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Thu, 23 Sep 2021
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U.S. Military Purchases Gulf of Mexico Seafood, Boosting an Industry Battered by Oil Spill

© David Rae Morris
Workers shuck raw oysters at Motivatit Seafood in Houma, La. Sales of oysters, fish and other seafood products from the Gulf of Mexico dropped dramatically after last year's BP oil spill.
Sales of Gulf of Mexico seafood are getting a boost from the military after being hammered by last year's BP oil spill, which left consumers fearing that the water's bounty had been tainted.

Ten products, including fish, shrimp, oysters, crab cakes, and packaged Cajun dishes such as jambalaya and shrimp etouffee are being promoted at 72 base commissaries along the East Coast, said Milt Ackerman, president of Military Solutions Inc., which is supplying seafood to the businesses.

Gulf seafood sales fell sharply after a BP gulf well blew out in April, spewing millions of gallons of oil into the sea. Consumers have long feared that fish, oysters and other products could be tainted by oil and chemicals used to fight the spill, although extensive testing has indicated the food is safe. The perception has lingered - along with the poor sales.

Bobby Barnett, a shrimper in Pass Christian, Miss., said he was glad the U.S. government was embracing domestic and not imported seafood.

"Every sale helps us out, and we need some help to come back," Barnett said. "You would have thought they would have been buying U.S. seafood all along."

The Defense Department-run Defense Commissary Agency - known as DeCa - sells groceries to military personnel, reservists, retirees and their families at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge. The stores have emphasized healthy diets as part of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" fitness and health campaign.


US: Bedbug Cases On Pace to Triple in NYC Public Schools

Schools reported 1,700 confirmed bedbug cases in first five months of school year

Bedbugs are plaguing New York City public schools like never before, according to the latest stats from the Department of Education.

City schools reported 1,700 confirmed bedbug cases in just the first five months of the school year -- a rate that's on pace to triple last year's total of 1,019 cases.

The parasitic pests have thrived in the winter season, it appears, with 80 percent of cases having been reported during November, December and January.

"It's just an outbreak and I don't know how they can stop it," said Wendy Tatum, a mother at PS 54 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of hundreds of schools to have had at least one confirmed case.

The Dept. of Ed is required to record any incidents where an infestation is found, but spokesperson Marge Feinberg said this uptick in cases is fueled not by infestations but by individual students who come to school with bedbugs.

"It is important to know that schools are not hospitable places for bedbugs," Feinberg said. "They are brought into schools from the clothing."


Mafia 'holds compromising Silvio Berlusconi photos'

Fabrizio Corona
Fabrizio Corona is known as the 'king of the paparazzi'
A leading Italian photographer has alleged that mafia gangsters claim to possess compromising photos of Silvio Berlusconi at wild "bunga bunga" sex parties.

Fabrizio Corona, who runs a celebrity photography agency, claimed that members of the Camorra mafia in Naples are trying to sell the alleged images to gossip magazines.

"Representatives from a big weekly magazine went to Naples to buy photos of Berlusconi from the underworld," he told an Italian television programme.

He said there were nude pictures of the Italian prime minister, but later appeared to backtrack, saying none of the images were "obscene".

Mr Corona, who is known as the "king of the paparazzi," also claimed that there had been a mysterious break-in at his photo agency, with thieves stealing several computer discs from his extensive picture archives, although he denied that he had any photos of Mr Berlusconi.

Prosecutors are expected to request as early as today that the prime minister, 74, be sent for trial on allegations of paying for sex with an underage prostitute, an erotic dancer known as Ruby the Heart Stealer, and of abusing his office by having her released on theft charges.

Black Cat

Romania may get even tougher on witches

Romanian witch
© Vadim Ghirda / Associated Press
There's more bad news in the cards for Romania's beleaguered witches.

A month after Romanian authorities began taxing them for their trade, the country's soothsayers and fortune tellers are cursing a new bill that threatens fines or even prison if their predictions don't come true.

