Over 500 days have passed since the disaster at Fukushima and there has yet to be any transparency as to the true depth of the damage to us and our planet. Reports and findings of actual radiation levels and leaks are elusive at best. If the damage stops right now, this is apparently the second worst nuclear accident ever in the history of nuclear power. Meanwhile, the jet stream continues to carry radioactive materials from Fukushima to North America, Europe and beyond.
The main cancer risk for anyone in the path of nuclear fallout is from inhaled uranium oxide and other tiny, airborne, radioactive particles that lodge deep in the lungs. These particles eventually lodge in bone, brain, ovaries, testes, lymph and hormone producing glands. They remain there for decades while being very slowly excreted in the urine. Exposure to radiation causes a cascade of free radicals that wreak havoc in the body and decimates the body's supply of glutathione.
Following a radiological or nuclear event, radioactive iodine may be released into the air then breathed into the lungs. Radioactive iodine contaminates local food supplies to invade the body through food or drink. Once inside the body, the thyroid quickly absorbs the radioactive iodine, injuring the thyroid gland. The biggest threat is that radioactive iodine from nuclear fallout quickly permeates and injures anyone that is iodine deficient (estimated, 90 percent of Americans).
Iodine is the most obvious and important element in protecting against radiation damage.
Stable iodine keeps radioactive iodine from assimilating in the thyroid gland and also in attaching to any thyroid receptors. Iodine protects the thyroid, breast, prostate and ovary glands as well as other tissues in the body from radiation - if iodine is present in sufficient quantities. Research indicates that if a person is iodine deficient, it takes about three months to absorb enough iodine while taking 50 mg of iodine daily and a whole year taking just 12.5 mg. However, iodine will not protect a person from exposure to radioactive uranium, cesium or plutonium.
As with the Fukushima disaster, by the time the alarm for a nuclear emergency is sounded there will be little time to consult a health care practitioner, let alone to find and get the proper dosage of iodine. The standard daily dose for KI (potassium iodide) during radiation emergencies is as follows: for infants, birth through one month, 16 mg; for one month through three years, 32 mg; for 3-12 years, 65 mg; for adolescents ages 12-18 years, 65 mg; for adult size and up, 120 mg or more.
After radiation exposure...
In the event of a nuclear disaster, by the time you can reach competent medical help it may be too late. Here are some home remedies to start immediately until help is found.
• Bentonite clay will help remove radioactive iodine, uranium, cesium or plutonium particles from the body. Drink it and soak in it. Buy bulk/pure bentonite in the form of unscented kitty litter, pour some into a pillowcase (to keep it from clogging the bath drain) and place it in bath water to soak in daily. Drinkable bentonite clay can be purchased at your local health food store. • Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), mixed with water several times a day will diminish the severity of damage produced in the kidneys by uranium • Cilantro loosens heavy metals and radioactive material from the cells and chlorella removes them from the body • Glutathione in large amounts help fight the free radical damage and replenish glutathione supplies reduced by radioactive substances
If you have been exposed to x-rays or CAT scans, if you fly, work with diagnostic medical equipment or are environmentally sensitive and have ingested elevated levels of radioactive contaminated food, air or water, you also want to partake in these remedies on a semi-regular basis.
A baby in China wears a protective face mask (AP/Kin Cheung)
The South Korean government revealed Monday that it recently seized thousands of capsules filled with the powdered flesh of dead babies. Reportedly, some people believe the powder has medicinal purposes and was created in northeastern China.
South Korea has reportedly been reluctant to criticize China directly over the incident, out of fears of creating diplomatic friction with the country. But the process by which the powder is allegedly created is one of the most disturbing stories imaginable.
According to the Korea Customs Service, the bodies of dead babies are chopped into small pieces and dried on stoves before being turned into powder. The customs officials have refused to say exactly where the babies come from or who is responsible for making the capsules.
China has already been in the spotlight over activist Chen Guangcheng, whose work involves protesting the government's sterilization and forced abortion policies. It was recently reported that China is working to "soften" its one-child policy slogans, though not the actual policy itself.
Last year, Chinese officials ordered an investigation into the manufacturing of drugs made from dead fetuses or newborn babies. Nonetheless, South Korean officials said in a statement they have discovered 35 smuggling attempts since last August, during which 17,450 capsules labeled as "stamina boosters" were discovered. Rather than containing any inherent medicinal properties, the capsules are said to contain dangerous bacteria and other harmful, unspecified ingredients.
Amazingly, none of the smugglers have been arrested in the various confiscations because the South Korean customs officials said the amounts of human flesh contained in the capsules were too small and were not intended for direct sale. The smugglers claimed to have no knowledge of the human flesh content, saying they believed the capsules were ordinary stamina-boosting pills.
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Global News: Chinese Media Fight Scandal Fallout over a leadership split
By MICHAEL WINES and KEITH BRADSHER
Published: April 12, 2012
BEIJING — Chinese officials rapidly intensified a propaganda campaign to paper over a leadership split in the Communist Party on Thursday as the first hints began to emerge of the wealth and influence amassed by relatives of a deposed Politburo member, Bo Xilai.
The burst of coverage was remarkable for its intensity and focused message, even for a propaganda apparatus that regularly sings the party’s praises, analysts said, reflecting deep concern that Mr. Bo’s removal and the murder investigation aimed at him and his wife would deepen a now evident split between the Communist left and the more moderate right wing.
The two-day blitz of articles and television segments included an unusual television national news segment in which a series of local leaders proclaimed their support for the party. Newspapers and Web sites recounted declarations of unanimous support for the party’s Central Committee from a congress of local party officials in Chongqing, Mr. Bo’s former domain.
The state news media also gave extensive coverage to anticorruption efforts in the Chinese military, including an exhortation by President Hu Jintao to maintain purity in the military ranks.
“The way they’re using the news media over the last 48 hours really projects a sense of deep insecurity,” said one analyst, said David Bandurski, at the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong.
“When you have to drum home the point of unity this hard,” he added, “it conveys the opposite message.”
But another scholar of the leadership, Dorothy J. Solinger of the University of California at Irvine, suggested that party officials more likely are transmitting an order for underlings to fall in line and support the dismantling of Mr. Bo’s political machine.
One driving factor in the leadership split is economic policy. Mr. Bo and his supporters favored a large government role in guiding the economy, while many senior leaders want further, accelerated relaxation of state controls.
Mr. Bo’s own financial network has become a target in the propaganda campaign. An article on Wednesday in People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, that on its face discussed the party’s fight against corruption, appeared to lay out a list of potential charges that could be brought against Mr. Bo. “Some people” have secretly gained dual citizenship and foreign identities, the article said, transferred money and goods overseas, and used relatives, friends and mistresses to conceal their wealth.
On Thursday, a Hong Kong newspaper, Apple Daily, disclosed myriad details of Bo family dealings in line with those criticisms. His older brother, Bo Xiyong, has for nine years served under an assumed name as executive director and deputy general manager of China Everbright Holdings, a state-owned company that controls one of China’s major banks and an array of other businesses.
Under the name Li Xueming, Bo Xiyong receives a $1.7 million annual salary and holds stock options worth nearly $25 million by also holding the position of vice chairman in one of the state company’s series of Hong Kong-traded subsidiaries, China Everbright International, according to a profile maintained by Bloomberg Businessweek. Until May 31 he also was deputy chairman of Hong Kong Construction Limited, a Chinese property developer.
Senior Communist Party officials are known to frequently secure lucrative jobs in state-owned companies for family members and relatives, often through connections. Mr. Bo’s ties to Everbright, first published by Apple Daily, were also described by a person familiar with the company who refused to be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue.
