- Signs of the Times Archive for Mon, 23 Jul 2007 -

Sections on today's Signs Page:

SOTT Focus
Israeli release of prisoners an example of Zionist propaganda

Signs of the Times
2007-07-23 13:39:00

In the last 2 weeks, the mass media has been flooded with news about the Israeli release of 250 Palestinian prisoners. As a matter of fact, the propaganda exercise started 4 weeks ago on the 26th of June when this article from Reuters announced:
"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday he was ready to free about 250 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to help President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction."

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Book Review: Why Is Peace "Missing"?

Justin Soutar
Signs of the Times
2007-07-23 10:47:00

A peace divorced from history and the real world is no peace at all.

Book review of The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace by Dennis Ross HarperCollins, New York, 2004.

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Signs Economic Commentary for 23 July 2007

Donald Hunt
Signs of the Times
2007-07-23 06:05:00

The dollar continued its plunge last week, falling 2.6% against gold, 0.3% against the euro and 2.5% against oil. Interestingly, long term dollar interest rates dropped 23 basis points over the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, with Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, doing well at the box office in the United States, the U.S. public is getting a rare look at the advantages of European-style social democracy.

All this brings up some interesting thoughts about the "American Dream", self-esteem, and the Mortgage Monster poised to devour the US economy...

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Best of the Web
So, You Think You Know All About George W. Bush?

Les Visible
Smoking Mirrors
2007-07-23 11:52:00

Information concerning the activities of the Bush Crime Family is readily available on the World Wide Web

The suspicion of murders and the odd coincidence of epidemic suicides in the Bush lineage is impressive

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U.S. News
Hysteria!: College application draws bomb squad

Associated Press
2007-07-21 16:46:00

Emergency crews evacuated an Eastern Illinois University building Friday, after a campus postal carrier discovered a disheveled-looking package heading for the college's admissions office.

"There was no return address, it was poorly written, poorly addressed to the university, there were misspellings," school spokeswoman Vicki Woodard said Saturday. "There was some tape over it. Just the overall appearance was rather strange."

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Court: VA must pay Agent Orange victims

2007-07-19 16:04:00

An appeals court chastised the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday and ordered the agency to pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and contracted a form of leukemia.

"The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame," the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.

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Hysteria! Suspicious device was weather station

2007-07-21 13:43:00

Virginia - The suspicious device blown up by a State Police Bomb Squad Thursday evening turned out to be a weather station.

State Police robot blows up weather station.

It happened outside the Medical Office Building on the east side of Lewis Gale Medical Center. We were told a visitor contacted authorities after seeing a suspicious object hanging from a tree. Authorities brought out a robot to check it. The device was blown up around 7:00 p.m. At no time was the hospital or any other buildings at Lewis Gale evacuated.

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Man, thinking he sees 'Iraq' people, fires rifle at Charlotte house

2007-07-19 13:41:00

Claiming he saw "Iraq" people running through his neighbors' yard, a Port Charlotte man fired a rifle into his neighbors' house, a report says.

The neighbors were home during the shooting but were not injured, although a window air-conditioning unit was destroyed when 58-year-old Arthur R. Miller opened fire on the home Tuesday evening, according to the report by the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.

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No one injured as Warbird lands on Highway 41 in FdL

Peggy Breister
FDL Reporter
2007-07-23 12:45:00

When he stopped Sunday night to help an RV with a flat tire on Highway 41, Trooper Scott Hlinak never expected a near-miss with an airplane.

But as the Wisconsin State Patrol trooper was sitting in his squad on the side of the road just north of Military Road, he saw a plane "flying low" right behind him.

As Hlinak sat behind the full-sized motor home, another trooper, Luke Newman, had pulled about 300 to 400 feet behind him to slow down traffic.

"The pilot of the 1951 Texan T-6 Warbird slammed the plane down between the two troopers," said Fond du Lac County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Ryan Waldschmidt. "Then he bounced it over the trooper and the motor home. Then it came down and rolled to a stop."

