- Signs of the Times Archive for Thu, 21 Jun 2007 -

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Best of the Web
Flashback: In who's interest? Israel's Influence on US Foreign Policy

2007-06-21 07:53:00

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The Record of the Newspaper of Record

Stephen Lendman
2007-06-20 07:18:00

Dictionaries define "yellow journalism" variously as irresponsible and sensationalist reporting that distorts, exaggerates or misstates the truth. It's misinformation or agitprop disinformation masquerading as fact to boost circulation and readership or serve a larger purpose like lying for state and corporate interests. The dominant US media excel in it, producing a daily diet of fiction portrayed as real news and information in their role as our national thought-control police gatekeepers. In the lead among the print and electronic corporate-controlled media is the New York Times publishing "All The News That's Fit To Print" by its standards. Others wanting real journalism won't find it on their pages allowing only the fake kind. It's because this paper's primary mission is to be the lead instrument of state propaganda making it the closest thing we have in the country to an official ministry of information and propaganda.

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U.S. News
Bush's approval rating plunges to new low: 26%

2007-06-21 17:49:00

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush's approval rating plunged to a new low of 26 percent, making him the least popular US president since Richard Nixon, a poll released on Thursday found.

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Fatal Web - Tracking a 'Black Widow'

Glenna Whitley
Dallas Observer
2007-06-21 14:24:00

When he spotted the pretty woman standing on the front lawn of a stately home in Highland Park, Alan Rehrig whipped his Bronco into the driveway and climbed out. The former college basketball star shook her hand and asked if she knew anyone who had a garage apartment for rent.

The dark-haired beauty fixed Rehrig with a dazzling smile. "No, but if you come back in 30 minutes, I'll see if I can help you," Sandra Bridewell said.

Rehrig drove down Lorraine Street, saw another woman in her yard and asked her the same question. She had seen Rehrig stop in front of Bridewell's house and warned him not to have anything to do with "that woman." Later he would laugh about the comment and tell his office friends "they're just jealous because she's good-looking."

The mugshot of Sandra Bridewell, now going by Camille Powers, taken after her arrest on March 2 in North Carolina.

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Rep. Pelosi responds to boos on war

Jonathan E. Kaplan and Sam Youngman
The Hill
2007-06-21 13:29:00

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yesterday reaffirmed her commitment to end the war in Iraq, but her words were greeted with skepticism and some boos by anti-war liberal activists.

Addressing the liberal pressure group Campaign for America's Future, Pelosi called the war in Iraq a "tragedy" and a "grotesque mistake," but her words elicited catcalls for her to do more.

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Portland: 2 Girls Kicked Off Ore. Bus for Kissing

Associated Press
2007-06-21 13:23:00

A transit agency chief apologized Wednesday to two teenage girls who were kicked off a city bus for kissing each other.

The girls, both 14, said the driver called them "sickos" after a female passenger complained about their kiss. The driver then stopped the bus along the street and forced them off.

"Removing the girls from the bus was not consistent with our policy," said TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen. "I want to reiterate that we welcome all riders on our system."

The 64-year-old driver also violated company policy that requires operators to call for assistance before removing any minors, TriMet said in a statement.

The driver, an 11-veteran who was not identified, will be disciplined, TriMet officials said, though no details were released.

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Army sees spike in accidents, suicides

2007-06-21 13:05:00

The acting secretary of the U.S. Army says he is seeing a troubling spike in key morale indicators among soldiers -- suicide, divorces and accidents.

Acting Secretary Pete Geren told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday at his nomination hearing to become the civilian head of the Army that he discusses suicides and fatal accidents at a weekly meeting with senior military leaders.

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Survey: Confidently Unconfident In Congress

USA Today
2007-06-21 12:44:00

Just 14% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.

This 14% Congressional confidence rating is the all-time low for this measure, which Gallup initiated in 1973. The previous low point for Congress was 18% at several points in the period of time 1991 to 1994.

Congress is now nestled at the bottom of the list of Gallup's annual Confidence in Institutions rankings, along with HMOs. Just 15% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in HMOs. (By way of contrast, 69% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military, which tops the list. More on this at galluppoll.com on Thursday).

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UK & Euro-Asian News
Reporter who revealed the slaves beneath China's rotten layers

Rowan Callick
The Australian
2007-06-21 16:13:00

The slave scandal that has rocked China during the past week would not have been exposed, and in all likelihood would have continued untroubled, were it not for journalist Fu Zhenzhong and the Henan TV station for which he works.

