Daily Archives

Familiar Players in Health Bill

Washington Post – The nation’s largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.
The tactic is so widespread that three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls, according to The Washington Post’s analysis.
Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers… read more

Optus mobile phones tracked for traffic data

iTWire – Optus Traffic View, a road traffic information service based on the movement of mobile phones around the road network, has gone live. Optus Traffic View provides users with traffic information processed by Traffic Intelligence.
Licensed from UK-based ITIS holdings, the system is based on Floating Vehicle Data (FVD), which comes in two flavours. GPS-FVD tracks vehicles fitted with GPS devices, while Cellular-FVD (CFVD) simply monitors the movement of mobile phones.
Traffic Intelligence is using CFVD with anonymous data from Optus’s 2G and 3G mobile network to cover over 70,000 km of roads. Read article

California Investors eye IOUs

San Francisco Chronicle – The California IOU has become the prey of so-called vulture investors who hope to profit by buying them on the cheap and redeeming them later.
The idea is that “distressed asset investors” (their nicer name) will pay less than face value to mom-and-pop businesses that receive IOUs but need cash immediately to meet payroll or other expenses. Once the IOUs mature on Oct. 2, the investors will cash them in for their full value plus the 3.75 percent interest the state is offering.
While people legally can sell their IOUs, the state will only redeem ones accompanied by a notarized bill of sale signed by the IOU payee, the California treasurer’s office said Monday. Read article

Six dead, 40 wounded in Philippines bomb attacks

AFP – At least six people have been killed and more than 40 others wounded by twin bomb blasts in the southern Philippines, in what officials described as coordinated attacks by Al Qaeda-linked militants.
The first bomb exploded in a commercial area on Jolo island, killing six people and wounding around 30 others, police said. It was followed around two hours later by a blast next to a parked military patrol jeep in Iligan city.
The second blast wounded at least 10 people, including three soldiers, the military said. Read article

Australia PM slammed over Vatican sainthood move

AFP – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been accused of “sheer arrogance” over moves to press the Pope to create the country’s first saint.
Opposition front-bencher Christopher Pyne hit out at Rudd’s plan to raise the canonisation of nun Mary MacKillop during this week’s Vatican meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
“The sheer arrogance of the prime minister, believing he can lobby the Pope on behalf of Mary MacKillop, is quite frankly offensive,” Pyne told Sky News.
“The path to sainthood is a very serious process and it doesn’t include lobbying by the leaders of countries,” he added.
Opposition heavyweight Tony Abbott had earlier accused Rudd of pushing the sainthood in the same way that Australia is bidding to hold the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups. Read article

Angry Uighurs defy Chinese police

BBC – New protests have flared in Urumqi, two days after 156 people died and 800 were injured in the western Chinese city.
At least 200 Uighurs faced off against police in Urumqi on Tuesday following news that 1,434 people were arrested in connection with Sunday’s riots.
Trouble also spread outside of Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, with protests on Monday near a mosque in Kashgar.
Beijing blames ethnic Muslim Uighurs for the violence, but exiled Uighurs say police fired on students. Read article

Consumer groups rail against Tamiflu price hike

ABC, World Today – Demand for the antiviral drug Tamiflu has escalated and there’s evidence that chemists are cashing in on the pandemic.
There’s no recommended retail price for Tamiflu, which is the drug that experts say is most effective to treat swine flu.
But some chemists are selling it for between $7 and $8 for a single tablet.
Tamiflu sales on the internet are also increasing and consumer groups fear customers are being sold snake oil. Read transcript or listen to a WMA or MP3 recording.

Joe Biden speech sparks fierce response from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Times Online – The Iranian Supreme Leader, assailed by some of his country’s most prominent clerics and detested by millions of his ordinary citizens, has received a boost from an unlikely quarter: Joe Biden.
One day after the American Vice-President said that the US would not stop Israel bombing Iran’s nuclear plants , Ayatollah Khamenei launched a fierce attack on “meddling” Western leaders, designed to rally his fractured people.
“We warn the leaders of those countries trying to take advantage of the situation: beware. The Iranian nation will react,” the Ayatollah declared in a televised speech yesterday. “The leaders of arrogant countries, the nosey meddlers in the affairs of the Islamic Republic, must know that even if the Iranian people have their differences, when your enemies get involved, the people . . . will become a firm fist against you.” Read article

