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Over Easy

2:49 am in Drug Policy, Economy, Environment, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

We can’t take a personal look at the Antarctic ice cap without taking a ship to the area so most of us are not aware of another dark side of climate change and its effects: the actual darkening of the ice.

The ice pack in Greenland this year is black. Reports Slate’s Eric Holthaus:

‘There are several potential explanations for what’s going on here. The most likely is that some combination of increasingly infrequent summer snowstorms, wind-blown dust, microbial activity, and forest fire soot led to this year’s exceptionally dark ice. A more ominous possibility is that what we’re seeing is the start of a cascading feedback loop tied to global warming. [Climate scientist Jason] Box mentions this summer’s mysterious Siberian holes and offshore methane bubbles as evidence that the Arctic can quickly change in unpredictable ways.

This year, Greenland’s ice sheet was the darkest Box (or anyone else) has ever measured. Box gives the stunning stats: ‘In 2014 the ice sheet is precisely 5.6 percent darker, producing an additional absorption of energy equivalent with roughly twice the US annual electricity consumption.’

Voters in Scotland have been casting their ballots on the independence of that country, with prediction of disaster and of new and heady powers balancing each other to nearly even predictions as to the results. The state of the U.K. has alienated many in the country it rules; ‘Some see the U.K. as stuck in a postimperial, postindustrial crisis in which marketization threatens the very fabric of the society, imperiling its finest institutions, such as the National Health Service and British universities. ‘

A Panelbase poll released earlier on Wednesday, which was not carried out for any media outlet, suggested support for independence was on 48%, with 52% support for Scotland staying in the UK, once undecided voters were excluded.

The Pope will meet with Argentine president de Kirchner Saturday, with vulture funds’ court decisions part of the agenda, as well as the governance of the embattled country, a Vatican spokesman confirmed.

‘He is Argentine and has lived what we all have. He supports the democratic process, that means watching for Cristina (Fernández),’ Karcher said in statements to media this morning ahead of a meeting between the pontiff and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to be held in the papal residency of Santa Marta this weekend.

Regarding the meeting’s agenda, the monsignor considered the scope of issues the heads of state are expected to discuss ‘very wide’ with ‘no matter being excluded,’ leaving a door open for both leaders to address Argentina’s legal dispute against vulture funds. Pope Francis, Karcher said, ‘is critical of any position that does not favour the people.’

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:51 am in Culture, Economy, Foreign Policy, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

An uneasy truce allowed Gaza residents to venture out onto battered streets to acquired supplies needed for their existence, as an Egyptian-brokered peace continued for an undefined period.

‘After 50 days of warfare in which a terror organization killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, destroyed the daily routine (and) placed the country in a state of economic distress … we could have expected much more than an announcement of a ceasefire,’ analyst Shimon Shiffer wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper.

‘We could have expected the prime minister to go to the President’s Residence and inform him of his decision to resign his post.’

Netanyahu, who has faced constant sniping in his cabinet from right-wing ministers demanding military action to topple Hamas, made no immediate comment on the Egyptian-mediated truce deal that took effect yesterday’s evening.

Forty years ago a Canadian town decided to give monetary support without strings to residents under a survivable level of income. That service is still paying dividends to this day.

The Dauphin experiment, like four others in the United States around the same time, was an attempt to measure if providing extra money directly to residents below a certain household income would be effective social policy.

Dauphin was unique among those studies in that all residents of the municipality and surrounding area, with a population of about 10,000, were eligible to participate if they met the criteria.

(snip)

Decades after the program ended, sociology professor Evelyn Forget dug up records from the period and found there were far-reaching benefits in the education and health sectors.

In a 2011 study she reported an 8.5 percent drop in hospital visits, a decrease in emergency room visits from car accidents and fewer recorded instances of domestic abuse. There was also a reduction in the number of people who sought treatment for mental health issues. And a greater proportion of high school students continued to the 12th grade.

As with U.S. experiments during the same period, there was no evidence that it led people to withdraw from the labor market, according to her research.

Promotion of a leading proponent of gender equality to the new cabinet as Education Minister evoked threats of demonstrations against the new minister from the right in France as the new government formed.

