, her tenure at State gave her the rehabilitating Texts From Hillary Clinton Tumblr and the thickest diplomatic passport the world has ever known, but a taste for class warfare it most certainly did not. To wit: her decision to house her post-cabinet, pre-campaign apparatus at the foundation her husband started, now rechristened the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The organization, and the related Clinton Global Initiative, carries some lofty intentions--planting trees in sub-Saharan Africa, empowering women and girls, treating HIV and malaria, and saving endangered elephants. But as Alec MacGillis captured in a devastating feature for The New Republic, it also serves as a kind of global plutocrats' social club--a Davos on the Hudson where corporate executives pledge millions for the privilege of rubbing elbows with celebrities and world leaders. They also, according to MacGillis, throw some lucre back to the Clinton apparatchiks who greased the wheels, like Doug Band, Bill's former body man, who managed to turn his lowly position as jacket holder and BlackBerry keeper into a consulting business that afforded him $8.8 million in Manhattan real estate.
In glittering Clintonland, Band is now on the outs, but he was always small fry. The foundation counts among its major partners billionaires and corporate giants like Walmart, Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, Mike Bloomberg, Hollywood mogul Steve Bing and Paychex chairman Tom Golisano, who habitually ran for New York governor until he moved to Florida in 2009 because, as he explained in a pique-filled op-ed, he'd save "$13,800 every single day" on taxes. Maybe HRC won't solicit the advice of all these folks, but she surely will solicit their donations. And once she does, how keen will she be to tell them that their gains are ill gotten, that they'll need to pay more, not in tax-deductible charitable contributions, but in taxes?
If Hillary wins, it will likely be because she scared off potential insurgents and shut down the debate early. If her campaign gets hold of the Obama small-donor list, the only credible countervailing force to Clinton's unmatchable war chest and elite connections, it's game over. And once in office, how can she not reward the loyalists who helped her out? The prospect of a Clinton restoration, frankly, fills me with dread. I want Terry McAuliffe to beat Ken Cuccinelli, because Virginia is for lovers, not cavemen, but can he please stay on the other side of the Potomac? And just how many horcruxes need to be destroyed before Larry Summers is forever vanquished from public life?
Shutdown fun: Stephen Colbert officiates and Smokey Bear is best man at the awesomest wedding ever (4 October 2013)
One of the results of the government shutdown: no weddings at national monuments. Another result: Since the national parks are closed, Smokey Bear is just sitting around twiddling his thumbs. And last night, these two great tastes tasted great together on the Colbert Report, as Stephen stepped up to marry a couple whose Jefferson Memorial ceremony was threatened by the shutdown.
Of course, since they had Smokey Bear as their best man, this couple gets all kinds of magical gifts from the Parks Department -- inner tranquility, the ability to spew prodigious amounts of steam approximately every 90 minutes, imperviousness to forest fires, animal language. Or, well, they would get those, if it weren't for the shutdown, but right now the staff member in charge of mystical gifts is on furlough. Bad luck, guys!
The Scary Truth About Antibiotic Overprescription (4 October 2013)
When a patient complains of a sore throat or bronchitis, doctors prescribe antibiotics much more often than is medically necessary. That's the main takeaway of a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Findings from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey reveal that doctors prescribed antibiotics to 60 percent of sore throat patients--despite the fact that the drugs are only thought to be necessary in about 10 percent of cases. For acute bronchitis, antibiotics are not recommended at all, yet the researchers--a team from Harvard--found that doctors prescribed antibiotics to an astonishing 73 percent of patients diagnosed with the condition.
The number of doctor visits for acute bronchitis tripled between 1996 to 2010, from about 1.1 million visits to 3.4 million visits. The number of sore throat visits actually declined from 7.5 percent of all visits in 1997 to 4.3 percent in 2010--and yet the rate of antibiotic prescription remained consistent.
Another interesting finding: the growing popularity of expensive, broad-spectrum antibiotics such as azithromycin over tried-and-true strep-targeting drugs like penicillin. Last year, the New York Times noted that azithromycin "may increase the likelihood of sudden death" in adults who have or are at risk for heart disease. In that piece, Dr. John G. Bartlett, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the Times that he believed that overprescription of azithromycin could also contribute to antibiotc resistance. "We use azithromycin for an awful lot of things, and we abuse it terribly," he said. "It's very convenient. Patients love it. 'Give me the Z-Pak.' For most of where we use it, probably the best option is not to give an antibiotic, quite frankly."
If the looming threat of antibiotic resistance isn't reason enough for concern about doctors' free hand with antibiotics, there's also the considerable cost to our health care system--an estimated $500 million for antibiotics prescribed unnecessarily for sore throat alone between 1997 and 2010. If you include the cost of treating the side effects of unnecessary antibiotics such as diarrhea and yeast infections, the study's authors estimate that the cost would increase 40-fold.
Technology is improving prescription eyeglasses (4 October 2013)
Now, companies are designing a host of solutions to aid glasses wearers, including futuristic lenses and even an iPhone app that developers say can help people wean themselves off glasses.
One area of focus has been on reducing eyestrain for people who spend several hours a day staring at computers, tablets and smartphones. Many optometrists believe the light emitted from such devices could damage a viewer's eyesight over time, although that hasn't been conclusively proven.
Still, lens companies are rolling out a slew of new lenses that they say will help ward off those potentially harmful effects.
"Why would you take the risk? Let the science unfold and let us protect ourselves as it's unfolding," said Don Oakley, president of VSP Optics Group, which this year introduced its Unity with BluTech lenses at 30,000 eye doctor offices in the U.S.
Oil Drilling in Planet's Most Biodiverse Area Gets Green Light (4 October 2013)
Ecuador gave the OK on Thursday to oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park, an area some consider the most biodiverse place in the world.
The authorization by Ecuador's parliament follows President Correa's announcement in August that the country was abandoning an innovative conservation plan to use international funds to not drill in the Amazonian nature preserve.
Matt Finer, a scientist at the U.S.-based Center for International Environmental Law, had called the conservation initiative "the lone exception to the relentless expansion of hydrocarbon projects deeper into the most remote tracts of the western Amazon."
Now, however, two areas of the reserve will be open for fossil fuel exploitation.
The plans to bail out of the conservation plan have been met with strong opposition, and Reuters reports that 680,000 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum.
Texas Father Punishes Son By Publicly Making Him Hold Sign: "I Am A Bully" -- Video (4 October 2013)
Texas father has come up with a unique punishment that some are finding controversial to end his son's relentless bullying of others.
After his son got in trouble at school 7 times for bullying other students, Joe Lagares of Killeen, TX who takes bullying very seriously and wanted his 4th grader to take it seriously as well, so he took his son and made him stand on the very busy corner of Ft. Hood Street and W. Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Killian with a big neon sign which read: "I Am A Bully. HONK ! If You Hate Bullys"
Lagares had tried other forms of punishment, including grounding and extra chores, but not of them seemed to make a difference.
"I refuse to allow my child to be somebody else's pain. Ya know, we don't need another Columbine, and we don't need another Solomon Harris," Lagares said, referring to the gay teen who took his own life back in April after being bullied by his peers. "Ya know, we don't need that to happen, and I refuse for my child to be the cause of that."
PAM COMMENTARY: This may be an unconventional method, but parents need to intervene when their children are becoming criminally inclined. If Lagares manages to teach his child right from wrong, he could be saving his son from years of prison time.
US scientists boycott Nasa conference over China ban (4 October 2013)
Nasa is facing an extraordinary backlash from US researchers after it emerged that the space agency has banned Chinese scientists, including those working at US institutions, from a conference on grounds of national security.
Nasa officials rejected applications from Chinese nationals who hoped to attend the meeting at the agency's Ames research centre in California next month citing a law, passed in March, which prohibits anyone from China setting foot in a Nasa building.
The law is part of a broad and aggressive move initiated by congressman Frank Wolf, chair of the House appropriations committee, which has jurisdiction over Nasa. It aims to restrict the foreign nationals' access to Nasa facilities, ostensibly to counter espionage.
But the ban has angered many US scientists who say Chinese students and researchers in their labs are being discriminated against. A growing number of US scientists have now decided to boycott the meeting in protest, with senior academics withdrawing individually, or pulling out their entire research groups.
The conference is being held for US and international teams who work on Nasa's Kepler space telescope programme, which has been searching the cosmos for signs of planets beyond our solar system. The meeting is the most important event in the academic calendar for scientists who specialise in the field.
Alan Boss, co-organiser of the Kepler conference, refused to discuss the issue, but said: "This is not science, it's politics unfortunately."
Arlington cemetery cleanup upsets war dead's families (3 October 2013)
Over the past weeks, a quiet transformation has taken place in Section 60, leaving family members of the dead feeling hurt, saddened and bewildered. Today Section 60 resembles the quiet cemetery of an older generation's war, not the raw, messy burial ground of one still being fought.
The changes began in August when cemetery officials decided that Section 60 should be subject to the same rules as the rest of the grounds. "The policy hasn't changed," said Jennifer Lynch, a spokeswoman for the cemetery. "The policy is the same, but the enforcement is different." She said the cemetery was responding to complaints that the section had become too disorderly.
Most families discovered the change when they visited the grounds and found only tape marks where laminated pictures of their loved ones had been hanging for the last several years. Some of the mementos "deemed worthy of retention" were gathered by Army historians for storage at Fort Belvoir, according to a statement from the cemetery. Most appear to have been thrown in the trash.
Belle's son, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Kirven, was killed eight years ago in Afghanistan. Ever since, Belle has decorated her son's grave for his birthday, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick's Day and Easter, leaving the adornments up for two or three weeks and then tucking them away in her attic.
"That's my way of remembering Nicholas," she said. "All these silly holidays."
Another mother, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2005, recently left small glass hearts on the graves of her son and several other soldiers. When she returned to the cemetery the next day, everything was gone. "I cried. It was like no one cared anymore," Teresa Arciola said.
Government shutdown: Do national parks really need to be barricaded? (3 October 2013)
As the last campers were being ushered out of Yosemite National Park on Thursday, some Americans were protesting what they see as the unnecessary barricading of the public's wild lands because of the government shutdown.
That shutdown, now in its third day, has closed hundreds of national park areas as well as facilities such as boat ramps and campgrounds in federal forests like Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia.
But from Washington, D.C., to Wisconsin and from Colorado to Tennessee, some Americans are chafing against what they believe are politically motivated closures aimed at pinching people where it hurts and reminding them about the importance of a strong central government. To critics, the question is: If the government is of, by, and for the people, then shouldn't they be able to walk on federal property unhindered, no matter what the politics of the moment in Washington?
The explanation from officials is simple: Without agents able to patrol, keeping the areas open invites liability problems. What's more, the National Park Service's mission is to aggressively protect America's natural treasures, which have now been left unattended by the furloughs.
Stink bugs are plentiful in Mid-Atlantic states, and they're ready to come indoors for winter (29 September 2013)
Guess who's coming for a visit. Or, more precisely, what. Here's a hint: It has six skinny legs, never knocks and kind of stinks.
As the fall air turns cold, swarms of brown marmorated stink bugs are ready to crawl from woods and fields -- especially in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware -- in search of a warm spot to spend the winter, and any house will do.
So get ready. After last year's steep decline, favorable conditions this year have apparently resulted in a population boom.
"The numbers have just been way up all summer long heading into August," said Mike Raupp, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. "The data coming in says numbers are pretty high."
Woman killed in DC car chase suffered from depression, mother says (4 October 2013)
Idella Carey said her 34-year-old daughter had "no history of violence" and that she didn't know why she was in Washington on Thursday.
ABC News reported that Miriam Carey was a dental hygienist. Her boss, Dr. Steven Oken, described her as a person who was "always happy."
"I would never in a million years believe that she would do something like this," he said. "It's the furthest thing from anything I would think she would do, especially with her child in the car. I am floored that it would be her."
The chain of events began when Carey drove her car past a set of barricades and sped onto a driveway leading to the White House Thursday. After she couldn't get through a second barrier, she spun her car in the opposite direction, flipping a Secret Service officer over the hood as she sped away, said B.J. Campbell, a tourist from Portland, Ore.
Miriam Carey, driver shot near U.S. Capitol, lived with toddler daughter in Stamford, Conn. (4 October 2013)
STAMFORD, Conn. -- The driver of the black Infiniti had a toddler with her, confounding everyone who watched the car crash through barriers and lead police through the heart of high-security Washington.
Law enforcement officials said the vehicle was registered to a 34-year-old mother named Miriam Carey, a dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn. They think it was Carey, with her 1-year-old daughter sitting behind her, who flattened barricades outside the White House, struck officers and then set off at high speed down Pennsylvania Avenue.
D.C. police confirmed that the driver was shot and killed after careening around the Capitol grounds and crashing at Second Street NE. There was no sign that she was armed, police said. Video images showed a young child, her hair in braids, being carried by an officer to the back of a patrol car.
The initial portrait of Carey that emerged suggested a person unlikely to be found at the center of such violent drama. Carey, according to public documents, friends and family members, had finished college and established a work history as a dental hygienist.
As dolphin die-off nears record high, shutdown puts investigation on ice (3 October 2013)
The viral epidemic that's killing off mid-Atlantic bottlenose dolphins is entering its fourth month and there is no slow down in sight. The body count has crossed 600, and this "unusual mortality event" is set to upstage the last major dolphin die-off -- one in 1987 and 1988 that killed some 700 bottlenoses -- as the worst die-off yet.
Now, the government shutdown is threatening to stall the investigation of the event, leaving research centers with freezers full of dead dolphins and not enough scientists to study them.
"If this [shutdown] runs into weeks and longer, we're talking about significant impacts to our ability to investigate this mortality event," Mark Swingle, director of research and conservation at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, told NBC News.
The dolphins are migrating south, and Virginia, the hardest hit state, seems to be past the worst of it: only 80 strandings in September, down from 172 dolphins in August. But the pace is "still demanding," Swingle said. The center relied heavily on volunteer responders and researchers, some of who have been furloughed because of the shutdown.