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North Carolina: Biological Mother Accused in Kidnapping

Chris Talbott
Associated Press
2007-07-23 12:21:00

Two women and an armed man stormed a home wearing masks and kidnapped an infant one of the women had given up for adoption, authorities alleged Sunday. The baby was found unharmed at a military base three states away.

Investigators found the 5-month-old girl early Sunday at Fort Bragg, N.C., and planned to file state kidnapping charges against her biological mother, Jamie Kiefer, and related charges against the child's biological aunt, Rikki Swann, said Special Agent Jason Pack, an FBI spokesman in Jackson.

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UK & Euro-Asian News
11 workers missing after coal mine flood in north China

RIA Novosti
2007-07-23 13:41:00

Eleven miners are missing in a flooded coal mine in northern China's Shanxi province, Xinhua news agency said Monday.

Water burst into the small privately-owned mine near Lu-liang late on Sunday night. Rescuers have been pumping water out of the pit. Local authorities said it was impossible to say whether the workers were still alive.

Water had accumulated following several weeks of heavy rains, which have affected regions all over China in recent weeks.

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Russian traveler who covered 80,000 km on foot arrives in Tyumen

RIA Novosti
2007-07-23 13:35:00

Russian traveler and citizen of the world Vladimir Nesin, who has covered 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles) and 80 countries on foot in 11 years, has arrived in Tyumen in West Siberia.

The "barefoot traveler" has marched across Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines, Australia, Iran, Pakistan, India, as well as European nations and North and South America in the past 11 years. He arrived in Tyumen from Africa.

"I walked at least about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) in each country," Nesin said at a news conference. "I usually spend three dollars a day: one on food, another on my visa [a visa costs some $30 on average] and a third on other expenses - say to buy a film or give a call."

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Russia: Less trust in parliament, courts, more in government

RIA Novosti
2007-07-23 13:22:00

About an equal number of respondents in surveys conducted by a leading Russian opinion center, VTsIOM, said they trusted and mistrusted the legislative branch, but the majority appeared to have more faith in government.

Forty-five percent of respondents in the May 26-27 and June 30-July 1 surveys said they had no confidence in lawmakers, who they said were largely inefficient and guided by narrow interests. While 41% said they trusted parliament, and 14% said they had no clear opinion.

Analysts said opinion polls have traditionally shown the parliament to be held in low esteem by Russians, who however do not often know who was elected from their constituency in the previous elections.

But some experts said that is a sign of a lack of confidence in the current parliament, dominated by the Kremlin-backed party, and low expectations from elections to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, later this year, when members will be elected on a party list basis under a new law.

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Small plane trying to break aviation record crashes in Switzerland; pilot dies

Associated Press
2007-07-23 12:10:00

An attempt to break an aviation speed record went horribly wrong Monday when a small ''experimental'' plane crashed through an apartment building in the Swiss city of Basel, killing the pilot and lightly injuring six other people, authorities said.

The crash happened at 11:25 a.m. (0925 GMT), shortly after the single-engine plane took off from EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, located across the border in France, authorities said. It went through the attic of an apartment building in the northwest of the city before coming to a fiery rest on a playground in a park.

The pilot was identified as Hans Georg Schmid, a former Swissair pilot who racked up more than 16,000 hours of flight experience during three decades at the former national carrier. His body was found in the park, said Klaus Mannhart, spokesman for Basel cantonal (state) police.

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US-NATO Countries Push for Independent Kosovo Narco State (Balkan Route) after Failure at UN

Evelyn Leopold
2007-07-23 11:23:00

The United States and Europeans discarded a U.N. resolution on the future status of Kosovo on Friday, because of Russian opposition, prompting Pristina to propose declaring independence from Serbia on November 28.

The watered-down U.N. Security Council resolution, the third in as many months, included a framework that Moscow said would lead to independence of the Serbian province by stealth.

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Disasters hit China's grain output, higher food prices likely

2007-07-23 08:06:00

Floods and other natural disasters are hurting China's grain output, the government said Monday, raising the prospect of higher food prices with inflation already at uncomfortably high levels.

