Daily Archives

Canada: Council revives lingering debate over fluoride in Calgary’s water

Calgary Herald – City council is contemplating removing fluoride from its municipal water supply, reigniting the decades-old debate among medical experts and opponents about the value of adding it to tap water. Ald. Druh Farrell is set to present a motion calling for the city to scrap its fluoridation program on Monday and says she has nine other aldermen prepared to support her plan. Read article

Israel said it would keep Gaza near collapse: WikiLeaks

CBS – Israel told US officials in 2008 it would keep Gaza’s economy “on the brink of collapse” while avoiding a humanitarian crisis, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by a Norwegian daily on Wednesday. Three cables cited by the Aftenposten newspaper, which has said it has all 250,000 U.S. cables leaked to WikiLeaks, showed that Israel kept the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv briefed on its internationally criticized blockade of the Gaza Strip. Read Article

California court allows police to search cellphones

New Scientist – That the law often lags behind technology by now is an axiom. It happened again this week when the California supreme court ruled that police can search through a suspect’s cellphone without a warrant after the arrest. The court ruled that once arrested, defendants can expect to lose rights of privacy guaranteed by the US constitution. The court, in a five-to-two decision, had to use 30-year-old precedent to decide the case. It ruled that “the police, having lawful custody of the individual, necessarily have the authority to search the arrestee’s body and seize anything of importance they find there.” Read Article

Metabolic Cost of Human Sleep Deprivation Quantified by Researchers

ScienceDaily — In the first-ever quantification of energy expended by humans during sleep, a University of Colorado team has found that the metabolic cost of an adult missing one night of sleep is the equivalent of walking slightly less than two miles. The new findings will help researchers further understand one of the important functions of sleep in humans, said CU-Boulder Associate Professor Kenneth Wright. Wright, who led the study, said the goal was to measure and quantify energy expenditure during both sleep and wakeful periods. Read article

Pentagon in $9.1bn fraud case in Iraq

Press TV – Iraq’s Supreme Audit Court says the US Ministry of Defense has failed to account for the USD 9.1 billion misspent discretionary funds during Iraq’s occupation. The Pentagon received USD 9.1 billion back in 2004 from the US-led occupation authority funds set up to benefit Iraqi people with assets seized from the previous regime of Saddam Hussein. According to Iraqi newspaper al-Bayanat al-Jadidah, this recent release follows the 2010 finding of USD 8.7 billion in Iraq funds not accounted for. Read Article

Britons begin popping polypills

PressTV – It is the first trial of the [combination] drug among over-50s in the UK, The Guardian reported. The idea was first put forward by two British professors in 2003. Prof. Sir Nicholas Ward and Prof. Malcolm Law, from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, suggested in a paper in the British Medical Journal that a pill combining low doses of several drugs to bring down cholesterol and blood pressure could save lives. Read article

With the P.K.K. in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains

New York Times – It is not easy to visit the mountainous borderlands of northern Iraq where the Kurdistan Workers’ Party operates, but it is not impossible either. Such is the peculiar position of a group of committed insurgents against Turkish rule in Kurdish lands — even as Turkey and Iraq seek deeper and deeper ties, through diplomacy and trade, especially with Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region. Read Article

Ivory Coast: UN plans more peacekeepers

BBC – UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast are sending a request to the Security Council for 1,000 to 2,000 more troops amid the continuing political crisis. UN peacekeeping chief in Ivory Coast Alain Le Roy said he hoped the troops would be available in a few weeks. UN peacekeepers have been protecting a hotel in Abidjan that is sheltering Alassane Ouattara, the man recognised internationally as the new president. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to cede power. Read Article

Italian Banks Upset with Level of Cash Use; Underground Economy 22% of GDP

Bloomberg – Cash is king in Italy, a lesson Massimiliano Romano learned when he tried to pay for a cab with a credit card at Rome’s main train station. “I thought my cards would be enough,” said Romano, head of research at brokerage Concentric Italy in Milan. “But I had to let 10 people go in front of me in the line before I found a driver who would accept a credit card.” The Italian Banking Association has declared “war on cash” in a country where credit-card usage is less than half the European Union average, according to the Bank of Italy. Read Article

Legal highs: the dark side of medicinal chemistry

Nature – Synthetic chemist David Nichols describes how his research on psychedelic compounds has been abused — with fatal consequences. Read article

Resurgent Turkey Flexes Its Muscles Around Iraq

A Turkey as resurgent as at any time since its Ottoman glory is projecting influence through a turbulent Iraq, from the boomtowns of the north to the oil fields near southernmost Basra, in a show of power that illustrates its growing heft across an Arab world long suspicious of it. Its ascent here, in an arena contested by the United States and Iran, may prove its greatest success so far, as it emerges from the shadow of its alliance with the West to chart an often assertive and independent foreign policy. Read Article

U.S. Consumer Bankruptcies Rose 9% in 2010 to 1.5 Million, Institute Says

Bloomberg – U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings rose 9 percent last year compared with 2009, reaching 1.53 million, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, which projected 2010 bankruptcies totaling 1.6 million. The pace of bankruptcy filings slowed in the last quarter, with fewer petitions in October and November than during the same period a year earlier, according to the Alexandria, Virginia-based ABI. The slowdown at the end of the year was the result of more consumers reducing debt and cutting spending, ABI Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano said today in an interview. “I think there are fewer people on the ledge, who are susceptible to that final economic event,” Gerdano said. Read Article

