Daily Archives

No charges for destroying CIA interrogation videos

Washington Post — A special prosecutor cleared the CIA’s former top clandestine officer and others Tuesday of any charges for destroying agency videotapes showing waterboarding of terror suspects, but he continued to investigate whether the harsh questioning went beyond legal boundaries. The decision not to prosecute anyone in the videotape destruction came five years to the day after the CIA destroyed its cache of 92 videos of two al-Qaida operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, being subjected to waterboarding, which evokes the sensation of drowning. The deadline for prosecuting someone under most federal laws is five years. Read article

Chinese agency cuts US credit rating

Investment week – China’s leading credit rating agency downgraded the US to ‘A’ following last week’s announcement of a second round of quantitative easing. In a report out today, Dagong Global Credit Rating Co says the rating reflects the deteriorating debt repayment capability of the US and drastic decline of the government’s intention of debt repayment.
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Scientists: Beak deformities increase in Northwest America

AP- Scientists have observed the highest rate of beak abnormalities ever recorded in wild bird populations in Alaska and the Northwest, a study by two federal scientists said. The U.S. Geological Survey study on beak deformities in northwestern crows in Alaska, Washington and British Columbia follows a trend found earlier in Alaska’s black-capped chickadees. “The prevalence of these strange deformities is more than 10 times what is normally expected in a wild bird population,” said research biologist Colleen Handel -Read Article

UK: Some charity fraud could go unpunished as budget is cut

BBC – Significant fraud carried out in charities may go unpunished because of 27% government cuts to their regulator, the Charity Commission. Its chief executive, Sam Younger, is considering a policy of ignoring some official reports of charity fraud. This would be for cases up to a “quite high” threshold. The government says it is confident the commission will respond to the challenging cuts. It wants charities to help provide more public services. Read article

Soybeans, Corn Jump to Two-Year Highs as Smaller Supply Seen; Wheat Gains

Bloomberg – Soybean and corn prices jumped to the highest levels in more than two years and wheat advanced after the U.S. government forecast smaller supplies than expected last month. Read article

Physicists protest colleague’s terrorism detention

Nature – Adlène Hicheur, a high-energy physicist who has worked on the world’s largest particle collider, has been held in a French prison under suspicion of terrorism for more than a year. Now, his colleagues are publicly protesting what they describe as his Kafkaesque detention. In a letter to the French Physical Society, 19 physicists say that they are deeply concerned about Hicheur, a 33-year-old French-Algerian who until his arrest was a postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and worked on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. Signatories to the letter include Jack Steinberger, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics, who works at CERN. Read article

Georgia and Russia collide over ‘spy ring’

The Guardian – Georgia and Russia were today heading towards a new crisis after Tbilisi announced it had dismantled a Moscow-run spy ring, arresting four Russians and nine Georgians.The Russian government rejected the charges, denouncing them as a “provocation” timed to disrupt the Russian-Nato summit in Portugal later this month.The crisis comes little more than two years after the countries went to war, with bilateral relations still extremely tense. Read Article

Cholera deaths in hard-hit Haiti city add to toll

Reuters – A three-week-old cholera epidemic that has killed more than 640 people in Haiti is spreading quickly in the northwest coastal city of Gonaives, authorities said on Wednesday. Pierrelus Saint-Justin, the mayor of Gonaives, said he personally buried 31 people on Tuesday and had another 15 bodies in a truck waiting for burial. “Others should [could] be dying as we speak,” Saint-Justin told Reuters in a telephone interview. “Since Nov. 5 until today, we have buried at least 70 people and that is only in the downtown area of Gonaives. There are more people who died in rural areas surrounding Gonaives.” Read article

Another coal seam gas chemical scare in Australia

The Australian-QLD Premier Anna Bligh has defended environmental safeguards for gas projects after a carcinogen was found in three coal seam gas wells in the state. Routine tests at Arrow Energy’s Moranbah gas project, west of Mackay, have detected traces of benzene in three of 60 fluid samples taken, the company said today. Arrow has ordered independent tests to verify the results but said it was unlikely the chemical had spread to water bores -Read Article

