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Click to visit VeggieCooking.com NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2013

News from the Week of 27th of October to 2nd of November 2013

Portrait of the NSA: no detail too small in quest for total surveillance (2 November 2013)
Barack Obama hailed United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon as a "good friend" after the two had sat down in the White House in April to discuss the issues of the day: Syria and alleged chemical weapons attacks, North Korea, Israel-Palestine, and climate change.

But long before Ban's limousine had even passed through the White House gates for the meeting, the US government knew what the secretary general was going to talk about, courtesy of the world's biggest eavesdropping organisation, the National Security Agency.

One NSA document -- leaked to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden just a month after the meeting and reported in partnership with the New York Times - boasts how the spy agency had gained "access to UN secretary general talking points prior to meeting with Potus" (president of the United States). The White House declined to comment on whether Obama had read the talking points in advance of the meeting.

Spying on Ban and others at the UN is in contravention of international law, and the US, forced on the defensive this week over the Snowden leaks about worldwide snooping, ordered an end to surveillance of the organization, according to Reuters.
[Read more...]

Is narcolepsy linked to an H1N1 vaccine? (2 November 2013)
Children around the world are developing severe narcolepsy -- a rare and incurable sleep disorder -- in troubling numbers, with researchers working on a theory that some cases may be linked to the H1N1 virus, others perhaps to an H1N1 vaccine.

Narcolepsy normally affects only 1 in 2,000, and is rare in young children. But doctors across Europe and China have reported spikes in cases among patients since the H1N1 pandemic outbreak in 2009.

Now, a W5 investigation has found experts in Canada, too, may be seeing a rise in cases among children and are probing a possible link to the vaccine used during the 2009 pandemic.

Researchers in Quebec have reported a four times increased risk of narcolepsy after patients received the pandemic flu vaccine Arepanrix (called Pandemrix outside Canada), compared to those who did not receive it, although the risk is considered remote and they suggest the H1N1 virus itself may be responsible for some of the increased cases.
[Read more...]

Small-town doctor famous for $5 office visits takes down his shingle (2 November 2013)
It's not often that a doctor attracts national attention for charging too little. But that is exactly what happened to one small-town Illinois physician who is hanging up his stethoscope after almost 60 years of practicing medicine.

Against the contentious debate over health care reform, Dr. Russell Dohner achieved notoriety for charging just $5 per office visit -- a fee that's remained unchanged since the 1970s and is roughly the equivalent of a large latte today.

"He has dedicated his life to healing and medicine," said Tim Ward, director of the foundation for Culbertson Memorial Hospital in Rushville, about 60 miles northwest of Springfield, where the 88-year-old has cared for patients since 1955.

"He's the closest thing we have to a saint," said Ward, who confirmed the retirement Friday.
[Read more...]

Study: Storms would submerge Norfolk Naval Station (2 November 2013)
Norfolk Naval Station's vital infrastructure wouldn't survive the kind of powerful storms and widescale flooding that rising seawaters are expected to bring by the second half of the century. And those conditions would likely get even worse in the following decades.

That's the conclusion of a three-year case study of the naval base, conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers, which analyzed computer storm models based on varying degrees of sea level rise.

It was one of four government-funded studies conducted nationwide to assess the impact of sea levels rising as much as 6 feet over the next 85 years.

"Military bases... are designed to be able to withstand hurricanes and flooding and that type of thing - to some extent," said Kelly Burks-Copes, a Corps of Engineers research ecologist who led the study of the base. She spoke during an interview this week after presenting the findings at a conference at Old Dominion University.

"But there was a growing concern that the military's infrastructure was no longer sustainable in the face of exacerbated storms and that climate change was likely to cause frequent storms, stronger storms, even if they are infrequent, more flooding," she said. "And they needed the questions asked: What were the risks and if there were risks, were there ways to reduce the risks?"
[Read more...]

W.Va., Va. hydro plants being put up for sale (2 November 2013)
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) -- Eleven hydroelectric power plants in West Virginia and Virginia are going up for sale.

Subsidiaries of FirstEnergy have applied to sell the power plants, including the Potomac Edison plants at Dam No. 4 and Dam No. 5 on the Potomac River and at Millville on the Shenandoah River.

A spokeswoman for FirstEnergy tells The Journal (http://bit.ly/19YScmJ) the planned sale is "purely a business decision." Spokeswoman Stephanie Walton says the plants represent 3 percent of FirstEnergy's output.

The 11 plants generate a total of 527 megawatts.

The hydro plants include Allegheny Energy's Dam No. 4 on the Potomac River near Scrabble. It is the last commercial power plant in the nation that uses rope-driven turbines.
[Read more...]

Venezuela's government seizes U.S.-owned oil rigs (2 November 2013)
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela has quietly seized control of two oil rigs owned by a unit of Houston-based Superior Energy Services after the company shut them down because the state oil monopoly was months behind on payments.

The seizure took place Thursday after a judge in the state of Anzoategui, accompanied by four members of the local police and national guard, entered a Superior depot and ordered it to hand over control of two specialized rigs to an affiliate of PDVSA, the state-owned oil producer.

PDVSA justified the equipment's expropriation, calling it essential to the South American nation's development and welfare, according to a court order obtained by The Associated Press. Company workers were instructed to load the rigs, known as snubbing units and used to repair damaged casing, onto trucks to be deployed at "critical wells" elsewhere, according to the document.

"It was like a thief breaking into your house, asking for the keys to the safe and then expecting you to help carry it away," Jesus Centeno, local operations manager for Superior in the city of Anaco, said by phone. "Their argument was that we were practically sabotaging national production."
[Read more...]

LAX shooting suspect critical, hindering investigation, official says (2 November 2013)
The man suspected of opening fire at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, killing a TSA agent, was shot in the leg and head, making it difficult for authorities to gather information, a law enforcement official told The Times.

The suspected shooter, identified by police as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, was hospitalized in critical condition. He was wounded by an LAX police officer and sergeant as he shot his way through Terminal 3 shortly after 9 a.m., authorities said.

KCAL-TV footage appeared to show the bloodied gunman handcuffed to a gurney as he was wheeled out of the terminal. He remained in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center as of 8 a.m. Saturday.

The incident Friday began, police say, when Ciancia entered Terminal 3 through the main door, pulled an AR-15 assault rifle out of a bag and "began to open fire."

He then walked up a flight of stairs to the entrance of the security checkpoint, where at least three Transportation Security Administration officers were shot, officials said. One of them, Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, was killed.
[Read more...]

Canadian military helps U.S. seize 1.1 tonnes of cocaine (2 November 2013)
The Department of National Defence says the Canadian Forces has assisted the United States Coast Guard in seizing more than 1.1 tonnes of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

During a search of a suspect vessel on Oct. 25, crew members from HMCS Edmonton and a U.S. law enforcement team uncovered 639 kilograms of cocaine.

Two days later, the same team tracked and boarded another suspect vessel, seizing 468 kilograms of cocaine from the ship and from bags that were thrown overboard by the crew.

Officials say in both cases, the initial detection of the suspect vessel was made by a Canadian CP-140 Aurora aircraft as part of Operation Caribbe.
[Read more...]

US emergency food providers brace as $5bn food stamp cuts set in (1 November 2013)
Inside a three-storey yellow brick building in East Harlem, at the north-east corner of Central Park, a brisk operation is under way to put food on the tables of some of the most needy families in the US. Clients place orders in a waiting room in the basement, or online from home, reducing the need for long lines in the cold. One floor up, scores of volunteers pack shopping bags from giant tubs of fresh fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs. When an order is ready, smiling schoolgirls call the names of clients and hand over the goods.

New York Common Pantry (NYCP), the city's largest single-site emergency food provider, served 25% more people in the past three months than in the same period last year. It has 200 volunteers each week to serve 38,000 individuals. Staff fear the worst is yet to come.

"It's a very, very difficult time," says Stephen Grimaldi, the executive director of NYCP. For months, charities and food activists have warned that when stimulus funds expire on Friday, leading to cuts in the food stamps programme, it will affect every US household that depends on it. Pantries, soup kitchens and other crisis providers will bear the brunt.

"We're bracing ourselves," says Grimaldi. "We certainly know that we are going to see another increase in numbers by the end of the month."

Grimaldi is not alone. Other emergency food providers in the US are preparing for an influx of struggling families across the country who have been warned their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or Snap benefits, will be cut on Friday. Feeding America, the hunger relief charity, describes the scale of the cuts, $5bn a year, as representing about 2 billion meals a year and warns that the effect will be "close to catastrophic".
[Read more...]

Canadians Held 50 Days in Egyptian Prison After Documenting Massacre Speak Out Following Release (1 November 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, welcome to Democracy Now! We are so glad you're free. Dr. Loubani, let's begin with you. I understand that you're wearing clothes that are still drenched in the blood of both a patient you treated as well as yourself.

DR. TAREK LOUBANI: Yes, Amy. Thank you very much for having us to discuss these important issues. There are many ways that people sort of deal with their trauma and remembering what happened. For me, one of them is holding onto these clothes, which we were wearing when we were arrested, which I wore through the day of the massacre, and which were--which are still somewhat blood-soaked, despite my repeated attempts to wash them. So, yeah, just a little way to remember and give homage to the people who we treated that day.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Tarek Loubani, could you--could you refresh the memories of our viewers and listeners as to why you were in Cairo, how long you had been there before the day of the protest?

DR. TAREK LOUBANI: Well, we had barely arrived in Cairo, actually. We were on our way to Gaza, which is where John and I had planned on being. The Gaza Strip has, of course, an Israeli siege, a military siege, that prevents everything from getting in or out. And for a couple of years, there was this little bit of a breathing space, which was the Rafah border, which we could cross to go in there. So, I would go in to participate in Palestinian training of doctors. They had a very powerful attempt and program there to try to bring in people from outside to help get their standards up to international standards, especially for their new emergency program. So, that's where we were headed.
[Read more...]

Court Blocks NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Reforms, Removes Judge Who Found Program Unconstitutional (1 November 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we're joined by Sunita Patel, staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, co-counsel on the stop-and-frisk federal class action lawsuit.

Can you talk about the significance of this decision? I mean, we talked to you after the decision. It was quite stunning, saying that stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional, appointing a--saying a monitor had to be put in place to come up with reforms for the police department. But all of that has been turned around, stayed last night.

SUNITA PATEL: Well, it's very disappointing and shocking. The decision was very disappointing and shocking.

I think that we need to make sure we're clear on what was actually in front of them. The city was asking for a stay of a reform process. Although the judge said all of these things needed to be put into place immediately, she also deferred this to the monitor, a process whereby the city would have a role in shaping what those reforms would be. None of those reforms were actually ordered to happen immediately. And in the face of speculative harms and speculative reforms, the city went to the appellate court saying, "Please, stop these conversations from happening." And, you know, that doesn't meet the legal standard.

So, the court did something that was very unusual, which was sort of ignore the legal issue in front of them and say, "We're going to stay it." They didn't give an opinion or decision for why, and then said that they are going to take the case away from a judge who has been very intimately familiar for over a decade.
[Read more...]

Amid NSA spying revelations, tech leaders call for new restraints on agency (1 November 2013)
Mounting revelations about the extent of NSA surveillance have alarmed technology leaders in recent days, driving a renewed push for significant legislative action from an industry that long tried to stay above the fray in Washington.

After months of merely calling for the government to be more transparent about its surveillance requests, tech leaders have begun demanding substantive new restraints on how the National Security Agency collects and uses the vast quantities of information it scoops up around the globe, much of it from the data streams of U.S. companies.

The pivot marks an aggressive new posture for an industry that often has trod carefully in Washington -- devoting more attention to blunting potentially damaging actions than to pushing initiatives that might prove controversial and alienate users from its lucrative services.

Six leading technology companies -- Facebook, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL -- sent a letter to two senators and two congressmen on Thursday reflecting the sharpening industry strategy. The letter praised a bill the lawmakers have sponsored that would end the bulk collection of phone records of millions of Americans and create a privacy advocate to represent civil liberties interests within the secretive court that oversees the NSA.
[Read more...]

