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In story: Midweek Open Thread

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DARK AGES AMERICA -- Blog for Morris Berman

FIRST PLACE

Ms. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City , Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly went to sleep in the driver's seat while the cruisecontrol was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her$1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Ms. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

These people are your neighbors!


by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on
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In story: Midweek Open Thread

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So this is brilliant. Favorite line: "We have the bravery, to bring back slavery"



by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Living off the Planet
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Mass gathering of 35,000 walruses is latest sign of global warming - The Economic Times
ANCHORAGE: Pacific walrus that can't find sea ice for resting in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers on a beach in northwest Alaska.

An estimated 35,000 walruses were photographed on Saturday about 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Point Lay is an Inupiat Eskimo village 300 miles (482 kilometers) southwest of Barrow and 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage.

The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA's annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey, spokeswoman Julie Speegle said by email. The survey is conducted with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that oversees offshore lease sales.


by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: Midweek Open Thread

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LabourList - Sunny Hundal - How the Labour leadership misunderstand two of their biggest problems

gnore the frenetic media noise around party conferences and its obvious that the fundamentals haven't changed: Labour is still likely to be the largest party or have a slim majority after the next election. But this episode is a good illustration of how the Labour leadership keep misunderstanding their intended audiences.

The Labour party leadership broadly face two problems: 1) people don't understand what Ed Miliband stands for and seem hesitant to place their faith in him; 2) more Britons trust the economic competency of the Conservatives than Labour. In both cases the leadership has misunderstood the nature of the problem and reacted predictably.
[....]
As the journalist Ian Dunt recently put it, "Ed Ball's conservative vision has killed off Miliband's radicalism". By misunderstanding their problems and sticking to what they are comfortable with, both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are failing in satisfying their critics, inspiring their supporters or even communicating with the public. If this carries on until May next year then the electoral advantage Labour has held on to could easily evaporate.



by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on
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Scores of students still missing after ambush by Mexican police and gunmen | World news | The Guardian

The search continued on Tuesday for dozens of students missing since municipal police and unidentified gunmen opened fire on a convoy of buses in the southern Mexican city of Iguala over three days before.

The original list of 57 people reported missing seemed set to drop by at least 14 during the day, following reports that some students were contacting friends and relatives after spending days lying low from fear. A government official in southern Mexico said 14 of the 57 students reported missing after the weekend shootings had been located. The majority, however, remain unaccounted for, including some 20 students who were reportedly arrested but have not been located in any detention facility. Why the students were attacked is still unclear.

"Every hour that passes without them reappearing is very worrying," said Vidulfo Rosales, a lawyer from Tlachinollan, a local human rights group supporting the students. "More efforts need to be made to find them."

The attacks on the students were part of a string of violent events on Friday night in Iguala, in Guerrero state, which left six people dead and more injured. Along with other recent events elsewhere in Guerrero - including the assassination of a party political boss in a well-known restaurant in Acapulco on Sunday and the murder of five people in one of the city's poor barrios on Monday - the impression is growing that the state, long in a state of conflict, is being pushed over the edge.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Living on the Planet
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Superbugs should scare you more than Ebola in US | Molecules to Medicine, Scientific American Blog Network

The first case of Ebola in the United States was announced today, with a patient in Dallas who traveled to the US from Liberia. The resultant hysteria and xenophobia prompts this reminder. There is NO need to panic.

Ebola is NOT transmitted before a patient develops symptoms. Ebola is transmitted by contact with infectious secretions from body fluids or blood. It has NOT shown airborne transmission.

Viral airborne vs. droplet transmission - courtesy Ian MacKay.

In the US, Ebola does not pose the same magnitude of risk as it does in Africa. There was profound poverty in the affected areas of West Africa and a very limited infrastructure even before the epidemic hit. Liberia had just one doctor for nearly 100,000 inhabitants before the outbreak. Since then, there have been 211 deaths among some 375 infected health care workers in Africa (35 in Guinea, 89 in Liberia, 5 in Nigeria, and 82 in Sierra Leone), according to WHO. Roads, electricity and basic supplies are also in extremely short supply.

