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US govt tunes out legendary guitar firm over 'illegal' wood from India

© UnknownJimi Hendrix with his restrung Gibson flying V.
Washington: George Harrison played 'While my guitar gently weeps' on the instrument manufactured by them. Eric Clapton sang his paean to Layla and laid down Sally on their storied equipment. Jimi Hendrix generated Midnight Lightning and Jerry Garcia took a long strange trip - all on legendary Gibson guitars.

But contemporary musicians, especially guitarists, are fretting that they will soon be playing a different tune. Uncle Sam says it has the wood on Gibson, the legendary American guitar maker whose instruments were used by the above musicians and whose products are considered the last word in the west's most popular instrument.

So where does India fit into this story? The US government says Gibson has been illegally importing tropical hardwoods such as ebony, rosewood, and mahogany, used in making guitars, from India, in violation of American laws that bar import of endangered plants and woods. Not true, says Gibson, arguing that its imports are legal and New Delhi itself has not made an issue of it.


Condoleezza Rice fires back at Cheney memoir

condelezza rice
© NACondoleezza Rice

Washington - Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she resented what she viewed as an attack on her integrity by former Vice President Dick Cheney in his just-published memoir.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Rice rejected Cheney's contention that she misled President George W. Bush about nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.

"I kept the president fully and completely informed about every in and out of the negotiations with the North Koreans," Rice said in her first public comments on the matter. "You can talk about policy differences without suggesting that your colleague somehow misled the president. You know, I don't appreciate the attack on my integrity that that implies."


US: Unsuspecting Firedrill? Mystery package sends 3 to hospital; 14 decontaminated at Scott Air Force Base

© Derik Holtmann/BNDExterior of the post office at Scott Air Force Base.
Three people were taken to the hospital and another 14 were decontaminated after workers in the Scott Air Force Base post office suffered nearly simultaneous skin and respiratory reactions at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

After what was termed an exhaustive investigation, investigators were not able to determine what caused the workers to become ill, Scott Air Force Base spokeswoman Karen Pettit said Wednesday night.

Investigators found nothing suspicious and no trace of a chemical or an odor, Pettit said. Whatever caused the workers' illnesses may have dissipated enough that it wasn't detected, she said.

"They couldn't determine it came from one specific package," Pettit said.

Earlier Wednesday, Col. Michael Hornitschek had said investigators isolated the source to a particular bin of mail which they were going through methodically.

Comment: The very last sentence of this article certainly sheds light on what may have really happened.


UK: Children's School Lunch Price Rises, Sparking Fears Over Health

Children will have to pay up to 17 per cent more for their school dinners this year compared to last year, a survey has found.

Consumer watchdog Which? also said the quality of school meals needs to improve to encourage more children to eat them and keep costs down after finding that the price is rising in two-thirds of schools across the country in the coming term.

This is leading to concern that it could start to undo the progress made in recent years towards improving children's access to healthier meals.

The research found that parents would rather give their children packed lunches as they believe them to be cheaper, and because their children do not like the food on offer at schools.

Meal prices have risen on average by around 2.5 per cent on last year but some local authorities have increased prices by far more.

School dinners managed by Poole Borough Council are the most expensive in the country at an average of £2.50 this September.

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council has increased prices by 17 per cent to between £1.70 and £2 a meal while Lewisham Borough Council has risen by 14 per cent, so that school dinners will cost from £1.40 to £1.60.

The local authority with the biggest increase was Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council at 25 per cent, although its prices still remain the lowest in the country at £1.25.

It is estimated that in order to keep costs down, 55 per cent of students would need to take school meals. However, the research found that just 45 per cent of school pupils in England currently have them.

Bad Guys

Best of the Web: US: A Tip for Joe the Machinist and All Who Labor, Watch Your Back!!

© Kheel Center / Flickr
A Labor Day reflection: Corporate America no longer even pays lip service to the importance of encouraging hard work and skill.

