Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston bombers: FBI hunting 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” linked to brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

The FBI was last night hunting a 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” linked to the Boston marathon bomb brothers.

Police believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack.

More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar’s dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.

A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.

“They were too advanced. Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.”

A specialist team of CIA and FBI interrogators was yesterday flown to a Boston hospital to grill wounded Dzhokhar, 19, about the secret group. The University of Massachusetts student was caught on Friday after hiding out in a boat parked in a garden in locked down Watertown the day after a gun battle with police left his 26-year-old brother and a rookie cop dead.

Dzhokhar is said to have run his brother over as he escaped in a stolen car while Tamerlan lay handcuffed on the ground. They were carrying six bombs with them at the time, three of which ­exploded, as well as a handgun and rifle. The devices were thought to be pipe bombs.

Last night Dzhokhar – badly wounded but alive – lay handcuffed to his hospital bed under armed guard. The other three arrested in the port of New Bedford are also believed to be of college age.

Dzhokhar even went to a college party two days after the bombs wreaked havoc at the finish line. According to fellow students, he “looked relaxed” as he joined in a party at the campus on Wednesday night.

Hours later he was involved in the shootout which saw his brother killed.

Investigators have begun piecing together how the “well-mannered” brothers of Chechen origin were radicalised. Neighbours of the family said older brother Tamerlan had recently become obsessed with Islam. He mysteriously left the US in January last year to spend six months in Russia. Yesterday senior FBI counter-terrorism official Kevin Brock said: “It’s a key thread for investigators.”

It also emerged the Bureau interviewed Tamerlan two years ago, at the request of the Russian government, but could not establish that he had ties to terrorist radicals.

This was despite his worrying Russian-language YouTube page featuring links to extremist Islamic sites and others since taken down by YouTube.

One link showed an hour-long speech by an Islamic teacher called Shaykh Feiz Mohammed, while other videos are labled “Terrorists” and “Islam”.

The radical cleric, with links to extremist British Muslims, encouraged his followers to become martyrs for Islam. He said: “Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid.”

Yesterday the brothers’ mother Zubeidat, speaking from her home in Russia, added further intrigue to her sons’ murky past when she claimed the boys had been framed by the FBI over the two bombs last Monday that left three dead and 178 injured.

She claimed the FBI had been keeping watch on her eldest boy for up to five years. She said: “They knew what my son was doing. They knew what sites on the internet he was going to.

“They were telling me that he was really an extremist leader and that they were afraid of him. They told me whatever information he is getting, he gets from these extremist sites. They were controlling him.”

The bombers’ father Anzor wept at news that his youngest son had been captured alive. In a phone interview with a US news channel he told his

son: “Tell police everything. Everything. Just be honest.”

US Government officials have said the brothers were not under surveillance as possible militants. And an FBI statement said the matter was closed because interviews with Tamerlan and family members “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign”. But now they believe the pair, who emigrated to the United States from Dagestan about a decade ago, were part of a terror cell.

College dropout Tamerlan’s American wife Katherine Russell, 24, and their three-year-old daughter Zahara were yesterday thrown into the spotlight. She was a Christian before they married but converted to Islam. Her parents Warren, a doctor, and Judith were said to be “stunned” by their son-in-law’s involvement in the tragedy.

Judith and Warren issued a joint statement saying: “Our daughter has lost her husband today, the father of her child. In the aftermath of the Patriot’s Day horror, we know we never really knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Our hearts are sickened by the horror he has inflicted.”

Katherine, wearing a black hijab, was picked up by FBI agents at their home in Cambridge near Boston on Friday. Dope-smoker Dzhokhar was captured after a Watertown resident called police to say the fugitive was hiding in a boat in his back garden.

David Henneberry had gone into his garden for a cigarette after police lifted restrictions on people leaving their homes, believing the bomber had left the area. He noticed that the cover over his boat had blood on it and a strap had been cut. He went back into the house to get a stepladder and looked inside.

His stepson Robert said: “He stuck his head under the tarp and noticed a pool of blood and something crumpled up in a ball. Instead of being a hero of the moment and yelling at what we now know was the suspect, he did the right thing and called 911.”

Police immediately evacuated the family and surrounded the house, using a megaphone to tell Dzhokhar to come out with his hands up.

When he failed to respond they opened fire at the boat’s hull. Robert said: “They wound up ­shooting a couple of rounds through the boat. He wasn’t going to like that.”

Dzhokhar was wounded by the volley of gunfire and police were able to move in and arrest him. They later released infrared pictures taken from a helicopter showing Dzhokhar hiding in the boat.

Investigators will interrogate the bomber, still seriously ill last night, without reading him his rights – using special “public safety” powers.

The family of eight-year-old bombing victim Martin Richard welcomed the arrest of Tsarnaev. “Our community is once again safe from these men,” the family said in a statement.

Shortly before Dzhokhar’s capture, President Obama spoke by phone to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House said Obama “praised the close co-operation the US has received from Russia on counter-terrorism, including in the wake of the Boston attack”.

There were scenes of celebration across Boston as news spread of the capture of the remaining bomber.
HUNDREDS of extra police called in for today’s London Marathon will remain despite the death and capture of the Boston suspects, Scotland Yard said. Security has been boosted for the 36,000 runners and thousands of spectators

Thursday, April 18, 2013

O seemed madder at the American people for rejecting his anti-gun bill today than he did yesterday at the terrorist bombings, he only seemed mildly annoyed about the bombings.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Deaths from new bird flu underscore grim fears, reports show

A new report on three of the first patients in China to contract a novel strain of bird flu has U.S. officials worried about a grim scenario that includes severe illness with pneumonia, septic shock, brain damage and multi-organ failure.