About 1000 children as young as seven - along with many adults, some of whom were mentally impaired - had been held captive for months and years to work as slaves making bricks for 16 hours a day at kilns in China's dirt-poor northern Shanxi and Henan provinces.

The police did nothing. The state-controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions did nothing. The local Government did nothing.

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Fire consumes retirement home in West Siberia, killing 10

RIA Novosti
2007-06-21 13:09:00

At least 10 people were killed and four seriously injured in a fire that swept through a retirement home in a village in Western Siberia during the night, a local rescue services official said Thursday.

The fire started on the third floor of a three-story brick building in a village in the Omsk Region at 12.28 a.m. local time. There were 327 people including 311 elderly residents in the building at the time, of which at least 300 were evacuated.

"People suffocated from the inhaled smoke," the source said, adding that the victims tried to escape the blaze by breaking windows with their bare hands. Two of the injured residents are in an emergency ward at the local hospital with serious burns.

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France test launches sea-based strategic missile

RIA Novosti
2007-06-21 13:06:00

France has conducted a successful test launch of its new M51 ballistic missile, which will be used on its nuclear submarines, the defense minister said Thursday.

The unarmed missile was launched from the Biscarosse site in the Landes region of southwest France and fell into the North Atlantic off the U.S. coast.

"We conducted a second test of the M51 missile this morning, which was a complete success," Herve Morin said.

The first test of the M51, which is capable of carrying six nuclear warheads and has a range of 8,000 km (5,000 miles), was conducted in November 2006.

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Missiles key to counter U.S. shield plans - top Russian general

RIA Novosti
2007-06-21 12:59:00

Chief of Russia's General Staff said Thursday the military component is key in defending Russian national interests wherever the state feels they are being infringed, specifically if U.S. deploys missiles in Central Europe.

"If we see that Russia's national interests are under threat, this threat will be minimized. By what means - political, diplomatic, or military - is a technical issue. However, this process will include a military component - the Iskander [missile] or another system," Yury Baluyevsky told a RIA Novosti news conference.

"Of course we do not want things to go that far," he added in a clear reference to U.S. plans to deploy part of its missile shield in Europe, which Russian political leaders and military officials suspect of being targeted against Moscow, rather than "rogue states" such as Iran.

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Knife-wielding man slashes 4 students in southeast China

Associated Press
2007-06-21 12:57:00

A knife-wielding man slashed four students, wounding one seriously, state media reported Thursday, in the latest in a string of violent acts at Chinese schools.

Xinhua News Agency said the four students were wounded when a man with a knife broke into a high school Wednesday in Fuzhou, capital of southeastern China's Fujian province.

It said a teenage girl was in critical condition, while the other three were out of immediate danger.
The victims are all in grade 11. Xinhua gave no other details or motive for the attack, the latest in a series of random incidents at China's schools.

Last Friday, police fatally shot a suspected mentally ill man who threatened to blow up a school in southern China with dynamite, according to the Beijing Morning Post.

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Russians threatened by GM Genocide

2007-06-21 10:29:00

Until now, scientists cannot accurately say whether genetically modified (GM) products are dangerous for man. Serious and independent studies are necessary. But now after the "Frankenstein Food" scare it will cost a great deal of money, and to find the means to undertake research is very difficult. This problem has been encountered by our scientists, among them the leading scientist of the RAS [Russian Academy of Sciences] Institute, Irina Ermakova. She and her team conducted a series of experiments on rats, but they were not given funding to finish the work - they ran over their limited budget. However, even those results which it was possible to obtain, proved very shocking to the scientists involved. The sensational studies of Irina Ermakova were described in "MK".

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Around the World
Nigeria strike enters second day

2007-06-21 12:54:00

The loading of oil tankers at Nigerian export terminals continues on the second day of the country's general strike, ship agents and oil company officials have said.

Oil unions had threatened to withdraw staff from the terminals on Thursday to stop exports and exert more pressure on the government to reverse an increase in fuel prices.

"We are not seeing any impact on loadings at the moment," a shipping agent said.

The strike is the first major challenge for Umaru Yar'Adua, the president, who inherited the controversial fuel price increase from his predecessor Olusegun Obasanjo.

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Australia: Man, 82, charged with 32 rapes

Courier Mail
2007-06-21 12:50:00

An 82-year-old Brisbane man has been charged with 32 counts of rape after he allegedly assaulted two young girls over a period of five years.

Police today said the girls were both aged 11 at the time of the offences, which occurred in the Kingston-Beenleigh area south of Brisbane.