You work hard. You do good work. You loyally stick with your employer through good times and bad. Do you have a right to a paycheck that rises over time?

On any Labor Day over the last 50 years, the answer - from labor and management alike - would be obvious: Of course!

But that answer doesn't seem to hold any more. Earlier this year, a trio of top business consultants openly challenged the notion that good employees doing valuable work deserve to see their paychecks steadily increase. This past July, the Harvard Business School circulated their challenge throughout corporate America's upper echelons.

This remarkably brazen assault on core American workplace values originated at Booz & Co., one of the nation's most prestigious corporate consulting firms. America's corporations, Booz analysts advised earlier this year, need to start attacking the "exorbitant" paychecks now going to their most prized, "steady and reliable" veteran workers.

The Booz analysts offer an example of the "significantly overpaid" worker they have in mind. They call him Joe the Machinist, "a stellar employee who knows the ins and outs of the organization, the result of his many years on the job."


France Cuts Growth Forecast, Unveils More Cutbacks

France has announced it will seek a further €12 billion in savings in an effort to keep on track with its budget deficit targets. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Wednesday the government had cut its growth outlook to 1.75% from 2%.

France unveiled on Wednesday a 12-billion-euro ($17.3-billion) deficit cutting package that raises taxes on the rich and closes tax loopholes as the country strikes to placate jittery markets.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon revised the government's growth forecast for 2011 downwards to 1.75 percent from 2.0 percent, but said the measures would trim next year's public deficit to 4.5 percent of GDP.

"Our country cannot live beyond its means for ever," the centre-right premier announced, laying out supplementary budget proposals drawn up in response to the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

Earlier this month world markets were rocked by rumours that France might be stripped of its top triple-A credit rating and that its banks were overexposed to the debts of weaker eurozone countries.


Student sues after university dumps him for 'lack of empathy'


A 44-year-old man is suing a Missouri university for $3 million after he was dumped from a graduate counselling program for lack of empathy.

David Schwartz received a "no credit" for his practical experience internship after receiving mostly A's and one C in his course work, said the lawsuit against Webster University in St. Louis.

Dr. Stacy Henning, director of the counselling centre at the university, is alleged to have used three taped counselling sessions to show that Schwartz he "would not make a good counsellor because he lacked empathy," the lawsuit claimed.

Judging empathy, Schwartz's lawyer, Albert Watkins, told the Star, "is an extraordinarily subjective assessment."


US: Convicted Child Molesters Become Illinois State Workers Baby Sitting Poor Kids

Evil Rays

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Worker Dies Of Acute Leukemia

© Reuters

Tokyo - Tokyo Electric Power Co. <9501> said Tuesday that a man in his 40s who had worked to help contain the radiation crisis at the firm's crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has died of acute leukemia.

The total radiation doses the worker received at the plant stood at 0.5 millisievert, TEPCO officials said, adding that the worker's death has nothing to do with his work at the nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, which suffered serious damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The man worked at the Fukushima plant for seven days from early August. His jobs included radiation exposure management, the officials said.

He became ill and was hospitalized after finishing the seven-day work. TEPCO received a report of his death on Aug. 16, the officials said.

A medical checkup prior to his work at the plant showed no problems in his health. He suffered no internal radiation exposure, the officials said.


US: You'll know they are Christians by their love: Church closes food bank because it attracts poor people

unity truth center

"Winnipeg: A busy church food bank, known for offering warm drinks and snacks to its regulars, has announced it's closing because it is attracting too many poor people.

"'It's attracting a lot of street people that make it uncomfortable,' said Charlotte Prossen, Unity Truth Centre minister Thursday, 'It's creating social unrest in the church'

"'A food bank is a social service and that is not who we are'

"Ms. Prossen said the program is being cancelled to focus on more church-specific activities. The church's board of trustees made the decision to cancel the bimonthly food bank after receiving an e-mail from a sister church in Victoria.