Robotic hummingbird being built by U.S. to spy

iTWire – The Defense Sciences Office of DARPA is developing a robotic hummingbird it calls the Nano Air Vehicle that one day will provide indoor and outdoor reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities for the United States within urban environments. No, it is definitely not a bird-brain scheme!
DARPA is short for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It is the research and development agency of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), whose job it is to develop new technologies for the U.S. military.
Its DSO (Defense Sciences Office) takes new scientific and engineering concepts and develops them into new technologies for use within the DoD.
One of its latest projects is a miniature spy it calls NAV, short for Nano Air Vehicle. Read article

Israel deports activists detained going to Gaza

Associated Press – Israel has deported a former U.S. congresswoman, a Nobel peace prize laureate and other activists who were arrested trying to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials said Monday.
The Israeli navy commandeered the boat last week as it tried to sail from Cyprus to Gaza. It was the latest in a series of trips by activists trying to bring attention to the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the territory after the Islamic militants of Hamas seized power there two years ago. Read article

U.N. Council to meet Monday on North Korea

Reuters – The U.N. Security Council will hold closed-door consultations at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) Monday to discuss North Korea, which launched ballistic missiles Saturday, a U.N. spokesman said.
Pyongyang fired seven ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in defiance of Security Council resolutions that prohibit such launches, according to South Korea’s defense ministry.
Western nations were hoping the Security Council would produce a statement condemning the launches, a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity. The meeting was requested by Japan, which currently sits on the council, the diplomat added. Read article

Chevron pipe ‘destroyed’ in Niger Delta: militants

AFP – Nigerian militants said on Monday they destroyed a Chevron oil pipeline junction in the latest attack on Nigeria’s key money earner since the government offered an amnesty.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it attacked the Okan manifold late on Sunday.
According to the rebels, the manifold controls about 80 percent of the crude that Chevron Nigeria Limited sends to its BOP Crude Loading Platform. Read article

China riots: questions answered

Telegraph – Who are the Uighurs?
One of China’s lesser-known people, the Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority who live in Xinjiang, an enormous oil-rich desert province to the north of Tibet and bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as several central Asian states.
With a distinctively different physical appearance from Han Chinese, Uighurs have their own Turkic language and a rich cultural and trading history, due in part to Xinjiang’s position on the Silk Route. Read article

Mystery over fate of kidnapped Darfur aid workers

AFP – The identity of an armed group which snatched two foreign Darfur aid workers was shrouded in mystery on Monday as officials and diplomats scrambled to find out more about the kidnappers.
“We haven’t had any contact yet. We are trying to find out who they are, what they want and why they have done that,” said John O’Shea, president of Goal, the aid group which the two worked for.
“As you know there are a lot of different groups in Darfur… we are in the dark,” he told AFP.
Gunmen kidnapped Irish national Sharon Commins and Ugandan Hilda Kawuki from the office of the Irish aid group Goal in the North Darfur city of Kutum on Friday night. A Sudanese guard was also seized but later released. Read article

Dissident Anglicans launch protest movement against CofE liberalism

Guardian – Thousands of Anglicans will gather in London tomorrow to support the launch of a UK movement opposing liberalism in the Church of England, with critics claiming it will undermine the church and the authority of the archbishop of Canterbury.
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), which counts five homegrown bishops among its backers, is aimed at congregations and clergy unhappy with the Church of England’s position on the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of women and homosexuals as priests.
One of the English churchmen supporting the FCA is Michael Nazir-Ali, bishop of Rochester, who continues to draw criticism for his views on homosexuality. Read article

Terror terminology in the firing line

The Australian – IT’S official: The war on terror is over.
Nearly eight years after New York’s World Trade Centre twin towers fell and US president George W.Bush stood amid the smoking rubble and vowed revenge, the phrase “war on terror” has been officially dropped from the Australian government lexicon.
The dumping of the phrase, criticised as a non-sequitur because terrorism is a tactic, not an entity, is part of a campaign by the Rudd government to change the way we talk about terrorism.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland yesterday launched the national rollout of “project lexicon”, a joint study on the language surrounding terrorism. Read article

Iran’s supreme leader warns West

AFP – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Western leaders against meddling on Monday, as Britain said that all but one embassy employee detained for allegedly stoking unrest now been freed.
Khameini admitted there are “differences” among Iranians following the bitterly disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month but warned the West not to exploit the worst crisis in the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution.
“The Iranian nation warns the leaders of those countries trying to take advantage of the situation, beware! The Iranian nation will react,” Khamenei said in a televised speech. Read article