While our infrastructure is crumbling, with a number of roads and bridges in disrepair and increasing poverty and hunger, it is orders of magnitude different than in Africa or many other countries. In Liberia, 80+% live below their country's poverty line; 93% live on less than $2/day per the World Bank, as is true of many other African and Southeast Asian countries.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Living on the Planet
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NASA's Swift mission observes mega flares from nearby red dwarf star -- ScienceDaily

On April 23, NASA's Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series of explosions was as much as 10,000 times more powerful than the largest solar flare ever recorded.

"We used to think major flaring episodes from red dwarfs lasted no more than a day, but Swift detected at least seven powerful eruptions over a period of about two weeks," said Stephen Drake, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who gave a presentation on the "superflare" at the August meeting of the American Astronomical Society's High Energy Astrophysics Division. "This was a very complex event."

At its peak, the flare reached temperatures of 360 million degrees Fahrenheit (200 million Celsius), more than 12 times hotter than the center of the sun.

In April 2014, NASA's Swift mission detected a massive superflare from a red dwarf star in the binary system DG CVn, located about 60 light-years away. Astronomers Rachel Osten of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Stephen Drake of NASA Goddard discuss this remarkable event.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Living off the Planet
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How Green Is Your Coffee? - Scientific American

While many products commonly found in the grocery aisles are just now receiving the environmentally friendly treatment, some are old-timers in the field. Consider the case of coffee.

U.S. distributors saw specialty coffee rise 75 percent in economic value from 2000 to 2008, and in 2012, it represented 37 percent of U.S. coffee sales by volume and a whopping 50 percent of the total economic value, bringing in roughly $32 billion.

Specialty coffee now comes with an ever-increasing variety of certifications and labels confirming their supposed benefits for consumers and the environment, but despite these surface changes, has the product on shelves actually become more sustainable?

Shalene Jha, a conservation biologist with the University of Texas, said some of the salesmanship is overheated and so, unfortunately, are the claimed alterations to the global coffee production landscape as the climate changes.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Living off the Planet
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Fracking Companies Fight EPA's Proposed Chemical Disclosure Rules - Scientific American

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering introducing new regulations that would require companies to disclose the composition of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), but the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) is warningthat such a rule could jeopardise the trade secrets of its members, which include small businesses that manufacture chemicals used in oil and gas exploration.

Back in May, EPA sought public comment on what information could be reported and disclosed for fracking chemicals, and said the mechanism for obtaining this information could be regulatory, voluntary, or a combination of both.

However, SOCMA is now arguing that this plan could lead to `mining from foreign competitors' before chemicals enter commerce. The consequent offshoring could lead to lost jobs and product manufacture outside the reach of US law, the trade group suggests in comments submitted to EPA.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Living off the Planet
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by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Living off the Planet
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Aral Sea loses its eastern lobe -- first time in modern history, NASA's Terra satellite shows -- ScienceDaily

Summer 2014 marked another milestone for the Aral Sea, the once-extensive lake in Central Asia that has been shrinking markedly since the 1960s. For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has completely dried.

This image pair from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite shows the sea without its eastern lobe on August 19, 2014 (top). Substantial changes are apparent when compared to an image from August 25, 2000 (bottom), and again when compared to the approximate location of the shoreline in 1960 (black outline).

"This is the first time the eastern basin has completely dried in modern times," said Philip Micklin, a geographer emeritus from Western Michigan University and an Aral Sea expert. "And it is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea."

In the 1950s and 1960s, the government of the former Soviet Union diverted the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya -- the region's two major rivers -- to irrigate farmland. The diversion began the lake's gradual retreat. By the start of the Terra series in 2000, the lake had already separated into the North (Small) Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and the South (Large) Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. The South Aral had further split into western and eastern lobes.

The eastern lobe of the South Aral nearly dried in 2009 and then saw a huge rebound in 2010. Water levels continued to fluctuate annually in alternately dry and wet years.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Catalans Pursue Independence Vote as Minister Signals Crisis - Bloomberg

Regional President Artur Mas vowed he'll deliver Catalans a vote on independence despite the legal obstacles, as a Spanish minister warned that risks dragging the country back into an economic crisis.

Mas told lawmakers in Barcelona today his decision to withdraw an advertising campaign promoting the Nov. 9 ballot doesn't mean he's abandoning his broader ambitions for the vote, which was suspended by the Constitutional Court this week. Mas also started meeting leaders of the four-party pro-referendum coalition to work out their next move as the regional assembly named a steering committee for the vote.

"This will finish with the Catalan people voting and no one can prevent that," Mas said in the regional parliament. "I will not back down."