The Battle of the NSA Surveillance Bills (1 November 2013)
On Thursday, the Senate intelligence committee took a step forward toward officially authorizing some of the National Security Agency's more controversial surveillance practices, which have recently come to light thanks to leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The panel passed out of committee a bill allowing broad phone surveillance to continue under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Backed by the committee chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the FISA Improvements Act leaves untouched the NSA's internet surveillance dragnet, PRISM, and does little to improve oversight of the government's surveillance powers. Feinstein's bill will face off against legislation introduced earlier this week by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would significantly curb the government's ability to sweep up the private information of Americans.

Privacy experts say that the FISA Improvements Act, which passed 11-4, codifies current surveillance practices instead of fixing the law to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans: "This was an opportunity for Congress to really recalibrate the statute, and it's very disappointing that they've used this opportunity to cement domestic spying programs instead," says Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the ACLU.

The primary focus of the bill is Section 215 of FISA. This is the part of the law that provides the legal justification for the bulk collection of the telephone metadata of Americans, including phone numbers and the date and duration of calls (but not the content of those conversations). While the bill's language amends the statute to prevent the NSA from hoovering up phone metadata en masse, it provides gaping loopholes that could allow the agency to continue with its bulk collection practices as usual, such as if there's a "reasonable articulable suspicion" that an investigation is related to international terrorism. The legislation also makes it legal for the government to collect and search records that are three "hops" from a target who is suspected of terrorism--in other words, a suspect, all of that suspect's contacts, and all of their contacts. The bill makes only surface fixes and "absolutely allows for the kind of collection that is already happening right now," according to Amie Stepanovich, the director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center's (EPIC) Domestic Surveillance Project.

Also worrisome to privacy experts is the fact that the bill expands the NSA's powers, by allowing the agency to track cellphone's of non-Americans believed to be located abroad for 72 hours after they enter the United States. The bill additionally levies a penalty of up to 10 years in prison on anyone who accesses NSA information without authorization, like Snowden did.
[Read more...]

NSA FILES: DECODED. What the revelations mean for you. (1 November 2013)
WWhen Edward Snowden met journalists in his cramped room in Hong Kong's Mira hotel in June, his mission was ambitious. Amid the clutter of laundry, meal trays and his four laptops, he wanted to start a debate about mass surveillance.

He succeeded beyond anything the journalists or Snowden himself ever imagined. His disclosures about the NSA resonated with Americans from day one. But they also exploded round the world.

For some, like Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, it is a vitally important issue, one of the biggest of our time: nothing less than the defence of democracy in the digital age.

But the intelligence agencies dismiss such claims, arguing that their programs are constitutional, and subject to rigorous congressional and judicial oversight. Secrecy, they say, is essential to meet their overriding aim of protecting the public from terrorist attacks.
[Read more...]

Few Obamacare insurance sign-ups on opening day, documents show (1 November 2013)
WASHINGTON - -Just six enrollments occurred on the opening day for www.healthcare.gov, the troubled Obamacare website, according to documents released late Thursday by a House oversight committee.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, obtained the tally from meeting notes compiled by officials inside the "war room" at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which was overseeing the rollout of the insurance marketplace.

The White House has declined to say how many people have signed up in the new health insurance marketplace, and Kathleen Sebelius, the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, testified this week that her department has not been able to collect accurate data.

Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters said late Thursday that the documents released by the committee "appear to be notes. They do not include official enrollment statistics."
[Read more...]

Obamacare and you: Do I have to have Obamacare? (1 November 2013)
Obamacare will cause big changes in the way many Americans get health care. That's been the subject of a lot of news in recent weeks. But it can be hard for average people to figure how this complicated new law affects their particular circumstances. Its website, HealthCare.gov, isn't working well, and Washington seems preoccupied with political wrangling over the program.

We're trying to help clear up this confusion by explaining in simple language important aspects of Obamacare, which is also known as the Affordable Care Act. We've already discussed when Obamacare starts and upcoming dates on its calendar. Now we'll address a core issue: Who has to have Obamacare? How many people does it expect to enroll?

The bottom line: Only a small percentage of the US population needs to sign up for Obamacare health plans.

It's true that the Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to have health insurance. This "individual mandate" represents a big change in US law. But the ACA does not require all Americans to buy their health insurance through its new state exchanges, which are virtual stores for individual health plans. If your brother-in-law or third cousin or company receptionist told you that, they're wrong.
[Read more...]

Food Stamp Cuts: A Bipartisan Scandal (1 November 2013)
Starting Friday, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will see a $5 billion reduction in funding. This means families of four who rely on food stamps will receive $36 less each month, starting now--a serious blow to struggling families, but also the economy, since every federal dollar spent on food stamps generates $1.74 in economic activity.

This is just a prelude to deeper food stamp cuts likely to come, as Congress debates a five-year farm bill. So it is important to get the political dynamics of Friday's cut correct. There is a troubling trend among some left-leaning writers to blame the big bad GOP. See for example Jonathan Capehart in The Washington Post: "Oh SNAP, veterans get dissed by the GOP." But that's not the entire story.

SNAP benefits were boosted by the 2009 stimulus bill, and were to remain at that higher level until the annual inflation adjustments overtook it. But in 2010, Congress (controlled of course, at the time, by Democrats) passed a bill that took $2.2 billion from SNAP and applied the funds to one of Michelle Obama's pet projects: a healthy lunch initiative for low-income children. This is what created Friday's abrupt drop in benefits.

At the time, many House Democrats refused to punish food stamp recipients and would not agree to the funding offset, especially since SNAP had already been raided once before to help fund a round of emergency aid to states. This lead to clashes with the White House and phone calls from Michelle Obama, as a contemporary Politico story notes:

"Despite heavy lobbying by the first lady, more than 100 House Democrats have balked at approving the Senate's $4.5 billion version of the nutrition bill because it is funded in part with $2.2 billion in cuts to SNAP, the federal food stamp program. They want assurances from the Obama administration that the funding cuts the Senate approved will be restored in the near future."
[Read more...]

Will someone please pay the farm bill? (1 November 2013)
Politicians are back to debating the farm bill. There were some other issues (something about a government shutdown maybe?) that got in the way for a while.

Back in June, when the bill was just a year late, it looked like Congress might pass something. But then the House and Senate deadlocked. Now we are at the end of the road: If the House and Senate don't make a deal (one that the president would sign) by January, we'll revert to a mid-20th-century version of the law. Which would be inconvenient for all of us, not just farmers.

This explainer from the Washington Post provides the background in just two minutes.

There are a few other interesting angles here, besides the fight over food stamps and subsidies.

For one thing, any version of the bill is likely to shift more disaster relief into the form of insurance. And insurance is one of those rare industries deeply concerned by climate change. Because insurers are in the business of looking forward toward future liabilities, they tend to understand that the expensive work that needs to be done to reverse climate change is more affordable than doing nothing. And insurers can communicate those calculations to the rest of us. As Sarah Jane Keller at High Country News put it: "Some insurers are already trying to manage the costs of climate inaction by doing things like increasing premiums, promoting energy-efficient buildings and other adaptations, or including climate change in catastrophe models."
[Read more...]

Kauai mayor blocks GMO regulation bill (1 November 2013)
When Kauai passed stringent regulations over transgenic crops, I made a big to-do, saying that the new law represented "an anti-GMO wave rising." Well, that wave has met a seawall in the form of Kauai's mayor, Bernard Carvalho, who vetoed it on Halloween.

Carvalho said he actually supports the spirit of the law, but thinks it that it conflicts fatally with other laws already on the books. Sophie Cocke of Honolulu Civil Beat has the most complete reporting on this so far. She writes:

"Biotech industry representatives indicated that they would sue the county if the bill passed. During hearings on the bill, attorneys for the biotech industry also insisted that aspects of the bill could be overturned in the courts because it is 'vague and ambiguous' and it could lead to the 'illegal taking' of property."

Basically, by passing this bill Kauai has picked a legal fight with the biotech industry. And that's a fight the mayor thinks he'd lose. The county council, which passed the bill on a 6-to-1 vote, could still overturn the veto.
[Read more...]

Food safety advocates sue FDA over withholding of information about ractopamine growth drug used in meat industry (1 November 2013)
Most Americans have probably never heard of ractopamine, so you may be surprised to learn that it is used in 80 percent of US pig and cattle farming operations. Ractopamine is a growth additive drug, known as a beta-agonist, that is widely banned in other countries, but in the US, it is marketed as Paylean for pigs, Optaflexx for cattle and Topmax for turkeys.

The effects that ractopamine has on animals is already known, but its effects on humans are still a mystery. A European study in which one participant dropped out due to adverse effects found that " ractopamine causes elevated heart rates and heart-pounding sensations in humans," the Center for Food Safety (CFS) said. Other studies have shown that the drug causes rapid heart beat, birth defects and enlarged hearts in animals. Countryside magazine has reported cases of pigs being too weak to walk and their hooves falling off after being given ractopamine.

Being understandably concerned with these disturbing reports, the CFS and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) have requested information "documenting, analyzing, or otherwise discussing the physiological, psychological, and/or behavioral effects" of ractopamine from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has around 100,000 pages on the drug, but they have refused to produce more than 464 pages that have already been previously released. Distraught over the administration's illegal withholding and concealment of vital public health and safety information, the CFS and ALDF have decided to sue the FDA over the matter.

Ractopamine is banned in the EU, Russia, China, Taiwan and many other countries that actually care about their citizens' health. This drug's continued use closes American meat producers out of those foreign markets and likely puts consumers in danger. Hopefully, the CFS and ALDF will succeed in their fight, and the American justice system will force the FDA to release information about ractopamine, protect consumers and actually do its job instead of idly and flagrantly wasting our tax dollars and our time.
[Read more...]

How Virginia politics got so dirty -- and why it's hard to clean up (1 November 2013)
"Virginia is a great example of good and clean government because it has high standards, great discipline and pride in its public service," white-collar defense lawyer John M. Dowd of Vienna wrote in The Washington Post.

This presumption of noblesse oblige has prevailed since the days of Gov. Patrick Henry and Gov. Thomas Jefferson, when the General Assembly was a clubby conclave of landholders -- not exactly the sort of men to tolerate questions about their honesty.

It's bolstered by a political history that includes remarkably few high-profile corruption cases. Bob McDonnell is the first sitting governor since the founding of the state to face a corruption investigation. Contrast that with Illinois, where more than half of the governors since 1970 have been convicted of corruption.

So while the gift scandal that has tarnished McDonnell has assured that ethics reform will be on the legislative agenda next year in Richmond -- regardless of who prevails in Virginia's election Tuesday -- many politicians in the state see the case as an anomaly. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli maintained that it was "completely inconsistent with Virginia's very reserved traditions."
[Read more...]

Shell announces return to Arctic in 2014 despite mishaps (1 November 2013)
WASHINGTON -- Shell officials on Thursday said the oil company plans to make another, dramatically scaled-back bid to find crude in Arctic waters, following a headline-grabbing 2012 season that left the firm with air pollution fines and embarrassing equipment failures.

But first, the company is preparing to scrap the floating Kulluk conical drilling unit, which ran aground near an Alaskan island on Dec. 31 after a five-day fight to tow the vessel through a fierce storm. Shell has contracted Transocean's semi-submersible drilling unit Polar Pioneer to replace the Kulluk as soon as early 2014, while final assessments are made on whether it is cost effective to repair the damaged drilling unit in an Asian shipyard.

Simon Henry, Shell's chief financial officer, said the company was bracing for a fourth quarter impairment of "a few hundred million dollars" if the Kulluk's repair costs exceed the benefits of rehabilitating the 30-year-old vessel.

The disclosure, which came during a call with reporters to discuss Royal Dutch Shell's third-quarter earnings, ends months of speculation about whether the firm would be ready to return to the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska once ice clears next summer.
[Read more...]