US indicts 13 suspected members of Anonymous hacking collective (3 October 2013)
The United States brought criminal charges against 13 suspected members of the hacking group Anonymous on Thursday for allegedly attacking government, credit card and lobbying websites in a campaign in support of internet file-sharing.
A grand jury indictment of the 13 people was filed in US district court in Alexandria, Virginia, charging them with conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to protected computers as part of Anonymous' Operation Payback.
The loose-knit international group known as Anonymous has been in frequent battle with US authorities, not only over file-sharing but also other ideological causes such as the willingness of financial institutions to process donations for the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
In March 2012, US prosecutors in New York charged six suspected leaders of Anonymous for wreaking havoc on government and corporate websites.
The hackers launched Operation Payback in retaliation for the 2010 shutdown of Pirate Bay, a Swedish internet service that allowed users to share files such as films and music, according to Thursday's indictment.
They used what are known as denial-of-service attacks to overwhelm websites and make them inaccessible, starting with the website of the US film industry lobbying group, the Motion Picture Association of America, the indictment said.
'Shield' law prompts soul-searching by news media (2 October 2013)
A bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and pending in the full Senate, offers protection for "persons connected with the news media" who are served with subpoenas or other court orders seeking unpublished information.
But some reporters and media watchdogs say the bill, however well-intentioned, may not help journalists protect their sources, and might even erode press freedoms.
"A shield law for journalists might seem like a good idea, but it isn't -- it's actually a terrible idea," says Matthew Ingram, a senior writer for the tech news site GigaOm, writing on the affiliated blog Paid Content.
"What it really does is allow the government to define who gets to be a journalist and who doesn't. And that's dangerous."
That sentiment was echoed by Matt Drudge, an Internet journalist who created one of the early news aggregator sites, The Drudge Report.
"Gov't declaring who qualifies for freedom of press in digital age is ridiculous! It belongs to anyone for any reason. No amendment necessary," Drudge said in a tweet.
The Senate panel approved the measure 13-5 after a heated debate, during which California Senator Dianne Feinstein argued the protection should apply only to "real reporters" and not "everyone who has a blog" or media leakers such as former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Has GOP Already Defeated Obamacare? State Opt-Outs Leave Millions of Poor Without Health Insurance (3 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: And then, you couple this with the healthcare exchanges--who gets covered, and who doesn't? The front page of The New York Times today, major piece, "Millions of Poor are Left Uncovered by Health Law: Choice by States Not to Expand Medicaid Undercuts Reach of Obama Plan."
IMARA JONES: I mean, one of the interesting things is that the GOP is saying that this is about "Obamacare" and want to shut down the government because of "Obamacare," but the GOP largely has defeated "Obamacare" in a lot of places in the country. And that's because, as the Times point out, as I've written about, as you just said, that half--
AMY GOODMAN: You've written about it well before this.
IMARA JONES: I did, I did. That half of the states are--in the United States, are participating in Medicaid. Overwhelmingly, they're in the South, where half of people of color live in this country, black people, and also Latinos. The second-largest state in the union that--with a Latino population is Texas. It's not included. And so, it's leaving a lot of people behind. And so, they say that they want to roll back "Obamacare," but through stopping Medicaid, they largely already have.
The Guided Whooping Crane Migration Begins (3 October 2013)
ST. MARIE, WISCONSIN - An annual milestone in the birding and scientific communities began this morning at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, as Operation Migration started its 2013 guided whooping crane migration. Birdwatchers, photographers, neighbors, and the organization's staff gathered along a road near the marsh to watch eight young whooping cranes depart on their first migration to Florida.
Four cranes followed the lead pilot, Richard van Heuvelen, to their first migration stop a few miles away. The remaining birds were initially willing to follow the next pilot, Brooke Pennypacker, but then returned to their pen.
After several additional attempts to guide the birds, including leading only one crane willing to fly with him, and then giving the cranes a rest before their final attempt, Pennypacker was heard on a radio call noting "open-mouthed breathing" by the birds, a sign of exhaustion. A decision was made to crate the four remaining cranes and drive them to the first location stop, according to Operation Migration's In the Field blog.
Whooping cranes remain among the most endangered species in the world, the latest count finding only 575, including those in captivity.
Operation Migration is a part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a group of organizations who have reestablished an eastern whooping crane flyway that had disappeared when the species nearly went extinct. Although a flock of whooping cranes now migrate between Wisconsin and Florida, the flock is not yet considered to be self-sustaining, or large enough to maintain its numbers without human intervention.
|Ultra-light Pilot Richard van Heuvelen departs White River Marsh with four young whooping cranes who would continue to their first migration stop, 2 October 2013, photo by Pam Rotella|
|Ultra-light Pilot Brooke Pennypacker follows with young cranes who would later break off and refuse to follow, 2 October 2013, photo by Pam Rotella|
|People lined the street to see the cranes depart, 2 October 2013, photo by Pam Rotella|
300% Increased brain cancer risk for long-term users of cell phones and cordless phones, new study reveals (3 October 2013)
(NaturalNews) A Swedish study on the use of wireless phones, including cell phones and cordless phones, has uncovered a link between electromagnetic radiation exposures and the risk of malignant and non-malignant brain tumors.
Cell phones and cordless phones emit a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, radiation which can be absorbed by tissues and cells that come into close contact with the phone, e.g., the head and neck. The most conclusive evidence as to the dangers of cell phone and similar radiation exposures come from studies on long-term exposure (ten years or more) like this Swedish study.
300% increased risk for long term users
This new study reveals that people who used cell phones and cordless phones for more than a year were at a 70% greater risk of brain cancer compared to those who used cell phones and cordless phones for a year or less. Those who used cell phones and cordless phones for more than 25 years were found to have a 300% greater risk of brain cancer than those who used cell phones and cordless phones for a year or less.
The total number of hours of cell phone and cordless phone use was found to be as important as the number of years of use. A quarter of the study's subjects were found to have lifetime cell phone or cordless phone use of 2,376 or more hours, which corresponds to about 40 minutes a day over ten years. Heavier users were found to have a 250% greater risk of brain tumors compared to those who'd never used cell phones or cordless phones or used them for less than 39 hours in their lifetime.
NSA chief admits agency tracked US cellphone locations in secret tests (2 October 2013)
The head of the National Security Agency has admitted to secret pilot programs to monitor the precise location of Americans through their cellphones, saying the highly intrusive tracking data "may be something that is a future requirement for the country".
General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, said that the pilot programs from 2010 and 2011 were intended to test the compatibility of the location data with the agency's databases, but were not used for any intelligence analysis purposes.
However, giving evidence to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, Alexander left little doubt that the NSA was interested in a potential dragnet of location data, which would constitute a significant extension of its surveillance powers.
Last week, before another Senate committee, Alexander evaded questions about whether the NSA had ever collected information from cellphone towers, which helps pinpoint an individual's movement, suggesting the information might be classified.
Over 100 dead as packed migrant boat sinks off coast of Italy (3 October 2013)
ROME-- More than 100 people drowned and over 200 were unaccounted for after a boat packed with African migrants caught fire and sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday.
The disaster occurred when the boat's motor stopped working and the vessel began to take on water, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said. People on board burned a sheet to attract the attention of rescuers, starting a fire on board.
"Once the fire started, there was a concern about the boat sinking and everyone moved to one side, causing the boat to go down," he told a news conference.
The 66-foot vessel, believed to be carrying around 500 people, sank no more than half a mile from shore.
Bodies pulled from the water were laid out along the quayside as the death toll rose in what looked like one of the worst disasters to hit the perilous route for migrants seeking to reach Europe from Africa.
Silk Road busted with help of mysterious package from Canada (2 October 2013)
The FBI -- which made over 100 purchases of drugs, later tested to have high purity levels -- had been tracking the site for months but had trouble identifying the ringleader behind the alias "Dread Pirate Roberts" (in homage to The Princess Bride).
That is, until a routine inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of a package from Canada.
On July 10, the border guards randomly checked a package that turned out to contain nine counterfeit identity documents. They all had the same photo -- but the name in each was different.
On July 26, Homeland Security investigators showed up at the San Francisco address written on the package. There they met Ulbricht. He said little to investigators about the fake IDs, Silk Road and Tor. His roommates, who knew him only as "Josh," said he "was always home in his room on the computer."
But step by tiny step the FBI pierced the veil of secrecy surrounding Tor and Silk Road and began to track Dread Pirate Roberts' private messages. Those messages revealed that not only was Ulbricht the leader of Silk Road, he was also a customer.
Yosemite's grandeur dimmed by politics (3 October 2013)
Yosemite National Park -- There was no joy in the valley Wednesday as tourists, employees and concession workers left the internationally famous park amid the confusion and disappointment of the first government shutdown in nearly two decades.
Heidi and Danny Vanden Abeele, of Belgium, busily packed their car at Housekeeping Camp after only two days of a scheduled five-day Yosemite excursion.
"We wanted to go to Kings Canyon and Sequoia, but we couldn't do that because the roads were closed, and they closed off the hiking trails, so we couldn't do that," he said. "Nobody was telling us anything, and the information center was closed. We couldn't understand that one. That should have been a contact point."
The couple had planned to hike all over the mountains and see all the sites before exploring the rest of California, but for them, Yosemite was spoiled by what they see as childish politics.
Exploding fuel tankers driving Army to solar power (3 October 2013)
The U.S. Army is spending billions of dollars shifting toward solar energy, recycled water and better-insulated tents. The effort isn't about saving the Earth.
Instead, commanders have found they can save lives through energy conservation. It's especially true in Afghanistan, where protecting fuel convoys is one of the most dangerous jobs, with one casualty for every 24 missions in some years.
With renewable energy, "there is no supply chain vulnerability, there are no commodity costs and there's a lower chance of disruption," Richard Kidd, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army in charge of energy security, said in an interview. "A fuel tanker can be shot at and blown up. The sun's rays will still be there."
While President Barack Obama called on the U.S. government to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 28 percent by 2020, the Army is embracing renewables to make the business of war safer for soldiers. In May, it announced plans to spend $7 billion buying electricity generated by solar, wind, geothermal and biomass projects over the next three decades.
The transition is a sales opportunity for companies including Lockheed Martin, which is installing small-scale power systems at U.S. bases, along with Alta Devices and Sundial Capital Partners, which make sun-powered systems. The moves threaten U.S. utilities, which stand to lose revenue when the Army shifts to photovoltaic panels from traditional power sources.
Caledon bottler Blue Glass Water faces public health shutdown (3 October 2013)
Water from a Caledon spring marketed for its health benefits poses a potential public health risk to restaurant diners across southern Ontario, where it has been sold in stylish blue bottles, public health officials say.
Peel Region health inspectors shut down the Blue Glass Water Company Ltd. in July following concerns about the safety of the product.
Late Wednesday, Ontario's chief medical officer of health sent out a warning not to drink or sell water from Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd. after samples from the company's products were found to be heavily contaminated with bacteria.
"Testing has confirmed bottled water manufactured by the operator was heavily contaminated with bacteria and could cause illness," said Dr. Arlene King in a statement.
The company was ordered to stop bottling, processing and distributing water on July 25, she said, but inspections by public health officials have spotted the water bottles at restaurants in Hamilton, Niagara and Toronto.
PAM COMMENTARY: I noticed this article because of the "blue glass" headline. Blue glass itself may be a health hazard. The late scientist Hulda Clark warned against consuming any food exposed to blue glass, if the glass was colored blue with cobalt, the usual coloring agent for blue glass. She said that glassmakers voluntarily banned the use of cobalt in glassmaking years ago, after a cobalt additive to beer was found to be causing a high rate of heart attacks in young beer-drinkers.
That's a problem with voluntary bans -- they're not enforced by anybody, and time goes by with new people who don't remember the problem or weren't even born when the reasons for the ban were known.
Also, the elemental form of cobalt shouldn't be confused with the trace element cobalt in the human body, which is often found in organic molecules such as Vitamin B-12, a vitamin manufactured by bacteria.
Fukushima leaks: radioactive water overflows tank (3 October 2013)
Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has a new leak of radioactive water after workers overfilled a storage tank, its operator says.
The workers miscalculated the tank's capacity as it was tilted on unlevel ground, plant operator Tepco said.
It said around 430 litres (100 gallons) of water may have leaked from the tank, and could have flowed into the sea.
The plant has experienced several leaks since being crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
One of the largest leaks took place in August, when Tepco discovered a leak of at least 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water at a different part of the plant.
The Interstate of the Future: Privatization or Innovation? (3 October 2013)
Poole's case for rebuilding the interstate and funding it through electronic tolling combined with privatization is essentially a TINA (There is No Alternative). He posits that our Interstate system is crumbling and overburdened and fuel taxes don't yield enough to pay for new highway construction (as they have in the past). Therefore, Poole says, construction of a new interstate should be financed through electronic tolling - and, to minimize the danger of risks, recruiting the cooperation of "private partners" is the way to go.
However, the Reason report and its cheerleaders ignore the heavy downsides to infrastructure privatization, which have been playing out in cities across the country - high costs for individuals, public anger, secrecy, entrenched corporate control. The report also ignores the fact that we live in a changing transportation world: one in which an increasing numbers of cars and trucks driving increasing numbers of miles do not make up the preordained future.
The Insidious Tradition of Public-Private Partnerships
Existing US highway privatization contracts run for 50 to 99 years, making predictions of highway use - and revenues - a challenge. In addition, traffic projections, which translate into tolls paid, have been notoriously unreliable, even in contracts' first years. Traffic predictions, which tend to be about 25 percent on the high side, mean that projects get built but then fail to bring in the revenue that was forecast.
In addition, infrastructure privatization contracts are full of "gotcha" provisions to ensure private contractors make money. The Chicago parking meter deal is an example. The cost to the public of building Reason's Interstate 2.0 would include far more than tolls. It will include lost public control and reimbursing private "partners" for lost anticipated earnings. Public anger over privatization contract terms has led contractors to refuse the public to see the contracts, essentially repealing Freedom of Information Act rights.
Why Egyptians don't care about Khaled Said, whose death began their revolution (3 October 2013)
Two photos taken in 2010 catalyzed Egypt's revolution. The first showed the quiet smile of a young man called Khaled Said. The second, his corpse on the cold morgue table. Police had dragged the 28-year-old out of an Internet cafe and beaten him to death in the streets of Alexandria.