Two women the newspaper described as sisters of Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, also show up in Hong Kong corporate records. A check of the records on Thursday showed that Gu Wangjiang has been a director of eight privately held companies in Hong Kong and that Gu Wangning has also been a director of one of these companies, Hangang Worldwide Ltd. Neither Gu Wangjiang, Gu Wangning nor Bo Xiyong could be reached for comment.
Mr. Bo once aspired to join the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the nine-member body that effectively runs China, when a once-in-a-decade turnover of the leadership takes place this year. The authorities had been almost obsessed with demonstrating that the nation’s top leaders were in total agreement in advance of that handoff, to minimize rumors of infighting over the composition of the next generation of rulers.
But that facade broke in February, when a top aide who had fallen out with Mr. Bo fled to an American consulate and told diplomats that Mr. Bo’s wife had a falling out with a British businessman and onetime family friend and was implicated in his murder. That man, Neil Heywood, was found dead in November in Chongqing, the southwestern city-state where Mr. Bo was party secretary.
Attention to the case skyrocketed this week, as party leaders announced Tuesday that Mr. Bo had been suspended from the 25-member Politburo and that his wife would be investigated in connection with Mr. Heywood’s death.
Michael Wines reported from Beijing and Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong. Li Bibo contributed research from Beijing.
The vantage point from orbit on the International Space Station (ISS) frequently affords astronauts with the opportunity to observe processes that are impossible to see on the ground. The winter season blankets the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia in snow, but significant amounts of sea ice can also form and collect along the Pacific coastline. As ice floes grind against each other, they produce smaller floes that can be moved by wind and currents.
The irregular southeastern coastline of Kamchatka provokes large, circular eddy currents to spin off from the main southwestward-flowing Kamchatka current. Three such eddies are highlighted by surface ice floe patterns at image center. The patterns are very difficult (and dangerous) to navigate in an ocean vessel. While the floes may look thin and delicate from the ISS vantage point, even the smaller ice chunks are several meters across. White clouds (image top right) are distinguished from the sea ice and snow cover by their high brightness and discontinuous nature.
The Kamchatka Peninsula also hosts many currently and historically active stratovolcanoes. Kliuchevskoi Volcano, the highest in Kamchatka (summit elevation 4,835 meters) and one of the most active, had its most recent confirmed eruption in June 2011. Meanwhile, Karymsky Volcano (to the south) likely produced ash plumes just days before this image was taken; the snow cover on the south and east sides of the summit is darkened by a cover of fresh ash or melted away altogether (image bottom center). By contrast, Kronotsky Volcano—a “textbook” symmetrical cone-shaped stratovolcano—last erupted in 1923.
Astronaut photograph ISS030-E-162344 was acquired on March 15, 2012, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 28 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 30 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.
Global News: Chinese firm surpasses Exxon as No. 1 in oil production
In this March 16, 2012 photo, oil rigs belonging to PetroChina are seen near the banks of a snow covered lake in Daqing in northeastern China's Heilongjiang province. Exxon Mobil is pumping less oil than PetroChina. (AP Photo)
Gas » Government owns 86% of PetroChina
New York • A big shift is happening in Big Oil: An American giant now ranks behind a Chinese upstart.
Exxon Mobil is no longer the world’s biggest publicly traded producer of oil. For the first time, that distinction belongs to a 13-year-old Chinese company called PetroChina. The Beijing company was created by the Chinese government to secure more oil for that nation’s booming economy.
PetroChina announced Thursday that it pumped 2.4 million barrels a day last year, surpassing Exxon by 100,000. The company has grown rapidly over the last decade by squeezing more from China’s aging oil fields and outspending Western companies to acquire more petroleum reserves in places like Canada, Iraq and Qatar. It’s motivated by a need to lock up as much oil as possible.
The company’s output increased 3.3 percent in 2011 while Exxon’s fell 5 percent. Exxon’s oil production also fell behind Rosneft, the Russian energy company.
PetroChina’s rise highlights a fundamental difference in how the largest petroleum companies plan to supply the world as new deposits become tougher to find and more expensive to produce.
Every major oil company has aggressively pursued new finds to replace their current wells. But analysts say Western oil firms like Exxon Mobil have been more conservative than the Chinese, mindful of their bottom line and investor returns. With oil prices up 19 percent in 2011, they still made money without increasing production.
PetroChina Co. Ltd. has a different mission. The Chinese government owns 86 percent of its stock and the nation uses nearly every drop of oil PetroChina pumps. Its appetite for gasoline and other petroleum products is projected to double between 2010 and 2035.
"There’s a lot of anxiety in China about the energy question," says energy historian Dan Yergin. "It’s just growing so fast."
While PetroChina sits atop other publicly traded companies in oil production, it falls well short of national oil companies like Saudi Aramco, which produces nearly 8 million barrels a day. And Exxon is still the biggest publicly traded energy company when counting combined output of oil and natural gas. PetroChina ranks third behind Exxon and BP in total output of oil and natural gas.
PetroChina is looking to build on its momentum in 2012.
The apartment blocks rising skyward entice buyers by using foreign names such as "Oriental Hawaii," the European-style "Provence" and "Olive Valley." But the most exotic, eye-catching architecture in this Beijing suburb is very Chinese.
"It was voted one of China's ugliest buildings," Zhao Pingping says of the bizarre Emperor Hotel, which offers accommodations in the shape of three 10-story, bearded deities representing the Chinese gods of good fortune, prosperity and longevity.
"Some older residents hope the gods can bring good luck and security to our neighborhood, but I prefer modern styles. I could never stay there," says Zhao, 30, shuddering as she walks past the hotel with her infant son.
An urbanization drive perhaps unparalleled in human history has turned China into a continent-sized construction site. Some of the new buildings have won international acclaim, such as Beijing's "Bird's Nest" stadium built for the 2008 Olympics. But far too many are eyesores, complain architects and online critics.
When the architecture website www.archcy.com asked readers to vote for China's top 10 ugliest buildings, Li Hu, a Beijing-based partner at U.S. Steven Holl Architects, said, "Choosing 10 is very hard, choosing a million is perfectly possible."
"Development is too quick., Architects don't have time to reflect," says Li, who blames the ugly edifices in part on interference by government officials, a lack of imagination by architects and corruption. "A more serious problem than the visual impact is that old buildings are being torn down and new ones built blindly."
China's imperial palaces, temples and Great Wall help make this country of 1.3 billion people one of the world's top tourism draws. But cities, where more than 50% of the population lives, have lost their historic hearts. Traditional structures have been shorn from cities and replaced by nondescript, blocky modernity.
Like the kitsch found along roadways throughout the USA, the more unusual new buildings in China were designed as calling cards for towns thirsty for attention from tourists and investors. Giant liquor bottles, teapots and lumberjacks may hardly shock Americans who've been to Las Vegas, but they rile some Chinese.
Developers copy designs ranging from Beijing's Tiananmen Gate to the U.S. Capitol and the Sydney Opera House, says Sun Lei, an architect and teacher in Shandong, east China.
"Many cities excessively pursue strange and unique buildings because leaders believe they are good for raising their city's renown and speeding the development of related industries," he says.
"Some designs can't be realized even in the West, but places in China spend hugely on them," Sun says, citing "foreign rubbish" such as the CCTV headquarters designed by Rem Koolhaus somewhat in the shape of a boxy upside-down pair of pants.
Exploiting China's rich heritage can be tricky.
The Fang Yuan building in northeast Shenyang resembles an old Chinese coin: round with a square hole in the middle. It won no accolades. In January, a CNN website named the building one of the 10 ugliest buildings in the world.
