Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2013
News from the Week of 17th to 23rd of November 2013
Thanksgiving by the numbers (23 November 2013)
Whether you are sympathizing with the animated turkeys in the new movie "Free Birds," pulling out your recipe for green bean casserole, or waiting for your favorite "Duck Dynasty" stars to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, this American holiday unites like no other. In between courses, or maybe during a break between back-to-back football games, here are a few Thanksgiving facts and numbers to test out on friends and family.
In 2012, 254 million turkeys were raised in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. About 46 million will be eaten at Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation, which estimates that with the average prepared turkey weighing 16 pounds, at least 736 million pounds of turkey will be consumed over the holiday.
About 768 million pounds of cranberries were produced in the US in 2012. (Wisconsin and Massachusetts are the two states that produce the most cranberries.)
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will celebrate its 87th anniversary in 2013. Roughly 3 million people will line the parade route in New York, while 50 million will tune in to NBC to watch at home. This year's parade will feature 32 balloons and 900 clowns.
London 'slaves' had been in political collective with captors, police say (23 November 2013)
Two of the three women allegedly held for 30 years as slaves had lived in a political collective with their captors, police have disclosed.
Metropolitan police commander Steve Rodhouse told reporters that two of the alleged victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology and began living together in a "collective".
The address where the women lived with their alleged captors is understood to be a three-storey block in Peckford Place, Stockwell, south London. Police are conducting house-to-house inquiries in the area.
The suspects, both 67, are of Indian and Tanzanian origin and came to the UK in the 1960s, police said. They have been released on bail to a date in January.
A 30-year-old British woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian woman were rescued from a house last month, after one of the women called a support charity asking for help. All three women are believed to have suffered emotional and physical abuse.
Recount likely in razor-thin Va. attorney general race (23 November 2013)
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The closest statewide race in modern Virginia political history is unlikely to end Monday when the State Board of Elections certifies the votes for attorney general. Of the 2.2 million ballots cast Nov. 5, the two candidates are a mere 165 votes apart.
Republican Mark Obenshain has signaled he will seek a recount in his razor-thin race with Democrat Mark Herring, though he hasn't directly said so. Obenshain could press the issue to the General Assembly if he wants to take it to the limits of the law.
Obenshain has given every indication he's digging in, even announcing a transition team after Herring had declared victory.
"With such a historically narrow margin, Virginia voters expect and deserve a careful process that ensures that every legitimate vote is counted," spokesman Paul Logan wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
Herring also has announced his transition team, vowing to "build an attorney general's office that works for all Virginians."
US Court Sets 'Dangerous Precedent' in Pipeline Ruling (23 November 2013)
The ever-wise Yogi Berra once quipped "It's like déjà vu all over again," a truism applicable to a recent huge decision handed down by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
A story covered only by McClatchy News' Michael Doyle, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson shot down Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) request for an immediate injunction in constructing Enbridge's Flanagan South tar sands pipeline in a 60-page ruling.
That 600-mile long, 600,000 barrels per day proposed line runs from Flanagan, Illinois - located in the north central part of the state - down to Cushing, Oklahoma, dubbed the "pipeline crossroads of the world." The proposed 694-mile, 700,000 barrels per day proposed Transcanada Keystone XL northern half also runs to Cushing from Alberta, Canada and requires U.S. State Department approval, along with President Barack Obama's approval.
Because Flanagan South is not a border-crossing line, it doesn't require the State Department or Obama's approval. If Keystone XL's northern half's permit is denied, Flanagan South - along with Enbridge's proposal to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline, approved by Obama's State Department during Congress' recess in August 2009 - would make up that half of the pipeline's capacity and then some.
Another Reason to Divest: Global Outrage at Dirty Coal Threatens Investors' Profits (23 November 2013)
The divestment movement on US college campuses against Big Carbon (coal, oil and gas) signals more than just the arrival of a new, determined and idealistic generation of students. It is a harbinger of danger for investors.
In addition to the keen competition thermal coal is facing as a source for electricity generation from fracked natural gas and from wind turbines, coal in particular faces a major public relations problem. It is the dirtiest way of producing electricity, causing lung problems and probably contributing to autism via mercury emissions, and it is the major cause of global warming.
The value of coal stocks is to outward seeming backed by trillions of dollars in coal reserves, but what if that substance is actually worthless? Coal is already being shorted by a major brokerage, which points out that even heavily coal-dependent China plans to move away from the fuel because of pollution concerns (like that coal plants are making the air thick as pea soup and giving small children lung cancer).
Canada's major Ontario province (as populous as Illinois) is banning coal plants, with the last one to be closed by the end of this year. Wind, nuclear and natural gas have taken coal's place. Wind and nuclear do not produce C02, and natural gas produces about half as much as coal. The feed-in tariff has also been important in encouraging renewables.
HealthCare.gov contractor had high confidence but low success (23 November 2013)
At 9 a.m. on Aug. 22, a team of federal health officials sat down in a Baltimore conference room with at least a dozen employees of CGI Federal, the company with the main contract to build the online federal health insurance marketplace. For six weeks, the federal officials overseeing the project had become increasingly worried that CGI was missing deadlines, understaffing the work and overstating its progress.
As the meeting began, one of the officials reminded the CGI employees that HealthCare.gov was "the president's number one priority," assured them that the discussion would be a "blame-free zone," and then bored in. "We must be honest and open with each other," the official said, according to documents obtained from participants in the session. "I have to know what I don't know."
The top CGI executive in the room sounded contrite. "We recognize we have to build trust back . . . " said Cheryl Campbell, the company's senior vice president in charge of the project.
For that day and the next, CGI staff huddled with government officials in the semicircular conference room at the headquarters of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency overseeing the project. They combed through 15 pages of spreadsheets they had brought, which spelled out the company's level of confidence -- high, medium or low -- that individual components would be ready.
By the time HealthCare.gov launched 51/2 weeks later, many of those predictions proved wrong, according to internal documents obtained by The Washington Post and officials familiar with the project.
Raising Canaan? Wine cellar found in ancient palace (23 November 2013)
NEW YORK, N.Y.--Scientists have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wine cellar in the ruins of a Canaanite palace in Israel, and chemical analysis shows this is where they kept the good stuff.
Samples from the ceramic jars suggest they held a luxurious beverage that was evidently reserved for banquets, researchers said.
"It's not wine that somebody is just going to come home from a hard day and kick back and drink," said Andrew Koh of Brandeis University. He found signs of a blend of ingredients that may have included honey, mint, cedar, tree resins and cinnamon bark.
The discovery confirms how sophisticated wines were at that time, something suggested only by ancient texts, said Eric Cline of George Washington University. He, Koh and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa in Israel spoke to reporters Thursday before their work was presented Friday at a meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
Rise of Bitcoin: Is the digital currency a solution or a menace? (23 November 2013)
Celine Sotelo "likes to be on the cutting edge," so she was intrigued when a friend this summer touted the virtues of a new kind of money called Bitcoin. She downloaded the software that would allow her family-owned floral shop/cafe to accept BTC, as Bitcoin is known. In August she posted a sign, "Bitcoin accepted here," at her shop on Los Angeles's Westside.
She got her first taker in mid-November. She hopes it's the dawn of more demand. But Ms. Sotelo says she is also a little worried because, frankly, she doesn't fully understand Bitcoin yet.
"I used the phone app and pushed the right buttons, but I'm a little freaked out," Sotelo says after the customer paid $59.95 to Le Petit Jardin by sending her digital bitcoins via his cellphone. "I have no idea if I got the money or not."
A lot of people, it seems, are both interested in Bitcoin and "a little freaked out" by it. Bitcoin, after all, does not really exist, in the physical sense. It is a digital currency, and buyers use their smart phones to swap online credits with sellers of goods and services willing to accept payment in Bitcoin.
Sen. Creigh Deeds Makes First Public Remarks After Brutal Attack (22 November 2013)
State Sen. Creigh Deeds has been released from the University of Virginia Medical Center.
Spokesman Eric Swensen said Deeds was released Friday morning from the Charlottesville hospital. Deeds was airlifted from his home in Bath County Tuesday after police say his son stabbed him multiple times and then killed himself.
Swensen declined any additional comment on Deed's release.
A message posted on Creigh Deeds' Facebook page Thursday reads: "The outpouring of support from throughout the Commonwealth and across the United States has been overwhelmingly kind and comforting. Please keep Senator Deeds and his family in your thoughts and prayers. During this difficult time, we thank you for your continued respect for the family's privacy."
Senator Deeds tweeted the following at 11:25 a.m.
"I am alive so must live. Some wounds won't heal. Your prayers and your friendship are important to me"
Creigh Deeds's son, my daughter and my fears about Virginia's mental health system (22 November 2013)
I was coming home from visiting my 11-year-old daughter at a Virginia psychiatric hospital Tuesday when I heard about the stabbing of state Sen. Creigh Deeds and the suicide of his son, Austin. According to some reports, the younger Deeds had been denied admittance to a psychiatric hospital the day before. I was heartbroken. This family was let down by the same broken mental health system my family depends on.
My daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 8. When I checked her into Dominion Hospital on Nov. 15, I was grateful there was a bed available. She'd been having violent rages -- punching and kicking me and her younger brother and trying to jump out her window. Although no mother ever wants to leave her child in a psychiatric hospital, I knew it was the safest place for her.
During a similar episode in 2010, we brought her to Children's National Medical Center in the District and were told there were no beds. We chose to bring her home rather than transport her by ambulance to another hospital, which we thought would be too traumatic for a young child.
For us, the decision to return home then was the right one. For the Deeds family, it ended in tragedy. And it makes me worry about what's ahead.
Three Charts Explain Why Democrats Went Nuclear on the Filibuster (22 November 2013)
No one has completely clean hands when it comes to filibusters in the Senate. Democrats have used them and Republicans have used them. But hoo boy, Republicans sure have used them more. That's why Democrats went nuclear on Thursday. Three charts tell the story.
The first two charts show the evolution of filibusters by presidential administration. As you can see, their use rose steadily through the '80s and then leveled off starting around 1990. Democrats mainly kept things pretty stable throughout the Bush administration, with the number increasing only when Republicans lost the 2006 midterm elections and became the minority party. At that point, they ratcheted up the use of filibusters to record levels, and there was no honeymoon when Obama won the presidency, not even for a minute. Republicans went into full-bore filibuster mode the day he took office, and they've kept it up ever since. For all practical purposes, anything more controversial than renaming a post office has required 60 votes during the entire Obama presidency.
But it was Republican filibusters of judicial and executive-branch nominees that finally drove Democrats to act on Thursday. Democrats had struck one deal after another with Republicans to try and rein in their abuse of the filibuster, but nothing worked. A few nominees would get through, and then another batch would promptly get filibustered. The chart below tells the tale. Under George Bush, Democrats mounted filibusters on 38 of his nominees. That's about five per year. Under Obama, Republicans have filibustered an average of 16 nominees per year...
Generic or Name-Brand? 10 Docs Talk About Picking Drugs (22 November 2013)
We talked to dozens of experts for our Monday report on how Medicare is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year by failing to look into doctors who disproportionately prescribe name-brand drugs. They struggled to explain why some doctors wouldn't routinely pick cheaper generics.
Name-brand drugs are appropriate in certain circumstances, they said: when there are no equivalent generics, when patients have side effects or if they are particularly sensitive to slight changes in a drug's composition. But these factors should apply to only a small fraction of cases, they said.
Here's more of what they told us:
1. Dr. Richard J. Baron, president and chief executive officer of the American Board of Internal Medicine: "We've almost glamorized the doctor who uses the latest, greatest, newest drug because that's the person doing cutting-edge medicine. We've glamorized that. I think a lot of people need to get together, and are getting together, on the professional side of this to say, 'We need a different understanding of what it is to be a good doctor.' "
2. Dr. Ashish Jha, professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health: "I have lots of patients who are like, 'I want brand name drugs only,' and I talk to them about clinical equivalence and how I would personally take the generics and how I give it to my own family and how it's just as good. ... I think it's an abrogation of responsibility to say the patients in my community demand this."
PAM COMMENTARY: When people choose to use conventional medicine, they should also have the choice of prescription or generic drugs. My own parents told me of problems they'd had with generic drugs, solved by buying name brand medication. But I do agree with proposed money-saving legislation to allow the government to negotiate drug prices for part D.
Common chemicals destroying humanity, suggests prominent journalist (22 November 2013)
(NaturalNews) They are literally all around us, yet most people are unaware of their invasive presence: chemicals, and especially the hormone-mimicking variety. Everything from plastic bottles and receipts to clothing and furniture is silently teeming with them, and one prominent New York Times (NYT) journalist suggests that they could be humanity's undoing.
Also known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), these hormone-mimicking compounds are increasingly turning up in scientific studies as a leading cause of many common conditions, including infertility, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Both males and females throughout the animal kingdom appear to be suffering genital deformities and other sex-related problems because of them, and males in particular are losing, well, their maleness.
While it was previously believed that these and other adverse effects were limited primarily to animals, emerging science continues to show that humans also stand to suffer from EDC exposure. For instance, Philip Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, told the NYT that he has seen a doubling in cases of hypospadias, a misplacement of the urethra, in newborn boys, which he believes is a result of EDCs.
"Endocrine disruptors are everywhere," writes Nicholas D. Kristof for the NYT. "They're in thermal receipts that come out of gas pumps and ATMs. They're in canned foods, cosmetics, plastics and food packaging. Test your blood or urine, and you'll surely find them there, as well as in human breast milk and in cord blood of newborn babies."
21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare (22 November 2013)
In Canada, health care coverage stays with you for your entire life.
In the United States, under Obamacare, for tens of millions of Americans, health care coverage stays with you for as long as you can afford your share.
In Canada, you can freely choose your doctors and hospitals and keep them. There are no lists of "in-network" vendors and no extra hidden charges for going "out of network."
In the United States, under Obamacare, the in-network list of places where you can get treated is shrinking -- thus restricting freedom of choice -- and if you want to go out of network, you pay for it.
In Canada, the health care system is funded by income, sales and corporate taxes that, combined, are much lower than what Americans pay in premiums.