His story came to symbolize the brutality and corruption of Hosni Mubarak's hated regime. A Facebook group called "We Are All Khaled Said" drummed up support for demonstrations on Jan. 25th, Egypt's national Police Day, which burgeoned into the massive uprising that unseated Mr. Mubarak.
But two-and-a-half years, two trials of Mr. Said's killers, and a revolution later, many say little has been achieved.
The policemen accused of killing Said remain free men. On Tuesday, their retrial was adjourned for a fourth time, and the case draws little public attention these days.
Human rights campaigners say the delays in Said's case are symptomatic of a broader deferral of justice.
"You only have to walk around downtown Cairo to see that the revolution has not achieved what we hoped," says Dalia Moussa, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, a Cairo-based NGO. "There is no social justice: the people are still hungry, the police can still humiliate you."
America's toughest sheriff' gets court ordered babysitter after losing racial profiling lawsuit (3 October 2013)
The self-proclaimed America's toughest sheriff was struck a humbling blow Wednesday when a judge ruled his Maricopa County, Arizona office will get a court appointed monitor after they lost a racial profiling suit in May.
Joe Arpaio's ultra-tough stance on immigration was at the heart of the lawsuit that alleged his office detained Latinos for unreasonably long periods. The federal judge also ordered the creation of a community advisory board to ensure the Phoenix area sheriff is respecting his Latino constituents' constitutional rights.
While Arpaio's enemies have cheered the ruling, the 81-year-old responded with characteristic defiance. 'We are identifying areas that are ripe for appeal,' he said. 'To be clear, the appointed monitor will have no veto authority over my duties or operations.'
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow found in May that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Joe Arpaio singled out Latinos and deputies unreasonably prolonged detentions.
It was the first finding by a court that the agency covering Arizona's most populous county engages in racial profiling after a small group of Latinos sued the sheriff's office for violating their constitutional rights, saying they were being detained simply because of their race.
This merry-go-round turns kid energy to clean energy (3 October 2013)
If only we could use kids to fuel our homes and cars so they'd be useful for something. Wait, that came out wrong. But for Empower Playgrounds, it came out RIGHT:
"A non-profit called Empower Playgrounds has developed a way to harness the energy of kids playing in order to provide electricity to poor rural villages in Africa. The organization is making merry-go-rounds that have a clean tech twist -- onboard kinetic energy harvesters that store that energy in batteries for later use...
"[F]ounder Ben Markham says that a healthy 8- to 12-year-old generates about 150 watts of energy per hour whilst vigorously playing. All that energy is stored into battery packs, which are then used to power advanced LED lanterns donated by Energizer. At schools in Ghana where Empower has provided equipment, kids split into lantern groups and study together at night where before they couldn't study past sunset. The lanterns last 50 hours on each charge."
Most kids in Koni Kablu, Ghana, have to work on the family farm during daylight hours, and can study after dark only if they're lucky enough to have a kerosene lantern. As a result, none of the children from the town have reached the high school level. As Empower founder Ben Markham says, "It wasn't lack of capability. These kids were capable, they were bright, they were inquisitive. The opportunity just wasn't there." But with Empower Playgrounds, they can use the nearly-inexhaustible natural resource of childhood enthusiasm to generate their own light.
Tractor trailer carrying 290 pigs rolls in Montana, kills 6 pigs (3 October 2013)
HELENA -- A tractor trailer hauling 290 pigs rolled onto its passenger side on an Interstate 15 curve in southwestern Montana, killing half a dozen pigs.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Inman says the southbound truck was traveling too fast for conditions when it tipped on its side near Basin at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The driver wasn't injured, but Inman says she will be cited for careless driving. He did not release her name.
About three hours after the crash, one southbound lane of the interstate remained closed as crews rounded up the pigs and removed the truck.
Inman said the pigs were being hauled from Augusta to California.
Montana FWP considers changing hunting regulations after deer die-off (3 October 2013)
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease cases continue to pop up across Montana, and may trigger some changes to hunting regulations this fall.
"We are considering some recommendations for north-central Montana because of the EHD die-offs in whitetail," said Ron Aasheim, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman. "We may recommend some reductions in deer regulations for that area north of Great Falls, in Region 4."
Biting midges spread EHD to whitetail deer, which usually die within seven to 10 days after infection. The disease often concentrates along river corridors and appears as fall weather dries out riparian areas. Infected deer often seek out water sources to cool off before dying.
Aasheim said some hunting districts between Great Falls and the Canadian border have seen upward of 50 percent mortality after the disease started showing up in August and September. The agency is considering canceling antlerless hunting opportunities in districts 400, 401, 403, 404 and 406 to compensate. The FWP Board of Commissioners would have to approve the plan at its meeting Thursday, Oct. 10.
EU preparing to charge Gazprom in antitrust case (3 October 2013)
(Reuters) - EU regulators are preparing to charge Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom with abusing its dominant position in central and eastern Europe, the EU's antitrust chief said on Thursday, in a move that could lead to a fine of up to $15 billion.
The European Commission's action against Gazprom is likely to ratchet up the tension between Europe and Russia, which has criticized EU attempts to boost energy market competition and end its over-reliance on Russian supplies.
The comments by EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia come after a year-long investigation and raids of several Gazprom units and its clients in central and eastern Europe. Gazprom supplies a quarter of Europe's gas consumption needs.
The EU antitrust regulator said at the time that Gazprom may have hindered the free flow of gas across the EU and imposed unfair prices on its customers by linking the price of its gas to oil prices.
Ocean acidification due to carbon emissions is at highest for 300m years (2 October 2013)
The oceans are more acidic now than they have been for at least 300m years, due to carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, and a mass extinction of key species may already be almost inevitable as a result, leading marine scientists warned on Thursday.
An international audit of the health of the oceans has found that overfishing and pollution are also contributing to the crisis, in a deadly combination of destructive forces that are imperilling marine life, on which billions of people depend for their nutrition and livelihood.
In the starkest warning yet of the threat to ocean health, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) said: "This [acidification] is unprecedented in the Earth's known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun." It published its findings in the State of the Oceans report, collated every two years from global monitoring and other research studies.
Alex Rogers, professor of biology at Oxford University, said: "The health of the ocean is spiralling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth."
Detained Canadians not on spy mission, colleagues say (2 October 2013)
Thomson, an adjunct professor of nephrology at Western University, said he had accompanied Loubani earlier this year on a mission similar to the one the detained doctor had planned for last month: to teach emergency medicine to students in Gaza.
Greyson was planning to film the event, but when the two men arrived in Cairo on a transit visa intending to enter Gaza at the Rafah border crossing, but it was closed because of the violence. Cairo, meanwhile, was in the midst of clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, that left dozens dead.
"Tarek and I discussed the use of the toy helicopters in Gaza at great length," Thomson said, adding that Loubani had demonstrated the same devices at an emergency medicine seminar at London's Fanshawe College with "huge success."
Although tiny -- with a wingspan of about a third of a metre -- they could carry small medical supplies and medicines over short distances quickly in urgent situations, Thomson said.
"We thought they would overcome the limitations of the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which is essentially multiple buildings separated on very rugged terrain. It's a challenge if patients need urgent care."
Canadian Filmmaker and Doctor Imprisoned in Egypt Without Charges, Abused After Witnessing Massacre (2 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Egypt, where a pair of Canadians have been jailed for over a month and a half without charge. John Greyson, an acclaimed Toronto filmmaker, and Tarek Loubani, a doctor, were arrested in Cairo on August 16th. The two were slated to visit Gaza, where Greyson was to film Loubani as he trained emergency room doctors. In a statement smuggled out of their prison cell, Greyson and Loubani say they were arrested after rushing to the scene of a mass shooting by state forces of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Greyson says he began filming the shooting's aftermath while Loubani treated some of the injured.
AMY GOODMAN: They said, quote, "We were arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a 'Syrian terrorist,' slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries." They've since been held in cockroach-infested jail cells with as many as 36 other people. Over the weekend, Egyptian authorities confirmed their imprisonment has been extended another 45 days, still without charge. Greyson and Loubani have been on a hunger strike for the past two weeks. Earlier this week, their Egyptian attorney criticized their detention.
MARWA FAROUK: [translated] We presented all the documents that proved they were in Egypt only in transit and by coincidence, because they were going to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza so that Tarek could offer assistance to the emergency ward and for John to make a film. We provided all the documents that prove this and that they were present at the location by pure coincidence. Despite that, they're imprisonment continues for a month and a half now. We carried out all the legal processes, we provided documents, and we presented a complaint to the public prosecutor and the public lawyer, and appealed the extension of imprisonment, but all these things have been rejected without any solution offered.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was attorney Marwa Farouk. According to a report in the Toronto Star, Tarek Roubani and John Greyson could face murder charges. Justin Podur, a lead supporter of the men, said the men were arrested after witnessing a massacre.
JUSTIN PODUR: They said they saw 50 people killed, before they lost count. Their attackers yelled that they were Canadian as they were beating them and kicking them. They were put in a hot box. They were shaved bald. And then eventually they ended up in this prison cell with 38 other prisoners.
Dangerous levels of radioactivity found at fracking waste site in Pennsylvania (2 October 2013)
Elevated levels of chloride and bromide, combined with strontium, radium, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic compositions, are present in the Marcellus shale wastewaters, the study found.
Radioactive brine is naturally occurring in shale rock and contaminates wastewater during hydraulic fracturing -- known as fracking. Sometimes that "flowback" water is re-injected into rock deep underground, a practice that can cause seismic disturbances, but often it is treated before being discharged into watercourses.
Radium levels in samples collected at the facility were 200 times greater than samples taken upstream. Such elevated levels of radioactivity are above regulated levels and would normally be seen at licensed radioactive disposal facilities, according to the scientists at Duke University's Nicholas school of the environment in North Carolina.
Hundreds of disposal sites for wastewater could be similarly affected, said Professor Avner Vengosh, one of the authors of the study published in Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal.
"If people don't live in those places, it's not an immediate threat in terms of radioactivity," said Vengosh. "However, there's the danger of slow bio-accumulation of the radium. It will eventually end up in fish and that is a biological danger."
Shale gas production is exempt from the Clean Water Act and the industry has pledged to self-monitor its waste production to avoid regulatory oversight.
John Boehner, between a rock and a hard place on shutdown and debt limit (2 October 2013)
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has at his disposal the political tools to reopen the government at a moment's notice. But he would have to rely on an uneasy coalition of Democrats and a few moderate Republicans to pass a bill to fund federal agencies and national parks for the next six weeks. Such a move could provide a political escape hatch for Republicans who have been shouldering much of the public blame for the shutdown.
But Boehner is stuck.
A host of dynamics in the GOP have forced him to align himself with a camp of hard-core conservatives who, for much of the past three years, have made his life miserable.
Since Boehner became speaker in 2011, these lawmakers, most of them elected in 2010, have challenged his leadership and questioned his conservatism. They have defied him on one big vote after another, often throwing the House and sometimes the country into disarray.
Boehner's unyielding position on the six-week government funding bill, which the Senate passed, is a testament to the power of that conservative bloc and a concession to its members. The insurgents are now his palace guards.
These Folks Went Vegetarian Back When It Was Way Uncool (1 October 2013)
The Swiss, you see, have long been a pretty meat-loving bunch. "If you didn't eat meat, it meant you had no money," he says. Vegetarianism, in other words, was kind of a badge of shame.
But that didn't deter Ambrosius Hiltl. Back in the 19th century, the Bavarian cobbler was working in Zurich when he adopted a vegetarian diet to alleviate joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis. The advice came from a doctor who followed the school of thought that a diet of raw vegetables, fruit and nuts could heal most ailments. That was an idea popularized by Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician and nutritional theorist best known for inventing muesli.
Lucky for Hiltl, Zurich had an option for budding vegetarians like him: the Vegetarians' Home and Teetotaller Café, which had opened its doors in 1898. Not exactly the kind of name that draws crowds, but Hiltl nonetheless became a frequent diner. Eventually, he decided to buy the joint. Hence, Hiltl -- a Zurich institution -- was born.
The original menu may have been vegetarian, but it wasn't especially healthful. Dishes were essentially regular recipes served without meat. Potatoes, rice and flour-based foods featured heavily, and Vauthier says Bircher muesli was served, but back then, it was made according to the original recipe, using condensed milk.
The original vegetarian restaurant had been in business for five years before Hiltl took over in 1903, continuing to serve a motley -- and largely female -- clientele. The meatless menu attracted artists and writers, as well as those with ailing health and the religiously observant.
Teen's 'hollow flashlight' could bring light to Third World (2 October 2013)
Why all the buzz? Ann might have just brought light to the third world.
That's one way to describe the battery-free flashlight, which uses Peltier tiles that produce electricity from a difference in temperature. Ann says she got the idea when she noticed one of her friends in the Philippines saw her grades fall because she did not have light to study with at night.
"I know a lot of people around the world have these problems where there's just no light, no electricity, nothing," she told the Monitor. "So I thought, 'Why not try and solve this problem a little step at a time?'"
Peltier tiles are a common thermoelectric tool that produce electricity when one side is heated and the other remains cool -- a phenomenon called the Seebeck effect.
Tesla shares fall after mysterious car fire and analyst downgrade (2 October 2013)
Tesla confirmed that one of its cars caught on fire after the driver struck unidentified metal debris on the roadway.
The crash caused "significant damage to the vehicle," Tesla said, adding that the car's alert system signaled a problem and instructed the driver to pull over safely. No one was injured.
A fire then caused "substantial damage" to the front of the vehicle. Tesla said that the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack limited the spread of the fire, which was extinguished by the local fire department.
Normally, car fires are not significant events that influence investors. However, safety officials have been tracking fires in electric cars, as well as computers and other equipment, out of concern that the lithium-ion battery systems might be fire-prone.
Earlier this year, federal regulators grounded Boeing 787 planes for four months after batteries on two planes overheated, with one catching on fire. Boeing later ordered modifications to the jets to increase ventilation and insulation near the batteries, but the company and investigators never determined the root cause of the overheating.