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Around the World
Shocking! Officers wrote names in Haneef's diary to frame him

Hedley Thomas and Andrew Fraser
The Australian
2007-07-23 13:58:00

A new bungle has emerged in the investigation of Mohamed Haneef as Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty yesterday dimissed reports that the Indian doctor was suspected of being involved in a plot to attack the Gold Coast's tallest building.

©The Australian
Dr Haneef ... in the back of a police van.

The Australian can reveal that investigating AFP officers wrote the names of overseas terror suspects in Dr Haneef's personal diary, only to later grill him during an interrogation over whether he had written the potentially incriminating notes.

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Hugo Chavez to submit unlimited re-election bill to parliament

RIA Novosti
2007-07-23 13:38:00

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has said he will soon submit to parliament a bill allowing the president to be re-elected an unlimited number of times.

"If people don't vote for me, I will leave. I'm not trying to hold onto this place, as I have always said. I won't cry if I am rejected," Chavez told the Hello President TV show Sunday.

"If the Venezuelan people say go, I will go," he said.

Venezuela's leader is elected by a simple majority by a direct national vote and is the head of state and government for six years, and can be re-elected once.

Chavez first pledged to change the number of allowable presidential terms after he won the presidential election in December 2006.

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Japan estimates $12.5 billion in earthquake damage

RIA Novosti
2007-07-23 13:36:00

Estimated economic losses caused by last week's powerful earthquake in northwestern Japan could total $12.5 billion, local authorities said Monday.

A 6.8-magnitude quake that severely hit the Niigata prefecture July 16 killed at least 10 people and completely destroyed about a thousand buildings, seriously damaging at least a further 9,000.

The quake has also caused a number of problems at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which has been shut down, and could be closed for a year, due to confirmed radiation leaks and future safety concerns.

Japan said Monday it would allow experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the quake-hit NPP, which is the world's largest in terms of output, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

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Dozens of female babies' body parts found in disused Indian well

Randeep Ramesh
The Guardian
2007-07-23 12:12:00

Police in the eastern Indian state of Orissa have exhumed skulls and body parts believed to be from three dozen aborted female foetuses and murdered infant girls in an abandoned well, a grisly find that highlights the persistence of infanticide in the country.

Officers suspect a nearby clinic of performing the abortions and killing the children because they were female. The owner of the clinic, Sabita Sahu, and the manager, Shyma Sahu, have been detained for questioning.

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Britain is protecting the biggest heroin crop of all time

Craig Murray
Daily Mail
2007-07-21 22:14:00

This week the 64th British soldier to die in Afghanistan, Corporal Mike Gilyeat, was buried. All the right things were said about this brave soldier, just as, on current trends, they will be said about one or more of his colleagues who follow him next week.

The alarming escalation of the casualty rate among British soldiers in Afghanistan - up to ten per cent - led to discussion this week on whether it could be fairly compared to casualty rates in the Second World War.

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Flashback: Kosovo drug mafia supply heroin to Europe

Maggie O'Kane
The Guardian
2000-03-13 11:21:00

International agencies fighting the drug trade are warning that Kosovo has become a "smugglers' paradise" supplying up to 40% of the heroin sold in Europe and North America.

Nato-led forces, struggling to keep peace in the province a year after the war, have no mandate to fight drug traffickers; and - with the expulsion from Kosovo of the Serb police, including the "4th unit" narcotics squad - the smugglers are running the "Balkan route" with complete freedom.

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Big Brother
Alarm at US right to Britons highly personal data

Jamie Doward
The Guardian
2007-07-22 14:48:00

Highly sensitive information about the religious beliefs, political opinions and even the sex life of Britons travelling to the United States is to be made available to US authorities when the European Commission agrees to a new system of checking passengers.

The EC is in the final stages of agreeing a new Passenger Name Record system with the US which will allow American officials to access detailed biographical information about passengers entering international airports.

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Axis of Evil
Pentagon Plots Digital "Crystal Ball" to "See the Future" in Battle

Noah Shachtman
Wired - Danger Room
2007-07-19 13:31:00

Darpa, the Pentagon's way-out research arm, is looking to design a software suite that predicts the future for battlefield commanders. At the heart of the package: A digital "Crystal Ball" that forecasts how a mission is going to turn out, before it's done. No, I am not kidding.