In the United States, under Obamacare, for thousands of Americans, it's pay or die -- if you can't pay, you die. That's why many thousands will still die every year under Obamacare from lack of health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.
Expanding Social Security (22 November 2013)
For many years there has been one overwhelming rule for people who wanted to be considered serious inside the Beltway. It was this: You must declare your willingness to cut Social Security in the name of "entitlement reform." It wasn't really about the numbers, which never supported the notion that Social Security faced an acute crisis. It was instead a sort of declaration of identity, a way to show that you were an establishment guy, willing to impose pain (on other people, as usual) in the name of fiscal responsibility.
But a funny thing has happened in the past year or so. Suddenly, we're hearing open discussion of the idea that Social Security should be expanded, not cut. Talk of Social Security expansion has even reached the Senate, with Tom Harkin introducing legislation that would increase benefits. A few days ago Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a stirring floor speech making the case for expanded benefits.
Where is this coming from? One answer is that the fiscal scolds driving the cut-Social-Security orthodoxy have, deservedly, lost a lot of credibility over the past few years. (Giving the ludicrous Paul Ryan an award for fiscal responsibility? And where's my debt crisis?) Beyond that, America's overall retirement system is in big trouble. There's just one part of that system that's working well: Social Security. And this suggests that we should make that program stronger, not weaker.
Before I get there, however, let me briefly take on two bad arguments for cutting Social Security that you still hear a lot.
One is that we should raise the retirement age -- currently 66, and scheduled to rise to 67 -- because people are living longer. This sounds plausible until you look at exactly who is living longer. The rise in life expectancy, it turns out, is overwhelmingly a story about affluent, well-educated Americans. Those with lower incomes and less education have, at best, seen hardly any rise in life expectancy at age 65; in fact, those with less education have seen their life expectancy decline.
The health benefits of blackstrap molasses (22 November 2013)
(NaturalNews) Molasses is a thick syrup produced when the sugar cane plant is processed to make refined sugar for mass consumption. Whereas the toxic and unhealthy refined sugar is destined for our supermarket shelves, the highly nutritious molasses - which contains all the minerals and nutrients absorbed by the plant - is more likely to be sold as livestock feed instead.
Fortunately, the nutritional value of molasses is becoming better-known, and various grades of molasses are now being sold to us as baking ingredients, sugar substitutes and mineral supplements. This is especially true of blackstrap molasses, the highest and most nutritious grade of molasses. Below is a list of blackstrap's health benefits and advice on how to consume it as a health supplement.
What blackstrap molasses does for us
Good for hair - One serving (two tablespoons) of blackstrap contains approximately 14 percent of our RDI of copper, an important trace mineral whose peptides help rebuild the skin structure that supports healthy hair. Consequently, long-term consumption of blackstrap has been linked to improved hair quality, hair regrowth in men and even a restoration of your hair's original color! Click here for more information about blackstrap's hair benefits.
Safe sweetener for diabetics - Unlike refined sugar, blackstrap molasses has a moderate glycemic load of 55. This makes it a good sugar substitute for diabetics and individuals who are seeking to avoid blood sugar spikes. Moreover, one serving of blackstrap contains no fat and only 32 calories, making it suitable for a weight loss diet.
Spicy Cheetos are sending kids to the emergency room (22 November 2013)
America is not doing well by its children. They need enough room to experiment and take risks, but not so much room that, as a group, they systematically destroy their stomach linings. But, instead of guiding and protecting kids, we've given them snacks like Flamin' Hot Crunchy Cheetos. And they're eating them. And ending up in the emergency room.
Doctors report seeing five to six kids a day who have eaten enough of the super-spicy snacks that they've managed to change the pH balance of their stomach and develop gastritis -- Inflamin' Hot Crunchy Stomach Lining.
One doctor told ABC News:
"It's almost like a food addiction. They seek out the burn," said Glatter. "It's a little thrill-seeking. 'It's like how much can I tolerate?' and I've seen a number of children who eat four or five bags and come in screaming in pain."
Twitter Just Made it Harder for the NSA to Read Your Private Tweets (22 November 2013)
On Friday, Twitter announced that it has enabled a new form of Internet security, already used by Google and Facebook, that makes it considerably more difficult for the NSA to read private messages. With this new security, there isn't one pair of master "keys" that unlock an entire website's encryption, instead, new keys are produced and destroyed for each login session.
"If an adversary is currently recording all Twitter users' encrypted traffic, and they later crack or steal Twitter's private keys, they should not be able to use those keys to decrypt the recorded traffic," Twitter wrote on its blog. To put that into simple terms, that would be like giving a new set of keys to each visitor coming to your house, melting them down after the person gets inside, and changing the locks. The method is called "Perfect Forward Secrecy," and while it has been around for at least two decades, it hasn't been picked up by tech giants until recently, following the allegations of vast government surveillance by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
This security system specifically takes aim at the NSA's alleged practice of scooping up the encrypted communications of millions of users--either through hacking or top-secret national security orders--and then storing them until the agency is able to get a company's keys to access all of the data. While Twitter was never implicated in the NSA's vast online surveillance program, PRISM, there is still quite a bit of private information the US government could be interested in on Twitter for its counterterrorism efforts--direct messages, time zones, user passwords, and email addresses, for example.
To get a peek at how this security might play out in real life, look no further than the legal battle the Department of Justice is currently waging against Lavabit, an alternative email provider that was reportedly used by Snowden. When the founder of Lavabit refused to give up its master encryption keys to the US government--because it would have had access to thousands of email accounts--the company was held in contempt of court. If Lavabit had installed Perfect Forward Secrecy, however, the company wouldn't have been able to give up its master keys, since they would have already been destroyed.
Study reveals how badly frackers lie about jobs (22 November 2013)
The fracking industry wouldn't lie, would it? But how else to explain the massive discrepancies between the number of jobs that it claims to create and the number of jobs that it actually creates? Perhaps it's just confused about what's going on at its own operations.
Whatever the reason, the gulf between fracking propaganda and reality has been laid bare in a new report led by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, a watchdog group that studies employment trends, economic development, and community impacts associated with fracking and proposed fracking in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
"Industry supporters have exaggerated the jobs impact in order to minimize or avoid altogether taxation, regulation, and even careful examination of shale drilling," Frank Mauro, one of the authors of the report, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
For example, the report debunks industry-backed claims [PDF] that each fracking well in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale directly employs 31 people. From the report summary:
"Between 2005 and 2012, less than four new direct shale-related jobs have been created for each new well drilled, much less than estimates as high as 31 direct jobs per well in some industry-financed studies."
Honor JFK by Renewing His Constitutional Commitment to Extend Voting Rights (22 November 2013)
"The right to vote in a free American election is the most powerful and precious right in the world--and it must not be denied on the grounds of race or color. It is a potent key to achieving other rights of citizenship. For American history--both recent and past--clearly reveals that the power of the ballot has enabled those who achieve it to win other achievements as well, to gain a full voice in the affairs of their state and nation, and to see their interests represented in the governmental bodies which affect their future. In a free society, those with the power to govern are necessarily responsive to those with the right to vote."
--John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights, 1963
There has been much honoring of the memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy this week, and rightly so. He was dynamic figure who preached a "new generation of leadership" vision that still serves as an antithesis to the listless, austerity-burdened rhetoric of so many of today's political figures--including some in Kennedy's own Democratic party.
Kennedy saw himself as a liberal reformer, declaring in 1960: "If by a 'Liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people--their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties--someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a 'Liberal,' then I'm proud to say I'm a 'Liberal.' "
JFK - Jim Marrs & Jeff Rense on the Assassination (FLASHBACK) (22 November 2013)
Jim Marrs and Jeff Rense speak about the JFK Assassination! Two combined aniversary shows!
PAM COMMENTARY: Jim Marrs is a journalist and lifelong resident of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He has a picture of himself as a young man, dancing at Jack Ruby's nightclub. He also claims to have interviewed every surviving witness of the Kennedy assassination, and is one of the most knowledgeable journalists on the JFK assassination. Someone posted this Youtube of Marrs and Jeff Rense (a journalist with a national radio show) discussing facts of the Kennedy Assassination.
Chomsky Weighs in on Kennedy Assassination Anniversary: "It Would Impress Kim Il-Sung" (22 November 2013)
One of Chomsky's famous sayings starts with, "If the Nuremberg Laws were applied ... " Here's what he said about Kennedy in that context:
"Kennedy is easy. The invasion of Cuba was outright aggression. Eisenhower planned it, incidentally, so he was involved in a conspiracy to invade another country, which we can add to his score. After the invasion of Cuba, Kennedy launched a huge terrorist campaign against Cuba, which was very serious. No joke; bombardment of industrial installations with killing of plenty of people, bombing hotels, sinking fishing boats, sabotage. Later, under Nixon, it even went as far as poisoning livestock and so on. Big affair; and then came Vietnam; he invaded Vietnam. He invaded South Vietnam in 1962. He sent the US Air Force to start bombing."
And then in "On Democracy," a 1996 interview by Tom Morello:
"Kennedy is not even worth discussing. The invasion in South Vietnam - Kennedy attacked South Vietnam, outright. In 1961-1962 he sent Air Force to start bombing villages, authorized napalm. Also laid the basis for the huge wave of repression that spread over Latin America with the installation of Neo-Nazi gangsters that were always supported directly by the United States. That went on and in fact picked up under Johnson."
Daniel Falcone: Do you find it odd that the country is focusing on a 50th anniversary remembrance of the Kennedy assassination?
Noam Chomsky: Worship of leaders is a technique of indoctrination that goes back to the crazed George Washington cult of the 18th century and on to the truly lunatic Reagan cult of today, both of which would impress Kim Il-sung. The JFK cult is similar.
How 'The Nation' Covered John F. Kennedy's Assassination, Fifty Years Ago (22 November 2013)
Today marks fifty years since President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot in Dallas, November 22, 1963, as he rode in a motorcade with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie. On that day, and for many thereafter, the mainstream media kicked into full-gear tragedy mode. Television stations broke new ground in live event coverage. Every newspaper filled its front pages with stories about the shot, the shooter and the succession. They displayed the same photos over and over: the president smiling in his Lincoln Continental moments before horror struck; Lyndon B. Johnson standing next to a grieving Jacqueline Kennedy, reciting the oath of office.
The Nation didn't print photos then. Staying true to form, its coverage of the events was light on sentimentality. In the December 14, 1963, issue (The Nation dates issues three weeks into the future), the editors devoted all of their opinion pages to the late president and his successor. The lead editorial offered a restrained yet sympathetic look at his tenure. While lamenting that Kennedy did not accomplish as much as he intended in his short two years in office, they noted that he had inherited "a set of bankrupt policies and dead-end situations not of his making." The editors were most impressed by his moves, if limited, toward shrinking the American war machine:
"We had begun, under his maturing leadership, to cut back arms spending, to reduce some military commitments, to explore the possibilities for a gradual reductions of tensions--in a word, to make the great turn toward peace. John F. Kennedy will be remembered with affection and admiration for many fine qualities and achievements but above all for the fact that, after some false turns and starts, he set in motion the great task of directing American power toward broader objectives than deterrence and containment."
JFK assassination: Why suspicions still linger about 'Umbrella Man' (22 November 2013)
Nov. 22, 1963 was not rainy, and yet there he was in the crowd in Dallas's Dealey Square as President John F. Kennedy's motorcade passed by -- the man with the black umbrella.
Through the 50 years since the JFK assassination robbed Americans of any semblance of political innocence, questions have persisted about that man and why he opened and pumped his umbrella in the moments before the president was shot. Was the hoisting of the umbrella a signal? Was the umbrella itself a weapon? Did the man know Lee Harvey Oswald?
The explanation from the man himself, coming 15 years later in congressional testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, has not put to rest all suspicions (as is the case with so many other facets of the JFK assassination). Today, 6 in 10 Americans do not believe the official version of what happened -- specifically, that Oswald acted alone. Novelist John Updike was once prompted to write that confusion about Umbrella Man hangs over the assassination, dangling around "history's neck like a fetish."
"In all of Dallas, there appears to be exactly one person standing under an open black umbrella. And that person is standing where the shots begin to rain into the limousine," Josiah "Tink" Thompson, author of "Six Seconds in Dallas," says in a 2011 documentary short by filmmaker Errol Morris. "Can anyone come up with a nonsinister explanation for this? Hmm?"
The Real Conspiracy Behind the JFK Assassination (22 November 2013)
For 50 years, the murder of President John F. Kennedy has prompted dark suspicions about what led to those tragic moments in Dallas' Dealey Plaza. Hidden-hand theories about the assassination fueled numerous movies and books in the years that followed and shaped a national culture of conspiracy. The Oswald-didn't-do-it (or didn't-do-it-alone) theory is the granddaddy of conspiracy theories; it paved the way for alternative (and sinister) explanations for a variety of events, including the assassinations or RFK and MLK Jr. and the 9/11 attacks. The JFK theorizing--which, in certain cases, posits that a cabal of government evildoers schemed the most notorious crime of 20th-century America--made The X Files possible.
Like many late-year boomers, I grew up fascinated by the speculation, poring over the latest "revelations" and initially believing the worst--at one point, when I was 13, my best friend and I called Parkland Hospital in Dallas and asked to be connected to the wing where the supposedly still-alive Kennedy was being housed--but I came to conclude that much of the conspiracy-mongering was bunk. In Slate, Fred Kaplan does an excellent job chronicling his own similar trajectory, so I won't detail my conversion. But as I spent more time investigating and reporting national security matters, I came to the realization that government officials, spies, and operatives tend not to be sufficiently competent to pull off the murder of a president (with a well-placed patsy as the fall guy!) and then mount a subsequent and wildly effective cover-up. Still, I've resisted getting drawn too far into the Kennedy conspiracy debates--a true black hole. But if you're asking, I do believe that Kennedy was likely killed as the result of underhanded alliances and government misdeeds. It's just that what transpired was more nuanced than a CIA-Mafia-Castro-Soviet-Lyndon-Johnson plot.
I assume that Oswald shot the president. That loses me many JFK truthers. But the story of what brought this one man to the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository is what's important and probably indeed the tale of an actual conspiracy--one that was in plain sight at the time.
