- Signs of the Times Archive for Wed, 20 Jun 2007 -

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Israel's "sadistic torture" of Palestinians

By Karima Saifullah
2007-06-20 02:45:00

In Israel, there is "no effective barrier - not legal and certainly not ethical - that stands in the way of torture..." concluded a recent report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI).

©Al Jazeera
A young Palestinian in the hands of Fascist Zionists

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Absolute Evil: Israel routinely abuses Palestinian prisoners

By Karima Saifullah
2007-06-20 02:52:00

"They (Israeli interrogators) used a chain to hook together the handcuffs and leg shackles. The way this made my body stretch was unbearable..."
©Al Jazeera
A young Palestinian victim of Israeli torture

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Flashback: Finding Hope in Knowing the Universal Capacity for Evil

The New York Times
2007-04-04 17:07:00

Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971, known as the S.P.E. in social science textbooks, showed how anonymity, conformity and boredom can be used to induce sadistic behavior in otherwise wholesome students.

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U.S. News
Antonin Scalia Studies Law at the Jack Bauer School of Torture Justification

The ITT List
2007-06-20 17:27:00

Colin Freeze for the Globe and Mail reports:

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

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Depaul U. professor denied tenure in wake of attacks on Harvard's Dershowitz

Christian B. Flow
Harvard Crimson
2007-06-20 13:28:00

A DePaul University assistant professor who publicly accused Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz of plagiarism in a 2005 appearance at Harvard Law School has received notification that he will be denied tenure in a decision upheld by his institution's top official, according to a press release by the Chicago university.

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'Earth Mother getting angry' - American Indians fight climate change

2007-06-20 10:30:00

From New Hampshire to California, American Indian leaders are speaking out more forcefully about the danger of climate change.

Members of six tribes recently gathered near the Baker River in the White Mountains for a sacred ceremony honoring "Earth Mother." Talking Hawk, a Mohawk Indian who asked to be identified by his Indian name, pointed to the river's tea-colored water as proof that the overwhelming amount of pollution humans have produced has caused changes around the globe.

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Court Protects Email from Secret Government Searches

2007-06-20 10:24:00

The government must have a search warrant before it can secretly seize and search emails stored by email service providers, according to a landmark ruling Monday in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court found that email users have the same reasonable expectation of privacy in their stored email as they do in their telephone calls -- the first circuit court ever to make that finding.

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Ban on illegal searches applies to car passengers, high court rules

Bob Egelko
San Francisco Chronicle
2007-06-18 10:15:00

Police who illegally stop a car can't hold the passengers for questioning and possible searches, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in a case from Northern California.

The unanimous decision said a passenger has the same right as a driver to argue in court that police had no legitimate reason for a traffic stop.

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NYC Poor to Get Cash for Good Behavior

Associated Press
2007-06-20 08:50:00

Poor residents will be rewarded for good behavior - like $300 for doing well on school tests, $150 for holding a job and $200 for visiting the doctor - under an experimental anti-poverty program that city officials detailed Monday.

The rewards have been used in other countries, including Brazil and Mexico, and have drawn widespread praise for changing behavior among the poor. Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Mexico this spring to study the healthy lifestyle payments, also known as conditional cash transfers.

In New York, the two-year pilot program with about 14,000 participants will use private funds Bloomberg has raised because he did not want to spend government money on something that is highly experimental. More than $43 million has been raised toward the $53 million goal, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said.

The theory behind cash rewards is that poor people are trapped in a cycle of repeated setbacks that keep them from climbing out of poverty. A person who doesn't keep up with his vaccinations and doctor's visits, for example, may get sick more often and struggle to stay employed.

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UK & Euro-Asian News
Siberian court sentences 2 guilty of food poisoning 287 people

RIA Novosti
2007-06-20 14:09:00

A court in East Siberia's city of Krasnoyarsk passed sentences on two people found guilty of poisoning 287 people at a governor's ball in March this year.

The court fined Oksana Gegel, a chef at the Caterier company, which supplied the food for the ball, 30,000 rubles ($1,160), and banned Pavel Ponomaryov, the director of the Caterier, from working in the catering trade for 21 months.

They were both accused of breaching food safety standards whilst preparing dishes for the IQ Ball, which led to 287 people being hospitalized with salmonella poisoning.

