Daily Archives

Hillary Clinton affirms US support for Israel after row

BBC – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has dismissed the idea that US-Israeli relations are in crisis amid a row over Jewish settlers in Arab East Jerusalem. She said the two nations had a “close, unshakeable bond” but made clear the US wanted both Israel and the Palestinians to prove their commitment to peace. Earlier, US envoy George Mitchell postponed a planned visit to Israel. Read article

Chinese facing debt time bomb

Telegraph – Chinese banks face a $350bn (£230bn) debt time bomb that could mirror the financial crisis suffered by US and European banks, according to banking experts. A report by Citigroup and Victor Shih of Northwestern University warns that the Chinese government may be forced to bail out banks that made loans for government-backed projects under the huge stimulus programme put together at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. A bailout would not only be financially damaging for China, but also a blow to its reputation as a growing economic power. Much has been made by Asian economists over the past two years of their approach to financial regulation, which has not created the problems witnessed in the West – until now. Read Article

Ex-Scientologist ‘pressured’ to have abortions

ABC – A woman who claims she was pressured by Scientologists to have two abortions has urged the Prime Minister to support an inquiry into the church. Janette Lang was a member of the Church of Scientology for 13 years from when she was 20 years old. She says she has been damaged by her involvement with the church and some years worked for a pay of just $2,000. Read Article

PROMISES, PROMISES: Is gov’t more open with Obama?

Business Week – Federal agencies haven’t lived up to President Barack Obama’s promise of a more open government, increasing their use of legal exemptions to keep records secret during his first year in office. An Associated Press review of Freedom of Information Act reports filed by 17 major agencies found that the use of nearly every one of the law’s nine exemptions to withhold information from the public rose in fiscal year 2009, which ended last October. Among the most frequently used exemptions: one that lets the government hide records that detail its internal decision-making. Obama specifically directed agencies to stop using that exemption so frequently, but that directive appears to have been widely ignored. Read article

Thai protesters hurl blood at Thai PM Abhisit’s home

BBC – Thai protesters have hurled plastic bags filled with gallons of blood in a symbolic protest at the prime minister’s house in Bangkok. Security forces agreed to let a few of the red-shirted demonstrators splatter the blood outside the compound of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva. They went on to picket the US embassy, accusing US intelligence of bugging deposed ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra. The opposition, many of whom back Mr Thaksin, want fresh polls. Read article

Research finds PR spinning most newspaper stories

ABC – Researchers have found more than half of newspaper stories surveyed over five days were driven by the public relations industry. More than 2,000 articles from 10 newspapers were analysed by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at the University of Technology in Sydney and online publication Crikey in September last year. The results showed nearly 55 per cent of all stories were triggered by public relations firms. Read Article

US Army considered attack on Wikileaks

The Register – It is claimed that leaked documents show the US Army felt sufficiently threatened by security breaches on Wikileaks that it considered ways it might wreck the site. A 2008 report by the Army Counterintelligence Center, classified Secret, calls for a mole hunt and prosecutions to undermine potential sources’ trust in Wikileaks. “Wikileaks.org uses trust as a center of gravity by assuring insiders, leakers, and whistleblowers who pass information to Wikileaks.org personnel or who post information to the Web site that they will remain anonymous,” the report said. Read article or download the Wikileaks report in PDF

FDA targets processing of spices in bid to make supply safer

Washington Post – The Food and Drug Administration is reexamining the safety of a culinary staple found in every restaurant, food manufacturing plant and home kitchen pantry: spices. In the middle of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella illness linked to black and red pepper — and after 16 U.S. recalls since 2001 of tainted spices — federal regulators met last week with the spice industry to figure out ways to make the supply safer. Read Article

Ed. – Q: Just how bad is 16 recalls in 8+ years? (And how many other foods are performing much worse, but receiving less attention?) Fact: The above outbreak is defined as linked, not directly causative. Q: Does the outbreak reflect the greater awareness of food hygeine or an increase not only in the sensitivity of testing, but the amount of testing being done? Or the greater consupmtion?

Iraq gets its largest loan to date from IMF

BBC – Iraq is to be given a $3.6bn (£2.3bn) loan by the International Monetary Fund -the biggest to the country so far. The money is aimed at helping Iraq rebuild its battered infrastructure. The IMF has lent smaller amounts before, loans that came with the conditions of removing subsidies from manufacturers and farmers. Read Article

Sri Lanka opposition leader Sarath Fonseka to face court martial today

Times – General Sarath Fonseka, Sri Lanka’s former army chief, faces a court martial today that could lead to his being jailed for up to five years on charges that his supporters say are designed to thwart his political ambitions. The general, who led the Army to victory over the Tamil Tigers last year, will be tried by a three-member panel of two-star generals on seven charges, including “conduct unbecoming”, engaging in politics while still army chief, and making irregular procurements. Read article

China opposes US and EU demands for yuan revaluation

Telegraph – China is digging in its heels against US and EU demands for a revaluation of its currency and warning that the global economy could be heading for a “double-dip” recession. Premier Wen Jiabao made it clear during a press conference marking the end of the country’s parliamentary meetings that he did not think the yuan was undervalued and blamed the US for the deterioration in relations between the two superpowers. He made a renewed call for the US to take concrete action to reassure investors about the security of the dollar, declaring he was still worried about China’s considerable holdings of US Treasury securities, currently standing at just under $900bn (£596bn). Read Article

