Puppet Masters


Stolen cobalt-60 found abandoned in Mexico

An International Atomic Energy Agency said the truck carrying cobolt-60, a dangerous radioactive substance used for cancer treatment, was stolen.
A missing shipment of radioactive cobalt-60 was found Wednesday near where the stolen truck transporting the material was abandoned in central Mexico, the country's nuclear safety director said.

The highly radioactive material had been removed from its container, officials said, and one predicted that anyone involved in opening the box could be in grave danger of dying within days.

The cobalt-60 was left in a rural area about a kilometer (a half a mile) from Hueypoxtla, an agricultural town of about 4,000 people, but it posed no threat or a need for an evacuation, said Juan Eibenschutz, director general of the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards.

"Fortunately there are no people where the source of radioactivity is," Eibenschutz said.

Commission physicist Mardonio Jimenez said it was the first time cobalt-60 had been stolen and extracted from its container. The only threat was to whoever opened the box and later discarded the pellets of high-intensity radioactive material that was being transported to a waste site. It had been used in medical equipment for radiation therapy.

"The person or people who this took out are in very great risk of dying," Jimenez said, adding that the normal survival rate would be between one and three days.


Fukushima water tanks: leaky and built with illegal labor

Storage tanks at the Fukushima nuclear plant like one that spilled almost 80,000 gallons of radioactive water this year were built in part by workers illegally hired in one of the poorest corners of Japan, say labor regulators and some of those involved in the work.

"Even if we didn't agree with how things were being done, we had to keep quiet and work fast," said Yoshitatsu Uechi, 48, a mechanic and former bus driver, who was one of a crew of 17 workers recruited in Okinawa and sent to Fukushima in June 2012 - among the thousands of workers from across Japan who have put together the emergency water tanks and stabilized the plant after three reactor meltdowns that were triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Okinawa crew was recruited by Token Kogyo, an unregistered broker, and passed on to work at the Fukushima plant under the direction of Tec, a larger contractor which reported to construction firm Taisei Corp, records show. That practice of having workers hired by a broker but managed by another contractor is banned under Japanese law to protect workers from having their wages skimmed and to clarify who is responsible for their safety.

Stock Down

Bankrupt Detroit can cut pensions; implications big for California and the whole US

© Carlos Osorio/The Associated Press
An empty field in Brush Park, north of Detroit's downtown is shown with an abandoned home. Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in American history in July and owes as much as $20 million to banks, bondholders and pension funds. The city can get rid of its gargantuan debt, but a bankruptcy judge can't bring back residents or raise its dwindling revenue.
It was a gold-plated promise: A career in government meant a safe and sound pension, no matter what.

All that may have changed Tuesday. In a case with major implications for California, a judge in Michigan ruled that the bankrupt city of Detroit can impose cuts to its municipal pension plans.

The ruling comes as a bankrupt California city, San Bernardino, edges closer to a possible legal showdown with CalPERS over the sanctity of public employee pensions. Although the decision in Detroit doesn't directly affect what happens in San Bernardino, legal experts said it will strengthen the California city's hand as it tries to reduce its multimillion-dollar pension obligations.

In any event, the Detroit ruling was a milestone. Experts long suspected that cities could use bankruptcy to force reductions in their pension expenses, but until now they've never had a court's blessing. Other cities that filed for bankruptcy protection - notably Vallejo and Stockton - have shied away from a confrontation over the issue, choosing instead to continue making all their pension contributions.

Evil Rays

Guantanamo: Twelve years of torture, illegality, and shame

Twelve years have passed since the US government of President George Bush made the dramatic decision to ignore half a century of international law, abrogate the Geneva Conventions and bring us to a place today where 164 men who have never been tried and 84 of whom have been cleared for release, are still in Guantanamo Bay prison.

© Unknown
A litany of physical injuries, psychological deterioration, and illnesses caused by the conditions of the last 12 years are fully documented and are an indictment of all those responsible at every level of US government and military...
The horror of the place cannot truly be conveyed in words. Fifteen men are being daily force fed, in contravention of medical ethics. The current hunger strike has lasted since February and at one time involved two thirds of the prisoners. Men became skin and bones, according to their lawyers, one of who has an on-going court case to get an independent doctor into the prison to assess his failing client. Violence is a daily norm with invasive body searches and manhandling of prisoners in and out of cells by special teams of heavy soldiers in body armour. Solitary confinement for many has lasted months or years. A litany of physical injuries, psychological deterioration, and illnesses caused by the conditions of the last 12 years are fully documented and are an indictment of all those responsible at every level of US government and military.

Guantanamo is the symbol of the new normality imposed on our world since that reckless Bush-era phrase was coined - the war on terror. The notorious Abu Ghraib photographs of US abuse in Iraq in 2004 had their origins in the personnel and practices authorized by the Bush White House in Bagram, Kandahar and Guantanamo.


