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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 28,727

Journal Archives

In U.S., ‘Natural’ Food May Be Anything But

In the United States, pre-packaged foods loaded with artificial ingredients and chemicals can make it onto grocery store shelves boasting the label “natural.”

Why? Because in America, there is no definition of “natural.”

This gray area has led consumer advocates to threaten lawsuit after lawsuit against big food giants, alleging that their claims are misleading and illegal.

“There are just too damn many ‘natural’ lawsuits,” said lawyer Stephen Gardner of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), estimating there have been around 50 in the past decade.

“It only scratches the surfaces of the number of companies that are making these claims. We keep coming across them,” he said.



Congress Warns Justice Dept.: Support NSA Reform Or Lose Key Patriot Act Provision

While the USA Freedom Act isn't perfect, it is one bill in Congress that has a lot of support and will fix many problems with the current NSA overreach. Much more needs to be done, but the USA Freedom Act is a good starting point. And yet, the Obama administration and his Justice Department have yet to take a public stand on the bill, and that seems to be annoying plenty of folks in Congress. At the recent Judiciary Committee hearings, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act and Section 215, made it abundantly clear that the DOJ/NSA's interpretation of his bill was simply incorrect and that they were abusing the system. As the sponsor of the USA Freedom Act to fix this misinterpretation, he pointed out that if the DOJ doesn't agree to support it, there's a good chance that Congress simply won't renew the provisions in Section 215 at all. Section 215, of course, is the part that has been misinterpreted by the DOJ, the FISA court, the NSA and the FBI to pretend it authorizes the collection of every phone record. In short, the message from Congress is: work with us to reform things, or we'll pull the authority altogether. Of course, some of us think that pulling the authority altogether might be a better long term solution.

And it's not just Sensenbrenner making those claims. Many others -- across the political spectrum -- made it clear during the hearing that the NSA's actions with regards to Section 215 were unacceptable and Congress is going to make them change things. Yes, nothing has happened yet, and Congressional bluster doesn't always lead to results, but it's becoming increasingly clear that the NSA (and the President's) desire to keep collecting everyone's metadata is not convincing anyone.


Fire Breaks Out At Underground Nuclear Repository In New Mexico (Carlsbad)

Source: Associated Press

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Emergency crews are battling a fire in the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southeastern New Mexico.

Officials say a truck hauling salt caught fire about 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

According to a press release and a spokeswoman who answered the emergency line, all employees have been evacuated and none of the radioactive waste has been impacted. But a press release says “multiple employees” are being taken to a hospital for potential smoke inhalation.

Melissa Suggs, a spokeswoman for the Carlsbad Medical Center, said six patients were brought to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. “They are all listed in stable condition,” she said.

Read more: http://news.gnom.es/news/fire-breaks-out-at-underground-nuclear-repository-in-n-m

Sierra Club Sues U.S. Over Keystone XL Pipeline Documents

Source: Bloomberg

By Joel Rosenblatt Feb 5, 2014 4:32 PM ET

The Sierra Club sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the agency’s refusal to disclose documents related to its review of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s planned Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast.

The Army Corps has wrongly withheld records describing the pipeline’s path in relation to communities and sensitive water resources, according to the environmental group’s complaint filed today in federal court in San Francisco.

TransCanada applied more than five years ago for a permit to build the pipeline through the U.S. heartland, connecting oil sands in Alberta with refineries along the coast of Texas and Louisiana. The 875-mile (1,409-kilometer) pipeline would run from the U.S.-Canada border to Steele City, Nebraska. From there it would connect to an existing network.

In its final environmental review, the U.S. State Department on Jan. 31 found the Canada-U.S. oil pipeline would not greatly increase carbon emissions because the oil sands in Alberta will be developed anyway.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-05/sierra-club-sues-u-s-over-keystone-xl-pipeline-documents.html

Vulnerable Senate Democrats Urge Keystone XL Approval

Four politically vulnerable Senate Democrats are urging U.S. President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, spotlighting the implications of an election-year decision that may influence which party controls the chamber.

At a rally yesterday in Washington, Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas joined Republicans, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., oil-industry lobbyists and labor leaders to call on the administration to authorize the $5.4 billion Canada-U.S. oil pipeline. Two other Senate Democrats who face tough November re-elections -- Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina -- weren’t at the rally but also have voiced strong support for the project.

“The president is in a bit of a squeeze on this,” said Stu Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. Rejecting Keystone will give Republicans running against the four Democrats a “green light” to attack over a project that’s popular with voters and industries back home, he said.

TransCanada Corp. (TRP) of Calgary wants to build the pipeline to carry oil-sands crude from Alberta to refineries in Texas and Louisiana. The U.S. State Department last week released an environmental assessment that said Keystone isn’t as significant a threat to climate change as its opponents contend.

Landrieu and Pryor touted their leadership in pressing for the pipeline’s approval yesterday before television cameras that could beam their words back home to Republican-leaning states where Keystone is popular.



Twitter Loss Exceeds Estimates as User Growth Slows

Twitter Inc. (TWTR) posted slowing user growth and a net loss that was wider than analysts’ estimates in its first earnings report as a public company, sending shares down in extended trading.

Twitter said in a statement today that it had 241 million monthly active users, up 30 percent from 185 million a year ago, with the rate of growth slowing from 39 percent in the prior period. Net loss was $511.5 million compared with $8.7 million a year earlier, and more than double analysts’ projections of $253.5 million.