"Beauty is different to different people," Wang Zhanshan, chief engineer of the Italian-designed Guangdong Plastics Exchange, told the South China Morning Post newspaper. "If the building is discussed before and after its completion, it will have already proved it is a successful piece of architecture."
Among the most dramatic designs are the luxury hotels sprouting nationwide. Futuristic buildings are under construction on man-made Phoenix Island, a resort in Hainan Province. One developer is assembling hotels shaped like giant trees.
"Developers here are not constrained by preconceived notions of what a five-star hotel should look like," says Canadian John Jeakins, whose company, Hospitality Associates, helps Chinese clients design, decorate and manage hotels. "If your color scheme is purple, let's make a purple hotel. In the U.S., people might want to open a restaurant; here, people have more money, so they want to open a hotel."
One reason for the structural oddities is that the profession of architectural design has a limited tradition. Architect Wu Lianyong told the China Daily that China's architectural style was greatly influenced by the Soviet Union, which discouraged charismatic individual design before its demise in 1991.
"It has now led to an outburst of fancy for the avant-garde, chic and novel," Wu says.
Some people see the high expenditure on excessively large official buildings, of sometimes bizarre design, as a problem, especially in poorer parts of China.
"So much money is wasted on fancy public buildings, when many people are still so poor," says Yanjiao's Zhao Pingping.
Other residents have warmed to the Emperor Hotel's three gods, now dwarfed by a development over the road.
"I was shocked at first," says Li Shuang, 27. "But now I'm used to it. I don't think it's ugly, and my 4-year old daughter loves it!"
WHITEHORSE, YK—Try to imagine a town where the government paid each of the residents a living income, regardless of who they were and what they did, and a Soviet hamlet in the early 1980s may come to mind.
But this experiment happened much closer to home. For a four-year period in the '70s, the poorest families in Dauphin, Manitoba, were granted a guaranteed minimum income by the federal and provincial governments. Thirty-five years later all that remains of the experiment are 2,000 boxes of documents that have gathered dust in the Canadian archives building in Winnipeg.
Until now little has been known about what unfolded over those four years in the small rural town, since the government locked away the data that had been collected and prevented it from being analyzed.
But after a five year struggle, Evelyn Forget, a professor of health sciences at the University of Manitoba, secured access to those boxes in 2009. Until the data is computerized, any systematic analysis is impossible. Undeterred, Forget has begun to piece together the story by using the census, health records, and the testimony of the program's participants. What is now emerging reveals that the program could have counted many successes.
Beginning in 1974, Pierre Trudeau's Liberals and Manitoba's first elected New Democratic Party government gave money to every person and family in Dauphin who fell below the poverty line. Under the program—called “Mincome”—about 1,000 families received monthly cheques.
Unlike welfare, which only certain individuals qualified for, the guaranteed minimum income project was open to everyone. It was the first—and to this day, only—time that Canada has ever experimented with such an open-door social assistance program.
In today’s conservative political climate, with constant government and media rhetoric about the inefficiency and wastefulness of the welfare state, the Mincome project sounds like nothing short of a fairy tale.
For four years Dauphin was a place where anyone living below the poverty line could receive monthly cheques to boost their income, no questions asked. Single mothers could afford to put their kids through school and low-income families weren't scrambling to pay the rent each month.
For Amy Richardson, it meant she could afford to buy her children books for school. Richardson joined the program in 1977, just after her husband had gone on disability leave from his job. At the time, she was struggling to raise her three youngest children on $1.50 haircuts she gave in her living room beauty parlour.
The $1,200 per year she received in monthly increments was a welcome supplement, in a time when the poverty line was $2,100 a year.
“The extra money meant that I was also able to give my kids something I wouldn't ordinarily be able to, like taking them to a show or some small luxury like that,” said Richardson, now 84, who spoke to The Dominion by phone from Dauphin.
As part of the experiment, an army of researchers were sent to Dauphin to interview the Mincome families. Residents in nearby rural towns who didn't receive Mincome were also surveyed so their statistics could be compared against those from Dauphin. But after the government cut the program in 1978, they simply warehoused the data and never bothered to analyze it.
“When the government introduced the program they really thought it would be a pilot project and that by the end of the decade they would roll this out and everybody would participate,” said Forget. “They thought it would become a universal program. But of course, the idea eventually just died off.”
During the Mincome program, the federal and provincial governments collectively spent $17 million, though it was initially supposed to have cost only a few million.
Meant to last several more years, the program came to a quick halt in 1978 when an economic recession hit Canada. The recession had caused prices to increase 10 per cent each year, so payouts to families under Mincome had increased accordingly.
Trudeau's Liberals, already on the defensive for an overhaul of Canada's employment insurance system, killed the program and withheld any additional money to analyze the data that had been amassed.
“It's hugely unfortunate and typical of the strange ways in which government works that the data was never analyzed,” says Ron Hikel who coordinated the Mincome program. Hikel now works in the United States to promote universal healthcare reform.
“Government officials opposed [to Mincome] didn't want to spend more money to analyze the data and show what they already thought: that it didn't work,” says Hikel, who remains a strong proponent of guaranteed income programs.
“And the people who were in favour of Mincome were worried because if the analysis was done and the data wasn't favourable then they would have just spent another million dollars on analysis and be even more embarrassed.”
But Forget has culled some useful info from Manitoba labour data. Her research confirms numerous positive consequences of the program.
Initially, the Mincome program was conceived as a labour market experiment. The government wanted to know what would happen if everybody in town received a guaranteed income, and specifically, they wanted to know whether people would still work.
It turns out they did.
Only two segments of Dauphin's labour force worked less as a result of Mincome—new mothers and teenagers. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies. And teenagers worked less because they weren't under as much pressure to support their families.
The end result was that they spent more time at school and more teenagers graduated. Those who continued to work were given more opportunities to choose what type of work they did.
“People didn't have to take the first job that came along,” says Hikel. “They could wait for something better that suited them.”
For some, it meant the opportunity to land a job to help them get by.
When Doreen and Hugh Henderson arrived in Dauphin in 1970 with their two young children they were broke. Doreen suggested moving from Vancouver to her hometown because she thought her husband would have an easier time finding work there. But when they arrived, things weren't any better.
“My husband didn't have a very good job and I couldn't find work,” she told The Dominion by phone from Dauphin.
It wasn't until 1978, after receiving Mincome payments for two years, that her husband finally landed janitorial work at the local school, a job he kept for 28 years.
“I don't know how we would have lived without [Mincome],” said Doreen.“I don't know if we would have stayed in Dauphin.”
Although the Mincome experiment was intended to provide a body of information to study labour market trends, Forget discovered that Mincome had a significant effect on people's well being. Two years ago, the professor started studying the health records of Dauphin residents to assess the impacts of the program.
In the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 per cent. Fewer people went to the hospital with work-related injuries and there were fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. There were also far fewer mental health visits.
It's not hard to see why, says Forget.
“When you walk around a hospital, it's pretty clear that a lot of the time what we're treating are the consequences of poverty,” she says.
Give people financial independence and control over their lives and these accidents and illnesses tend to dissipate, says Forget. In today's terms, an 8.5 per cent decrease in hospital visits across Canada would save the government $4 billion annually, by her calculations. And $4 billion is the amount that the federal government is currently trying to save by slashing social programming and arts funding.
Having analyzed the health data, Forget is now working on a cost-benefit analysis to see what a guaranteed income program might save the federal government if it were implemented today. She’s already worked with a Senate committee investigating a guaranteed income program for all low-income Canadians.