Vallaud-Belkacem, who was minister for women’s rights, youth and sport before becoming the first woman to take charge of the education portfolio, became a hate figure for the right when she backed an experimental reform introduced into 275 primary schools last year aimed at overcoming gender stereotyping. The minister was dubbed ‘Khmer Rose’ by the rightwing Le Figaro, and was accused of importing the controversial gender theory from the US.

Vallaud-Belkacem, 36, told FranceInfo radio that ‘pointless polemics’ would have no place in her ministry and that she was ‘committed to the equality of boys and girls more than anything else.’

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:54 am in Culture, Economy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today I will be putting the outside news up a day early.  Usually on Thursday, but today Wednesday, we will collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

This was mentioned by attaturk earlier, but worth pointing to for any later than wee hour readers:

Production of shrimp by major Thailand fishing concerns has been revealed to involve use of forced labor working under appalling conditions which has included the killing of workers as well as beatings and grueling long hours.   Shrimp from these concerns are sold to the world’s top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

(snip)CP Foods – a company with an annual turnover of $33bn (£20bn) that brands itself as ‘the kitchen of the world’ – sells its own-brand prawn feed to other farms, and supplies international supermarkets, as well as food manufacturers and food retailers, with frozen or cooked prawns and ready-made meals. It also sells raw prawn materials for food distributors.

In addition to Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco, the Guardian has identified AldiMorrisons, the Co-operative and Iceland as customers of CP Foods. They all sell frozen or cooked prawns, or ready meals such as prawn stir fry, supplied by CP Foods and its subsidiaries. CP Foods admits that slave labour is part of its supply chain.

‘We’re not here to defend what is going on,’ said Bob Miller, CP Foods’ UK managing director. ‘We know there’s issues with regard to the [raw] material that comes in [to port], but to what extent that is, we just don’t have visibility.’

You can help in the rejection of slavery by asking how shrimp is produced at stores you frequent, and by telling management at your markets of choice that you will not buy products produced by such methods, and avoiding the shrimps from CP Foods.

Discussions involving proposed Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) are surfacing in many groups, with an underlying concept that if the general population had the means to live at a very elemental level, there would be no need for social services and avoid abuses.

One alternative proposal is the Jobs Guarantee (JG) program. The idea behind the JG is that the government guarantees everyone who is willing and able to work a job at a fixed wage. The government then invites charities and nonprofits to sign on to the program and offer citizens work on neighborhood projects and others that are judged to be beneficial to the community as a whole. The JG has been successfully implemented in countries such as Argentina in the past on a somewhat limited basis.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:50 am in Business, Culture, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Fold in Monterey Formation

The U.S. dollar was out on the streets in a deal entered into by Russia and China, agreeing to trade in their own currencies.   This was followed by a massive natural gas sale that has been worked out over ten years, to China from Russia.

“Breaking the dominance of the U.S. dollar in international trade between the BRICS is something that the group has been talking about for some time,” said Chris Weafer, a founding partner of Macro-Advisory, a consultancy in Moscow. “The Ukraine crisis and the threats voiced by the U.S. administration may well provide the catalyst for that to start happening.”

To be sure, the Russia-China bank deal is mostly a symbolic step. Liza Ermolenko, an emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London, said that the deal was still “a very small one, in the grand scale of things,” and that it wouldn’t change Russia’s reliance on the dollar “overnight.” Most of Russia’s export contracts in the oil and gas markets are still priced in dollars, she noted, and on a wider scale, replacing the dollar with the ruble is much too risky to even consider.

Likewise, even though China has agreed to the gas deal, which could see over $450 billion of Russian natural gas flow from eastern Siberia into China over the next 30 years, Russia is not in a position to abandon its ties with Europe.

“From the commercial standpoint, Europe is the most profitable market for Gazprom,” said Mikhail Korchemkin, the founder of Eastern European Gas Analysis, who has consulted for Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company. “Exports to China can generate a small profit, [but] only if the government makes it free of taxes and duties.”

But the bank deal is another indicator that Russia and China are in the middle of a wider rapprochement, which analysts say is premised not on ideological alignment but on a mutual desire to undercut the U.S. in their respective spheres of influence.

(snip)

Separate from that political posturing, the Russian imperative to find new markets for its energy exports is nonetheless very real. Energy demands in Europe have plateaued and may even decline in the long term because of stringent environmental regulations.

At the same time, Israel and China were signing agreements to develop technology for the future together at a joint conference in Jerusalem at  the Israel-China Economic Summit this week.