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Estonian scientists propose underwater nuclear reactor project

RIA Novosti
2007-06-20 14:05:00

The Estonian Maritime Academy has developed a project to construct an underwater nuclear reactor off the Baltic Sea coast, a local newspaper said Wednesday.

The project, submitted to the Estonian Eesti Energia company, proposes the construction of a 1,000-MWt nuclear power plant on a granite shelf of the Muuga Bay.

"The construction of a nuclear reactor on the seabed is completely safe and local authorities would not object to this project," the Estonian newspaper Arileht quoted the head of the academy, Juri Kann, as saying.

Industry experts in Estonia believe that the construction of a nuclear reactor in the country is a viable proposition because the whole Baltic region may face an energy deficit in the next decade.

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Chinese police shoot man to death after he threatens to blow up primary school

The Associated Press
2007-06-20 08:35:00

Police shot dead a suspected mentally ill man who threatened to blow up a school in southern China with dynamite, a state-run newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Beijing Morning Post said the man entered the school last Friday morning with a bag containing about 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of dynamite.

"Police negotiated with him for several hours but he refused to leave the school," the newspaper reported.

It said 120 students and teachers were evacuated out of a back door while police negotiated with the man, who was identified by only his surname Zhang.

After several more hours of negotiations "the man was shot and killed by a police sniper," the newspaper reported.

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Former MP in bid to prosecute Blair for war crimes

2007-06-20 07:11:00

Former SNP MP Jim Sillars has launched a legal bid to prosecute Prime Minister Tony Blair for war crimes in Iraq under Scots law.

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China overtakes US as world's biggest CO2 emitter

John Vidal and David Adam
The Guardian
2007-06-20 03:17:00

China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, figures released today show.

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French police peacefully end Paris bank hostage siege

2007-06-20 02:33:00

Armed robbers took six people hostage in a south Paris suburb Tuesday but released all of them unharmed after police persuaded them to end their hours-long siege.

Comment: This story brings to light the difference in approach from the US approach. No shots fired and all left unharmed.

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Around the World
Venezuelan president to visit Iran July 1-3

RIA Novosti
2007-06-20 14:07:00

Venezuela's minister of industry and mining said President Hugo Chavez would visit Iran July 1 through 3.

During his visit, the president of one of the most influential Latin American countries will consider the implementation of previous agreements, issues of bilateral cooperation, and also plans to sign new deals.

"The Venezuelan side intends to offer Iranian colleagues detailed projects in strategic cooperation, including the establishment of special zones for technology information exchange," said Jose Khan, who also co-chairs an intergovernmental trade and economic commission.

Tehran and Caracas signed a joint declaration on a strategic alliance during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Venezuela last September, and clinched a series of deals on economic cooperation, including in the oil, metallurgical, machine-building, and pharmaceutical industries, as well as on cultural and educational projects.

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If those were all our problems: UN report spotlights socio-economic challenges posed by ageing populations

UN News Centre
2007-06-20 13:33:00

As the proportion of older persons continues to increase at unprecedented rates worldwide, countries will need to examine and adapt national policies, particularly those relating to pension systems and health care, according to a new United Nations report launched today.

The number of people aged 60 years and older is expected to increase from 670 million in 2005 to nearly 2 billion in 2050, and some 80 per cent of them will live in developing countries, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo told a press conference in New York to mark the launch of the 60th anniversary edition of the World Economic and Social Survey.

Designed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, and entitled Development in an Ageing World, the 2007 report notes the "profound impact" ageing has on economic and social development. It also offers suggestions for addressing expected challenges relating to national health care and pension systems in the next four and a half decades.

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Cuba applauds UN human rights watchdog's decision to stop investigating the island

Associated Press
2007-06-20 12:38:00

Cuba claimed a "historic victory" Tuesday after the U.N.'s new human rights watchdog agreed to halt efforts to monitor its human rights record.

The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva decided to discontinue examinations of the rights situation in Cuba and Belarus, and to continue its scrutiny of Israel. The council was formed last year to replace the U.N. Human Rights Commission, where the United States had more political influence. The U.S. is only an observer to the new 47-nation council.