Mas is pushing for the right to hold a vote on leaving Spain after Scotland held an independence referendum with the blessing of the U.K. government. His challenge is to maintain pressure on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to enter negotiations while appeasing increasingly vocal nationalist groups agitating to make next month's ballot an historical turning point.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Afghan president reopens bank scandal inquiry - Central & South Asia - Al Jazeera English

Afghanistan's new president has re-opened an inquiry into the theft of almost $1bn from the Kabul Bank, which led to the collapse of the business, a national financial crisis and claims of high-level corruption.

Ashraf Ghani's re-opening of the investigation on Wednesday fulfils a campaign promise to make fighting corruption a priority of his presidency.

"As a first step, based on our promise to take action against administrative corruption, today the Kabul Bank case will be re-opened and an investigation will be launched," Ghani said.

"We promised to combat corruption comprehensively, on a full scale and in a principled manner."

Afghanistan's corruption watchdog called the scandal "one of the largest banking failures in the world", but few of those linked to the case were ever tried or returned the money.

The bank's founder Sher Khan Fernod and the former chief executive, Haji Khalil Ferozi, were jailed for five years for taking $810m of the $935m.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Aristide supporters clash with Haiti police - Americas - Al Jazeera English

Supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have clashed with riot police as they marched through the capital on the anniversary of a 1991 military coup that ousted the country's first democratically elected leader.

Thousands of Aristide supporters tried to march from the church where Aristide led services as a Catholic priest to his house on Tuesday, but police fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse them before they arrived at the home.

The march marked the date that the military ousted Aristide only a few months into his first term as president. 

Many of the marchers are angry that the former president is facing corruption charges and accuse Haitian President Michel Martelly of being a dictator. 



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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More US raids as ISIL advances on Syria town - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

US-led forces have carried out at least five air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) outside  Kobane, a monitoring group has said, after the group's fighters pushed to within 2km of the Syrian-Kurdish town.

The strikes on Wednesday hit ISIL fronts south and southeast of the town, also known as Ain al-Arab , which the group has been battling to take for more than two weeks, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

ISIL had continued closing in on the town near the Turkish border, despite multiple US air strikes on Tuesday, as the US defence department said it could not "bomb the militants into obscurity".

"No one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate air strikes," the department's spokesman, John Kirby, said. "We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity."



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Hong Kong protest leaders threaten to occupy government buildings | World news | The Guardian

Student leaders of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have threatened to occupy government buildings if the region's chief executive does not resign by the end of Thursday, amid growing uncertainty about where the demonstrations are heading.

There was a jubilant mood on the National Day public holiday as the protests continued, with more families among the crowd in Admiralty, the centre of the movement.

Joshua Wong, of the student group Scholarism, said he was certain it would be the biggest day yet and tens of thousands had gathered by mid-afternoon. But by late evening the numbers appeared to be down from the same time on the previous day.

Lester Shum, vice secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told a news conference: "Leung Chun-ying must step down. If he doesn't resign by tomorrow we will step up our actions, such as by occupying several important government buildings."



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Ebola Overwhelming West Africa Communities - NYTimes.com

MAKENI, Sierra Leone -- "Where's the corpse?" the burial-team worker shouted, kicking open the door of the isolation ward at the government hospital here. The body was right in front of him, a solidly built young man sprawled out on the floor all night, his right hand twisted in an awkward clench.

The other patients, normally padlocked inside, were too sick to look up as the body was hauled away. Nurses, some not wearing gloves and others in street clothes, clustered by the door as pools of the patients' bodily fluids spread to the threshold. A worker kicked another man on the floor to see if he was still alive. The man's foot moved and the team kept going. It was 1:30 in the afternoon.

In the next ward, a 4-year-old girl lay on the floor in urine, motionless, bleeding from her mouth, her eyes open. A corpse lay in the corner -- a young woman, legs akimbo, who had died overnight. A small child stood in a cot watching as the team took the body away, stepping around a little boy lying immobile next to black buckets of vomit. They sprayed the body, and the little girl on the floor, with chlorine as they left.

As the Ebola epidemic intensifies across parts of West Africa, nations and aid agencies are pledging to respond with increasing force. But the disease has already raced far ahead of the promises, sweeping into areas that had been largely spared the onslaught and are not in the least prepared for it.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Man diagnosed with Ebola virus in US was sent home for two days | World news | theguardian.com

The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola outside Africa during the latest outbreak was sent home with a course of antibiotics for two days after seeking medical care at a Dallas hospital last week, a hospital official said.