“The science and technology of Israel need market potential and also market rules, and Zhejiang is a great partner,” Zhou Guohni, director- general of Zhejiang Province (population 55 million), told The Jerusalem Post at the signing in Tel Aviv. “We are facing a transformation and upgrade of the industry, and we need Israel’s technology to help transform and upgrade it.”

The Economy Ministry’s Chief Scientist Avi Hasson said the agreement “will help many Israeli companies expand into the Chinese market and marks the next stage in the economic and technological relationship between our two countries.”

Attorneys for Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab have been cleared to view footage of forced feeding of their client, a first admission that such films even exist of the practice which is considered abusive.

District court judge Gladys Kessler, of the Washington DC circuit, rejected an argument from the government that the tapes were irrelevant to Dhiab’s unusual lawsuit, which seeks to get a federal judge to set the conditions of his military confinement, which Dhiab considers amount to torture.

One of Dhiab’s attorneys, Jon Eisenberg, said the government possess thousands of tapes detailing feeding and cell extraction conditions of the other detainees. Over 100 Guantánamo detainees participated in the 2013 hunger strike, which garnered international attention and an information blackout from the military command overseeing the detention center.

While California may not qualify as foreign territory, interesting developments there reflect on growing doubt about ‘information’ oil companies issue to promote petroleum extraction.  Estimates of recoverable oil from shale have been backtracked by 96% in developing fields of the Monterey, CA, deposits.  This coincides with warnings issued formerly by Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas USA (ASPO-USA) about over-optimistic predictions of the available oil resources, and previously expressed doubts wherein ‘Dallas Federal Reserve advisory board member Deborah Rogers brought out a startling lack of geological evidence that there is present in shale enough gas reserves to justify the expenses of drilling’.

While the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale deposits are “relatively even and layered like a cake,” the L.A. Times said, the 1,750-square-mile Monterey Shale has been “folded and shattered” by earthquakes — meaning the oil is lodged too deep to recover with currently available technology.

For some, the EIA’s new estimate confirms what they’ve been saying for years. Shale oil is notoriously hard to extract because it lies within shale rock formations underground, so drillers have been forced to use more controversial, unconventional methods to get it out of the ground.

The most widely used of those methods has been hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a process by which drillers inject high-pressure streams of water, chemicals, and sand into underground rock formations, “fracturing” the rock to release oil and gas. Ironically, that process has also been shown to cause earthquakes, the very problem which makes the Monterey Shale’s oil even more difficult to get at.

The outcroppings of radical hate language is hardly confined to AZ where the Bundy ranch seemed to attract extremists against U.S. government.  In Israel, a furor has occurred about one rabbi who called for taking knives to the government.

“On Shabbat I spoke to my kids, and I said that Rabbi Shteinman spoke and said ‘practically speaking we have today Haman, Amalek, all of this government, and the way is to take knives and to kill them, like with the [ancient] Greeks,’” Kaplan said.

“So why aren’t we doing it? Because, he said, ‘I don’t know who the general is to run the war. If I would know who is the general we’d go out with knives.’ This is what Rabbi Shteinman said. There’s a war on religion.”

Maybe there’s a War on Christmas we didn’t even suspect.

Never.Give.Up. Read the rest of this entry →

Over Easy

2:49 am in Culture, Economy, Environment, Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

The planet is increasingly hazardous to defend, as the interests against it gain market share and invidious tactics. Hundreds have died in their fight to save all of us, and the planet we are living on. Land rights are growing in fatal events in disputes, and indigenous populations very vulnerable.

‘There can be few starker or more obvious symptoms of the global environmental crisis than a dramatic upturn in the killings of ordinary people defending rights to their land or environment,’ said Oliver Courtney, a senior campaigner for Global Witness.

‘This rapidly worsening problem is going largely unnoticed, and those responsible almost always get away with it,’ Courtney said.

The report’s release followed a dire warning by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said global warming is driving humanity toward unprecedented risk due to factors such as food and water insecurity. Global Witness said this puts environmental activists in more danger than ever before.

A controversial report has concluded that an immense waste of money on supplying Tamiflu to prevent and control flu outbreaks may have been all gained in our health efforts.

The Cochrane Collaboration claimed the drug did not prevent the spread of flu or reduce dangerous complications, and only slightly helped symptoms.