The overall, three-year program is called "Deep Green." Its goal is to "allow the commander to think ahead, identify when a plan is going awry, and help develop alternatives 'ahead of real time.'" If it works out the way agency officials hope (a very big if), Deep Green will enable officers to out-hustle and out-think any potential foes -- and do all that planning and analysis with a quarter of the staff that it takes today.

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Flashback: TV Evangelist John Hagee Wants War With Iran, and He Wants It Now!

Bill Barnwell
2007-03-27 10:25:00

If anyone still thinks that the radical end-times "prophecy" movement is not a threat to peace and stability, think again. At the popular level, in terms of the TV preachers and the hot-selling prophecy books, the dispensational pre-trib stuff still reigns supreme. Most conservative-leaning Evangelical churches in America today are heavily influenced by popular dispensational theology to some extent. Even churches and pastors that don't teach pretribulationalism still are influenced by dispensationalism to varying degrees.

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Theocrats Deny 'End Times' Theology Is Cause of Their Push for War with Iran

Sarah Posner
2007-07-23 08:48:00

At the Christians United for Israel Summit, Joe Lieberman embraces the Christian nation, Jewish journalists get expelled, and attendees fret about the Iranian president's "12th Imam."

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Flashback: Christian Zionists donate $ 1 million to help Russian Jews emmigrate to Israel; Shas criticize Ashkenazi jews as idol worshippers

Hillel Kuttler, Liat Collins
The Jerusalem Post
1998-02-04 07:21:00

News in Brief

A Christian pastor yesterday presented the United Jewish Appeal with a $ 1 million check to assist in resettling Jews in Israel from the former Soviet Union. He estimated that the funds will pay the transportation costs for 3,300 people to move to Israel. John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas, announced the contribution at the National Religious Broadcasters annual convention in Washington. He raised the money from congregants at his church and from appeals on his Global Evangelism Television cable network. The donation comes one year after Hagee, 57, and UJA officials in his hometown discussed efforts to assist emigrants from the former USSR. The UJA launched Operation Exodus in the early 1990s when Jews began leaving the former Soviet republics.

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Flashback: John Hagee Apologizes, Renames 'Slave' Auction

Chicago Sun-Times
1996-03-05 07:09:00

After receiving criticism from black leaders and others, a conservative TV evangelist apologized Monday for inviting his parishioners to participate in a "slave auction" to raise money for high school students.

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Flashback: John Hagee, Christian Zionists push 'get-tough' policy

Abe Levy
2007-07-22 16:03:00

Inside a reserved Senate room, several hundred evangelical activists who came by plane and bus Wednesday waited for the arrival of Texas' two senators.

As their leader, Pastor John Hagee, entered the room, they erupted in cheers, snapping photos of the face of modern Christian Zionism, a movement that promotes Israel as a biblical mandate.

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Middle East Madness
PFLP to Abbas: Beware of the Israeli trap to divide the Palestinians

Palestinian Information Center
2007-07-23 13:07:00

Jamil Mizher, the PFLP political leader in Gaza Strip, has warned PA chief Mahmoud Abbas not to fall in the Israeli trap designed for him in a bid to shatter the Palestinian national unity, saying, "The Israelis will only offer false promises to you (Abbas)".

To substantiate his claims, Mizher cited the more than one decade of futile negotiations between the PA and Israel, in which, Israel offered only rosy promises to the PA leaders without implementing them on the ground.

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Study: US needs to 'rebrand' Iraq war

Raw Story
2007-07-23 07:41:00

As the Washington Post reports, the 211-page report the United States military commissioned on the "marketing" and "rebranding" of the Iraq war has been released this week by the RAND corporation.

This report looks at ways America can wage a PR offensive, simultaneously with war, to give a positive image to the "product" as it is being "marketed" to surviving citizens of Iraq as the war goes on.

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Flashback: AIPAC Throws Support Behind Palestinian Fatah Quislings

Nathan Guttman
The Forward
2007-07-11 12:15:00

Pro-Israel lobbyists and legislators have become unexpected cheerleaders for the Palestinian leadership after the new Fatah-led Cabinet took action against Hamas.