It's not over: Police revelations confirm Star's investigation but leave unanswered questions (1 November 2013)
On a day like no other in Toronto politics, the taxpayers Mayor Rob Ford says he proudly represents were hit by one bombshell after another.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said publicly the video -- the one two Toronto Star reporters saw showing Ford appearing to smoke crack cocaine and making homophobic and racially charged remarks -- is real. Detectives obtained it Tuesday after pulling the deleted file from a computer hard drive seized in the Project Traveller guns and drugs raid. One day, it may be presented in court.

The friend the mayor has called a "good guy" and "straight shooter" was charged with extortion over an alleged forceful attempt to retrieve the cellphone that recorded the video. Alexander "Sandro" Lisi appears in court Friday. He spent the night in jail after the arresting detectives interviewed him.

A nearly 500-page police document, with roughly half of it blacked out, was released revealing Toronto Police targeted Ford right after the Star and the U.S.-based Gawker website published stories on the video in May. Police used a plane, tracking devices, a camera tacked to a telephone pole and countless hours of manpower to follow the mayor as he met Lisi parking lots late at night, in parks and his favourite Tim Hortons stop, an Esso station near his house.
[Read more...]

Green activists navigate life in the post-privacy era (1 November 2013)
We now know that the U.S. government can obtain virtually any email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, Skype messages, file transfers, and social networking details it wants. We know that it can monitor the location, duration, and telephone numbers involved in any phone call on an ongoing, daily basis. We know that it monitored the foreign officials who traveled to the G20 summit in 2009. We know that it has deliberately weakened the encryption software meant to protect financial transactions. We know that it has tapped into the fiber-optic cables connecting international servers so that it can copy, basically, any information that moves through them.

What does this mean for environmental activists, who, like the rest of us, increasingly organize their lives over the internet? "I remember in the past we used to tell each other to wipe our phone's contacts before protests," says Joshua Kahn Russell, who has been organizing protests with the Ruckus Society for the last 7 years, and also works as Global Trainings Manager for 350.org. "I can't imagine activists doing that now, since the government and private companies have infinitely more access to our personal information that we freely provide through Facebook and other social networking sites."

The '90s and early '00s were, arguably, the peak of government paranoia about the environmental movement. In 2005, John Lewis, the top FBI official in charge of domestic terrorism, declared that radical environmentalists were the No. 1 domestic terrorist threat. State, local, and federal officials dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort to tracking down the disbanded members of The Family, an offshoot of the Earth Liberation Front that set fire to a car dealership, a ski resort, a horse slaughterhouse, and other sites in the Pacific Northwest. The FBI also spent three years monitoring Greenpeace [PDF] and put several members on the terrorism watch list, in an investigation that the Justice Department's inspector general later ruled was improper.

If electronic surveillance is being used on environmental activists, there is not much sign of it yet. "We use everything from two-way radios to cellphones to internet to chat to Facebook to organize," says Ramsey Sprague, a Texan who has worked with the Tar Sands Blockade. "We follow Basic Security Culture, which is just about being aware of what you are talking about, and who you are talking about it with."
[Read more...]

Appeals court allows abortion restrictions to begin (1 November 2013)
AUSTIN -- A federal appeals court ruling Thursday gives Texas the green light to start enforcing a new abortion restriction that a lower court judge said posed an undue burden on women.

The decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was a huge victory for Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas abortion opponents, temporarily lifting an injunction that prevented the provisions from going into effect. The provision requires abortion doctors to gain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled the admitting privileges provision unconstitutional, saying it posed an undue burden on women has no "rational relationship to improved patient care."

But a federal three-judge panel in New Orleans on Thursday found Yeakel's finding of a lack of rational relationship "is one step removed from repudiating the longstanding recognition by the Supreme Court that a State may constitutionally require that only a physician may perform an abortion." The court, in a 20-page opinion, also said the provision does not "impose a substantial obstacle to abortions."
[Read more...]

Million-dollar kitchens (1 November 2013)
These are the dream kitchens of multi-million dollar homes for sale in the Houston area. [photo gallery] [Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: These pictures look like kitchens from a remodeling business' show room. There isn't much in the way of cookware, art, food, or anything else that makes the rooms look like a real home.

Why Most of What You've Heard About Cancer Is Wrong (1 November 2013)
In the book, Johnson cites a stunning estimate by MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg: About 4 million of our body's cells are dividing and copying their DNA every second of every day. With every replication, there is a potential for mistakes, and a risk of developing cancer. Thankfully, we've evolved solutions to rogue errors, and our bodies can repair or destroy precancerous cells the vast majority of the time. Yet the risk can never be zero, because without this process of cell division and regeneration, we would quickly cease to live.

In fact, without the capacity for cellular mutation and the ability to pass on reformatted DNA to our offspring, our species would not have been capable of evolving. We wouldn't be who we are today. "There's something unfortunately natural about cancer," explains Johnson. "It's a natural tradeoff of evolution."

Another scientist cited by Johnson, Princeton's Robert Austin, has even suggested that cancer is a natural by-product of the body's response to stress. When faced with a scarcity of resources, bacteria respond by creating offspring and encouraging mutations, one of which just might lead to a better chance of survival. Descendants of bacteria, the cells in our own bodies have maintained this survival instinct, and also have the propensity to wiggle out of sticky situations by mutating, even if it poses a deadly risk to the larger organism of which they're part.

Cancer, in other words, isn't about destroying; it's about surviving.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: I hesitate to link to this article because it's misleading, promoting the "nobody knows" model of diseases. Most of the time, somebody does know, but the field pleads ignorance to justify research grants. With that said, some scientists think SV-40 is the virus that causes cancer.

After Navy Yard killings, panel eyes security clearances (1 November 2013)
The decision to grant a security clearance to a man who later killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard was made without a review of a critical police report, but background investigators still followed the correct standards, the top federal personnel management official told a Senate panel Thursday.

The Senate committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is investigating the nation's security clearance system in the aftermath of the Sept. 16 shooting involving Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist and IT contractor.

The 34-year-old man was awarded, and held onto, a secret clearance despite brushes with law enforcement, a series of angry outbursts and concerns about his mental health that led Rhode Island police to his hotel room just one month before the shooting.

Elaine Kaplan, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, said background investigators who vetted Alexis did "what they were supposed to do" but acknowledged that they lacked a complete portrait of his past.
[Read more...]

Report: Military Doctors Designed, Enabled U.S. Torture of Prisoners at Guantánamo, Secret Prisons (31 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
ROBIN PAGNAMENTA: The attack was October the 24th. I came from Islamabad and interviewed the family in Peshawar clinic. Well, in general, you know, the sense was that the family had had a very traumatic experience and were very upset.

RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] These are the x-rays of the children who were hit by the drone. This is the x-ray of my nephew, whose leg was broken in the attack. They operated on him. These are the iron rods that they put in his legs.

ATIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] When I reached the house, I saw my mother's sandal lying on the ground. When I saw her sandal, I knew that she had died. Neighbors told me she had been thrown about 25 feet away. That's when I saw my mother on the ground. And I ran towards her, but the neighbors wouldn't let me near her. They said, "You cannot see this." She had so many wounds.

RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] My mother was brutally killed. That's where my mother was killed. She was, as the saying goes, "like a treasure of prayers." I used to discuss all my problems with her. She used to console me, and I would forget my worries. My family has been destroyed since my mother was killed.
[Read more...]

"These Drones Attack Us and the Whole World is Silent": New Film Exposes Secret U.S. War (31 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A U.S. drone strike killed three people in northwest Pakistan earlier today, marking the first such attack since Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif publicly called for President Obama to end the strikes. Just last week, Amnesty International said the United States may be committing war crimes by killing innocent Pakistani civilians in drone strikes. In a new report, Amnesty closely examined two drone strikes in 2012, including one that killed a 68-year-old woman in North Waziristan who was picking vegetables in a field with her grandchildren.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on Tuesday, the dead woman's son and her two grandchildren, who were with her in the field, spoke at a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. It marked the first time victims of the U.S. drone wars addressed members of Congress. Nine-year-old Nabila described how she was injured when working in the field with her grandmother when the drone hit them.

NABILA UR REHMAN: [translated] It was the day before Eid, and my grandmother had asked me to come help her outside as we were collecting okra, the vegetables, and then I saw from the sky a drone, and I heard the dum-dum noise. Everything was dark, and I couldn't see anything, but I heard a scream. I don't know if it was my grandmother, but I couldn't see her. I was very scared, and all I could think of doing was just run. I kept running, but I felt something in my hand. And I looked at my hand. There was blood. I tried to bandage my hand, but the blood kept coming. The blood wouldn't stop.

AMY GOODMAN: That was nine-year-old Nabila Rehman describing the October 2012 U.S. drone attack that killed her grandmother. Her brother, 13-year-old Zubair, who was injured with shrapnel wounds in the strike, told Congress, quote, "My grandmother was nobody's enemy." It was the first time ever Congress has heard directly from drone strike victims. However, just five lawmakers, all Democrats, chose to attend. Congressmember Alan Grayson organized the briefing.
[Read more...]

"Too Scared to Go Outside": Family of Pakistani Grandmother Killed in U.S. Drone Strike Speaks Out (31 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] These are the x-rays of the children who were hit by the drone. This is the x-ray of my nephew, whose leg was broken in the attack. They operated on him. These are the iron rods that they put in his legs.

ATIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] When I reached the house, I saw my mother's sandal lying on the ground. When I saw her sandal, I knew that she had died. Neighbors told me she had been thrown about 25 feet away. That's when I saw my mother on the ground. And I ran towards her, but the neighbors wouldn't let me near her. They said, "You cannot see this." She had so many wounds.

RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] My mother was brutally killed. That's where my mother was killed. She was, as the saying goes, "like a treasure of prayers." I used to discuss all my problems with her. She used to console me, and I would forget my worries. My family has been destroyed since my mother was killed.

ROBIN PAGNAMENTA: Atiq and Rafiq, whose mother had been killed in this attack, you know, obviously, as anyone would be, they were angry, and they were very upset.
[Read more...]

Halloween e-card to readers:  Curtains of insects backlit by the sun in an Oshkosh, WI cemetery, photo by Pam Rotella

US court blocks NYPD stop-and-frisk ruling and removes judge from case (31 October 2013)
A federal appeals court has blocked a judge's ruling that demanded changes to the New York police department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy and ordered she be removed from the case.

In a victory for the outgoing mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, the court said Shira Scheindlin's ruling, in which she declared the practice to be unconstitutional, would be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal by the city.

Scheindlin had ruled that the city violated the constitution in the way it carried out its program of stopping and questioning people. She appointed an outside monitor to oversee major changes to the NYPD, and ordered reform to police training and supervision, among a range of other measures.

The ruling on the unconstitutionality of stop-and-frisk stands, but those changes will now be delayed pending the outcome of the city's appeal, and Scheindlin will no longer be involved in the case. Jonathan Moore, a lead attorney in the federal lawsuit challenging the department's stop-and-frisk practices, said was "unprecedented".

"Basically, this court is saying to the citizens of New York, who have followed this case and who were very uplifted by the fact that a federal judge stood up to protect the rights of all citizens of the city of New York ... this is the panel of the second circuit saying: 'Drop dead, New York'," Moore said.
[Read more...]

Chicago residents sue to stop pollution from refinery waste piles (31 October 2013)
When people on Chicago's Southeast Side complained more than a year ago about thick black dust blowing through their windows, federal inspectors showed up unannounced at a site where giant mounds of refinery waste and coal are piled along the Calumet River.

Shortly after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspectors arrived, an employee at KCBX Terminals announced their presence on his walkie-talkie. "EPA's here," the man said, according to a report obtained by the Tribune.

Then the entire facility began to shut down, leaving a moored cargo ship half-empty.