The results indicate that Twitter may find it difficult to justify its $37.4 billion market capitalization, a valuation that is higher than Target Corp. (TGT) and Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM), even though the microblogging service is unprofitable. Since its November initial public offering, Twitter’s stock has soared on optimism that sales will grow as the company rolls out new targeting and mobile ad products.

“It’s at a ridiculous premium,” said James Gellert, chief executive officer of Rapid Ratings Inc., a New York-based firm that uses quantitative models to grade securities. “The momentum of the stock isn’t based on the current fundamentals of the company. It’s based on the promise of the future business.”



Iranian Foreign Minister Lays Out Condition for Iranian Recognition of Israel

One day after senior Israeli government officials raised eyebrows at an international conference by remaining in the room when Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took the stage to speak, Zarif told a German television interviewer that Tehran could restore diplomatic relations with Israel in the event of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. “Once the Palestinian problem is solved the conditions for an Iranian recognition of Israel will be possible,” Zarif said in the interview Monday.

The statement was not the first suggestion from a senior Iranian official that the Islamic Republic could find a way to reconcile itself with the existence of Israel – but it may the most hopefully timed. More than a decade ago, the reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who held office from 1997 to 2005, also moved to ratchet back the maximalist position often articulated by Iranian hardliners who called for erasing Israel from the map. Khatami framed the issue in less absolutist terms, saying that if the Palestinians negotiated a state of their own next to Israel, why should Iran be “more Palestinian than the Palestinians”?

But Khatami did not have what Zarif’s boss, President Hassan Rouhani, apparently enjoys, at least for now: the blessing of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Nor was Iran in the early stages of a possible realignment of its relations with the United States – a tentative rapprochement that has emerged in recent months that both looms behind and guides negotiations on the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

The stakes are high in the nuclear talks; some experts warn Iran might be just months away from the ability to build a nuclear weapon. But the spirit of bonhomie surrounding the talks – there were many smiles and handshakes between negotiators at the talks in Geneva in late November and at the U.N. General Assembly two months earlier – rises from hopes that their success will be the bridge that ushers Iran back into what President Obama calls “the community of nations.” In Syria, where Obama has acknowledged Iran played a role in the removal of chemical weapons, a way may open for serious talks on ending the horrific civil war, in which Tehran is deeply involved on the side of President Bashar Assad. A more moderate Iran might also encourage the transition of Hizballah – the Shiite militia it created in Lebanon a generation ago to combat Israel – from a military organization with a formidable terrorist capability into an exclusively political entity. Washington also would like to see Iran ratchet down its support for the most militant Palestinian groups, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which rules the 1.7 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

Read more: Iran's Foreign Minister lays out condition for recognizing Israel | TIME.com http://world.time.com/2014/02/04/iranian-foreign-minister-lays-out-condition-for-iranian-recognition-of-israel/#ixzz2sQ847dJZ

Antonin Scalia: 'You Are Kidding Yourself If You Think' Internment Ruling Couldn't Happen Again

Source: Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told law students at the University of Hawaii on Monday that the nation's highest court was wrong to uphold the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but he wouldn't be surprised if the court issued a similar ruling during a future conflict.

Scalia was responding to a question about the court's 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu for violating an order to report to an internment camp.

"Well of course Korematsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again," Scalia told students and faculty during a lunchtime Q-and-A session.

Scalia cited a Latin expression meaning, "In times of war, the laws fall silent."

"That's what was going on — the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot. That's what happens. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It's no justification, but it is the reality," he said.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/03/scalia-internment-ruling_n_4720265.html

Former President Jimmy Carter And Rosalynn Remember Joan Mondale's Arts Advocacy

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are remembering Joan Mondale as an arts advocate and an effective campaigner.

The wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale died Monday at age 83. Walter Mondale was elected Jimmy Carter's No. 2 in 1976.

In a statement, the Carters said Joan Mondale was a devoted wife and a close partner with her husband throughout his career.

The former president and first lady also say Joan Mondale was exemplary in using public service to advance the arts and other issues important to her and many Americans.

The Carters say they remember how she was appreciated by the people of Japan for her love of their arts when her husband served as U.S. ambassador to Japan.


Israel Spars With Kerry on Boycotts Ahead of Peace Plan

Israeli ministers sparred with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over peacemaking, suggesting he’s giving implicit support to a global campaign to sanction the Jewish state for its settlements.

A day after Kerry warned Israel of the economic damage sanctions could cause, Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the top U.S. diplomat’s remarks “offensive, unfair and intolerable.” Israel, he said, “can’t be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head.”

Kerry, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, had referred to an “increasing delegitimization campaign” that includes “talks of boycotts” as a risk for Israel if there’s no peace accord with Palestinians. He said the relative calm and prosperity that Israel now enjoys is “illusionary.” Kerry has consistently opposed sanctions against Israel and was only making a “statement of fact,” the State Department said today.

It’s the latest sign of tension between the longtime allies over Kerry’s efforts to prod Israel and the Palestinians toward a peace agreement. He has promoted the plan in several visits to the region in the year since he took the job, drawing criticism from members of Netanyahu’s cabinet who say the Jewish state is being pushed into abandoning core interests.

‘Proponent of Israel’

The boycott debate comes after pro-Palestinian activists scored several successes in a campaign to blacklist businesses operating in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, land occupied by Israel since 1967 and claimed by Palestinians for a future state. Targets include Israeli banks and companies such as SodaStream International Ltd. (SODA), a maker of home soft-drink machines.


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