U.S. Spent $463M to Stockpile Drug for Smallpox Bioterror Attack --Smallpox was eradicated by 1980, and the only known remaining virus is in government laboratories in the United States and Russia. [The last vials were scheduled to be destroyed in 2002, but George W. Bush insisted on keeping them.] On May 24, 1999, the World Health Assembly retreated again, unanimously postponing variola's destruction until December 2002, to allow a range of additional, closely-monitored research on anti-smallpox pharmaceuticals. In the fall of 2001, after the September 11 disasters had brought the specter of modem terrorism to the forefront of global attention, and especially after the subsequent wave of mailed [Dick Cheney's Fort Detrick] anthrax spores had highlighted our shared vulnerability to biological terrorism in particular, the Bush Administration announced that it would not destroy the CDC variola inventory as scheduled.] 13 Mar 2013 The United States government is buying enough of a new medicine to treat two million people in the event of a bioterrorism attack, and took delivery of the first shipment of it last week. A small company, Siga Technologies, developed the drug in recent years. Whether the $463 million order is a boondoggle or a bargain depends on which expert is talking... If there were a large-scale bioterrorism attack using smallpox, health officials could move quickly, some experts say. "If we had to, we could vaccinate the entire country in three days," said Dr. William H. Foege, another leader of the smallpox eradication effort who now advises the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This vaccine does not use a syringe, but a forked pin that Dr. Foege said he could "train anyone to use in 10 minutes." In a true emergency, he argued, schoolteachers, police officers, firefighters and others would all be vaccinators.
Pandemic Flu Vax Linked to Guillain-Barre 12 Mar 2013 The vaccines used in the U.S. against the pandemic H1N1 flu were associated with a modestly increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome, researchers reported. A meta-analysis of data from six vaccine safety surveillance systems showed that incidence of Guillain-Barré among vaccinated people more than doubled in the few weeks after the shot, compared with a longer time period after the shot, according to Daniel Salmon, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues. Guillain-Barré has been linked to previous vaccines, notably in the 1976 [lab-generated] swine flu outbreak, Salmon and colleagues wrote, but evidence linking seasonal vaccines to the syndrome is weak.
CDC Warns of SARS-Related Virus From Middle East --CDC: Worldwide total of 14 cases documented since April 2012 08 Mar 2013 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new warning to state and local health officials about a virus that is related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and appeared for the first time in September 2012. The virus is a coronavirus, which is the same family of virus as the common cold and SARS. Asia dealt with a SARS outbreak in 2003. The new virus emerged last year in the Middle East, but has since been seen in Great Britain.
Guantanamo Bay prisoners on hunger strike over seizure of Qur'ans 12 Mar 2013 Detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp are staging a hunger strike to protest the confiscation of personal items, including Korans, in early February, their lawyers and prison officials say. "My client and other men have reported that most of the detainees in Camp 6 are on strike, except for a small few who are elderly or sick," said Pardiss Kebriaei, a New York lawyer representing Ghaleb Al-Bihani, a detainee from Yemen. Interviewed by AFP, Robert Durand, director of public affairs for the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said nine detainees were engaged in hunger strikes, five of whom were being [force-] fed through tubes inserted into their stomachs.
Leaked Audio of Bradley Manning's Statement 11 Mar 2013 Today, Freedom of the Press Foundation is publishing the full, previously unreleased audio recording of Private First Class Bradley Manning's speech to the military court in Ft. Meade about his motivations for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks. In addition, we have published highlights from Manning’s statement to the court. While unofficial transcripts of this statement are available, this marks the first time the American public has heard the actual voice of Manning.
Afghan Student Says C.I.A.-Backed Strike Force Beat Him --Student was interrogated for hours at what Mr. Karzai called an American prison 11 Mar 2013 The 29-year-old engineering student was standing outside his classroom here on Saturday morning when he said two pickup trucks full of armed men pulled up. The men, said to be members of a C.I.A.-backed Afghan strike force, grabbed him, tied his hands behind his back, draped a black hood over his head and drove him to an undisclosed location where, the student says, he was beaten and whipped. The student's daylong detention was cited by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at a news conference in Kabul, the capital, on Sunday as part of his justification for a ban announced later in the day on foreign forces from entering any Afghan school or university. He said other students had also been detained at the behest of American-controlled Afghan forces.
US troops kill two Afghan civilians: Interior ministry 11 Mar 2013 US troops have shot and killed at least two Afghan civilians outside the capital of Kabul, Afghanistan Interior Ministry says. The Afghans were killed on Monday as their truck approached an American convoy in the area. Interior Ministry Spokesman Sediq Sediqi said that the two were employees of a company responsible for repairing police vehicles.
5 U.S. troops die in chopper crash in Afghanistan 12 Mar 2013 A helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan has killed five American service members, officials said Tuesday. Monday night's crash brought the total number of U.S. troops killed that day to seven, making it the deadliest day for U.S. forces so far this year. Two U.S. special operations forces were gunned down hours earlier in a possible "insider attack" by an Afghan policeman in eastern Afghanistan.