This couple has been biking around the world for five years and 60,000 miles (2 October 2013)
Laura Scott of the blog The Locals met this charming couple while biking from Paris to London. They've been biking around the world together for more than five years, covering over 60,000 miles and 84 countries. And they're hoping to keep traveling for at least a few more years.
Scott spoke to the male half of the couple, Ryohei Oguchi. He said he was living his longstanding dream of throwing in the towel as a financial planner to travel the world by bike. "I kept holding it in my heart and it happened," he said. No word on what his companion thinks, but she looks pretty happy.
What's next for this intrepid pair? Ireland, the south of France, Spain, Morocco, and hopefully one day West Africa and North and South America. Good luck, you two, and we hope you have really comfy saddles.
Bug sex: How foul weather can ruin the mood (2 October 2013)
Can the sexual behavior of insects predict inclement weather?
According to a study published recently in the journal PLOS One, nothing quite ruins the mood of amorous bugs like the hint of foul weather. Or, to be more precise, the steady drop in barometric pressure that accompanies an approaching storm.
Though many insects have evolved ways of coping with, or even taking advantage of, moderate rainfall and wind, a pummeling rainstorm can spell doom for the fragile creatures.
Because of this, entomologists in Brazil and Canada wondered whether insects could sense the approach of bad weather and modify their mating behavior in ways that would improve their odds of survival.
NSA had test project to collect data on Americans' cellphone locations, director says (2 October 2013)
The National Security Agency launched a test project to collect data about ordinary Americans' cellphone locations in 2010 but later discontinued it, the agency's director said Wednesday.
In response to questioning at a Senate hearing, Gen. Keith Alexander said the secret effort ended in 2011 and that the data collected were never available for intelligence analysis purposes.
"This may be something that may be a future requirement for the country," Alexander told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "but it is not right now. .?.?. That's the reason we stopped in 2011."
The NSA received "samples" of cellphone location data "in order to test the ability of its systems to handle the data format, but that data was not used for any other purpose," Alexander said, reading from a one-paragraph statement that was provided to the congressional intelligence committees.
In a brief interview after his testimony, Alexander said the NSA ended the program because "we couldn't find.?.?. operational value out of it."
PAM COMMENTARY: I'm sure we'll find out later that they've been collecting and storing this data since 2006 or earlier.
Selective Shutdown: NSA Spying Funded, FOIA Requests Denied (2 October 2013)
The government might be shut down, but both parties have agreed that the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance programs will not be impacted by the stoppage.
However, fulfilling the requests of citizens or journalists trying to obtain information about the government's activities has been deemed not "an essential service."
As journalist Glenn Greewald tweeted Wednesday morning:
"During the shutdown, NSA will be spying on you, but regretfully, is unable to process your FOIA requests about them http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/foia/index.shtml"
The link is to a NSA/CSS press statement which reads:
"Due to the government shutdown, FOIA/PA requests or inquiries submitted to the FOIA/PA Office will not be addressed until the office reopens."
10 superfoods to consume during the fall season (2 October 2013)
Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin
It is easy to fall in love with the flavors and huge amounts of vitamin A that come from items belonging to the "dark orange veggies" family. Sweet potatoes richly boast potassium, calcium, vitamin C and antioxidants. Other standouts in this group are butternut squash, carrots and pumpkins.
These vegetables help in maintaining a good and healthy memory through the coming years. The suggestion came from research which found women who ingest these foods in adequate amounts to have the sharpest memory. The food items from this group include turnips, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and broccoli. In addition to their ability to fortify memory, cruciferous vegetables can fight cancer through their natural ingredients called "indole alkaloids." People can also get vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber from these juicy vegetables.
Pomegranates are powerhouses of antioxidants that specifically work to protect the brain and boost memory. Research has also shown that they can prevent hardening and thickening of arteries.
Beets are beneficial in two great ways. First, they are rich in folate, or folic acid, a nutrient that prevents embryonic defects in the neural tube. For pregnant women, beets should be considered. Second, beets contain a certain betacyanin found to possess a cancer-fighting ability. They are particularly useful in preventing and treating colon cancer.
PAM COMMENTARY: My book is full of vegetables on this list, but for some free online recipes, check out the Beet Cakes and Pumpkin Pie on VeggieCooking.com.
Exercise just as good as heart pills, better than stroke medicine (2 October 2013)
A metaepidemiological study published in the British Medical Journal on October 1, 2013, shows that exercise can be just as good as medication for heart disease and better than stroke medicine.
The study analyzed hundreds of trials involving nearly 340,000 patients to find research comparing exercise with pills. The researchers found 305 trials regarding managing conditions such as heart disease, stroke rehabilitation and pre-diabetes. After studying all the relevant data, they found that death rates in those who took such drugs were comparable to death rates in those who exercise.
The researchers found that diuretics seemed to work best for heart failure patients, but stroke patients can get the most life-extending benefit from exercise.
"By taking important steps, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and stopping smoking, people can significantly reduce their risk of stroke," Dr. Peter Coleman of the Stroke Association said.
The GOP's Obamacare Suicide (2 October 2013)
Is the Republican Party committing suicide this week? The final results of the shutdown blame game won't be in until the government is un-shut. Yet at the same time that the party is allowing itself to be branded as an ideologically rigid outfit controlled by political hostage takers, it has been endangering its future by waging a high-profile but Alamo-like stand against Obamacare, just as a main component of the health care program is kicking in--and appears to be popular.
If anything has defined the GOP in its must-destroy-Obama phase, it's the party's virulent opposition to the Affordable Care Act. And with Obama reelected, the economy slowly improving, and deficits slowly decreasing, Republicans have bet almost all the chips they have left on the decimation of Obamacare. With Sen. Ted Cruz wagging the party, the GOPers pushing for the government shutdown--aided and abetted by Rush Limbaugh, the Heritage Foundation, and other influentials of the far right--have focused exclusively on Obamacare. This confrontation over government spending has nothing to do with, well, government spending. The shutdown was merely a way for Cruz-controlled Republicans to vent about Obamacare. So if the Republican party stands for anything today, it is obstructing Obamacare. But here's the rub: What if Obamacare works?
The initial response to yesterday's opening of the state and federal exchanges that are providing affordable insurance plans to Americans who previously could not obtain coverage has Obamacare proponents dancing. Millions of Americans were not scared away by Koch-financed ads (including this rapey spot). Sure, there were glitches and websites crashed. But that's natural, given the overwhelming demand. And the exchanges have weeks to work out the kinks before the December 15 deadline to finish enrolling people for the coming year.
So while the Republicans have succeeded in forcing a shutdown of the government--according to the latest polls, not a popular endeavor--their crusade against Obamacare has harmed their long-term prospects in several ways:
• The Republicans have helped expand the power of the federal government. Because of conservative opposition to the ACA, many states controlled by Republicans declined to set up their own exchanges. This meant that Washington had to do so instead. Consequently, the federal government has increased its reach into the lives of Americans. In dozens of states, Americans seeking insurance will now credit Washington, not their local governor, when they obtain coverage. Assuming the program works in providing insurance to these people, conservatives will suffer a tremendous setback regarding their foundational argument (and raison d'être): Government is the problem, not the solution. Oops. No wonder Cruz yearned to stop Obamacare before it could become proof of a different narrative.
Relying on a federal paycheck during the shutdown (2 October 2013)
The government shutdown jeopardizes the paychecks of more than 800,000 federal workers who were sent home. The federal government has almost 2 million employees. Civilians who remain on the job will be entitled to their salaries, but might not be paid on time. President Obama has signed a bill that ensures that certain members of the U.S. military and U.S. Coast Guard will be paid during the shutdown.
The Washington area ranks fourth nationwide in percent of all workers on the federal and military payroll, far ahead of the other 10 largest metro areas. Of the 3.1 million people employed in the D.C. area, nearly 450,000 work for the federal government or military (excluding federal contractors).
Greenpeace activists charged with piracy by Russian authorities (2 October 2013)
Russian authorities have formally charged 14 Greenpeace activists with piracy, with a further 16 facing similar charges.
Those charged included four British nationals. Kieron Bryan, a freelance videographer, along with Alexandra Harris, Philip Ball and Anthony Perrett, were charged with "piracy as part of an organised group". They each face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.
Among others charged were Ana Paula Alminhana, from Brazil; Dmitri Litvinov, a Swedish-American; Sini Saarela, from Finland; and Roman Dolgov, from Russia, according to Greenpeace.
They are among 30 people from 18 different countries who were travelling on board the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace ship that last month mounted a protest against the Prirazlomnaya oil rig. The drilling platform, in the Pechora Sea, is operated by the Russian energy firm Gazprom.
As two activists tried to scale the platform, Russian border guards descended on to the boat from helicopters. The Arctic Sunrise was then escorted back to Murmansk, north-west Russia, with those on board kept under armed guard.
All 30 activists were remanded in custody for up to two months while investigators looked into the charges. Prosecutors are expected to lay charges against all 30 during the next couple of days.
Jerry Sandusky's appeal for a new trial denied (2 October 2013)
Harrisburg, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - A Pennsylvania Superior Court panel has denied former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's appeal for a new trial on his child sexual abuse conviction.
Sandusky was sentenced to 30-to-60 years in prison last October after he was found guilty in June 2012 on 45 counts charging him with sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period.
Wednesday's ruling was issued two weeks after the three-judge panel heard oral arguments from defense attorneys and prosecutors.
Sandusky's attorneys had stated that Judge John M. Cleland erred in certain instances during the trial, including the denial of defense requests for more time to prepare and jury instruction. Another issue for appeal was an improper comment by the prosecution during the closing argument on the defendant's failure to testify.
In Wednesday's lengthy opinion, the panel agreed with prosecutors on each of the defense's claims.
FBI shuts alleged online drug marketplace Silk Road (2 October 2013)
(Reuters) - U.S. law enforcement authorities have shut down Silk Road, the web marketplace for illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine as well as criminal activities including murder for hire, and arrested its alleged owner, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Wednesday.
The FBI arrested Silk Road owner Ross William Ulbricht, 29, known as "Dread Pirate Roberts," in San Francisco on Tuesday, according to court filings.
Federal prosecutors in New York charged Ulbricht with one count each of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, according to the filing.
"Silk Road has emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today," FBI agent Christopher Tarbell said in the criminal complaint. According to Tarbell, the site was used by "several thousand drug dealers" to sell "hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs."
The site, which had operated since early 2011, also offered tutorials on hacking ATM machines, contact lists for black market connections and counterfeiters, and guns and hit men for sale, according to the charges.
Virginia Democrats sue governor, Attorney General, claim voter-roll purge (2 October 2013)
The lawsuit claims that the interstate database has been created by Republicans who purport to be preventing fraud, but in reality are seeking to suppress vote totals in communities that traditionally vote Democratic.
Cuccinelli is running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor in a race that is drawing national attention.
The lawsuit says state officials have told county registrars to use their "best judgment" in whether to purge voters. That approach, according to the lawsuit, will lead to voters being treated differently in different jurisdictions, violating constitutional guarantees of equal protection. The suit seeks an injunction barring the voter purges.
According to the lawsuit, some counties, including Loudoun and Chesterfield, have already decided against purging voters. Others, like Fairfax and Prince William, are in the midst of purging names.
In Virginia, state and local election boards are controlled by Republican nominees when the sitting governor is a Republican, as is the case with McDonnell.
"At best, Defendants' conduct reflects inadvertent sloppiness in attempting to ensure that unqualified voters do not vote in Virginia's election. At worst, the conduct is driven by partisan politics. Neither explanation justifies the conduct," the lawsuit states.
Obamacare 101: What owners of small businesses need to know (2 October 2013)
Oct. 1 marked the start of a separate online health-insurance marketplace for small business owners, known as the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP.
SHOP is designed to help owners of small businesses -- those with fewer than 50 full-time-equivalent employees -- provide health insurance for their employees in a cost-effective way. Business owners who enroll may qualify for a health-care tax credit worth up to 50 percent of the cost of premiums.
As with online exchanges for individuals, the SHOP exchanges -- one for each state and the District of Columbia -- can be accessed via HealthCare.gov. The site will direct you to your state's exchange.
If your state is running its own exchange, you can already enroll online. If your state opted for a federally run exchange, online enrollment starts Nov. 1. In all states, you can enroll over the phone, in person, or via a paper application sent in the mail. Coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2014.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership: We Won't Be Fooled by Rigged Corporate Trade Agreements (2 October 2013)
This week, President Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Coordination (APEC) meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where he is expected to announce his goal of having the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signed into law by the end of 2013. Obama will host a meeting of the leaders of the TPP nations during the APEC conference.
The Obama administration has been negotiating the TPP in secret for more than three years. Unlike past trade agreements, the text of the TPP is classified, and members of Congress have restricted access to it. If they do read the text, they are not allowed to copy it or discuss any specifics of it. However, more than 600 corporate advisers have direct access to the text on their computers.
The final formal round of negotiations was held in Brunei this August, and since then, there have been informal meetings to try and finalize sections of the agreement. As far as the president is concerned, the TPP is entering the home stretch. All he needs now is for Congress to vote to grant him fast track, also known as trade promotion authority, and it's a done deal. The facts show that the president may be deluding himself or trying to fool everyone else.
This is because the TPP goes far beyond a trade deal. Only five of the 29 chapters contain provisions related to trade. The other chapters consist of provisions related to patent protections, investor state rights and finance deregulation, among others. The TPP is a backdoor corporate power grab to advance the stalled WTO agenda. Or as Sachie Mizohata writes in Asia Times, "The TPP is a Trojan horse, branded as a 'free trade' agreement, but having nothing to do with fair and equitable treatment. In reality, it is precisely 'a wish list of the 1% - a worldwide corporate power'. "
Enbridge oilsands pipeline plan raises chilling issues for GTA (2 October 2013)
A pipeline that's flowed quietly beneath Toronto for 37 years is under increased scrutiny as its operator looks to expand, prompting the city to raise startling concerns about how it would deal with a potential disaster.