Even though the EPA inspectors reported seeing black dust blowing off the piles during their May 2012 visit, there is no sign the agency followed up with any type of enforcement of anti-pollution laws. An Illinois EPA official also was on the scene, but the state agency didn't take any action until last week, four days after the Tribune and other local news media drew attention to the problems.
[Read more...]

'Molly' chemical linked to 10 Chicago-area deaths (31 October 2013)
Molly is known as the drug of laser-washed rave tents, a euphoria-producing chemical ideal for loud music and wild parties. But when Alex Place took a form of the drug late one night in February, he was just hanging out with friends at a Streamwood home.

The next afternoon, he was dead.

Molly -- a name, like ecstasy, that refers to the drug MDMA -- enjoys a reputation as being relatively safe, and has even been name-checked by pop stars like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus. But the Tribune has found that since 2009, MDMA has contributed to the deaths of 10 people in the Chicago area.

A rapidly increasing number of users have also shown up in area emergency rooms because of the drug, wracked by symptoms that include high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, seizures, agitation and signs of psychosis. And despite rumors of increased purity, experts say the drug continues to be cut with toxic adulterants.
[Read more...]

Enrollment in Obamacare very small in first days: documents (31 October 2013)
(Reuters) - Enrollment in health insurance plans on the troubled Obamacare website was very small in the first couple of days of operation, with just 248 Americans signing up, according to documents released on Thursday by a U.S. House of Representatives committee.

The Obama administration has said it cannot provide enrollment figures from HealthCare.gov because it doesn't have the numbers. The federal website, where residents of 36 states can buy new healthcare plans under President Barack Obama's law, was launched on October 1.

"We do not have any reliable data around enrollment, which is why we haven't given it to date," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told lawmakers on Wednesday.

But the documents, which are labeled "war room" notes and appear to be summaries of issues with the problematic website beginning on October 2, indicate a mere six enrollments had occurred by that morning - the day after the website was launched and almost immediately crashed.
[Read more...]

Suppressed vitamin therapy cures depression (31 October 2013)
(NaturalNews) For over 60 years, the conventional psychiatric industry has systematically ignored the mental health benefits of niacin (vitamin B3) - as a natural way - to treat depression plus many other psychiatric disorders. This 'mega-vitamin therapy' eliminates the need for toxic anti-anxiety medications. In fact, along with antioxidants like, vitamin C, E beta-carotene and selenium, niacin provides the ultimate protection against disease-causing free radicals.

Depression is not caused by a pharmaceutical drug deficiency. In truth, we already know that vitamin B3 therapy is a simple, safe, and highly-effective way of improving your mental (and physical) health without the need for toxic chemicals. Learn more about this amazing therapy on the next NaturalNews Talk Hour.

Vitamin B3 therapy cures alcoholism, anxiety, tension and, even, schizophrenia
Back in 1960, 'Bill W.', co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, (Bill Wilson) met Abram Hofer, M.D., Ph.D. - who introduced Bill to the amazing healing potential of mega vitamin therapy. Dr. Hofer had lots of success treating schizophrenic patients - who also suffered from alcohol addiction and depression. Naturally, Bill W. was very curious - to say the least - and started to take 3,000 mg. of vitamin B3 per day.

After a few weeks, the fatigue and depression that plagued Bill W., for years, was gone. To make a long story short, Bill W. gave 30 of his close friends in Alcoholics Anonymous the same therapy and, within 6 months, he was convinced vitamin B3 would be very helpful for alcoholics. Unfortunately, as I'm sure you could guess by now, many of his appointed 'medical experts' did not like his excitement over a vitamin therapy to treat health problems and, to this date, vitamin B3 therapy remains a 'secret' to millions of needy individuals.
[Read more...]

Trick or treat for science: Kids become test subjects (31 October 2013)
"The benefit of Halloween was that the kids came to us rather than we having to go to them, and we were doing it in a natural environment that fits in their lifestyle and mode of thinking," said Ariely, who published a 2007 research paper that used trick-or-treaters to study the irrational decisions people make when it comes to getting "free" goods.

"It's a great opportunity for data. The only thing it requires is that you will have a house where the kids come to visit," he said, "and the adults are not too suspicious."

At the Karlans' home, each year is different. Last year's study found that 38% of kids 9 and older who saw a poster of First Lady Michelle Obama chose fruit instead of candy -- twice as many as those who made that choice after seeing Ann Romney, wife of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The study indicated that the first lady's "Let's Move" campaign, promoting healthy living for children, appeared to be reaching its target audience.

Earlier years have been more abstract. A 2008 experiment, which asked kids to choose between either transparent or opaque bags of candy, found that children with more generic costumes preferred the see-through bags -- that is, they avoided ambiguity.
[Read more...]

McAuliffe's wealth could create conflicts of interest (31 October 2013)
Although Virginia's disclosure laws make decoding Terry McAuliffe's finances as difficult as grabbing water, this much is clear: His vast investments would require serious shifting if he becomes governor.

Leveraged as McAuliffe is in municipal bonds, securities and business holdings - some with state connections - his campaign says they won't be a conflict if he's elected because the investments would go into a blind trust. Spokesman Josh Schwerin said McAuliffe would consult with independent legal experts and the Attorney General's Office on the matter.

Republicans, however, remain skeptical of any hands-off pledge, given their view of McAuliffe's history as a political financier with interests they say could intersect with a governor's duties.

Publicly available documents suggest McAuliffe is a millionaire many times over - his assets last year exceeded $6.7 million, according to forms he filed with the state as a candidate that don't require much detailed reporting. Similarly opaque is McAuliffe's 2012 tax summary that shows income of roughly $9.5 million but offers scant insight about the source of those earnings.
[Read more...]

Israel plans massive settlement push (31 October 2013)
JERUSALEM -- Israel has announced that it is advancing plans to build settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem amid sharp international criticism that the projects will hurt the peace process with the Palestinians.

Hours after releasing a group of Palestinian prisoners Tuesday night, Israel announced the renewal of several developments in the Jerusalem area on lands annexed after the 1967 war, which Palestinians claim for a future state.

A number of the projects announced are not new, such as the expansion of the northeast Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo by 1,500 units.

The announcement of this project during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel in 2010 caused diplomatic tension and delayed the project, which has been reapproved since then, though not implemented.
[Read more...]

Putin at No. 1: Russian media crows, and complains, about Forbes ranking (31 October 2013)
Vladimir Putin is the world's most powerful person in 2013, according to Forbes magazine, which has taken it upon itself to compile a controversial "most powerful" list every year since 2009.

This year it has 72 names of people who "matter the most," including 17 heads of state, 27 business kingpins, assorted politicians and bureaucrats, one drug trafficker, one pope and -- with a bit of overlap -- 28 billionaires.

In a breezy explanation of its methodology, the magazine says that top editors consider the extent of a candidate's power over people, financial resources, influence in multiple spheres, and whether the person's authority is effectively wielded.

For three of first four years of the list's existence US President Barack Obama was the anointed No. 1. And rightly so. By almost any calculus, whether GDP, diplomatic heft, or military might, the leader of the United States ought to be pretty much guaranteed that slot every single time. But, perhaps just to mix it up, the editors of Forbes gave the top honor to Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2010.
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NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say (30 October 2013)
The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.

According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA's acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency's headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records -- including "metadata," which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA's principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency's British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters . From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and the GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information among the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.
[Read more...]

Before 1940, more than 85% of the U.S. population used drugless healers (29 October 2013)
(NaturalNews) The news blackout and disinformation campaign of natural cures has been so effective since WWII that most people do not ever learn of the "disappeared" therapies until the fateful moment when they or their loved ones are diagnosed with some dreadful disease. Then and only then will they begin "fighting for their lives" and delve into the plethora of alternative medicine, and throw to the wayside all of the supposedly "scientifically supported" mainstream medicine they fear so much.

It wasn't always this way. Just 100 years ago, what we call "alternative" medicine was main stream, consisting of herbs, tinctures, roots and medicinal mushrooms which indigenous societies have proven effective for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. Doctors making house calls and traveling snake oil salesmen were not called "quacks" because they were not quacks at all. Conversely, they were nipping disease and disorder (what little existed) in the bud, using Nature's powerful extracts and herbal tinctures based on a long history of proven methods; from China to Brazil, from India to Australia, and right back here to the local roots of the Native Americans.

Just 100 years ago in the United States, medicine was not a lucrative business. Scarce was a case of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis or Alzheimer's, and there were no pharmaceutically induced deaths.

Between 1905 and 1912, deficiency disease was discovered, which meant scientists figured out that nearly all sicknesses and disease were caused by NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY, and the recent discoveries of vitamins B12, vitamin A, and vitamin D proved it. Since then, farmers have fed cattle vitamins and trace minerals to prevent and cure disease, but the FDA does not want you to know. Vitamin B12 is needed for healthy red blood cells, healthy nerve cells, and to make DNA. Vitamin A is important for the immune system, helping cell membranes resist cancer and many other diseases. A public lack of this understanding has been pivotal in the mass failure of informed choices regarding the prevention and cure of disease. Also, by 1935, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) became the first "pure" vitamin made available to the public through large-scale production.
[Read more...]

Elderly, At Risk, and Haphazardly Protected (29 October 2013)
Workers found 82-year-old Vincenzina Pontoni submerged in a deep whirlpool bathtub. She had drowned.

Pontoni, a resident of an assisted living facility near Cleveland, wasn't supposed to be left alone; her care chart stated that facility workers were to stand by while she was bathing "for safety." But records show she had been unsupervised for at least an hour that day in 2010, with deadly consequences.

State law in Ohio does not require assisted living facilities to alert regulators at the Ohio Department of Health when a resident dies under questionable circumstances, so administrators at Pontoni's facility never did. While law enforcement did an investigation -- ruling the death an accident -- the people actually charged with safeguarding seniors in assisted living never so much as visited the facility in response to Pontoni's death. Indeed, the Department of Health was unaware of how Pontoni died until notified by a reporter investigating assisted living for ProPublica and "Frontline."

When asked about Pontoni's death, and whether the Department of Health feared other care issues had been overlooked, Tessie Pollock, a department spokeswoman, said it did not appear that any regulation had been violated by the Cleveland facility. She encouraged the families of residents in the state's assisted living facilities to be vigilant on behalf of their loved ones.

Ohio's hands-off approach to regulating assisted living is hardly an aberration.
[Read more...]

U.S. spy chiefs face Congress amid spying rift with Europe (29 October 2013)
(Reuters) - The head of the National Security Agency defended his beleaguered organization on Tuesday, saying it acts within the law to stop militant attacks and calling reports that the NSA collected data on millions of phone calls in Europe false.

Army General Keith Alexander, testifying with other U.S. spy chiefs before the House of Representatives Intelligence committee, sought to defuse a growing controversy over reports of NSA snooping on citizens and leaders of major U.S. allies.

The hearing took place as Congress is weighing new legislative proposals that could limit some of the NSA's more expansive electronic intelligence collection programs.

"It is much more important for this country that we defend this nation and take the beatings than it is to give up a program that would result in this nation being attacked," Alexander said, referring to criticism of his agency.
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JAMA study questions FDA's shorter drug approval times (28 October 2013)
(Reuters) - New drugs that receive expedited review by the Food and Drug Administration are being tested on fewer patients, leaving many safety questions unanswered even after they are approved, a study released on Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

Study authors Thomas Moore of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and Dr Curt Furberg, a professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine, examined the development times, clinical testing and risks associated with 20 new drugs approved in 2008. Eight were given expedited review and 12 standard review.

It found that expedited drugs underwent a median of 5.1 years of clinical testing before being approved, compared with 7.5 years for those that underwent a standard review. But in many cases safety monitoring trials that were supposed to be conducted after the products were approved were either not conducted, not completed, or not submitted to the FDA.