In a memo sent out to congressional offices this week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee commended the new Palestinian government for taking important steps needed for peace and for breaking ties with Hamas, which now rules Gaza.

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Parliamentary report: British map in Iran crisis 'inaccurate'

Sophie Walker
2007-07-22 03:49:00

A British map of the northern Gulf where Iran seized 15 naval personnel in March was not as accurate as it should have been and Britain was fortunate Iran did not contest it, a review into the crisis said.

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The Loan Gunmen
The housing slump extends beyond houses

James Thorner
St. Petersburg Times
2007-07-22 15:53:00

Almost everyone's heard about the pain the crumbling housing market has inflicted on building trades, real estate agents and mortgage lenders. But the tremors have cascaded from the inner circle to more distant, but related, industries.

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The Living Planet
Floods, landslides kill 30 in Indonesia

Associated Press
2007-07-23 17:06:00

Flash floods and landslides in central Indonesia have killed at least 30 people, and the death toll looks set to rise, Associated Press (AP) has reported.

A senior health official confirmed the toll, and predicted the number of deaths would rise as rescuers reach remote areas in the disaster zone.

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Moderate quake in India, mild tremors in Delhi

2007-07-23 15:51:00

A moderate quake occurred in northern India on Monday, with mild tremors felt in the capital New Delhi, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The 4.9 magnitude quake was recorded at 4:32 a.m., with the epicentre near Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand, 280 km northeast of New Delhi, said the USGS.

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Volcano in Tanzania erupts, spews lava

2007-07-20 15:43:00

A volcano in northern Tanzania erupted on Friday, spewing small amounts of smoke and lava, the government spokesman said.

Mt. Oldonyo Lengai, which is close to the border with Kenya, is believed to be the source of a series of shallow earthquakes experienced in the region over the past week, said Alfred Mutua, the Kenyan government spokesman.


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Lightning kills diver off Florida coast

Associated Press
2007-07-23 12:41:00

Lightning struck a diver's oxygen tank as he surfaced off Florida's Atlantic coast, killing him, authorities said.

The 36-year-old man was diving with three others Sunday off a boat near Deerfield Beach, about 40 miles north of Miami. He had surfaced about 30 feet from the boat when lightning struck his tank, said Deerfield Beach Fire Chief Gary Fernaays.

The other divers struggled to get the man back into the boat and radioed for help, Fernaays said. The victim, whose name was not immediately released, was rushed to the beach, where a rescue crew gave him CPR. He was later pronounced dead at North Broward Medical Center in Pompano Beach.

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Houses, hospitals, transport hit by power outage in Barcelona

Herald Tribune
2007-07-23 12:29:00

A faulty cable triggered a major power outage in Barcelona Monday, snarling traffic, hobbling public transportation and knocking out electricity to homes and businesses in much of Spain's second largest city.

City officials said the blackout began around 11 a.m. (0900 GMT) and affected traffic lights in much of the city center as well as several lines of the subway system. Police officers manned major intersections to keep traffic flowing.

The blackout continued more than four hours later, although Red Electrica, the company that manages Spain's power grid, said more than half the power supply had been restored.

Spanish Industry Minister Joan Clos ruled out sabotage, blaming the blackout on a substation cable that fell, causing a chain-reaction failure in as many as six other substations.

Around 300,000 customers spread throughout most of Barcelona lost power, and 130,000 of them remained without electricity mid-afternoon, the minister told a news conference.

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UK: Worst Flooding In Modern History

Sky News
2007-07-23 11:26:00

Thousands of people are without electricity or water as Britain suffers its worst flooding in modern history.

Submerged areas are bracing themselves for further chaos with water levels not expected to peak until tomorrow morning.

Gloucestershire is likely to be hit by yet more flooding as the River Severn is expected to rise once again in the early hours.


Severn Trent Water confirmed "at least" 350,000 homes in the county will be without water by this evening.

The peak level of the Thames is expected to travel through Oxford at about 2.45am and Abingdon at about 6.45am.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has told MPs the flooding emergency is "far from over".