Oswald was obsessed with Cuba and a public advocate for Fidel Castro's regime. In the summer of 1963, he opened a New Orleans outpost of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a pro-Castro organization. He tried to infiltrate a local anti-Castro group, and on August 9, 1963, he was arrested on Canal Street, after scuffling with three anti-Castro Cuban exiles. (More than a week later, he debated one of the Cuban exiles on the radio.) He printed up leaflets proclaiming "Hands Off Cuba"--a reference to Kennedy administration's campaign against the Castro regime.
Inequality Is (Literally) Killing America (22 November 2013)
Only a few miles separate the Baltimore neighborhoods of Roland Park and Upton Druid Heights. But residents of the two areas can measure the distance between them in years--twenty years, to be exact. That's the difference in life expectancy between Roland Park, where people live to be 83 on average, and Upton Druid Heights, where they can expect to die at 63.
Underlying these gaps in life expectancy are vast economic disparities. Roland Park is an affluent neighborhood with an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, and a median household income above $90,000. More than 17 percent of people in Upton Druid Heights are unemployed, and the median household income is just $13,388.
It's no secret that this sort of economic inequality is increasing nationwide; the disparity between America's richest and poorest is the widest it's been since the Roaring Twenties. Less discussed are the gaps in life expectancy that have widened over the past twenty-five years between America's counties, cities and neighborhoods. While the country as a whole has gotten richer and healthier, the poor have gotten poorer, the middle class has shrunk and Americans without high school diplomas have seen their life expectancy slide back to what it was in the 1950s. Economic inequalities manifest not in numbers, but in sick and dying bodies.
On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders convened a hearing before the Primary Health and Aging subcommittee to examine the connections between material and physiological well-being, and the policy implications. With Congress fixed on historic reforms to the healthcare delivery system, the doctors and public health professionals who testified this morning made it clear that policies outside of the healthcare domain are equally vital for keeping people healthy--namely, those that target poverty and inequality.
"The lower people's income, the earlier they die and the sicker they live," testified Dr. Steven Woolf, who directs the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. In America, people in the top 5 percent of the income gradient live about nine years longer than those in the bottom 10 percent. It isn't just access to care that poor Americans lack: first, they are more likely to get sick. Poor Americans are at greater risk for virtually every major cause of death, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As Woolf put it, "Economic policy is not just economic policy--it's health policy."
Three Guilty In NY CityTime Corruption Scandal (22 November 2013)
Three computer consultants who prosecutors charged "treated the city like their own giant ATM machine" were convicted on Friday of cheating the city out of tens of millions of dollars in the CityTime boondoggle.
Jurors who'd sat through the six-week trial of Mark Mazer, Gerard Denault and Dimitry Aronshtein took just one day to convict the trio on an array of charges in what's been called one of the "largest and most brazen frauds" in city history.
Mazer (pictured) and Denault face up to life in prison when they're sentenced in March, while Aronshtein faces up to 20 years.
"These three defendants and their partners in crime thought they had made off with nearly $100 million in taxpayer money, far more than they could have made by burglarizing banks, with a fraction of the effort," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "What they now to stand to reap is lengthy prison terms."
PG&E seeks lower bills for big energy users (22 November 2013)
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. wants customers who use a lot of electricity on hot summer days to pay a bit less next year on their monthly bills.
And as a result, customers who use relatively little would pay a bit more.
On Friday, the utility asked California regulators for permission to revise its rates in the coming year. If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the changes would bring PG&E's electricity rates closer to the actual costs of providing service.
The revised rates would not increase PG&E's overall revenues or profits, according to the company. Instead, they would shift costs among the utility's customers, aiding residents of California's hot inland valleys. PG&E customers there have often complained about a rate system they say favors residents of the state's temperate coast.
A look inside Ford's Houston plant for hybrid motors (video) (22 November 2013)
HOUSTON -- Ford's hybrid and electric cars start in Houston and we took a look inside the plant that builds the motors and generators for the vehicles.
Buffalo lures two Fremont clean-tech companies (22 November 2013)
We're used to Texas trying to poach California companies. But New York State?
Two clean-tech businesses based in Fremont-- Silevo and Soraa -- announced Thursday that they will open manufacturing facilities in Buffalo on the site of a former steel mill. State and local officials want to turn the RiverBend project into a manufacturing hub for biotech, high-tech and clean-energy companies.
Both Silevo, which makes solar cells, and Soraa, which makes LED lights, will keep their headquarters in Fremont.
Both companies are part of Fremont's thriving clean-tech scene, which survived the high-profile implosion of Solyndra two years ago. Although headquartered in Palo Alto, Tesla Motors builds its electric Model S sedans in Fremont.
St. Mary's College of Maryland joins troubling U.S. trend: Too many empty freshman seats (22 November 2013)
A growing number of colleges nationwide are scrambling to fill classes, a trend analysts say is driven by a decline in the number of students graduating from high school and widespread concern among families about the price of higher education.
The admissions upheaval at schools ranging from lower-tier colleges to esteemed regional ones, including St. Mary's College of Maryland, contrasts with the extraordinary demand for the most elite colleges and universities.
Demographics pose a major hurdle for many colleges that market primarily to high school students. The number of new high school graduates peaked in 2011, after 17 years of growth, and is not projected to reach a new high until 2024, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Analysts and educators expect that a rising share of incoming students will need major financial aid.
The economic recovery is also hurting enrollment because fewer people go to college when jobs are available. According to state data released this week, Maryland colleges have 2.8 percent fewer students this fall, the second straight year of decline and the sharpest annual drop in 30 years.
As Arctic ice melts, U.S. military adapting strategy, forces (22 November 2013)
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the Pentagon's first Arctic strategy to guide changes in military planning as rapidly thawing ice reshapes global commerce and energy exploration, possibly raising tensions along the way.
Ice on the Arctic Ocean shrank last year to its lowest levels since satellite observations began in the 1970s, and many experts expect that by mid-century it will vanish in summers due to climate change.
As the sea ice thaws, ships are increasingly using a shortcut between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and competition is intensifying for Arctic oil and gas.
Hagel, addressing a security forum in Canada on Friday said the military would "evolve" its infrastructure and capabilities and would keep defending U.S. sovereignty in and around Alaska while working to help ensure freedom of the seas.
Climate Activists: Carbon Trading a "False Solution" Pushed by Bankers and Bureaucrats (22 November 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
PATRICK BOND: The carbon trading idea that the COP 19 is probably going to try to revive at the global scale really has been absolutely a failure here in Europe, and partly because the Polish government and the corporations have abused it so much. But, in general, the idea that we should turn over the planet to bankers to allow them to arrange an efficient trading of the right to pollute--carbon trading--from the Kyoto Protocol--Al Gore was very much in support of them--that's really not worked. And now Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank president, has put that back onto the agenda a few weeks ago. So I'm quite worried that unless we show more of the opposition and the demand for absolute cuts, paying climate debt and not messing around with banker-type solutions like trading in rights to pollute, we might see this problem get much, much worse more quickly. It's what we call a false solution, and therefore has to be contested, along with all the other areas of debate here, especially the fact that, again and again, the United States will come to these meetings, sabotage. And what I'm also worried about, they did an alliance the last time in Europe, in Copenhagen, with Brazil, with China, with India and South Africa, the BASIC countries. And that was why the Copenhagen Accord was such a disaster, you know, basically big polluters slapping each other on the back: "I pollute more; you pollute more--it's a deal." And that was the nature of the last major effort to get protesters out on the streets. So we have to really redouble our efforts to make sure that configuration doesn't occur again.
AMY GOODMAN: South African activist and professor Patrick Bond, speaking to Democracy Now!'s Mike Burke at Saturday's March for Climate and Social Justice here in Warsaw.
Before we go to break, I just wanted to give you an idea of some of the facts and figures that are all over the hallways here at the National Stadium here in Warsaw where the climate summit is taking place. Written in Polish and in English, it says, "Worldwide, 1 in 4 mammal species are now threatened by extinction, likewise 1 in 8 bird species, 1 in 3 species of fish, 2 in 5 amphibians and more than half the flowering plants and insects. Species of fauna and flora are today disappearing between 1,000 and 10,000 times more rapidly than their natural rate of extinction. We are talking about a sixth episode of mass extinction, for which this time, Man alone is responsible."
Americans Want Improved Social Security and Medicare and Less Military Spending (21 November 2013)
A tectonic shift is occurring in the US body politic. Ignore the media-driven sideshow about the 2014 contest for control of the House or about the screwed-up Obamacare insurance-market website. The real political battle is over Social Security and Medicare, and there the story is a historic turn from fighting against Washington efforts to cut those programs to demanding that both be expanded.
A coalition of progressive groups and other organizations, including of groups like the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, NOW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Generations United, NARFE and SocialSecurity Works, last week protested outside the White House against a proposal, still included in the proposed Obama 2014 budget, to cut back on the inflation adjustment to Social Security, effectively assuring a gradual, but significant reduction in benefits in future years for elderly retirees and the disabled.
Meanwhile, a group of US senators and representatives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent socialist from Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Mark Begich )D-AK) and Sen. Bryan Shatz (D-HI), is calling for eliminating the cap on income subject to Social Security taxation, so that all Americans, including millionaires and billionaires, pay the full FICA tax on their income, a move which would effectively end any talk of the Social Security program "running out of money."
It's about time.
As Sen. Warren put it in a recent statement on the Senate floor, "We should be talking about expanding Social Security benefits -- not cutting them.... Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day."
Elizabeth Warren on Social Security: "It's Values, Not Math" (21 November 2013)
[Mr./Madame] President, I rise today to talk about the retirement crisis in this country -- a crisis that has received far too little attention, and far too little response, from Washington.
I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on middle class families -- families who worked hard, who played by the rules, but who still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails. Starting in the 1970s, even as workers became more productive, their wages flattened out, while core expenses, things like housing and health care and sending a kid to college, just kept going up.
Working families didn't ask for a bailout. They rolled up their sleeves and sent both parents into the workforce. But that meant higher childcare costs, a second car, and higher taxes. So they tightened their belts more, cutting spending wherever they could. Adjusted for inflation, families today spend less than they did a generation ago on food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and other flexible purchases. When that still wasn't enough to cover rising costs, they took on debt -- credit card debt, college debt, debt just to pay for the necessities. As families became increasingly desperate, unscrupulous financial institutions were all too happy to chain them to financial products that got them into even more trouble -- products where fine print and legalese covered up the true costs of credit.
These trends are not new, and there have been warning signs for years about what is happening to our middle class. One major consequence of these increasing pressures on working people -- a consequence that receives far too little attention -- is that the dream of a secure retirement is slowly slipping away.
Corporate Espionage and the Secret War Against Citizen Activism (21 November 2013)
A chilling report released Wednesday unveils the well-funded and shadowy world of corporate espionage of social justice organizations, through infiltration, intrusion, spying, wiretaps and more.
According to the study by the Center for Corporate Policy--a project of the Ralph Nader-affiliated Essential Action, today's 'Pinkerton Thugs' are staffed by former law enforcement, CIA, NSA, FBI and military employees, funded by some of the biggest-name corporations in the world, and backed by highly-secretive investigative firms that operate as spy agencies for the private sector.
Titled Spooky Business, the 53-page study pieces together nearly 20 years of information exposing this hidden wing of the private sector, which its author Gary Ruskin says "is just the tip of the iceberg." While targets run the gamut, from anti-war to workers' rights groups to environmental organizations, they appear to have one thing in common: they are perceived as a threat to the corporate bottom-line.
"The key finding of the report is that corporations are conducting espionage against nonprofit organizations," said Ruskin in an interview with Common Dreams. "This is entirely veiled in secrecy and is a threat to an active citizenry, democracy, and the right to privacy."
Bail revoked for professor accused of helping kill alleged rapist (21 November 2013)
A professor of psychology was taken into custody Thursday after her bail was revoked in an 18-year-old case in which she is accused of helping set up the slaying of a man she said raped her when she was a college sophomore.
Norma Patricia Esparza, 39, was taken from an Orange County courtroom in handcuffs after being allowed to briefly hug her husband.
Prosecutors say Esparza, a Pomona College student at the time, and a group that included her ex-boyfriend went to a Santa Ana bar in April 1995 so she could point out her alleged rapist. Hours later, Gonzalo Ramirez, was found beaten and hacked to death with a meat cleaver.
Esparza was arrested last year while traveling from her home in Europe to an academic meeting in St. Louis.
Her case has drawn support from advocates for rape victims, including the group End Rape on Campus. A petition at change.org asking the district attorney to drop the charges has gathered more than 850 signatures.
Friends Saw Creigh Deeds' Son Struggle With Bipolar Disorder Before Killing (21 November 2013)
Before stabbing his politician father and taking his own life outside of his home, Gus Deeds, 24, struggled with a bipolar disorder that had utterly changed his life a few years ago, his friends told ABC News.
Those who know him say he idolized his father, a state senator and Democratic nominee for governor Creigh Deeds. He was a brilliant musician who could pick up just about any instrument and play. And he was a kind soul who wore his heart on his sleeve.
But sometime after his father's loss in that governor race and his parents' subsequent divorce in 2010, the younger Deeds fell into a downward spiral of mental illness, two friends told ABC News.
"Eventually it got to the point where everyone... you couldn't ignore it. It was obvious he was going through a difficult time," Tony Walters, who has been friends with Gus since they were children in Bath County, Va., told ABC News on Wednesday. "I don't know where they ended up taking him but he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and did get treatment for a while and I know he was on medication."
UVa Students Put Politics Aside at Vigil for Sen. Deeds (21 November 2013)
Dozens of students typically on either side of the aisle, stood side by side at the UVa Amphitheater as they offered prayers and well wishes to the senator.
"Our political groups are more than just that," said University Democrats member Haley Swartz. "We can come together for non-partisan things to show support for a legislator who's made a great difference in our lives."
The vigil gave students and others in the community a chance to show their appreciation for Deeds. Many signed a poster with well wishes to be delivered to him on Monday.
"We're thankful for his service and what will be his continued service as he makes a recovery," said Gaziano.