"The testing of new drugs has shifted from a situation in which most testing was conducted prior to initial approval to a situation in which many innovative drugs are more rapidly approved after a small trial in a narrower patient population with extensive additional testing conducted after approval," the authors said.
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McAuliffe and the Clintons: A friendship as close as family, with benefits, risks for both (27 October 2013)
Technically, the gathering this month was a fundraiser for Terry McAuliffe's campaign for Virginia governor. But to those in attendance, it felt like a cozy family get-together. There, in the wood-paneled study of McAuliffe's father-in-law's Florida home, Bill Clinton stood with his arm draped around the shoulders of the candidate's wife, Dorothy.

The former president waxed nostalgic about watching the McAuliffes' five children grow into young adults, rattling off their names as he reminisced. He sounded more like a proud uncle than the political heavyweight who had flown in to hustle up money for their dad's campaign.

Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton have their own separate circles of personal friends and political advisers. But confidants say the McAuliffes are the rare individuals who cross into both spheres, part of a genuine friendship that is unusual at the highest level of politics.

The two couples are "as close to family as it can be without being blood, and it may even be blood by osmosis after all the time they've spent next to each other," said John Morgan, a lawyer who co-hosted the Orlando area fundraiser for about 30 donors. "It has transcended friendship into love."
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Judge blocks parts of Texas abortion law (28 October 2013)
A federal judge in Texas blocked two key parts of the state's controversial abortion law Monday, ruling that one part is unconstitutional while another provision imposes an undue burden on women in some instances.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel represents a legal victory for abortion providers, who had challenged new requirements that abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic and that all abortions must take place in surgical centers, rather than allowing women to take abortion drugs at home.

Lauren Bean, spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said the state immediately appealed the ruling.

Eleven abortion clinics and three doctors filed a federal lawsuit last month saying that the requirements, which were to take effect Tuesday, would end abortion services in more than a third of the state's licensed facilities and eliminate services in Fort Worth and five other major cities. Abbott had said the new restrictions, adopted in summer, were aimed at providing better medical protections for women and fetuses.

The provision requiring doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges "does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the State in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her," Yeakel wrote.
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Another record in Houston for early voting Tuesday, plus new demographic data (30 October 2013)
Early voting set another high mark Tuesday, with 8,500 in-person votes and 1,911 mail ballots returned.

Voting is underway for Houston mayor between incumbent Annise Parker and top challenger Ben Hall, as well as for city council races, school board and community college trustee races, state constitutional amendments and two high-profile bond votes, a renovation of the Astrodome and a long-discussed city-county inmate processing center.

Below are the totals through Tuesday. Note that the totals likely will rise this week because hours have been extended to 7 p.m. through Friday, before voting pauses leading into Nov. 5, Election Day.
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Zimbabwe: 22 Feared Dead in Ethanol Truck Crash (30 October 2013)
AT LEAST 22 people may have been burnt to death Wednesday morning after a Greenfuel ethanol truck carrying the inflammable liquid collided head-on with a lorry ferrying mourners.

Manicaland ZRP traffic police confirmed the horror crash which occurred at around 7am in Chisumbanje.

Officers said the driver and all the passengers on the T35 truck which was carrying the mourners were burnt to death after the ethanol truck burst into flames.

Witnesses said 20 people died on the spot while two died on admission at the nearby St Peters Hospital.
[Read more...]

Bodies of 87 migrants found in Niger desert along trafficking route (30 October 2013)
The bodies of 87 migrants who died of thirst were found Wednesday in Niger's northern desert, Agence France-Presse reported. The discovery follows reports on Monday that at least 30 migrants who died of dehydration two weeks ago were found in the Sahara desert, after the vehicle they were traveling in had mechanical problems and left them stranded.

The corpses of seven men, 32 women and 48 children were found Wednesday near the Algerian border, security sources said. The migrants had been trying to emigrate to Algeria, from where they were believed to have been headed to Europe in search of a better life.

Almoustapha Alhacen, a spokesman of local aid organization Aghir In'man, confirmed the death toll and gave a graphic account of discovering the bodies.

"The corpses were decomposed; it was horrible," he said. "We found them in different locations in a 20km radius and in small groups, often under trees, or under the sun. Sometimes a mother and children, but some lone children too."
[Read more...]

30 House Democrats Joined the GOP to Sell You Out to Wall Street. Which Ones? (29 October 2013)
Republicans and conservative Democrats just voted to sell you out to Wall Street. In other words, it's Tuesday.

Today, the House passed the so-called Retail Investor Protection Act 254 to 166. 30 Democrats voted with 224 Republicans in favor. 165 Democrats--and one Republican--voted against it. Those following H.R. 2374 thought it would pass with wide bipartisan margins, so having 165 Democratic NAY's was better than expected. The 30 Democratic YEA's still need to be named and shamed, however.

First, let's begin with the important question: What is the Retail Investor Protection Act? The bill delays a new Department of Labor rule that would prevent financial advisers from stealing from your 401(K) plans or IRAs. Allowing financial advisers to rip you off is a great complement to that other plank in the Republican-Conservadem retirement insecurity platform, cutting Social Security.

Here's David Dayen with more details:

"The Labor Department proposal, known as the 'fiduciary rule,' would change the ethical standards by which employer-based retirement products like 401(k)'s and IRAs are marketed and sold. The rule has not been updated since 1975, before 401(k)'s and IRAs even existed. The Labor Department wants to broaden the definition of a 'fiduciary' to cover all financial advisers who offer individual investment advice for a fee. Under the rule, they would be legally required to work in the best interest of their clients. For example, a fiduciary would not be able to push investment products on customers in which they have a financial stake. The agency defines the goal of the proposal as 'to ensure that potential conflicts of interest among advisers are not allowed to compromise the quality of investment advice that millions of American workers rely on, so they can retire with the dignity that they have worked hard to achieve.'"
[Read more...]

Facebook executives coach Brazil politicians before Internet vote (25 October 2013)
(Reuters) - As Brazil threatens to impose strict new regulations on American Internet companies, Facebook offered some of its top politicians free advice this week on how to win "friends" and maximize "likes" on their webpages.

Facebook's tips on using social media came as politicians geared up for a 2014 general election and as Congress prepared to vote on legislation that could severely restrict the way companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google operate in Brazil.

After revelations of U.S. government spying on Brazilian citizens and companies, including President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil is rushing through legislation that would oblige Internet companies to store information about their Brazilian users in the country. The lower house of Congress votes on the measure next Wednesday.

Internet companies and technology experts say the demand would be costly and technically complicated.

With 76 million Facebook users, more than any other country outside the United States and possibly India, Brazil is a key market for the San Francisco-based social network. That also makes Facebook a powerful tool for Brazilian politicians Seeking to win new supporters.
[Read more...]

Spinal fusions serve as case study for debate over when certain surgeries are necessary (27 October 2013)
By some measures, Federico C. Vinas was a star surgeon. He performed three or four surgeries on a typical weekday at the Daytona Beach, Fla., hospital that employed him, and a review showed him to be nearly five times as busy as other neurosurgeons. The hospital paid him hundreds of thousands in incentive pay. In all, he earned as much as $1.9 million a year.

Yet given his productivity, some hospital auditors wondered: Was all of the surgery really necessary?

To answer that question, the hospital in early 2010 paid for an independent review of cases in which Vinas and two other neurosurgeons had performed a common procedure known as a spinal fusion. The review was conducted by board-certified neurosurgeons working for AllMed, a company accredited to audit health-care businesses.

Of 10 spinal fusions by Vinas that were selected, nine were deemed not medically necessary, according to a summary of the report.
[Read more...]

Shelf Life (29 October 2013)
"The gold rush is on once again," The New York Times declared in 1979, in an article on Humboldt County, California. The "gold" was marijuana, which was just beginning to take root as an industry in Humboldt, located on the northern coast of the state, 200 miles from San Francisco. "In these parts the plants command, ounce for ounce, almost the price of the metal."

Thanks to federal prohibition, the price of marijuana would exceed that of gold at numerous times throughout the 1980s. Locals referred to prohibition as "the best government price support program in U.S. history," and over time marijuana became the backbone of Humboldt County's entire economy. By 2010, somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 people in Humboldt grew marijuana or worked for a grower, and the earnings funded everything from healthcare clinics to volunteer fire departments. But as Emily Brady details in her excellent book Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier (Grand Central; $27), the increasing acceptance of marijuana nationwide and the prospect of its legalization threaten all of this. Some experts estimate that legalization would cause the price of marijuana to drop by up to 80 percent. Or as one community member put it, "The legalization of marijuana will be the single most devastating economic bust in the long boom-and-bust history of Northern California."

The "green rush" in Humboldt began in the mid- to late 1970s, just as the timber industry was going into decline. Until then, over 90 percent of the marijuana smoked in the United States was grown outside the country. Hoping to eradicate a primary source, the US government sponsored an initiative in Mexico that saw the country's marijuana crops sprayed with the herbicide paraquat. The Centers for Disease Control warned the American public about the health risks associated with smoking the toxin-laden Mexican pot, creating a demand for new sources of the drug. "And so an industry was born in Humboldt County," Brady writes, "one that would bridge the cultural divide between hippies and rednecks by providing income for all." By 2010, 79 percent of the marijuana smoked in the United States was grown in California.

Humboldt recounts this history by following four people with a stake in this landscape as they grapple with the prospect of marijuana legalization. There's Mare, a back-to-the-land hippie who goes from growing her own pot to selling small amounts of it to medical marijuana dispensaries; Crockett, a young stoner who is attracted to the industry in the hope that it will make him a lot of money; Emma, whose mother was a grower and who has seen how prohibition can destroy families, including her own; and Bob, the straitlaced sheriff of Southern Humboldt. "It took Bob a mere month in Southern Humboldt to conclude that America had totally lost the War on Drugs," Brady writes.
[Read more...]

Body parts found in Los Angeles area water treatment plants (29 October 2013)
(Reuters) - Body parts believed to be from the same woman have been found at two water treatment plants in the Los Angeles area, sheriff's homicide detectives said Monday.

The upper torso with the head mangled was found at a sewage treatment plant on Monday in the unincorporated community of Bassett, when workers came to check a plug in the line, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Mike Rosson said at a news conference broadcast on several local television stations.

Two days earlier, other body parts were found at a facility in the suburb of Carson, about 25 miles away, authorities said in a statement.

"That human torso appears to be related to the other body parts that were found Saturday in Carson," Rosson said. The body, which detectives said might be that of a Hispanic woman, would have entered the system either through a manhole cover or a sewer line, he said. The body may have entered in one piece and been torn apart as it moved through the system, he said.

A cause of death had not yet been determined by late Monday, but a sheriff's department news release said that the case was being investigated as a homicide.
[Read more...]

Attackers in Mexico blow up nine electrical plants (27 October 2013)
MEXICO CITY -- Assailants early Sunday blew up at least nine electrical power plants in one of Mexico's largest states, triggering blackouts that gunmen then used as cover to torch gasoline stations, residents and authorities said.

The attacks in Michoacan state, west of the capital, did not cause deaths or serious injuries, authorities said. But they served as a pointed reminder of the strength of drug gangs and other criminals.

Shortly after midnight, attackers armed with Molotov cocktails almost simultaneously disabled electrical substations in at least nine cities and towns in Michoacan, plunging an estimated 1 million people into darkness. The power was out for 15 hours.

Gunmen then torched four gasoline stations, including two in the state capital of Morelia, a popular tourist destination.

Michoacan for years has been controlled either by the Knights Templar or its predecessor La Familia, cartels that specialize in methamphetamine exported to the United States and that have controlled many city halls and police departments. More recently, groups of citizens have taken up weapons to form self-defense squads against the traffickers.
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Congress ended the government shutdown, but ... (28 October 2013)
When Congress ended the government shutdown by agreeing to fund federal operations through mid-January, lawmakers gave themselves some breathing room to draft a more complete budget for the rest of 2014.

But the extra time is little comfort for those in Hampton Roads whose livelihoods are tied to the defense industry.