Pat Robertson: God approves of sex changes but homosexuality should be a mental illness

© The Raw Story
Televangelist and Fraudster Pat Robertson
Televangelist Pat Robertson on Wednesday struggled to understand why homosexuality was no longer considered a mental illness, but said that he approved of gender reassignment surgery.

In response to a viewer who asked if her gay nephew needed to pray for himself to be helped, Robertson recalled that homosexuality was considered to be a personality disorder by the American Psychiatric Association until 1973.

"A few years ago the psychiatrists, the psychologists used to say that homosexuality was a mental illness," the TV preacher remarked. "Now, the Supreme Court has said that it is a protected right."

"So what's he going to pray about? Is he going to say something is wrong and he's unhappy? And if he's unhappy and realizes he is doing something that makes him miserable, you might help him."

Robertson said that the solution was to show the gay nephew the Bible because "the Bible is explicit" that homosexuality is a sin.

Santa Hat

Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor says the Bible, not partisanship, should guide politics

© Lifenews
Democratic Senator Mark Pryor
A conservative Democrat who's facing a tough re-election challenge has released an ad touting his faith in the Bible.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, in part due to his support of the Affordable Care Act and also because he's a Democrat in the Deep South.

He released the 30-second TV ad Wednesday to help shore up support among his Christian constituents in the Bible Belt, telling voters that his faith guides him.

"I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in God, and I believe in His word," Pryor says in the ad, looking directly at the camera. "The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers, only God does, and neither political party is always right."


Grandstanding? Obama cites Pope Francis to attack income inequality and call for minimum wage increase

© Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Conservatives angered by Pope Francis' recent attacks on capitalism and wealth inequality aren't going to like hearing President Barack Obama's approval of them.

The president said Wednesday that growing income inequality had "frayed" the basic bargain at the heart of the U.S. economy during an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the White House.

"Some of you may have seen just last week the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length," Obama said. "'How can it be,' he wrote, 'that it's not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points.' But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country. And it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people."

The president noted that the American economy had doubled in size since 1979, but most of that growth has been restricted to a "fortunate few."


U.S. airlines give authorities flight plans for new East China Sea defense zone

U.S. airlines United, American and Delta, have notified Chinese authorities of flight plans when traveling through an air defense zone Beijing has declared over the East China Sea, following U.S. government advice.

The United States said on Friday it expected U.S. carriers to operate in line with so-called notices to airmen issued by foreign countries, although it added that the decision did "not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China's requirements.

A spokesman for Delta Airlines said it had been complying with the Chinese requests for flight plans for the past week.

American and United said separately that they were complying, but did not say for how long they had done so.

Airline industry officials said the U.S. government generally expects U.S. carriers operating internationally to comply with notices issued by foreign countries.

In contrast, two major airlines in Japan, the United States' close ally, have agreed with the Japanese government that they would fly through the zone without notifying China.


White House blocks access to Obama events, news groups say

© Unknown
The nation's largest news organizations lodged a complaint Thursday against the White House for imposing unprecedented limitations on photojournalists covering President Barack Obama, which they say have harmed the public's ability to monitor its own government.

"Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the president while he is performing his official duties," according to a letter the organizations sent to the White House. "As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist's camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government."

Presidents often look for ways to get their own messages out. But media experts say Obama's administration has developed an aggressive strategy to use social media, including government-sponsored websites and blogs, as well as Twitter, Instagram and Flickr accounts, to circumvent the media's constitutional duty more than its predecessors have.

"You are only seeing what they want you to see," said Lucy Dalglish, the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.


The I-Word

An academic was the first to cross the invisible line.

"The ultimate check on presidential lawlessness is elections and, in extreme cases, impeachment," Georgetown law professor Nicholas Rosenkranz told Representative Darrell Issa at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on the president's duty to uphold the law.

With that first mention of the "i word," leaks began springing from the dam that had been holding back the House GOP lawmakers united by frustration with President Obama's executive abuses. Republicans have been watching impotently as Obama has walked all over the law, with increasing brazenness the further he gets into his tenure. His first term included major clashes over Congress's subpoena power and, months before the election, the president's imposition of the "DREAM Act" by fiat - something he had publicly said before was beyond his legal authority.

Almost a year into Obama's second term, his unilateral delays of Obamacare and other legally questionable actions are now routine. He even threatened to veto a bill that would have ratified something he had done on his own without any clear authority, the delay of Obamacare's employer mandate.

"It's a real problem," House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte says. One of the biggest frustrations: Senate Democrats don't seem to give a rip.

Seeking ways to limit the president’s executive overreach, Republicans still shy away from impeachment.