The Canadian government's sudden interest in guaranteed income programs doesn't surprise Forget.
Every 10 or 15 years there seems to be a renewed interest in getting Guaranteed Income (GI) programs off the ground, according to Saskatchewan social work professor James Mulvale. He's researched and written extensively about guaranteed income programs and is also part the Canadian chapter of the Basic Income Earth Network, a worldwide organization that advocates for guaranteed income.
GI programs exist in countries like Brazil, Mexico, France and even the state of Alaska.
Although people may not recognize it, subtle forms of guaranteed income already exist in Canada, says Mulvale, pointing to the child benefit tax, guaranteed income for seniors and the modest GST/HST rebate program for low-income earners.
However, a wider-reaching guaranteed income program would go a long way in decreasing poverty, he says.
Mulvale is in favour of a “demo-grant” model of GI that would give automatic cash transfers to everybody in Canada. This kind of plan would also provide the option of taxing higher-income earners at the end of the year so poorer people receive benefits.
A model such as this has a higher chance of broad support because it goes out to everybody, according to Mulvale. GI can also be administered as a negative income tax to the poor, meaning they'd receive an amount of money back directly in proportion to what they make each year.
“GI by itself wouldn't eliminate poverty but it would go a heck of a long way to decrease the extent of poverty in this country,” says Mulvale.
Conservative senator Hugh Segal has been the biggest supporter of this kind of GI, claiming it would eliminate the social assistance programs now administered by the provinces and territories. Rather than having a separate office to administer child tax benefits, welfare, unemployment insurance and income supplement for seniors, they could all be rolled into one GI scheme.
It would also mean that anybody could apply for support. Many people fall through the cracks under the current welfare system, says Forget. Not everybody can access welfare and those who can are penalized for going to school or for working a job since the money they receive from welfare is then clawed back.
If a guaranteed income program can target more people and is more efficient than other social assistance programs, then why doesn't Canada have such a program in place already? Perhaps the biggest barrier is the prevalence of negative stereotypes about poor people.
“There's very strong feelings out there that we shouldn't give people money for nothing,” Mulvale says.
Guaranteed income proponents aren't holding their breaths that they'll see such a program here anytime soon, but they are hopeful that one day Canada will consider the merits of guaranteed income.
The cost would be "not nearly as prohibitive to do as people imagine it is," says Forget. “A guaranteed minimum income program is a superior way of delivering social assistance. The only thing is that it's of course politically difficult to implement.”
Vivian Belik is a freelance journalist based in the frozen northlands of Whitehorse, Yukon. She was, however, raised in Manitoba where she has spotted many of the provinces small-town statues including the giant beaver in Dauphin.
Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn faced preliminary charges Monday of "aggravated pimping" and procurement in an illegal prostitution ring in France.
The preliminary charges came as DSK was summoned for eight hours of questioning Monday by French judges investigating an illegal prostitution ring operating out of the northern French city of Lille, Bloomberg News reported. The former IMF chief was later allowed to leave after paying 100,000 Euros in bail, and agreeing not to talk to others being investigated in the case, the Associated Press reported.
French prosecutors in Lille have been investigating an illegal prostitution ring that is alleged to have brought prostitutes from Belgium to luxury hotels in France and abroad to have sex with VIP clients, France's Radio France International reported in October. At least five men have already been jailed as a result of the inquiry, including the director and PR chief of one of the city hotels.
An attorney for Strauss-Kahn adamantly denied Monday that his client had broken any law. "He firmly declares that he is not guilty of these acts and of never having the least inkling that the women he met could have been prostitutes," Richard Malka, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn, told Agence France Press.
Another lawyer for Strauss-Kahn had earlier acknowledged that Strauss-Kahn had participated in the sex parties, but said his client could not have known the women were prostitutes.
"I defy you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a nude classy woman," DSK lawyer Henri Leclerk said in a statement in December. "Because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you're not always dressed."
"Using prostitutes is not illegal in France, but Strauss-Kahn risks a legal probe if investigators decide he knowingly had sex with prostitutes paid for out of company funds," Reuters wrote. Preliminary charges mean that investigators believe a crime was committed but need more time to investigate.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, was reportedly mulling a run as the Socialist Party candidate for French president last spring, when he was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York. He resigned from the IMF during the investigation, but prosecutors dropped the charges in August, citing the unreliability and inconsistencies in the maid's accounts. But two months after his return to France, Strauss-Kahn was questioned in connection with the Lille prostitution ring.
The French prostitution ring charges come as a New York court is due to take up a civil case filed by the hotel maid against DSK later this week.
Global News: Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor's Anti-Nuclear Speech
Why did Japanese TV channels cut Emperor Akihito's address on the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima crisis?
Japan's Emperor Akihito speaks as Empress Michiko looks on at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo / AP
There is a particularly sensitive accusation reverberating through online discussion boards and social media in Japan: that Emperor Akihito's speech on the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami was censored on TV for his comments about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
The 78-year-old Emperor Akihito had insisted on attending the memorial service, though he had been released from the hospital for heart bypass surgery less than a week earlier. While the emperor is technically just a figurehead, he is still deeply revered here. Many Japanese see him a source of guidance in times of political difficulty, which have been many in the last 20 years. His speech was highly anticipated. Unlike Prime Minister Noda, who never mentioned the nuclear crisis in his speech on the anniversary, the Emperor addressed it directly.
As this earthquake and tsunami caused the nuclear power plant accident, those living in areas designated as the danger zone lost their homes and livelihoods and had to leave the places they used to live. In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task.
While this statement may seem more obvious than radical to outsiders, underneath the Imperial-grade Japanese understatement were two ideas that have become quietly explosive. First, he seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over, a "formidable task" yet to be overcome. This noticeably contradicts the government's official stance that Fukushima has achieved a cold shutdown and, for all practical purposes, the crisis is over. Second, it implies that it is not yet safe for people to return to areas stricken with high levels of radiation, at least not before the "formidable task" is "overcome." This, again, contradicts the government's position that it is now safe for people to return to almost all areas and that neither Tokyo Electric Power Company nor the national government are obliged to assist in long term evacuations.
It's impossible to say for sure whether the emperor intended to weigh in on two of the country's most sensitive policy debates. Either way, his words have struck Japan's national conversation with a weight that could only be delivered by the emperor himself.
"The emperor's words were like a knife to my heart." tweeted @shun1sta, in a string of comments typical of the public reaction. "He seemed in such pain as well... I can only imagine the determination he felt to say what he did." "It seems to me that the Emperor was doing the most he could do, despite the constraints of his position, to communicate his opinion on the nuclear matter." "Surely the government asked him not to mention the nuclear crisis. He must have fought hard to tell the truth."
It is rare for Emperor Akihito, an accomplished biologist and the world's leading authority on certain species of Gobi Fish, to publicly take sides on any subject other than biology. It is said that his love for the sciences is partly due to the ease in which his colleagues can disagree with him. The reverence he commands in other spheres is so strong that, when it comes to politics, his opinion is considered a constitutionally guarded state secret. His normal silence only adds to the weight of his rare public statements on such matters.
So many Japanese were shocked when TV media began cutting out the emperor's dramatic statement. Live daytime broadcasts of the event contained the whole speech and newspapers printed it in its entirety. But, by that evening, all of the major news programs aired edited versions of the speech without his nuclear comments, which also went unmentioned and undiscussed on the heavily watches news shows. The vast majority of Japanese, who don't watch TV news during the day, missed the comments entirely.
Blogs and chat-rooms quickly filled with angry accusations that TV networks were censoring an important communication by the Emperor to his people at a time when his guidance is most sought.