Toronto is one of more than half a dozen municipalities along the 639-kilometre stretch of the Enbridge pipeline whose submissions to the National Energy Board have highlighted alarming safety issues with proposed changes to Line 9B.
For example, at the Finch subway station, the pipeline runs less than two metres below the sidewalk and 60 centimetres above the subway structure, cinched between the stairwell of the Bishop Ave. entrance and escalators leading to the Metrolinx terminal.
"Neither the TTC, Toronto Fire Services nor Enbridge appear to have any specific contingency plan to manage a leak of petroleum should this occur near the TTC entrances," reads the city's final submission. "The top stair of the Bishop Avenue stairwell is at grade and provides no barrier to the flow of the product should there be a release.
Wreckage cleared, normal service restored on Blue Line (2 October 2013)
Crews worked late into the night to remove the trains after riders complained Tuesday about crowded platforms and, in some cases, more-than-doubled commuting times.
Blue Line service was back to normal in time for the morning rush, according to CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis.
Monday's crash involved an out-of-service, apparently driverless train that mysteriously traveled about a half-mile from the Forest Park rail yard and, continuing on the wrong tracks, slammed head-on into a train stopped at the Harlem station with about 40 passengers onboard. More than 30 them suffered bumps and bruises, according to hospitals.
Blue Line trains after the crash had been operating on a single track between Oak Park and Forest Park, bypassing the Harlem station.
20 Roman-era skulls uncovered beneath a London railway station may have belonged to decapitated 1st century rebels (2 October 2013)
Construction workers in London have made an 'unexpected and fascinating discovery' during work on the city's billion pound Crossrail project.
Around 20 Roman skulls have been unearthed by tunnellers working beneath Liverpool Street Station, where the historic River Walbrook flows.
Working under the direction of Crossrail's archaeologists, the construction workers carefully removed the human skulls and Roman pottery
They were found buried in clusters in the sediment of the historic tributary. For safety reasons the archaeologists had to leave the work to the tunnellers as the skulls were buried as deep as six metres below ground.
The cross-London scheme has already led to a number of exciting discoveries, including around 4,000 skeletons found buried in the Eldon Street area.
20 years after Polly Klaas killing, attitudes change (1 October 2013)
Twenty years ago, the real-life bogeyman showed up in Petaluma in the form of career criminal Richard Allen Davis, and what he did to a dimpled 12-year-old girl inspired a frenzy of reform - radically changing the way California and the nation handle missing children, child molesters and repeat offenders.
Even before Davis was convicted of killing Polly Klaas, the governor signed the pioneering 1994 "three strikes" sentencing law, police agencies speeded their responses to kidnappings, and parents - newly fearful about letting kids out of sight - won the ability to look up registries of molesters on their block.
Today, though, with a generation having grown up since the Oct. 1, 1993, kidnapping and murder of the girl called "America's Child" by everyone from President Bill Clinton to Johnny Cash, the raw emotions evoked by her death at the hands of a rare home-invasion stranger have faded.
The massive changes prompted by her killing have settled into the fabric of government and society itself - and ever so slightly, some are being undone.
California voters in November softened the three strikes law - which put violent criminals behind bars for 25 years to life after a third felony conviction, and was replicated all over the nation - by exempting lesser offenders from life sentences.
Megan Sherow cancer story: Teenager overcomes terminal brain cancer with raw foods (1 October 2013)
(NaturalNews) It's hard to believe that the healthy and radiant 17-year-old Megan Sherow was facing a terminal cancer diagnosis just a few years ago. "Uh, I guess sometimes it can happen..." was the bewildered response Megan received from her doctors when they discovered that her cancer had gone into full remission.
Doctors were not at all optimistic, Megan sought other options
Diagnosed at 13 with stage 3 brain cancer, Megan was told that she was going to die unless she turned to an aggressive treatment of chemotherapy and radiation.
And even with painful chemo, doctors were not at all optimistic about her odds. They told her she also needed brain surgery. After going through two brain surgeries that failed to help, Megan was finally convinced that it was time to try something else.
Healing disease with raw food
Fortunately, she was able to learn about the raw food diet and how other people had managed to heal themselves by doing nothing else but sticking to a daily menu of raw fruits and vegetables. No pills, no potentially deadly brain surgeries and no chemo.
PAM COMMENTARY: Again, I don't agree with everything that I post here. For the only cancer protocol that I trusted with my own life (a method I developed by combining the best parts of some of the best alternative cancer-fighting protocols, from some of the most famous alternative scientists and doctors, along with a few extras like anti-virals and anti-bacterials to fight anything the zapper had missed), click here.
More to the point, some cancer patients have died using diet-only methods, but others have survived by doing the same after doctors had sent them home to die with terminal cancer. When my cookbook came out in the 90s and I gave a promo copy to the owner of a Las Vegas health food store, for example, she told me that she'd survived terminal uterine cancer by doing a raw foods vegan diet with a 2-gram supplement of Vitamin C every day. She said that she wanted to eat cooked food during that time, but she knew she had to do the raw food diet, at least until the cancer was gone. Ten years earlier, doctors had given her six months to live and had sent her home to die.
I guess the moral of the story is, it never hurts to try. A raw foods diet is probably better than nothing, but I still wouldn't want to go through cancer without a Clark zapper and flaxseed oil.
"The Lawbreaking is Ongoing": Louisiana Levee Board Sues BP, Exxon, Shell, Chevron for Coast Damage (1 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JACQUES MORIAL: During Katrina, yeah. And, you know, one of my dear friends, he's a little bit older than me, but he's in much better shape than me, but the water went from seven inches to seven feet in his home in three minutes, about six blocks from here. Thankfully, he swam to safety.
The primary cause of this particular area is probably the dredging of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, which the business leaders decided in the late '50s, early '60s, to dredge a shortcut between the Port of New Orleans here in New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. So, because the river meanders, it's about a hundred miles from the foot of Canal Street to the Gulf of Mexico. This was a shortcut, about 60 miles. And it never achieved any commercial success. But it did allow the wet--allow the saltwater to intrude into this area, destroy our first line of defense, and put us at great risk for storm surge flooding and, I'm certain, cost dozens of people, if not scores, their lives here in Lower Ninth Ward.
The second cause, though, are the operations of the oil, gas and pipeline companies. And they dredged about--I would say about two miles north of here, and they basically carved up this natural ridge that protected New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward from storm surge flooding. They carved it up looking for oil and gas. They didn't find that much, but they never fixed what they broke. And that's why the Flood Protection Authority is taking them to court. Thank God for them.
AMY GOODMAN: New Orleans community organizer Jacques Morial here in New Orleans. Special thanks to Sam Alcoff for that video report, and Amy Littlefield and Renée Feltz.
Well, now the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority--East is trying to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for the damage caused by thousands of miles of canals and pipelines carved through the wetlands. The board was created after Hurricane Katrina to provide independent oversight of flood protection in metropolitan New Orleans east of the Mississippi River. In July, the board filed suit against 97 oil and gas companies, including BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron, accusing them of killing plant life, eroding soil and carrying out a, quote, "mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction."
5 Companies Creating Digital Jobs in Africa (SLIDESHOW) (1 October 2013)
Samasource is a social business that connects women and youths living in poverty to data- and content-processing work from U.S. clients. This work provides a living wage and helps workers gain skills and inject capital into their communities.
Pictured: A Samasource worker poses with his laptop computer at night in Nairobi, Kenya.
Northwestern's Journalism Program Offers Students Internships with Prestige, But No Paycheck (1 October 2013)
Northwestern University's journalism school boasts of its prowess in preparing students for prestigious careers -- but it also serves as a pipeline for unpaid internships.
At Medill, students pay $15,040 in quarterly tuition for the privilege of working full-time jobs as unpaid interns. During their mandatory quarter in Journalism Residency, as it is known, students work full time at news organizations such as CNN Documentaries, Self and WGN Chicago. But instead of paying interns, employers pay Medill $1,250 for every student placed. In turn, students receive academic credit and a small stipend from the university for relocation expenses, ranging from $600 to $1,200. The most generous stipend amounts to just $2.72 an hour -- far below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
It's an arrangement that even Medill is second-guessing. According to a July 30 email obtained by ProPublica, Medill has begun asking news organizations whether they would consider paying students minimum wage.
"As always, Medill and the University are careful to make sure that the program is an academic experience that meets U.S. Department of Labor regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act," program coordinator Desiree Hanford wrote in an email to editors and internship coordinators at partner media companies.
With 2.3 Million People Incarcerated in the US, Prisons Are Big Business (1 October 2013)
"Global Tel* Link. You have a collect call from: 'Tim.' An inmate in Shelby County Correctional Facility.... If you wish to accept and pay for this call, dial zero now."
I don't know how many times I heard the same robotic voice speak these words since last fall. I was researching the story of Timothy McKinney, a Memphis man facing his third death-penalty trial for the killing of an off-duty police officer in 1997. Tim would call from Shelby County Jail, to answer my questions and to do what anyone facing trial would want to do: air concerns about his case, vent. Sometimes he would call multiple times a week. Because the phone calls were limited to fifteen minutes at a time, a couple of times he hung up and called right back, so we could keep talking.
The calls were expensive, more than a dollar per minute, depending on the time of day. In order to accept one, I had to set up a prepaid account with Global Tel* Link, or GTL, "The Next Generation of Correctional Technology." If Tim called and my account was out of money, the automated voice would prompt me to replenish it via credit card, while he waited on the other line. "By accepting an inmate call, you acknowledge and agree that your conversation may be monitored and recorded," the company advises.
I dealt with Global Tel* Link for only a few months. But for Tim's relatives, this had been their reality for years. GTL makes more than $500 million a year exploiting families like his, who face the choice between paying exorbitant phone rates to keep in touch with incarcerated loved ones--up to $1.13 per minute--or simply giving up on regular phone calls. Like many other telecommunications companies that enjoy profitable monopolies on prison and jail contracts across the country, GTL wins its contracts by offering a kickback--or "commission"--to the prison or jail systems it serves. As an exhaustive 2011 study in Prison Legal News explained, the kickback is "based on a percentage of the gross revenue generated by prisoners' phone calls.... [The] commissions dwarf all other considerations and are a controlling factor when awarding prison phone contracts."
Lawmakers seek answers after oil gushes during Colorado floods (1 October 2013)
More than 60,000 gallons of oil and other petrochemical-laced fluids are now confirmed to have been spilled from fracking operations during recent floods in Colorado -- and two congressmembers are calling for a hearing into the toxic eruption.
State oil officials have been doing their best to track oil spills and equipment leaks amid floods that killed eight and destroyed 1,800 homes. In an update published Monday [PDF], the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said it is tracking 14 "notable" oil spills that released an estimated 44,000 gallons. It is also monitoring 12 leaks of "produced" water -- an estimated 17,000 gallons of water polluted with oil and gas residue from fracking operations.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, think that's pretty effing disturbing. They sent a letter [PDF] last week to committee chair Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) asking him to schedule a hearing into the effects of leaks from Colorado's fracking sector during the floods:
"As Congress continues to consider policies to expand domestic oil and gas production, we would benefit from learning more about how disasters like this can impact local communities, states, and federal regulators. We respectfully request that you hold a committee hearing as soon as possible so that we may fully understand the potential grave consequences resulting from this flood."
Jellyfish Invasion Forces EON to Shut Down Swedish Nuclear Plant (30 September 2013)
EON SE shut down Sweden's biggest nuclear power plant after a swarm of jellyfish made its way into a cooling water inlet at the reactor on the Baltic coast.
The 1,400 megawatt Oskarshamn-3 unit, located about 340 kilometers (211 miles) south of Stockholm, accounts for 5 percent of Sweden's power supply, Anders Oesterberg, a spokesman for EON, said by e-mail today.
"This situation is caused by a huge amount of jellyfish, just one is definitely not enough to cause problems," Oesterberg said from Oskarshamn, Sweden. "The last time this happened was in August 2005, when we had to shut down Oskarshamn-1 because of a jellyfish invasion."
Oskarshamn-3 was halted on Sept. 8 for maintenance and was scheduled to resume output Sept. 27, according to a company filing. EON, Germany's biggest utility, owns 55 percent of the plant, which was commissioned in 1985. Fortum Oyj (FUM1V) of Finland owns the rest.
More information on the plant stoppage is expected later today, according to an EON filing with the Nord Pool Spot exchange in Oslo.
The jellyfish are part of the genus Aurelia, according to Oesterberg. Known as moon jellyfish, they have pale translucent bodies, are found mainly in coastal areas in Europe and North America and may grow as large as 40 centimeters in diameter, according to the online edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Microsoft investors push for chairman Gates to step down (1 October 2013)
(Reuters) - Three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft Corp are lobbying the board to press for Bill Gates to step down as chairman of the software company he co-founded 38 years ago, according to people familiar with matter.
While Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has been under pressure for years to improve the company's performance and share price, this appears to be the first time that major shareholders are taking aim at Gates, who remains one of the most respected and influential figures in technology.
A representative for Microsoft declined to comment on Tuesday.
There is no indication that Microsoft's board would heed the wishes of the three investors, who collectively hold more than 5 percent of the company's stock, according to the sources. They requested the identity of the investors be kept anonymous because the discussions were private.
Gates owns about 4.5 percent of the $277 billion company and is its largest individual shareholder.
The three investors are concerned that Gates' role as chairman effectively blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the power of a new chief executive to make substantial changes. In particular, they point to Gates' role on the special committee searching for Ballmer's successor.
NSA files: latest reaction and developments - live (1 October 2013)
Snowden: 'Economies are built on creativity, curiosity- and privacy'
Unsurprisingly, Edward Snowden chose to submit a statement on paper, rather than appear by weblink at yesterday's hearing of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. But appear he did - an exile has apparently not compromise his decision to blow the whistle.
In a three-minute reading, Jesselyn Radack, National Security & Human Rights Director of the Government Accountability Project read the statement in full, and Snowden kicked off by calling the mass surveillance of whole populations "the greatest human rights challenge of our time".
We've transcribed Snowden's speech in full:
"I thank the European parliament and the LIBE committee for taking up the challenge of mass surveillance. The surveillance of whole populations rather than individuals threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time.
