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US Would Close Schools, Restrict Travel In Case of Worldwide Flu Outbreak Among its suggested preparations to limit the spread of infection and care for the ill, the plan stresses major federal research to create "seed strains" of worrisome flu types as potential vaccine candidates. Such work might shave a few months off the typical six to eight months it now takes to brew a new flu vaccine, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health's infectious disease chief. (Associated Press)
Kennedy has company on airline watch list A second prominent lawmaker said Friday that he's been subjected to extra security at airports because his name appears on a list designed to prevent terrorists from boarding planes (CNN)
Sen. Kennedy Flagged by No-Fly List U.S. Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy said yesterday that he was stopped and questioned at airports on the East Coast five times in March because his name appeared on the government's secret "no-fly" list.
Federal air security officials said the initial error that led to scrutiny of the Massachusetts Democrat should not have happened even though they recognize that the no-fly list is imperfect. But privately they acknowledged being embarrassed that it took the senator and his staff more than three weeks to get his name removed. (Washington Post)
F.B.I. Goes Knocking for Political Troublemakers The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been questioning political demonstrators across the country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National Convention in New York (New York Times)
Letter to Thomas Kean from Sibel Edmonds Your report has omitted any reference to this most serious issue, has forgone any accountability whatsoever, and your recommendations have refrained from addressing this issue, which when left unaddressed will have even more serious consequences. This issue is systemic and departmental. Why did your report choose to exclude this information and this serious issue despite the evidence and briefings you received? How can budget increases address and resolve this misconduct by mid-level bureaucratic management? How can the addition of a new bureaucratic layer, "intelligence czar", in its cocoon removed from the action lines, address and resolve this problem? (Asia Times)
Failures of the Sept. 11 Commission For all its somber-faced seriousness, the report of the Sept. 11 commission turns out to be a childlike explanation of what went so tragically wrong nearly three years ago. - "The whole name of the game is to exculpate anyone in the establishment," says McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and a member of a group of former agents called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. " 'Mistakes were made,' but no one is to blame. Why is it that after all this evidence and months and months of testimony, the commission found itself unable even to say if the attacks could have been prevented?" McGovern has no doubt they could have been. (Washington Post)
9/11 report: Key findings The US 9/11 commission's report has urged sweeping changes to how the intelligence services operate after finding that the government had "failed to protect American people" from the 11 September 2001 attacks.
Here are the key findings of the 576-page report: - Failure to confront -- The report charts how al-Qaeda was allowed to develop into a real danger to the US, concluding that while the attacks "were a shock... they should not have come as a surprise" (BBC)
Extract: 'We have some planes' The report from the bipartisan commission set up to investigate the 11 September 2001 terror attacks describes in detail how the hijackings unfolded, and what is known of the final moments on board the four flights (BBC)
In-flight cell phones 'worked great' in test The race is on to enable airline passengers to make and receive cell phone calls in flight.
Cell phone company Qualcomm (QCOM) has teamed with American Airlines (AMR) to develop satellite-based air-to-ground cellular service. Several smaller companies are working on rival systems. In-flight cell service could be introduced within two years and become commonplace within four, developers believe.
Last week, American and Qualcomm officials circled over West Texas in a jetliner making calls from their cell phones. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission authorized the flight to test the technology's safety and transmission quality. (USA Today)
The Gleam Team "Edwards had wowed the business and political elite at last month's Bilderberg conference in Italy, a secretive annual session where international business and political leaders discuss the state of the world" (Time Magazine)
The truth about global warming -- it's the Sun that's to blame
Global warming has finally been explained: the Earth is getting hotter because the Sun is burning more brightly than at any time during the past 1,000 years, according to new research. - Dr Bill Burrows, a climatologist and a member of the Royal Meteorological Society, welcomed Dr Solanki's research. "While the established view remains that the sun cannot be responsible for all the climate changes we have seen in the past 50 years or so, this study is certainly significant," he said.
"It shows that there is enough happening on the solar front to merit further research. Perhaps we are devoting too many resources to correcting human effects on the climate without being sure that we are the major contributor."
Dr David Viner, the senior research scientist at the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit, said the research showed that the sun did have an effect on global warming.
He added, however, that the study also showed that over the past 20 years the number of sunspots had remained roughly constant, while the Earth's temperature had continued to increase.
This suggested that over the past 20 years, human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation had begun to dominate "the natural factors involved in climate change", he said.
Dr Gareth Jones, a climate researcher at the Met Office, said that Dr Solanki's findings were inconclusive because the study had not incorporated other potential climate change factors.
A study by Swiss and German scientists suggests that increasing radiation from the sun is responsible for recent global climate changes. Dr Sami Solanki, the director of the renowned Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, who led the research, said: "The Sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures.
"The Sun is in a changed state. It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently - in the last 100 to 150 years."
Dr Solanki said that the brighter Sun and higher levels of "greenhouse gases", such as carbon dioxide, both contributed to the change in the Earth's temperature but it was impossible to say which had the greater impact.
Average global temperatures have increased by about 0.2 deg Celsius over the past 20 years and are widely believed to be responsible for new extremes in weather patterns. After pressure from environmentalists, politicians agreed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, promising to limit greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012. Britain ratified the protocol in 2002 and said it would cut emissions by 12.5 per cent from 1990 levels.