The manufacturers Roche and other experts say the analysis is flawed.

Barry Clinch from Roche said Tamiflu had been approved by 100 regulators around the world.

The antiviral drug Tamiflu was stockpiled from 2006 in the UK when some agencies were predicting that a pandemic of bird flu could kill up to 750,000 people in Britain. Similar decisions were made in other countries.

The Kiev government launched an offense against military incursions the Russian government styles as local defense, the west describes as invasion, in the confusion of Eastern Ukrainian contests for control.  Ukrainian soldiers in the advance have been observed to remove firing pins to show nonviolent intent.

Andrey Parubiy, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, announced the first battalion of a National Guard ‘comprised of volunteers from Maidan self-defense troops,’ has left Kiev for the south-east.

Russia has warned that if Kiev uses force against anti-Maidan protests in eastern Ukraine, this would undermine the effort to convene a four-party conference on resolving the crisis in the country, which would include the US, the EU, Russia and Ukraine.

Turchinov also proposed conducting a joint operation with UN peacekeeping forces, a decision that was strongly condemned by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov at a Beijing press conference on Tuesday as ‘totally unacceptable.’

A bright spot in the Middle East, Tunisia continues to evolve out of its former autocratic model into a more popular front. Problems are churning, but positive efforts continue to dominate the entirety. The revolution has put into power diverse elements that are working together.  Sympathetic observation finds the Tunisian workers seeking to benefit from a better economy still under stress in the recovery.

Since 2011 there has been no deviation from course: integrating Tunisia into the international division of labour by offering foreign investors a skilled workforce and miserable wage levels. This model can only perpetuate the huge regional inequalities.

(snip)

On the repayment of the foreign debt incurred by Ben Ali and in part siphoned off by members of his clan, Caid Essebsi told me: ‘People talk about the debt, but it isn’t catastrophic, since it’s under 50%. Other countries such as France have a ratio of 85%’ (7). He added quickly that ‘a country with self-respect pays its debts, whoever’s in power. Since independence, Tunisia has never reneged on its debt.’ This is what Ghannouchi told me the day before: ‘Tunisia has a longstanding record of honouring its debts. We shall abide by it.’

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:50 am in Culture, Economy, Foreign Policy, Government, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde warned that economic weakness may continue into the future if wealthier nations do not take positive steps that promote growth. This follows the U.S. Federal Reserve’s retreat from stimulative policies.

 The IMF’s managing director said that global economic signs were positive overall, but that ‘without sufficient policy ambition, the world could fall into a medium-term low-growth trap.’

She called for governments to reform labour markets to encourage job creation, and for more public investment such as transport and communications networks in rich and emerging countries. … Low inflation also means that governments and businesses find it more difficult to repay their debts.

Aftershocks continued along Chile’s coast today following the earthquake Tuesday in the Iquique area. Strong building codes have been credited with saving multitudinous threatened lives in coastal Chile following the 8.2 magnitude earthquake there earlier this week. Tsunami warnings have been lowered, a measure that happened so prematurely in 2010′s large earthquakes that resulting deaths were blamed on the flooding that followed. Continuing tremors in California have not been directly related to the Chilean outbreak.

Given that three of the 10 largest earthquakes ever recorded have been in Chile, the populace is long accustomed to earthquake survival protocols. Building standards in Chile require multiple-storey buildings to be capable of withstanding a 9.0 earthquake, though in rural areas many older buildings – often made of adobe – are prone to sudden and often deadly collapse.

Tuesday’s quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia’s capital about 290 miles away was the equivalent of a magnitude-4.5 tremor, authorities there said.

But it was not the ‘big one’ seismologists expect to hit the region at some point.

Carbon dioxide levels that contributed to the largest mass extinction yet discovered has been attributed to methane-spewing microbes following seismic activity that occurred in large portions of the planet aeons ago.

About 252 million years ago, more than 96 percent of ocean life and 70 percent of land-based life forms died in an event known as the end-Permian extinction. The mass die-off happened in a geologic flash of just 60,000 years. Scientists have proposed everything from massive meteor impacts to coal explosions to rifting supercontinents to explain this cataclysmic extinction. [Wipe Out: History's Most Mysterious Extinctions]

Rocks from that time period in locations such as Meishan, China, show that atmospheric carbon-dioxidelevels skyrocketed right around the time of the extinction. Sediments also show that during this time, the largest set of volcanic eruptions in recorded geologic history — called the Siberian Traps — spewed enough lava to cover the entire landmass of the United States, said study co-author Gregory Fournier, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Therefore, many researchers have theorized that the Siberian Traps could have belched out the extra carbon dioxide, choking life on the planet.