Senate Dems Just Went Nuclear and Changed the Filibuster. Here's Why. (21 November 2013)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats changed the Senate's rules Thursday, freeing President Barack Obama to staff his administration with the people he wants and fill the federal bench with judges of his choosing.
There are 100 senators, and winning a simple majority (51 senators, or 50 if the vice president votes to break a tie) was once sufficient to confirm presidential nominees and pass legislation. But over the past several decades, both parties have increasingly used the filibuster--a procedural move that requires 60 senators to end debate and force a vote--to block the other side's agenda. Since 2009, when Obama took office, Senate Republicans have used constant filibuster threats to force Democrats to win 60 votes to do almost anything. On Thursday, Democrats finally decided they'd had enough, and changed the rules. In the future, executive-branch and judicial nominees will be subject to simple up-or-down majority votes. But the filibuster lives on partially: Legislation and Supreme Court nominees will still be subject to filibusters.
The filibuster has bedeviled Democrats ever since Obama took office. A world without the filibuster would include major pieces of progressive legislation: The Affordable Care Act would have a single-payer option, the stimulus act would have been much larger, and gun control would have passed the Senate. The Senate might have even managed to pass a version of a cap-and-trade climate change mitigation bill in 2010 if it hadn't been for the filibuster. Despite this constant obstruction, Democrats were timid, afraid to upend Senate tradition.
Then, over the past several months, a fight over nominees to a little-known but influential court pushed Reid to finally change the rules.
Senate's filibuster rule change should help Obama achieve key second-term priorities (21 November 2013)
The Senate vote Thursday to lower the barriers for presidential nominations should make it easier for President Obama to accomplish key second-term priorities, including tougher measures on climate change and financial regulation, that have faced intense opposition from Republicans in Congress.
The move to allow a simple majority vote on most executive and judicial nominees also sets the stage for Obama to appoint new top officials to the Federal Reserve and other key agencies -- probably leading to more aggressive action to stimulate the economy and housing market. And it frees Obama to make changes to his Cabinet without the threat of long delays in the Senate before the confirmation of nominees.
The most immediate effect will be felt at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Widely regarded as second only to the Supreme Court in influence, it plays a central role in upholding or knocking down federal regulations. The panel is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats but has three vacancies that Obama has been attempting to fill.
The court is likely to help decide whether Obama can enact new Environmental Protection Agency regulations limiting greenhouse-gas emissions by power plants -- a key element of his second-term plan to combat climate change -- as well as a variety of other rules affecting the environment and the financial industry.
Decades-long cohort study links nut consumption with lower mortality rates (21 November 2013)
Nuts are already known to be a healthy, nutrient-dense food, and even the Food and Drug Administration suggests that daily nut consumption as part of a low-fat diet "may reduce the risk of heart disease." However, few studies have investigated nut consumption in relation to total mortality, and many that have are quite limited. That is why researchers from Boston and Indianapolis teamed up to evaluate the health benefits of eating nuts.
The researchers followed 76,464 women and 42,498 men who were respectively in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Throughout the study and follow-up, researchers evaluated the individuals' nut consumption through 2-year interval surveys and kept track of participant mortality and causes of death.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that "those who consumed nuts more frequently were leaner, less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, and more likely to use multivitamin supplements; they also consumed more fruits and vegetables and drank more alcohol." They also discovered that nut consumption was inversely associated with deaths due to cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, in addition to being associated with reduced weight gain.
Based on a serving size of 28 g, or 1 oz, the researchers found relationships between nut consumption and mortality as follows:
Seven servings or more per week: 20% lower death rate.
Five or six per week: 15% lower death rate.
London slaves: three women freed after 30 years' captivity (21 November 2013)
Three women have walked to freedom from a south London house where they were held for 30 years in what police described as the worst case of modern-day slavery ever uncovered in Britain.
Police said on Thursday the youngest woman, a 30-year-old British citizen, had had "no contact with the outside world" and was probably born in captivity, possibly within the house in Lambeth.
All three women -- a 69-year-old from Malaysia, a 57-year-old from Ireland and the British woman -- were described as "deeply traumatised", and were being looked after by specialists.
The extraordinary story of how the women were rescued from three decades of fear and enslavement within an "ordinary house in an ordinary street" in south London emerged on Thursday after the Metropolitan police's human trafficking unit arrested an unnamed man and woman, both 67, at the same property in Lambeth, at 7.30am.
The pair, who are not British citizens, were bailed early on Friday morning until a date in January. They were arrested on suspicion of being involved in forced labour and domestic servitude, contrary to Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
Wage Gap for Women of Color Persists, Fuels Poverty, New Study Finds (21 November 2013)
The United States may be closer than ever to a woman in charge of the White House, with Bill Clinton subtly proclaiming on Monday, "I hope we have a woman president in my lifetime." But for women on the ground, giant disparities persist - and they have a color line.
A new study by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) - a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization - shows that in the same full-time jobs as their male counterparts, women earn only 77 cents to the dollar earned by a man.
And it's not a gendered phenomenon only - women of color earn less than men of the same race and white women, with African-American women earning 64 cents to a white man's dollar, and Hispanic woman earning even less - only 54 cents.
Census numbers back up the study and demonstrate that women of color consistently earn less than men of color: Both African-American and Hispanic women make 88 cents for every dollar paid to an African-American or Hispanic man, respectively.
Rep. Trey Radel Won't Be Joining the More Than Half a Million Americans Jailed for Drug Offenses (21 November 2013)
"I'm struggling with this disease, but I know that I can overcome it," explains the conservative Republican.
Fair enough. The congressman wants to finally deal with an addiction problem he says he's struggled with "on and off for years." And there is every reason to wish him well as he does so.
But it would be good for Radel and his colleagues to note that he has identified his challenge as a disease, not a bad habit.
That's a very different line than was taken by the House Republicans Caucus (of which Radel has been an enthusiastic member) when the chamber this year gave voice-vote approval to an amendment that allows states to require drug-testing of food stamp recipients. Why would they seek to penalize victims of what the congressman says is a disease? Why would they go after the neediest Americans in what Congressman Jim McGovern--the House's most ardent advocate for nutrition programs--with a "degrading and mean-spirited" approach?
Why, in general, is there a rush to penalize Americans who are in need far more aggressively than Radel, a former television reporter who was elected to Congress last year with the backing of Tea Party groups that have made it a priority to promote crackdowns on recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
Radel's penalty for an admitted purchase of cocaine from an undercover agent will be a year of supervised probation.
On the Front Lines of Hawaii's GMO War (21 November 2013)
Malia Chun lives just blocks away from the beach on the western shores of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. On a sunny November morning, local activist Josh Mori drives Chun and I down the beach in his truck. Children are surfing and swimming in the waves as fisherman wait for a tug on their lines. Hawaiian beaches are known for their sparking blue waters, but Chun worries that the water lapping on the beach in her small town of Kekaha is polluted.
The nearby residential neighborhood is a "homestead" area that is reserved for people of native Hawaiian heritage and boasts one of the highest numbers of native speakers of any neighborhood in the state. Chun calls the homestead "a gem." She runs a cultural enrichment program for native Hawaiian students at a local community college, and she moved with her two daughters, ages 7 and 11, to the homestead community six years ago. As we ride past the men and their fishing poles, Chun explains that some locals are subsistence fishermen and their families rely on what they catch. Chun says there are rumors among fisherman that the offshore reef, a crucial habitat for fish, is dying.
Mori stops the truck near two chain link fences separating the beach from sandy lots full of equipment and storage containers. Facilities operated by the international agrichemical firms Syngenta and DuPont-Pioneer run right up to the beach, where the stretch of sand occupied by the swimmers and fisherman is split by an irrigation ditch that stretches back toward the agricultural fields near Chun's neighborhood. The biotech giants BASF and Dow also operate in the area, and Monsanto has facilities elsewhere in the state. On Kauai, the four companies take advantage of The Garden Island's three growing seasons to develop and produce varieties of seeds that are bred or genetically engineered to resist pests and pesticides and increase yields.
Stands of genetically engineered corn are not what you would expect to see on a tropical island that once hosted sugar cane plantations and has kept its population happy for generations with coconuts, breadfruit, taro and papaya. But high demand on the mainland has made biotech corn and other seeds one of Hawaii's top agricultural commodities. Hawaii is the world's leading producer of corn seed, which accounts for 96 percent of the state's $247 million biotech agriculture industry, according to the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents biotech companies. Virtually every genetically engineered seed variety has spent some time in development on a Hawaiian island.
In California, $1 Million in Unpaid Fines for Assisted Living Centers (21 November 2013)
ProPublica, as part of its ongoing examination of the multibillion-dollar assisted living industry, had asked California officials to produce records detailing their oversight of the state's 7,700 assisted living facilities, which have tens of thousands of seniors in their care. The officials ultimately conceded they could not produce basic data about fundamental aspects of the department's regulatory operations. For example, they could not say how many inspections the department conducts each year, or how many "unusual incidents" -- injuries, abuse allegations, medication errors -- the facilities report to the state.
The revelations come as state lawmakers, advocates for the elderly, and news organizations have heightened their scrutiny of the department's performance. Last month, in a case that garnered national publicity, the department failed to take prompt action after the owners of a Bay Area facility abandoned its residents, effectively leaving 19 frail or impaired seniors to fend for themselves. Working without pay or training, a janitor and a cook tried to care for the clients.
While the federal government regulates the nursing home industry, it has left oversight of the assisted living business to the states, which, over the past two decades, have crafted a hodge-podge of widely divergent laws. Today some 750,000 elderly Americans reside in assisted living facilities, many operated by national chains.
Home to more assisted living facilities than any other state, California is widely seen as one of the loosest regulatory environments in the country. ProPublica's examination of the state's regulatory records lends evidence to that view.
Our review shows that troubled facilities often pay pennies on the dollar after they have been fined. A Southern California facility hit with $19,200 in fines in 2009 paid only $1,600. Another facility was fined $5,400 but wound up writing a check for $600.
Kendrick Johnson footage released; expert finds it 'highly suspicious' (21 November 2013)
(CNN) -- Kendrick Johnson's family waited months for hundreds of hours of surveillance video, hoping it would answer their questions. It only raised others.
Rather than showing how their 17-year-old son's body ended up in a school gym mat in January, the four cameras inside the Valdosta, Georgia, gymnasium showed only a few collective seconds of Johnson, jogging. The camera fixed on the gym mats was blurry.
Compounding the family's suspicions was the nature of the gym videos. They're jumpy, with students intermittently appearing and vanishing, and they bear no obvious timestamps.
The Johnsons' attorneys were not shy in stating their suspicion that someone could have tampered with the videos.
"They know their child did not climb into a wrestling mat, get stuck and die. Where is that video?" Benjamin Crump asked.
Kennedy Week: JFK's Uncertain Path in Vietnam (21 November 2013)
"Rick," a Facebook friend writes, "curious to see what you make of the old debate (which may have some new evidence, see Galbraith II) re JFK and Vietnam. Would we have gone or stayed if JFK lived? Or was he the fervent Cold Warrior some paint him as? (My dad marched in his inauguration, and was almost killed six or seven years later.)"
The argument that John F. Kennedy was a closet peacenik, ready to give up on what the Vietnamese call the American War upon re-election, received its most farcical treatment in Oliver Stone's JFK. It was made with only slightly more sophistication by Kenneth O'Donnell in the 1972 book Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye, in which the old Kennedy hand depicted the president telling him, "In 1965, I'll become one of the most unpopular presidents in history. I'll be damned everywhere as a Communist appeaser. But I don't care. If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have another McCarthy red scare on our hands, but I can do it after I'm elected." O'Donnell also claimed that in an October 2, 1963, National Security Council meeting, after debriefing Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor on their recent trip to Saigon, "President Kennedy asked McNamara to announce to the press after the meeting the immediate withdrawal of one thousand soldiers and to say that we would probably withdraw all American forces from Vietnam by the end of 1965. When McNamara was leaving the meeting to talk to the White House reporters, the President called to him, 'And tell them that means all the helicopter pilots, too.' " Promptly, wrote O'Donnell, McNamara double-crossed the president, giving the reporters merely a prediction of the end of America's war, not Kennedy's prescription of the end of America's war: McNamara merely said they thought "the major part of the the U.S. task" would be completed by the end of 1965, nothing about the president's intention to complete the task by the end of 1965.
O'Donnell was seeing the world through Camelot-colored glasses. As the historian Edwin Moise demonstrates in A Companion to the Vietnam War (2002), NSC minutes are a matter of record, and the notes show the president himself approving a statement that was only a prediction that things would be over by the end of 1965, framed merely as the observation of Taylor and McNamara. ("They reported that by the end of this year, the U.S. program for training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 1,000 military personnel assigned to South Vietnam can be withdrawn.")
Now, on the broader claim that Kennedy truly intended to end the war by the end of 1965, things get more interesting, and that's where the case recently made by James K. Galbraith, son of the famous Kennedy hand and economist John Kenneth Galbraith, comes in. As he put it categorically in a letter to The New York Times, "President Kennedy issued a formal decision to withdraw American forces from Vietnam." Is that true? Only literally, which in the end adds up to mostly nothing.
Greenpeace: In Opposing Oil Drilling, Detained "Arctic 30" Are Standing Up for Planet's 7 Billion (21 November 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what they did, why they were arrested?
KUMI NAIDOO: Well, essentially, they took--they did exactly the same protest Greenpeace organized and successfully executed last year. I, myself, was involved in it. The idea was to draw attention to the fact that this drilling was about to start happening. Bear in mind, most of the Russian people don't know, and most of the people in the world don't know, because it's such a remote part of the world. So, the first objective was to raise awareness and to bear witness to what was happening. And the second was to make a strong statement saying that we were opposed to the drilling. What they were trying to do was to get onto the outside of the rig, like we did last year.
AMY GOODMAN: And where was this rig?
KUMI NAIDOO: This is in the Barents Sea, which is in sort of the Russian Arctic Ocean, if you want. It's pretty further to the north of our planet. And just to give you a sense, to get to it from Norway, from Kirkenes, the northern town, seaside town of Norway, it takes you about close to five days of sailing north to get to it. So, you know, we're talking fairly remote.