US mid-terms: Politicians spent $4.2bn on ads – more than any other election in U.S. history

Daily Mail – Politicians spent a staggering $4.2billion on campaign TV ads in the run-up to last week’s mid-term elections, it was claimed today.The 1.48 million television spots were the most for any election in U.S. history – including the 2008 presidential campaign.And some of the cities where candidates spent the most were in areas most blighted by the nation’s economic slump.Top of the spending league was Ohio, where Democrats and Republicans battled tight races. Cleveland was first with the state capital, Columbus, coming in second. Read Article

IEA predicts oil prices will more than double by 2035

Deutsche Welle – The International Energy Agency has warned that governments need to do more to increase efficiency and boost green technologies to meet a forecasted 36 percent jump in energy demand between 2008 and 2035. The agency, the energy arm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a grouping of the world’s richest nations, forecast that global oil demand will rise to 99 million barrels a day by 2035, some 15 million barrels a day higher than last year. “The message is clear, the price will go up, especially if consuming countries do not make changes in the way they consume oil, especially in the transport sector,” the IEA’s chief economist and lead author of the report, Fatih Birol told Reuters in an interview. Read article

Rumours of Irish bailout sweep through financial markets

The Guardian – Fears that Ireland could be forced into a Greek-style bailout by the European Union or the International Monetary Fund swept through financial markets today after the beleaguered country’s borrowing costs soared to levels seen as unsustainable by investors.Long-term Irish interest rates surged to their highest levels since the launch of the single currency amid growing evidence that repeated bouts of budget austerity have failed to convince international investors that the former Celtic Tiger economy can cope with the banking crisis caused by a boom-and-bust in its housing market. Read Article

Privacy Advocates Call Out Microsoft, Google, and Others for Spying on Users

Daily Tech – Increasingly internet users online activities are being monitored and sold by large companies, landing some users in embarassing or financially damaging situations. Some privacy advocates are calling on the U.S. government to regulate how much user info can be collected. Industry coalition is pushing for tougher privacy legislation — but is it a trojan source to sneak in monitoring. In light recent data breaches like AT&T’s accidental release of 100,000+ iPad customers’ email addresses (including both Democratic and Republican politicians), some in the software industry and government are pushing for tougher privacy standards. Among those companies pushing for improvements is Microsoft. Peter Cullen, chief privacy strategist for Microsoft Corp, speaking at the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference, states, “Information is the currency of growth, but it’s also increasingly become the currency of crime. People have very high expectations when it comes to companies in terms of how they collect, use, store and most importantly protect their information.” Read Article

Test found which can pick up signs of dementia in middle age

The Australian – A BRAIN health test could become part of a doctor’s check-up routine, as Australian research has found a simple way to detect the early signs of cognitive decline. Scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) used a computer-based test which could accurately predict who, during middle-age, already had warning signs for dementia. The test assessed a person’s reaction time while also looking for erratic answering patterns, and it raised a red flag those who an MRI scan later found to have dementia-related brain lesions. Read article

EU President Threatens: ‘Euroscepticism leads to war’

Daily Telegraph – Euroscepticism leads to war and a rising tide of nationalism is the European Union’s “biggest enemy”, Herman Van Rompuy, the president of Europe has told a Berlin audience. Mr Van Rompuy linked hostility to the EU, and the idea that countries could leave the Union, to a revival of aggressive nationalism. “We have together to fight the danger of a new Euroscepticism. This is no longer the monopoly of a few countries,” he said. “In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion: it is a lie.” The controversial comments made on Tuesday come less than a fortnight after David Cameron, the Prime Minister, declared that he was a Eurosceptic after his gruelling Brussels summit battle to block a sharp increase in the EU budget at a time of national austerity.  Read Article