The patient, believed to be male, was admitted to an isolation unit at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital on Sunday, after coming to the same hospital two days before.

Edward Goodman, the infectious disease specialist at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital, told National Public Radio that the patient's symptoms were not definitive when he was first seen. Goodman said: "He was evaluated for his illness, which was very nondescript. He had some laboratory tests, which were not very impressive, and he was dismissed with some antibiotics."

Medical officials in the US announced on Tuesday that tests confirmed the man, who had travelled from Liberia, had Ebola.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Economy and Finance
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Greek bonds rally on ECB buying moves - FT.com

Greek government borrowing costs dropped on Wednesday following an FT report that Mario Draghi is to push the European Central Bank to include loans issued by Greek and Cypriot lenders in its plan to buy bundles of bank loans.

The move, designed to trim bank balance sheets and boost business lending capacity, was expected to have a positive effect on the Greek economy, which remains one of the weakest in the eurozone.

Prices for Greece's benchmark 10-year debt rose on Wednesday morning, pushing down yields by more than 30 basis points and halting a recent sell-off. By late afternoon the yield had increased slightly to 6.51 per cent.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Economy and Finance
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UK manufacturing activity slows to 17-month low - FT.com

Activity among Britain's manufacturers slowed to its lowest level in 17 months in September, suggesting a rapid cooling of expansion in the sector, according to the latest purchasing managers' index (PMI) published on Wednesday by the consultancy Markit.

The figures, which were weaker than expected, showed manufacturers reporting output growth and new orders no higher than the long-run average. The employment component of the index, however, remained strong.

The index, which has tracked the official manufacturing output figures in recent months, suggests that the revival in the manufacturing sector, accounting for roughly 10 per cent of Britain's economy, will be relatively shortlived.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Economy and Finance
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Fed Scrutiny of Leveraged Loans Grows Along With Bubble Concern - Bloomberg

The Federal Reserve is stepping up its oversight of high-risk leveraged loans, shifting to a deal-by-deal review after its previous industry-wide guidelines were largely ignored by banks.

The Fed is now looking at loans each month, according to people who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Supervisors are looking at individual deals and risks such as a borrower's ability to repay, they said.

"Banks have been scolded and they have been warned, and yet you are seeing a lot of signals that the market is heating up," said Mayra Rodriguez Valladares, managing principal at MRV Associates in New York, a consultant on regulation to some of the world's largest banks. "We have seen this bad movie before. The issue now is, will the regulators deploy the rest of the arsenal of tools they have?"

Until now, supervisors collected loan data in an annual survey, and last year told banks they needed better adherence to standards they put forth in guidelines in March 2013. Over the past several weeks, they have shifted tactics and are examining loans as they are made, showing a new urgency in avoiding the kind of overly risky lending that was blamed for igniting the financial crisis.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: Economy and Finance
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Gross Exposes $42 Trillion Bond Market's Key Flaw in Exit - Bloomberg

One man shook a $42 trillion bond market last week, highlighting just how vulnerable bond prices are to shocks.

Bill Gross's surprise departure on Friday from Pacific Investment Management Co. sparked selloffs in some of his biggest wagers, such as inflation-protected U.S. government bonds. The most-traded assets quickly recovered after the exit of the star trader, who dominated the $2 trillion asset manager's investment strategy. But the less-traded ones are still feeling the effects, according to David Leduc, chief investment officer at Standish Mellon Asset Management Co.

"What you're seeing most of is a lack of liquidity in the bond market," said Christopher Orndorff, a money manager at Western Asset Management Co. "When you get a dislocation like this, it tends to exacerbate price movements maybe more than what you'd have seen 10 years ago."

One person -- even a really important person -- pushing around borrowing costs for nations and companies worldwide, however briefly, shows the increasing fragility of credit markets that have swelled on the heels of trillions of dollars of central-bank stimulus. Debt still largely changes hands off exchanges, through telephone calls and e-mails.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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In story: 2 October 2014

Re: On This Date
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Born 1890 - Groucho Marx, American comedian, actor, and singer (d. 1977)



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Radovan Karadžić tells war crimes trial there was no ethnic cleansing in Bosnia | World news | The Guardian

The former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić has told a war crimes trial there was no systematic "ethnic cleansing" of the territory under his control during the Bosnian conflict.