Man in Afghan army uniform kills 2 U.S. soldiers, 3 Afghan police 11 Mar 2013 A man wearing Afghan army uniform opened fire at a joint military base in Wardak province near Kabul on Monday, killing two U.S. soldiers and three Afghan police, a local official said. "A man in Afghan army uniform opened fire at a joint base of U. S. and Afghan forces at around noon in Jalriz district leaving two American soldiers and three Afghan police dead," the official who declined to be identified told Xinhua. He added that around 10 Afghan police and U.S. soldiers were injured in the incident.
2 US service members killed at special operations base in Afghanistan 11 Mar 2013 Two U.S. service members were killed and at least eight others injured Monday in a possible insider attack at a special forces site in Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan officials said. The shooting occurred at a U.S. special operations outpost in Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. The shooter, who was dressed in an Afghan military or police uniform, was shot and killed. "We have two confirmed dead, but the toll could rise," one U.S. official said. A senior official in the Afghan Defense Ministry said that at least three Afghans were also killed.
North Korea cuts off hotline with South Korea 10 Mar 2013 North Korea has cut off a Red Cross hotline with South Korea as it escalates its war of words against Seoul and Washington in response to a military drill in the South and U.N. sanctions imposed for its recent nuclear test. The North had threatened to cut off the hotline on March 11 if the United States and South Korea did not abandon their joint military exercise. The Red Cross hotline is used to communicate between Seoul and Pyongyang which do not have diplomatic relations. "We called at 9 a.m. and there was no response," a government official from South Korea said. The line is tested each day.
Activists bring Palestinian evictions to Harvard dorms 11 Mar 2013 Pro-Palestinian campus activism is stirring debate at Harvard College as students mark the ninth annual international 'Israeli Apartheid Week'. Members of the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee posted more than 1,000 mock eviction notices on some dormitories, notifying residents their rooms were "scheduled for demolition in the next three days". The notices also provided information about the thousands of home demolitions that take place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Italy's Cardinal Angelo Scola is viewed as safe pick to become new pope 12 Mar 2013 In the months, weeks and days leading up to the conclave that will choose the 266th pope, Angelo Scola, 71, has emerged as a front-runner. A conservative theologian, Scola once edited the magazine that offered a conservative interpretation on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and was co-founded by a young Joseph Ratzinger. Theologically, Scola represents continuity with the popes of the last 34 years.
Incident at Byron Nuclear Power Plant Far More Dangerous Than First Reported - Newspaper 11 Mar 2013 (IL) The article also goes on to detail a reported design flaw in the [Exelon] Byron facility it alleges makes it especially susceptible to a catastrophic accident. A story published in the Japan Times newspaper alleges that a power outage last year at the nuclear power plant in Byron was potentially far more serious than first reported. The article alleges that managers at the facility delayed using backup generators for 8 minutes while they investigated the cause of the outage, leaving critical safety equipment inoperable and risking a catastrophic meltdown. Officials at the Byron facility did confirm at the time of the outage that a small amount of radioactive gas did leak from the plant during the incident.
Cement in BP Macondo well never dried, leading to the blowout, expert witness testifies 06 Mar 2013 The cement pumped into the BP Macondo well a day before it blew out on April 20, 2010, was not given enough time to "set," or harden, before a negative pressure test was run that allowed oil and natural gas to travel up the drill pipe to the surface, where it exploded aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, an oil well cementing expert testified Wednesday. Glen Benge, an independent consultant on oil-field cementing called as an expert witness by the U.S. Justice Department in the civil trial against BP and its partners and contractors to determine liability for the accident, said there were at least nine errors committed during the cementing of BP's Macondo well, which, when combined, led to the fatal blowout.
NYPD program patrols inside private buildings in 'Operation Clean Halls' --Residents say they're unfairly stopped 11 Mar 2013 New York Police Department officers are patrolling inside private apartment buildings in a program known as Operation Clean Halls. The program has been lauded by some residents who say they feel safer but vilified by others who say they're being harassed at home. Many complain they're illegally stopped and arrested. More than two dozen people who say they were wrongly stopped have filed a federal lawsuit.
Man charged in Aurora shooting pleads not guilty 12 Mar 2013 The man charged with killing 12 people and injuring dozens more in a Colorado movie theater has pleaded not guilty. That is the plea a judge entered for him Tuesday, yet attorneys say their client was not ready to enter a plea. The judge says he can change it to "not guilty by reason of insanity" later if he wants to.