(snip)

The amount of methane-producing bacteria subsided after about 100,000 years, but the damage had been done: It would take another 30 million years for the diversity of life to rebound, Fournier said.

The new government in Ukraine has found a massive problem in dealing with members of the former corrupt regime still occupying public administrative positions.

The government has made a decision to dismiss 10 percent of civil servants, or 24,000 people. However, some ministers confess in private that it would probably be fair to keep 10 percent of the existing staff, but they cannot do this because they are constrained by legislation and potential lawsuits that would drain time and energy.

The problems run the gamut. Igor Bilous, deputy finance minister who oversees the work of the tax system, says he inherited 60,000 tax personnel whose ‘thinking grew in the wrong environment.’

With salaries hovering around Hr 1,500, corruption within the department previously was presumed. As a result, regular tax inspectors who came to audit businesses, offered to ‘solve their problems’ at a small cost. But the bigger fish dealt with bigger money and more complex schemes, such as VAT return schemes. Bilous said he and the new staff he brought in three weeks ago have already identified 16 inspectors who specialized in facilitating the return of fake VAT claims.

How refreshing it would be if such a review of holdover public ‘servants’ could be effected inside the Beltway here.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

4:00 am in Culture, Economy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeshore Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

First, I am still in the tangle of travel being made really slow by our extreme weather and will be late getting back home today. I’m writing this in the waiting area in Chicago’s Union Station, along with a lot of other delayed passengers from all directions. Spudtruckowner will be coming to get me, so wish him good travel but he won’t be able to spend a lot of time here.

Israel is faced with economic crisis in the event of a failure to reach peace in negotiations with its neighbors.

Based on an evaluation prepared by the Finance Ministry’s chief economist, Lapid said that even a low-scale boycott would ‘hit every Israeli citizen directly in his pocket.’ The cost of living would rise, and education, security, health, and welfare budgets would be slashed, he said.

Indian politicians accusing rape victims of provoking their countrymen by wearing inappropriate clothes and acting provocatively appear to be joining forces with candidates of their mindset on the U.S. right.

Mirje, who is a member of the state women’s commission, said in reference to the Delhi assault: ‘Did Nirbhaya really have to go and watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend?’

‘Nirbhaya,’ a Hindi word meaning ‘fearless,’ has been widely adopted by the Indian media as a name for the victim.

Mirje also commented on the gang-rape of a photojournalist who was on an assignment at a disused mill in Mumbai last year, asking why the victim had gone to such an isolated place.

‘Rapes take place also because of a woman’s clothes, her behaviour and her presence at inappropriate places,’ the politician said, adding that women must be careful and think if they are inviting assault.

Stem cells have been converted for use in areas of the body outside their original genesis in experiments that promise quicker and cheaper use of the stem cells to cure a variety of problems.

The human body is built of cells with a specific role – nerve cells, liver cells, muscle cells – and that role is fixed.

However, stem cells can become any other type of cell, and they have become a major field of research in medicine for their potential to regenerate the body.

(snip)

Now a study shows that shocking blood cells with acid could also trigger the transformation into stem cells – this time termed STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) cells.

Dr Haruko Obokata, from the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Japan, said she was “really surprised” that cells could respond to their environment in this way.

Palestinian refugees are cut off from desperately needed aid as they continue to be caught in conflicts that have destroyed their home and is destroying them as well.

In the Yarmouk camp, more than 55 people have died from hunger and the majority of children are suffering from malnutrition, according to Abdullah al-Khatib, a Palestinian activist living there. Most people are consuming soup made from water and spices, Khatib said, and some are reportedly eating grass for survival.

Starvation conditions continue despite recent UN efforts to get much-needed food through the street battles and checkpoints, and most residents are still searching garbage piles for anything edible, Khatib told Al Jazeera on Monday. Until last week, food aid had not been delivered to the camp since September 2013.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

4:40 am in Business, Culture, Environment, Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

In tribute to Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner, the Over Easy community gathers to discuss news of the day of a morning.

