Daily Archives

Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter

AP – The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees’ pollen and hives laden with pesticides. Two federal agencies along with regulators in California and Canada are scrambling to figure out what is behind this relatively recent threat, ordering new research on pesticides used in fields and orchards. Federal courts are even weighing in this month, ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overlooked a requirement when allowing a pesticide on the market – Read Article

PM dismisses lobbying probe demands

The Independent – Gordon Brown today dismissed opposition calls for a Government investigation into claims that policy decisions were swayed by lobbying from former Cabinet ministers. The Prime Minister accepted assurances from the permanent secretaries of three Whitehall departments that there had been “no improper influence” on ministerial decisions. Read article

Netanyahu reaffirms ‘right to build’ in Jerusalem

BBC – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted Israel’s “right to build” in Jerusalem, following a row with the US over plans for new homes in the city. “Jerusalem is not a settlement, it’s our capital,” he said in Washington. But Mr Netanyahu did not mention the decision to expand the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo in a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group, Aipac. Read article

UN report: World’s biggest cities merging into ‘mega-regions’

Guardian – Trend towards ‘endless cities’ could significantly affect population and wealth in the next 50 years.
The world’s mega-cities are merging to form vast “mega-regions” which may stretch hundreds of kilometres across countries and be home to more than 100 million people, according to a major new UN report.
The phenomenon of the so-called “endless city” could be one of the most significant developments – and problems – in the way people live and economies grow in the next 50 years, says UN-Habitat, the agency for human settlements, which identifies the trend of developing mega-regions in its biannual State of World Cities report – Read Article

U.S. sends three Guantanamo detainees to Georgia

Reuters – Three detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba were sent to the country of Georgia, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday. It said the three detainees, whose identities were not disclosed for security and privacy reasons, were transferred earlier on Tuesday. These transfers were carried out under an arrangement between the two countries to make sure it took place under appropriate security measures, the Justice Department said, adding that consultations about the three will continue. Read Article

Bad behaviour in the classroom is being fuelled by parents, union leader says

The Guardian – Middle-class parents are fuelling bad behaviour in the classroom by “buying off” their children with computers and televisions rather than teaching them basic social skills, a teachers’ union leader said today. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said some parents failed to “support the right of the teacher to teach” and of pupils to learn by failing to create the right social conditions at home. Read Article

Kamchatkan volcano belches out ash to 7 km above sea level

Itar-Tass ““ A belching of ash to the altitude of seven kilometers above sea level has been registered over the crater of the Shiveluch, Kamchatka’s northernmost active volcano, experts at the regional affiliation of the Geophysical Service of the Russian Academy of Sciences said. The exuding of ash does not pose any risks for nearby population centers, as no data on the fallout of volcanic dust there has been reported – Read Article

Israeli government to be formally accused over “˜Mossad’ assassination

Telegraph – The Israeli government will be formally named as responsible for the assassination last month of a senior Hamas commander by a hit squad travelling on cloned British passports. Ron Proser, the Israeli Ambassador to London, was summoned to the Foreign Office on Monday to be told the results of an inquiry into the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whose body was discovered in a luxury Dubai hotel room in January. Read article

Global deficits to push interest rates higher

Wall St Journal – THE Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned that big budget deficits around the world will push interest rates higher and has urged those countries already recovering to work harder to get their government spending back into surplus. The Paris-based advisory body said governments should consider cutbacks to pension and health entitlements and increases in GST in a set of recommendations for G20 nations to make their budgets more sustainable. The OECD said that by the end of next year, Australia would have the lowest debt as a share of GDP while its budget deficit, at 2.6 per cent of GDP, would rank it sixth-best. Read Article

Rotarix rotavirus vaccine contaminated, officials say

CNN — Federal health authorities recommended Monday that doctors suspend using Rotarix, one of two vaccines licensed in the United States against rotavirus, saying the vaccine is contaminated with material from a pig virus. “There is no evidence at this time that this material poses a safety risk,” Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [M. Hamburg] Rotarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, was approved by the FDA in 2008. About 1 million children in the United States and about 30 million worldwide have gotten Rotarix vaccine, she said. Read Article Related article: link