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32 militants killed in Pakistan madrasa blast

2007-06-20 10:54:00

Thirtytwo suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in an explosion in a madrasa in North Waziristan near the Pak-Afghan border.

While locals claimed that the blast last night in the Dattakhel area of north Waziristan was caused by a missile attack from the across border, Pakistan defence officials asserted that the explosion took place when bombs being made by the militants in the seminary accidentally went off.

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Carter blasts US policy on Palestinians

2007-06-20 07:04:00

DUBLIN, Ireland - Former President Jimmy Carter accused the U.S., Israel and the European Union on Tuesday of seeking to divide the Palestinian people by reopening aid to President Mahmoud Abbas' new government in the West Bank while denying the same to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

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We Are All Bystanders - why we sometimes shackle our moral instincts, and how we can set them free

by Dacher Keltner, Ph.D. and Jason Marsh
Greater Good Magazine
2007-06-20 04:55:00

For more than 40 years, Peggy Kirihara has felt guilty about Stewart.

Peggy liked Stewart. They went to high school together. Their fathers were friends, both farmers in California's Central Valley, and Peggy would always say "hi" when she passed Stewart in the hall.

Yet every day when Stewart boarded their school bus, a couple of boys would tease him mercilessly. And every day, Peggy would just sit in her seat, silent.

"I was dying inside for him," she said. "There were enough of us on the bus who were feeling awful - we could have done something. But none of us said anything."

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Big Brother
N.H. prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants

2007-06-20 10:35:00

Governor John Lynch signed a law yesterday banning smoking in New Hampshire's bars and restaurants.

"The science is clear -- secondhand smoke poses a dangerous health risk, and that is why this new law is so important," Lynch said.

More than a dozen states and hundreds of cities and counties around the country ban smoking in restaurants, bars, or both. New Hampshire was the only state in New England that did neither.

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Axis of Evil
The Prison Poets Of Guantanamo Find a Publisher. Military Security Clears 22 After Checking for Code

Yochi J. Dreazen
The Wall Street Journal
2007-06-20 11:22:00

Inmates at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, used pebbles to scratch messages into the foam cups they got with their meals. When the guards weren't looking, they passed the cups from cell to cell. It was a crude but effective way of communicating.

The prisoners weren't passing along escape plans or information about future terrorist attacks. They were sending one another poems.

For years, the U.S. military refused to declassify the poems, arguing that inmates could use the works to pass coded messages to other militants outside. But the military relaxed the ban recently and cleared 22 poems by 17 prisoners for public release.

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Reclaiming History from Reclaiming History

Pat Speer
2007-06-20 11:06:00

In May 2007, Vincent Bugliosi released Reclaiming History, a massive book designed to close the case on the John F. Kennedy assassination for all times. He'd been working on it for 21 years. He announced on his website and to the press that anyone who could read his book and not conclude Oswald, acting alone, shot President Kennedy, was mentally challenged. The Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, L.A. Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, and Fox News, to name but a few, chimed in and said that yes, indeed, he'd pretty much single-handedly exposed all conspiracy theories as false, and all conspiracy theories as terribly under-informed, frauds or wackos. In hopes that he'd re-investigated the case, and had come up with new evidence, I purchased his book, and anxiously awaited its arrival.

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JFK Assassin Acted Alone, Says Author of Hefty Reclaiming History

Randy Dotinga
2007-06-18 10:30:00

Forget the FBI, the CIA, the mob and LBJ. In a mammoth new book, Manson family prosecutor and best-selling Helter Skelter author Vincent Bugliosi declares that he has solved the John F. Kennedy assassination mystery once and for all.

In more than 1,600 pages (and a thousand more pages of notes on an accompanying CD-ROM), Bugliosi lays out his case that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president and did it alone.

Exhaustive analyses of digitally remastered audio and video from Nov. 22, 1963, play a role in Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But the technology only supports what is already obvious, said Bugliosi in an interview with Wired News.

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US to increase Israel subsidy, Olmert satisfied

Jerusalem Post
2007-06-20 06:52:00

[Olmert] did not comment on reports that the US would increase aid to Israel. He said only that the issue came up in his talks with Bush, there would be a 10-year plan, and "Israel will be satisfied."