"Seriously?! They're even going to whack the Emperor's Words? "
"It's so disrespectful for the media to cut the most important part of His Majesty's speech, especially as he delivered it under such physical strain."
"Asahi News cut the Emperor's words just like NHK did! This must be the Government's work... This is the height of censorship!"
By March 20, nine days after the emperor's speech, outraged Japanese held a demonstration in front of NHK, the State sponsored TV network, protesting the apparent censorship.
In fairness, news programs can't please everyone with their edits, and it would be unfair to accuse censorship at every disappointing broadcast decision. Still, it's hard to imagine why the TV networks would neither air nor even mention the emperor's obviously weighty opinion. Many skeptics in Japan suspect that the country's enormous nuclear energy industry, which is famous for its influence over Japan's politics and which has seen its business come to a near-standstill over public fears, may have played a role. After all, Tokyo Electric is one of Japanese TV's largest sources of revenue, and is tightly linked to the Japanese government, which sponsors some media here.
The incident has also played off Japanese fears, sometimes edging into paranoia, that powerful interests in Japan are withholding important information about the risks of nuclear power. When the Fukushima crisis began last March, the government was aware of both the risks of meltdown and the spread of radiation. Yet it waited days or weeks to make that information public, it says for fear of sparking a mass panic. Because radiation is totally invisible, large numbers of Japanese were unwittingly soaked in it. This reliance on the authorities to tell them when they're a danger, and a lingering fear that maybe the powerful aren't telling them everything, were both raises again by the odd cutting of the emperor's nuclear speech. Whether the skeptics are right or not about censorship, it was a clear reminder that Japan has a serious, and possibly worsening, problem with public trust. As if the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown hadn't brought enough problems already.
Brazil is going to great lengths to protect its commons.
Seventeen executives, including American citizens, working with Chevron and oil rig contractor Transocean, have been charged with crimes against the environment in Brazil after an oil spill off the coast poured about three thousand barrels of oil into Brazilian waters last November. If found guilty – the corporate executives could face up to 31 years in prison.
The lead prosecutor in the case told Reuters he was tired of big oil corporations escaping accountability for ruining the environment saying, “We need to change the parameters. If companies don’t listen to millions, we have to ask for billions.”
After the spill – Brazilian authorities immediately suspended all of Chevron’s drilling operations and banned the corporation from further oil explorations off the coast. Transocean is a familiar name – it was the corporation operating the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in the Gulf back in 2010 – leading to the death of 11 workers and the worst ecological disaster in American history.
But that’s where the similarities between Brazil and the United States end. Because unlike Brazil – where corporate oil-industry criminals are actually arrested and held to account – not one corporate executive in the U.S. has yet been charged for their role in the death of 11 people in the Gulf and the permanent destruction of coastal ecosystems. And even worse, BP continues to expand its drilling operations in the the deep waters of the United States like nothing ever happened.
A year after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began in Japan, the world has a historic chance to end one of the biggest-ever frauds played on the public to promote a patently unsafe, accident-prone, expensive and centralised form of energy generation based upon splitting the atom to boil water and spin a turbine. Candidly, that's what nuclear power generation is all about.
The promise of boundless, universal prosperity based on cheap, safe and abundant energy through "Atoms for Peace," held out by US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, was deceptive and meant to temper the prevalent perception of atomic energy as a malign force following Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Eisenhower was a hawk committed to building up the US nuclear arsenal from under 1,500 to over 20,000 warheads. He sought to "compensate" for this by dressing up nuclear energy as a positive force and camouflage the huge US military build-up.
The nuclear promise was based on unrealistic assumptions about safety and being "too cheap even to metre." The US Navy transferred reactor designs developed for nuclear-propelled submarines to General Electric and Westinghouse for free. The US also limited the nuclear industry's accident liability to a ludicrously low level.
The world has since lost over $1,000 billion in subsidies, cash losses, abandoned projects and other damage from nuclear power. Decontaminating Fukushima alone is estimated to cost $623 billion, not counting treatment costs for thousands of likely cancers.
All of the world's 400-odd reactors can undergo a catastrophic accident. They will remain a liability until decommissioned (entombed in concrete) at huge public expense -- one-third to one-half of the cost of building them. They will also leave behind nuclear waste, which remains hazardous for thousands of years, and which science has no way of storing safely.
All this for a technology which contributes just 2% of global final energy consumption!. Even the Economist magazine, which long backed nuclear power, calls it "the dream that failed."
Nuclear power declined on its home ground because it became too risky and "too costly to hook to a metre." The US hasn't ordered a new reactor since 1973. Western Europe hasn't completed a new reactor since Chernobyl (1986).
As a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission says: "The abiding lesson [from Three Mile Island meltdown (1979)]… was that… reactor operators…could turn a $2 billion asset into a $1 billion cleanup job in about 90 minutes."
Nuclear power is now on the run globally. The number of reactors operating worldwide has fallen from the historic peak of 444 (2002) to 429. Their share in global electricity supply has shrunk from 17% to 13%. And it's likely to fall further as some 180-plus 30 years-old or older reactors are retired. Just about 60 new ones are planned.
Post-Fukushima, nobody will build reactors without big subsidies or high state-guaranteed returns --or unless they are China or India. China's rulers don't have to bother about democracy, public opinion or safety standards.
Nor are India's rulers moved by these. They are desperate to award the reactor contracts promised to the US, France and Russia for lobbying for the US-India nuclear deal in the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Dr. Manmohan Singh has even stooped to maligning Indian anti-nuclear protesters as foreign-funded, as if they had no minds of their own, and as if the government's priority wasn't to import reactors.
Nuclear power is bound up with secrecy, deception and opacity, which clash with democracy. It evokes fear and loathing and can only be promoted by force while violating civil liberties.
A recent BBC-GlobeScan poll shows that 69% of people in 23 countries oppose building new reactors, including 90% in Germany, 84% in Japan, 80% in Russia and 83% in France. This proportion has sharply risen since 2005. Only 22% of people in the 12 countries which operate nuclear plants favour building new ones.
Nuclear reactors are high-pressure high-temperature systems, in which a fission chain-reaction is barely checked from getting out of control. But controls can fail for many reasons, including short circuits, faulty valves, operator error, fire, earthquakes or tsunamis.
No technology is 100% safe. High-risk technologies demand a meticulous, self-critical and highly alert safety culture, which most countries lack.
The world has witnessed five core meltdowns in 15,000 reactor-years. At this rate, we can expect one core meltdown every eight years in the world's 400-odd reactors. This is simply unacceptable.
Yet, the nuclear industry behaves as if this couldn't happen. It has a collusive relationship with regulators, highlighted in numerous articles on Japan, including one by Yoichi Funabashi, chair of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation: "We Japanese have long prided ourselves on being a society that provides safety and security…[But this] has been matched by our aversion to facing the potential threat of nuclear emergencies..."
He adds: "Any drills for a nuclear emergency were meticulously designed to avoid giving any impression that an accident could possibly progress to the severity of a meltdown…. But avoidance ultimately translated into un-preparedness."
Nuclear power is bound up with radiation, which is harmful in all doses, at each step of the nuclear fuel cycle. Nuclear plants routinely expose surrounding populations to harmful radioactive and chemical emissions.
Nuclear power is costlier not just than coal- or gas-based electricity, but increasingly, renewable energy. The European Pressurised Reactor of the crisis-ridden French firm Areva, and earmarked for Jaitapur in India, is now quoting for $6,500-plus per kilowatt, compared to under $2,000 for wind turbines.