Pakistan pushes US for nuclear technology deal

Guardian – Pakistan wants the US to provide it with nuclear technology for a civilian energy programme and is to push the Obama administration this week for a deal. Islamabad seeks a civilian nuclear deal to mirror the package granted to India by George Bush, a proposal that would prove contentious in Washington, given Pakistan’s uneven record on combating extremist groups and its sale of nuclear technology to states hostile to the west, led by the former head of its programme, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. Read article

French government backs down on carbon tax plan

BBC – The French government has signalled that it is dropping a plan for a tax on domestic carbon dioxide emissions. Jean-Francois Cope, parliamentary leader of the governing UMP party, was quoted as saying the tax “would be Europe-wide or not (exist) at all”. Prime Minister Francois Fillon told parliament that the government should focus on policies that increased France’s economic competitiveness. Read Article

Bernanke Running Amuck

Money and Markets – Fed Chairman Bernanke is running amuck, and for the first time since the birth of the U.S. dollar, our government is egregiously abusing its power to print money. Specifically, from September 10, 2008 to March 10 of this year, he has increased the nation’s monetary base from $850 billion to $2.1 trillion “” an irresponsible, irrational and insane increase of 2.5 times in just 18 months. It is, by far, the greatest monetary expansion in U.S. history. And you must not underestimate its sweeping historical significance. Read Article

Study explores link between sunlight, multiple sclerosis

Physorg.com – For more than 30 years, scientists have known that multiple sclerosis (MS) is much more common in higher latitudes than in the tropics. Because sunlight is more abundant near the equator, many researchers have wondered if the high levels of vitamin D engendered by sunlight could explain this unusual pattern of prevalence. Vitamin D may reduce the symptoms of MS, says Hector DeLuca, Steenbock Research Professor of Biochemistry at University of Wisconsin-Madison, but in a study published in PNAS this week, he and first author Bryan Becklund suggest that the ultraviolet portion of sunlight may play a bigger role than vitamin D in controlling MS. Read article

The homeless pay the price

The Guardian – Homeless and mental health services in the US are being cut back as cities, counties and states run out of cash. Recently, I (Sasha Abramsky – article author) wrote about public education in crisis. But two other vital public services are also being hit hard by budget cuts: mental health care and assistance to the homeless. Read Article

‘Netanyahu seeks US bombs for Iran attack’

Press TV – As Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu plans a visit to Washington, a report says he will ask the US to release sophisticated bombs needed for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.  Netanyahu will ask Israel’s closest ally to supply sophisticated ‘bunker-buster’ bombs needed to break through to Iran’s nuclear enrichment sites, the Sunday Times reported. … Meanwhile, the Sunday Herald has reported that hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia located in the Indian Ocean.  Read article

Labour suspends three ex-ministers over lobbying claims

BBC – Three former ministers have been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party “for bringing it into disrepute”.
Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon are under investigation over their apparent willingness to help a lobbying firm in return for cash. They were secretly filmed by the Channel 4 programme Dispatches, but have denied any wrong-doing. Read article

Hussman: I’m Not Saying There’s Going To Be Hyperinflation, But INFLATION IS GOING TO BE HUGE

Business Insider – In his latest note, John Hussman ponders the inexorable connection between debt and inflation. And though he’s not calling for all-out hyperinflation he is… well, concerned: In bonds, the Market Climate remained characterized last week by modestly unfavorable yield levels and hostile yield pressures. The Strategic Total Return Fund continues to carry a duration of about 4 years, mostly in intermediate term Treasury notes. My near-term concern continues to be the risk of fresh credit strains. As we observed in 2008 and early 2009, the likely outcome of such credit strains is a flight-to-safety toward default-free Treasury securities (a flight that tends to outweigh supply concerns over the near term), and a tendency toward dollar strength and commodity weakness. Read Article

France Abandons Plan for Carbon Tax

NYTimes “” After months of political rancor and legal obstacles, the French government on Tuesday shelved its plan to introduce a tax on carbon emissions that had been a cornerstone of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s enviromental policy Ministers and members of the governing UMP party said the tax would put French companies at a disadvantage to their European neighbors, most of whom do not pay anything similar.
But analysts said the drubbing handed to the center-right government on Sunday in regional elections brought the U-turn from Mr. Sarkozy – Read Article