Feds order five companies to halt offshore work (21 November 2013)
WASHINGTON -- The federal government has ordered five companies to halt offshore oil and gas operations, after they failed to give regulators an audit of safety plans newly required since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The companies forced to shut down their offshore work -- all relatively small operators -- are Houston-based Breton Energy, EP Energy and XTO Energy, as well as Louisiana-based firms Virgin Offshore USA and Matagorda Island Gas Operations. EP Energy said its shutdown order was in error, and sent to the company for facilities that have since been sold to other operators.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which ordered the stand down, said the effect on U.S. oil and gas supplies would be "minuscule," given most of the firms are primarily involved in decommissioning old offshore facilities and only Matagorda has logged any energy production this year. According to Interior Department records, the company has produced just 383 million cubic feet of natural gas so far this year.
At issue is a requirement that companies working offshore implement broad "safety and environmental management systems" for holistically assessing and managing risks at every stage of their work. Companies were required to have those so-called SEMS programs in place by November 2011 and submit audits of the programs to the safety bureau by Nov. 15. Separate third-party audits are due in June 2015.
Navy suspends another officer in bribery investigation (21 November 2013)
The Navy announced Thursday that it has suspended another official -- the seventh in two months -- for his alleged ties to a major Singapore-based defense contractor accused of fraud and bribery in a scandal that continues to escalate.
Capt. David W. Haas, a Naval Academy graduate and the deputy commander of a coastal patrol unit based in San Diego, was suspended and reassigned Nov. 15. Navy officials said he is under investigation for his connections to the contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, but declined to provide details. He has not been charged with a crime.
Also Thursday, the chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine, Leonard Glenn Francis, appeared in shackles in a federal courtroom in San Diego, where he pleaded not guilty in one of three separate fraud and conspiracy cases brought against him. The magistrate judge ruled he can be released on a $1 million bond, but stayed the decision pending a review by a U.S. district judge, the Associated Press reported.
Known as "Fat Leonard" in Navy circles for his imposing girth, and equally renowned for his lavish lifestyle, Francis is accused of bribing officers with prostitutes, cash and luxury travel in exchange for inside information about Navy contracts and ship movements.
Francis's lawyers have declined to comment on the charges against him. His firm held $200 million worth of contracts to service and supply Navy vessels in Asia until September, when the Pentagon abruptly severed the arrangements after doing business with him for a quarter century.
See-through fish reminds us that nature is way, way weirder than we can cope with (21 November 2013)
The Pacific barreleye fish has a has a see-through head. And that's not just so it can weird you out by looking like a living terrarium -- it's for an even creepier reason. The fish's noggin is transparent so it can SEE THROUGH ITS OWN HEAD.
Those dark circles on the front of its face ... those aren't eyes. They're the fish equivalent of nostrils. The fish's eyes are inside its transparent head. They look up, through its skin, to look for food above. And then sometimes they look forward, out of the front of its face.
lt's kind of hard to believe this thing is real, because who has a transparent head? And the pictures look really too shiny. But apparently we've known these things existed since 1939 -- only because "mangled specimens dragged to the surface by nets," National Geographic says. Then, back in 2009, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found one swimming around out in the ocean. You can watch it...
Scientists witness massive gamma-ray burst, don't understand it (21 November 2013)
An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts -- intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole.
Last April, gamma rays from the blast struck detectors in gamma-ray observatories orbiting Earth, triggering a frenzy of space- and ground-based observations. Many of them fly in the face of explanations researchers have developed during the past 30 years for the processes driving the evolution of a burst from flash to fade out, according to four research papers appearing Friday in the journal Science.
"Some of our theories are just going down the drain," said Charles Dermer, an astrophysicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and a member of one of the teams reporting on their observations of the burst, known as GRB 130427A.
The event, dubbed a long-duration gamma-ray burst (GRB), is typically seen in the distant, early universe, Dr. Dermer said during a briefing Thursday. This one was much closer. And while typical long-duration bursts last from a few seconds to a few minutes, GRB 130427A put on its display for 20 hours.
USA Today attacks Dr. Burzynski but won't expose 'false hope' of conventional oncology (21 November 2013)
(NaturalNews) A decades-long character assassination and smear campaign against cancer specialist Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski continues, this time with a foul hit piece published in USA Today that tugs at almost every human emotion in a failed attempt to discredit this unconventional hero of progressive cancer therapy.
Mashing together just the right combination of heartbreaking anecdotes, manipulated data points and generally false accusations, USA Today's Liz Szabo completely marginalizes the work of Dr. Burzynski in her shameless ridicule, while at the same time conveniently ignoring the utter failures of conventional oncology to come anywhere close to his successes.
It is a common tactic employed by the mainstream media when trying to reinforce the status quo -- present the reader with a sad story while carefully sprinkling in a few personal attacks and useless tidbits of information designed to make the topic of ridicule, in this case, Dr. Burzynski, appear crazy, or worse, criminal.
Szabo's ruthless attack is no exception, of course, as she pulls out all these usual punches and more. But each time such nonsense is published by a "credible" news source with known ties to vested industry interests, it is important to bring things back to reality by shining the light on the truth, or in this case, exposing the lies.
Tesla Model S tops consumer survey (21 November 2013)
For Tesla Motors, the timing couldn't have been better.
Consumer Reports on Thursday issued its annual car owner satisfaction survey, and Tesla's Model S took top honors.
The electric luxury sedan beat all other cars, winning a near-perfect customer satisfaction ranking. As Consumer Reports put it:
"Lots of people love their cars. But as we've consistently seen in our yearly owner-satisfaction ratings, the vehicles that inspire the strongest loyalty are ones that are fun to drive, deliver great fuel economy, are fashionably green, or envelop you in a high-tech, luxurious driving environment. So perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sports sedan, which provides all of those attributes in one car, topped our latest ratings with the highest satisfaction score we've seen in years: 99 out of 100."
Tesla and its investors have endured seven difficult weeks. Since the start of October, three Model S sedans have caught fire following accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation last Friday. (Although the investigation formally began on Friday, the agency only revealed it on Tuesday of this week.) Three workers were injured in an accident at the company's factory in Fremont on Nov. 13. And Tesla stock, which neared $200 in late September, has tumbled back to $122 per share.
Police: Son stabbed Sen. Creigh Deeds, shot himself (20 November 2013)
A violent domestic incident Tuesday left veteran state Sen. Creigh Deeds hospitalized with stab wounds and his 24-year-old son dead.
Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor who lost to Bob McDonnell four years ago, was stabbed multiple times in the head and upper torso by his son, and Austin "Gus" Deeds then took his own life in the family's Bath County home, Virginia State Police confirmed.
Preliminary evidence caused investigators to evaluate the altercation "as an attempted murder and suicide," State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
She noted that some details remained unclear and forensic tests were pending. An autopsy will be performed this morning on the body of Gus Deeds at the medical examiner's office in Roanoke.
Geller was unwilling to talk about something else that may have contributed to Tuesday's violence: Gus Deeds' mental state.
Obamacare will fail even if it works: No health care system is affordable unless it's based on nutrition and prevention (20 November 2013)
(NaturalNews) Forget the name "Obamacare" for the next few minutes. Because it doesn't matter if you call our national health care system "BushCare" or "ReaganCare" or even "CarterCare" -- it has forever been based on allowing food, beverage and pharma companies to sicken the population while invoking costly "interventionist medicine" to "manage disease" rather than preventing disease with nutrition.
I'm here to tell you that no system of health care which isn't based on the nutritional prevention of disease will ever survive in the long run. That's because the very idea of managing disease will always, inevitably, irreversible bankrupt your nation.
Obamacare will fail even if Healthcare.gov works
Even if the Healthcare.gov website magically works on November 30th -- a far-fetched idea if there ever was one -- the entire concept of Obamacare is based on nothing more than cost shifting the burden of paying for disease management.
Obamacare is modeled on the idea that a sufficient number of young, healthy people who aren't yet sick will sign up and pay rip-off rates in order to subsidize the sicker people who are going to cost a fortune to manage. Why will they cost a fortune? Because America treats disease with monopoly-priced medications, surgery and chemotherapy instead of cheap-but-effective nutritional therapies, botanicals and simple lifestyle changes that have almost miraculous healing effects.
Watch: Vitamin Lawyer discusses the FDA, Obamacare and health freedom with former Governor Gary Johnson (20 November 2013)
Ralph Fucetola, JD, a.k.a. the Vitamin Lawyer, attended a meeting on November 13, 2013, with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party along with healthcare providers and concerned citizens to discuss the issues of health freedom and Obamacare.
The meeting, which was recorded on video, begins with Fucetola asking Johnson about his views on health freedom and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Johnson's response:
"Well, I really believe in free markets. I think that the FDA really restricts our choices. And what are attorneys for? Wouldn't attorneys do a much better job of assigning and bringing about justice to drug companies that were actually egregious in what they sold to the public as safe? I think the FDA really has acted as a good housekeeping seal of approval that has limited liability as opposed to actually assigning liability due. So, we could do without an FDA. There's actually a way to not have an FDA, and we would be a healthier country as a result; we'd have more choices."
Fucetola then states, "You know, the Natural Solutions Foundation has an interim measure that supports the idea of divesting the FDA of its food authority, because we feel that having food and drugs in the same federal bureaucracy is a recipe for disaster."
Johnson: "Nobody wants to say that we don't want to have safe food, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the government is accomplishing that. And that's what I want to say, is that, as well intentioned as the government is, are they really making food any healthier? [W]ith the FDA, do we not still have incidents where people die, because the food is contaminated? This is something that will go on for perpetuity, and companies that sell this food are liable and are held liable regardless of government interference."
Some cyber security experts recommend shutting Obamacare site (20 November 2013)
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama's HealthCare.gov site is riddled with security flaws that put user data of millions of people at risk and it should be shut down until fixed, several technology experts warned lawmakers on Tuesday.
The testimony at a congressional hearing could increase concerns among many Americans about Obama's healthcare overhaul, popularly known as Obamacare. Opinion polls show the botched rollout of the online marketplace for health insurance policies has hurt the popularity of the effort.
The website collects personal data such as names, birth dates, social security numbers, email addresses and other information that criminals could use for a variety of scams.
In a rapid "yes" or "no" question-and-answer session during a Republican-sponsored hearing by the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, Republican Representative Chris Collins of New York asked four experts about the security of the site:
"Do any of you think today that the site is secure?"
The answer from the experts, which included two academics and two private sector technical researchers, was a unanimous "no."
Blaming the Victims: Media Bias Against Struggling Millennials (20 November 2013)
It has become a common refrain in the mainstream media: The economic problems that young people face are the product of generational laziness and a sense of entitlement. People between the ages of 16 and 24 have an unemployment rate of 16.3 percent, more than twice the national average, and an alarming 36 percent of adults age 18-31 are living with their parents.
"Word that six million young people are not working or studying comes as no surprise to anyone with a millennial in the basement," writes Jennifer Graham in an op-ed titled "A Generation of Idle Trophy Kids," for the Boston Globe. Millennials' describes, loosely, the generation born between 1980 and 2000. "It's young people who don't leave the house at all, not because they're scared like agoraphobics, but because their needs are met and they're content."
To say that Graham's article is a woeful oversimplification would be to give it way too much credit. The article is an embarrassing debacle, filled with worthless platitudes to support an argument that is insulting not only to young and poor people but to anyone who values critical-thinking skills. Graham fails to provide any serious examination of the economic conditions facing young people, and the article lacks any significant data to back up her claim that millennials are a "minimally employable crop" of slackers who lack "the motivation to provide for themselves."
She also seems to make the racist and classist assumption that all young people are white, privileged members of the middle class who have the luxury of returning to suburban homes (as opposed to, say, park benches or homeless shelters) when they lack steady employment. Conveniently, she ignores things like the fact that 57 percent of young black adults are either "near" or in "deep poverty."
Atomic mafia: Yakuza 'cleans up' Fukushima, neglects basic workers' rights (20 November 2013)
Homeless men employed cleaning up the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, including those brought in by Japan's yakuza gangsters, were not aware of the health risks they were taking and say their bosses treated them like "disposable people."
RT's Aleksey Yaroshevsky, reporting from the site of the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, met with a former Fukushima worker who was engaged in the clean-up operation.
"We were given no insurance for health risks, no radiation meters even. We were treated like nothing, like disposable people -- they promised things and then kicked us out when we received a large radiation doze," the young man, who didn't identify himself, told RT.
The former Fukushima worker explained that when a job offer at Fukushima came up he was unemployed, and didn't hesitate to take it. He is now planning to sue the firm that hired him.
As 17 of Arctic 30 Granted Bail, Greenpeace Chief Calls Fossil Fuel CEOs "The Real Hooligans" (20 November 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: Greenpeace--latest news I want to give you right now--has just tweeted that 17 of the Greenpeace Arctic 30, imprisoned in Russia for a protest against an offshore oil rig, have been granted bail in Russia. Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace, just flew in from Amsterdam to inform delegates and activists about the latest news.
KUMI NAIDOO: History teaches us that when we have been confronted with a massive challenge, injustice and so on, those struggles only moved forward when decent men and women stepped forward and said, "Enough is enough, and we're prepared to put our lives on the line. We're prepared to go to prison, if necessary." And therefore, as we gather here, I would say, with 30 of my colleagues facing as much as seven years in prison in Russia for a peaceful action to protest Arctic oil drilling, and are being accused of hooligans, let's be very clear: The hooligans, the real hooligans, are those CEOs and other leaders of the fossil fuel industry who are not prepared to accept that, in fact, they have to change. So, we will see increased resistance, but general protests like we normally do, but I suspect you--we have to also recognize that it's going to take increased civil disobedience, as well.
Hundreds of Chinese workers protest after Microsoft Nokia deal (20 November 2013)
(Reuters) - Hundreds of workers massed outside a Nokia factory in southern China on Wednesday to protest against what they called unfair treatment following the sale of the company's mobile phones business to Microsoft Corp.
Lack of trust in employers has often led Chinese workers to balk at takeovers they fear will worsen employment conditions, and the confrontation in the industrial city of Dongguan marked the latest incident in a wave of industrial unrest at Chinese affiliates of foreign manufacturing firms.