Nuclear power cannot be a solution to the climate crisis. Its potential contribution is too small, it's too slow to deploy, and too expensive. By contrast, renewables have already emerged as a safe, flexible, quickly deployable solution, with a typically lower carbon footprint than nuclear power.
The world needs a new climate-friendly, safe, decentralised energy system with smart grids and high efficiency. Nuclear power can have no place in it.
The writer is an eminent Indian columnist. http://www.thedailystar.net
Global News: Victim says Joseph Kony Campaign too little too late
Joseph Kony 2012: campaign too little too late, says victim
The viral film recounting atrocities by Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance army may have become a huge internet hit, but victims of the insurgents say it is too little too late.
Leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony
Angella Atim, whose left arm was chopped off when she could no longer walk on the second day after being captured by the rebels. is among those in Uganda who believe that the film, is simply too little too late.
"What is this going to help? Kony cut off my arm, will the video bring it back?" she said.
"Where were these groups when we were being killed by Kony?"
The 30-minute film by the California-based advocacy group Invisible Children has earned praise from celebrities and drawn 74 million viewers on YouTube along, but in Uganda, its timing raises questions.
"This is a good initiative, but it should have come at the right time, not at the time when Kony has been defeated in Uganda," said Onyango Kakoba, Uganda's representative to the Pan-African Parliament.
Ugandan forces drove the ragtag LRA fighters from northern Uganda in 2006, into the jungles in South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they continue to kill, maim and abduct civilians.
Kony, a semi-literate former altar boy, took charge in 1988 of a rebellion among northern Uganda's ethnic Acholi minority, to fight the Kampala government it wanted to replace by a regime based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.
He is accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the rape, mutilation and murder of civilians as well as forcibly recruiting child soldiers.
Regional armies launched a hunt in 2008 to capture Kony after he repeatedly refused to sign a peace deal with Uganda. The drive has been fruitless and Kony remains at large alongside a clutch of fighters.
Some in northern Uganda, the region worst hit by the LRA brutality, welcome the film "Kony2012", but say they now want to rebuild their lives.
"The video has been overcome by events. The situation has changed from war to peace, and that's what we are currently doing to ensure that people return to normal lives," said Solomon Kigane, an aid worker in northern Uganda.
Former LRA fighter Jackson Okoth said: "This video is like flogging a dead horse. Kony is no longer the same as he was 10 years ago."
"The war in northern Uganda is over and efforts must be made towards settling people in their homes."
Invisible Children said it has been denouncing the atrocities by Kony's fighters since they fled Uganda. It also denied accusations that it oversimplified facts about the conflict.
The group has also been criticised for using funds raised – some 70 per cent or more by some accounts – for salaries, travel expenses and filmmaking rather than charitable work.
Ugandan human rights lawyer Moses Sserwanga said the video was an important document that could help in trying Kony, who is sought by the ICC alongside three of his top lieutenants.
"The video is a perfectly legitimate initiative. Recording and documenting Kony's atrocities, if he is captured and taken to ICC or tried by the special division of the Ugandan court system, is very important," said Sserwanga.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has called for a concerted international drive to capture Kony, now believed to be in the Central African Republic.
"Any such action requires stepped-up protection for civilians in the regions where the LRA operates to prevent the inevitable retaliatory attacks," it said in a recent report.
Solar flare seen by NASA's orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. NASA/GSFC
Don’t put away the tinfoil hats just yet.
Government space weather watchers say a new geomagnetic storm is on the way following an eruption on the surface of the sun Friday morning.
It should arrive at Earth on Sunday, but like the storm that arrived Thursday and is just passing, the impact is expected to be fairly minimal.
“It is going to affect the Earth,” said Bob Rutledge, a forecaster at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder Colorado. “It’s headed fairly directly at us.”
While the storm is expected to reach “strong” or G-3 levels, (scale here) “we don’t believe it will have the sustained intensity of the storm we just had,” said Rutledge.
Planet Earth will remain in the bull’s-eye until that giant, solar storm-spawning sunspot known as AR 1429 rotates out of view sometime next week.
Until then, Rutledge said there’s still a 40 percent chance of another intense X-flare that could hurl intense storms our way. And we’re probably going to be hearing a lot about space weather in coming months. This current solar cycle bringing increased activity won’t peak until mid-2013.
Rutledge said that the geomagnetic storm just passing was the strongest since November of 2004. It was unleashed Tuesday by a powerful X-5 class solar flare on the surface of the Sun. On Friday morning it peaked as a G-3 level storm, though there were few if any reports of problems.
Global News: Rothschild libel case reveals secret world of money and politics
Thanks to billionaire's legal battle, we now know a lot more about how the super-rich work.
With his long limbs and delicate gait, Lord Mandelson could no doubt manage a quite convincing turn in Thunderbirds.
He'd find Jeff Tracy most convivial: a billionaire astronaut with his own Pacific island, and now, it seems, he even has his own camera-shy friend to pull the strings.
According to the High Court, Nathaniel Rothschild, scion of the banking dynasty and friend of seemingly everyone in the spheres of finance, business and politics, is indeed "puppet master" to the Baron of Hartlepool and Foy.
The banker and Bullingdon boy has lost his libel case against the Daily Mail, which he sued for "substantial damages" over its account of his and Mr Mandelson's extraordinary trip to Russia in January 2005.
Mr Rothschild claimed he was subjected to "sustained and unjustified" attacks in the May 2010 article, which portrayed him as a "puppet master", dangling his friend Lord Mandelson in front of the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to ease the passage of colossal business deals.
Messrs Rothschild and Mandelson's Russian trip would certainly have made entertaining viewing, but maybe not for Thunderbirds fans. Nobody needed rescuing, that's for certain.
It began on Mr Rothschild's private jet from the World Economic Forum in Davos to Moscow, where they met Mr Deripaska, the aluminium plant manager who became the richest oligarch of them all, and continued on Mr Deripaska's private jet to his chalet in Siberia, where "to beat jet lag" they were whipped with birch leaves before plunging themselves into icy water – a traditional Siberian banya.
Less salacious, but seemingly more sordid, was an earlier dinner at Cantinetta Antinori, a fashionable Tuscan restaurant in Moscow. Mr Deripaska, the Mail had claimed, was dining with executives from the US aluminium giant Alcoa, negotiating a £250m deal to buy two of Mr Deripaska's aluminium plants, at which a stumbling block was an EU import tariff on Russian aluminium. Enter Lord Mandelson, then a lowly Mister, but at the time the EU Trade Commissioner. The deal is done, costing several hundred British jobs, and the tariffs come down.
Mr Rothschild claimed the trip was "purely recreational", and Associated Newspapers had to admit during litigation that it couldn't be sure that Mr Mandelson had joined Mr Deripaska at dinner or whether aluminium tariffs were discussed, and in fact the deal had been struck before Mr Mandelson and Mr Rothschild arrived in Moscow. But for Mr Justice Tugenhadt, recreation it was not.
"So far as Lord Mandelson was concerned the benefit was the trip and the hospitality itself. So far as Mr Deripaska was concerned it was a relationship with the EU Trade Commissioner," he said in his ruling. The judge rejected the notion that Mr Rothschild and Mr Mandelson had flown out as friends, not business associates, and said Mr Rothschild's behaviour had in part been "inappropriate". "That conduct foreseeably brought Lord Mandelson's public office and personal integrity into disrepute," the judge said.
Mr Rothschild's "different and developing" accounts of the Siberia trip were confusing, he continued, adding that on this subject the banker had not been entirely candid.