Police said some of the charges were current, while others dated back to 2002.

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U.S. to Hold Direct Talks in North Korea on Arms

David E. Sanger and Norimitsu Onishi
The New York Times
2007-06-21 11:26:00

In a sharp reversal of strategy, the Bush administration on Wednesday secretly dispatched its top North Korea negotiator to the country's capital, Pyongyang, for one-on-one talks about the North Koreans giving up their nuclear arsenal.

The visit is the first in five years by a senior American official. The State Department confirmed Wednesday night that the negotiator, Christopher R. Hill, was en route to Pyongyang from Tokyo. [Mr. Hill arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.]

Mr. Hill's trip came just hours after the United States found a way to return to the North roughly $25 million in funds that were frozen for several years. The United States had frozen the money, saying it came from counterfeiting and trade in missiles and nuclear equipment.

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Kazakh president dissolves assembly

2007-06-21 02:35:00

Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's president, has dissolved parliament and announced new elections on August 18.

In a televised statement on Wednesday, he said the early vote was "in line with the national development needs".

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Bombs kill three NATO soldiers, five Afghans

2007-06-21 02:20:00

A series of roadside bombings in Afghanistan Wednesday killed eight people, including three NATO soldiers, in new attacks linked to a growing Taliban insurgency.

Comment: Yes, the Taliban appears to have growing support despite the occupiers denying it.

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Big Brother

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Axis of Evil
What Will We Do Then? The Day After We Strike Iran

Gary Leupp
Global Research
2007-06-18 17:44:00

Neocons believe that the Iranian people and Muslims around the world will be so terrified that they will capitulate to all U.S. demands and the U.S. will be better able to attain its geopolitical objectives without the use of unacceptable numbers of ground troops. I have to wonder about this.

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The Bushites Have Outsourced Our Government to Their Pals

Jim Hightower
The Hightower Lowdown
2007-06-20 16:48:00

The sprawling $43 billion homeland security department (HSD) is known chiefly for being the agency in charge of America's color-coded terrorist-threat alarm system ("Good morning, Americans. Today is Yellow. Be vigilant. Report all suspicious people.") It's boogeyman nonsense, of course, doing absolutely nothing to make our country safe. But such falderal helps those in charge obscure HSD's real mission: to serve as a giant federal cookie jar for corporate America. Go to HSD's website, and you'll find a prominent section called "Open For Business." There, on any given day, corporate shoppers can scroll through the hundreds of contracts and grants available to them. Just dip in and grab some cookies, each one worth from $50,000 to more than $80 million. Like the department's color codes, the vast majority of these projects do nothing to make our country safe. Instead, they are make-work studies, silly technologies, and useless systems that essentially serve as mediums for transferring billions of our tax dollars to a few corporate big shots. Ever helpful to its clients, HSD also maintains a private-sector office, headed by an assistant secretary who is not a security expert but a former banker from JP Morgan Chase. This office provides concierge service for cookie grabbers. For example, it recently held a corporate seminar, entitled "The Business of Homeland Security," offering "tips, hints, and directions" on how to grab the latest contracts and grants. Lest you think that patriotism or even national security might be the motivating force behind these government-industry confabs, a Sikorksy Helicopters executive who attended the session bluntly explained why he was there: "To us contractors, money is always a good thing."

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Tyranny and the Military Commissions Act

Jacob G. Hornberger
2007-06-21 14:18:00

In Star Wars, Episode 3, in response to the Senate's grant of sweeping powers to Chancellor Palpatine, Padme declares, "So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause."

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Zionstan: Shas MK proposes 'rehab centers' for gays

Amnon Meranda
2007-06-21 11:19:00

Shas Knesset Member Nissim Ze'ev on Thursday proposed establishing "rehabilitation centers" to suppress the sexual tendencies of gay people.

"The government should initiate this; these people are dangerous and we must keep an eye on them," he said as the High Court discussed whether to cancel the Jerusalem gay pride parade due to the firefighters' slow-down strike. "If such a center is built, many of them will flock to it in order to help themselves.

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Exposed: The Anatomy of a Torture Scandal

Onnesha Roychoudhuri
2007-06-21 08:59:00

Where does the buck stop when it comes to torture?

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George Bush and the First Person Possessive

Michael Winship
OpEd News
2007-06-19 08:54:00

There's a famous, possibly apocryphal story about Lyndon Johnson visiting Vietnam during his presidency. On a carrier flight deck, he started striding toward a helicopter when a Navy officer said to him, "No, Mr. President, your helicopter is this way."

