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Tue, 28 Nov 2023
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US: Mark Kelly Retires from Navy and NASA to be With Giffords

© Reuters
File handout image of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords is pictured with her husband NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly in this November 2007 photograph from their wedding
Captain Mark Kelly, the astronaut who commanded the final Space Shuttle Endeavour flight, will retire from the Navy and NASA to focus on his wife Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' recovery and work on a memoir with her.

"I want to be by her side. Stepping aside from my work in the Navy and at NASA will allow me to be with her and with my two daughters," Kelly said in a statement posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday.

Giffords is recovering after being shot through the head at a Congressional outreach event in Tucson on January 8.

The as-yet untitled memoir will be published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which said in a statement it will be a "deeply personal account" of the couple's courtship, Giffords' career in politics and the shooting.

It also will tell the story of her recovery process and trace Kelly's career from decorated Desert Storm combat pilot to his recent mission as shuttle commander, the statement said.


UK: Arrests at Stonehenge Summer Solstice Celebration

About 20 people were arrested for minor drug offences during summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge.

English Heritage said more than 18,000 revellers gathered at the prehistoric site in Wiltshire to witness the sunrise on the longest day of the year.

Cloudy conditions obscured the sunrise which occurred over the ancient stone circle at 0452 BST.

St John Ambulance treated 60 casualties on site for minor injuries and transported four to hospital.

The event is significant for pagans and druids, who mark it with religious ceremonies.


New Zealand Post-Quake Exodus Enters Third Month

© Red Cross Blog
More migrants left New Zealand than arrived for a third straight month in May, the most prolonged decline in 10 years, as people relocated after an earthquake struck the nation's second-biggest city.

Permanent migrant departures exceeded arrivals by 360 in May following readings of 130 in April and 520 in March, Statistics New Zealand said in Wellington today. In the year ended May 31, arrivals outpaced departures by 4,625, the lowest number since the 12 months through January 2009.

Slowing migration adds to the evidence for weaker growth and a declining labor supply this year after the magnitude 6.3 quake killed more than 180 people, wrecked houses and closed businesses in Christchurch on Feb. 22. The central bank may hold borrowing costs at record lows for longer after Christchurch was struck last week by aftershocks, pushing interest-rate swaps to the lowest this month.

"Taxpayers fleeing the country will hamper the government's desire to swiftly restore the budget to surplus, while a softer economy for longer keeps the Reserve Bank on hold for longer," Annette Beacher, head of Asia-Pacific research at TD Securities in Singapore, said in an e-mailed note.

New Zealand's dollar was little changed after the report. It bought 81.08 U.S. cents at 12:25 p.m. in Wellington from 81.01 cents immediately before the release. The two-year swap rate, a fixed payment made to receive floating rates, rose one basis point to 3.32 percent, after touching 3.275 percent on June 17, the lowest since May 24.

Gross domestic product will rise 2.1 percent in the year ending March 31, 2012, according to the average forecast of 11 economists surveyed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research Inc.

Christchurch Departures

Permanent departures of Christchurch residents in the three months through May were 1,300 more than the year-earlier period, the statistics agency said. About 400 fewer people arrived in the city, the statistics agency said.


Spanish Childcare Case Provokes International Campaign

© David Sillitoe/the Guardian
Childcare activist Sheila Kitzinger has thrown her weight behind the campaign to have the baby returned to her mother.
Childcare experts are backing an international campaign to reunite a woman with her child after the infant was removed by Spanish authorities concerned about her "chaotic" breastfeeding patterns.

Madrid's social services department insisted there were more serious reasons for taking the 15-month-old girl into care, but an official report criticises the mother's habit of breastfeeding on demand and letting the child sleep in bed with her.

"She uses breastfeeding as a pacifier and a toy, offering her breast any time the girl cries and letting her take it anywhere, no matter the time and context," says an edited version of the report produced by supporters of the 21-year-old mother, known as Habiba.

These criticisms have angered Spanish paediatricians and also prompted childcare activist Sheila Kitzinger and mothers' groups in Britain, the US and elsewhere to throw their weight behind the campaign to have the baby, known as Alma, returned to her mother.

"This baby must be returned to her mother as a matter of urgency and should be able to suckle whenever she wants to," Kitzinger told one of the campaign groups petitioning for Alma's return.


Job Screening Agency Archiving All Facebook

head in sand
© Unknown
If you're still not using any of the privacy settings on Facebook, here's the most compelling reason why you need to change that as soon as possible.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has given the thumbs up to Social Intelligence Corp, which keeps files of Facebook users' posts as part of a background-checking service for screening job applicants.

