Daily Archives

Fraud plagues global health fund

Associated Press – A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, The Associated Press has learned. Much of the money is accounted for with forged documents or improper bookkeeping, indicating it was pocketed, investigators for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria say. Donated prescription drugs wind up being sold on the black market. The fund’s newly reinforced inspector general’s office, which uncovered the corruption, can’t give an overall accounting because it has examined only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion that the fund has spent since its creation in 2002. But the levels of corruption in the grants they have audited so far are astonishing. Read Article

New TB vaccine protects before and after exposure

BBC – A new vaccine that can fight [Mycobacterium] tuberculosis (TB) before and after infection has been developed by Danish scientists. It could offer protection for many years more than is now possible. TB is a huge global problem, particularly in developing countries, where access to antibiotics to treat the disease is limited. Read article

Doctors Alarmed by Military’s Use of Mind Drugs on Troops

Fox News – As U.S. military leaders gathered Wednesday to give their latest update on the rash of Army suicides, new questions are being raised about a U.S. Central Command policy that allows troops to go to Iraq and Afghanistan with up to a six-month supply of psychotropic drugs. Prescription drugs have already been linked to some military suicides, and a top Army official warned last year about the danger of soldiers abusing that medication. Psychiatrists are now coming down hard on the military for continuing to sanction certain psychotropic drugs for combat troops, saying the risk from side effects is too great. But Nextgov.com reported that Army leaders and doctors are increasingly concerned that the policy continues to allow combat troops to use everything from antidepressants to antipsychotics to hypnotics, medications they say could impair a soldier’s judgment. The swath of active-duty troops on these kinds of medications, according to a June 2010 Defense Department report, was about 20 percentRead Article

Allies of Tunisia’s ousted president Ben Ali ‘detained’

Tunisian police have detained two politicians close to ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Mr Ben Ali’s former adviser Abdelaziz bin Dhia and former Interior Minister Abdallah Qallal are now under house arrest, state media have reported. Meanwhile, the owner of a private TV station has reportedly been arrested for “treason” for encouraging violence. Read article

UK phone-hacking ‘targeted ex-premier Brown’

PhysOrg.com – Fresh revelations in the scandal over phone hacking at the Rupert Murdoch owned News of the World forced Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief Andy Coulson, a former editor of the tabloid, to quit last week. According to newspaper and broadcast media reports Sunday, Brown asked police to investigate whether his phone had been hacked when he was Labour prime minister between 2007 and 2010. Read article

Australia, Hong Kong Among World’s Priciest Housing Markets, Survey Shows

Bloomberg – Australian homes are the most unaffordable among English-speaking nations, while those in the U.S. are the cheapest relative to incomes, a survey shows. The median home in Australia costs 6.1 times gross annual median household income, according to a report by Belleville, Illinois-based consulting company Demographia, examining affordability in the third quarter of 2010. U.S. homes were most affordable at 3 times median earnings. Hong Kong is the priciest city, with homes costing 11.4 times income. Australia has gone from being “the exemplar of modestly priced, high-quality middle class housing, to now the most unaffordable housing market in the English speaking world,” the report said. “Each of the least affordable markets were characterized by more restrictive land use regulation, which materially increases the price of land and makes housing less affordable.” Read Article

Rights groups slate European Union for hosting Uzbek dictator

Independent – Secretive talks with a state accused of using child labour in its cotton fields. The EU will controversially welcome one of the world’s most brutal dictators today after championing human rights and democracy in other oppressed states. Islam Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan, will meet Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary General, in a move that has caused embarrassment and confusion in Brussels. Mr Karimov has run Uzbekistan since its independence from the Soviet Union and tolerates no dissent. Today is his first official visit to Western Europe since a massacre in 2005 when his troops fired into crowds of unarmed protesters in the city of Andijan. Human rights groups estimate that at least 300 people were killed, perhaps many more. Uzbekistan’s state-controlled television is bound to show repeated images from today’s meetings in an attempt to boost Mr Karimov’s legitimacy. Read Article

Blast strikes pilgrims in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala

BBC – At least six people have died and 10 have been injured in a bomb attack on the edge of the Iraqi city of Karbala. Authorities said that the blast took place at a car park filled with buses carrying Shia pilgrims to the holy city. In a separate incident, Iraqi police have said that two roadside bombs exploded in the capital, Baghdad. Two officials were killed in one bomb attack and at least eight were injured in the second. Read Article

Outbreak of Jellyfish Could Spell Trouble for Fisheries

Reuters – The world’s oceans have been experiencing enormous blooms of jellyfish, apparently caused by overfishing, declining water quality, and rising sea temperatures. Now, scientists are trying to determine if these outbreaks could represent a “new normal” in which jellyfish increasingly supplant fish. Among the spineless creatures of the world, the Nomura’s jellyfish is a monster to be reckoned with. It’s the size of a refrigerator – imagine a Frigidaire Gallery Premiere rather than a hotel minibar – and can exceed 450 pounds. For decades the hulking medusa was rarely encountered in its stomping grounds, the Sea of Japan. Read article

Climate Fact Of The Day – Study shows plants moved downhill, not up, in warming world (contradicting IPCC claims)

Science 21 January 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6015 pp. 324-327
REPORT: Changes in Climatic Water Balance Drive Downhill Shifts in Plant Species’ Optimum Elevations