All three of the patients died, according to a Thursday report by a group of Chinese scientists in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“It is possible that these severely ill patients represent the tip of the iceberg,” wrote Dr. Timothy Uyeki and Dr. Nancy Cox, both of the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a perspective piece accompanying the article.

The reports chronicle the early days of an outbreak of a new influenza A virus, H7N9, which has never before been seen in humans. As of Friday, Chinese officials said it had infected at least 43 people in four Chinese provinces and killed 11 in the past two months.

On Saturday, China's center for disease control confirmed the first case of the new bird flu strain in Beijing: A seven-year-old girl whose parents work in the live poultry trade has been infected.

The patients described in the report included two men, ages 87 and 27, both from Shanghai, and a 35-year-old woman from Anhui. All had preexisting health conditions and two had been exposed to chickens at live poultry markets in the previous week. They became ill between Feb. 18 and March 13 and died between March 4 and April 9 of severe complications, the report said. 

The virus, which has been traced to a reassortment of genes from wild birds in east Asia and chickens in east China, “raises many urgent questions and global public health concerns,” the U.S. researchers wrote.

It’s particularly concerning because the virus clearly has the potential to cause severe disease, it has genetic characteristics that suggest that it might be better adapted than other bird flu strains to infect mammals -- including humans -- and people have no resistance to it, the U.S. scientists reported.

The virus doesn’t make birds sick, so it may spread widely and remain undetected until people become ill.

In addition, previous vaccines developed to fight other H7 strains did not invoke strong immune responses in humans, the U.S. scientists wrote. Even so, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they received an isolate of the virus from China on Thursday and were continuing to rush efforts to create a vaccine, a process that could take several months.

Scientists are expected to start growing more of the virus to share for use in several ways, including not only developing a vaccine, but also creating a blood test that can detect previous human immune system protection against the virus, and testing to see whether the virus remains susceptible to antiviral drugs.

CDC officials also will use it to create a diagnostic test that could be used to detect infection in travelers who return to the U.S. from China with symptoms of flu, or those who’ve been in contact with someone who’s been sick.

Officials with CDC and the Food and Drug Administration are working to quickly expedite approval and manufacture of the kits, said Mike Shaw, associate director of laboratory science for the CDC's flu division. About 400 diagnostic kits, which each can perform 1,000 tests, may be complete by Monday, he said. They could be shipped as early as next week to public health labs across the country. 

The CDC has urged local public health officials to watch for signs of sick travelers from China. So far, about 10 people who recently traveled from China to the U.S. have been tested for the H7N9 virus because of suspicious symptoms, officials said.

"So far, everyone that has been tested in the U.S. has been negative," Shaw said. 

The virus remains contained to China and there is no evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission, both good signs, scientists said.

But as the U.S. researchers concluded, vigilance remains high.

“We cannot rest our guard,” they wrote.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The bee hero: Fighting the largest die-off of bees in U.S. history

This being Utah, the self-proclaimed Beehive State, Darren Cox is an expert in -- what else -- bees.

Civic fathers use the term for the population’s strong work ethic, but Cox deals with the stinging, honey-producing real McCoy.
Now the fourth-generation bee farmer is trying to use his recognition as this year's national beekeeper of the year to focus attention on a major threat to the industry: colony collapse disorder.

Cox, 48, who lives in Logan but has 5,000 hives in Utah, California’s Central Valley and Wyoming, received the award from the American Honey Producers Assn. earlier this year.
This year, the die-off at Cox’s hives topped 70%, part of a nationwide trend he calls the largest die-off of bees in U.S. history. So what’s killing all those insects?
“It’s pathogens and viruses that are caused by pesticides,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
Cox is working to stop colony collapse disorder, which wipes out thousands of colonies each year and threatens the pollination of fruits, nuts and vegetables that people depend on.
Colony collapse disorder, first recognized in 2006, has destroyed colonies at a rate of about 30% a year, agricultural officials say. No one has determined its cause, but most researchers point to a combination of factors, including pesticide contamination, poor nutrition and bee diseases.
Cox brings his bees to the three states each year to help in orchard pollination of crops such as almonds, cherries and citrus.
“This bee die-off is having an effect on food production,” he told the Times. “This year we didn’t have enough honeybee pollinators to meet demands of almond growers in California.”
Cox, who sits on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's pesticide dialogue committee and helped form the National Honeybee Advisory Board, urges farmers to spray crops with pesticides at night instead of daytime when bees are more active.
Cox's family started keeping bees in St. George in the late 1800s, and Cox Honey was incorporated as a family business in 1929. Cox took over operation of Cox Honey from his father, Duane Cox, in 2002.
All those years later, bees still give him a buzz.
“They’re incredible creatures – even the wings of stealth bombers are derived from bees. They have a protein in their bodies that’s used in AIDS prevention – even cancer.”

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Recent war vets face hiring obstacle: PTSD bias

Military leaders and veterans' advocates worry about hidden hiring discrimination against Iraq and Afghanistan war vets by employers who see the veterans perhaps as emotionally damaged.

A key fear is how this could be contributing to stubbornly higher joblessness among the generation that volunteered to serve in the military after the 9/11 attacks. Because employers are barred by law from asking job applicants about mental health conditions, many assume that any veteran can be afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) although the vast majority returned from war without emotional problems, researchers and veterans advocates say.

"There is a need to be concerned about this issue and this stigma," says Kevin Schmiegel, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring our Heroes program.

The Army is launching a "Hire a Veteran" campaign aimed partly at "debunking some of the myths around hiring disabled veterans," says Nancy Adams, Army transition manager. "This should not be an issue."