Mr Rothschild said he was disappointed with the judgement and intended to appeal. "The truth is, as the Daily Mail has now accepted, that I had nothing whatsoever to do with this deal and that it had in any event been completed before Lord Mandelson and I even arrived in Moscow," he said in a statement. Disputing the judge's findings, he added: "Lord Mandelson's trip to Russia was entirely recreational – as the court has accepted – and Lord Mandelson had obtained clearance for the trip from his office before undertaking it."
Puppet masters, of course, do not like the limelight, but when one pulls quite as many strings as Mr Rothschild would appear to, things will inevitably go wrong. Indeed, it is not the first time this seemingly unlikely trio has conspired to make the headlines. When Mr Deripaska moored his yacht next to the Rothschild family villa in the summer of 2008, they, along with George Osborne, managed to tie themselves up in an even more spectacular imbroglio.
Either on the yacht or in the villa, Lord Mandelson might have said unkind things about Gordon Brown and Mr Rothschild is alleged to have suggested that Mr Deripaska might be interested in making a donation to the Tories. Via the two politicians it all ended up in the press – the last place their two hosts like seeing themselves.
That leading politicians, bankers and businessmen associate with each other in fashions that blur the boundaries between work and pleasure is a secret too great to be maintained with any success, but it doesn't make the details, on the rare occasions they actually emerge, any more palatable.
A spokesman for the Daily Mail said: "This case is a reminder, at a time when newspapers are under attack for invading privacy, that the rich and powerful regularly use the law to prevent legitimate scrutiny of their activities. Had the Mail lost this case, it could have incurred costs of more than one million pounds.
"Not many news organisations, however committed they are to free speech, can afford to risk a loss of that magnitude. As Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry considers the balance between privacy and freedom of expression, the chilling effect on free speech that court cases like this one exert needs to be borne in mind."
Global News: Home Again. Oregon Man Wonders Why He Was Questioned by FBI
Home again, Oregon man wonders why he was questioned by FBI in Tunisia after Libya visit
By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 5:57 PM
PORTLAND, Ore. — A Libyan-American who says he was forbidden from returning to the United States and questioned by FBI agents in Tunisia after visiting neighboring Libya insists he has done nothing wrong.
“I do intend to protect my rights. I do intend to clear my name,” 55-year-old Jamal Tarhuni said after arriving at Portland International Airport Tuesday morning from Amsterdam.
Tarhuni belongs to a Portland mosque that has been under scrutiny by federal investigators in years past.
He traveled to Libya last fall to help deliver humanitarian supplies. Tarhuni said he was barred without explanation from flying home on a flight from Tunis, Tunisia, on Jan. 17 and that he was told he should report to the U.S. Consulate.
Tarhuni said when he went to the consulate he was told he was on a no-fly list and was questioned by two FBI agents about his religious beliefs, whether he believes in Sharia law and about his mosque.
He said when the agents asked him to waive his Miranda rights he called his attorney, Thomas Nelson of Portland. Nelson advised Tarhuni to stop the interview with the agents, which Tarhuni did, and then he left the consulate.
Nelson flew to Tunisia and returned with Tarhuni on Tuesday. Asked why Tarhuni was allowed to leave, Nelson said the pair “raised hell” with the help of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
“They didn’t have a case,” Nelson said. “I said this is not an investigation, this is coercion.”
Nelson said the U.S. Consulate in Tunisia told him earlier this month they thought Tarhuni could travel, but neither Tarhuni nor his attorney was certain he would be allowed into the U.S. until they reached Amsterdam.
Wyden spokesman Tom Towslee confirmed that the senator had inquired about Tarhuni’s case, but said “there’s a lot we don’t know.”
“It’s hard to be concerned without knowing what’s going on,” Towslee said. “Obviously the FBI has something going on there.”
Towslee said of Tarhuni: “We’re glad he’s home.”
The FBI refused to comment.
The Portland mosque where Tarhuni worships, Masjid al-Sabr, has attracted the interest of federal investigators since the first years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.
Mohamed Mohamud, a Somali-American awaiting trial on a charge of plotting to detonate a bomb at Portland’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony in November 2010, worshipped there occasionally.
The mosque’s imam, Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye, was arrested at Portland International Airport in September 2002 by an FBI-led anti-terrorism task force. He pleaded guilty to using a fraudulent Social Security number and defrauding a state health insurance program for the poor by underestimating his income. A federal judge sentenced Kariye to five years on probation.
Most recently, three Muslim men from Portland traveling abroad have discovered they are facing travel restrictions.
They include Tarhuni as well as another Libyan-American, 60-year-old Mustafa Elogbi. Like Tarhuni, Elogbi traveled to Libya after the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi. Elogbi went to visit family.
He planned to return last month. Elogbi got as far as a connecting flight in London before he was sent back to Tunisia, he said earlier this month. He said he was held in a British jail for two days and told by British authorities that the U.S. government was preventing him from flying home.
Elogbi is still in Tunisia but says he has been told he will be allowed to return to the U.S. this week.
Last year, Portland resident Michael Migliore, a Muslim convert, traveled to England by boat because of his apparent placement on the U.S. no-fly list. He was detained upon arrival and later released by British authorities.
Tarhuni said that when he was interviewed by the FBI agents in Tunis, they were interested in activities at the mosque.
“They wanted to know about people, what they do in there,” Tarhuni said. “For them to try to link people to a certain place and assume that they are part of a group, that is wrong.”
Tarhuni and Elogbi are getting support from the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has asked the Justice Department to investigate the tactics of FBI agents in Portland.
Global News: Putin receives 'prehistoric' water from Antarctic lake Vostok
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin looks at a glass container containing water from pristine Antarctic lake at his study in Moscow, on February 10, 2012. Putin received the water from a lake hidden under ice for more than a million years after Russian scientists managed to drill down to its surface.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was given a water sample Friday taken from a pristine lake hidden under Antarctic ice for over a million years, after Russian scientists drilled down to its surface.
The Russian strongman, who enjoys venturing into the wilderness and has accompanied an expedition to track polar bears in the Arctic, was the first recipient of a symbolic water sample.
"The head of the natural resources ministry has given Vladimir Putin the first sample of prehistoric water the Russian polar expedition extracted from the subglacial lake in Antarctica," the Russian government said.
"The age of the water could be over 1 million years," it said.
Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Yury Trutnev handed Putin a small glass container containing a yellowish liquid with the inscription "Lake Vostok, aged more than 1 million years," the state RIA Novosti news agency reported.
With characteristic dry humour, Putin asked Trutnev whether he had tried drinking the water.
"No," Trutnev answered.
"That would have been curious. Dinosaurs drank it and Trutnev," Putin said in comments released by the government.
A Russian expedition on Sunday sunk a borehole down to the surface of the pristine subglacial fresh water lake, hidden under almost 4 kilometres (2.3 miles) of ice and raised a column of water for scientists to study.
Putin, who is planning to reclaim his old Kremlin job in March elections, called for the scientists behind the discovery to be decorated.
"This is a major event. We need to think how to honour these people," he said.
The water given to Putin probably did not come from the main body of the lake, but was frozen lake ice raised from the borehole just before it reached the lake's surface, an expert behind the project told RIA Novosti.
"This water was apparently received when they lifted the ice core from the last section of the borehole. And that really is water from Lake Vostok," said Valery Martyshchenko of the hydrometeorology and environmental monitoring agency.
The costly project is a rare triumph for national science and has excited scientists around the world with its potential for discoveries of new forms of life and revelations about millions of years of the Earth's history.
(c) 2012 AFP
This month, the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Departmentreported that China imported 102,779 kilograms of gold from Hong Kong in November, an increase from October’s 86,299 kilograms. Beijing does not release gold trade figures, so for this and other reasons the Hong Kong numbers are considered the best indication of China’s gold imports.