Shawn M. Crimmins1, Solomon Z. Dobrowski1,*, Jonathan A. Greenberg2, John T. Abatzoglou3 and Alison R. Mynsberge1
+ Author Affiliations
1Department of Forest Management, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana
2Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing, Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, University of California
3Department of Geography, College of Science, University of Idaho

Uphill shifts of species’ distributions in response to historical warming are well documented, which leads to widespread expectations of continued uphill shifts under future warming. Conversely, downhill shifts are often considered anomalous and unrelated to climate change. By comparing the altitudinal distributions of 64 plant species between the 1930s and the present day within California, we show that climate changes have resulted in a significant downward shift in species’ optimum elevations. This downhill shift is counter to what would be expected given 20th-century warming but is readily explained by species’ niche tracking of regional changes in climatic water balance rather than temperature. Similar downhill shifts can be expected to occur where future climate change scenarios project increases in water availability that outpace evaporative demand. READ WHOLE PAPER

Accounting Tweak Could Save Fed From Losses

CNBC – Concerns that the Federal Reserve could suffer losses on its massive bond holdings may have driven the central bank to adopt a little-noticed accounting change with huge implications: it makes insolvency much less likely. The significant shift was tucked quietly into the Fed’s weekly report on its balance sheet and phrased in such technical terms that it was not even reported by financial media when originally announced on Jan. 6. But the new rules have slowly begun to catch the attention of market analysts. Many are at once surprised that the Fed can set its own guidelines, and also relieved that the remote but dangerous possibility that the world’s most powerful central bank might need to ask the U.S. Treasury or its member banks for money is now more likely to be averted. Read Article

Mysterious gas leak off Mumbai coast stumps authorities

DNA – More than 12 hours after a gas leak led to a scare in many parts of central Mumbai on Saturday morning around 8.30am, fire and civic authorities are still looking for the source of the gas leak which left many complaining of itchy eyes, coughing and nausea. While admitting that the symptoms pointed strongly to the possibility that the leaked gas was ammonia, none of the authorities were willing to go on record saying so. Read article

Alastair Campbell Slip Over War Crimes ‘Guilt’

Daily Express – Campbell heaped further pressure on Tony Blair by admitting he and the former Prime Minister should face prosecution for war crimes if the invasion of Iraq is found to be illegal.In a rare slip-up, the spin doctor confessed that if it was found to be unlawful, those who took the country into war “should be punished”. He then tried to squirm out of his comments, made during a debate on BBC1’s Question Time, insisting the war in 2003 was lawful. Mr Campbell’s blunder came on the eve of Mr Blair’s appearance before the Chilcot inquiry yesterday. He was being quizzed by Burnley footballer Clarke Carlisle, a guest panellist. To huge applause Mr Carlisle, who has a cousin in the Army, questioned the transparency of Mr Blair’s appearance before the inquiry. “I don’t feel comfortable with what I am reading,” he said. Read Article

Volcano in Russian Far East continues to spew ashy plume

RIA Novosti – The active Kizimen Volcano on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula continues spewing plumes of ash at a height of up to six kilometers (3.72 miles), a representative for the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said on Thursday. “Seismologists registered about 200 local tremors in the vicinity of the volcano over the past 24 hours,” the spokesman said. Read article

Major reforms needed, says banking inquiry head

BBC – The head of the commission reviewing whether the UK’s biggest banks should be broken up has said wide-ranging reform is needed. In a speech in London, Sir John Vickers said plans to separate bank trading and retail operations were being looked at. These may require banks to put their investment arms into separate entities that could be allowed to collapse. Sir John stressed that no final decisions had yet been made by his Independent Commission on Banking. Read Article

CHOGM needs stop and search laws: Australian Labor

The West – The State Opposition has offered to withdraw its opposition to the government’s controversial stop and search laws, albeit temporarily. The Shadow Police Minister Margaret Quirk says Labor would support the laws for the duration of this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth in October. The proposed laws were defeated in parliament last year, but would have given police the power to search anyone in a declared area without consent or reasonable suspicion. Mrs Quirk says special police powers, such as stop and search, are essential for the meeting. Read Article

Study: Are Prozac-popping fish present in the St. Lawrence River in Montreal?

The Canadian Press – Are Prozac-popping fish present in the water supply? That’s the surprising question raised in a study by the Universite de Montreal’s chemistry department. The study found a significant quantity of anti-depressants in the water supply around the city, affecting the fishes’ tissue and brain activity. Read article

Baghdad hit by fresh car bombings

BBC – A series of car bombings across Baghdad has killed at least four people and wounded a number of others, Iraqi officials say. One attack targeted a police patrol, another bomb went off near a hotel and a third is reported to have been aimed at a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims. Last week, more than 150 people were killed in a wave of bombings in several Iraqi cities. The targets of those attacks were security forces and Shia pilgrims. Read Article

News of the World phone-hacking scandal threatens more newspapers

The Guardian – Britain’s tabloid newspapers are now facing a major crisis after being drawn into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Twenty-four hours after Andy Coulson, the prime minister’s communications chief and former News of the World editor, was forced to resign, a lawyer confirmed other newspapers were facing legal claims. Read article
Related article: Top aide to UK leader resigns in tabloid scandal