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Middle East Madness
Lebanon Claims Victory Over Militants

Hussein Dakroub
Associated Press
2007-06-21 15:58:00

The defense minister said Thursday the Fatah Islam militant group holed up in a northern refugee camp has been defeated after a monthlong military operation, and that only mopping up remained.

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IRAQ: Hundreds flee homes as Turkish forces battle Kurdish fighters

2007-06-21 15:50:00

Hundreds of Iraqi Kurds have been forced to flee their homes after up to 30,000 Turkish soldiers massed on the Iraqi-Turkish border and launched attacks against Kurdish fighters, Iraqi border police say.

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DEBKA(Mossad) file: A third US carrier, the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise Strike Group is speeding towards the Persian Gulf

2007-06-21 11:57:00

According to DEBKAfile's military sources, the US naval build-up off the shores of Iran marks rising military tensions in the region, accentuated by last week's Hamas victory which has endowed Iran with a military foothold on Israel's southwestern border.

The USS Enterprise CVN 65-Big E Strike Group, the US Navy's largest air carrier, will join the USS Stennis and the USS Nimitz carriers, building up the largest sea, air, marine concentration the United States has ever deployed opposite Iran. This goes towards making good on the assurances of four carriers US Vice President Dick Cheney offered the Gulf and Middle East nations during his May tour of the region.

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14 troops killed in Iraq, U.S. says, rockets slam into Green Zone, US bombers target house, 11 civilians injured

Associated Press
2007-06-21 11:22:00

BAGHDAD - The U.S. military said 14 American troops have died in several attacks in the past 48 hours, including five slain Thursday in a single roadside bombing that also killed four Iraqis in Baghdad.

Elsewhere, a suicide truck bomber struck the Sulaiman Bek city hall in a predominantly Sunni area of northern Iraq, killing at least 16 people and wounding 67, an Iraqi commander said.

A US helicopter flies over thick smoke rising from the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad.

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UK mission in Afghanistan to last decades, says ambassador

Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian
2007-06-21 01:49:00

A British presence in Afghanistan will continue for decades, the UK's new ambassador to Kabul warned yesterday, adding that it would take that long to establish a sustainable government in the country.

Comment: Sustainable used in this way simply means that the country works like the old colonies. Complete subservience to the will of the coloniser.

Obviously we can't leave them to themselves! With enough bombs and destruction they will come to understand how much the US and it's allies really care in literally building the democracy from the ground up. But first priority is to kill every Afghan save a drug lord or two. Then...

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Israel Sends Missiles, Tanks Into Gaza

Associated Press
2007-06-20 23:13:00

EREZ CROSSING, Gaza Strip - Israel fired missiles and sent tanks on a foray into Gaza on Wednesday, killing four Palestinians in the deadliest military action since Hamas militants took control of the coastal strip. At the same time, Israel allowed in a few sick and wounded Palestinians of the hundreds of people who fled the violence _ with many holed up for days at a fetid border passage with Gaza.

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The Loan Gunmen
How Commercial Banks and Private Firms Are Dictating Who Goes To College

Nomi Prins
2007-06-21 16:19:00

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo addressed the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee recently on his continuing investigations into the conflicts of interest in the student loan industry.

He concentrated on private loans, not guaranteed by the federal government -- recommending a code of conduct to keep lenders from receiving university "finders-fee" kickbacks.

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Card fraud cost UK travellers £118.2m last year

In the News
2007-06-21 12:54:00

British travellers must be vigilant about credit and debit card fraud, insurance firm CPP has warned.

The group handled over 9,000 cases of overseas card fraud last year with Spain, France and Italy being the destinations where travellers were most at risk from card fraud.

According to CPP, almost half of all UK cards stolen abroad in the last year took place in these countries, with more than a quarter of these cases (2,557) occurring in Spain.

Zoe Manton, head of card protection at CPP, explained: "As summer vacation is approaching, we are urging holiday makers to be vigilant at all times abroad.

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Gallup: 70% of Americans say economy worsening

Chicago Tribune
2007-06-21 11:32:00

A recent Gallup Poll suggests Americans generally aren't feeling as good about the economy as, say, Wall Street is.

Seventy percent of Americans say the economy is getting worse, according to Gallup. Rising gas and food prices as well as high health-care costs are contributing greatly to a sense of gloom, as is growing pessimism about the job market, Gallup says.

It's striking that Americans haven't been so down about the economy since September 2001 in the days BEFORE 9/11, says Gallup.