Workers outside the factory gates said they were battling to change new contracts offering them worse employment terms that they said they had been forced to sign after the September deal between the U.S. software giant and the Finnish handset maker.
"We will definitely continue to fight until we get what's fair," said Zhang, a young male worker who gave only his surname.
Two more men arrested in Rob Ford drug investigation (20 November 2013)
The months-long, ongoing police investigation of Mayor Rob Ford, dubbed Project Brazen 2, has netted two more arrests of suspected drug dealers.
Barbudan Dima, 37, also known as "Dan," was arrested Oct. 7 and charged with trafficking marijuana and possessing $2,200 obtained from the commission of a crime. Andrei Dascaluta, 34, was arrested roughly two weeks later and charged with the same offences.
The men were charged more than one month after they allegedly sold a pound of marijuana to an undercover police officer trying to infiltrate a possible drug-dealing operation based out of Richview Square in Etobicoke, a plaza said to be frequently visited by the mayor.
Details of activities at the strip mall contained in this article are derived from police documents and have not been proven in court.
The plaza -- home to a dry-cleaning business and jewellery store and a nexus of activity under police surveillance -- had been visited by Ford and his friend and occasional driver Alexander "Sandro" Lisi.
On one occasion, police watched as Lisi walked into the dry cleaners empty-handed and exited minutes later carrying a pizza box. The dry cleaner's owner, Jamshid Bahrami, told an undercover officer that Ford is a "nice guy" who visits the plaza all the time.
Missouri executes serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin (20 November 2013)
BONNE TERRE, Mo. -- Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist who targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980, was put to death Wednesday in Missouri, the state's first execution in nearly three years.
Franklin, 63, was executed at the state prison in Bonne Terre for killing Gerald Gordon in a sniper shooting at a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977. Franklin was convicted of seven other murders across the country and claimed responsibility for up to 20 overall, but the Missouri case was the only one that brought a death sentence.
Mike O'Connell, of the Missouri Department of Corrections, said Franklin was pronounced dead at 6:17 a.m.
The execution was the first in Missouri using a single drug, pentobarbital.
Franklin's fate was sealed early Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal appeals court ruling that overturned two stays granted Tuesday evening by district court judges in Missouri.
Franklin also admitted to shooting and wounding civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since the attack in 1978.
Arraignment set for Navy commander charged in bribery scheme (20 November 2013)
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Navy commander charged with accepting the services of prostitutes, luxury travel and $100,000 in cash from a foreign defense contractor in exchange for classified information made his first appearance in a San Diego courtroom Wednesday and was given a Dec. 5 arraignment date.
Navy Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, was arrested in Tampa on Nov. 6.
At Wednesday's bond hearing, Magistrate Judge David Bartick maintained the same conditions that were set in the Middle District of Florida last month. Those bond conditions include $100,000 secured by real property -- Sanchez's residence in Albuquerque, N.M. -- as well as GPS tracking and travel restrictions.
Bartick decided that it was appropriate to continue the GPS monitoring despite arguments from Sanchez's attorneys that he reconsider.
Also charged in the same complaint as Sanchez is Leonard Glenn Francis, 49, of Malaysia -- the CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Francis was arrested in San Diego on Sept. 16 after Navy officials summoned him from Singapore to California to discuss business face-to-face. He is set to make his initial appearance before Bartick on Thursday.
Two other senior Navy officials -- Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz and Naval Criminal Investigative Service Supervisory Special Agent John Bertrand Beliveau II -- are charged separately in connection with bribery allegations.
Son 'brutally stabs Virginia state senator father before shooting himself dead' - one day after he was committed to a psychiatric ward but released because there were no beds available (19 November 2013)
Former Virginia governor candidate Creigh Deeds is fighting for his life after he was brutally stabbed by his own 24-year-old son, who then killed himself - just one day after the younger man was committed to a psychiatric ward but released because there were no beds available.
Deeds, a state senator, has been upgraded to fair condition at University of Virginia hospital after he was found stumbling away from his home in rural Bath County, Virginia, by a cousin who happened to be driving by.
Deeds was stabbed multiple times in the head and torso and lost large amounts of blood. He was initially flown to the hospital in critical condition.
The veteran Democratic state legislator's son Gus was found shot dead inside the family home.
Gus had been evaluated by psychiatrists at a mental hospital on Monday, but could not be committed because there was no room at any mental health wards in all of western Virginia, according to reports.
PAM COMMENTARY: This article doesn't have as much information as local American papers on the incident, but they did bother to put together some nice photos and a video.
Police: Son likely stabbed Va. state Sen. Creigh Deeds, shot himself (19 November 2013)
The day before he apparently stabbed his father at the family's home in rural Bath County, the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds underwent a psychiatric evaluation but was not admitted to a hospital, because no bed was available.
Deeds was listed in fair condition late Tuesday after his son, Austin, stabbed him in the face and chest, then shot himself in what investigators suspect was an attempted murder and suicide.
The incident thrust the senator back into the spotlight after several years of quiet. Deeds (D) vaulted to the statewide political stage in 2009 as the Democratic nominee for governor, only to lose to Republican Robert F. McDonnell (R). After the defeat, Deeds went through a divorce and largely receded from public view, even though he stayed on in the Senate.
The violence also culminated what appears to have been a downward spiral for Deeds's son, Austin, 24, a banjo-playing former campaign volunteer for his father who dropped out of college last month and whose apparent psychiatric problems had prompted an examination Monday.
The attack on the senator brought new scrutiny to Virginia's mental-health system. Six years after the Virginia Tech massacre, which prompted an outpouring of attention and dollars for state mental-health care, advocates still say the system is starved for money and reform. Lawmakers, state officials and mental-health advocates expressed agreement Tuesday that a shortage of beds for patients in crisis is one significant problem.
Just Deserts: Being poor in the United States has rarely meant anything so simple as having too little money. (19 November 2013)
Toward the end of last summer, Fox News aired a nine-minute segment featuring a 29-year-old surfer in La Jolla, California, named Jason Greenslate. Not only did Greenslate possess certain qualities that seemed designed to enrage the cable channel's over-65 demographic--long hair, mirrored sunglasses, a languid grin--but this particular surfer dude also happened to receive $200 a month in food assistance, some of which he spent on sushi and fresh lobster. Footage showed Greenslate driving a black Cadillac truck, jamming with his skate-punk band and generally enjoying himself. Close-ups of the offending shellfish were dutifully provided. ("It's free food," Greenslate said obligingly. "It's awesome.") Meanwhile, an on-screen graphic reminded viewers of The Great Food Stamp Binge.
Greenslate quickly became a talking point for Republican lawmakers, who cited his gourmet diet and cheerful indifference to a steady paycheck as evidence of a social welfare state run amok. In September, a month after the Fox News segment aired, House Republicans voted to slash food assistance by $40 billion. A GOP memo even mentioned "young surfers who aren't working but cash their food stamps in for lobster"--as if one surfer in La Jolla had somehow self-replicated. Never mind that Greenslate was hardly representative of anyone other than himself: nine out of ten food stamp recipients live in a household with a child, a senior citizen or someone with a disability. The caricature he provided--vulgar, cocky, altogether annoying--was too perfect, and too useful. (Greenslate later told reporters that he had agreed to Fox News's request in hopes of getting publicity for his band.) And so Lobster Boy joined the Welfare Queen in the ranks of America's undeserving poor.
Being poor in the United States has rarely been taken to mean anything so simple as having too little money. Americans have long distinguished between those who deserve public or private charity and those who don't. In the latest edition of The Undeserving Poor, first published in 1989, the historian Michael B. Katz writes about "the enduring attempt to classify poor people by merit." This impulse is driven partly by policy calculations: given that resources are finite, how can the people who most need help get it? But the distinctions are often laced with moralism, too: Who are the real victims--the worthy ones? Who are the moochers trying to game the system? The deserving poor have typically included widows and children, along with "a few others whose lack of responsibility for their condition cannot be denied." Katz says the working poor of today have also elicited some sympathy and support, though if our current political impasse is any indication--twenty-five Republican-controlled states have rejected Medicaid expansion, effectively shutting out half of all low-wage earners in the country from any kind of insurance coverage--that sympathy and support seem to come from just one side of the aisle.
There was a time when being poor didn't carry the same stigma that it does now. Before the abundance of the twentieth century, poverty was ubiquitous as well as inevitable. American poor laws in the nineteenth century made the poor a community responsibility, with the result that local authorities (in what seems like a grim prelude to the pre-Obamacare insurance rolls) would dispatch their elderly or infirm to another town in an attempt to avoid paying for their care. Still, poverty wasn't considered a deviant condition. "Resources were finite; life was harsh," Katz writes. "Most people, as the bible predicted, would be born, live, and die in poverty."
Mom packs kids homemade lunch; school fines her and feeds kids Ritz Crackers (19 November 2013)
Dietary news flash: Roast beef, milk, potatoes, carrots, and oranges are INSUFFICIENT for your kids to eat at school. This lunch is lacking the essential preservatives and saturated fat found in Ritz crackers, and thus your children will starve. Thankfully, the Manitoba Government's Early Learning and Child Care program has your back.
At least it did for Kristen Bartkiw, who packed her two kids this lunch. The program fed her kids Ritz Crackers and slapped her with a $10 fine. Someone call child protective services!
This takes the ongoing school-lunch debate to new levels of wack. Notes the Weighty Matters blog:
"As Kristen writes, had she sent along lunches consisting of, 'microwave Kraft Dinner and a hot dog, a package of fruit twists, a Cheestring, and a juice box' those lunches would have sailed right through this idiocy. But her whole food, homemade lunches? They lacked Ritz Crackers."
Hip fractures in men may be linked to milk consumption (19 November 2013)
Drinking a lot of milk as a teenager doesn't decrease hip fractures later in life - and actually increases the fracture risk in men.
A large new study found every additional glass of milk per day consumed during the teen years was linked with a 9-percent greater risk of hip fracture among men.
However, a woman's risk of hip fracture was not related to her teenage milk consumption.
Experts say the increased fracture risk may be partially influenced by a man's taller height.
Fisa court documents reveal extent of NSA disregard for privacy restrictions (19 November 2013)
Newly declassified court documents indicate that the National Security Agency shared its trove of American bulk email and internet data with other government agencies in violation of specific court-ordered procedures to protect Americans' privacy.
The dissemination of the sensitive data transgressed both the NSA's affirmations to the secret surveillance court about the extent of the access it provided, and prompted incensed Fisa court judges to question both the NSA's truthfulness and the value of the now-cancelled program to counter-terrorism.
While the NSA over the past several months has portrayed its previous violations of Fisa court orders as "technical" violations or inadvertent errors, the oversharing of internet data is described in the documents as apparent widespread and unexplained procedural violations.
"NSA's record of compliance with these rules has been poor," wrote judge John Bates in an opinion released on Monday night in which the date is redacted.
"Chernobyl Was Transparent Compared to Fukushima": Harvey Wasserman on Ongoing Crisis (19 November 2013)
The operators of Japan's devastated Fukushima nuclear plant have announced plans to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel from the site, in an unprecedented operation that began Monday November 18. Nuclear researcher Harvey Wasserman believes that the highly risky procedure, in fact, the entire plant needs to be taken out of the hands of the operators- Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO).
In this interview with GRITtv, Wasserman explains how the fuel rods at Reactor Number Four have been stored since the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi Plant in March of 2011. They can't heat up, be exposed to air or break without releasing deadly gas, but the cooling pool they've been resting in is leaky and potentially corroded by seawater and could never withstand another tremor or quake. The cooling pool is also 100 feet up.
"These rods have to be brought to the ground. It's never been done under these kinds of circumstances," says Wasserman. But as a 40-year activist in the field, Wasserman is especially concerned about the operators, TEPCO.
"I believe we got better information from the Soviet Union about Chernobyl than we're getting from TEPCO and the Japanese about Fukushima," he told GRITtv.
Feds probe Tesla fires (19 November 2013)
Federal traffic safety investigators said Tuesday that they will examine recent fires in Tesla Motors' electric Model S sedans, incidents that have taken a serious toll on the automaker's stock.
The move by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came after three Tesla sedans caught fire in six weeks. In each case, the flames erupted after a traffic accident punctured the car's large, rechargeable battery pack. The luxury electric sedan, built in Fremont, has won glowing reviews for both its performance and safety.
"The agency has opened a formal investigation to determine if a safety defect exists in certain Tesla Model S vehicles," the administration reported, in an e-mailed statement. "The agency's investigation was prompted by recent incidents in Washington State and Tennessee that resulted in battery fires due to undercarriage strikes with roadway debris."
In an impassioned note posted Tuesday on Tesla's official blog, CEO Elon Musk wrote that the company requested the investigation to put to rest any doubts about the safety of the Model S or other electric vehicles. Cars powered by gasoline, he wrote, are far more likely to burst into flame following traffic accidents, often with deadly results.
What you should know about Princeton's unapproved meningitis vaccine push (19 November 2013)
(NaturalNews) Mass hysteria is reverberating throughout the mainstream media following a relatively minor outbreak of meningitis at Princeton University in New Jersey. As you may already know, officials at the school have responded to seven identified cases of the illness by considering a call for all students to be offered an unapproved meningitis vaccine from Europe. But here to bring reason to the situation is Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, DO, AOBNMM, ABIHM, who rightly points out in a recent blog posting that, like most others, this latest mass vaccination campaign lacks both rational thought and scientific merit.
While only seven students at Princeton have been diagnosed as having meningitis since March, which was nine months ago, news reports today are awash with outrageous headlines claiming that an epidemic might be in the works and that this generally rare disease is somehow "sweeping" the Ivy League campus. Truth be told, seven isolated cases of a disease that does not spread through the air or through casual contact can hardly be considered an epidemic. But using such outrageously inaccurate language sure helps convey the type of irrational urgency needed to push an unapproved "emergency" vaccine.