"The success of economies in developed nations relies increasingly on their creative output, and if that success is to continue we must remember that creativity is the product of curiosity, which in turn is the product of privacy."
The Government Leakers Who Truly Endanger America Will Never Face Prosecution (1 October 2013)
Secrecy is for the convenience of the state. To support military adventures and budgets, vast troves of U.S. government secrets are routinely released not by lone dissident whistle-blowers but rather skilled teams of government officials. They engage in coordinated propaganda campaigns designed to influence public opinion. They leak secrets compulsively to advance careers or justify wars and weapons programs, even when the material is far more threatening to national security than any revealed by Edward Snowden.
Remember the hoary accounts in the first week of August trumpeting a great intelligence coup warranting the closing of nearly two dozen U.S. embassies in anticipation of an al-Qaida attack? Advocates for the surveillance state jumped all over that one to support claims that NSA electronic interceptions revealed by Snowden were necessary, and that his whistle-blowing had weakened the nation's security. Actually, the opposite is true.
The al-Qaida revelation, first reported Aug. 2 by Eric Schmitt in The New York Times, came not from the classified information released by Snowden but rather from leaks deliberately provided by U.S. intelligence officials eager to show that the NSA electronic data-gathering program was necessary. On Sunday, Schmitt co-wrote another Times article, similarly quoting American authorities, conceding that the officially condoned August leaks had caused more damage than any of the leaked information attributed to Snowden.
That's because the government leak, which revealed that the United States had intercepted messages between two top al-Qaida leaders discussing a pending attack, resulted in a sharp decrease in their use of the communications channel that was being monitored by U.S. authorities, leaving the U.S. officials to try to find new avenues of surveillance.
According to the story, "As the nation's spy agencies assess the fallout from disclosures about their surveillance programs, some government analysts and senior officials have made a startling finding: the impact of a leaked terrorist plot by al Qaeda in August has caused more immediate damage to American counterterrorism efforts than the thousands of classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor."
The Fundraising Message That Ate America (1 October 2013)
If you think the Democrats haven't been banging this particular kettle drum, think again. No less than twelve fundraising emails have hit my mailbox since 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, two of which came from "Barack Obama" himself. "I need your help today," reads the one I got around dinnertime on Monday evening, "because all of the progress that has been made since 2008 has never been about what I can do for you, but what we can accomplish together. I need partners in the Senate and House who share that focus. And tonight's fundraising deadline is crucial. Chip in $25 or more right now before the midnight fundraising deadline to help Democrats finish what we started."
As I am not beloved by the denizens of the far right, I am not on any of their fundraising email lists...but I am going to assume that Republicans all across the country have spent the last 48 hours watching their in-boxes fill up with JESUS IS LORD COMMUNISTS AND SOCIALISTS WANT TO TAKE YOUR GUNS AND FETUSES OBAMACARE IS A TROJAN HORSE FOR SHARIA LAW KENYA BIRTH CERTIFICATE HILLARY CLINTON GIVE US MONEY OR GOD WILL MAKE YOU GAY WHAAAAARGARBLE messages.
Because money. Period, end of file, turn off the lights when you leave...oh, wait, they're already off.
That's why I think this happened, and it started a while ago. Certain influential Republicans in the House and Senate, along with the outside groups that sustain them, figured out that slapping "Repeal Obamacare!" into a direct-mail fundraising message was better than winning the lottery, so they kept at it, and kept at it, and kept at it, and O my Lord, how the money rolled in...until the monster they created stomped out of the laboratory and began tearing up the joint.
Nearly two dozen medical studies prove that vaccines can cause autism (1 October 2013)
(NaturalNews) Mainstream doctors and media pundits are notorious for claiming that the vaccine-autism debate is over and that no legitimate scientific evidence exists to suggest even a possible link between vaccinations and autism spectrum disorders (ASD): case closed. But a thoroughly-researched report recently published by Arjun Walia over at Activist Post reveals that there are at least 22 published scientific studies that show a link between vaccines and autism and that there are many more out there with similar findings.
Much of the original controversy stems from Dr. Andrew Wakefield's study back in the late 1990s, which exposed gastrointestinal inflammation as an obvious side effect of vaccination with the combination measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Dr. Wakefield obviously struck a major nerve with his research, which was quickly torn apart by the establishment and maliciously paraded around as being fraudulent, even though his groundbreaking findings have repeatedly been validated and replicated by many other studies.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Biomedical Sciences, for instance, observed a causal effect between the MMR vaccine and autism, particularly with regards to the measles portion of the vaccine. The researchers from Utah State University concluded that MMR is capable of inducing an abnormal measles infection in some children, which in turn can lead to neurological problems that fall under the umbrella of ASD.
Another study published in the journal Entropy in 2012 observed a strong correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism, except in this case aluminum was the culprit. According to an abstract of this study, vaccines that contain aluminum are particularly toxic to children, who end up later being diagnosed with ASD, as they have insufficient serum levels of both sulfate and glutathione. The aluminum found in some vaccines, in other words, appears to be a primary aggravator of ASD symptoms.
"Regardless of the MMR vaccine and autism debate, there are still a number of studies that link vaccines to a possible autism connection," writes Walia. "[M]ultiple courts worldwide have ruled in favor of vaccines causing autism, brain damage and other complications that include the MMR vaccine," he adds, noting that many other side effects besides autism have been observed in relation to vaccines.
Health insurance markets open; success to be seen (1 October 2013)
CHICAGO (AP) -- Millions of Americans can now shop on the insurance marketplaces at the heart of President Barack Obama's health care reforms, entering a world intended to simplify the mysteries of health coverage but that could cause yet more confusion -- at least initially.
Whether consumers will be pleased with the experience, the premiums and the out-of-pocket costs of the plans offered to them will finally start to become clear Tuesday. The nationwide rollout comes after months of buildup in which the marketplaces, also known as exchanges, have been both praised and vilified.
Illustrating the heated political disagreements over the law, the opening of the exchanges comes the same day as the shutdown of the federal government, led by congressional Republicans who want to block the health insurance reforms from taking effect.
The shutdown will have no immediate effect on the insurance marketplaces that are the backbone of the law, because they operate with money that isn't subject to the annual budget wrangling in Washington.
Efforts early Tuesday to access the online marketplace in Illinois prompted a message saying traffic to the site was heavy. The website churned slowly to the log-in page, but eventually got there.
Obamacare launch poised to reach millions despite shutdown drama (1 October 2013)
(Reuters) - Millions of Americans will learn on Tuesday what President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law actually means for them, as the administration opens new insurance marketplaces in 50 states despite a government shutdown.
The launch marks a milestone for Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, which aims to provide subsidized healthcare to millions of the uninsured, the most ambitious U.S. social program since Medicare was introduced in the 1960s.
Obama is scheduled to meet and pose for pictures in the Oval Office with a group of Americans who stand to benefit from the program, while Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama will also promote the law via media channels.
The first day of online enrollment in the health insurance plans was going ahead despite a partial shutdown of the U.S. government after the failure of the U.S. Congress to pass spending bills to fund government operations in the fiscal year that begins on Tuesday.
The marketplaces, or exchanges, require health plans to provide a broad range of essential benefits that were not necessarily part of individual policies in the past, including mental health services, birth control and preventive care. The coverage is linked to other insurance market reforms and new consumer safeguards, including a ban on discrimination based on gender and health history.
Do we make poorer decisions as we age? (1 October 2013)
When it comes to making boneheaded choices, teenagers usually win society's award for overall poor decision-making.
Yet a study published recently in the journal PNAS suggests that our ability to make wise choices changes over time, and actually declines with old age.
In fact, the study found that in certain situations, the decision-making ability of people older than 65 was worse than that of adolescents. While teens were more apt to drive carelessly, study authors argued that seniors were more likely to make poor medical or financial decisions.
The study involved 135 men and women between ages 12 to 90. Each was assigned a sum of money -- $125 -- and then asked a series of "lottery questions." The questions were designed to gauge risk aversion, consistency of thought and rationality.
Seniors "disturbingly" chose irrational wager options 25% of the time, according to the study authors. An example of an irrational choice would be to bypass a sure gain of $5 in favor of an ambiguous or risky choice to win the same amount of cash.
6 Reasons We Share Too Much Online, According to Behavioral Scientists (1 October 2013)
Our uneasy relationship with the internet begins with the fact we don't really know who can see our data and how they might exploit it. "Not even the experts have a full understanding of how personal data is used in an increasingly complicated market," points out Carnegie Mellon public policy professor Alessandro Acquisti, who researches the psychology behind online privacy perceptions. Behavioral economists often refer to this problem as information asymmetry: One party in a transaction (Facebook, Twitter, advertisers, the NSA) has better information than the other party (the rest of us).
The upshot is that we can't agree on what our privacy is worth. A study last year by Acquisti and Jens Grossklags of the University of California-Berkeley found that people were willing to accept wildly varying sums of money in exchange for giving out their email address and information about their hobbies and interests--from $0 to $100,000.
Our struggle to weigh the importance of online privacy reflects a classic case of what economists call "bounded rationality." That is, the ability to decide things rationally is constrained by a blinkered understanding of how those decisions might affect us.
John McAfee Claims He Can Protect You From the NSA for $100 (1 October 2013)
At a tech and music conference last weekend, John McAfee, controversial founder of the eponymous anti-virus software company, announced that he is inventing a device that will stop the NSA from spying on Americans. It's called D-Central, it will be out within the next six months, and it will only set you back around $100. But does it work?
McAfee--better known as a bath salts enthusiast (he says he was joking) who once dodged the police in Belize after his neighbor there was murdered (he maintains he didn't do it)--has been dropping hints about the device, but there are still big questions as to how it works and whether it will deter government snooping. Encryption experts say that the device McAfee describes is certainly possible--but if Americans want to be truly NSA-free, they'll have to say goodbye to everything that makes the Internet fun, or better yet, get off the Internet.
Here's what we know from McAfee's cagey description at the C2SV Technology Conference + Music Festival on Saturday (as reported by the San Jose Mercury News): The NSA-proof device acts like a wireless Internet router that broadcasts small, private networks across a radius of about three blocks in the city and a little over a quarter mile in the country. By accessing these networks, users within range of the device can secretly swap files with each other or access a "public mode"-- without jumping on the main Internet backbone. "It will of course be used for nefarious purposes, just like the telephone is," McAfee said at the conference, agreeing that it could be described as a "dark Web."
"It looks like this is definitely something that could be physically built, but whether anyone would want it is another question," says Matthew Green, an encryption expert at Johns Hopkins University. "You would still have to avoid Facebook, Google, Twitter-- because these are centralized providers that have a relationship with the NSA."
BP trial over the 2010 oil spill reopens, revisits talk of flow rates, 'top kills' and 'junk shots' (30 September 2013)
After a five-month break, the BP trial resumed in New Orleans on Monday (Sept. 30) for its second phase, with lawyers accusing the oil company of failing in its disaster preparations and attempts to stop to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and a BP lawyer countering with descriptions of extensive efforts amid uncertain conditions.
Rows of lawyers spread out before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to begin the four-day discussion of BP's approach to stopping the gusher. Next week the proceedings will turn to the subject of determining how much oil leaked into the environment, which in turn informs the size of the fines BP could pay. The first phase in the spring covered BP's and its partners' liability based on how they drilled the well before the April 2010 blowout.
"BP's plan was nothing more than a plan to plan," said plaintiffs' attorney Brian Barr in opening statements.
Barr said the company's 600-page disaster response plan included only one page on controlling the source of a blown out well, and its employees lacked training on that scenario.
"BP knew of the gaps in its ability to control the source of a deep water blowout," Barr said.
BP lied about size of U.S. Gulf oil spill, lawyers tell trial (30 September 2013)
(Reuters) - In the frantic days after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP lied about how much oil was leaking from its Macondo well and took too long to cap it, plaintiffs' lawyers said on Monday at the opening of the second phase of the company's trial.
A lawyer for BP told the U.S. District Court in New Orleans that the company did not misrepresent the oil flow and followed U.S. standards before and after the spill, the worst marine pollution disaster in the United States.
The British oil company is fighting to hold down fines that could hit $18 billion at the trial, which will determine damages. BP's annualized earnings, based on last quarter, are running at about $17 billion.
"BP refused to spend any time or money preparing to stop a deepwater blowout at its source," said Brian Barr, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, which include people affected by the spill, the U.S. government and Gulf states, and BP's former contractors.
"BP then made the situation worse," Barr said. "By lying about the amount of flow from the well."
The second phase of the trial, expected to last a month, is focused on how much oil spewed from the well and whether efforts to plug it were adequate.
GOP Temper Tantrum (30 September 2013)
But if the Republicans' single-minded obsession with delaying or repealing Obamacare isn't enough partisan politics, an amendment they rammed through in the dark of night added language that would give bosses the power to decide whether women who work for them should have access to birth control through their healthcare coverage. (They had help from two anti-choice Democrats: Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina.) The combination of the two measures puts the budget bill back in the hands of the Democrat-controlled Senate, which will almost certainly strip out these outrageous provisions and send the bill back to the House, which has until midnight tonight to approve the measure or shut down the federal government.
Americans may be familiar with the Tea Party Republican's obsession with crippling Obamacare before the insurance exchanges open tomorrow, October 1. What's less known is their backward position that women's birth control coverage--whether used for family planning or for medical necessity--should be decided by employers. Given that 99 percent of all women in this country use birth control at some point in their lives, this position puts anti-choice lawmakers not only outside the mainstream but in a different galaxy from the mainstream.
This is not new. In 2012, Senator Roy Blunt tried to pass similar language as part of a highway funding bill. The so-called "Blunt amendment" was stripped out by Senate Democrats then, but now it's back as Republicans have decided that the budget fight is the perfect chance to renew their very real war on women.
Remember Republicans' soul-searching after they lost big in 2012 thanks to the largest election gender gap in modern history? Apparently that search turned up empty, since the resolution they approved this weekend forces millions of American adult women to ask permission of their employers before they get their birth control pills covered in their health insurance like all other medications.