The White House's internal polls are no doubt showing the same kind of results. In the past at such times of American unhappiness with the economy, President Bush has used his bully pulpit to make appearances meant to showcase the economy's vitality.

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Massachusetts town embraces dollar alternative

Scott Malone
2007-06-19 22:30:00

Great Barrington - A walk down Main Street in this New England town calls to mind the pictures of Norman Rockwell, who lived nearby and chronicled small-town American life in the mid-20th Century.

So it is fitting that the artist's face adorns the 50 BerkShares note, one of five denominations in a currency adopted by towns in western Massachusetts to support locally owned businesses over national chains.

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China sells more US T-bonds

Shangguan Zhoudong
2007-06-19 21:57:00

China sold more US treasury bonds in April than any time in at least seven years, a signal that the nation may be diversifying the world's largest foreign-exchange reserves, Shanghai Securities News reported today.

Statistics from the US Treasury Department show that China sold a net US$5.8 billion of T-bonds, the first drop in holdings since October 2005. Japan remains the largest holder of US T-bonds, with its holdings reaching US$614.8 billion in April, according to the statistics.

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Company's march toward student loan monopoly scary

Alan Collinge
2007-06-19 21:55:00

Sallie Mae, the nation's largest student loan company (and lobbying freight train in Washington, D.C.), bragged in its 2003 annual report that its record profits were attributable to fees collected on delinquent loans.

Sallie Mae has purchased many of the largest collection companies in the nation since 1999. It was recently called the second-most profitable company by Fortune magazine. Since 1997, Sallie Mae has set aside the equivalent of $650,000 per employee in stock bonuses. Former CEO Albert Lord put in a cash offer for a major league baseball team last year and is currently building his own private luxury golf course in Virginia.

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The Living Planet
Quake hits Venezuela, Colombia, no damage reported

2007-06-20 17:32:00

A quake shook Venezuela and Colombia on Wednesday but there were no reports of damage, including to any of Venezuela's vital oil operations, officials said.

The quake, which hit northeastern Colombia and southwestern Venezuela, should not produce any significant damage because of its size and depth, Herbert Rendon, a Venezuelan seismological official said in a telephone interview.

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Indonesia mud flow causes living room geyser

Heri Retnowati
2007-06-20 13:50:00

Huge bursts of water have been shooting out of the ground in homes and at least one abandoned restaurant hundreds of meters away from swathes of land submerged by a mud volcano on Indonesia's Java island.

Experts say the bursts are caused by underground pressure linked to torrents of mud gushing out of a drilling site near the industrial suburb of Sidoarjo in East Java for more than a year.

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Bangladesh faces "unusual" monsoon, fears flooding

Masud Karim
2007-06-17 13:47:00

Flood-prone Bangladesh is bracing for an unusual and unpredictable monsoon this year, with environment experts and officials blaming global warming, melting Himalayan glaciers, silted rivers and unplanned roads.

Heavy rains last week triggered landslides in the southern port city of Chittagong, burying at least 128 people alive.

Floods caused by days of torrential rain, described by weather officials as unusually heavy and devastating, inundated at least a dozen out of Bangladesh's 64 administrative districts.

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Florida: Marine Officials Warn Of Biting Dolphins

2007-06-21 13:30:00

Marine researchers are warning about a growing number of dolphin bite cases in Sarasota County, according to a Local 6 News report.

Florida experts said wild dolphins are becoming more aggressive because boaters are feeding them.

"It seems reasonable to understand why you wouldn't feed a bear or something more dangerous-appearing, but these are wild animals," dolphin researcher Jason Allen said. "They are wild animals with lots of sharp teeth."

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Freak winter is Europe's warmest for 700 years

Catherine Brahic
NewScientist.com news service
2007-06-20 07:26:00

Last autumn-winter season was Europe's warmest for more than 700 years, researchers say.

The last time Europeans saw similar temperatures to the autumn and winter of 2006-07, they were eating strawberries at Christmas in 1289, according to Jürg Luterbacher at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues.

European climate measurements and temperature records stretch back several hundred years - UK records are the longest available, going back to 1659. Estimating historical temperatures beyond then involves scrutinising contemporary documents and diaries.

"People in churches, or doctors, wrote diaries, and usually they also included information about weather and climate. Climate historians can use and interpret this information and translate it into a temperature value," explains Luterbacher, who worked with climate historians to compare past and recent temperatures

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Search for Missing After Flash Flooding in NY Catskill Mountains

2007-06-21 00:59:00

Severe thunderstorms caused flash flooding that washed out roads in the southern Catskill Mountains, and police said at least four people were reported missing Wednesday.