"The infection occurs randomly and will not spread rapidly across the campus to other students," writes Dr. Tenpenny, decrying calls by officials from Princeton, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to rush in the Novartis vaccine Bexsero, which has never been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The type of meningitis that has inflicted this small handful of Princeton students, known as serotype B, just so happens to be the most common form of bacterial meningitis. But there is currently no approved vaccine for serotype B meningitis, because the cell wall of this particular bacterial strain very closely resembles that of the brain and nerves. In other words, getting vaccinating against serotype B using the traditional approach would mean risking that vaccine-induced antibodies might also attack the brain and nerves.
Insight: As U.S. default threatened, banks took extraordinary steps (19 November 2013)
(Reuters) - As the United States threatened to default on its debt last month, major U.S. banks set up war rooms, spent many millions of dollars on contingency planning and, in some cases, even prepared to underwrite federal government benefits.
In a series of interviews with top bank executives, new details emerged about the extent of the contingency planning that was undertaken before and during the 16-day government shutdown and as a potential default loomed.
The planning for worst-case scenarios didn't come cheap. JPMorgan alone has spent more than $100 million on contingency planning for U.S. budget crises in recent years including this one, sources close to the bank say. It has reviewed and analyzed thousands of trading contracts, updated computer systems to handle fiscal emergencies, hired consultants, and built new models to figure out what might happen to securities prices.
It may not go to waste. The temporary budget agreement that President Barack Obama signed shortly after midnight on October 17 to end the shutdown and lift the default threat, authorizes government spending through January 15 and eases enforcement of the debt limit until February 7, creating the potential for another budget crisis early next year, even as some Republicans vow they will avoid it.
Mayor Rob Ford remains defiant after 37-5 vote to disempower him (19 November 2013)
Stripped of his powers and with his budget whittled away, Mayor Rob Ford is making clear that he will not fade quietly into the background.
On the same day that a series of historic votes in council essentially reduced him to a figurehead and the mayor declared war on councillors, Ford appeared in extended interviews on CBC, CNN and Sun News Network. It is a bold step into the limelight after months of unanswered questions, and an indication the mayor remains defiant in the face of unprecedented efforts to undercut his influence.
Ford, who did not respond for a request for an interview from the Star on Monday, told CBC's Peter Mansbridge that he will never drink again, and during the premiere of Sun's Ford Nation, "I haven't touched a drop of alcohol in three weeks."
At a highly charged meeting marked by raised voices, ridicule and even a minor injury on the council floor, an overwhelming majority of councillors approved the latest series of council moves to contain Ford's authority.
The political brilliance of Rob Ford (19 November 2013)
Has there ever been a politician as brilliant as Rob Ford? True, when a politician is described regularly by gleeful news reporters as "crack-smoking and alleged sexual harasser Toronto mayor Rob Ford", Canadian sculptors will probably not be troubled by commissions to erect likenesses of the man for future generations to admire.
Nor do I mean "brilliant" in the literal sense. Is Rob Ford a smart man? It would take a braver woman than me to adjudicate on this issue with confidence. One can argue that a politician who announces that the bad news is he smoked crack cocaine "probably in one of my drunken stupors", but the good news is that he will seek re-election next year must be, if not full-on stupid, then quite possibly high on crack.
But anyone insisting that this cross between Cartman from South Park and Chris Farley is not a brilliant politician in any sense of the word is overlooking the most bizarre element of this whole story. That really is saying something, seeing as we're talking about a story involving a mayor who allegedly saw in St Patrick's Day last year with cocaine, weed, OxyContin and a suspected prostitute. The fact is, a lot of Toronto still likes him.
Before Ford admitted that he'd bought and smoked crack -- all the while, campaigning against drugs -- he was a pretty popular mayor. After his confession, his ratings went up by 5%. As of writing, while most citizens sadly admit the mayor should probably step down, 40% of the city of Toronto "currently approve of his performance as mayor". Was it the way that he bought rocks of crack?
Court order that allowed NSA surveillance is revealed for first time (18 November 2013)
A secret court order that authorised a massive trawl by the National Security Agency of Americans' email and internet data was published for the first time on Monday night, among a trove of documents that also revealed a judge's concern that the NSA "continuously" and "systematically" violated the limits placed on the program.
The order by the Fisa court, almost certainly its first ruling on the controversial program and published only in heavily redacted form, shows that it granted permisson for the trawl in part beacause of the type of devices used for the surveillance. Even the judge approving the spying called it a "novel use" of government authorities.
Another later court order found that what it called "systemic overcollection" had taken place.
Transparency lawsuits brought by civil liberties groups compelled the US spy agencies on Monday night to shed new light on the highly controversial program, whose discontinuation in 2011 for unclear reasons was first reported by the Guardian based on leaks by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
'Devastation is just unbelievable' from historic tornadoes (18 November 2013)
Hundreds of residents who lost their homes or couldn't return to them amid gas leaks and downed power lines huddled Monday in a Washington church, thankful for shelter, running water and hot cups of coffee.
Others ventured out into a wasteland of plywood, drywall and chunks of twisted metal, carrying water, food and saws in hopes of salvaging remnants of their belongings.
A day after a storm of historic proportions slammed many Illinois communities, the task turned to assessing the damage -- from lives lost to homes destroyed -- and comprehending the power of the tornadoes.
Calling the November storm "unprecedented," Gov. Pat Quinn declared seven counties disaster areas, with National Weather Service meteorologists estimating about a dozen tornado touchdowns in Illinois. Six people were killed in three tornadoes, and two more deaths in Michigan were attributed to the storm.
6 killed as tornadoes hit Illinois (18 November 2013)
Rare and violent autumn storms ripped across Illinois on Sunday, spinning off tornadoes before slamming into Chicago with punishing rain and wind.
As heavy gusts toppled trees and power lines and downpours swamped city streets, tens of thousands of Bears fans were evacuated from their Soldier Field seats and forced to take cover inside or huddle behind the historic stone colonnades.
Earlier, in southern Illinois, severe weather decimated farms, killing at least five people, including an elderly brother and sister, when a tornado barreled through their house. Farther north, near Peoria, a tornado flattened large swaths of Washington, killing at least one person and sending about 50 others to local hospitals.
As night fell and temperatures dropped, emergency workers were still searching debris fields that had once been neighborhoods and the homeless were seeking temporary shelter.
Cracks in Tepco's 3/11 narrative (18 November 2013)
"While I was with Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), a question was raised internally as to whether or not the measuring pipe installed at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the diameter of which is about the same as that of a human thumb, can withstand an earthquake. But Tepco has yet to make clear whether or not the March 2011 earthquake damaged that pipe," says Toshio Kimura, a former Tepco plant engineer.
Kimura, 49, who served the company for 17 years from 1983 to 2000 and worked at Fukushima No. 1 for 12 years, is strongly of the view that pipes in the plant were damaged seriously by the quake before a subsequent tsunami struck the plant.
He thus casts doubt on Tepco's position that the tsunami caused loss of all the power sources, thus leading to the disaster. He says, "An effective means of determining the true cause of the accident would have been to analyze recorded data related to transient phenomena -- data that show what happened near the reactor cores. Even though more than two years have passed since the disaster, however, Tepco has only released partial data.
"So I demanded that Tepco release the relevant data. It made public the data on Aug. 19 for the first time." But it was found later that the data did not represent the whole data.
2 Months After Russia's Jailing of Arctic 30, Greenpeace Urges Their Release at Warsaw Summit (18 November 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to an issue that has been gaining global attention, the Arctic 30. Well, they were back in court today in Russia, where they've been held for nearly two months. State prosecutors asked Russian courts to extend the detention of the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists by three more months, saying they could flee the country if they were released on bail. This is the story of these 30 people who were detained during a direct action against Russia's first Arctic offshore oil rig in September.
At Saturday's climate justice march here in Warsaw, Greenpeace activists held posters with large photographs of the Arctic 30. In a moment, you'll hear from two members of Greenpeace who spoke at the rally Saturday, but first let's turn to Democracy Now!'s Mike Burke interviewing Martin Kaiser, the head of the Greenpeace delegation here in Warsaw.
MARTIN KAISER: My name is Martin Kaiser with Greenpeace. The Arctic 30 are climate defenders who have shown courage and peaceful protest against new oil drilling in the Arctic in the Russian waters. They are now in the pretrial detainment for about over 50 days. And they need to be freed. And we are here to demonstrate that peaceful protest is needed to move the oil sector and the coal sector towards investment into renewable energies. The governments leave people alone, while global warming is accelerating.
MIKE BURKE: And can you talk a little bit about the connection between drilling in the Arctic and climate change?
MARTIN KAISER: The most recent outlook from the World Energy Organization made it very clear. Eighty percent of the fossil fuels need to stay in the earth, in the soil, rather than to be polluted into the atmosphere. That's why new oil drilling in the Arctic should not happen. And we call on oil companies not to do new oil drilling in the Arctic.
Long-term oral contraceptive use doubles women's risk of glaucoma (18 November 2013)
(http://www.dailymail.co.uk) A new study has found that women who take oral contraceptives for longer than three years increase their risk of glaucoma by more than two times.
Glaucoma is an eye condition in which drainage tubes become blocked, leading to increased fluid pressure which can damage optic nerves and nerve fibers from the retina; it can eventually lead to blindness.
Scientists are urging gynecologists and ophthalmologists to warn their patients of the risk and to screen for the condition.
According to the Daily Mail,
The researchers used data from 2005 to 2008 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Multiple military deployments in families may raise teen suicide risk (18 November 2013)
Teenagers with family members in the military were more likely to contemplate suicide if their relatives were deployed overseas multiple times, according to researchers from USC.
After analyzing survey data from 14,299 secondary school students in California -- including more than 1,900 with parents or siblings in the military -- the researchers found a link between a family member's deployment history and a variety of mental health problems, including "suicidal ideation," or thoughts about suicide.
Their study, published online Monday by the Journal of Adolescent Health, joins a growing body of evidence that the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken a hefty toll on children in military families.
"The cost of military deployment goes well beyond money and our soldiers' lives," said Stephan Arndt, a University of Iowa psychologist who was not involved in the study. His work has found elevated rates of drug and alcohol use among children whose parents were currently or recently deployed.
Malfunctioning drone hits Navy ship while training (18 November 2013)
A Navy guided missile cruiser hit by a malfunctioning drone during a training exercise returned to San Diego, where investigators will assess the damage and determine what went wrong, a Navy official said Sunday.
Two sailors were treated for minor burns after the Chancellorsville was struck by the unmanned aircraft during radar testing Saturday afternoon, off Point Mugu in Southern California.
Lt. Lenaya Rotklein of the U.S. Third Fleet said the drone -- which was 13 feet long, 1 foot in diameter and had a wingspan of nearly 6 feet -- hit the ship's left, or port, side.
She said investigators at Naval Base San Diego are assessing the damage and determining why the drone malfunctioned.
About 300 crew members were aboard the ship. The Navy could not say how the two sailors were injured.
Princeton May Offer Meningitis B Vaccine After Seventh Case
(18 November 2013)
Princeton University students are taking precautions after a seventh meningitis case on campus this year is prompting efforts to offer them a vaccine currently unavailable in the U.S.
Since the outbreak in March, the Princeton, New Jersey-based Ivy League school has reached out to students and parents through posters and e-mails on ways to protect themselves, including not sharing cups. In September, Princeton distributed almost 5,000 plastic 16-ounce tumblers with the message "Mine. Not Yours."
All seven cases developed infections with meningococcus B. That strain of the bacteria isn't covered by vaccines available in the U.S., prompting federal health officials to approve import of an immunization. Princeton trustees were considering over the weekend whether to use the vaccine, made by Novartis AG., which said the shots could be available in the next month or two.
"If the vaccine is available, I would definitely take it," said junior Joshua Taliaferro, a chemical and biological engineering student from Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. "Maybe I should be afraid, but I'm not. I'm a peer health adviser and we learned a lot about how meningitis stays in a campus and what the symptoms are."
The outbreak is the first of the meningitis B strain in a specific group in which health officials have had the option to vaccinate, according to Barbara Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Eight more U.S. coal generators bite the dust (18 November 2013)
The Tennessee Valley Authority plans to shut down eight of its coal-burning generating stations in Alabama and Kentucky. Board members of the federally owned utility agreed to the plan last week, reacting to changing market conditions and federal environmental rules. The move will reduce coal generation by 3,300 megawatts in the two states.
The decision is being seen as a blow to the local coal industry, but a boon for the region's air quality. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) met with TVA's CEO in a bid to dissuade the utility from shuttering coal plants, but to no avail. Enviros, meanwhile, cheered the development.
Absent from the seemingly positive news, however, is any mention of renewables. Wind and solar farms are being built across the country, but TVA said it's hoping to turn to natural gas and nuclear power to help it plug the gaps created by its abandonment of coal.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
"Forty years ago, the TVA got more than 80% of its power from coal. Today coal accounts for 38%, a number that is dropping fast as a drilling boom in the U.S. pushes down the price of natural gas, the fuel that competes with coal for power generation."
Should pygmy three-toed sloths leave Panama for Dallas? (18 November 2013)
A rare pygmy three-toed sloth stirred an international controversy after officials of the Dallas World Aquarium caught and crated six of the creatures on Isla Escudo de Veraguas, an island off Panama. The aquarium officials intended to take the animals back to Dallas -- and made it clear they had extensive paperwork and permits to do so -- but were confronted at the Isla Colón International Airport in the Bocas del Toro province of Panama by protesters and police who barred them from leaving the airport with the sloths. The animals were returned to the island.
The confrontation occurred in September, but the Animal Welfare Institute has just filed an emergency petition to list the pygmy three-toed sloth as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Once an animal is protected under the U.S. act or under the international treaty CITES -- the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora -- rigid restrictions on import and export go into place. A listing won't prevent all import and export, but it will set conditions for it.
And it's probably time to get the world's smallest sloth listed as endangered. First identified as a distinct sloth species in 2001, it lives only in the mangroves of Isla Escudo de Veraguas. I've seen reports that put its total wild population at anywhere from 79 to 200. And, of course, they -- or rather their fans -- have their own Facebook page.
This doesn't appear to be an issue of the Dallas World Aquarium having done anything technically wrong. The aquarium is involved in extensive conservation efforts across Latin America, including on the island pygmy sloths call home. The aquarium's aim, its officials say, was to further that conservation effort by bringing back the sloths to breed and ensure the survival of the species. The Animal Welfare Institute, however, counters that the species does not do well in captivity.
