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Nuke

US: Court to Vermont: "Drop Dead"

Vermont Yankee plant
© n/a
The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
A federal judge has told the people of Vermont that a solemn contract between them and the reactor owner Entergy need not be honored.

The fight will almost certainly now go to the US Supreme Court. At stake is not only the future of atomic power, but the legitimacy of all deals signed between corporations and the public. Chief Justice John Roberts' conservative court will soon decide whether a private corporation can sign what should be an enforceable contract with a public entity and then flat-out ignore it.

In 2003 Entergy made a deal with the state of Vermont. The Louisiana-based nuke speculator said that if it could buy and operate the decrepit Vermont Yankee reactor under certain terms and conditions, the company would then agree to shut it down if the state denied it a permit to continue. The drop dead date: March 21, 2012.

In the interim, VY has been found leaking radioactive tritium and much more into the ground and the nearby Connecticut River. Under oath, in public testimony, the company had denied that the pipes that leaked even existed.

Che Guevara

US: Bruins' Tim Thomas Refuses to Meet with Obama

Tim Thomas
© unknown
Tim Thomas
The Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup hero, Tim Thomas, refused to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama during the team's meet-and-greet with the Commander-in-Chief Monday, saying the U.S. government is "out of control."

Thomas, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup victory, issued a statement Monday night after skipping out on the White House event. He is one of two Americans on Boston's roster.

"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People," Thomas said in a written statement. "This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers' vision for the Federal government.

"Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL."

Eye 1

Shades of an American Kristallnacht?

Berlin synagogue after Kristallnacht
© Wikipedia
1938: Interior of a Berlin synagogue after Kristallnacht.
Watching the spectacle of the Republican primaries evokes deep sadness over the unavoidable truth that now, in the wake of Citizens United, it has become totally legal for rich people to run politicians the same way they might run horses or greyhounds. Just like that.

Maybe that's what provides the eerie, zombie-like atmosphere in politics these days. You really have the sense that most politicians, especially the ones at the top echelons of power, are like old-fashioned Kabbalistic golems, animated out of clay by skilled magicians who can control them from afar.

Of course, that's been going on for a long time. Remember George Bush, a wind-up man getting remote control instructions through his earphone in the 2004 Presidential debates?

But it's getting worse and worse. That's why I can't stand to watch Gingrich and Santorum and all the other Republican wax model men mouth their lines on the stage these days. You know they'll say whatever they're told...whatever they think it will take to win.

Camcorder

60 Hours of Video a Minute Uploaded to YouTube

You Tube web page
© AFP
YouTube said Monday that 60 hours of video are being uploaded every minute to the video-sharing site and it is attracting more than four billion views a day.

"In 2007 we started at six hours, then in 2010 we were at 24 hours, then 35, then 48," the Google-owned YouTube said in a blog post.

"And now... 60 hours of video every minute, an increase of more than 30 percent in the last eight months," YouTube said.

"In other words, you're uploading one hour of video to YouTube every second," it said.

YouTube also said it has exceeded four billion video views a day, up 25 percent in the last eight months.

Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion.

The Mountain View, California-based Internet search and advertising giant has not yet announced a profit for the video-sharing site despite its massive global popularity.

YouTube has been gradually adding professional content such as full-length television shows and movies to its vast trove of amateur video offerings in a bid to attract advertisers.

Source: Agence France Presse

Handcuffs

Former CIA officer charged in alleged leaks

The Justice Department on Monday charged a former CIA officer with repeatedly leaking classified information, including the identities of agency operatives involved in the capture and interrogation of alleged terrorists.

 John Kiriakou
© ABC News/AP
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who told reporters he participated in the interrogation of terrorist Abu Zubaydah, has been charged with leaking classified secrets about CIA operatives and other information to reporters.
The case against John Kiriakou, who also served as a senior Senate aide, extends the Obama administration's crackdown on disclosures of national security secrets. Kiriakou, 47, is the sixth target of a leaks-related prosecution since President Obama took office, exceeding the total number of comparable prosecutions under all previous administrations combined, legal experts said.