That's because Congress has not slowed the forward march of automatic federal budget cuts - known as a sequester - that could mean the cancellation of lucrative ship maintenance or construction contracts, the elimination of base construction and repair projects, and a general slowdown of other military-related work. Defense contracts provide thousands of skilled jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the region's economy.

With no certainty that a divisive Congress will agree to stop the deep cuts, 2014 "is going to be a very uncertain, high-anxiety year that we're just going to slog through the best we can," said Craig Quigley, executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance. "The immediate effect right now is a lot of angst and worry."
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Infosys reaches $34m settlement with Justice Department over fraud claims (30 October 2013)
Infosys Ltd said on Wednesday it has reached a $34m settlement with US authorities in a case involving the widespread practice by Indian firms of flying workers to client sites in the United States on temporary visas.

The fine, which the US Department of Justice said is the largest in a case of its kind, comes as US lawmakers consider legislation that would make it more difficult and costly for Indian IT firms to send workers to the United States on temporary, restricted visas.

"Infosys denies and disputes any claims of systemic visa fraud, misuse of visas for competitive advantage or immigration abuse. Those claims are untrue and are assertions that remain unproven," Infosys said in a statement.

"There were no criminal charges or court rulings against the company. Furthermore, there are no limitations on the company's eligibility for federal contracts or access to US visa programs as a result of the settlement," it said.

Infosys, India's second-largest IT services exporter, employs roughly 15,000 people in the United States. As of March 31, about 10,800 of those were on H-1B visas, which allow an employee to stay and work in the United States up to six years, and 1,600 were on temporary L-1 visas, a company filing said.

The US investigation focused on the use of B-1 business visas and I-9 forms, Infosys has said. I-9 forms verify the identity of employees and their authorisation to work in the United States. A person on a B-1 visa in the United States can participate in meetings but is not allowed to work.
[Read more...]

5 more cannons raised from Blackbeard's ship off N.C. (29 October 2013)
Archeologists have recovered five more cannon from the wreck Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.

The largest of the guns raised Monday weighs about 3,000 pounds. The wreckage of the ship is in Beaufort Inlet.

"Today is definitely a red-letter day: five guns coming off the site," said David Moore, who has been a member of the recovery team since it began.

Project director Billy Ray Morris says historians think the largest cannon was made in Sweden, indicating that Blackbeard had guns from different countries.

The team has identified nearly 30 cannon at the site and has said the ship may have had as many as 40 heavy cannon onboard when it ran aground in 1718. Twenty-two of the guns have been recovered.
[Read more...]

Exclusive: Hollywood sting (30 October 2013)
LOS ANGELES -- Ronald Calderon is a powerful state senator in California who holds sway over the glamorous Hollywood movie industry. He is also, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a politician on the take.

A hefty 56-year-old Democrat with salt-and-pepper hair, Calderon has been a red-carpet star in California politics for more than a decade. As an assemblyman and now a state senator representing suburban Los Angeles, he has established a well-earned reputation for spending campaign money and taxpayer funds on himself.

He's used campaign cash to cover the finer things in life -- plush golf outings, lavish trips to Cuba and Las Vegas, meals at exclusive restaurants and hotels. When California offered to purchase cars for the state's elected officials, Calderon chose the most expensive one: a $54,830 Cadillac STS V8 luxury sedan.

But his days as a big spender may soon be over. The FBI is hot on his trail in an investigation that could become California's biggest legislative scandal in more than two decades and could signal the downfall of a political dynasty. The FBI employed an undercover sting for more than a year that ended when agents raided the senator's office in Sacramento in June.
[Read more...]

Being too agreeable could impact your career (24 October 2013)
People who are agreeable are generally pleasant to work with and tend to score high marks in displaying a positive attitude. In a workplace full of competition, it can be refreshing to be around those who are easy to get along with, minus the drama of conflict.

From a career point of view, being agreeable is a two-sided coin -- while some may admire your kindhearted intentions, others may perceive you as someone who avoids confrontation.

Just as much as being too agreeable can be seen as negative, being too argumentative can have its downsides as well. Both lack negotiation skills in resolving conflict and neither one leads to promotions.

The road to a management position is filled with situations that call for confrontation and conflict. The challenge with being seen as too agreeable is that it diminishes your effectiveness as a future manager. Developing the skills needed for management requires holding others accountable and many times accountability is a far cry from being agreeable. Not only does being too agreeable hurt your chances for career growth, it costs you in terms of compensation.
[Read more...]

The hottest new calendar is this one featuring (fully clothed) climate scientists (25 October 2013)
Are you looking for a calendar filled with hot models for your office or man cave? Consider climate models -- they're hot and getting hotter. And in the 2014 Climate Models calendar, they're represented by climate scientists wearing their fanciest party duds. Steamy!

I was kind of hoping this calendar would literally be climate models (you know, like ... meet Miss November, the hockey-stick graph! Her turn-offs include unfounded skepticism and email hacking!). But dressed-up climate scientists is a pretty good alternative. (Naked climate scientists would be pushing it.)
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Yahoo and Google furious over reports NSA secretly intercepts data links (30 October 2013)
The documents suggest that the NSA, in partnership with its British counterpart GCHQ, is copying large amounts of data as it flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the worldwide data centers of the Silicon Valley giants. The intelligence activities of the NSA outside the US are subject to fewer legal constraints than its domestic actions.

The story is likely to put further strain on the already difficult relations between the tech firms and Washington. The internet giants are furious about the damage done to their reputation in the wake of Snowden's revelations.

In a statement, Google's chief legal officer, David Drummond, said the company was "outraged" by the latest revelations.

"We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links, especially the links in the slide," he said.

"We do not provide any government, including the US government, with access to our systems. We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform."
[Read more...]

Shackles and Ivy: The Secret History of How Slavery Helped Build America's Elite Colleges (30 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: It's a very Northern story, actually. You know, when you think about the colonial world, until the American Revolution, there's actually only one college in the South: William & Mary. There are a couple of other attempts, but they fail. The other eight colleges are all Northern schools. And they're actually located in key sites, for the most part, of the merchant economy and where the slave traders had sort of come to power and rose as the sort of financial and intellectual backers of the new culture of the colonies.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about Harvard.

CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: Sure. Harvard, actually, from its very beginnings in 1636, the college, by 1638, actually has an enslaved man living on campus, who's referred to as "the Moor." And--


CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: The Moor. And that actually is directly related to two slave trades. I imagine it's how he gets to Cambridge. One is right after the Pequot War, the war in which the Puritans defeat the Indians of southern Connecticut. There's a Pequot slave trade into the West Indies. The captive Pequot are actually sold into the West Indies. That ship actually returns with enslaved Africans. And it's right after that moment that the Moor appears on campus and becomes part of the sort of legend of early Harvard.
[Read more...]

Judge: Cop couldn't have smelled pot in moving car (30 October 2013)
Police officers sniffing out burning marijuana while driving around town in their squad cars? Maybe.

Officers smelling small amounts of raw marijuana in vehicles they pass? No way.

"I find it extremely difficult to believe," Circuit Court Judge Marjorie A. Taylor Arrington said Tuesday before ruling police had no legal reason for a traffic stop last year in South Norfolk that yielded a wad of marijuana the size of a pingpong ball.

"This is a case of common sense," she said.
[Read more...]

White House offers tentative support for plans to rein in NSA surveillance (29 October 2013)
The White House indicated on Tuesday that it would support at least some of the congressional efforts to rein in the controversial surveillance practices of the National Security Agency, as political opinion in Washington hardened against the country's embattled intelligence community.

The administration revealed that an internal government review in the wake of revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden had already led to changes in US intelligence-gathering activities -- thought to be a ban on eavesdropping on the leaders of friendly governments and a curb on surveillance at the United Nations.

But wider checks on domestic surveillance practices also looked increasingly likely on Tuesday, as bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate and party leaders united in calling for reform.

Even as the White House acknowledged that legislative reform of the NSA was inevitable, senior intelligence officials mounted a uncompromising defence of their current programs. At a congressional hearing, General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, forcefully and emotionally rejected calls to curtail his agency's power. Alexander, who declared he was speaking "from the heart", said the NSA would prefer to "take the beatings" from the public and in the media "than to give up a program that would result in this nation being attacked".

At the White House, chief spokesman Jay Carney welcomed the various reform efforts in principle but declined to discuss specific recommendations until the conclusion of a separate White House investigation.
[Read more...]

Should Dick Cheney, a man who has made this world measurably more awful, be allowed to cross into Canada? (29 October 2013)
Cheney, 71, has had six heart attacks and a transplant and has co-written a book about his hearts. I would make the obvious joke about a heartless man insisting he has two, but who would laugh.

He spent 9/11 cowering in a bunker . For a man who made torture part of what the U.S. is famous for, who came up with the cowardly term "enhanced interrogation," who established "black site" secret prisons and laid waste to the freedoms Americans once loved, Cheney is awfully frightened of being personally hurt.

This is torture: drowning as men pour water into you, going mad from sleep deprivation, noise and lights, being stripped naked and beaten until you vomit, being sodomized with bottles, fed on bread and water, given urine to drink, being beaten across the face with an iron bar, terrorized by dogs, enduring stress positions, being kicked until you ... just ... die. This was official interrogation, not the offhand naked piling of prisoners by uniformed hillbillies who had lucked into a gig at the Abu Ghraib funhouse.

This was the punitive world Cheney created, a world the Nazis and Japanese built but the Allies refused to countenance. He has never fought in a war (like George W. Bush, he managed to skip Vietnam) but he has started them and directed them and enjoyed them.
[Read more...]

Europeans handed over phone records, U.S. says (29 October 2013)
WASHINGTON -- Stung by reports of widespread spying on allies, U.S. officials revealed Tuesday that European intelligence services gave the National Security Agency records of tens of millions of telephone calls in joint surveillance operations.

By pointing the finger at European spy services and disclosing intelligence efforts that normally are carefully guarded secrets, U.S. officials demonstrated how deeply the agency has been wounded by leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that exposed its vast operations around the globe.

The phone records collected by the Europeans and shared with the NSA were from war zones and other areas outside their borders, officials said. The NSA still faces sharp criticism over a separate effort to listen in on the communications of foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Despite the political outcry in much of Europe as disclosures of surveillance multiplied, U.S. intelligence officials had avoided blaming partner agencies until now because of diplomatic sensitivities. The latest twist in the Snowden saga is likely to spark domestic anger against allied governments, and could jeopardize cooperation with the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.
[Read more...]

NSA chief says NATO allies shared phone records with the U.S. spy agency (29 October 2013)
The director of the National Security Agency on Tuesday dismissed as "completely false" reports that his agency swept up millions of phone records of European citizens, and he revealed that data collected by NATO allies were shared with the United States.

Gen. Keith Alexander said foreign intelligence services collected phone records in war zones and other areas outside their borders and provided them to the spy agency -- an operation that was misunderstood by French and Spanish newspapers that reported that the NSA was conducting surveillance in their countries.

"This is not information that we collected on European citizens," Alexander told the House Intelligence Committee. "It represents information that we and our NATO allies have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations."

Alexander made the comments in response to questions from the panel's chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), about reports that the NSA collected more than 70 million French phone records in a one-month period late last year and early this year and intercepted more than 60 million phone calls in Spain during the same time frame.
[Read more...]

Bad vibrations? Truck drivers at risk for aggressive prostate cancer (29 October 2013)
Warning: Driving a truck for a living can be hazardous to your health -- if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, researchers said Tuesday.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in men, and in most cases it's basically harmless. As the National Cancer Institute says, even patients who never get their tumors treated are likely to die of something other than prostate cancer. So, instead of looking at prostate cancer risk, the researchers who did the new study focused on the risk that the cancer would be aggressive at the time of diagnosis.

