Friday 3 December 2010

 

Julian Assange, defending our democracies (despite their owners' wishes), while the elite hit back with character assassination

Phony rape charge exposed as 20-year-old drops out of allegation

'In an ideal world, Wikileaks wouldn't be necessary. But the US mass media has been neutered and coopted by the enemies of the public interest'

By Charlie Stross
AntiPope.org

 

Breaking News:

'Privatisation of state censorship'

WikiLeaks fights to stay online after US company withdraws domain name

Everydns.net says attack against leaks site endangered other customers' service – effectively pushing site off the web

 
By Charles Arthur and Josh Halliday
The Guardian
 
3 December 2010 — The US was today accused of opening up a dramatic new front against WikiLeaks, effectively "killing" its web address just days after Amazon pulled the site from its servers following political pressure.

The whistleblowers' website went offline for the third time in a week this morning, in the biggest threat to its online presence yet.

Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's committee on homeland security, earlier this week called for any organisation helping sustain WikiLeaks to "immediately terminate" its relationship with them.

On Friday morning, WikiLeaks and the cache of secret diplomatic documents that have proved to be a scourge for governments around the world were only accessible through a string of digits known as a DNS address. The site later re-emerged with a Swiss domain, WikiLeaks.ch. — Read the full article at The Guardian, 1,037 words.

1 December 2010 — The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 should go to Julian Assange (if he lives long enough to receive it).

You don't need me to point you at the huge mass of US diplomatic cables disclosed by wikileaks this week. Nor do you need me to point to the outrage it has generated, including calls for his assassination and, ludicrously, trial and execution for treason by the US government (Planet Earth to Mick Huckabee: by definition it's not treason if he's not an American citizen and isn't acting within the USA).

But you might be wondering why he's doing it? If so, read this now.

Around the world, governments seem to be more interested in obeying the goals of industry lobbyists and the rich than in actually governing well; this isn't an accident, but the outcome of the capture of the machinery of governance by groups of individuals who are self-selecting for adherence to a narrow ideological outlook. In effect we are beset by accidental authoritarian conspiracies — not top-down conspiracies led by a white-cat-stroking Bond villain, but unintentional ad-hoc conspiracies by groups of individuals who work together to promote common interests.

By coordinating, they can gain control of our institutions and impose an agenda that is agreeable to their interests (but not to the majority of the public). Familiar examples might include: the music and film industries and their catspaws among the lobbyists attending the WIPO intellectual property negotiations, the oil and coal industries, the religious right, and so on.

Assange has a model of how the abduction of governance by common interest groups — such as corporations and right wing political factions — works in the current age. His goal is to impair the ability of these groups to exert control over democratic institutions without the consent of the governed. By forcing these authoritarian institutions to apply ever-heavier burdens of secrecy to their internal communications, wikileaks aims to reduce their ability to coordinate and, thus, to exert control: — Read the full article at AntiPope.org, 1,037 words.

 

   
  Cartoon by Chuck Asay, Comics.com, 2 December 2010  

While the U.S. goes about the world like the proverbial gunslinger in a grade B western, and China makes its way with trade and diplomacy, Cuba leads the way with its long arm of medical care. From a medical institution that has won international acclaim it has graduated tens of thousands of doctors and nurses from mostly developing countries and produced a global system for health care and rescue that is second to none. This international reach has literally saved the lives and restored the vision of millions. Here following is a backgrounder on this little known but remarkable achievement by a country of less than 12 million population.

From the Desk of Miguel Fraga

Third Secretary
Press and Cultural Attachê
Embassy of Cuba, Ottawa, Canada

The 1959 Cuban Revolution marked the single most important event in Cuban history. But the Cubans would not keep the gains of the revolution to themselves; they would share them with the world. In the very early years of the revolution, Cuba began the first of its legendary medical missions.  

On May 23, 1963, a team of 58 Cuban doctors, dentists, nurses, and technicians left for recently-independent Algeria at the request of the new government there. In 13 months, they performed 540 major surgeries in six sites throughout the country.

From Algeria in 1963 to earthquake devastated Haiti 2010, attention to the most vulnerable populations has underpinned our country’s health cooperation.

Over 45 years, Cuba’s health cooperation has evolved into a global clinical, educational and preventive program including a specialist disaster response team, a volunteer global health corps, a full scholarship medical school program, and a sight restoration initiative. — Read the full article inside, 1,026 words.

 
Our readers write
'Don't sweat the negative stuff!'
 
Well, hello Dolly! Aren't we cheerful today! I try to read Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair's weekly article whenever possible and this Sunday is one of those days. I notice she picked up on Oprah's theme of favourites and led us through a string of feel-good treats. What a great way to get people in the mood for the holidays and out of the work day rut! Don't sweat the negative stuff! Let's be thankful for the good things in life and the future ones to come. "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" and "Let the Good Times Roll!" are a few songs that get my motor running. — Michel Châtelain, Gatineau, Qué.