'They Ordered Us To Kill All The People' (30 September 2013)
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Shaken by sobs, his head bowed, a former Guatemalan commando testified last week that he wept as he hurled a little boy to his death in a village well 31 years ago while a commanding officer, Lt. Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, snarled: "This is a job for men!"
Sosa, now a 55-year-old U.S. citizen, watched that grim testimony from a defense table guarded by U.S. marshals in a federal courtroom here. His former comrade-in-arms, Gilberto Jordán, accused Sosa of playing a lead role in one of the worst war crimes in the recent history of the hemisphere: the massacre of 250 people in the Guatemalan hamlet of Dos Erres in 1982. Sosa is charged with fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship years later by concealing his participation in the massacre.
The trial began last week and is the first trial in the United States involving an atrocity from Guatemala's 30-year civil war. It is also the first full airing of the Dos Erres case in a U.S. court. Sosa has become the highest-ranking suspect to be prosecuted. U.S. authorities had previously jailed Jordán, who pleaded guilty to immigration fraud charges in 2010, and another ex-soldier who had migrated to the United States. Guatemalan courts have convicted five former commandos. Seven others remain fugitives in an ongoing case that has tested Guatemala's ability to pursue justice against war criminals shielded by corrupt security forces and powerful mafias.
During the first four days of the trial, federal prosecutors undertook an unusual challenge: attempting to prove Sosa participated in the slaughter to convict him of the relatively minor crime of immigration fraud. When Sosa obtained citizenship in 2008 and a green card in 1998, he allegedly made false statements on immigration forms by failing to disclose his military service and saying he had never committed a crime for which he had not been arrested, according to prosecutors.
By next summer, every IKEA in Britain will be selling solar panels (30 September 2013)
IKEA has a sneaky way of getting you to buy things you didn't know you always wanted. Usually, those things cost under $100. But in Britain, the company is now selling customers a much more expensive impulse buy, at a price point closer to $10,000: solar panels.
By the middle of next summer, all 17 of IKEA's stores in Britain will offer thin-film solar panels to customers, the Guardian reports. They're not exactly cheap: The simplest system costs 5,700 British pounds, which is about $9,200. But during a pilot project, an IKEA store not far from London sold one of these systems every day.
We're not always fans of IKEA, but there's a lot to take away here. Britain's not exactly known as a sunny place, but even on this grey island, solar power can work. And people will invest in it, especially if there are government subsidies involved. But it helps if making that investment is easy. And that's what IKEA is good at. That and selling furniture for college kids and divorced men.
In the renewable energy race, solar power is hot hot hot (30 September 2013)
Solar power installations are expected to edge out new wind farms this year for the title of fastest-growing clean energy source.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance has projected that photovoltaic plants like this monster that we reported on last week will add 36.7 gigawatts of capacity this year -- up 20 percent from last year. New wind farms, meanwhile, will add 35.5 gigawatts. That's an awesome figure, too, but it's nearly a quarter less for wind than in 2012. From Bloomberg:
"Lower panel costs and government support are accelerating deployment of solar energy even as growth slows in the mature European markets. Wind installations, more than double solar before 2011, are also being slowed by Europe, as well as a lack of clarity on policy in the U.S. and China.
"Wind power installations will drop by almost a quarter this year to their lowest level since 2008 because of the policies in these two countries, according to Justin Wu, [Bloomberg New Energy Finance]'s head of wind analysis. China and the U.S. combined represented about 60 percent of the global wind market last year."
Should Kratom Use Be Legal? (30 September 2013)
The leaves of the herb kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), a native of Southeast Asia in the coffee family, are used to relieve pain and improve mood as an opiate substitute and stimulant. The herb is also combined with cough syrup to make a popular beverage in Thailand called "4x100." Because of its psychoactive properties, however, kratom is illegal in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists kratom as a "drug of concern" because of its abuse potential, stating it has no legitimate medical use. The state of Indiana has banned kratom consumption outright.
Now, looking to control its population's growing dependence on methamphetamines, Thailand is attempting to legalize kratom, which it had originally banned 70 years ago.
At the same time, researchers are studying kratom's ability to help wean addicts from much stronger drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Studies show that a compound found in the plant could even serve as the basis for an alternative to methadone in treating addictions to opioids. The moves are just the latest step in kratom's strange journey from home-brewed stimulant to illegal painkiller to, possibly, a withdrawal-free treatment for opioid abuse.
With kratom's legal status under review in Thailand and U.S. researchers delving into the substance's potential to help drug addicts, Scientific American spoke with Edward Boyer, a professor of emergency medicine and director of medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Boyer has worked with Chris McCurdy, a University of Mississippi professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, and others for the past several years to better understand whether kratom use should be stigmatized or celebrated.
Canadian researchers find illegal drugs more plentiful despite police seizures (30 September 2013)
Illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and heroin have generally become cheaper, purer and more potent than ever, despite a global increase in drug seizures over the past two decades, according to a new study led by Canadian researchers.
The findings, published Monday in the medical journal BMJ Open, provide the "first global snapshot" of progress made by the four decade-long war on drugs, said senior author Dr. Evan Wood, a University of British Columbia professor and Canadian research chair in inner city medicine.
And the picture that emerges, he said, is one of total failure.
"By every metric, the war on drugs -- which is estimated to have cost North Americans over the last 40 years over a trillion dollars -- has really been hugely ineffective," says Wood, who is also the founder of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. "Drugs are more freely and easily available in our society than they've ever been."
Blood-covered teens arrested as Mill Valley LSD party ends in violence (30 September 2013)
The subject, who appeared to be under the influence, became combative and allegedly began to attack the firefighters with what they later described as "superhuman strength," prompting a call for help from the sheriff's office, Pittman said.
The first deputy on the scene attempted to assist, but was confronted by more partygoers, including a female who also allegedly became combative, Pittman said.
In all, sheriff's deputies and personnel from five other law enforcement agencies responded to the scene before the area was secured, Pittman said.
Paramedics were eventually able to assist the boy who had originally been reported as having a seizure. They found around eight other party-goers inside the residence, many of whom were also covered in blood.
The blood was eventually determined to have come from injuries the original subject had inflicted on himself while under the influence of LSD, Pittman said.
Illinois: 33 people taken to hospitals after CTA trains collide (30 September 2013)
CTA officials are investigating how an out of service train ran head-on into a train stopped at a Blue Line station in Forest Park this morning, sending dozens of people to hospitals.
The agency said 33 people were taken to 9 hospitals, but there were no serious injuries. CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase disputed a count by Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderonem, who said 48 people were taken to 10 hospitals.
The accident happened around 8 a.m. when an outbound train stopped at the Harlem station was hit by an out-of-service train going the opposite direction on the same track, according to CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis.
Officials are investigating why the out-of-service train was on the track, she said.
She did not know how many people were on the other train when it was hit. There were no passengers on the out-of-service train, and Lukidis did not know how many workers were on it.
Whooping crane migration delayed due to high winds (30 September 2013)
High winds forced Operation Migration to delay the start of its 2013 guided whooping crane migration, originally slated for this morning.
Early-morning birdwatchers gathered near White River Marsh to watch the cranes depart for the season, but the organization's staff received a pilot's radio call that winds aloft were too strong. The wind speed became apparent when Lead Pilot Joe Duff flew over the birdwatchers before departing, his ultra-light making almost no progress flying south.
Weather delays are a day-to-day decision by the group's pilots, and not uncommon. When delays are known before birdwatchers would normally arrive at flyover locations, the group will often post them on its "In the field" blog and crane cam page or announce them to its e-mail list, in an effort to save "craniacs" (its crane-watching fans) their early-morning drive to remote flyover locations. On other occasions, including today, weather cancellations aren't known until pilots are in the air.
The start of Operation Migration's 2013 migration is now expected to start tomorrow, weather permitting.
Feds consider permit to drill on Kan. wetlands (30 September 2013)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Cheyenne Bottoms, a central Kansas site that includes internationally recognized wetlands, is "not fully functioning" and could become more threatened by additional oil drilling in the area, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"It's death by a thousand paper cuts," said Heather Whitlaw, field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service, which opposes a recent request by a Kansas company seeking to drill on wetlands in Cheyenne Bottoms, a 41,000-acre land sink in central Kansas that's the largest interior marsh in the U.S. and where about 250,000 waterfowl stop during seasonal migrations.
"We believe that the cumulative impacts of multiple oil well drilling and production sites along with related activities will result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to an aquatic resource of national importance," Whitlaw said in a recent letter to the Kansas City district of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is reviewing the permit request. The Corps of Engineers has the authority to issue construction permits on U.S. wetlands, which are considered important in part because they serve several purposes, including floodwater storage and habitat for fish and wildlife.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates about 100 million wetland acres remain in the lower 48 states and about 60,000 of those acres are lost each year to such things as farming and development.
Cheyenne Bottoms and the nearby Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, which is another wetlands site, host more than 90 percent of the world's population of two species of sandpipers and hundreds of thousands of geese and cranes, including the endangered whooping crane, according to the Ramsar Convention on International Wetlands, a global treaty that provides a framework for wetlands conservation.
Another research bear apparently dead (30 September 2013)
Two weeks after a hunter shot and killed a research bear named Dot, the North American Bear Center posted news on Sunday of the apparent death of another of its radio-collared bears, June.
The bear's collar had stopped transmitting a moving GPS location on Friday night, prompting researcher Sue Mansfield to go to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office in Tower, Minn., where she discovered the collar's signal coming from the building.
A subsequent conversation with a DNR conservation officer revealed that a man had called to drop off June's radio collar, Mansfield wrote in a posting co-authored with colleague Lynn Rogers. The two claimed that the officer would not say whether the bear had been shot and said they were waiting for more information.
A DNR spokeswoman could not be reached Sunday night.
The DNR had moved to cancel Rogers' state research permit, partly because of concerns that his practice of hand-feeding bears taught the animals to see humans as a source of food. But a July compromise allowed him to keep collars on 10 bears.
Government to sue N.C. over new voter law (30 September 2013)
Carolina for alleged racial discrimination over tough new voting rules, the latest effort by the Obama administration to fight back against a Supreme Court decision that struck down the most powerful part of the landmark Voting Rights Act and freed southern states from strict federal oversight of their elections.
North Carolina has a new law scaling back the period for early voting and imposing stringent voter identification requirements. It is among at least five Southern states adopting stricter voter ID and other election laws. The Justice Department on Aug. 22 sued Texas over the state's voter ID law and is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit over redistricting laws in Texas that minority groups consider to be discriminatory.
Republican lawmakers in southern states insist the new measures are needed to prevent voter fraud, though such crimes are infrequent. Democrats and civil rights groups argue the tough new laws are intended to make voting more difficult for minorities and students, voting groups that lean toward Democrats, in states with legacies of poll taxes and literacy tests.
Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce the lawsuit against North Carolina at a news conference Monday, according to a person who has been briefed on the department's plans but is not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Washington braces for the first shutdown of the national government in 17 years (30 September 2013)
The U.S. government was bracing on Monday for its first shutdown in nearly two decades, with frustrated and weary lawmakers expected to gather at the U.S. Capitol with little hope of finding a compromise that would keep the government in operation past midnight.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to reject a funding bill approved by the House early Sunday because it would delay Obama's signature 2010 health-care law for one year and repeal a tax on medical devices.
Reid will move to table the House amendments when senators convene early Monday afternoon. That exercise requires a simple majority and can be accomplished solely with Democratic votes.
By midafternoon, House GOP leaders are likely to again be facing a decision about how to handle the simple, six-week government funding bill the Senate approved last week.
Amid Shutdown Scrambling, a Powerful Reminder that DC Should Be a State (30 September 2013)
If the federal government shuts down because of the shenanigans of John Boehner and his congressional minions, most American cities will muddle through. They control their own budgets and have the power to tax and spend at sufficient levels to manage even when federal officials cannot seem to do so.
The residents of the capital city of the United States are not merely denied elected representation in the United States Congress--creating a classic "taxation without representation" circumstance. They are denied the sort of budget autonomy that would allow the district's elected officials to access funds and resources needed to maintain local services.
"The city is an innocent bystander in this federal fight, but a local D.C. shutdown will amount to a great deal more than collateral damage," says Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the veteran civil rights activist who represents the District of Columbia as a non-voting delegate.
DC officials have emergency plans to maintain services--with Mayor Vincent Gray declaring all government operations essential and DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson developing legislation to pay the 32,000 municipal employees from the district's contingency cash reserve fund. Gray says that "everything the District government does--protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents and visitors--is essential."
Are bats carrying the next plague? (30 September 2013)
The virus was named Hendra after the Brisbane suburb where Drama Series died. It was initially thought to be a horse measles-like virus but investigators soon realized it was something different -- and new.
They went searching for the source, testing every land animal under the Australian sun: kangaroos, reptiles, bandicoots. When none showed any sign of the virus, investigators started looking up.
"That year, there were two independent (outbreaks). One was in Hendra, one in MacKay, 800 kilometres apart," says Wang, who worked in Australia at the time and helped investigate the outbreak. "We started to think that maybe it was something that could travel long distances. So we concentrated on birds and bats."
Once they started looking at bats, the evidence started cascading. In two years, investigators tested more than 1,000 flying foxes, a megabat native to Australia; nearly half had antibodies to Hendra, meaning they had all been infected at some time.
So Hendra was a bat virus. This was shocking news -- Australia was considered rabies-free and the country had never worried about bat viruses.
But just two years after Hendra, Australians had yet another virus to worry about.
In 1996, a Queensland woman was scratched by a bat and quickly died from something that looked a lot like rabies. Only, she wasn't infected with rabies -- this virus, although genetically related, was entirely new. They named it Australian bat lyssavirus. In February, it claimed its third and latest victim, an 8-year-old boy from Brisbane.
PAM COMMENTARY: Again, whenever they say that viruses are "new" or that they have no treatment, I wonder if anyone has tried a Clark zapper.
Google has been secretly harvesting the passwords of all Wi-Fi devices everywhere (30 September 2013)
(NaturalNews) It's bad enough that the federal government, through its various agencies, has been "data mining" (i.e., spying) on all of our electronic communications, all in the name of "national security," but now comes word that some of the largest telecom and social media companies are unconstitutionally lifting our private, personal data too. Namely, our passwords.