Karadžić made the dramatic claim at the end of a five-year trial for genocide and crimes against humanity in The Hague, the biggest war crimes trial in Europe since the Nuremberg tribunal for Nazi atrocities.

Taking advantage of his last opportunity to make a public declaration before a verdict is reached, Karadžić portrayed himself as innocent, and said the court was a politically inspired western creation that was biased against Serbs.

"It is the Serb people who stand accused," he said. "There was never been a situation where so many decent, innocent people, mostly Serbs, are imprisoned outside their country, while the murderers of Serbs go free."



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Russia cancels student exchange with the US | News | DW.DE | 01.10.2014

Russian authories have scrapped a longstanding student exchange program formed to foster understanding with its Cold War nemesis. The Kremlin claims that the US used the program to get around a Russian adoption law.

The Russian government decided on Wednesday to ditch a 20 year-old exchange that sent Russian high school students to the US amid escalating tensions between the former Cold War enemies. According to a report in the AFP news agency, the Kremlin accused the US of encouraging a student to stay behind under the guardianship of a gay couple and therefore bypassing a Russian law banning adoption by gay parents.

"The child, who has a mother in Russia, has illegally been placed under guardianship, and the boy has been handed over to a US gay couple," Russia's children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said. Astakhov added that the boy was from a good background and was perfectly healthy, saying he could therefore see no arguments against him returning to his homeland.

US ambassador to Moscow John Tefft expressed his regret that the two-decade program was being shut down, saying the exchange had "built deep and strong connections between the people of Russia and the United States."



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Conflict of interest concerns over EDF's Hinkley nuclear project approval | Environment | The Guardian

Nuclear experts receiving EDF pensions were involved in the official safety review of the company's planned Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, sparking concerns about a conflict of interest over the approval of the project.

The involvement senior executive grade officers at the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) made it "very difficult" for the regulator to take a critical eye, warned another independent industry consultant.

The revelations, obtained via a series of freedom of information (FoI) requests, raise wider concerns about the use of consultants due to a lack of experienced staff inside the ONR and come a week after the Hinkley project got a go-ahead from the European competition directorate for a proposed UK subsidy scheme.

Building new reactors is a key part of the coalition's plan to keep the lights on in the medium term when old coal and atomic power plants are coming to the end of their lives.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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Rebels shell Ukraine school | News | DW.DE | 01.10.2014
Ukraine Rebels shell Ukraine school

Officials and witnesses in Donetsk have reported at least 10 deaths after a school and nearby street was shelled. Rebels also appear to have closed in on Donetsk airport.

Shelling that hit a school plaground and a mini bus in a nearby street in the Kievsky district of Donetsk, Ukraine on Wednesday left at least 10 people dead, official and witnesses reported on Wednesday.

The attack coincided with the first day of classes for pupils in the Donetsk region after the summer break. The scheduled start of the school year was postponed by a month due to conflict in the area, which remains a stronghold of rebels waging a separatist rebellion.

Witnesses told Reuters news agency that amongst the victims were a biology teacher and a parent, though no children were reportedly hurt.



by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on
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David Cameron promises to cut taxes and scrap Human Rights Act | Politics | The Guardian

David Cameron launched an audacious bid to woo voters in next year's general election by pledging to raise the personal income tax threshold by £2,000 a year as well as lifting the 40% tax band to £50,000.

Casting the Conservatives as the "trade union for hardworking" people, the prime minister reached out to aspirational voters in Middle Britain by unveiling a £7.2bn double tax cutting promise, which prompted a rapturous reception at the Tory conference.

Increasing the tax-free personal allowance from £10,500 to £12,000 would, Cameron said, ensure that full-time workers on the minimum wage were exempt from paying income tax.

In a speech that was designed by Tory strategists to lay the basis of a centre-ground Tory pitch to the nation - and to respond to threats from Labour and Ukip - the prime minister:



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In story: Midweek Open Thread

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by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on
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News and Views

 2 October 2014

by dvx - Oct 1, 32 comments

Your take on today's news media

 1 October 2014

by afew - Sep 30, 51 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Midweek Open Thread

by Helen - Oct 1, 4 comments

A smoother operator you will never see

 Start the Week Open Thread

by Helen - Sep 29, 40 comments

Boogie on down below

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