One death was blamed on the storms elsewhere in the state.

Up to eight inches of rain fell in two hours late Tuesday as the storms rolled across the region, washing out roads and homes and slamming trees into bridges in the rural area.

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Health & Wellness
Why Americans Keep Getting Fatter

Scott Kahan
The Baltimore Sun
2007-06-21 16:16:00

A long-running contradiction in U.S. farm policy is fattening the waistlines of Americans and the profits of agribusiness at the same time. For the 30 years that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been issuing dietary guidelines, there has been a stark inconsistency between the federal government's advice and its food funding.

True, the USDA has been doing more, over time, to promote health through dietary guidelines, food pyramids and other nutrition programs. And yet more than $20 billion yearly -- more than one-fifth its budget -- is sunk into a farm bill that supports many of the foods its recommendations warn against. At the same time, the department virtually ignores incentives to produce, promote and consume some of the healthiest foods: fruits and vegetables.

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Bird flu fears reignited, reexamining another strain

Ed Susman
2007-06-19 13:18:00

While the threat of a bird flu pandemic continues to hang over the world, authorities in the United Kingdom now believe a second strain of avian flu -- previously considered of little human risk -- does indeed pose a real danger to people.

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Blind people are 'serial memory' whizzes

2007-06-21 13:17:00

Compared to people with normal vision, those who were blind at birth tend to have excellent memories. Now, a new study reported online on June 21st in the journal Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press, shows that blind individuals are particular whizzes when it comes to remembering things in the right order.

The findings are a good example of the familiar adage that "practice makes perfect" and reveal that mental capabilities may be refined or adjusted in order to compensate for the lack of a sensory input, according to researchers Noa Raz and Ehud Zohary of Hebrew University.

"Our opinion is that the superior serial memory of the blind is most likely a result of practice," Zohary said. "In the absence of vision, the world is experienced as a sequence of events. Since the blind constantly use serial-memory strategies in everyday circumstances, they tend to develop superior skills."

For example, the blind tend to navigate the world by forming "route-like" sequential representations. Blind people also rely on serial-memory strategies to identify otherwise indistinguishable objects, such as different brands of yogurt that vary only in their labeling, the researchers noted. According to their own reports, in order to correctly choose a desired item, the blind typically place objects in a fashioned order and give them ordinal tags, such as "the 3rd item on the left." Thus, a memory for the order in which items are encountered may be especially important for blind people's ability to create mental pictures of a scene.

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Body absorbs 5lb of make-up chemicals a year

Paul Stokes
2007-06-21 12:41:00

Women who use make-up on a daily basis are absorbing almost 5lb of chemicals a year into their bodies, it is claimed.

Many use more than 20 different beauty products a day striving to look their best while nine out of 10 apply make-up which is past its use by date.

Dependence on cosmetics and toiletries means that a cocktail of 4lb 6oz of chemicals a year is absorbed into the body through the skin.

Some synthetic compounds involved have been linked to side effects ranging from skin irritation to premature ageing and cancer.

Richard Bence, a biochemist who has spent three years researching conventional products, said: "We really need to start questioning the products we are putting on our skin and not just assume that the chemicals in them are safe.

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Blackcurrants are the berry best fruit for you

Fresh Plaza
2007-06-21 12:38:00

It may not be as fashionable as its more exotic cousins but the humble blackcurrant is the healthiest fruit of all. Research shows that the common or garden blackcurrant is more nutritious than other fruits, from home-grown apples and strawberries to tropical mangoes and bananas.

Blackcurrants also contain the highest levels of health-boosting antioxidants - natural compounds credited with the ability to stave off a range of illnesses from heart disease to cancer. Researcher Dr Derek Stewart said his findings, which come amid a growing appetite for exotic berries, colourful juices and other superfoods, prove the British blackcurrant is the healthiest fruit of all.

Dr Stewart, who came to his conclusion after comparing the properties of 20 popular fruits, said: "The motivation for the research came from the huge publicity surrounding superfoods, coupled with lack of consumer knowledge. "We wanted to find out which fruit came out on top.

"The combined beneficial composition and impact in health-related studies mean that blackcurrants can claim to be the number one superfruit." Dr Stewart reached his conclusions by analysing the findings of dozens of research papers published by other scientists. Lack of published data on fruits which have only recently become popular, such as raisin-sized goji berries, means they could not be included in the analysis.