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Flashback: Constant Conflict

Major Ralph Peters
1997-05-08 06:19:00

There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.

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Flashback: A Nation of Kitty Genovese's Neighbors

William B. Cushman, Ph.D.
Break the Link
2006-01-25 12:00:00

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King wrote the famous quote above in regard to the civil rights movement, but it is equally true of our current crisis. We, the good people of the United States, are embarrassingly silent when we should be raising our voices in utter and complete outrage. We are throwing our honor and our standing before the world to the winds of ignominy without the slightest sign of any struggle, and without the slightest semblance of any claim to moral standing. Ironically, it was not too many years ago we were collectively outraged by similar behavior from Kitty Genovese's neighbors. We were collectively appalled at the behavior of those few callous individuals, and now most of us join their ranks. We need to remember the events of Ms. Genovese's murder now, and exactly how we felt about her neighbors, because that is exactly how the rest of the world now views every American citizen.

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Middle East Madness
American settler sentenced to 2 and a half years in prison after importing weapons

2007-06-20 12:11:00

An American who lived on a radical West Bank settlement was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on Wednesday after being convicted of trying to import weapons that police suspected he intended to use against Palestinians.

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Israel launches air strikes in Gaza

2007-06-20 07:07:00

Israel launched air strikes targeting Palestinian rocket launch sites in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the first air strikes since Hamas seized control of the territory last week.

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US destroying Iraq with impunity: Report

Press Esc
2007-06-20 06:49:00

The United States and its allies are killing Iraqi civilians, stealing Iraq's oil and destroying the nation's heritage with total impunity, according to a report released jointly today by 30 NGOs which concluded that The US Coalition is the principal cause of Iraq's current ills.

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MEMRI is 'propaganda machine,' expert says

Lawrence Swaim
2007-06-20 06:11:00

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) provides daily English translations of film and print media stories originating in Arabic, Iranian and Turkish media.

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Flashback: Israeli Media Research Institute Exposed Over Deliberate Misinformation

Brian Whitaker
UK Guardian
2007-05-17 18:08:00

[Editor's note] The research institute in question here "MEMRI" is used by the many Western news outlets and journalists with MEMRI translations often accepted without question or checks for accuracy. MEMRI was founded by an ex Israeli Colonel and a leading US NeoCon and has an extremely thin veneer of legitimacy among those who are able to spot disinfo when they see it. MEMRI's main reason for existing is to provide selective disinformation and lies, at particularly sensitive times, in order to demonise Muslims and Arabs as "terrorists". See here for more on the Israeli government disinfo "research institute" MEMRI]

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The Checkpoint Women of Israel

By Robert Hirschfield
In These Times
2007-06-20 03:53:00

©In These Times
Raheli Bar-Or of Machsom Watch keeps an eye on an Israeli solider as Palestinians pass through the army's Jubara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Tulkarem.

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The Loan Gunmen

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The Living Planet
Prey not hard-wired to fear predators

EurekAlert / Wildlife Conservation Society
2007-06-20 14:28:00

Are Asian elk hard-wired to fear the Siberian tigers who stalk them" When wolves disappear from the forest, are moose still afraid of them?

No, according to a study by Wildlife Conservation Society scientist Dr. Joel Berger, who says that several large prey species, including moose, caribou and elk, only fear predators they regularly encounter. If you take away wolves, you take away fear. That is a critical piece of knowledge as biologists and public agencies increase efforts to re-introduce large carnivores to places where they have been exterminated. Berger's study is published in the latest issue of the journal Conservation Biology.

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90 Homes Evacuated Near Colorado Wildfire

Catherine Tsai
2007-06-20 10:38:00

White and yellow smoke billowed into the western Colorado sky Tuesday as firefighters battled three wildfires likely sparked by lightning that have burned at least 2,000 acres and forced evacuations of 90 homes.

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Will Earth Need A Reboot After The Sky Falls?

Howard Dratch
Blog Critics Magazine
2007-06-20 08:31:00

Earth has been hit and is constantly at risk of attack by interlopers from space. These are called "near earth objects" (NEOs). Major players are asteroids. Most burn harmlessly during their trip through the atmosphere. However, just as in the intensely mediocre films, Armageddon and Deep Impact, there is more than a zero chance that a large one will threaten earth in the near future.