Underemployment Hits 20% in Mid-March

Gallup – Gallup’s underemployment measure hit 20.0% on March 15 — up from 19.7% two weeks earlier and 19.5% at the start of the year. Gallup Daily tracking makes it possible to monitor the underemployment rate throughout the month, rather than just once per month, making it the best and most timely way to measure the U.S. jobs situation. The findings underscore why Americans say the most important problem facing the nation today is jobs and unemployment. Gallup’s underemployment measure is based on more than 20,000 phone interviews collected over a 30-day period and reported daily. Gallup’s results are not seasonally adjusted and tend to be a precursor of government reports by approximately two weeks. Read Article

Hard plastics decompose in oceans, releasing endocrine disruptor BPA

Physorg – Scientists today reported widespread global contamination of sea sand and sea water with the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) and said that the BPA probably originated from a surprising source: Hard plastic trash discarded in the oceans and the epoxy plastic paint used to seal the hulls of ships.
“We were quite surprised to find that polycarbonate plastic biodegrades in the environment,” said Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D. He reported on the discovery today at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held here. Saido and Hideto Sato, Ph.D., and colleagues are with Nihon University, Chiba, Japan. “Polycarbonates are very hard plastics, so hard they are used to make screwdriver handles, shatter-proof eyeglass lenses, and other very durable products. This finding challenges the wide public belief that hard plastics remain unchanged in the environment for decades or centuries. Biodegradation, of course, releases BPA to the environment.” – Read Article

WWF hopes to find $60 billion growing on trees

 The Telegraph – The carbon credits scheme would make WWF and its partners much richer, but with no lowering of overall CO2 emissions, writes Christopher Booker .
If the world’s largest, richest environmental campaigning group, the WWF ““ formerly the World Wildlife Fund ““ announced that it was playing a leading role in a scheme to preserve an area of the Amazon rainforest twice the size of Switzerland, many people might applaud, thinking this was just the kind of cause the WWF was set up to promote. If it then emerged, however, that a hidden agenda of the scheme to preserve this chunk of the forest was to allow the WWF and its partners to share the selling of carbon credits worth $60 billion, to enable firms in the industrial world to carry on emitting CO2 just as before, more than a few eyebrows might be raised. The idea is that credits representing the CO2 locked into this particular area of jungle ““ so remote that it is not under any threat ““ should be sold on the international market, allowing thousands of companies in the developed world to buy their way out of having to restrict their carbon emissions. The net effect would simply be to make the WWF and its partners much richer while making no contribution to lowering overall CO2 emissions – Read Article

Diego Garcia: Iran attack mystery deepens

Herald Scotland – The Foreign Office is coming under mounting pressure to tell the truth about whether there are plans by the US to use the British island of Diego Garcia as a base to launch an attack on Iran. Leading opposition politicians are demanding answers from UK ministers on the role played by the Indian Ocean atoll in previous attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan, and in any future strikes. Read article

Suit claims police harass journalists and bystanders

Associated Press – New Orleans police officers have engaged in a pattern of unlawfully arresting or harassing journalists and bystanders who tape or photograph them in public, a lawyer for two men suing the city told a federal jury Monday. A lawsuit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, claims police officers violated the constitutional rights of plaintiffs Greg Griffith and Noah Learned, who were arrested at a 2007 Carnival parade. The plaintiffs cite 11 other incidents since 2005 in which people were arrested or allegedly threatened while videotaping, photographing or merely observing police officers. The list of potential plaintiffs’ witnesses includes Times-Picayune city editor Gordon Russell and Associated Press Television News producer Rich Matthews. Read Article

UK Government webpage for every citizen in the race to create a paperless society

Times – All public services could be delivered online within four years under an ambitious pledge by Gordon Brown to create a paperless state and save billions of pounds, The Times has learnt. Tens of thousands of public sector jobs could go in Jobcentres, benefit offices, passport centres and town halls if face-to-face transactions are scrapped in favour of cheaper and more efficient online form-filling. Read Article