Partnering With Polluters? U.N. Climate Summit Criticized for Sponsorships by Fossil Fuel Companies (18 November 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
Welcome, Pascoe. Talk about who is here. What is unprecedented about this COP 19, the Conference of Parties, the U.N. climate change summit?
PASCOE SABIDO: Yeah, I mean, I think just to say that this--this is perhaps the most corporate climate talks we have ever experienced is not to say that previous ones haven't had a large corporate influence. But what's different this time is the level of institutionalization, the degree to which the Polish government and the U.N., the UNCCC, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, have welcomed this with open arms and have actively encouraged it.
So, I mean, the three key ways they've done this is there was the pre-negotiations that happened in October here in Warsaw, and the Polish presidency, so the presidents of the climate talks, invited only business. Civil society, so NGOs, journalists, academics, were not allowed to attend. So you had exclusive access to negotiators by business, so a real chance to set the agenda. And then here at the talks, I mean, there's 13 corporate sponsors, the first time we've seen this degree. But just to shed a bit of light, the Polish presidency asked 150 different corporations to sponsor this event, and these were the best, the best of the bunch. But, I mean, as you said, General Motors, who are known for funding climate skeptic think tanks like the Heartland Institute in the U.S.; you have BMW, who are doing equal things in Europe, who are trying to weaken emission standards.
AMY GOODMAN: How is BMW trying to weaken emission standards?
PASCOE SABIDO: It's been leading on the--on the German government, on Angela Merkel, to delay a vote in the European Parliament that's supposed to say car emission standards will be improved. And instead it's had the deal delayed again and again and again, to the degree where actually now it's being--it's supposed to be voted on by the Lithuanian presidency, so this is perhaps a bit EU talk, but just to--just to say, the Lithuanian presidency, who's supposed to be allowing this vote to happen in Europe, is also sponsored by BMW, has given them 180 cars for the presidency. And then it turns out that Angela Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union, also received three-quarters of a million euros from BMW's owning family. So I think BMW have a quite fishy role to play here.
Cheney sisters, separated over gay marriage (18 November 2013)
Looks like the holidays are going to be, shall we say, a bit awkward for the Cheney family.
Actually, more than a bit. A feud between the former vice president's daughters emerged into public view over the weekend when Liz Cheney, who is trying to win a Senate seat from Wyoming by pandering to the far-right Republican base, went on "Fox News Sunday" and declared her opposition to gay marriage.
She said the question should be left up to the states but added, "I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage."
Her sister, Mary Cheney, reportedly was watching at the Northern Virginia home she shares with her wife, Heather Poe, and their two children. To understate, the Cheney-Poe household was not amused.
PAM COMMENTARY: Why should anyone care what the Cheney family thinks? It's like taking political advice from the family of a serial killer.
Organic Italian jam found to contain radiation from decades-old Chernobyl accident - what is Fukushima doing to our food supply? (17 November 2013)
(NaturalNews) More than 5,000 jars of organic wild blueberry jam made in Italy have been intercepted and recalled by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in Japan after multiple batches of the fruit spread tested positive for unacceptable levels of radioactive cesium-137. According to the Japanese news source Shukan Asahi, the blueberries used in the Fiordifrutta brand jam, which originated in Bulgaria, were affected by radiation not from a recent nuclear event like Fukushima but rather from the infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.
This shocking revelation came as officials began tracing the source of the contaminated fruit, which tested as high as 164 becquerels (Bq) per kilogram (kg) of cesium-137, according to the paper. Located some 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) away, the fields where the tainted blueberries were grown somehow came into contact with residual radiation from an accident that took place nearly 30 years ago, illustrating the harrowing long-term effects of nuclear disasters.
A popular commodity in Tokyo, Fiordifrutta jam is an otherwise high-quality food product that contains no processed sugars, is certified organic and bears the Non-GMO Project label of purity. It is also routinely rated as one of the best tasting jams on the market and looks like the type of thing one might find on the shelf of a reputable health food store. All of this makes it that much more disturbing that the jam's contents somehow ended up tainted with an invisible poison that is likely to become even more common as a result of Fukushima.
"The reality is that pollution caused by the Chernobyl nuclear accident 27 years ago is still upon us," reads a rough English translation of the Shukan Asahi report.
Highly Dangerous Fukushima 4 Fuel Removal Begins Monday (17 November 2013)
The highly dangerous and unprecedented removal of the highly radioactive nuclear fuel rods in Fukushima Unit 4 will begin on Monday, November 18.
The Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) had previously said the process would begin in mid-November but kept the exact date secret 'for security reasons.' TEPCO has now confirmed that the operation will begin Monday.
The NRA said that it will provide 'enhanced oversight' to TEPCO as the company begins the hugely delicate process of removing 1,331 spent fuel assemblies and 202 unused assemblies. The fuel rods are brittle, potentially damaged, and still located high above the ground in a badly damaged building that has buckled and tilted and could collapse if another quake strikes.
The fuel assemblies are in a 32 x 40 feet concrete pool, the base of which is on the fourth story of the damaged reactor building. The assemblies - which contain plutonium, one of the most toxic substances known - are under 23 feet of water.
If the fuel rods - there are 50-70 in each of the assemblies, which weigh around 661 pounds and are 15 feet long - are exposed to air or if they break, catastrophic amounts of radioactive gases could be released into the atmosphere.
Ed Markey's first Senate bill aims to ramp up renewables (17 November 2013)
Thirty states have renewable electricity standards requiring utilities to generate a percentage of their power from clean sources. But the U.S. as a whole does not.
Instead, the federal government has tried to boost domestic renewable energy production through inducements such as tax credits and business loan guarantees. But as any advocate of cap-and-trade can tell you, the most efficient way to shift the behavior of an industry is to simply require your desired outcome and let the magic of the market sort out the rest.
And so Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who knows a thing or two about cap-and-trade, has proposed to do just that. Markey, a longtime friend of the environment who was elected to the U.S. Senate this summer after 37 years in the House of Representatives, has introduced the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act. It would require electric utilities to get at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, starting at 6 percent in 2015 and rising gradually. It also includes an energy-efficiency savings requirement beginning at 1 percent of sales for electric utilities in 2015 and increasing to 15 percent in 2025, and for natural gas utilities going from 0.5 percent up to 10 percent over the same period.
Calling for renewable energy generation and conservation from utilities rather than directly from customers, is sort of like mom and apple pie for liberals. It's easy to support and it sounds nice. But is it really the strong medicine we need?
Canada let priest Eric Dejaeger flee to Belgium amid sex abuse charges: Official (17 November 2013)
IQALUIT, NUNAVUT--A former priest who this week is to face 76 sex charges involving Inuit children may have been tried years ago but for a quiet nod from Canada that allowed him to leave the country, says a church leader.
Georges Vervust is the top official with the Belgian Oblates, an order of Catholic priests that sent Eric Dejaeger to several communities in what is now Nunavut.
Vervust sheds light on questions that have troubled Dejaeger's alleged victims for nearly a decade: How was a man facing child abuse charges allowed to leave the country days before his trial? And why did it take so long for him to be returned?
"What I have heard is that he got advice from people from the Justice Department, off the record, that he should leave," Vervust said in a Belgian documentary. He confirmed his comments to The Canadian Press.
'I Sold My Sister for 300 Dollars' (17 November 2013)
There was only one way to get money quickly, a route that many families took before Amani did -- and that was to as good as sell one of the girls. Amani sent off her younger sister Amara, 14, to some sort of marriage.
"It isn't rare in Syria to marry at the age of 16. Most Arab men are aware of this, and often come to Syria to find a young bride. These days, they come to find them at the camps, where almost everybody is desperate to leave.
"I have seen Jordanians, Egyptians and Saudis passing by the tents in search of a virgin to take along. They pay 300 dollars, and they get the girl of their dreams."
Amani says she had no choice. "I knew she wasn't in love, but I also knew that he would take care of her. I would have sold myself, but Amara was the only virgin in our family. We had to sell her, in order to allow the rest of us survive. What else could I do?"
Afghan villagers find bodies of 6 beheaded workers (17 November 2013)
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan villagers discovered the beheaded bodies of six government contractors Sunday in the country's restive south, the apparent victims of insurgents who regularly target state projects, officials said.
Meanwhile, the death toll from a suicide car bombing at the site of a key national council in the capital, Kabul, rose to 12, officials said, as NATO said an international service member was killed by a roadside bomb.
Kandahar police spokesman Ahmed Durrani said villagers found the bodies. He said the men were involved in building police compounds and checkpoints in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The Taliban have previously targeted contractors, warning Afghans against working for the government.
Bernie Sanders May Run for President in 2016 (17 November 2013)
US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) told his hometown paper Friday that he is considering making a run for President in 2016.
The Burlington (VT) Free Press reports that Sanders may run if no one else with progressive views takes the plunge.
"It is essential, he said, to have someone in the 2016 presidential campaign who is willing to take on Wall Street, address the "collapse" of the middle class, tackle the spread of poverty and fiercely oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
"Also, addressing global warming needs to be a top priority, not an afterthought, Sanders said."
As He Runs for President, Scott Walker Runs From His Record (17 November 2013)
Sorry, US Senator Marco Rubio and US Senator Rand Paul and US Senator Ted Cruz.
Sorry, US Representative Paul Ryan, the former favorite son of Wisconsin Republicans.
But Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says the next Republican nominee for president "should either be a former or current governor." After all that shutdown trouble, the party's candidate is going to have to be "somebody who's viewed as being exceptionally remote from Washington."
And sorry, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Scott Walker may have a kind word for you, but he says the GOP's 2016 candidate must be someone who has "taken on big reforms."
Indeed, sorry, any Republican who is not named "Scott Walker," but Scott Walker thinks the Republicans are going to need to turn to someone like, um, Scott Walker.
Substitute-meat makers pursue an indistinguishable imitation (17 November 2013)
Ethan Brown held up one of his ready-to-eat vegetarian chicken strips and peeled off stringy strands that mimicked the moist meat of the real thing.
"That's the beauty. That's absolutely everything," said Brown, founder of Beyond Meat, admiring the filaments of faux chicken at a cafe near the company's Southern California headquarters.
The company gets close to creating that authentic but elusive texture by blasting soy and pea proteins through an alternating cascade of high heat and high pressure in a stainless steel machine.
The result is mock meat that replicates the genuine product enough to make people forget the tastes of springy tofu turkey, MSG-laden veggie burgers and plasticky facon -- fake bacon, for the uninitiated.
So convincing is Brown's imitation poultry that it has attracted investment from Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates, Twitter Inc. co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Whole Foods Market helped refine the product before rolling it out at its stores last year.
Rob Ford lampooned by Saturday Night Live (17 November 2013)
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is again the butt of late-night television jokes, this time at the hands of Saturday Night Live.
The opening sketch of last night's show features Bobby Moynihan playing the beleaguered mayor, holding a series of press conferences where he apologizes for his behaviour in each of the previous press conferences.
During one of these appearances, Moynihan's Ford character tells the gathered press: "I brought some Chapstick for everybody and I would love for you to put it on before you kiss my fat f****** white a**!"
Back in the interview setting the Ford character appears contrite.
Toxic waste seems to naturally vanish from Palos Verdes Shelf (17 November 2013)
Decades after industrial waste dumping turned part of Southern California's seafloor into a toxic hot spot, scientists have dredged up a mystery.
Chemicals fouling the ocean off the Palos Verdes Peninsula seem to be going away without being cleaned up.
Samples taken from the sediment suggest more than 100 metric tons of the banned pesticide DDT and industrial compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have vanished from one of the country's most hazardous sites, almost a 90% drop in just five years.
Scientists are at a loss to explain the decline across the 17-square-mile site, which sits about 200 feet below the ocean surface and two miles off the Los Angeles County coast. The compounds break down very slowly. They have accumulated in the food web over decades, made some sport fish unsafe to eat and, until recently, rendered bald eagles on Santa Catalina Island unable to reproduce.
In response to the discovery, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has suspended its planned cleanup efforts and ordered a new round of tests to be completed over the next year. Researchers began collecting samples from the seafloor last month.
Ethanol takes policy blow from the Environmental Protection Agency (17 November 2013)
ONCE TOUTED as a climate-friendly renewable alternative to foreign oil, the corn-based liquid ethanol has been exposed as an environmental and economic mistake. Lured by federal subsidies, Midwestern farmers have devoted millions of acres to corn that might otherwise have been devoted to soil conservation or feed-grain production.
Meanwhile, a "dead zone" fed by fertilizer runoff spreads at the mouth of the Mississippi and production costs throughout the grain-dependent U.S. food industry rise. At the end of 2011, the ethanol industry lost a $6 billion per year tax-credit subsidy. And on Friday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delivered yet another policy defeat for ethanol -- which is to say, a victory for common sense.
We refer to the EPA's proposed cut in the amount of ethanol that the nation's refiners must add to the fuel supply in 2014, from 18.15 billion gallons of ethanol called for in current law to a new target of 15 billion to 15.52 billion gallons. The downward revision of roughly 3 billion gallons is the first such reduction since Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2007. At the time, gasoline consumption was high and rising, and it seemed reasonable to put the country on course to blend 36 billion gallons of ethanol into motor fuel by 2022, as the RFS statute did.
Changes in motorists' habits, along with advances in fuel economy, have rendered that objective utterly unrealistic. Driving and motor fuel consumption have plateaued. Mixing more and more ethanol into a fixed or shrinking pool of fuel would bump up against the capacity of existing engines to burn it, as well as the capacity of the existing distribution network to pump it. Rather than hit this so-called "blend wall," the EPA wisely decided to scale back the ethanol mandate.
Expect to hear from the ethanol lobby about how this is a victory for their rivals in the Big Oil and Big Grocery lobbies, which it is. The former has no interest in federal subsidization of a rival fuel; the latter would like less competition for access to grain. But that doesn't mean their arguments are without merit. We'd say that in this case, the public benefits do not offset the market distortions. In the case of ethanol subsidies, the benefits do not outweigh the costs.
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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