West London and the Thames Valley could be the next parts of Britain to go underwater as the floods spread east.

Hundreds of homes could be flooded when torrential rain hits the capital in the next 24 hours.

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Health & Wellness
1 in 4 NYC adults has elevated blood mercury levels

New York City Health Department
2007-07-23 13:49:00

Pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under 6 should avoid fish high in mercury -- seafood still part of a healthy diet

A quarter of adult New Yorkers have elevated blood mercury levels, according to survey results released today by the Health Department, and the elevations are closely tied to fish consumption. Asian and higher-income New Yorkers eat more fish, and have higher average mercury levels, than others both locally and nationally. These mercury levels pose little if any health risk for most adults, but may increase the risk of cognitive delays for children whose mothers had very high mercury levels during pregnancy.

Major Findings on Blood Mercury Levels from NYC-HANES

Today's findings are the latest presented from New York City's Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NYC-HANES), the first such survey ever conducted by a U.S. city. It's possible that other cities have similarly high levels, or higher ones, but haven't yet documented them. Because mercury is a concern for the health of newborns, recommendations on mercury exposure are most important for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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Do I know you? Researchers identify woman's struggle to recognize new faces

EurekAlert / Research Australia
2007-07-23 13:44:00

The woman's condition, known as prosopamnesia, is extremely rare and has only been found in a handful of people around the world, according to University of Queensland cognitive neuroscientist Professor Jason Mattingley.

"For many years, scientists have been interested in how people learn to recognise new faces, and people who have difficulty with faces often have trouble interacting in social settings," he said.

The woman - whose identity remains protected - presented herself to researchers after experiencing social embarrassment when she found she was unable to recognise colleagues, people to whom she had already been introduced.

The research, in collaboration with colleagues at Macquarie and La Trobe universities, is published in this month's edition of Current Biology. The work suggests the woman's "disability" might lie in her inability to encode or recognise new faces, rather than her ability to perceive them.

"She reports relying heavily on featural cues such as hair colour and style, eyeglasses, and eyebrows to recognise new acquaintances," Professor Mattingley said.

On a battery of standard face-recognition tests, the woman consistently registered scores that indicated her ability to recognise new faces was severely impaired.

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The Age of Autism: The last word

2007-07-23 09:53:00

This is my 113th and final Age of Autism column. United Press International, which has been the hospitable home for this series, is restructuring, and I'm off to adventures as yet unknown -- although I intend to keep my focus on autism and related issues.

Why? Because it is the story of a lifetime.

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Flashback: Yawning, a test of your empathy?

Mixing Memory
2005-06-16 16:24:00

Today as I was riding home from campus on the bus, I was talking on the phone, and my interlocutor yawned. Almost immediately, I yawned as well. She made a joke about it, and I said that it wasn't my fault, because yawning is contagious -- when you see or hear someone yawn, you tend to yawn as well. I thought that was a well-known fact, but apparently she had never heard it, or noticed it before, so my first instinct was to prove that it was true by explaining to her why it happened. Then I realized that I had no idea why it happened. So I decided that when I got home, I would look it up. Let it never be said that I am not a geek.

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Flashback: Why is yawning contagious?

2007-07-05 06:18:00

Rather than being a precursor to sleep, yawning is designed to keep us awake, say US researchers. But why does seeing someone else yawn make you to do the same?

Yawning is an involuntary action that everyone does. We start before we are born and most creatures on the planet do it - even snakes and fish.

New research suggests rather than being a precursor to sleep, the purpose of yawning is to cool the brain so it operates more efficiently and keeps you awake.

The average yawn lasts six seconds.

The theory could explain a puzzling question about subconscious human behaviour - why many of us yawn when we see or hear another person doing it, or even read about it or even just think about it?

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Doctors Treating Older Anorexics

Ami Forliti, AP writer
New York Post
2007-07-23 04:42:00

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kelli Smith was nervous as she walked into the Philadelphia treatment center, seeking help at last for her anorexia. Looking around at the other patients, she was struck by how young they seemed.