The first death of a bird flu victim in North America has been confirmed in Alberta.

The infected person, an Alberta resident who recently travelled to Beijing, China, died Jan. 3.

The case was confirmed in a lab test last night. It’s the first such case in North America.

The person first showed symptoms of the flu on a Dec. 27 flight from Beijing to Vancouver aboard Air Canada flight 030. The passenger continued on to Edmonton on Air Canada flight 244, after spending a few hours in the Vancouver airport, and was admitted to hospital Jan. 1. The symptoms of fever, malaise and headache worsened and the patient died two days later. The Public Health Agency of Canada was notified Jan. 5.

Greece assumed the European Union presidency on the first day of 2014, amid expectations that the country’s position as a beginning for much immigration into Europe will impact its rule of that body.

The Greek presidency’s top priorities are

• tackling the major problem of youth unemployment
• increasing the availability of credit to small and medium-sized businesses.

Its other aims include improving economic governance in the eurozone and concluding negotiations on the next stage of banking union. The main aim here is to prevent a repeat of the recent financial crisis.

Greece also wants to step up EU action on illegal migration and make changes to EU strategy in the fields of maritime affairs and data protection legislation. Another issue on the agenda is reaching agreement on the use of first-generation biofuels and shale gas.

A U.N. statement condemning anti-civilian bombings by Syria’s government in Aleppo was blocked by Russia.

Attacks using barrel bombs and Scud missiles by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have killed hundreds of people.

A UN diplomat said Russia put forward amendments to the UK-sponsored statement that removed reference to what had happened in Aleppo.

Russia, a key ally of Syria, last month blocked a similar US-drafted statement.

Russia, joined by China, has also vetoed three Security Council resolutions that would have condemned the Syrian government and threatened it with sanctions.

Hearings on the police shooting death of Mark Duggan concluded yesterday by finding that it was justified.

The officers had intercepted the 29-year-old in an operation based on intelligence that he was part of a gang and had collected a gun. He was being followed by officers who believed he planned to pick up a gun from another man, Kevin Hutchinson-Foster, and then move on to Broadwater Farm, also in Tottenham.

The jury said police had not done enough to gather and react to intelligence about the possibility of Duggan collecting a gun from Hutchinson-Foster.

But they found that the car had been stopped in a location and in a way that “minimised to the greatest extent possible recourse to lethal force”.

The Metropolitan police shooting in north London on 4 August 2011 sparked the worst riots in modern English history.

As radioactive contamination continued to pour into the sea around Fukushima, cleanup operations are proving to be fertile ground for burgeoning gangster functioning to funnel off the work.

Finding thousands of bodies to fill some of the most undesirable jobs in the developed world, particularly in a country with an aging population and growing labor shortage, is tough the legal way. And many of the estimated 50 Yakuza gangs in Fukushima have leapt to the task of supplying workers to the labor-intensive effort to decontaminate the prefecture.

“To quickly gather 4,000, 5,000 decontamination workers in Fukushima, you need to do it the traditional way,” said Katsura. “Using the Yakuza.”

The decontamination industry is particularly appealing for criminals, because of the extra government-funded $100-a-day in danger pay per worker. And Fukushima laborers in the grip of organized crime are even less likely to receive their fair share.

“The government says it will pay $100 a day, but I initially got $20,” said Sato, a worker who was lured to Fukushima by the government’s promise of extra cash. “The contractors and subcontractors took the remaining $80.”

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

5:02 am in Culture, Economy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

In tribute to Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner, the Over Easy community gathers to discuss news of the day of a morning.

Happy Second Day of Christmas – since there are actually Twelve Days.  In South and Central America, and many countries throughout the world, the giving of gifts traditionally is on the Fiesta de los Tres Reyes, Twelfth Day.  No doubt you also realize it’s the High Gift Return Day celebration.

In Vatican Square, Pope Francis continued his reign of terror on Mammon worshipers with a message of tolerance and love for fellow men.

“Whoever hates his brother, writes the brother John, is in the darkness,” he said, “God’s grace has been revealed and has made salvation possible for the whole human race.”

Francis explained that the first to notice Jesus’ birth, according to biblical accounts, were the shepherds.

“They were the first because they were among the last, the outcasts … They kept vigilant,” he said.