According to a blog post by Michael Horowitz on the website Computer World, Google and Android have teamed up to steal the passwords on hundreds of millions of Wi-Fi devices.
"If an Android device (phone or tablet) has ever logged on to a particular Wi-Fi network, then Google probably knows the Wi-Fi password. Considering how many Android devices there are, it is likely that Google can access most Wi-Fi passwords worldwide."
Big Pharma bribery in China now hits Novartis: Claims of faked research and bogus trials (29 September 2013)
(NaturalNews) GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is apparently not alone in bribing doctors throughout China to sell more of its products, as new reports indicate that Switzerland-based Novartis has also been caught engaging in this and other illicit activity in recent years. China's 21st Century Business Herald reports that a whistleblower by the pseudonym "Zorro" recently came forward with allegations that Alcon, Novartis' eye care unit, had offered financial kickbacks to at least 200 Chinese hospitals to boost sales of its lens implants.
But the company did not simply offer cash to doctors in exchange for more product referrals. According to Reuters, Alcon got extra crafty by hiring on a third party research company to conduct what its accuser says were "bogus trials." These trials, known as "patient experience surveys," were nothing more than phony marketing surveys created for clinical trials that never actually happened, and doctors who agreed to accept them were given payments in the form of "research fees."
"Alcon employees paid doctors through a middleman for market surveys for clinical trials that never took place," writes Marta Falconi for The Wall Street Journal. "The report said the payments were made to doctors at more than 200 hospitals across China, using funding meant for clinical studies."
Novartis, GSK, Eli Lilly, Sanofi and many others embroiled in fraud allegations
The allegations come amid a number of others directed at major drug companies, including U.S.-based Eli Lilly and Company and Sanofi U.S. -- and of course GSK -- all of which have been accused of infractions ranging from bribery and illegal kickbacks to phony studies and false claims about drug efficacy. Many of these same companies have also been pegged for pushing doctors to prescribe more drugs for off-label use, which is illegal.
Just last month, the 21st Century Business Herald reported on similar accusations, also against Novartis, in which Chinese officials were allegedly bribing doctors to boost sales of a cancer drug known as Sandostatin LAR. And Eli Lilly was targeted around the same time after a former employee of the company, now a whistleblower, claimed it had distributed nearly $5 million to doctors to promote its drugs. And the list goes on and on.
"Corrupt practices among doctors, hospitals and drug companies in China have unnecessarily increased the burden on people trying to get medical services, so this is a very basic livelihood issue," says Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong, as quoted by Bloomberg.
Dangerous Addiction to Secrecy (29 September 2013)
If President Barack Obama is right about the revived hopes for settling several interlocking crises in the Middle East -- from Iran's nuclear program to the Israel-Palestinian conflict -- a good starting place would be a decision by the various sides to lift the curtains of unnecessary secrecy surrounding both current events and their historical context.
But the key actors in these geopolitical dramas can't seem to shake their addiction to secrecy. For instance, on the historical front, Iran and Russia -- as well as Israel and the U.S. intelligence community -- have evidence about alleged Republican-Iranian interference in President Jimmy Carter's hostage negotiations with Iran in 1980, but this material is still kept hidden.
Over the years, key Iranians, including former President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, have declared that a secret deal was struck with Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign to delay the release of 52 American hostages in Iran until after the U.S. election to guarantee Carter's defeat. But the Iranian government has kept officially mum on its role in the so-called October Surprise case.
In 1993, the Russian government supplied a U.S. congressional task force with a secret summary of Soviet-era intelligence information corroborating the allegations of a Republican-Iranian deal, but the summary contained few details about Moscow's proof and there was no serious U.S. follow-up of the disclosure with Russian officials. Israel allegedly helped implement the brokered deal by becoming Iran's weapons supplier in the early 1980s.
PAM COMMENTARY: I'm surprised that this article doesn't mention Iran-Contra.
Dear Congress -- Stop This Manufactured Crisis (29 September 2013)
Forty-one organizations, representing millions of Americans, have signed this letter to Congress, asking them to stand against those who would "hold our economy hostage in order to dictate the terms of the debate." See the list of signers below.
Please read this letter and circulate it widely. We at the Campaign for America's Future are proud to have played a leadership role in helping to write the letter. And thank the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and all the other groups who worked to forge a consensus on the statement and helped to get the attention of Congress in this important moment.
Principles for Debate on the Budget and the Economy
September 26, 2010
Dear Member of Congress:
As we head into another series of manufactured budget crises, the 41 undersigned organizations stand against those who want to hold our economy hostage in order to dictate the terms of debate. We urge you to:
End Job-Killing Sequestration Cuts
Kenya Legislators Demand Inquiry Into Terror Attack (29 September 2013)
Parliament members in Kenya are demanding an investigation into reports senior officials of the administration took no action after being warned of planned terror attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa in September, says legislator Gladys Wanga.
Wanga says there is need for a thorough inquiry to determine whether there was a security lapse that enabled terrorists to attack the Westgate Mall, leaving scores injured and many dead.
"Parliament is demanding to know what really happened. Was there a lapse in intelligence? Was there a lapse within our own security network that then led to our vulnerability to the Westgate attack? Asked Wanga. "We will be looking forward to hearing why exactly from the Committee of Internal Security and the Committee on Defense and Foreign Relations, where the weak links were."
According to the Nation newspaper, an independent media publication, four Cabinet secretaries and the head of Kenya Defense Force were warned that al-Shabab terrorists were planning a Mumbai-style attack in the capital, Nairobi, where they would storm a building and hold hostages.
The warnings, the newspaper wrote, started in January and increased early this month with September 13 and 20 being the dates for the attack.
Pope Francis: Sexism With a Human Face? (25 September 2013)
Pope Francis seems a lovely man. He washes the feet of prisoners, drives a Ford Focus and lives in the Vatican guesthouse instead of the isolated papal apartments. He even calls people who write him with their troubles. In July, he made headlines when he said of gay priests, "Who am I to judge?" Most recently, he astonished the world with a long interview in America, the Jesuit magazine, in which he said the church is too "obsessed" with abortion, gay rights and birth control and risked becoming a "house of cards."
Liberals are ecstatic. The theologian Daniel Maguire, who has championed reproductive rights for decades, heralded the pope's words in a piece titled "The End of the Catholic Church's Pelvic Zone Orthodoxy." New York Times columnist Frank Bruni was happy about the "olive branch" extended to gays, rhapsodized over the pope's "modesty" and "humility," and advised President Obama to emulate him. (Modesty and humility being definitely not part of a columnist's brief, why not urge a total stranger, the president, to remodel his character?) Even Catholics for Choice was warily hopeful. As for non-Catholics, one friend of mine summed up the feelings of many: if he really means this, she announced, I'm converting.
Not so fast. Of course it's refreshing to see a change from the all-abortion-all-the-time programming of the last two popes, who did not seem to mind how many faithful drifted away as long as the ones who remained held fast to official teachings. "Fewer but better" cadres, as Lenin succinctly put it. Liberals are so fed up with American prelates fulminating against homosexuality, comparing abortion to the Holocaust and allying themselves with the Republican Party that they have seized on the pope's words as signaling a change in the church's teachings, the way they did when Pope Benedict XVI seemed to say condoms were permissible to prevent AIDS. (Actually, he didn't quite say that.) There has been no doctrinal change, nor is there likely to be one anytime soon. Rather, the pope was calling for a change of tone and emphasis: forbid with love. "Like Jesus, he's saying, hate the sin, love the sinner," said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who as president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has helped lead the church's war against gay marriage, abortion and the Affordable Care Act. As the Catholic conservative George Weigel put it in National Review, "Francis underscored that 'the teaching of the Church is clear' on issues like abortion, euthanasia, the nature of marriage, and chastity and that he is 'a son of the Church' who accepts those teachings as true."
Sure enough, the day after the publication of the interview--and to much less notice--Pope Francis gave a firmly anti-abortion speech to a gathering of Catholic gynecologists. He quoted Pope Benedict on the connection between "openness to life" and social justice ("openness to life" is code for banning not just abortion but contraception), castigated abortion as part of a "throw-away culture" and urged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them. At best, this suggests an opening for the "seamless garment" Catholicism promoted by the late Cardinal Bernardin, in which opposition to birth control and abortion was connected with opposition to war, capital punishment and poverty.
New trial for Boeing as Norwegian demands 787 repairs (29 September 2013)
(Reuters) - The brochure for Boeing Co's aircraft repair service makes a simple assertion: "No one knows Boeing airplanes better than Boeing."
Now that claim is being put to a visible test as budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA grounded a brand new, $212 million 787 Dreamliner over the weekend. The airline demanded Boeing fix the state-of-the-art jet, saying it needs repairs after less than 30 days in service.
Investment analysts say the glitch involving a hydraulic pump is minor and isolated, and it is unlikely to affect Boeing's stock price, which is towering at record levels.
But Norwegian Air's vocal airing of its complaints is another black eye for the troubled Dreamliner. It follows a string of electrical and other safety problems that included battery meltdowns so severe they prompted regulators to ban the long-haul jetliner from flight for more than three months this year.
Apple case thrown out of court in fight over in-app purchase patents (30 September 2013)
In 2011, Lodsys began offering out-of-court settlements to small developers whom it alleged had infringed one of the many patents it holds, which it claims cover the concept of in-app purchasing.
Those demands were small enough (at 0.575% of revenue) and the costs of litigation high enough that most app developers didn't fight back in court, ensuring that Lodsys never ran the risk of its patents being invalidated.
Apple saw those lawsuits as a threat to its developmental ecosystem, and brought a legal challenge against the company. It had licensed the patents itself, from Lodsys's parent company Intellectual Ventures, under terms which, Apple claimed, gave it permission to offer licensed products and services to customers and partners.
The computer giant's most recent motion in the case, filed on 18 September, argues that "Lodsys's purpose is to buy time in which it can continue to hold up iOS-based app developers for settlements of claims that Lodsys knows it has no right to assert".
Apple also claims that "judicial economy" is served by allowing its case to be heard, because a victory by it would prevent the rest of the cases from going ahead, thus "reducing the potential burden... of countless claims against Apple iOS-based app developers".
In June, the White House announced that it was actively taking on the problem of patent trolls, formally known as "non-practising entities", corporations which own patents to inventions they do not manufacture.
SeaWorld is working on inventing killer whale treadmills (30 September 2013)
Poor SeaWorld. Its biggest killer whale killed three people, and that became the subject of a documentary, as if animal rights activists weren't unhappy enough already. To stir up some good press, someone decided the whale version of a hamster wheel might be a good idea. According to theme park site Mice Chat:
"SeaWorld has been working with KSB Pumps, which normally builds attractions for Surf Parks, to potentially construct what they are calling a Killer Whale Treadmill. Feasibility studies and 3D modeling were conducted for a device which would create water flow speeds up to 30 miles per hour, essentially simulating the sensation of endless swimming."
Two reactions: "This is bullshit" and "Hey, that's kind of a nice way to give whales more exercise." The blog Earth in Transition quotes David Kirby to explain why you might feel conflicted, if you care about whales:
"If [anti-captivity activists] applaud SeaWorld for giving its whales more opportunity to exercise and swim for "miles" a day, they are tacitly implying that captivity just needs to be made better, and then it will be acceptable...On the other hand, if they condemn the "whale treadmill" outright, they will be accused by SeaWorld and its supporters of displaying callous indifference toward improving their lives."
These sea sponges look just like a Muppet (30 September 2013)
Life imitates art -- at least if Sesame Street counts as art -- in this bizarre trio of sea sponges, which fused together to form the spitting image of Cookie Monster...
Dream Team: Scahill, Greenwald Investigating NSA Role in US 'Assassination Program' (29 September 2013)
Though they refused to offer many details on the project, journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald on Saturday night announced that they are now working together on joint investigation on how the U.S. National Security Agency has been involved in the wider overseas "assassination program" run by the Obama administration.
As the Associated Press reports from Rio de Janeiro--where Greenwald and Scahill attended the South American premiere of Dirty Wars, a documentary film based on Scahill's book of the same name--the U.S. journalists "known for their investigations of the United States' government" have now "teamed up to report" on how the vast surveillance network of the NSA operates in conjunction with clandestine operations run by the U.S. military or CIA.
"The connections between war and surveillance are clear. I don't want to give too much away but Glenn and I are working on a project right now that has at its center how the National Security Agency plays a significant, central role in the U.S. assassination program," said Scahill, according to AP, while speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Rio Film Festival.
"There are so many stories that are yet to be published that we hope will produce 'actionable intelligence,' or information that ordinary citizens across the world can use to try to fight for change, to try to confront those in power," Scahill added.
Greenwald, who has been entrusted with a trove of top-secret NSA documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported extensively on their contents, has previously indicated that there is much more to come from the information contained in the files.
Obedience to Corporate-State Authority Makes Consumer Society Increasingly Dangerous (29 September 2013)
How is obedience maintained in consumer society? What sorts of escalating consequences can we expect if it continues?
While large corporations sometimes give direct orders to consumers, more often they exact obedience in indirect ways by suggesting images, ideas and social narratives, and by manipulating emotions so that desired behaviors become more likely. This is what we call marketing and advertising, and it works extremely well.
In recent years, a growing body of psychology research, including important work by Tim Kasser at Knox College, has revealed associations between corporate propagation of materialist attitudes (i.e., having a strong value orientation toward money and possessions) and poorer life satisfaction, higher levels of anxiety and depression, poorer quality of interpersonal relationships and lower self-esteem.
According to other researchers, such as Susan Linn at Harvard University, the consequences of prioritizing the consumerist mindset are even more debilitating for children than they are for adults, especially for young children who have not yet developed the capacity for critical thinking. Direct corporate messaging to children, a relatively new and highly sophisticated phenomenon, is a pretty easy way to boost sales, but it also has predictably negative effects on kids' social, psychological and physical health. For example, most marketing to children is for junk food, a significant risk factor for obesity. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, obesity-related disease is predicted to shorten kids' life spans to such a degree that the current generation will probably die younger than their parents for the first time in the modern era.
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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