Kiriakou, who was among the first to go public with details about the CIA's use of water-boarding and other harsh interrogation measures, was charged with disclosing classified information to reporters and lying to the agency about the origin of other sensitive material he published in a book. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

In its criminal filing, the Justice Department obscured many of the details of Kiriakou's alleged disclosures. But the document suggests that Kiriakou, 47, was a source for stories by The New York Times and other news organizations in 2008 and 2009 about some of the agency's most sensitive operations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. These include the capture of alleged al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida and the interrogation of the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The Justice Department said that the information Kiriakou supplied to journalists also contributed to a subsequent security breach at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, enabling defense attorneys there to obtain photographs of CIA operatives suspected of being involved in harsh interrogations. Some of the pictures were subsequently discovered in the cells of high-value detainees.

Attention

US New York: 4 People Die in Unrelated Subway Incidents

Image
© AP, 2012
A file photo of the NYC subway.
Four men have died in New York's subway in less than 24 hours.

Police say the mishaps -- all on Saturday -- are unrelated.

The first victim was found unconscious at about 2 a.m. in Queens' Elmhurst Avenue station at Broadway, on the R line. Police say he may have fallen down the stairs. He reportedly was in his 60s.

At about 8 a.m. Saturday in Manhattan, a man in his 20s was struck by an L train at West 14th Street and Third Avenue.

Another man also was hit by an L train on the same line on Saturday evening.

The fourth fatality was reported in Brooklyn, when a man's body was removed from the tunnel near the Nostrand station on Saturday afternoon.

The victims' identities were not released.

Briefcase

UK Government Proposes Formal Register of Lobbyists

Image
© talktomeblog.net
Lobbyists in the UK should be formally registered and subject to fines and imprisonment for improper attempts to influence ministers and officials, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition proposed yesterday.

Launching a three-month consultation, a Cabinet Office paper proposed, however, that the register should extend much further than public companies and should also include trade unions and charities.

Saying that lobbying was perfectly proper, Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper said ministers and officials must hear "the full range of views" surrounding a subject, but it must happen "in the open".

However, Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union furiously condemned the proposed inclusion of unions, saying: "The idea that [we] should be bracketed in with the chancers and schmoozers from the shadowy world of political lobbying is a gross insult."

Dollar

US: All 2011 Unemployment Insurance Benefits Taxable

Image
© barbaraweltman.com
The jobless rate is dipping, but millions of people are still out of work. And that could have implications when they file their income tax returns.

Collecting unemployment insurance benefits? All that you received in 2011 is taxed as income. Unless you requested that federal taxes be withheld, you could be in for a big surprise when you calculate taxes owed.

"People tend to believe unemployment benefits are still not taxable," said Bob Meighan, a vice president at TurboTax. That was the case in 2009, for the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits. But that provision was not renewed by Congress.

If it's any consolation, you may find yourself in a lower tax bracket because of reduced income, even counting the unemployment benefits. And you might also be eligible for tax breaks that you didn't qualify for before.

"If you have major household changes, say you lost your job in 2011, we encourage people to take a close look at things like the earned income credit," Internal Revenue Service spokesman Terry Lemons said.

He said people should go ahead and file their taxes even if they don't have the money to pay any taxes that are due. "There are more options there than many people realize," he said, including installment agreements.

Eye 2

Crocodile Swallows Indonesian Girl

crocodile
© unknown
A wild crocodile swallowed a 10-year-old girl while she played in a river with her father in eastern Indonesia, the second death in the same place in two months, a local official said Friday.

The girl was swimming in Wailolong river on Thursday when the large crocodile suddenly appeared, swallowed her instantly and disappeared into the water, said Viktor Mado Waton, Lembata district head in East Nusa Tenggara province.

"They only found the girl's clothes three hours after the incident, some 200 metres (650 feet) away from the attack site," he said, adding that her family members were still trying to find the body.

Boat

Costa Concordia: 'Insulting' Cruise Offer to Survivors

The owners of the Costa Concordia are offering survivors of the disaster a 30 per cent discount off future cruises as they battle to stave off law suits expected to cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

Image
© Camera Press/Paris Match/Emilie Blachere
terrified passengers clambering across the side and hull of the stricken Costa Concordia after its captain steered the liner on to reefs.
One British survivor of the disaster, which claimed 12 lives with 20 people still missing, branded the offer as "insulting".

It was disclosed that in an attempt to help survivors the ship's parent company, Carnival, has been telephoning passengers daily asking if they are suffering nightmares or sleepless nights.

But that move also appeared to backfire when a psychologist said such questioning could trigger post traumatic stress rather than relieve it.