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© Carl Dow, Editor and Publisher, True North Perspective
Editor's Notes
 
True North Perspective
Vol. 5, No. 51 (255)
Friday, December 3, 2010

 

As the Chinese are reputed to say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So for this issue alone we decided to deal with the WikiLeaks scandal with eight thousand words on the premise that there can be no life without laughter (or at least a smile). — Click here to see six thousand more 'words'.

"News is what (certain) people want to keep hidden. Everything else is just publicity."
-- PBS journalist Bill Moyers.
 
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Fighting for the rest of our lives

Ready, aye, ready! Canada signs on to America's permanent war for peace

by Gerald Caplan
StraightGoods.ca

30 November 2010 — American and NATO troops, including Canadians, will pull out of Afghanistan in 2014 at the latest, unless they don't. It depends on something but no one knows what that something might be. In his new book Obama's Wars, Bob Woodward quotes General David Petraeus, the senior US commander in Afghanistan: "I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting... This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives, and probably our kids' lives."

Dear me, how do I break this to our granddaughter?

Luckily for the general he's getting full co-operation from his peacenik President. Having campaigned against the Iraq war and promised not to get mired in Afghanistan, Barack Obama recently sent Congress the largest defence budget since the Second World War: $708-billion for the fiscal year 2011, $82-billion more than for 2010. The total then grew by $33-billion for the 30,000 additional troops Obama dispatched to Afghanistan.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China's 2009 military expenditures were $99-billion, Britain's $67-billion, Russia's $61-billion and Canada's $20-billion. As usual, the US military budget is more or less equal to that of the entire rest of the world combined.— read the full article at StraightGoods.ca, 1,288 words.
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Security study deserves more attention

Canada drifts through dangerous waters with no national security policy

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective
 
3 December 2010 — To Stand On Guard is a useful examination of security in Canada. However, its exposé of our lack of a national policy suffered the misfortune of being released by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute during the midst of the latest round of Wikileaks.
 
As a result, it got largely overlooked by the news media although the national security issue did get some play thanks to comments by Jim Judd, the former head of he Canadian Security Intelligence Agency, about the courts interfering with security operations.
 
It deserves more consideration. Author Paul Chapin, a former diplomat and security expert, wants us to wake up to the dangers “from unbridled extremism, uncontrolled immigration, and friction due to resource scarcity.” — Read the full article inside, 868 words.
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From the Desk of Dennis Carr, Sustainable Development Editor

Canadians paying half the cost of natural gas burned to develop Alberta oil sands — $30 billion over next decade

What else could Canada achieve with that money?

By Mitchell Anderson
TheTyee.ca
26 November 2010 — Many Canadians are surprised to learn they are paying more than half of the cost for all the natural gas consumed at the Alberta oil sands through tax and royalty write-offs -- $1.7 billion this year alone. With gas prices and consumption predicted to balloon in coming years, what will be the collective cost to the taxpayer in the next decade for turning gas into bitumen? And what else could we do with this money?

Based on projections from the Alberta government, natural gas demand for bitumen recovery and upgrading will grow to 26.7 billion cubic metres per year by 2019 -- an increase of more than 75 per cent over 2010.

Likewise, natural gas prices are projected to climb as high as $9.15 per gigajoule by 2019. Using official yearly estimates for price and demand, these cumulative natural gas costs may total $63 billion from 2009 to 2019. — Read the full article at TheTyee.ca, 1,315 words.
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From the Desk of Alex Binkley, Contributing Editor

 
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
 
1 December 2010, TORONTO — Canada’s richest 1% are taking more of the gains from economic growth than ever before in recorded history, says a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The Rise of Canada’s Richest 1% looks at income trends over the past 90 years and reveals the 246,000 privileged few who rank among the country’s richest 1% took almost a third (32%) of all growth in incomes between 1997 and 2007.
 
“That's a bigger piece of the action than any other generation of rich Canadians has taken,” says Armine Yalnizyan, CCPA senior economist and the report’s author.
 
“The last time Canada’s elite held so much of the nation’s income in their hands was in the 1920s. Even then, their incomes didn’t soar as fast as they are today. It’s a first in Canadian history and it underscores a dramatic reversal of long-term trends.” — Read the full article at the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, 414 words.
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The heat stayed on ...
 
 
CBC News

2 December 2010 — The year 2010 is expected to be one of the three warmest years worldwide since the collection of reliable climate data began — and Canada's on track to record its hottest year yet.

The data released Thursday by the UN's weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization, provides further evidence of a warming trend that has been seen for many years. Scientists blame a steady rise in man-made greenhouse gases, which have been building up in the atmosphere, trapping heat in.

During the first 10 months of 2010, the global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature was 0.55 degrees C above the 1961–1990 annual average of 14 degrees C. — Read the full article at CBC News, 642 words.
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From the Desk of Sheila Petzold, Unitarian Service Committee of Canada

 
November 30,  2010, OTTAWA —  Whether we’re talking about global energy, climate change, food security or commodity trade -- agriculture has quickly taken centre stage in the new global economy.  It’s an economy worth trillions -- and it all starts with plants.
 