Forensic scientists could identify suspects from personal bacteria

Daily Telegraph – Researchers say they can identify unique telltale types of hand bacteria left behind on objects like keyboards and computer mice. Using powerful gene-sequencing techniques, the team swabbed bacterial DNA from individual keys on three personal computers and matched them up to bacteria on the fingertips of keyboard owners. Read Article

Major report reveals the environmental and social impact of the ‘livestock revolution’

(Physorg) A major report by an international research team explores the impact of the global livestock industry on the environment, the economy and human health. Global meat production has tripled in the past three decades and could double its present level by 2050, according to a new report on the livestock industry by an international team of scientists and policy experts. The impact of this “livestock revolution” is likely to have significant consequences for human health, the environment and the global economy, the authors conclude – Read Article

Americans accused of taking millions intended for reconstruction in Iraq

Columbia Dispatch – Federal investigators looking into corruption involving reconstruction in Iraq say they have opened more than 50 cases during the past six months by scrutinizing large cash transactions made by some of the Americans involved in the $150billion rebuilding program. Some of the cases involve people suspected of mailing tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq. Others stuffed money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, the investigators said. In other cases, millions of dollars were moved through wire transfers. Suspects then used cash to buy BMWs, Humvees, jewelry, or to pay off enormous casino debts. Read Article

Goldman’s Trojan currency swap

The Spiegel is reporting that Goldman Sachs helped Greece cover up part of its whopping deficit. The deal was reportedly done via a currency swap, using artificially high exchange rates. The loan-cum-currency swap would not have shown up in Greece’s debt statistics, which means it was effectively a way of bypassing the eurozone’s Maastricht criteria, which prescribe certain debt-to-GDP metrics for countries wishing to join the single currency zone. Even with the currency swap, we should note, Greece’s finances have never quite been Maastricht-compliant. Only once in the past 20 years, for instance, has Greece found itself in keeping with the EU edict that fiscal deficits should not exceed 3 per cent of GDP (in 2006). Read Article

Vitamin D is BETTER AT PREVENTING FLU, report claims

The Times – The risk of children suffering from flu can be halved if they take vitamin D, doctors in Japan have found. The finding has implications for flu epidemics since vitamin D, which is naturally produced by the human body when exposed to direct sunlight, has no significant side effects, costs little and can be several times more effective than anti-viral drugs or vaccine. Only one in ten children, aged six to 15 years, taking the sunshine vitamin in a clinical trial came down with flu compared with one in five given a dummy tablet. Read Article

Keeping up with the neighbors speeds vaccine use

PhysOrg.com – Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted an analysis of worldwide use of Haemophilus influenza Type b vaccine (Hib) to determine what factors influenced a nation’s adoption of the vaccine. The study found that a nation’s eligibility for support from the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) and whether a country’s neighbors used the vaccine were major influencing factors in addition to price of the vaccine. The findings appear in the March 16 edition of PLoS Medicine. Read Article

DISARMAMENT: Despite Recession, Global Arms Race Spirals

IPS) – The global financial crisis has not deterred some of the world’s developed and developing nations from bolstering their military arsenals with expensive new weapons systems, including sophisticated fighter planes, combat helicopters, submarines, armoured vehicles and air defence systems. The five largest arms purchasers during 2005-2009 were China, India, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Greece, according to the latest figures released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Read article

Ex-NY bank president first accused of TARP fraud

Reuters – The former president of New York’s privately held Park Avenue Bank was arrested on Monday on fraud charges, the first person accused of attempting to steal U.S. government bailout funds in the financial crisis. The charges came just three days after regulators seized the bank, which had $520 million in assets. A 10-count criminal complaint said Charles Antonucci devised “an elaborate round-trip loan transaction” that he told others was his own $6.5 million investment in Park Avenue Bank, misleading bank regulators. Antonucci made false statements in the bank’s application for $11.2 million from TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to the complaint. Read Article

Trauma of war doubles asthma risk among civilians

PhysOrg.com – Living through the trauma of war seems to increase the risk of developing asthma, suggests research published ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Those who are most traumatised are twice as likely to develop the condition as those who are least traumatised by their experiences of war, the research suggests. read Article

Official: Pentagon probing alleged spy operation

Associated Press – A Defense Department official is under investigation for allegedly hiring private contractors to gather intelligence on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a U.S. official said Monday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case, told The Associated Press that Michael D. Furlong directed a defense contract to gather information about the region that could be shared with military units. After military officials suspected that he was using Defense Department money for an off-the-books spy operation, defense officials shut down that part of the contract, the official said. Read article

US NOAA warns of big floods after fierce winter

(Reuters) – A huge snowpack from a harsh winter will cause extensive flooding this spring in the upper Midwest and in the major corn-growing state of Iowa, the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration said on Tuesday. “We are looking at potentially historic flooding in some parts of the country this spring,” NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told reporters in a briefing while presenting the government’s spring flood risk outlook – Read Article

Young jobless bear brunt of economy’s slide

ABC – 19 per cent of people under 25 were neither in a full-time job or studying in 2009. A new report on social trends provides further evidence that the economic downturn in Australia has been anything but mild for young people. According to most the Australian job market has been a cause for celebration – in the deepest global recession since the 1930s the unemployment rate here peaked at just 5.8 per cent. The conventional wisdom is that benevolent employers kept workers on with shorter hours to share the pain, but a study of social trends by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals a far more complex picture. “We’ve had a number of congenial myths swirling around in the public sphere and I think this analysis throws a bit of cold water on those myths,” said Dr Iain Campbell, a senior research fellow at RMIT and an expert on patterns of employment and unemployment. Read Article