Leading corporate hiring managers have told researchers they fear these veterans might fly into a rage or "go postal." As a consequence, veterans say they've seen blatant discrimination.

"They didn't even hide it," says Timothy "Rhino" Paige, a former Air Force pilot who developed PTSD in 2005 when he transported the remains of slain Americans on his C-130 in Iraq.

When Paige sought federal work in Colorado in 2010 under laws offering disabled veterans preferential hiring consideration, he says he didn't even get an interview. Paige, 49, today a civilian employee with the Navy, said that federal employers back in 2010 "were straight out, 'We don't want disabled veterans and the problems that come with them.'"

Research published last year suggests that misconceptions about PTSD and veterans are a factor in hiring decisions.

Researchers from the Center for New American Security, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, interviewed executives of 69 leading corporations, including Bank of America, Target, Wal-Mart, Procter and Gamble, and Raytheon. All said hiring veterans can be good for business, but more than half acknowledged harboring a negative image of veterans because of how popular media — from news coverage to films — portray PTSD.

Margaret Harrell, a co-author of the June study, says she's seen no evidence of changing attitudes.

Her findings mirror those of the Society for Human Resource Management, the nation's largest association of personnel managers, which published survey results early last year showing that about one in three employers see PTSD as an impediment to hiring any veteran.

Government and private researchers estimate that PTSD is present in 5 percent-20 percent of the 1.6 million veterans who served since 9/11. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which has treated about 56 percent of those veterans, reports 117,000 diagnosed cases.

Even among those who have the disorder, their conditions are no better or worse than the estimated 7.7 million Americans suffering from the illness as the result of non-combat trauma, such as car accidents or sexual assault, Adams says.

In job settings, PTSD can be easily accommodated by steps such as allowing time for therapy or avoiding confining work environments, according to the Labor Department.

Advocates worry this message is not getting through to employers.

While joblessness among post-9/11 veterans declined from 12.1 percent in 2011 to 9.9 percent last year, it remained well above a labor force rate of 7.8 percent or 7 percent among all veterans last year. About one in nine veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan were without work late last summer, government statistics show.

During the first quarter of this year, an estimated 220,000 Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans were without work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. That is an increase from the first quarter of 2012, when an estimated 185,000 were jobless.

An initiative led by first lady Michelle Obama last year enlisted 2,000 American companies to promise they would hire or train 125,000 veterans or their spouses.

But advocates say that despite good corporate intentions, bias can lurk at lower company levels where hiring decisions are made.

"Middle manager ... is where the problem lies," says Robert Turner, who recently co-founded veteran recruitment firm KCK with Carlton Kent, a former sergeant major of the Marine Corps. "You have to convince the middle of the company how to accept these folks and how to work with them and how to make them successful."

Shannon Williams last year became program director of a recruitment effort at health care giant UPMC, one of Pennsylvania's largest employers. Part of her work is recruiting disabled veterans. She says a key challenge was educating middle managers that veterans with PTSD can be easily accommodated and productive hires.

Williams says directors of nursing units or other medical offices openly expressed concern about the safety of patients if veterans with PTSD were hired. One worry, for example, was that the sound of a monitoring device when a patient flat-lines might trigger a worker with PTSD to shut down during the emergency, putting a patient's life at risk, Williams says.

"With the managers, we just talk them through the situation," she says, "explain to them differences between the reality of PTSD and what is fabricated (by popular culture) out there."

Discriminatory attitudes left Paige, the Air Force pilot, dispirited. "I got angry and kind of lost faith in the whole system," he says.

He and other veterans turn to non-profit organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, which continually shop their résumés to prospective employers until offers come through.

A few months ago, Paige, who has a master's degree in logistics and 25 years as a pilot, took a job in acquisitions for the Naval Air Systems Command at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in southern Maryland.

Between assistance from Wounded Warrior Project and being embraced by his current employer, Paige says his world has turned around.

"The guy that helps you get a job is powerful," he says of those who helped him find a path around discrimination against veterans with PTSD.

Monday, April 08, 2013

MSNBC Host Melissa Harris-Perry » All Your Kids Belong To Us

Or the notion that the kids belong to themselves either

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Arab Spring Started in Iraq

ON April 9, 2003, Baghdad fell to an American-led coalition. The removal of Saddam Hussein and the toppling of a whole succession of other Arab dictators in 2011 were closely connected — a fact that has been overlooked largely because of the hostility that the Iraq war engendered.

Few of the brave young men and women behind the Arab Spring have been willing to publicly admit the possibility of a link between their revolutions and the end of Mr. Hussein’s bloody reign 10 years ago. These activists have for the most part vigorously denied that their own demands for freedom and democracy, which were organic and homegrown, had anything to do with a war they saw as illegitimate and imperialistic.

To see the connection between the overthrow of Mr. Hussein in 2003 and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, one must go back to 1990, when Iraq’s army marched into Kuwait. The first gulf war — in which an American-led coalition ousted Iraq’s occupying army — enjoyed the support of most Arab governments, but not of their populations. Mr. Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait threatened the order that had kept authoritarian regimes in power for decades and Arab leaders were willing to fight to restore it.

Citizens tend to rally around their leaders when faced with external attacks. But Iraqis didn’t. Millions of Iraqis rose up against Mr. Hussein following the 1991 war, and did what was then unthinkable: they called upon the foreign forces that had been bombing them to help rid them of their own dictator.