They had a hunch that truck drivers might be vulnerable, because previous studies had suggested that long-term exposure to the kind of "whole-body vibration" endured by men working with with heavy equipment could increase prostate cancer risk. It's not clear why this would be, but one possibility is that the vibration prompts the body to produce more testosterone, which is a known risk factor for prostate cancer, according to a 2012 study published in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene. Another is that vibration can lead to prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate gland, which may also be linked to prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The research team -- from the NCI, the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. -- looked at medical records and other data from 2,132 men who were part of the North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project. Along with other health and demographic information, they told interviewers about the two jobs where they had spent the most time in their careers, as well as their most recent job at the time of their diagnosis.

When the researchers crunched the numbers, they found that men who said they spent more time driving a truck than doing anything else were nearly four times more likely than educators to be diagnosed with a prostate cancer considered highly aggressive. (The educators were used as the baseline group because they were deemed to have pretty much no exposure to whole-body vibration.) These aggressive cancers had a PSA level greater than 20 nanograms per milliliter of blood, a Gleason sum of at least 8, or a combination of a Gleason sum of at least 7 and tumors that were stage T3/T4.
[Read more...]

PAM COMMENTARY: Truck drivers are also exposed to fuel and fuel fumes, are often deprived of sleep, and are probably more likely to eat unhealthy fried foods on the road. It's unclear whether vibrations are the main risk factor, or even a contributing factor at all.

Exclusive: Merck works toward bringing Zilmax back to the U.S., Canada market (29 October 2013)
(Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co told Reuters on Tuesday that it plans to bring its Zilmax animal feed additive back for sale in the United States and Canada, after it completes an audit of how the muscle-building cattle feed product is used in the agriculture sector.

A spokeswoman for the company's Merck Animal Health unit said that while "it is too early to speculate on when we will resume sales for Zilmax in the U.S. and Canada," Merck was pushing forward with its quality control program to ensure the weight-adding drug is being properly used.

Merck halted sales of Zilmax in August after Tyson Foods Inc. said it would stop accepting Zilmax-fed beef given some cattle were observed arriving for slaughter with signs they were having difficulty walking or moving. Merck has said it stands behind the safety of its product.

The email from company spokeswoman Pamela Eisele said Merck was "committed to completing this as quickly as possible, while also ensuring it is conducted appropriately and with rigorous scientific measures."
[Read more...]

Obama accused of breaking promise to consumers as health plans cancel policies (29 October 2013)
A new controversy over the president's health-care law is threatening to overshadow the messy launch of its Web site: Notices are going out to hundreds of thousands of Americans informing them that their health insurance policies are being canceled as of Dec. 31.

The notices appear to contradict President Obama's promise that despite the changes resulting from the law, Americans can keep their health insurance if they like it. Republicans have seized on the cancellations as evidence that the law is flawed and the president has been less than forthright in describing its impact.

"The real problem is that people weren't told the truth," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." "You can remember, they were told that they would be able to keep their policies if they liked them. Now you hear hundreds of thousands of people across the country being told they couldn't."

Administration officials say the canceled insurance will be replaced by better policies. But the new line of attack comes as the administration continues to grapple with its problem-plagued Web site, HealthCare.gov.
[Read more...]

RATE SHOCK: Obamacare causing 539% increase in health insurance costs for Texans (see proof) (29 October 2013)
(NaturalNews) It is crucial for the White House that the Healthcare.gov website continue to fail, because once the site actually starts functioning, Americans are going to be hit with such devastating rate shock that the Obama administration may never recover.

Obamacare is named the "Affordable Care Act," after all, and the President promised the rates would be "as low as a phone bill." But I just received a confirmed letter from a friend in Texas showing a 539% rate increase on an existing policy that's been in good standing for years.

As the letter reveals (see below), the cost for this couple's policy under Humana is increasing from $212.10 per month to $1,356.60 per month. This is for a couple in good health whose combined income is less than $70K -- a middle-class family, in other words.

That's a 539% rate increase!
[Read more...]

Golden eagle dies after earlier rescue along railway tracks in Banff National Park (29 October 2013)
A golden eagle found injured on the railway tracks near Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park late last week has died, despite efforts to save it.

Around noon last Thursday, Parks Canada received a report from Canadian Pacific about the bird.

"They weren't aware that they had struck an eagle, but they had observed this injured eagle hopping off the railway tracks," said Steve Michel, human/wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park. "It looked like it wasn't able to fly."

Resource conservation staff contacted the Cochrane Ecological Institute to get specific details on how to handle the eagle, since it's not a common situation. They then walked out to the site with a cage and a blanket, packaging the bird and transporting it to a veterinarian in Cochrane.
[Read more...]

Serial rapists commit 9 of 10 campus sexual assaults, research finds (28 October 2013)
Occidental College, a private and pricey school in Los Angeles, is known for its commitment to social justice. With that in mind, it's striking that this campus is riven by reports of rape and sexual assault, much of it allegedly committed by repeat offenders.

Two female Oxy students, who wished to remain anonymous, told America Tonight's Chris Bury that they were raped by fellow students.

"I ended up walking back to his place with him," said one student who's now a junior. "Once we were there, he -- he raped me."

This woman says she was raped in her first year and was outraged to learn the college had already disciplined her attacker for a similar offense.
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Poverty, neglect in childhood affect brain size, study says (28 October 2013)
SAN FRANCISCO--Poverty and lack of nurturing in early life may have a direct effect on a child's brain development, according to a study that found smaller brain volumes in poor, neglected children.

The study of brain scans, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, found children living in poverty without adequate nurturing had a smaller hippocampus, a brain region linked to learning and memory, than those who weren't poor or neglected.

Poor children, even if not neglected by parents, were found to have less grey matter, which is linked to intelligence; less white matter, which helps transmit signals; and smaller amygdala, an area key to emotional health.

The study adds to previous research suggesting the stress of living in poverty in childhood can have lifelong effects on learning and emotional health, said Charles Nelson, who wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal.
[Read more...]

"Stop Watching Us": As Diplomatic Fallout Grows, Thousands Protest NSA Surveillance in D.C. (28 October 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
JESSELYN RADACK: [reading] "We are here to remind our government officials that they are public servants, not private investigators.

"This is about the unconstitutional, unethical, and immoral actions of the modern-day surveillance state and how we all must work together to remind the government to stop them. It's about our right to know, our right to associate freely, and to live in a free and open democratic society.

"We are witnessing an American moment in which ordinary people from high schools to high office stand up to oppose a dangerous trend in government.

"We are told that what is unconstitutional is not illegal, but we will not be fooled. We have not forgotten that the Fourth Amendment in our Bill of Rights prohibits government not only from searching our personal effects without a warrant, but from seizing them in the first place, and doing so in secret.
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New director James Comey wants FBI 'independent of all political forces' (28 October 2013)
From his days as a federal prosecutor to his installation ceremony as director of the FBI, James Comey's law enforcement career was praised on Monday by President Barack Obama as a success story that shows Comey is the right choice to lead the FBI for the next decade.

Three former FBI directors and two former attorneys general were on hand as Comey told more than 3,000 FBI employees and guests gathered in the agency's courtyard on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington that the FBI must be "independent of all political forces and interests".

Comey took over last month from Robert Mueller, who stepped down after 12 years. Obama says he picked Comey to lead the FBI after interviewing many other candidates for the job.

"He's got the resume," Obama said, before adding that more importantly, Comey has a strong sense of right and wrong.

Emphasising that the FBI must never abuse its power, Comey said he would direct that all new FBI agents visit the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington, as a reminder of the agency's excesses in the civil-rights era. The FBI treated King and others as internal security threats and spied on them.
[Read more...]

Texas abortion clinics stay open following ruling (28 October 2013)
LUBBOCK, Texas -- The only abortion clinic in a 300-mile swath of West Texas can resume taking appointments Tuesday, after a federal judge struck down new restrictions that would have effectively shuttered it and at least a dozen other clinics across the state.

Lubbock's Planned Parenthood Women's Health Center had stopped making appointments last week, bracing for this week's scheduled enforcement of a new requirement that all doctors performing abortions in the state must have admitting privileges at a hospital less than 30 miles away.

Supporters who sued to block the requirement, part of a broad series of abortion limits the Legislature approved in July, argued it was meant to outlaw abortions, not make them safer as state officials had claimed. The judge agreed, finding that the law imposed an unconstitutional burden on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

The admitting privileges provision "does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion," Judge Lee Yeakel, an appointee of President George W. Bush, a former Texas Republican governor, wrote in his decision.
[Read more...]

Africa's biggest wind farm starts spinning (28 October 2013)
Ethiopia's infamous droughts don't just condemn the country to periodic famine; they also deprive it of electricity.

In a major step toward diversifying a power system that's almost entirely reliant on hydropower, the country has built Africa's largest wind farm. Power production started at the $290 million Ashegoda Wind Farm on Saturday, four years after construction began. From Reuters:

"The 120 MW, 84-turbine farm -- straddling a sprawling field of grassland dotted by stone-brick hamlets more than 780 kilometers north of Addis Ababa -- is part of a plan to mitigate the impact of dry seasons on the country's dams.

"At present, Ethiopia's energy resources are almost completely derived from hydropower projects."
[Read more...]

White House OKd spying on allies, U.S. intelligence officials say (28 October 2013)
WASHINGTON -- The White House and State Department signed off on surveillance targeting phone conversations of friendly foreign leaders, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said Monday, pushing back against assertions that President Obama and his aides were unaware of the high-level eavesdropping.

Professional staff members at the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies are angry, these officials say, believing the president has cast them adrift as he tries to distance himself from the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have strained ties with close allies.

The resistance emerged as the White House said it would curtail foreign intelligence collection in some cases and two senior U.S. senators called for investigations of the practice.

France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Sweden have all publicly complained about the NSA surveillance operations, which reportedly captured private cellphone conversations by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among other foreign leaders.
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U.S. monitored 60 million calls in Spain in a month, reports Spanish paper (28 October 2013)
MADRID--A Spanish newspaper published a document Monday that it said shows the U.S. National Security Agency spied on more than 60 million phone calls in Spain in one month alone -- the latest revelation about alleged massive U.S. spying on allies.

The El Mundo newspaper report comes a week after the French paper Le Monde reported similar allegations of U.S. spying in France and German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Washington tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone. The leaders of Brazil and Mexico are also reported to have been spied on.

A European summit last week was dominated by anger over the reported extent of U.S. spying on allies and Germany was sending its spy chiefs to Washington to demand answers.

El Mundo said the bar graph document titled "Spain--Last 30 days" showed daily call traffic volume between Dec. 10, 2012, and Jan. 8, 2013. It says the NSA monitored the numbers and duration of the calls, but not their content. The document does not show the numbers.

El Mundo said the Metadata system used by the NSA could also monitor emails and phone texts, although these were not shown on the graph.
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So Who is Carmen Segarra? A Fed Whistleblower Q&A (28 October 2013)
After getting a master's degree in French cultural studies at Columbia's campus in Paris, she went on to law school at Cornell. She then spent 13 years working at different financial firms, including Citigroup and Société Générale. Outside of the office, she held leadership positions in the Hispanic National Bar Association. Hired by the Fed as a legal and compliance specialist, she was told to pay particular attention to how Goldman was complying with the Fed's requirements on conflicts of interest.

Segarra says she was fired after she found that Goldman lacked an adequate company-wide policy to manage conflicts of interest -- and after her superiors urged her to change this finding and she refused. The Fed has denied any wrongdoing in the case, as has Goldman, which is not a defendant in Segarra's lawsuit.

Readers have asked who is this woman who dared to challenge two of Wall Street's most powerful institutions. We put some questions to Segarra to learn more about her background.