Climate Fact Of The Day – Correlation between solar cycle length and mean temperature (West Chester, Pennsylvania)

Source: D.Archibald, The past & future climate

From this data it is likely that West Chester will be 1.5c colder over the coming decade than it was over the last decade

AIDS gel prevents infection in monkeys

Reuters – An experimental gel protected female monkeys from the AIDS virus in a test designed to mimic human sexual transmission, researchers said on Wednesday. The gel uses an AIDS drug along with a zinc compound and protected all animals tested from infection with the monkey version of HIV, the researchers report in the Public Library of Science open-source journal PLoS ONE. Read article

American TV Viewing Continues to Edge Up

NY Times – Historians may someday note with wonder that by the end of 2010, at least six cable television shows were about auctioneers and pawnbrokers. And all were considered successes by their respective channels. Read article

Police, army increasingly targeted in Iraq: official

Reuters · The violence in Iraq has moved into a new phase, with both Shiite and Sunni groups increasingly targeting police and army officers in Baghdad, a senior official said Tuesday. There have been at least 37 successful and attempted assassinations in the Iraqi capital in the last two months, most aimed at police officers and carried out using handguns with silencers or small bombs attached to cars. Three police and one army officer were killed in separate shootings on Sunday; on Monday there was at least one assassination and one attempt, the Interior Ministry says.Read Article

Europe starts confiscating private pension funds

Washington Examiner – The U.S. isn’t the only place that’s facing a major pension fund crisis. The Christian Science Monitor has this alarming report: People’s retirement savings are a convenient source of revenue for governments that don’t want to reduce spending or make privatizations. As most pension schemes in Europe are organised by the state, European ministers of finance have a facilitated access to the savings accumulated there, and it is only logical that they try to get a hold of this money for their own ends. In recent weeks I have noted five such attempts: Three situations concern private personal savings; two others refer to national funds. Read Article

Australian floods raise fears of wheat shortage

The Telegraph-Severe flooding in Australia could lead to an increase in the price of bread on supermarket shelves due to global shortages of wheat. US wheat futures rose heavily yesterday as concerns grew that Australian wheat growers will be unable to deliver their harvests as a result of the devastation. Australia is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wheat after the USA, Canada and Russia -Read Article

Greece To Build Anti-Migrant Fence Along Section Of Turkish Border

RTTNews – Greece on Monday announced plans to build an 8-mile long fence along a section of its land border with Turkey to keep out illegal migrants. The border fence plan was announced by Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis, who claimed that more than 100,000 illegal migrants had entered Greece though the porous border with Turkey just last year alone. Read article

DNA clears Cornelius Dupree from 30 years in Texas jail

BBC – A man in the US state of Texas has had his robbery conviction overturned after serving 30 years in jail – longer than anyone in Texas cleared by DNA. Cornelius Dupree Jr was jailed from 1979 to 2010 as part of a 75-year sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. The 51-year-old was freed on parole in July 2010. DNA test results proved his innocence roughly one week later. A judge has now officially overturned Mr Dupree’s conviction. “It’s a joy to be free again,” Mr Dupree said outside the Dallas County courtroom. Mr Dupree told the CNN network he had “mixed emotions” about the hearing considering how long he had been in jail. Read Article

Midwives call for ‘seismic shift’ in maternity services

BBC – The leader of the UK’s midwives says there needs to be “a seismic shift” in the way maternity care is provided. Cathy Warwick said there was a “concerted and calculated backlash” against home birth and midwife-led care. In a New Year’s message, the head of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), claimed maternity services were “almost near breaking point”. Read article

WikiLeaks: US targets EU over GM crops

The Guardian-US embassy cable recommends drawing up list of countries for ‘retaliation’ over opposition to genetic modification. The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show. In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops -Read Article

China ‘leaks’ sneak peek of latest stealth aircraft going for a test run

Daily Mail – Aviation experts believe China may have started testing a new stealth aircraft – putting it well ahead of Western predictions that a revamped air force would not be ready for take-off for another decade. Photographs of the latest J-20 taking high-speed taxi tests at an airfield have appeared on several websites, fuelling speculation that Beijing is not particularly concerned about keeping its latest weapon under wraps – at least unofficially. According to the Aviation Week website, security at the airfield where the J-20 was photographed was slack and the prototype could be viewed from several public areas. Read Article

UK Inflation alert after surge in world trade triggers record rise in cost of raw materials

Daily Mail – Fears of an imminent rise in interest rates escalated last night after a surge in manufacturing triggered record rises in the cost of raw materials. Thanks to booming global trade, the cost of basic commodities, such as cotton and wheat, is now rising at a pace not seen for at least two decades, a survey released yesterday found. The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply revealed that input price inflation – the costs involved in producing finished goods, including energy and raw materials – in December shot to the highest level since its manufacturing survey began in 1992. Read Article

Seven-month-old babies can ‘read minds’

Nature – Babies as young as seven months old may be able to take into account the thoughts and beliefs of other people, according to a paper published today in Science1. Called ‘theory of mind’, this ability is central to human cooperation. The finding provides evidence for the earliest awareness in infants so far of others’ perspectives, says lead author Ágnes Kovács, a developmental psychologist at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. Read article