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Science & Technology
Mars Rovers Weather Worst of Dust Storms

Ker Than
2007-07-23 13:56:00

The twin rovers on Mars are in good shape today despite widespread dust storms that worsened last week and threatened to cut off solar power to the robotic explorers.

Steve Squyres of Cornell University, the lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) project, said that both Spirit and Opportunity are in "excellent shape" based on a radio transmission received this morning.

"Both came through the weekend beautifully," Squyres said in a telephone interview. "They were both power positive over the weekend, meaning they were generating more power than they were consuming."

The amount of sunlight penetrating the dust-choked martian atmosphere has increased slightly in recent days, and the batteries of both rovers are fully charged, said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Explorations Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Astronomers measure atmospheric opacity in units of "tau." The lower the tau value, the clearer the sky.

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It's one small step for fashion, one giant leap for spacesuits

Dawn Fallik
The Boston Globe
2007-07-23 13:10:00

It's sleek. It's chic. It's very, very, very tight. All the better to show an astronaut's gravity-defying figure back on earth.

Introducing the BioSuit: a prototype spacesuit recently completed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When the white high-tech design is finalized in a few years, it will be the first new look for astronauts in more than four decades, replacing the lumpy, awkward 300-pound outfit with something worthy of a super hero.

"The current spacesuit dates back to Apollo," said Robert Cassanova, director of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, which partially funded the work. "It's a gas-pressurized bag that provides the atmospheric pressure humans need to survive, but they're heavy and bulky." The Michelin-man-like outfit is also exhausting -- about 70 percent of the energy astronauts expend is spent wearing the suit.

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Our Haunted Planet
Military spokesman responds to reports of sonic booms, shaking in California

2007-07-18 22:23:00

Sheriff's Department officials reported receiving dozens of calls from residents around the county who reported feeling shaking and loud booms at three different times before about 1:30 p.m. Residents from California Valley to Arroyo Grande reported feeling the shaking and hearing the booms.

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Don't Panic! Lighten Up!
270 Smuggled Crocodiles Seized in China

Associated Press
2007-07-23 13:14:00

Chinese police tracking a suspicious vessel on a border river in southwest China got a shock when they found 270 crocodiles, a state news agency reported Monday.

Xinhua News Agency said the seizure was the largest this year in Guangxi region, where 25 illegally captured crocodiles were discovered in the first six months.

Border police noticed the boat trying to land on the Chinese side of the Beilun River, which marks the border with Vietnam, early on Sunday.

Xinhua said four people carried bags off the boat, but jumped into the river and swam away when they saw the police.

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Cheese Wars: Swiss govt wants EU to register Gruyere as protected designation of origin

Thomson Financial / AFX
2007-07-23 13:08:00

The Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture said it will apply to the EU to have Gruyere registered as a term of controlled provenance, after French attempts to have its own Gruyere-style cheese registered in the EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) register.

Dairy farmers in the French border region have been making similar cheese under the same name for some time and several agreements say Swiss and French producers may share the name.

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Satire: Black Holes Renamed 'Super High Gravity Locations'

The Daily Redundancy
2007-07-23 13:06:00

The International Space Nomenclature Council today adopted the term 'emplacements de hauts gravité super' - or 'super high gravity locations' - as the official replacement name for black holes. Originally named in reference to the fact that light cannot escape their intense gravity, the term 'black hole' was increasingly criticized as being insensitive to African-Americans and African-Europeans.

"We're glad the council finally took action on this issue." said Isaiah Herman, Chairman of the National African-American Coalition of People. "The unimaginable destructive power of these super high gravity locations was giving the word 'black' a negative connotation throughout the universe."

Super high gravity locations are the remnants of giant stars that collapse into a substance so dense that it has a gravitational pull that consumes all matter that comes near it. "They're the bad boys of the cosmos." says Nokidi Imsure, Professor of Astronomic Anthropology at Howyflyl University. "You would definitely want to cross the street if you saw one coming."

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Tiny dog saves baby from rattlesnake

Associated Press
2007-07-22 22:06:00

MASONVILLE, Colo. - Zoey is a Chihuahua, but when a rattlesnake lunged at her owners' 1-year-old grandson, she was a real bulldog.

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