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Human bite wounds 12 times more common in men

2007-06-21 12:27:00

Men are 12 times more likely than women to sustain severe human bite injuries for which surgery may be necessary, according to a study published in the July issue of the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Injuries are most likely to occur during brawls at weekends or public holidays and in most cases alcohol is involved.

The researchers reviewed the 92 patients requiring assessment for human bite wounds by the plastic surgery service at St James's Hospital Dublin, Ireland, between January 2003 and December 2005. Eight five of them (92%) were men and the 92 patients had a total of 96 bites.

Alcohol was implicated in 86% of the injuries and illicit drugs in 12%. Seventy per cent of incidents resulting in a bite wound had occurred during the weekend or on a public holiday.

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Science & Technology
The smallest piece of ice reveals its true nature

EurekAlert / University College London
2007-06-21 13:19:00

Collaborative research between scientists in the UK and Germany (published in this week's Nature Materials) has led to a breakthrough in the understanding of the formation of ice. Dr Angelos Michaelides of the London Centre for Nanotechnology (formerly of the Fritz-Haber Institut der Max-Planck Gesellschaft in Berlin) and Professor Karina Morgenstern of the Leibniz University Hannover have combined experimental observations with theoretical modelling to reveal with unprecedented resolution the structures of the smallest pieces of ice that form on hydrophobic metal surfaces.

The results provide information about the process of ice nucleation at a molecular level and take science a significant step closer to understanding the mysterious process through which ice forms around microscopic dust particles in the upper atmosphere. Because this is the basis of cloud formation, knowing how different particles promote ice formation is crucial for climate change models.

The authors began by cooling down a metallic surface to 5 degrees above absolute zero (around - 268 Celsius) at which temperature it was possible to "trap" and obtain images of the smallest possible pieces (hexamers) of ice using a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM). The hexamer - the simplest and most basic "snow flake" - is composed of just six water molecules. Other ice nanoclusters containing seven, eight and nine molecules were also imaged.

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Ice Age extinction claimed highly carnivorous Alaskan wolves

2007-06-21 13:11:00

The extinction of many large mammals at the end of the Ice Age may have packed an even bigger punch than scientists have realized. To the list of victims such as woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, a Smithsonian-led team of scientists has added one more: a highly carnivorous form of wolf that lived in Alaska, north of the ice sheets.

Wolves were generally thought to have survived the end-Pleistocene extinction relatively unscathed. But this previously unrecognized type of wolf appears to have vanished without a trace some 12,000 years ago.

The study, which will be published in the June 21 online issue of Current Biology, combined genetic and chemical analyses with more conventional paleontological study of the morphology, or form, of the fossilized skeletal remains. This multifaceted approach allowed the researchers to trace the ancient wolves' genetic relationships with modern-day wolves, as well as understand their role in the ancient ecosystem.

"Being able to say all of those things - having a complete picture - is really unusual," said lead author Jennifer Leonard, a research associate with the Smithsonian Genetics Program, and currently at Uppsala University in Sweden.

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Homeland Security Reports Computer Hacker Breaches

Associated Press
2007-06-21 11:39:00

The Homeland Security Department, the lead U.S. agency for fighting cyber threats, suffered more than 800 hacker break-ins, virus outbreaks and other computer security problems over two years, senior officials acknowledged to Congress.

In one instance, hacker tools for stealing passwords and other files were found on two internal Homeland Security computer systems. The agency's headquarters sought forensic help from the department's own Security Operations Center and the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team it operates with Carnegie Mellon University.

In other cases, computer workstations in the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration were infected with malicious software detected trying to communicate with outsiders; laptops were discovered missing; and agency Web sites suffered break-ins.

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Influence of GM-Soya on the posterity of Rats

Irina Ermakova
2007-06-21 10:41:00

Scheme of experiments.
Investigations of the influence of GM-soya (Roundup Ready, RR) on Wistar rats and first posterity were performed. Rat females received additionally to the diet the soya flour (5-7 g for each rat) two weeks before mating, during mating, pregnancy and lactation: traditional soya and GM-soya (Roundup Ready, RR). Group of rats, which received only diet without any food additives, was considered as the control group. The weight, size and mortality of rat kids were analyzed.

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Volunteers sought for Mars test

Paul Rincon
BBC News
2007-06-20 22:01:00

The European Space Agency (Esa) is seeking volunteers for a simulated human trip to Mars, in which six crew spend 17 months in an isolation tank.

They will live and work in a series of interlocked modules at a research institute in Moscow.

