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Thu, 11 Feb 2016
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Banned: US corn and soybeans fail to meet Russian biological standards

© Jim Young / Reuters
Starting February 15, corn and soybeans from the US will no longer be welcome in Russia, announced the country's food and safety watchdog Wednesday. Rosselkhoznadzor says American producers have failed to meet Russian biological standards.

"Since the products shipped from the United States pose a real threat to Russia, and the US guarantees are not valid, we reserve the right to introduce temporary restrictions on imports of US corn and soybeans," said Rosselkhoznadzor spokesman Aleksey Alekseenko.

The watchdog has found dry rot in corn and numerous weed seeds in soybeans, he added.

Comment: Once again, Russia proves that she is not willing to compromise the health and safety of the population. Western nations should take note!

Arrow Down

British government admits returning thousands of children to war-torn countries

© Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters
Britain has returned more than 2,700 young asylum seekers to war-torn countries in the Middle East over the past nine years - double the number originally claimed by the government.

Although most of the young people were sent back to Afghanistan, hundreds were returned to Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said this week. The revised figures released by the Home Office reveal 60 teenagers have been deported to Iraq since 2014, the year Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) took control of large parts of the country.

The revelations come in response to questions from Labour MP Louise Haigh and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ). Brokenshire was forced to issue a correction to figures released by the Home Office last fall that underestimated the scale of the deportations by 250 percent.

Comment: Sending children back to face the horrific conditions that have largely been created by the West is beyond heartless. With the astounding number of refugee children going missing, it is clear that nothing is being done to track their whereabouts, making them targets for those who prey on the innocent and vulnerable.


The crisis in Flint is about more than water

© ehrlif / Shutterstock
The Flint Water Plant tower in Michigan.
What is in the mind of someone who knowingly poisons children and impairs their lives? Why did the politicians, regulators and bureaucrats who knew the water in Flint, Mich.,was toxic lie about the danger for months? What does it say about a society that is ruled by, and refuses to punish, those who willfully destroy the lives of children?

The crisis in Flint is far more ominous than lead-contaminated water. It is symptomatic of the collapse of our democracy. Corporate power is not held accountable for its crimes. Everything is up for sale, including children. Our regulatory agencies—including the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality—have been defunded, emasculated and handed over to corporate-friendly stooges. Our corrupt courts are part of a mirage of justice. The role of these government agencies and courts, and of the legislatures, is to sanction abuse rather than halt it.

The primacy of profit throughout the society takes precedence over life itself, including the life of the most vulnerable. This corporate system of power knows no limits. It has no internal restraints. It will sacrifice all of us, including our children, on the altar of corporate greed. In a functioning judicial system, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint's former emergency manager, Darnell Earley, along with all the regulatory officials who lied as a city was being sickened, would be in jail facing trial.


Austin police gun down naked black teen for 'disobeying' — and then refuse to say if he was armed

© Shutterstock
Police in Austin, Texas have declined to say whether a naked black teen who was fatally shot by officers on Monday had been armed at the time.

The Austin Police Department confirmed on Monday that an 18-year-old man who was not wearing clothes was shot by officers, and then later died in a local hospital, the Austin Statesman reported.

Austin police Chief of Staff Brian Manley told reporters at a press conference that the incident occurred when officers were responding to reports of a suspicious black man. Manley said that an officer opened fire after the man disobeyed commands and then charged at him.

According to the department, the shooting occurred out of the view of the police cruiser's dashboard camera. There was no evidence that officers deployed Tasers before shooting the suspect, the department confirmed.

Manley refused to say whether the suspect was carrying a weapon when he was shot. The department also has not named the suspect or the officers involved in the shooting. However, he said that the officer who pulled the trigger had been placed on administrative leave, which is department protocol after officer involved shootings.


Largest electric company in US fined $6.6m for massive spill of toxic coal ash waste

© Chris Keane / Reuters
The Duke Energy coal-fired power plant is seen from the Dan River in Eden, North Carolina.
Environmental regulators in North Carolina have fined Duke Energy $6.6 million for its massive spill of toxic coal ash waste into the Dan River in February 2014. The incident was one of the largest coal ash spills in US history.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced Tuesday that the fine only applies to violations that Duke Energy pleaded guilty to in federal criminal court in May 2015, which resulted in $102 million in federal fines pursuant to nine criminal violations of the Clean Water Act. The state regulatory body said it "reserves the right" to levy additional fines for "other violations associated with the spill."