The Queen of England granted a pardon posthumously to Alan Turing after his being punished for homosexuality by chemical castration and being removed from his vital work in codebreaking during WWII.

The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that had proved vital to the Allies in World War Two.

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.

‘Appalling’ treatment

“Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind,” said Mr Grayling.

He said the research Turing carried out during the war at Bletchley Park undoubtedly shortened the conflict and saved thousands of lives.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is reported intending to demand release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard as a condition for further peace negotiations with Palestine.

Netanyahu appeared to be responding to mounting pressure following revelations that Britain’s GCHQ and America’s National Security Agency had targeted then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, his defence minister, Ehud Barak, and Barak’s chief of staff.

(snip)

“It’s a matter of justice,” said the deputy defence minister, Danny Danon. “The Americans can’t come to us asking for more and more while Pollard remains in prison.”

No revelations about Brazilian spying from the U.S. will be given by Edward Snowden in exchange for residency in Brazil, he announced.

Although the Brazilian government has not extended an asylum offer to Snowden, the contractor said he would accept one if it were to come his way.

“Of course! If the Brazilian government wanted to defend human rights, it would be an honor for me to be a part of this. Brazil is a beautiful country and I am thankful for having so many new friends and allies over there,” Snowden said in his first interview with a Brazilian outlet, according to O Globo.

“I will never exchange information for asylum, and I also do not believe the Brazilian government would do that,” he added.

Never.Give.Up.

Read the rest of this entry →

Over Easy

4:56 am in Culture, Drug Policy, Economy, Environment, marijuana legalization, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

In tribute to Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner, the Over Easy community gathers to discuss news of the day of a morning.

Take a moment this a.m. to thank Jane and fellow pups for FDL’s early and vigorous push to legalize marijuana, now bearing fruit in such rational behavior as Uruguay’s taking the industry under its wing, reducing threats to public well-being, and retaining profits for the public there.  There was some opposition from traditional drug war adherents.

The world’s most far-reaching cannabis law has been passed by the Uruguayan parliament, opening the way for the state to regulate the production, distribution, sale and consumption of the planet’s favourite illegal drug.

The law, effective from next year, will: allow registered users to buy up to 40g of marijuana a month from a chemist’s; registered growers to keep up to six plants; and cannabis clubs to have up to 45 members and cultivate as many as 99 plants.

A government-run cannabis institute will set the price – initially likely to be close to the current black market rate of $1 a gramme – and monitor the impact of the programme, which aims to bring the industry under state control and push illegal traffickers out of business.

Seeing rational behavior by other governments may someday influence voters in the U.S. to step into a path that serves us rather than those industries that abuse us.

Severe weather predominated in the U.S., and in Middle Eastern areas where Syrian refugees have been seeking improved conditions.  Tents were not able to hold back the cold, while aid is hampered in general by the inability to function in the snow and bitter cold.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has worked around the clock, partnering in recent days with the Lebanese army, to distribute winter supplies including thermal blankets and money for heaters.

But despite the efforts, UNHCR spokeswomen Lisa Abou Khaled said there were concerns for thousands of people living in more than 200 informal camps in central and north Lebanon.

Present actions by Congress to wipe out gains made in U.S. negotiations with Iran, to manage its development of nuclear powers, discourage negotiators from early hopes.  Challenges to the ability of the executive branch to carry on U.S. affairs impaired the country further, though late Wednesday congressmen began making gestures to balance appearances of destructive upheaval to the constitutional functions of the WH and State Department.

Congressional action toward new sanctions against Iran now would make the U.S. appear bellicose and uninterested in a policy change on Iran’s nuclear program. If this perception were to take hold, the international sanctions regime could easily collapse.

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To be effective, Congress should make any new sanctions laws prospective, meaning that they would only go into force if Iran fails to reach a final deal with U.S. and its allies on its nuclear program in the next six months. Better yet, Congress should simply keep its proposed tougher sanctions locked up in committee while still boasting about how tough and draconian the new laws are likely to be. In the meantime, if the interim deal collapses, harsh sanctions legislation such asH.R. 850, which passed the House on July 31, 2013, and the proposed Senate version being considered by the Senate Banking Committee could quickly become law. If elements of the House version became law, the current Presidential waivers that allow Iran to sell one billion barrels of crude a day would be eliminated.

Never.Give.Up.