Mr. Hussein’s brutal response to the 1991 uprising killed tens of thousands of Iraqis. For the first time, the rhetoric used by Mr. Hussein’s so-called secular nationalist regime turned explicitly sectarian, a forerunner of what we see in Syria today. “No more Shias after today,” was the slogan painted on the tanks that rolled over Najaf and fired at Shiite protesters. The Western and Arab armies that had come to liberate Kuwait simply stood by and watched as Shiites and Kurds who rose up were massacred. The overthrow of Mr. Hussein was deemed to be beyond the war’s mandate.

And so ordinary Iraqis had to die in droves as the Arab state system was restored by force of Western arms. Those Iraqi deaths were a dress rehearsal for what is going on in other parts of the Middle East today.

The first gulf war achieved America’s goals, but the people of Iraq paid the price for that success. They were left with international sanctions for another 12 years under a brutal and bitter dictator itching for vengeance against those who had dared to rise up against him, including Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south. By the time of the American invasion in 2003, the Iraqi middle class had been decimated, state institutions had been gutted and mistrust and hostility toward America abounded.

Both the George W. Bush administration and the Iraqi expatriate opposition to Mr. Hussein — myself included — grossly underestimated those costs in the run-up to the 2003 war. The Iraqi state, we failed to realize, had become a house of cards.

None of these errors of judgment were necessarily an argument against going to war if you believed, as I do, that overthrowing Mr. Hussein was in the best interests of the Iraqi people. The calculus looks different today if one’s starting point is American national interest. I could not in good conscience tell an American family grieving for a son killed in Iraq that the war “was worth it.”

We didn’t know then what we know today. Some, including many of my friends, warned of the dangers of American hubris. I did not heed them in 2003.

But the greater hubris is to think that what America does or doesn’t do is all that matters. The blame for the catastrophe of post-2003 Iraq must be placed on the new Iraqi political elite. The Shiite political class, put in power by the United States, preached a politics of victimhood and leveraged the state to enrich itself. These leaders falsely identified all Sunni Iraqis with Baathists, forgetting how heavily all Iraqis, including some Shiites, were implicated in the criminality of Mr. Hussein’s regime.

Although I always feared, and warned in 1993, that the emergence of sectarian strife was a risk after Mr. Hussein’s fall, my greatest misjudgment was in hoping that Iraq’s new leaders would act for the collective Iraqi good.

For all its bungling, the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq exposed a fundamental truth of modern Arab politics. Washington’s longstanding support for autocracy and dictatorship in the Middle East, a core principle of American foreign policy for decades, had helped stoke a deep-seated political malaise in the region that produced both Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. By 2003, American support for Arab autocrats was no longer politically sustainable.

The system of beliefs Mr. Hussein represented had ossified and lost the ability to inspire anyone long before 2003. And yet he was still there, in power, the great survivor of so many terrible wars and revolutions. Before the American invasion, it was impossible for Iraqis to see beyond him.

There was hardly any war to speak of in 2003. Mr. Hussein’s whole terrible edifice just came crashing down under its own weight. The army dismantled itself, before L. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul, even issued his infamous and unnecessary order to purge Baath Party members from the military.

Toppling Mr. Hussein put the system of which he was such an integral part under newfound scrutiny. If the 1991 war was about the restoration of the Arab state system, the 2003 war called into question that system’s very legitimacy. That’s why support from Arab monarchies was not forthcoming in 2003, when a new, more equitable order was on the agenda in Iraq.

After 2003, the edifice of the Arab state system began to crack elsewhere. In 2005, thousands of Lebanese marched in the streets to boot out the occupying Syrian Army; Palestinians tasted their first real elections; American officials twisted the arm of Hosni Mubarak to allow Egyptians a slightly less rigged election in 2006; and a new kind of critical writing began to spread online and in fiction.

The Arab political psyche began to change as well. The legitimating ideas of post-1967 Arab politics — pan-Arabism, armed struggle, anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism — ideas that undergirded the regimes in both Iraq and Syria, were rubbing up against the realities of life under Mr. Hussein.

No Arab Spring protester, however much he or she might identify with the plight of the Palestinians or decry the cruel policies of Israeli occupation in the West Bank (as I do), would think today to attribute all the ills of Arab polities to empty abstractions like “imperialism” and “Zionism.” They understand in their bones that those phrases were tools of a language designed to prop up nasty regimes and distract people like them from the struggle for a better life.

Generations of Arabs have paid with their lives and their futures because of a set of illusions that had nothing to do with Israel; these illusions come from deep within the world that we Arabs have constructed for ourselves, a world built upon denial, bombast and imagined past glories, ideas that have since been exposed as bankrupt and dangerous to the future of the young Arab men and women who set out in 2011, against all odds, to build a new order.

In the place of these illusions, the young revolutionaries made the struggle against their own dictatorships their political priority, just as their Iraqi counterparts had done in vain 20 years earlier after the first gulf war.

Ideas are not constrained by frontiers or borders. Young people in the Arab world are not constrained by the prejudices of old men, by my generation’s acquiescence to and compromises with dictatorships. And so in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, a new movement that is still in the making has demanded a political order that derives its legitimacy from genuine citizenship.

It envisions new forms of community not based on a suffocating nationalist embrace supposedly designed to hold in check the avaricious intentions of America and Israel. All the Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi was asking for in December 2010 was dignity and respect. That is how the Arab Spring began, and the toppling of the first Arab dictator, Saddam Hussein, paved the way for young Arabs to imagine it.

THE Arab Spring is now turning into an Arab winter. The old rules that governed Arab politics have been turned completely upside down. Here, too, Iraq offers lessons.

Mr. Hussein used sectarianism and nationalism as tools against his internal enemies when he was weak. Today’s Iraqi Shiite parties are doing worse: they are legitimizing their rule on a sectarian basis. The idea of Iraq as a multiethnic country is being abandoned, and the same dynamic is at work in Syria.