Comment: See also: America's multi-billion ton toxic legacy: Coal ash


Evil chutzpah! Israel demolishes homes and tells Palestinian owners to pay the costs

File photo of Israeli MK Hanin Zoabi, who attempted to prevent the 66th destruction of the village in 2014
The Israeli occupation authorities have told the Palestinian owners of homes destroyed by security forces to pay the demolition costs, Safa news agency reported on Sunday. Israeli magistrates sat in a special session in Be'er Sheva on Sunday to consider the case filed by the Israeli authorities versus the Palestinians living in the village of Al-Araqeeb.

Comment: And Israelis wonder why there is so much animosity directed against them by Palestinians.

See also: Israel 1948: The Dawayima massacre and 'barbarism by an educated and cultured people'


City councillor's smear campaign revealed after he accidentally emails his plans to his opponents

Let's face it, we have all had those heart-stopping moments after hitting send when we realise we have made a mistake. *Personal disclosure, I once inquired about a new job and accidentally sent the email to my (then) current boss. Regardless of what our own internet or social media blunders have entailed, they pale into insignificance compared with a mighty indiscretion made recently by a U.K. Tory Councillor.

Conservative member of Portsmouth council, Scott Harris, wrote an email trying to persuade colleagues to join him in a smear campaign against local domestic violence services and women's rights campaigners. Unfortunately for him, the private correspondence was mistakenly sent out — in a chain to the targets of his venom.

Containing information on a number of political targets, the leaked email detailed a planned smear campaign against local sector workers and campaign groups after they criticised his proposals for £180,000 worth of cuts to domestic violence services.

Comment: Public service? Hardly. Politicians are only out to gratify their own aims. They care nothing for the public.


Fukushima redux? Indian Point nuclear plant is a disaster waiting to happen

© Julie Jacobson/AP
The Indian Point nuclear facility reported “alarming levels” of radioactivity in three water monitoring wells.
Indian Point Energy Center, which sits roughly 30 miles from the heart of Manhattan in New York City, has been plagued with safety breaches and leaks, and has even been the subject of a deliberate cover-up since it began operations in the 1970s. A statement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday revealing"radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into groundwater" near the nuclear facility is hardly a surprise — though no less indicative that it may be time to shut down the aging plant.

"The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well's radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent," Cuomo's statement asserted.

Entergy, which operates the reactors known as Indian Point 2 and 3 at the Buchanan, New York, facility — Indian Point 1 ceased operations in 1974 after failing to meet expectations — claimed there was no immediate threat to public health because the contamination had not migrated off-site. Cuomo, however, wasn't convinced. He ordered Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and employ all necessary measures to conduct a thorough investigation and impact assessment to the environment — and of possible threats to public safety.

Comment: Once again, profits trump safety.


New York: Nuisance abatement law allows cops to evict residents from their homes without filing charges

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has a reputation for finding novel ways to violate the rights of citizens. "Stop-and-frisk" became the defining characteristic of a police force more interested in meeting quotas for revenue collection than stopping actual crimes.

Clandestine spying on innocent Muslim Americans—based not on criminal suspicion but entirely on ethnicity—became an obsession for the NYPD after 9/11. And now, technology is allowing the largest police department in the U.S. to continuously track the vehicular whereabouts of everyone, all the time, with automated license plate readers. It is giving this data to a private company, Vigilant Solutions, for their commercial gain.

Now, an investigation by ProPublica and the New York Daily News sheds light on a little-known law called "nuisance abatement" that has mushroomed into an abuse of power on par with civil asset forfeiture.


Don't tase me, bro! New study shows police tasers cause short-term cognitive impairment similar to dementia

© Dees Illustration
The first study to look at the effects of a Taser shock on the human brain has produced unsettling results that will have major implications for police encounters. People are often questioned and/or read their Miranda rights just after being Tased, but researchers found that receiving 50,000 volts of electricity can cause a state of short-term cognitive impairment comparable to dementia.

Tasers have become the tool of choice for law enforcement "less than lethal weapons," with two million citizens being subjected to the devices. They can indeed be lethal, however, as 47 Americans died after being Tased last year. Tasers do not seem to reduce the number of people shot to death by police either, and they are often deployed needlessly.

Calvon Reid, who was simply standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, was Tased to death by two cops at the same time while two other cops stood by. A witness said the cops could have easily manhandled Reid, but they were just "punishing him."

Comment: Police departments may start referring to tasing as electroshock therapy. Nothing to see here, folks.