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Worst summer drought in 30 years leaves one mln people thirsty in NE China

2007-06-19 22:13:00

The worst summer drought to hit northeast China's Liaoning Province in 30 years has left more than one million people short of drinking water, the provincial government said.

Nearly all the 14 cities in Liaoning Province have been affected by the drought, though the situation is more serious in the northwestern and central-southern parts of the province where 88 small and medium-sized reservoirs have dried up, the provincial flood prevention and drought control headquarters told Xinhua on Tuesday.

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Tensions rise as U.S. drought worsens, threatens to spread

Chicago Tribune
2007-06-18 16:54:00

North and South Carolina are fighting over a river. In Tennessee, springs are drying up, jeopardizing production of Jack Daniels whiskey. The mayor of Los Angeles is asking residents to take shorter showers. And in Georgia, the governor is praying for rain.

More than a third of the United States is in the grip of a menacing drought that threatens to spread before the summer ends.

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Health & Wellness
Flashback: Circumcision Fight: Profit, Pleasure, or Population Control?

Kuumba Chi Nia
2007-03-28 13:15:00

"It is important that, while circumcision interventions are being planned, several points must be considered carefully. If the experiment fails, Africans are likely to feel abused and exploited by scientists who recommended the circumcision policy. In a region highly sensitive to previous colonial exploitation and suspicious of the biological warfare origin of the virus, failure of circumcision is likely to be a big issue. Those recommending it should know how to handle the political implications." - James P.M. Ntozi.

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Male circumcision overstated as prevention tool against AIDS

2007-06-20 14:30:00

In new academic research published today in the online, open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE, male circumcision is found to be much less important as a deterrent to the global AIDS pandemic than previously thought. The author, John R. Talbott, has conducted statistical empirical research across 77 countries of the world and has uncovered some surprising results.

The new study finds that the number of infected prostitutes in a country is the key to explaining the degree to which AIDS has infected the general population. Prostitute communities are typically very highly infected with the virus themselves, and because of the large number of sex partners they have each year, can act as an engine driving infection rates to unusually high levels in the general population. The new study is entitled "Size Matters: The Number of Prostitutes and the Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic" and is freely available online at the PLoS ONE publication website at http://plosone.org/doi/pone.0000543.

The study has a number of important findings that should impact policy decisions in the future. First, male circumcision, which in previous studies had been found to be important in controlling AIDS, becomes statistically irrelevant once the study controls for the number of prostitutes in a country. The study finds that the more Muslim countries of North Africa do indeed suffer much less AIDS than southern and western Africa, but this lower prevalence is not due to higher numbers of circumscribed males in these Muslim communities, but rather results from the fact that there are significantly fewer prostitutes in northern Africa on a per capita basis. It appears that religious families in the north, specifically concerned fathers and brothers, do a much better job protecting their daughters from predatory males than do those in the south. A history of polygamy in these Muslim communities does not appear to contribute to hi gher AIDS prevalence as previously speculated. In a frequently cited academic paper, Daniel Halperin, an H.I.V. specialist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development and one of the world's leading advocates for male circumcision, weighted results from individual countries by their population. When this artificial weighting was removed Talbott found that circumcision was no longer statistically significant in explaining the variance in AIDS infection rates across the countries of the World.

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Hepatitis C a growing problem in NWT, Canada

CBC News
2007-06-20 10:42:00

Hepatitis C, a relatively new disease in the North, is becoming a bigger problem in that part of Canada than HIV or tuberculosis, the Northwest Territories' chief medical officer said during a national conference in Yellowknife.

Dr. Andre Corriveau told CBC News on Monday he hopes to raise awareness about hepatitis C to curb its spread in the territory.

About 300 N.W.T. residents have been diagnosed with the disease - one of the highest infection rates in Canada - and about 30 new cases are found every year. The infection numbers are evenly split between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

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Parents and Physicians Outraged Over Comments From NBC's Dr. Snyderman on Autism Omnibus Hearings, Vaccines

2007-06-20 07:38:00

Parents and Physicians Outraged Over Comments From NBC's Dr. Snyderman on Autism Omnibus Hearings, Vaccines

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Study: Breast cancer genes can come from father

2007-06-20 03:48:00

A deadly gene's path can hide in a family tree when a woman has few aunts and older sisters, making it appear that her breast cancer struck out of nowhere when it really came from Dad.