A spokesperson for Social Intelligence has clarified in an email:
Data is archived purely for compliance reasons and not used for any other purposes. This is to provide a verifiable chain-of-custody in case the information is ever needed for legal reasons. Archived data is never used for new screens.

As per our policies and obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the only information we collect on job applicants is employer defined criteria that is legally allowable in the hiring process. Examples of this include racist remarks, sexually explicit photos or videos, or illegal activity such as drug use

We are not building a database on individuals that will be evaluated each time they apply for a job and potentially could be used adversely even if they have cleaned up their profiles. It is important for job applicants to understand we are not storing their historical information to be used against them the next time they apply for a job.


Is 'Big Food's' Big Money Influencing the Science of Nutrition?

© Unknown
David Allison is a renowned scientist who runs an obesity research center at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He has a 108-page resume and was honored at the White House.

But even though study after study have shown soda to be a significant contributor to America's staggering obesity crisis, he says there is too little "solid evidence."

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control last week warned teenagers to cut down on their soda consumption, citing studies that show soda contributes to obesity and other health problems such as diabetes.

Allison has said such studies haven't been rigorous enough to prove soda contributes to obesity, but critics say his skepticism stems from his financial ties to entities such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and the American Beverage Association, who, critics say, have paid Allison to poke holes in the scientific consensus.

Comment: For more information on the dangers of soda, see these Sott links:

The Real Dangers of Soda to You and Your Children

The Facts, Statistics and Dangers of Soda Pop


US: North Carolina man robs store for a dollar so he can get health care in prison for medical problems

Richard V
© Gaston County Jail
James Verone handed a bank teller a note demanding money and claimed he had a gun.

A North Carolina man robbed a local store for a dollar just so he could get health care in prison, he said.

James Verone, 59, handed the teller a note demanding $1 and claimed he had a gun, ABC News reported.

He then walked away and sat down, waiting for police.

"I started to walk away from the teller, then I went back and said, I'll be sitting right over there in the chair waiting for the police," he said, according to local television station 9News. "I wanted to make it known that this wasn't for monetary reasons, but for medical reasons."

Verone, who committed the robbery on June 9, does not plan to pay his bail, which was recently reduced to $2,000.

Arrow Down

No Justice: Louisiana: BP Wins a Big One in Oil Spill Litigation

Deepwater Horizon
© Wikimedia commons
The Deepwater Horizon
Ruling in favor of Transocean and BP, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed third-party environmental claims in a giant pleading bundle in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation, saying the fact that the oil flow has stopped makes those lawsuits irrelevant.

"The injunction at this stage would be useless, as not only is there no ongoing release from the well, but there is also no viable offshore facility from which any release could possibly occur," U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier wrote. "The Macondo well is dead, and what remains of the Deepwater Horizon vessel is on the ocean floor, where it capsized and sank in 5,000 feet of water.

"Moreover, BP and the agencies comprising the Unified Area Command have been and are cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico. An injury is not redressable by a citizen suit when the injury is already being addressed."

Judge Barbier is overseeing the massive, consolidated oil spill litigation, which has been divided into "bundles," based upon the nature of the claims.

Comment: Even the mainstream media says Gulf Oil Spill Called the Biggest Cover-up in the History of America.


UK: Hackers 'steal entire 2011 census'

The entire 2011 UK census database has been stolen by hackers and will be published online, it has been claimed.

© Clare Kendall
Ryan Cleary, an alleged member of the hacking group behind the claim, LulzSec, was arrested in Essex this morning by specialist cyber crime officers from Scotland Yard.

The 19-year-old was taken to a central London police station and remains in custody on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act and Fraud Act offences.

A "significant amount of material" was also seized from an address in Wickford, Essex.

The "pre-planned intelligence-led operation" in collaboration with the FBI followed claims online that the 2011 census database had been stolen and would be published in full.

Comment: Or is this 'hacking' just a convenient excuse for those in power who wish to expose the private information of UK citizens?


Alice Walker: Why I'm Sailing to Gaza

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker will join an international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge Israel's blockade of the territory. Here, Walker, best known for her 1983 novel "The Color Purple," explains why she will be taking part.
© Alice Walker

Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: What else would I do? I am in my sixty-seventh year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content.

It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one's understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

There is a scene in the movie "Gandhi" that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire. The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.