Superstition is a serious matter in the land of Dracula, and officials have turned to witches to help the recession-hit country collect more money and crack down on tax evasion.

Witches argue they shouldn't be blamed for the failure of their tools.

"They can't condemn witches, they should condemn the cards," Queen Witch Bratara Buzea told The Associated Press by telephone.

Critics say the proposal is a ruse to deflect public attention from the country's many problems. In 2009, Romania needed a euro20 billion ($27.31 billion) International Monetary Fund-led bailout loan to pay salaries and pensions when its economy contracted more than 7 percent. Last year, the economy shrank again. However, this year a slight recovery of 1.5 percent growth is forecast.

Arrow Down

Queensland Floods Hit Australian Businesses Nationwide

The Queensland floods have hit businesses all across Australia, with a National Australia Bank survey estimating they cut 5 per cent off the revenue of large and medium-sized businesses.

Not surprisingly, the biggest hit was to Queensland businesses, where revenue was down 9.8 per cent and the utilisation of machinery was down 13.8 per cent.

But other states were also hit, with a 4 per cent drop in business revenue in NSW and Victoria during last month attributed to the Queensland floods.


Australia wheat exports jump in Dec; floods may cut Jan sales

Australian wheat exports jumped in December after late plantings and weather difficulties dragged November shipments down but rail and port closures due to floods in January may cause another dip in exports.

Exports in December from the world's fourth-largest wheat exporter totalled 1.28 million tonnes, up from 914,200 tonnes in November and also up on the 1.08 million tonnes a year ago, according to data from Australian Bureau of Statistics.


Flu epidemic spreads in Russia

Russian flu epidemic
© RIA Novosti
The flu and acute respiratory viral infection are spreading in Russia, with more than 60 regions having been affected by now.

A drastic increase in the number of sick people has prompted the closure of kindergartens and schools in the Komi Republic.

Che Guevara

Egypt: Protests swell at Cairo's Liberation Square

Tens of thousands pour into central Cairo seeking president Mubarak's ouster, despite a slew of government concessions.

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have poured into Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square as protests against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, entered their 15th day despite a slew of concessions announced by the government.

Tens of thousands of protesters have also come out on the streets in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city.

There were also reports of a protest outside the parliament building in the capital. A witness said at least a thousand people had gathered at the spot and more were coming in.

According to Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Egyptian capital, the crowd at Tahrir Square grew rapidly on Tuesday afternoon, with many first-timers joining protesters seeking Mubarak's immediate ouster.

The newcomers said they had been inspired in part by the release of Wael Ghonim, the Google executive, after what he said was two weeks of detention by state security authorities.


UK: Mysterious red dots appear on houses in Barking

© Unknown
Police have reassured residents in Barking after mysterious red dots appeared on houses across the Borough.

During the past few days, officers at Longbridge and Abbey Wards had been made aware of red dots and markings being made on the front doors and windows of local resident's homes.

This has caused some anxiety within the community as residents consider that they may have been targeted for crime.

A spokesperson for Barking & Dagenham Police moved quickly to quell rumours saying: "Police would like to assure residents that there is no similarity between the householders of the properties that have been marked. Rumours are currently spreading that all of the homes marked are occupied by the elderly or by Asian people. This is not the case. Hundreds of homes have been marked with residents being of all ages and cultures.


Thousands evacuated from Paris Suburb for Disposal of WW II Bomb

© News Wires
Around 6,000 people were evacuated from a Paris suburb Sunday as police disposed of a World War II bomb discovered in an old Renault car factory. The half-tonne bomb was dropped by allied forces when Paris was under Nazi control.

Police evacuated 6,000 people from a Paris suburb Sunday while they neutralised an unexploded bomb dropped by an allied plane in World War II.

Thousands of residents, some carrying suitcases and pets, flocked out of their homes and into the streets at dawn as police cleared the neighbourhood and dealt with the bomb found last week, an AFP reporter saw.

"It went well. There was no big bang, that's the main thing," said Paris police bomb-disposal chief Denis Lamotte.