Daily Archives

Extreme weather wreaks havoc in Europe

Heavy overnight snowfall grounded about 450 flights and caused major delays at German airports Friday, forced schools to close and left highways clogged with traffic after scores of accidents that killed at least two people and injured dozens. Snow also hindered flights in the neighbouring Netherlands, where Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport saw 30 cancellations and major delays ahead of the busy Christmas holiday season, spokeswoman Mirjam Snoerwang said -Read Article

Pakistani officials: US drone strikes kill 21

CNN — Three suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region killed at least 21 suspected militants Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said. All three strikes occurred in the Khyber Agency, one of the seven districts of Pakistan’s volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The attacks come as the strikes are expanding into new areas of Pakistan for the first time, and they may signal an extension of the hunt for terrorists along the border with Afghanistan. Read Article

Moody’s slashes Ireland to Baa1, warns on future debt

Reuters – Moody’s Investors Service slashed Ireland’s credit rating by five notches to Baa1 with a negative outlook from Aa2 on Friday and warned further downgrades could follow if Ireland was unable to stabilize its debt situation. Ireland’s debt levels have quadrupled since late 2007 on the back of a banking sector meltdown, and it needs solid economic growth to ensure it can meet repayments and fiscal targets set down in the 85 billion euros EU/IMF bailout agreed last month. Moody’s downgrade followed Fitch’s move last week to become the first ratings agency to strip Ireland of its ‘A’ credit status, cutting it by three notches to BBB+ following the debt-stricken government’s request for an EU/IMF bailout. Read Article

Meal replacements don’t help obese teens slim down

Reuters – Replacing regular meals with shakes and prepackaged entrees boosts obese teens’ weight loss in the early stages of dieting, new research shows. But these “meal replacements” were no better than a standard low-calorie diet for helping young people continue losing weight over the course of a year, Dr. Robert L. Berkowitz of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and his colleagues found. Read article

Airstrike Accidentally Kills Four Afghan Soldiers

Wall Street Journal – A coalition airstrike meant to target insurgents in southern Afghanistan accidentally killed four Afghan soldiers, the Afghan government said. The four soldiers were leaving their base in Musa Qala district of Helmand province on Wednesday night when they were hit by coalition aircraft, said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry. Read Article

Security firm Xe Services to be sold

Reuters – Xe Services, the U.S. security firm formerly known as Blackwater which has faced criticism for its work in Iraq and Afghanistan, has reached a deal to sell the firm to a small group of investors based in Los Angeles, the New York Time said, citing people briefed on the deal. The deal, which is expected to be announced on Friday, may be worth about $200 million, the Times said. Read Article

Venezuela parliament gives Hugo Chavez more powers

BBC – Venezuela’s parliament has granted President Hugo Chavez special powers to deal with the aftermath of devastating floods. Mr Chavez will be able to pass laws by decree, without needing the support of congress, for 18 months. His critics say the move will turn the country into a near-dictatorship. They accuse him of taking advantage of the floods to strengthen his grip on power before a new congress is sworn in in January. This is the fourth time Mr Chavez has been given such authority since he came to office almost 12 years ago. Read Article

London: The tuberculosis capital of Europe

Short Sharp Science – It’s long been one of the biggest curable killers in the developing world, but now a review in the Lancet has concluded that London is the capital of tuberculosis infections in Europe. Read article

Designing the vertical farm

US tax cuts: Obama signs compromise deal into law

BBC – US President Barack Obama has signed into law a compromise tax bill agreed with the Republicans, averting income tax rises for millions of Americans. Mr Obama said the $858bn (651bn euros; £542bn) package was “real money that’s going to make a real difference”. The deal also extends benefit payments for some of the longer-term unemployed for 13 months. The bill passed over objections from House Democrats about tax breaks for wealthy Americans. Mr Obama said compromise was needed to win Republican support. The $858bn package was passed by 277 votes to 148 in the House of Representatives. Read Article

Weir Group fined further £3m for kickbacks to Saddam’s regime

Guardian – The engineering firm Weir Group has been fined £3m after it admitted bribing allies of Saddam Hussein to win lucrative contracts in Iraq, in breach of tough UN sanctions against the Iraqi ruler’s regime. The Glasgow-based company, one of Scotland’s best known engineering firms, pleaded guilty this week to two charges of paying kickbacks of more than £3m to win contracts to supply £35m worth of pumps under the UN oil for food programme. The firm, newly promoted to the FTSE 100 index of leading companies, had already agreed to repay £13.9m, equivalent to its profits from the Iraqi contracts, after it was exposed by the US defence-contract audit agency in 2004 and later named in a UN investigation. Read Article

Canada: Region votes to stop fluoridating tap water

570 News Radio – Despite a final plea from proponents of fluoridation, Regional Council has moved forward with a plan to stop adding fluoride to tap water in Waterloo. Council voted 10 to 3 in favour of ending a 43-year tradition of fluoridating tap water in Waterloo, Elmira and part of Kitchener on November 29th at noon. Read article

Key Information About Breast Cancer Risk and Development Is Found in ‘Junk’ DNA

ScienceDaily — A new genetic biomarker that indicates an increased risk for developing breast cancer can be found in an individual’s “junk” (non-coding) DNA, according to a new study featuring work from researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech and their colleagues. Read article