The support that several key Arab monarchies are providing to Syrian resistance forces fighting against President Bashar al-Assad is further undermining the legitimacy of the whole Arab state system. The war will go on until Mr. Assad is gone and perhaps the state we know as Syria is, too. The only success story seems to be the Kurds — the great losers of the post-World War I order — who have built a thriving semiautonomous region in northern Iraq that might eventually require independence to sustain its success.

Our species, at least in its modern garb, needs states, even imperfect ones. States are still the cornerstones of our security as individuals, and provide at least the possibility of a civilized way of life.

Traditionally conservative Arab monarchies are now doing the unthinkable and risking total state collapse in Syria. They are opposing Mr. Assad’s Arab nationalist regime in an attempt to dictate the kind of country that will emerge from the chaos and to ensure some form of influence over the new Syria. That is the only way to salvage something of the old Arab order that they feel shifting under their feet.

And against these kinds of forces, unfortunately, the young revolutionaries of the Arab Spring are helpless.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Largest Dutch bank defaults on physical gold deliveries to customers

Last week, a rubicon was crossed in the precious metals market as one of the largest banks in Europe defaulted on their gold contracts, and informed their customers there was no physical gold available for delivery.

ABN AMRO, the largest Dutch bank in the Eurozone, issued a letter to their gold contract customers of failure of delivery, and instead will pay account holders in a paper currency equivalent to the current spot value of the metal.

ABN AMRO, the biggest Dutch bank, has sent a letter to its clients stating that they will no longer be able to take physical deliveries of the gold they have bought through ABN. Instead they are offered money at the current market rate for gold. Basically, instead of owning a risk free, physical asset (a gold bar or a gold coin), the bank’s clients now own a monetary claim on ABN AMRO, being exposed to the bank's credit risk. - Voice of Russia

Over the past two months, there has been a concerted effort by the major Western banks to bring down the price of gold and silver, even as countries like Russia, Iran, and China continue to accumulate the physical metal in large quantities. Like the folly of betting against the stock markets when the Fed is pumping up equities with $85 billion per month, going against the J.P. Morgan silver short machine in the futures market has been a losing proposition for silver bulls.

Interestingly for Europe however, since the Eurozone crisis spread from Greece to Spain, Italy, and Cyprus, the fastest growing currency being purchased by retail investors is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a digital currency that is out of the control of sovereign central banks, and to this point, has not been manipulated by inflationary monetary policy.

In investing circles there is an adage which says, if you don't hold it, you don't own it. Whether it is land, metals, or other hard assets, if it is held in a bank, in a paper instrument, or in a paper currency, the documented owner has management control, but not physical control. And as the world saw last month in Cyprus, the government, or even a major bank like ABN AMRO, can change the terms of a contract at any time, and return to investors asset values set by the bank, and not the customer's intention.

Stockman feels force of Washington fury

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It takes a lot for an official who served at the heart of the White House to go beyond the pale in Washington, but a diatribe against all economic policy since 1933 – attacking everyone from Franklin Roosevelt to Milton Friedman – is one way to manage it.

David Stockman, budget director for Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1985, is the man who will be short of dinner party invitations after becoming the most mainstream figure to argue that all America’s economic problems stem from the welfare state and the end of the gold standard.

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Mr Stockman’s new book, The Great Deformation , highlights the enduring conservative appeal of a kind of economic primitivism that harks back to the days when laisser-faire ruled and macroeconomics had not been invented.

“The modern Keynesian state is broke, paralysed and mired in empty ritual incantations about stimulating “demand”, even as it fosters a mutant crony capitalism that periodically lavishes the top one per cent with speculative windfalls,” wrote Mr Stockman in the New York Times article that set off a minor furore in Washington this week.

The reaction, left and the right, was scathing. Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to vice-president Joe Biden, gave one of the gentler liberal critiques. Mr Stockman, he said, was “about 11.8 per cent absolutely and totally on target” with his criticisms of crony capitalism. But the other 88.2 per cent was “a horrific screed, an ahistorical, dystopic, Hunger Games vision of America based on debt obsession and wilful ignorance of macroeconomics and the impact of market failure”.

The right was not much more impressed. David Frum, a speech writer for former president George W. Bush, called it “primitive” as economics, “silly” as advice, and diagnosed Mr Stockman with a mild case of elderly depression.

“As an insight into the gloomy mindset that overtakes us in older age, it’s a valuable warning to those still middle-aged that once we lose our faith in the future, it’s time to stop talking about politics in public,” he wrote.

Forecasts based on this world view have been spectacularly wrong in the last five years – instead of hyperinflation and a debt crisis, America has price rises of 1.3 per cent and a 10-year Treasury yielding 1.69 per cent. But Mr Stockman taps a strain of market discontent with fiscal stimulus and the US Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing.

“There is nothing [Stockman says] that others haven’t,” says Peter Schiff, chief executive of the broker Euro Pacific Capital, with a similar outlook. “But when someone from the establishment criticises the establishment then everyone has to jump on him and discredit him.”

For the economic mainstream – which argues activist policy helps stabilise the economy, considers the gold standard ludicrously unworkable today, and diagnoses America’s primary problem as lack of demand – the 19th century critics are a challenge as there is some substance to the risks they identify.

There is legitimate concern about the rally in asset prices that has taken the S&P 500 index to a new high, and is spreading to real estate. Equity and property prices fell to long-run measures of fair value during the financial crisis, but not below, and have already moved above them.