A new study suggests thousands of young women with breast cancer - an estimated 8,000 a year in the U.S. - aren't offered testing to identify faulty genes and clarify their medical decisions.

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Study finds staggering cost of treating diabetics

Bill Berkrot
2007-06-20 03:44:00

One out of every eight U.S. federal health care dollars is spent treating people with diabetes, a study found, and advocates are calling for the creation of a government post to oversee coordination of spending on treatment and prevention among federal agencies.

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Science & Technology
Black Holes: Case researchers think they solved

2007-06-20 14:17:00

"Nothing there," is what Case Western Reserve University physicists concluded about black holes after spending a year working on complex formulas to calculate the formation of new black holes. In nearly 13 printed pages with a host of calculations, the research may solve the information loss paradox that has perplexed physicists for the past 40 years.

Case physicists Tanmay Vachaspati, Dejan Stojkovic and Lawrence M. Krauss report in the article, "Observation of Incipient Black Holes and the Information Loss Problem," that has been accepted for publication by Physical Review D.

"It's complicated and very complex," noted the researchers, regarding both the general problem and their particular approach to try to solve it.

The question that the physicists set out to solve is: what happens once something collapses into a black hole" If all information about the collapsing matter is lost, it defies the laws of quantum physics. Yet, in current thinking, once the matter goes over the event horizon and forms a black hole, all information about it is lost.

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Two-in-one shoe makes driving safer

2007-06-20 14:14:00

From side air bags to anti-lock braking systems and traction control, technology has delivered a raft of safety enhancing features for motor vehicles, but sometimes accidents occur because of much simpler deficiencies in our driving preparedness - namely our choice of shoes. This issue is especially relevant to women's shoes where the latest fashion may not be the ideal choice when it comes to controlling a motor vehicle. The solution offered by UK based car insurance company Sheilas' Wheels is to combine two types of shoe into one - a safe, flat driving shoe that transforms into a stylish pair of heels at the a push of a button.

Though not the first time we have encountered the concept of a convertible high heel, the Sheila Driving Heel' is designed specifically to give women a safe flat when in transit and a fashionable heel at the end of the journey. The design seeks to eliminate several deficiencies caused by driving in heels including their lack of grip, tendency to get caught under the pedal and the uncomfortable driving position that results from wearing them. The flat shoe option lessens pressure on the knee and lower back to improve comfort behind the wheel and a discrete tread on the sole aids grip on the pedals.

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Superbug zapper recreates 'fresh air' indoors

Andy Coghlan
New Scientist
2007-06-20 14:12:00

A device that mimics the naturally disinfecting quality of fresh air could be used to purge hospital wards of superbugs, its makers claim.

The Air Disinfector, launched in London, UK, on 19 June pumps a continual stream of reactive hydrogen radicals into the atmosphere, killing microbes within minutes.

"The same results could be obtained simply by opening all the windows of hospital wards, but that's not practical," says David Macdonald, co-inventor of the device and chief scientific officer of Inov8 Science, which developed it.

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Inexpensive system targets poor nations needing electricity

Hiawatha Bray
The Boston Globe
2007-06-20 13:46:00

A Bridgewater company is betting the road to success goes through some of the world's poorest countries.

With $100,000 in funding from the World Bank, a group of graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a solar energy system that generates electricity, heating, and cooling -- using little more than sheet metal and automobile parts. They hope to turn their invention into a viable business, under the name Promethean Power.

"Can this be a multi-hundreds of millions of dollars company? The potential is there," said Sorin Grama, an immigrant from Romania who just completed a master's degree in system design and management at MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Grama created Promethean Power's business plan, and it was good enough to win a $10,000 prize in MIT's annual entrepreneurship competition.

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Earliest Gunshot Victim in New World Is Reported

John Noble Wilford
The New York Times
2007-06-20 13:42:00

Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered the human skeleton of what they conclude is the earliest known gunshot victim in the New World.