Cookie monsters: browser beware as political websites plant spy devices

Brisbane Times – Politicians are letting foreign-owned companies covertly gather information about voters. The websites of Barry O’Farrell, Kristina Keneally, Tony Abbott and the Greens plant spying devices on visitors’ computers, which can track them as they browse the internet. Information gathered about a user’s online behaviour can be used to build detailed profiles to help target advertisements – a practice many believe is a threat to privacy. Online tracking is done mainly by cookies (text files) and beacons (invisible images). Read article

Climate Fact Of The Day: Correlation between solar activity and US temperatures in the 20th Century

Source: Oregon Institute of Science & Medicine

Source: Oregon Institute of Science & Medicine

Despite the changes in solar irradiance being very small in % terms, there is a very good correlation between solar irradiance and temperature of the mainland states of the USA over the 20th century.

Amnesty: prosecute Bush for admitted waterboarding

Reuters – The United States must prosecute former President George W. Bush for torture if his admission in a memoir that he authorized waterboarding holds true, rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday. Read Article

Look out, your medicine is watching you

MSN – Novartis AG plans to seek regulatory approval within 18 months for a pioneering tablet containing an embedded microchip, bringing the concept of “smart-pill” technology a step closer. The initial program will use one of the Swiss firm’s established drugs taken by transplant patients to avoid organ rejection. But Trevor Mundel, global head of development, believes the concept can be applied to many other pills. Read article

US: Nearly 59 million lack health insurance: CDC

Reuters – Nearly 59 million Americans went without health insurance coverage for at least part of 2010, many of them with conditions or diseases that needed treatment, federal health officials said on Tuesday. They said 4 million more Americans went without insurance in the first part of 2010 than during the same time in 2008. Read article

Wall Street Collects $4 Billion From Taxpayers as Swaps Backfire

Bloomberg – The subprime mortgage crisis isn’t the only calamity Wall Street created that’s upending the finances of U.S. states and cities. For more than a decade, banks and insurance companies convinced governments and nonprofits that financial engineering would lower interest rates on bonds sold for public projects such as roads, bridges and schools. That failed promise has cost more than $4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as hundreds of borrowers from the Bay Area Toll Authority in Oakland, California, to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, quietly paid Wall Street to end agreements since 2008.  Read Article

US deficit plan looks to cut $4,000bn

Financial Times – Leaders of a presidential commission proposed $4,000bn in cuts to popular programmes such as social security, defence and Medicare to reduce the US budget deficit, and challenged members of the bipartisan panel to thrash out a compromise in the coming weeks. Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton administration official, on Wednesday presented the blueprint of spending cuts and changes to the tax code that would reduce the budget deficit to 2.2 per cent of gross domestic product by 2015.The plan would raise the retirement age for social security, currently at 66, to 68 by 2050 and 69 by 2075, and lower individual and corporate tax rates while cutting or modifying a number of popular tax breaks such as the mortgage interest deduction Read Article

World Bank chief surprises with gold standard idea

Reuters – Leading economies should consider adopting a modified global gold standard to guide currency rates, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said on Monday in a surprise proposal before a potentially acrimonious G20 summit. Writing in the Financial Times, Zoellick called for a “Bretton Woods II” system of floating currencies as a successor to the Bretton Woods fixed-exchange rate regime that broke down in the early 1970s. Read article
Related article: Gold pushes through $1,420 as dollar slips

Burma court rejects Suu Kyi appeal

BBC – Burma’s top court has rejected the appeal by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her house arrest. Her current detention order expires on 13 November anyway, prompting speculation that she could be freed on Saturday. However Ms Suu Kyi’s lawyer told the BBC she was highly unlikely to accept a conditional release if it excluded her from political activity. Ms Suu Kyi has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years. Read Article

Look who owns Britain: A third of the country STILL belongs to the aristocracy

Daily Mail – More than a third of Britain’s land is still in the hands of a tiny group of aristocrats, according to the most extensive ownership survey in nearly 140 years.
In a shock to those who believed the landed gentry were a dying breed, blue-blooded owners still control vast swathes of the country within their inherited estates.
A group of 36,000 individuals – only 0.6 per cent of the population – own 50 per cent of rural land. Read article