“A lot of the inflation is in assets,” says Mr Schiff. “You can see it in the bond markets, you can see it in the stock market, you can see it in real estate. Real estate is already too high.”

The Fed rejects that QE – purchases of assets to drive down long-term interest rates – has formed an asset-price bubble. But concerns about stability have intensified at the central bank and led to debate about when to slow QE down. If a bubble were to form and then to burst, it would seem to prove Mr Stockman and his colleagues right.

Russian Bomber Roulette

A Russian bomber recently carried out simulated cruise missile attacks on U.S. missile defenses in Asia, raising new questions about Moscow’s goal in future U.S.-Russian defense talks.

According to U.S. officials, a Russian Tu-22M Backfire bomber on Feb. 26 simulated firing air-launched cruise missiles at an Aegis ship deployed near Japan as part of U.S. missile defenses.

A second mock attack was conducted Feb. 27 against a ground-based missile defense site in Japan that officials did not identify further.

The Pentagon operates an X-band missile defense radar on the northern tip of Japan that is designed to monitor North Korean missile launches and transmit the data to missile-firing ships.

The bomber targeting comes as Russia is building up forces in the Pacific by modernizing submarines and building a spy ship specifically for intelligence-gathering against U.S. missile defenses.

Officials said it was not clear why the Russians conducted the practice strikes. However, the simulations may indicate Moscow has targeted its offensive ballistic missiles on Japan or U.S. military bases in the region.

U.S. missile defenses in Asia currently are at a heightened alert status as a result of tensions with North Korea. The communist state has threatened to conduct nuclear missile attacks on the United States and South Korea.

The incidents were detected by U.S. intelligence-gathering systems in the region and reported recently inside the Pentagon.

“As a matter of policy we do not comment on matters of intelligence,” Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson said when asked about the Backfire bomber incident.

The Tu-22 bomber can carry up to three air-launched Kh-22 land attack cruise missiles. The bomber has a range of about 2,500 miles.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney said the Backfire targeting is troubling.

“Russia continues to conduct aggressive offensive missile training in the Pacific against U.S. and Allied Forces,” McInerney said.

“We should understand that they look at ‘reset’ differently than we do,” said the retired three-star general, who once commanded forces in Alaska. “They look at it as regaining their previous USSR position as a superpower while this administration is moving towards unilateral disarmament.”

Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy during the George W. Bush administration, said it is difficult to assess why the Russians carried out the simulated strikes.

Edelman said practice runs may be “a demonstration of continued Russia opposition to and hyping of their animosity toward U.S. missile defense deployments globally.”

“In the wake of the administration’s ‘restructuring’’—read cancelation—of the SM-3 Block IIB which was supposedly the most neuralgic part for Moscow of the administration’s [European Phased Adaptive Approach], the Russians are signaling that they are pocketing that concession and upping the ante in their opposition to missile defense—not just in Europe, but globally,” Edelman told the Free Beacon in an email.

The Russians in the past have said their opposition to missile defense was not limited to Europe but included global missile defense deployments, he said. “This is just a symbol of how much that remains the case.”

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, a former director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said he regularly engaged the Russians as MDA director to seek cooperation on missile defense.

Later, after leaving government, he also took part in talks with Russians on missile defense cooperation.

“These efforts were met with Russian intransigence,” he stated in an email.

The Russian opposition and now simulated attacks “means to me that there is no way the Russians want to cooperate on missile defense in any meaningful way,” Obering said.

“We should not be conceding anything to the Russians,” he added. “We should be pursuing our national security interests to defend this country and our allies.”

The latest bomber encounter in Asia comes weeks before White House National Security adviser Thomas Donilon will visit Moscow in an effort to restart stalled missile defense talks with the Russians, who for the past four years have demanded legal restrictions on U.S. missile defenses in Europe.

Donilon is expected to seek a Russian return to the negotiating table after the Pentagon announced last month it is scrapping plans for a high-powered variant of the Navy’s SM-3 missile interceptor called the Block IIB. The cancellation was widely viewed as a concession to Russia. The Russians are opposed to placing interceptors in Europe and claim the missile will be used against Russian offensive missiles.

The bomber targeting of U.S. missile defenses also followed stepped up Russian bomber activities targeting other U.S. missile defense sites, including ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California. A large-scale Russian military exercise in the Arctic in June included flights by two Tu-95 Bear bombers that Russian military officials said had simulated attacks on U.S. missile defenses in Alaska.

Another pair of Tu-95s flew on July 4 the closest to the California coast that a Russian bomber had flown since the days of the Soviet Union, when strategic bomber flights near U.S. coasts were a routine feature of the Cold War.

Russian targeting of missile defenses also comes as Moscow’s GRU military intelligence announced April 1 that it would deploy a new reconnaissance ship in the Pacific to spy on U.S. missile defenses in Alaska and Hawaii.

The ship Yuri Ivanov will begin service next year, military sources told the state-run Izvestia news outlet.

One source said the main mission of the ship would be to monitor U.S. missile defense components in Alaska and Hawaii. The ship will be outfitted with electronic sensors that allow detection, interception, and analysis of signals from radar, weapons systems, and communications.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a telephone call March 25 that Moscow wanted to resume missile defense talks.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement that Shoygu “expressed his desire to reconvene missile defense discussions with the U.S. at the deputy minister level.”

“Secretary Hagel agreed and reiterated that this is an important part of U.S.-Russian relations,” Little said. “He assured Minister Shoygu that these discussions would continue and be carried forward by under secretary of defense for policy Dr. Jim Miller.”

Russian accounts of the conversation said the Russians plan to discuss the U.S. and NATO missile defense for Europe.