Digging in an Inca cemetery in the suburbs of Lima, they came on well-preserved remains of an individual with holes less than an inch in diameter in the back and front of the skull. Forensic scientists in Connecticut said the position of the round holes and some minuscule iron particles showed that the person most likely was shot and killed by a Spanish musket ball.

Ceramics and other artifacts in the 72 examined graves established the approximate time of the burials, archaeologists said, and this indicated that these were casualties of combat between Inca warriors and Spanish invaders, who seized the Andean empire in 1532. Spanish chronicles describe a pitched battle, a last stand of the Incas that was fought in the vicinity in 1536.

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News Corp explores swap of MySpace site for Yahoo! stake

Dan Sabbagh
The Times
2007-06-20 13:41:00

News Corporation has discussed swapping MySpace, its internet social networking unit, with Yahoo! in return for a 30 per cent stake in the enlarged group.

The discussions remain tentative and could collapse after the departure of Terry Semel as Yahoo!'s chief executive and his replacement by Jerry Yang this week. Mr Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! and incoming chief executive, yesterday pledged to "dig in" to his new role, and acknowledged the difficult task he faces to arrest the decline in the internet portal's shares.

News Corp, the parent company of The Times, is interested in a deal even if it means losing some control of MySpace because it would give the media group exposure to a far larger internet-based business.

Other News Corp digital assets, including the games network IGN, bought in 2005 for $650 million (£326 million), are also thought to have been offered to Yahoo!.

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Our Haunted Planet

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Don't Panic! Lighten Up!
Chinese police banned from dyeing hair, wearing jewelry

RIA Novosti
2007-06-20 14:03:00

Chinese police have been banned from dyeing their hair and wearing jewelry, the Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday citing an instruction by the Public Security Ministry.

Those officers who come to work with dyed hair will be ordered to dye it back to the original color. Policewomen will be prohibited from wearing scarves or painting their nails, and policemen will have to have short and neat haircuts.

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Dutch man arrested for driving without license for 67 years

RIA Novosti
2007-06-20 13:48:00

Dutch police have arrested an 84-year-old driver for driving without a license for 67 years, a police spokesperson said Wednesday.

The police said they had discovered the offense after an insurance check. The driver said he had driven a car for 67 years without ever having an accident or being stopped by the police.

He admitted to driving without a license, insurance, and never having had his vehicle examined at a garage, he assured the police that he would take his car to the scrap dealers straight away.

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'Ridiculous' visa rulings set out

2007-06-20 13:26:00

UK tourist visas are often denied to would-be visitors because they "plan a holiday for no particular purpose other than sightseeing", a report says.

Others were turned down because they had never previously taken any foreign travel or could not speak English.

The "ridiculous reasons" for rejecting visas were set out in a report by the independent monitor of UK visas.

Linda Costelloe Baker's report said that despite such flaws there had been "significant improvement in quality."

But she said entry clearance officers could use "some ridiculous reasons when refusing visa for tourist visits".

She said a common reason for refusal was "you wish to go to the UK for a holiday. You have never previously undertaken any foreign travel before and I can see little reason for this trip".

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Rats! Look who's getting tipsy in India

2007-06-20 08:31:00

Rats are gnawing at beer cans and making holes in caps of whisky bottles stored in police storehouses in eastern India and apparently getting drunk, authorities said on Wednesday.

The rodents' love for liquor has the police department in Bihar state stumped as it tries to store hundreds of bottles seized from illegal sellers from across the state in Patna, the state capital, said Kundan Krishnan, a senior officer.

"We are fed up with these drunk rats and cannot explain why they have suddenly turned to consumption of alcohol," he said.

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After 5 Years In U.S., Terrorist Cell Too Complacent To Carry Out Attack

The Onion
2007-06-20 05:37:00

Five years after settling in southern California and trying to blend into American society, a six-man terrorist cell connected to the militant Islamist organization Army of Martyrs has reportedly grown too complacent to conduct its suicide mission, an attack on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

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8-Foot Alligator Removed From Buffalo Basement

2007-06-18 22:25:00

Reptile experts removed an 8-foot-long, 170-pound alligator from the basement of a Buffalo home and planned to drive it to a Florida sanctuary in the back of a minivan.

"Jojo" the alligator was removed Sunday from the home where it was raised after its owner called the state Department of Environmental Conservation and said he could no longer care for it.

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