Globally, 1997, 1998 and 2002 were the hottest years since worldwide weather records were first collated in 1860. (London Telegraph)
A Deal for the Ozo 3 It was face-saving time last week when three members of the band Ozomatli agreed to plead no contest to class C misdemeanor charges in a deferred adjudication agreement with Travis Co. prosecutors (The Austin Chronicle)
The Truth About the Drug Companies Every day Americans are subjected to a barrage of advertising by the pharmaceutical industry. Mixed in with the pitches for a particular drug—usually featuring beautiful people enjoying themselves in the great outdoors—is a more general message. Boiled down to its essentials, it is this: “Yes, prescription drugs are expensive, but that shows how valuable they are. Besides, our research and development costs are enormous, and we need to cover them somehow. As ‘research-based’ companies, we turn out a steady stream of innovative medicines that lengthen life, enhance its quality, and avert more expensive medical care. You are the beneficiaries of this ongoing achievement of the American free enterprise system, so be grateful, quit whining, and pay up.” More prosaically, what the industry is saying is that you get what you pay for.
Is any of this true? Well, the first part certainly is. Prescription drug costs are indeed high—and rising fast. Americans now spend a staggering $200 billion a year on prescription drugs, and that figure is growing at a rate of about 12 percent a year (down from a high of 18 percent in 1999).1 Drugs are the fastest-growing part of the health care bill—which itself is rising at an alarming rate. The increase in drug spending reflects, in almost equal parts, the facts that people are taking a lot more drugs than they used to, that those drugs are more likely to be expensive new ones instead of older, cheaper ones, and that the prices of the most heavily prescribed drugs are routinely jacked up, sometimes several times a year.
Before its patent ran out, for example, the price of Schering-Plough’s top-selling allergy pill, Claritin, was raised thirteen times over five years, for a cumulative increase of more than 50 percent—over four times the rate of general inflation.2 As a spokeswoman for one company explained, “Price increases are not uncommon in the industry and this allows us to be able to invest in R&D.”3 In 2002, the average price of the fifty drugs most used by senior citizens was nearly $1,500 for a year’s supply. (Pricing varies greatly, but this refers to what the companies call the average wholesale price, which is usually pretty close to what an individual without insurance pays at the pharmacy.) - This is an industry that in some ways is like the Wizard of Oz—still full of bluster but now being exposed as something far different from its image. Instead of being an engine of innovation, it is a vast marketing machine. Instead of being a free market success story, it lives off government-funded research and monopoly rights. Yet this industry occupies an essential role in the American health care system, and it performs a valuable function, if not in discovering important new drugs at least in developing them and bringing them to market. But big pharma is extravagantly rewarded for its relatively modest functions. We get nowhere near our money’s worth. The United States can no longer afford it in its present form. (The New York Review of Books)
Microchips implanted in Mexican officials Attorney general, prosecutors carry security pass under their skin - Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha and 160 of his employees were implanted at a cost to taxpayers of $150 for each rice grain-sized chip. More are scheduled to get "tagged" in coming months, and key members of the Mexican military, the police and the office of President Vicente Fox might follow suit, Aceves said. Fox's office did not immediately return a call seeking comment. (Associated Press)
Handheld terahertz wand to unmask terrorists TeraView has just begun working with Smiths Detection of Bushey, Hertfordshire, one of the world's largest manufacturers of X-ray security scanners, to develop a hand-held terahertz security wand that will scan passengers. But to avoid privacy concerns, it will not be used to generate an image on a screen. (New Scientist)
Bilderberg 'performance' key to Edwards VP pick 'He reported back directly to Kerry' said participant in super-secret conference - Among the attendees from the U.S., according to a list obtained by WND, were Senators John Edwards, D-N.C. and Jon Corzine, D-N.J., Henry Kissinger, Richard Perle, Melinda Gates (wife of Bill Gates), David Rockefeller, Timothy F. Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Donald Graham, chairman and CEO of the Washington Post Company, and even Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. (World Net Daily)
'We Never Got to a Short List', John Kerry VP pick Several people pointed to the secretive and exclusive Bilderberg conference of some 120 people that this year drew the likes of Henry A. Kissinger, Melinda Gates and Richard A. Perle to Stresa, Italy, in early June, as helping win Mr. Kerry's heart. Mr. Edwards spoke so well in a debate on American politics with the Republican Ralph Reed that participants broke Bilderberg rules to clap before the end of the session. Beforehand, Mr. Edwards traveled to Brussels to meet with NATO officials, brandishing his foreign-policy credentials. "His performance at Bilderberg was important," said a friend of Mr. Kerry who was there. "He reported back directly to Kerry. There were other reports on his performance. Whether they reported directly or indirectly, I have no doubt the word got back to Mr. Kerry about how well he did." (New York Times)
Kerry picks Gephardt Mo. rep to get Dem veep nod - Richard Gephardt, 63, a 28-year veteran of the House of Representatives, could be named by the presumptive Democratic nominee as the party's vice-presidential candidate as soon as today. (New York Post)
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