“We are very interested in how the situation surrounding the European missile-defense will develop, and our minister proposed reconvening regular consultations on this matter at deputy defense minister level: Anatoly Antonov from the Russian side and James Miller from the American side,” Shoygu’s deputy Anatoly Antonov said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

U.S. plans for missile defenses in Europe include a phased approach that will employ a combination of ships and ground-based missile defenses designed mainly to counter attacks from Iranian missiles.

Hagel announced last month that the Pentagon would give up plans for the SM-3 IIB and instead increase the number of ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska from 30 to 44 over the next several years.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement after that announcement saying the United States continues to bolster global missile defenses, and therefore there is a need to work out “reliably legally binding guarantees” that missile defenses in Europe will not be targeted at Russian missiles.

Moscow has said the European defenses pose a threat to Russian security and late last year a Russian general threatened preemptive attacks on U.S. missile defense sites in any future crisis.

One venue for the missile defense talks could be the international conference on European security set to begin May 23 in Moscow, when Hagel could attend, according a Russian official quoted in press reports.

According to a Russian source quoted by Izvestya, the Russian Navy intelligence directorate urgently needs the spy ship because its surveillance vessels are old and outdated and ships can get closer to intelligence targets than aircraft. Ships also can be stationed for several days before being discovered.

“We now have practically no specialist reconnaissance ships left,” the source said. “Those that we have were built in the 1970s and 1980s and are in poor condition. The Yuri Ivanov is a ship with a fundamentally new, highly productive reconnaissance complex.”

The Ivanov is classified as a special communications ship 95 meters long with a displacement of 4,000 tons. It will be deployed with Russia’s Pacific fleet.

Moscow also announced Apr. 1 that it would modernize three Oscar II diesel powered, nuclear cruise missile submarines as part of a modernization of the Russian Pacific Fleet.

The submarines were built for attacking aircraft carrier strike groups and their weaponry included 24 SS-N-19 missiles and 28 torpedo tube launched missiles and torpedoes. A Russian military news outlet reported that the Oscar II modernization would include adding supersonic SS-N-26 anti-ship cruise missiles.

Former chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky told a conference earlier this week in Moscow that the United States has not abandoned strategic plans for preventive nuclear strikes on both Russia and China. Baluyevsky said U.S. missile defenses are designed to prevent attacks after a U.S. first-strike nuclear attack, Interfax AVN reported April 2.

Former Russian Strategic Rocket Forces commander Col. Gen. Victor Yesin at the same conference said Russian offensive missiles would be able to overcome any U.S. missile defense system.

Yesin said any attempts to negotiate a new treaty with the United States like the now-abandoned 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty will fail.

“Whether we like it or not, the Americans will build their missile defense,” Yesin said. “We will be unable to make them stop. Any attempt to force the Americans to abandon or at least sign a new missile defense treaty in the format of 1972 is a lost cause; that will never happen.”

And just in time as we have it all out and on display for the NKOR's..O should be impeached for treason. On the bright side we now know what he meant when he told Putin he would do more after the election. And boy has he come through.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

U.S. sets preliminary duties on plywood from China

(Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department said on Wednesday it had set preliminary duties ranging up to 27 percent on plywood from China worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The move represents a victory for U.S. plywood producers in North Carolina, New York and Oregon who filed a petition last year asking for import relief.

The Coalition for Fair Trade of Hardwood Plywood accused Chinese manufacturers and exporters of "dumping" the plywood in the United States at prices 298 percent to 322 percent below fair market value.

They also asked for countervailing duties to offset alleged Chinese government subsidies given to the companies.

The Commerce Department's preliminary duties on Wednesday covered only the subsidy portion of the case. It will announce preliminary anti-dumping duties by the end of April. A final decision on both types of duties is expected in July.

The United States imported about $617 million of the hardwood and decorative plywood from China in 2011, down from $635 million in 2010. The wood is used for cabinets, flooring and other housing applications.

Washington has also imposed duties on wooden bedroom furniture and hardwood flooring from China in recent years.

Great, so smart

Monday, April 01, 2013

One drug to rule them all: Researchers find treatment that kills every kind of cancer tumor

Researchers might have found the Holy Grail in the war against cancer, a miracle drug that has killed every kind of cancer tumor it has come in contact with.

The drug works by blocking a protein called CD47 that is essentially a "do not eat" signal to the body's immune system, according to Science Magazine.

This protein is produced in healthy blood cells but researchers at Stanford University found that cancer cells produced an inordinate amount of the protein thus tricking the immune system into not destroying the harmful cells.

With this observation in mind, the researchers built an antibody that blocked cancer's CD47 so that the body's immune system attacked the dangerous cells.

So far, researchers have used the antibody in mice with human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate tumors transplanted into them. In each of the cases the antibody forced the mice's immune system to kill the cancer cells.
"We showed that even after the tumor has taken hold, the antibody can either cure the tumor or slow its growth and prevent metastasis," said biologist Irving Weissman of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California.
One side effect of the treatment was that healthy cells were subjected to short-term attacks by the mice's immune system, but the effect was nothing in comparison to the damage done to the cancer cells.
Weissman's group recently received a $20 million dollar grant to move their research from mouse to human safety testing.

A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as Diagnoses Rise

Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children.

The figures showed that an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 had received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 53 percent rise in the past decade. About two-thirds of those with a current diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, which can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis.

“Those are astronomical numbers. I’m floored,” said Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He added, “Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy.”

And even more teenagers are likely to be prescribed medication in the near future because the American Psychiatric Association plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment. A.D.H.D. is described by most experts as resulting from abnormal chemical levels in the brain that impair a person’s impulse control and attention skills.