Q. Bank examiner -- to most people that seems an obscure job. What's the attraction?

A: I actually studied business law and regulation in law school. I co-wrote a law review article on Y2K [the millennial computer bug], which ended up being published. As a result of that, my co-author and I were asked to work on setting up the Y2K legal and compliance program for a bank. I discovered early on that I enjoyed learning about a law and immediately applying it, much the same way that I enjoy learning and speaking a new language. As a general practitioner, I have worked closely with a wide range of laws and regulations that apply across the banking and investment sectors, as opposed to just specializing in one particular type of law or regulation. As a bank examiner, you get to use that knowledge and those skills to evaluate what others have built, and, if and when necessary, point out ways to improve them.
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The Revolt of the Lower Middle Class and the Stupidity of the Elites (28 October 2013)
We read in the aftermath of the government shutdown and near default on the country's sovereign debt that the US Chamber of Commerce is clutching its pearls. "We are going to get engaged," said a mouthpiece for the chamber. "The need is now more than ever to elect people who understand the free market and not silliness." The chamber is the top lobbying organization in America, and it gave 93 percent of its political contributions to Republican candidates in the 2010 election that birthed the Congressional Tea Party Caucus. Apparently it is now having buyer's remorse. Politico, the newsletter of the Beltway illuminati, reports similar tidings: Rich Republican mega-donors like hedge fund vulture Paul Singer are expressing frustration with Republican office holders, even though Singer has been a major financial backer of the Tea Party-oriented Club for Growth, which egged on the politicians who forced the shutdown. Even the Koch brothers have been distancing themselves from the shutdown.

Most Democrats, needless to say, are rubbing their hands with glee, and predictions of doom for the GOP are too numerous to count. The Tea Party, according to this narrative, has taken over the Republican Party and will lead it to inevitable electoral oblivion: The sheer irrationality of their demands constitutes electoral suicide. Others are not so sure. Michael Lind has advanced the theory that the Tea Party is an aggregation of "local notables," i.e., "provincial elites [disproportionately Southern] whose power and privileges are threatened from above by a stronger central government they do not control and from below by the local poor and the local working class." He links it to a neo-Confederate ideology that is "perfectly rational" in terms of its economic objectives - a stark contrast to the prevailing description of the Tea Party as irrational. Lind further contends that progressives have misread the Tea Party, downplaying the element of elite control and obsessing over the anger and craziness of its followers.

There is some truth in this. The Tea Party definitely is disproportionately Southern, as Lind stipulates, and any movement that seeks to hobble the functioning of the federal government naturally will advance themes and tactics that sound a lot like the template of the Confederacy: states' rights, disenfranchisement of voters, use of the filibuster and so forth. Some Tea Party candidates look an awful lot like neo-Confederate sympathizers. But Lind misconstrues some of the data. If, as he says, 47 percent of white Southerners express support for the Tea Party, how does that square with his "local notables" theme: That the "backbone" of the movement is "millionaires [rather than] billionaires?" It is doubtful that 47 percent of the white population in the poorest region of the country consists even of local notables, much less millionaires.
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Leaked Documents Reveal the Secret Finances of a Pro-Industry Science Group (28 October 2013)
The American Council on Science and Health bills itself as an independent research and advocacy organization devoted to debunking "junk science." It's a controversial outfit--a "group of scientists...concerned that many important public policies related to health and the environment did not have a sound scientific basis," it says--that often does battle with environmentalists and consumer safety advocates, wading into public health debates to defend fracking, to fight New York City's attempt to ban big sugary sodas, and to dismiss concerns about the potential harms of the chemical bisphenol-A (better known at BPA) and the pesticide atrazine. The group insists that its conclusions are driven purely by science. It acknowledges that it receives some financial support from corporations and industry groups, but ACSH, which reportedly stopped disclosing its corporate donors two decades ago, maintains that these contributions don't influence its work and agenda.

Yet internal financial documents (read them here) provided to Mother Jones show that ACSH depends heavily on funding from corporations that have a financial stake in the scientific debates it aims to shape. The group also directly solicits donations from these industry sources around specific issues. ACSH's financial links to corporations involved in hot-button health and safety controversies have been highlighted in the past, but these documents offer a more extensive accounting of ACSH's reliance on industry money--giving a rare window into the operations of a prominent and frequent defender of industry in the science wars.

According to the ACSH documents, from July 1, 2012, to December 20, 2012, 58 percent of donations to the council came from corporations and large private foundations. ACSH's donors and the potential backers the group has been targeting comprise a who's-who of energy, agriculture, cosmetics, food, soda, chemical, pharmaceutical, and tobacco corporations. ACSH donors in the second half of 2012 included Chevron ($18,500), Coca-Cola ($50,000), the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation ($15,000), Dr. Pepper/Snapple ($5,000), Bayer Cropscience ($30,000), Procter and Gamble ($6,000), agribusiness giant Syngenta ($22,500), 3M ($30,000), McDonald's ($30,000), and tobacco conglomerate Altria ($25,000). Among the corporations and foundations that ACSH has pursued for financial support since July 2012 are Pepsi, Monsanto, British American Tobacco, DowAgro, ExxonMobil Foundation, Phillip Morris International, Reynolds American, the Koch family-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Dow-linked Gerstacker Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the Searle Freedom Trust.

Dr. Gilbert Ross, the group's executive director, declined to answer specific questions about ACSH's fundraising. He did not dispute the authenticity of the documents provided to Mother Jones. (Multiple corporations listed as donors on these documents confirmed they had supported ACSH.) Ross says the group doesn't disclose its backers because "the sources of our support are irrelevant to our scientific investigations." According to Ross, "Only science-based facts hold sway in our publications, even if the outcome is not pleasing to our contributors."
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Big Oil's Bid to Crush Small Town Stand Against Tar Sands (28 October 2013)
The oil industry is likely to break all records on campaign spending in this coastal town of 25,000 people, out-spending local environmental and community groups six-to-one.

"Oil industry spending is completely over the top," said Robert Sellin, from the group Protect South Portland, in a phone interview with Common Dreams. "Clearly they have all the money. We are talking about some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. They do not want a community to stand up for itself. They are going to do everything they can to squash our initiative and discourage other jurisdictions."

While the Keystone XL pipeline is still under review by the State Department, the fight in South Portland shows that oil and pipeline industries are pressing to expand routes across the U.S. and Canada.

The campaign to defeat the Waterfront Protection Ordinance is bankrolled by the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group American Petroleum Institute, as well as the Portland Pipe Line Corporation. The hundreds of thousands of dollars are being used to run advertisements, hire consultants and strategists, and employ canvassers.
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NSA surveillance: Merkel's phone may have been monitored 'for over 10 years' (26 October 2013)
New claims emerged last night over the extent that US intelligence agencies have been monitoring the mobile phone of Angela Merkel. The allegations were made after German secret service officials were already preparing to travel to Washington to seek explanations into the alleged surveillance of its chancellor.

A report in Der Spiegel said Merkel's mobile number had been listed by the NSA's Special Collection Service (SCS) since 2002 and may have been monitored for more than 10 years. It was still on the list -- marked as "GE Chancellor Merkel" -- weeks before President Barack Obama visited Berlin in June.

In an SCS document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a "not legally registered spying branch" in the US embassy in Berlin, the exposure of which would lead to "grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government".

From there, NSA and CIA staff were tapping communication in Berlin's government district with high-tech surveillance. Quoting a secret document from 2010, Der Spiegel said such branches existed in about 80 locations around the world, including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt. Merkel's spokesman and the White House declined to comment on the report.
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A Halloween scare can sharpen the brain (26 October 2013)
Halloween is the time to indulge those seemingly pathological cravings to get scared out of your skull. Who in their right mind would subject themselves to blood-splattery horror movies or haunted houses blaring high-pitched screams while serving bowls of grapes dressed as slimy, edible eyeballs? Lots of us, and experts say good can actually come from these predilections.

Fear protects us
"People think being afraid is a bad thing, but the reason we evolved to be afraid is that the world is pretty dangerous and we've evolved very powerful systems that automatically force us to do our natural defensive and protective behaviors," says Michael Fanselow, a UCLA behavioral neuroscientist.

Some fears are learned; others are encoded in our DNA: Rotting flesh (we're looking at you, zombies), snakes, blood, heights -- even our tiny-brained ancestors understood these were unsafe. And the fear prompted immediate responses, Fanselow says.

Horrors train us
A headless horseman likely won't decapitate you on Sunset Boulevard, and it's doubtful a goblin will eat your liver for dinner, but Fanselow suggests that, like the original Grimm's Fairy Tales, scary films are a tutorial to beware of actual threats.
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Solar switch forces utilities to shift priorities (26 October 2013)
Sitting on a rooftop, soaking up sun, the humble solar panel may not look like a threat to a multibillion-dollar industry.

But some electric utility executives say it is. They even have a name for the nightmare scenario solar could create - the "death spiral."

They fear solar's rapid spread across homes and businesses, combined with the increasing efficiency of modern buildings and appliances, could slowly erode the utilities' ability to grow. California utilities get paid based on the value of the assets they own - the transmission lines, substations and wires. As more businesses and homeowners generate their own electricity, the utilities won't need to add as many of those assets as before.

At the same time, the costs of maintaining the electricity grid might fall on fewer and fewer nonsolar utility customers. The companies could compensate by tacking on fixed monthly charges for all customers, solar and nonsolar alike. But those new charges would jack up bills, and that could prompt more people to slap panels on their roofs.

The problem will only get worse if advanced battery packs become cheap enough for home use, parked in the basement by the water heater.
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Lou Reed's Politics (27 October 2013)
Lou Reed, who has died at age 71, will be rightly remembered for creating a canon that was groundbreaking in the scope of its sociological and literary achievement. There was nothing unreasonable about Reed's 1987 suggestion to Rolling Stone that "all through this, I've always thought that if you thought of all of it as a book then you have the Great American Novel, every record as a chapter. They're all in chronological order. You take the whole thing, stack it and listen to it in order, there's my Great American Novel."

Yet Reed was, as well, an artist who understood and engaged in the political struggles of his times. No one who followed the remarkable career of the Velvet Underground co-founder and iconic solo artist over the better part of five decades failed to recognize his determination to speak up--and to show up.

From the beginning of his career, Reed identified himself as an artist who was determined to explore and explain the great societal taboos. He wrote songs about sex and sexuality, addiction, abuse, disease and communities that refused to conform or capitulate. His 1972 hit, "Walk on the Wild Side," took AM radio and a generation of young Americans to places they had never been before. That wasn't an explicitly political song by most measures, yet it achieved a remarkable political end: transforming how people saw one another, and themselves.

Reed kept pushing the limits in the 1970s and '80s, relishing controversy, challenging conventions and siding with those who did the same. He outlined his political philosophy in very nearly gentle 1982 song, "The Day John Kennedy Died."
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12 Highly Successful People With Bizarre Eating Habits (26 October 2013)
In 2011, Mark Zuckerberg only ate meat that he killed himself.

Zuckerberg told Fortune magazine in 2011 that he was only eating what he killed. The Facebook CEO said:

"This year, my personal challenge is around being thankful for the food I have to eat. I think many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat, so my goal revolves around not letting myself forget that and being thankful for what I have. This year I've basically become a vegetarian since the only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself. So far, this has been a good experience. I'm eating a lot healthier foods and I've learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals."

The next year, Zuckerberg announced that he was no longer sticking to his eat-what-I-kill dining rules.
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Docs get more precise about full-term pregnancy (22 October 2013)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mom-to-be closing in on her due date? The nation's obstetricians are getting more precise about exactly how close makes for a full-term pregnancy.

On average, a pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, counting from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period. That's how a due date is estimated.

A baby is considered preterm if he or she is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Until now, a "term" baby was defined as one born anytime from 37 weeks to 42 weeks, a few weeks before or after the calculated due date.

Now the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is refining the definition of a term pregnancy to make clear that even at the end of the last trimester, a little more time in the womb can be better for a baby's health and development.

"Weeks matter," said Dr. Jeffrey Ecker of Massachusetts General Hospital, who chaired the ACOG committee that came up with the more specific labels. Since babies' outcomes can differ, "let's not call it all the same."
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Sources (if found on major news boards):
[AJ] - InfoWars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, or other Alex Jones-affiliated sites
[BF] - BuzzFlash.com
[DN] - DemocracyNow.org
[R] - Rense.com
[WRH] - WhatReallyHappened.com


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