Analysts believe China bought as much as 490 tons of gold in 2011, double the estimated 245 tons in 2010. “The thing that’s caught people’s minds is the massive increase in Chinese buying,” remarked Ross Norman of Sharps Pixley, a London gold brokerage, this month.
So who in China is buying all this gold?
The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, has been hinting that it is purchasing. “No asset is safe now,” said the PBOC’s Zhang Jianhua at the end of last month. “The only choice to hedge risks is to hold hard currency—gold.” He also said it was smart strategy to buy on market dips. Analysts naturally jumped on his comment as proof that China, the world’s fifth-largest holder of the metal, is in the market for more.
There are a few problems with this conclusion. First, the Chinese government rarely benefits others—and hurts itself—by telegraphing its short-term investment strategies.
Second, the central bank has less purchasing power these days. China’s foreign reserves declined in Q4 2011, falling $20.6 billion from Q3. The first quarterly outflow since 1998 was not large, but the trend was troubling. The reserves declined a stunning $92.7 billion in November and December.
Third, the purchase of gold would be especially risky for the central bank, which is already insolvent from a balance sheet point of view. The PBOC needs income-producing assets in order to meet its obligations on the debt incurred to buy foreign exchange, so the holding of gold only complicates its funding operations. This is not to say the bank never buys gold—it obviously does—but there are real constraints on its ability to purchase assets that do not provide current income.
Apart from China’s central bank, there is not much demand from the country’s institutional investors for gold. There are industrial users, of course, but their demand is filled from domestic production—China is the world’s largest gold producer. Most of China’s gold demand from foreign sources, therefore, is from individuals.
So why are individuals now buying gold? The easy answer is that the demand is only seasonal, as Jeff Wright of Global Hunter Securities believes. The Chinese traditionally buy gold presents in the run-up to the Lunar New Year, which started a week ago. Yet gift-giving does not begin to explain the surge in gold purchases that started as far back as July. November was the fifth-consecutive month of China’s record gold purchases from Hong Kong.
A better explanation for the gold-buying binge of Chinese citizens is that they are using the shiny commodity as an inflation hedge, as the Financial Timesrecently suggested. Yet the buying of gold has increased while inflation has eased. And that means there must be another explanation. The best explanation is that individuals in China are using gold as a substitute for capital flight.
Although indicators showed the Chinese economy faltered only at the end of September, there had been a growing sense of pessimism inside the country for months before then. Beijing, after all, could build only so many “ghost cities” before citizens began to notice. As Joseph Sternberg of the Wall Street Journal Asiasaid on the John Batchelor Show last Wednesday, “people inside China seem to be losing faith in the Chinese growth story that we’ve been hearing so much about for the past few years.” Estimates of capital flight are sketchy, but it appears there was $34 billion of it in the third quarter of last year and a $100 billion in the fourth.
Not every Chinese citizen is in the position to export cash, so the next best tactic for the nervous is to buy gold, a refuge from plunging property prices and declining stock markets as well as an anticipated depreciation of their currency. “Within China,” notesMichael Pettis of Peking University, “many are going to argue that the rapid decline in the trade surplus, coupled with unmistakable evidence of flight capital, means that the PBOC should devalue the RMB.” And the fact that China’s leaders in public are talking about the adverse impact of the European crisis on China weighs heavily on sentiment.
The worst thing about capital flight and gold purchases is that they drain liquidity out of the Chinese economy just when it is needed most. Beijing can continue to work its magic as long as strict capital controls keep money inside the country. Once they fail to do so, however, all bets are off. The purchasing of gold, of course, results in the exporting of cash.
Chinese asset values have not yet crashed across the board, but the buying of gold—a leading indicator of panic—is an especially troubling sign that they will. Therefore, it is not surprising that gold purchases by Chinese citizens and investors are frightening Beijing’s technocrats. At the end of last month, they shut all of the countries gold exchanges other than two of them in Shanghai.
Microscopic plastic debris from washing clothes is accumulating in the marine environment and could be entering the food chain, a study has warned.
Researchers traced the "microplastic" back to synthetic clothes, which released up to 1,900 tiny fibres per garment every time they were washed.
Earlier research showed plastic smaller than 1mm were being eaten by animals and getting into the food chain.
The findings appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
"Research we had done before... showed that when we looked at all the bits of plastic in the environment, about 80% was made up from smaller bits of plastic," said co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist now based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Concentrations of microplastic were greatest near coastal urban areas, the study showed
"This really led us to the idea of what sorts of plastic are there and where did they come from."
Dr Browne, a member of the US-based research network National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, said the tiny plastic was a concern because evidence showed that it was making its way into the food chain.
"Once the plastics had been eaten, it transferred from [the animals'] stomachs to their circulation system and actually accumulated in their cells," he told BBC News.
In order to identify how widespread the presence of microplastic was on shorelines, the team took samples from 18 beaches around the globe, including the UK, India and Singapore.
"We found that there was no sample from around the world that did not contain pieces of microplastic."
Dr Browne added: "Most of the plastic seemed to be fibrous.
"When we looked at the different types of polymers we were finding, we were finding that polyester, acrylic and polyamides (nylon) were the major ones that we were finding."
The data also showed that the concentration of microplastic was greatest in areas near large urban centres.
In order to test the idea that sewerage discharges were the source of the plastic discharges, the team worked with a local authority in New South Wales, Australia.
"We found exactly the same proportion of plastics," Dr Browne revealed, which led the team to conclude that their suspicions had been correct.
The smallest fibres could end up causing huge problems worldwide
As a result, Dr Browne his colleague Professor Richard Thompson from the University of Plymouth, UK carried out a number of experiments to see what fibres were contained in the water discharge from washing machines.
"We were quite surprised. Some polyester garments released more than 1,900 fibres per garment, per wash," Dr Browne observed.
"It may not sound like an awful lot, but if that is from a single item from a single wash, it shows how things can build up.
"It suggests to us that a large proportion of the fibres we were finding in the environment, in the strongest evidence yet, was derived from the sewerage as a consequence from washing clothes."
New ultrasharp pictures show the exact instant a black hole launched gigantic, high-speed "bullets" of gas, scientists announced today.
The data come from observations of a black hole called H1743-322 and its companion star, located about 28,000 light-years from Earth.
Black holes in such binary systems can pull material off their companions to form rapidly spinning disks around their equators, called accretion disks. Matter from the disks falling into the black holes can cause them to spew jets of matter from their poles.
Occasionally, though, these steady jets disappear and are replaced by superfast knots of charged gas fired from the black hole "akin to bullets in a gun," said researcher Gregory Sivakoff at the University of Alberta in Canada.
Such outbursts can produce as much energy in an hour as our sun emits in five years.
H1743-322, a black hole about five to ten times the mass of the sun, had generated a number of such outbursts since its discovery in 1977.
Until now, however, astronomers weren't exactly sure when a black hole "pulled the trigger" and unleashed its gas bullets, a key part of understanding why the bullets appear in the first place.
The scientists captured extremely detailed images of a pair of bright, radio-emitting knots of gas launched in opposite directions from H1743-322 in 2009.
By measuring the motions of these bullets, the scientists were able to work backward and pinpoint when they were hurled outward. (See black hole pictures.)
"We caught it in the act of launching a jet of material at nearly a quarter the speed of light," Sivakoff said.
Changes in H1743-322's x-ray and radio emissions also suggest the black hole bullets may result from blobs of gas in the surrounding disks of material that get destroyed once they spiral too close to the black hole.
"These are first steps toward getting a better understanding of accretion disks and the physics of what launches the jets," Sivakoff said.