Inquiry into claims British troops executed Iraqi prisoners

Times Online – An investigation is to be launched into allegations that British troops tortured and killed Iraqi prisoners.
It is claimed that British forces captured 29 people after a fierce firefight with Shia militia insurgents in May 2004 and executed 20 of them.
The Royal Military Police investigated the events in the aftermath of the Battle of Danny Boy near Majar al-Kabir in southern Iraq but concluded that there was no basis for the allegations.
Lawyers acting for the families of those who died and for nine Iraqi detainees who claim that they were tortured have taken the case to court. Read article

Taser Int’l to unveil new Taser X3

azcentral – aser International Inc.’s newest law-enforcement stun gun will be able to aim at and shoot multiple targets at once, but the company is staying tight-lipped about the technology until later this month.
Scottsdale-based Taser said Wednesday that it will unveil the Taser X3 at its annual tactical conference July 27 at the Radisson Fort McDowell Resort in Fountain Hills.
Taser is trying to build buzz around the product by revealing new details about the technology at its Web site daily and on Facebook and Twitter social-networking sites. Read article

Vaccine progress at Oxford Biomedica

Growth Business – Gene therapy specialist Oxford Biomedica draws comfort from the US regulator’s comments on its “˜novel’ TroVax therapeutic cancer vaccine.
The fully-listed company says the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has “˜provided a clear path for further development of TroVax in multiple cancer settings’. The FDA has supported Oxford Biomedica’s proposal to pursue further development of TroVax in various “˜metastatic’ cancer indications (those that spread to other organs) and invited submissions of adaptive Phase II/III trial designs in “˜metastatic colorectal’ cancer. Read article

Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran

Times Online – The head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Earlier this year Meir Dagan, Mossad’s director since 2002, held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility.
The Israeli press has already carried unconfirmed reports that high-ranking officials, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, held meetings with Saudi colleagues. The reports were denied by Saudi officials. Read article

Biden: Israel free to set own course on Iran

Associated Press – Vice President Joe Biden signaled that the Obama administration would not stand in the way if Israel chose to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, even as the top U.S. military officer said any attack on Iran would be destabilizing.
Biden’s remarks suggested a tougher U.S. stance against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Nonetheless, administration officials insisted his televised remarks Sunday reflected the U.S. view that Israel has a right to defend itself and make its own decisions on national security. Read Article

Obama and Medvedev offer to cut nuclear arsenals

Guardian – Framework signed on US president’s Russia visit would leave each side with as few as 1,500 warheads capable of launch
The US and Russia have agreed to work towards cutting deployed nuclear warheads to as few as 1,500 each, in an agreement signed by Barack Obama on his first trip to Russia as president.
Obama and the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, signed a framework deal aimed at cutting warheads to a maximum of 1,675 within seven years of a nuclear arms reduction treaty coming into force.
That commitment represents a scrapping of almost 1,000 warheads on each side, according to expert estimates of current warhead levels. Read article

Polemic – sure; why waste money on replacing the ageing surplus arsenal when 1500 warheads is still enough to blow the smithereens out of our enemies a few times over!

Make HIV testing routine

Boston Globe – TESTING for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, ought to be as routine as a test for blood sugar or cholesterol. Legislation at the State House and new public health practices should go a long way toward that goal.
To make testing more common in this state, the Department of Public Health advised healthcare providers last week that the written consent for testing required under state law could be part of a general permission form that patients sign for medical care, and not a separate document. In another move to smooth the consent process, copies of consent forms will no longer have to accompany test specimens to the lab. Read article

Death of the worker bee

Management Today – Like honey bees, recession-hit execs are collapsing through stress. Should we rethink our attitude?
The honey bees are dying. Across the world, these social little creatures whose sophisticated colonies play a vital role in global agriculture, are giving up the ghost and abandoning their hives. Known as colony collapse disorder, this phenomenon is a threat to us all, as almost a third of everything we eat depends on pollination by honey bees.
In their book A World Without Bees, amateur apiarists Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum consider some of the reasons why this may be happening. Pesticides, global warming and disease are all implicated, but the overwhelming cause seems to be the industrialisation of pollination. Read article