Once the hatches are closed, the crew's only contact with the outside world is a radio link to "Earth" with a realistic delay of many minutes.

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Our Haunted Planet
Jellyfish-shaped UFO spotted in Shanghai

Lydia Chen
Shanghai Daily
2007-06-21 07:46:00

SEVERAL people reported seeing a jellyfish-shaped unidentified flying object about 8pm in Shanghai on Monday.

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Don't Panic! Lighten Up!
Waitress may win Million-Dollar stock picking contest

Tim Catts
Business Week
2007-06-21 17:38:00

It's Friday afternoon in the tiny Appalachia town of St. Clairsville, Ohio, and Mary Sue Williams is about to begin her shift as a waitress at Undo's, a spacious Italian restaurant that overlooks Interstate 70. She enjoys taking care of her regulars, she says, and after nine years in her job, she has accumulated plenty of them. Even with dozens of the restaurant's tables empty, she cuts quickly across the floor to the bar to refill an empty water glass. "I'm going to do this until I can't walk," Williams says, insisting that she wouldn't quit for a million dollars.

That conviction may soon be put to the test. Williams could be in line to win the stockpicking contest sponsored by cable channel CNBC, which carries a million-dollar grand prize. According to the last official standings, posted on May 25, she was in sixth place, with a 29% return during the two-week final round. But as BusinessWeek first reported, a handful of top finishers are suspected of exploiting a loophole in CNBC's trading software to inflate their returns (see BusinessWeek.com, 6/7/07, "CNBC's Easy Money"). CNBC later acknowledged the problems and said it will disqualify contestants who violated any of the game's rules. Based on BusinessWeek's analysis of the trading results for the contest's finalists, Williams appears to be the most likely winner.

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Holy Grail buried under Roman basilica?

2007-06-20 17:34:00

An Italian archaeologist, Alfredo Barbagallo, claims that the legendary Holy Grail is hidden in the catacombs under the 6th-century Roman basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls.

Barbagallo believes that the Holy Grail-- the chalice used at the Last Supper-- is kept in a room that is now buried under the basilica. His claim is based on two years of studying medieval iconography inside the basilica. In the wake of Barbagallo's claim, archeological authorities in Rome may give approval for the catacombs to be opened and examined.

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Continental apologizes for sewage overflow during flight

Associated Press
2007-06-21 13:33:00

Passengers who endured a two-day trans-Atlantic odyssey with sewage overflowing from a jet's lavatories are getting an apology from Continental Airlines Inc. for the "poor conditions."

Flight 71, with 168 customers on board, took off June 13 from Amsterdam bound for Newark, N.J., but only got as far as Shannon, Ireland, because of a problem with the restrooms.

The flight resumed the next day after repair work seemed to restore smooth flow in the lavatory system, a Continental spokesman said Thursday. But during the flight from Shannon to Newark, renamed Flight 1970, "the problem developed again," spokesman Dave Messing said.

When the plane landed in Newark, he said, it was discovered that the blockage was caused by someone flushing latex gloves down the toilet - despite signs that warn not to discard foreign objects into the system.

"Occasionally these instructions are overlooked," he said.

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Brazilian woman gives birth in shower after un-noticed pregnancy

RIA Novosti
2007-06-21 13:07:00

A woman in the Brazilian state of Sao Paolo spent nine months blissfully unaware she was pregnant, then gave birth while taking a shower, local media reported.

Claudia Fernanda, 27, gave birth to a girl weighing 3.3 kilograms, with a height of 48 centimeters.

"I did not know I was pregnant," she told doctors in a maternity department, where she came on foot with her baby, the umbilical cord still attached.

Claudia Fernanda, who is unemployed and already has three children aged eight, six, and four, said she had visited a doctor a week before the delivery, but the examination had not revealed any signs of pregnancy.

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15-year-old performs surgery in India

Associated Press
2007-06-21 12:06:00

The 15-year-old son of two doctors performed a filmed Caesarean section birth under his parents' watch in southern India in an apparent bid to gain a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest surgeon.

Instead, the boy's father could be stripped of his licenses and may face criminal charges, officials said Thursday.

Dr. K. Murugesan showed a recording of his son performing a Caesarean section to an Indian Medical Association chapter in the southern state of Tamil Nadu last month, said Dr. Venkatesh Prasad, secretary of the association. The video showed Murugesan anesthetizing the patient.

"We were shocked to see the recording," Prasad told The Associated Press, adding that the IMA told Murugesan that his act was an ethical and legal violation.

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