South Korea set for live-fire drills despite North threat

Reuters – South Korean marines were poised on Saturday to conduct a live-fire drill off the west coast despite a threat by the North to launch a new strike and Beijing’s call for restraint from the rival states. A U.S. troubleshooter, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, called the situation “a tinderbox” and urged the North to let the rival South conduct exercises. Analysts were skeptical the North would carry out its threat issued on Friday, rattling financial markets in the face of a vow by the South to retaliate against any attack by Pyongyang. Read Article

Goldman Sachs Hires N.Y. Fed’s Lubke, Point Man on Swaps Reform

Bloomberg – Theo Lubke, who headed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s efforts to reform the private derivatives market, joined Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to help Wall Street’s most profitable firm navigate the looming overhaul of financial regulations. Lubke, 44, started this month as chief regulatory reform officer in Goldman Sachs’ securities division, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. The newly-created role will allow Lubke to “work closely with divisional and firm-wide leadership to implement regulatory reform legislation,” the memo said. Read Article

Climate Fact Of The Day – The Impact of Global Warming on Marine Boundary Layer Clouds over the Eastern Pacific


Journal Of Climate (Volume 23, 1 November 2010)
AXEL LAUER (International Paci?c Research Center, University of Hawaii); KEVIN HAMILTON AND YUQING WANG (International Paci?c Research Center, and Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii); VAUGHAN T. J. PHILLIPS (Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii); RALF BENNARTZ (Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin)

Cloud simulations and cloud–climate feedbacks in the tropical and subtropical eastern Paci?c region in 16
state-of-the-art coupled global climate models (GCMs) and in the International Paci?c Research Center
(IPRC) Regional Atmospheric Model (iRAM) are examined. The authors ?nd that the simulation of the
present-day mean cloud climatology for this region in the GCMs is very poor and that the cloud–climate
feedbacks vary widely among the GCMs. By contrast, iRAM simulates mean clouds and interannual cloud
variations that are quite similar to those observed in this region. The model also simulates well the observed
relationship between lower-tropospheric stability (LTS) and low-level cloud amount

WikiLeaks cables: Sudanese president ‘stashed $9bn in UK banks’

The Guardian – Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has siphoned as much as $9bn out of his impoverished country, and much of it may be stashed in London banks, according to secret US diplomatic cables that recount conversations with the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court. Some of the funds may be held by the part-nationalised Lloyds Banking Group, according to prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who told US officials it was time to go public with the scale of Bashir’s theft in order to turn Sudanese public opinion against him. Read Article

USA: New push to stop adding fluoride to Burlington, Vermont water

WCAX-TV – A new push to stop adding fluoride to Burlington’s water supply. Supporters of the 50-year-old practice say it helps prevent cavities. Voters chose to continue fluoridation in a city-wide referendum in 2006. But… Read article

WikiLeaks cables: India accused of systematic use of torture in Kashmir

Guardian – US officials had evidence of widespread torture by Indian police and security forces and were secretly briefed by Red Cross staff about the systematic abuse of detainees in Kashmir, according to leaked diplomatic cables. The dispatches, obtained by website WikiLeaks, reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees. Read Article

EU agrees on permanent eurozone rescue fund

BBC – EU leaders have agreed to set up a permanent mechanism to bail out any member state whose debt problems threaten the 16-nation eurozone. The eurozone stability mechanism will require a change to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty – and that has now been agreed. The European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, said EU leaders were ready to do whatever was required to protect the currency. This year Greece and the Irish Republic have received emergency EU bail-outs. Read Article

English students face £6,500 tuition fees at Scottish universities

The Guardian – English students could be charged as much as £6,500 a year to attend a Scottish university under plans outlined by the Scottish National party today. Scottish ministers fear that measures in London to allow English universities to charge students up to £9,000 a year will dramatically increase the number of “fee refugees”. Read article

One in six boys of five can’t write their name after year of school

Daily Mail – More than 50 per cent of boys are struggling with the basics after a full year of schooling, official figures revealed. And nearly one in six cannot write his name at this stage. This means some cannot dress on their own, sound out the alphabet, count to ten or write words such as ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. Read article

Julian Assange bail decision made by UK authorities, not Sweden

The Guardian – The decision to have Julian Assange sent to a London jail and kept there was taken by the British authorities and not by prosecutors in Sweden, as previously thought, the Guardian has learned. The Crown Prosecution Service will go to the high court tomorrow to seek the reversal of a decision to free the WikiLeaks founder on bail, made yesterday by a judge at City of Westminster magistrates court. It had been widely thought Sweden had made the decision to oppose bail, with the CPS acting merely as its representative. But today the Swedish prosecutor’s office told the Guardian it had “not got a view at all on bail” and that Britain had made the decision to oppose bail. Read Article

U.S. arrests 4 in widening insider trading probe

Reuters – Four people were arrested on charges of leaking secrets about technology companies to hedge funds, including details about Apple Inc’s iPad ahead of its launch, in a widening U.S. probe into insider trading. Authorities said another person, a former employee of Dell Inc, had pleaded guilty on December 10 to charges he had provided inside information about the company. The case is part of a widening insider trading probe that intensified with a string of raids on hedge funds last month and subpoenas for information about their activities. Read Article

Caffeine Negatively Affects Children: Most Consume Caffeine Daily

ScienceDaily — Caffeine consumption in children is often blamed for sleep problems and bedwetting. Information on childhood caffeine consumption is limited, and many parents may not know the amount or effects of their child’s caffeine consumption. In a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that 75% of children surveyed consumed caffeine on a daily basis, and the more caffeine the children consumed, the less they slept. Read article