Judge approves possible forced use of 'truth serum' on Colorado massacre suspect --Prospect of use truth serum alarmed defense attorneys, who filed documents opposing the technique 12 Mar 2013 The defendant in the deadly Colorado theater shooting could be given "truth serum" under a court order issued Monday to help determine whether he is insane if he pleads not guilty by reason of insanity. Suspect James Holmes could be required to submit to a "narcoanalytic interview" as part of an evaluation to determine if he was legally insane at the time of the July 20 shootings, Arpahoe County District Judge William Sylvester said. A narcoanalylitic interview is a process in which patients are given drugs to lower their inhibition. Academic studies have shown that the technique has involved the use of sodium amytal and pentothal, sometimes called truth serum.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: Send a Message to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Boehner: No Budget Deal on Backs of the Elderly, the Children, the Sick and the Poor. (Petition) 12 Mar 2013 At a time when the middle class is disappearing, poverty is increasing and the gap between the rich and everyone else is growing wider, we demand that the federal budget not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country. A federal budget that reduces the deficit by cutting cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and disabled veterans, raising the Medicare eligibility age and lowering tax rates for the most profitable corporations in this country is not a grand bargain. It is a bad bargain. We oppose the chained-CPI, a new way to measure inflation and consumer prices designed to cut benefits for Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and their survivors. We are strongly opposed to benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the needs of our veterans... We demand a budget that makes sure that the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations pay their fair share.
In major policy shift, scores of FDIC settlements go unannounced --Since the mortgage meltdown, the FDIC has opted to settle cases while helping banks avoid bad press, rather than trumpeting punitive actions as a deterrent to others. 11 Mar 2013 Three years ago, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. collected $54 million from Deutsche Bank in a settlement over unsound loans that contributed to a spectacular California bank failure. The deal might have made big headlines, given that the bad loans contributed to the largest payout in FDIC history, $13 billion. But the government cut a deal with the bank's lawyers to keep it quiet: a "no press release" clause that required the FDIC never to mention the deal "except in response to a specific inquiry." The FDIC has handled scores of settlements the same way since the mortgage meltdown, a major policy shift from previous crises, when the FDIC trumpeted punitive actions against banks as a deterrent to others.
New York Soda Size Limit Statute Barred by State Judge 11 Mar 2013 New York City's ban on large-size soda drinks was blocked by a judge after industry groups including the American Beverage Association sued to stop the plan, calling it an unfair burden on small businesses. The city's Board of Health in September approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to limit the size of sugary soft drinks sold in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas to no more than 16 ounces (473 milliliters) a cup. Groups representing beverage makers, restaurants and theaters filed a petition in New York State Supreme Court in October, the state's trial level court, seeking to block enforcement of the measure, calling the ban "unprecedented interference" with consumer choice.
New York City large-soda ban blocked by judge 11 Mar 2013 A court has blocked a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks - including soda - from restaurants in New York City, a day before the law was to take effect. Judge Milton Tingling ruled that the measure was "arbitrary and capricious", after industry groups sued the city. The law would forbid the sale of drinks larger than 16 ounces (473ml) in food-service establishments. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has touted the ban as a way to reduce obesity.
International Failure Puts Polar Bears Closer to Extinction 12 Mar 2013 ...The international community rejected a US proposal to ban the global commercial trade in polar bear parts (skins, teeth, claws, skulls) at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand. For the second time in three years, parties to the convention turned their backs on the plight of polar bears and the threat over hunting poses to the species – a species that, according to the best science, will likely lose more than two-thirds of its population by 2050 as a result of climate change global warming. It was this dual threat of climate change global warming and over hunting that created one of the biggest challenges for the US proposal.
Mexico: Protect Critically Endangered Sea Turtles 08 Mar 2013 North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles spend up to a decade feeding on small crabs in an area off the coast of Mexico's Baja California. Alarmingly, more than 1,000 North Pacific loggerheads die every year when they are accidentally caught up in fishermen's nets. The bycatch toll of loggerheads in Mexican waters is one of the highest in the world -- and it is jeopardizing their survival. Urge the President of Mexico to protect these sea turtles -- while there is still time.
Judge approves use of 'truth serum' on accused Aurora shooter James Holmes 12 Mar 2013 Legal and medical experts are questioning the decision of a judge in Colorado to allow James Holmes, the suspected gunman in the Aurora cinema shooting, to be tested with a "truth serum" should he plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Judge William Sylvester ruled that in the event of Holmes pleading insanity his prosecutors would be permitted to interrogate him while he is under the influence of a medical drug designed to loosen him up and get him to talk. The precise identity of the drug that would be used has not been released, other than a statement that it would be "medically appropriate", but it would most likely be a short-acting barbiturate such as sodium amytal. William Shepherd, chair of the criminal justice section of the American Bar Association, whose members include both prosecutors and defence lawyers, said that the proposed use of a "truth drug" to ascertain the veracity of a defendant's plea of insanity was highly unusual in the US. He predicted it would provoke intense legal argument relating to Holmes's right to remain silent under the fifth amendment of the US constitution. [See also: Aurora, Colorado Shooting 'Oddities'.]