While some doctors and patient advocates have welcomed rising diagnosis rates as evidence that the disorder is being better recognized and accepted, others said the new rates suggest that millions of children may be taking medication merely to calm behavior or to do better in school. Pills that are shared with or sold to classmates — diversion long tolerated in college settings and gaining traction in high-achieving high schools — are particularly dangerous, doctors say, because of their health risks when abused.

The findings were part of a broader C.D.C. study of children’s health issues, taken from February 2011 to June 2012. The agency interviewed more than 76,000 parents nationwide by both cellphone and landline and is currently compiling its reports. The New York Times obtained the raw data from the agency and compiled the results.

A.D.H.D. has historically been estimated to affect 3 to 7 percent of children. The disorder has no definitive test and is determined only by speaking extensively with patients, parents and teachers, and ruling out other possible causes — a subjective process that is often skipped under time constraints and pressure from parents. It is considered a chronic condition that is often carried into adulthood.

The C.D.C. director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, likened the rising rates of stimulant prescriptions among children to the overuse of pain medications and antibiotics in adults.

“We need to ensure balance,” Dr. Frieden said. “The right medications for A.D.H.D., given to the right people, can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, misuse appears to be growing at an alarming rate.”

Experts cited several factors in the rising rates. Some doctors are hastily viewing any complaints of inattention as full-blown A.D.H.D., they said, while pharmaceutical advertising emphasizes how medication can substantially improve a child’s life. Moreover, they said, some parents are pressuring doctors to help with their children’s troublesome behavior and slipping grades.

“There’s a tremendous push where if the kid’s behavior is thought to be quote-unquote abnormal — if they’re not sitting quietly at their desk — that’s pathological, instead of just childhood,” said Dr. Jerome Groopman, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the author of “How Doctors Think.”

Fifteen percent of school-age boys have received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis, the data showed; the rate for girls was 7 percent. Diagnoses among those of high-school age — 14 to 17 — were particularly high, 10 percent for girls and 19 percent for boys. About one in 10 high-school boys currently takes A.D.H.D. medication, the data showed.

Rates by state are less precise but vary widely. Southern states, like Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee, showed about 23 percent of school-age boys receiving an A.D.H.D. diagnosis. The rates in Colorado and Nevada were less than 10 percent.

The medications — primarily Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta and Vyvanse — often afford those with severe A.D.H.D. the concentration and impulse control to lead relatively normal lives. Because the pills can vastly improve focus and drive among those with perhaps only traces of the disorder, an A.D.H.D. diagnosis has become a popular shortcut to better grades, some experts said, with many students unaware of or disregarding the medication’s health risks.

“There’s no way that one in five high-school boys has A.D.H.D.,” said James Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Florida International University and one of the primary A.D.H.D. researchers in the last 20 years. “If we start treating children who do not have the disorder with stimulants, a certain percentage are going to have problems that are predictable — some of them are going to end up with abuse and dependence. And with all those pills around, how much of that actually goes to friends? Some studies have said it’s about 30 percent.”

An A.D.H.D. diagnosis often results in a family’s paying for a child’s repeated visits to doctors for assessments or prescription renewals. Taxpayers assume this cost for children covered by Medicaid, who, according to the C.D.C. data, have among the highest rates of A.D.H.D. diagnoses: 14 percent for school-age children, about one-third higher than the rest of the population.

Several doctors mentioned that advertising from the pharmaceutical industry that played off parents’ fears — showing children struggling in school or left without friends — encouraged parents and doctors to call even minor symptoms A.D.H.D. and try stimulant treatment. For example, a pamphlet for Vyvanse from its manufacturer, Shire, shows a parent looking at her son and saying, “I want to do all I can to help him succeed.”

Sales of stimulants to treat A.D.H.D. have more than doubled to $9 billion in 2012 from $4 billion in 2007, according to the health care information company IMS Health.

Criteria for the proper diagnosis of A.D.H.D., to be released next month in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, have been changed specifically to allow more adolescents and adults to qualify for a diagnosis, according to several people involved in the discussions.

The final wording has not been released, but most proposed changes would lead to higher rates of diagnosis: the requirement that symptoms appeared before age 12 rather than 7; illustrations, like repeatedly losing one’s cellphone or losing focus during paperwork, that emphasize that A.D.H.D. is not just a young child’s disorder; and the requirement that symptoms merely “impact” daily activities, rather than cause “impairment.”

An analysis of the proposed changes published in January by the Journal of Learning Disabilities concluded: “These wording changes newly diagnose individuals who display symptoms of A.D.H.D. but continue to function acceptably in their daily lives."Given that severe A.D.H.D. that goes untreated has been shown to increase a child’s risk for academic failure and substance abuse, doctors have historically focused on raising awareness of the disorder and reducing fears surrounding stimulant medication.

A leading voice has been Dr. Ned Hallowell, a child psychiatrist and author of best-selling books on the disorder. But in a recent interview, Dr. Hallowell said that the new C.D.C. data, combined with recent news reports of young people abusing stimulants, left him assessing his role.

Whereas Dr. Hallowell for years would reassure skeptical parents by telling them that Adderall and other stimulants were “safer than aspirin,” he said last week, “I regret the analogy” and he “won’t be saying that again.” And while he still thinks that many children with A.D.H.D. continue to go unrecognized and untreated, he said the high rates demonstrate how the diagnosis is being handed out too freely.

“I think now’s the time to call attention to the dangers that can be associated with making the diagnosis in a slipshod fashion,” he said. “That we have kids out there getting these drugs to use them as mental steroids — that’s dangerous, and I hate to think I have a hand in creating that problem.”

And creating a new generation of people not able to carry guns