The world’s biggest corporations are rushing to grab and convert living plant matter – called “biomass” --- into fuel, chemicals, and other profitable products. Corn and sugarcane are already being converted to biofuels on a large scale, but trees, grasslands and algae could be next.   The fossil fuel economy is transforming rapidly into a ‘bio-economy’, says Jim Thomas of ETC Group, an international research institute based in Ottawa.  “Plants, trees and forests are the new oil fields.  They’re above the ground, and they’re easy to grab”, says Thomas. — Read the full article inside, 645 words.
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ParkTales

Home, home under the bridge

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective

Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition reveals the heart and soul of Parkdale in southwest Toronto, one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. True North Perspective proudly presents a column by writer Frances Sedgwick. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about ... and something to talk about.

3 December 2010 — Walking up my street on a brisk winter morn, I hear several men talking in  loud, actually, cheerful, voices "Where are you sleeping tonight?" That brought a smile to my face until I heard the answer:

"Under the bridge, by the Legion. Do you want to join me?"
 
The stark realization hit me of the homeless situation in Parkdale.

This brought to mind the woman I encountered in front of PARC, a community centre which gives food and shelter to the homeless. But only in the day time. I had come home late one night and saw her sleeping in a sleeping bag in front of the Centre. I could see from what was exposed to the weather that she was well groomed. I tightened up finding it difficult to pass by. — Read the full article inside, 597 words.
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Spirit Quest
 
 
By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

3 December 2010 — There wasn’t much sand and earth left.
 
Forty winters and summers had passed. Snow, wind and rain had removed what used to be mounds of the stuff that had been excavated from the well. They had to dig very deeply to find water and even then there wasn't much to be found. We had to pump the handle 80 times to get a pail of water.
 
Those mounds had, once upon a time, been my world. I had civilized this wilderness with roads, tunnels, even a waterless port where I docked my imaginary ships. Cars and trucks were recognizable only to my mind. I had constructed them from pieces of wood and came alive in my imagination. — Read the full article inside, words.
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Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

'Health is not a condition of matter, but of Mind!' — Mary Baker Eddy

There is a song to match your mood. How about a sing-along?

True North Perspective
 
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more: www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

3 December 2010 Singing, listening and creating music of any kind has a therapeutic effect. It creates an immediate biological and psychological benefit. Music can be a salvation and powerful antidote to most psychological challenges. Music is inspirational, music soothes you when you are upset, hurt or lonely; music distracts you from the everyday drudgery and has a quick “pick-me-up” effect. Music can fortify your resolve; it can help you through grieving and accompany you along the path of recovery. 

I remember when I was first widowed and broke because my husband had emptied all the bank accounts … my favourite song was “I will survive!” My daughter and I would turn up the stereo system and sing and dance. For me, it was a terrific release from the pain of high treason and it increased my resolve to make good of a bad situation. — Read the full article inside, 980 words.


Always worth repeating

'Give us the tools and we'll finish the job'

— Winston Churchill

Let's say that news throughout human time has been free. Take that time when Ugh Wayne went over to the cave of Mugh Payne with news that the chief of his group had broken a leg while chasing his laughing wife around the fire. That news was given freely and received as such with much knowing smiles and smirks to say nothing of grunts of approval or disapproval. — 688 words.


 

Pravda Vitezi

(But the sin lies in being caught)

There has recently been a fantastic change in the news we receive. After being lied to by politicians, generals and bureaucrats, echoed by the media, we have been given the truth, “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” And there is a lot of it.
 
When I was a kid I found out that its all right to smoke, to lie, to snitch — as long as you weren’t caught. The sin was in the revelation. Today in the adult world, particularly in high places, sin has been revealed for what it is.
 
I am of course referring to Wikileaks, to the thousands of documents and emails that have flooded the ether.

We have been told that lives are at stake because the truth is out. Certainly careers are compromised and international relations jeopardized. Messages thought to be sacrosanct have been brought to public view.

There is massive embarrassment and anger.

Wait till we get those truth tellers, the whistle blowers, who dare to expose the nakedness of emperors and the smallness of the puppeteers that pull the strings.

In the days prior to the end of November the leaders were steeling themselves for the rising of the curtain. This was followed by vigorous announcements that whatever the hell comes to light our relationships are solid. Hmmm!

We have been assured that there is lots more to come; sin afterall is rampant. Red faces are popular. Did they not know that the internet is porous? In the age of computer viruses and hacking and bugging were they oblivious to the fact that there are no secrets anymore?

While the public knew that they were lied to on a regular basis, that lies were the truth, we lived in hope, but that hope has been revealed for its gossamer material. Can they ever again win our trust? Unfortunately, we the people want to hear what we want to hear, and will believe anything that is well served and garnished to perfection. For such efforts no expense is spared.

The motto of the land of my birth, Czechoslovakia, is Pravda Vitezi ( the truth will prevail). I deeply believe that the truth will prevail, it will out, and many won’t like it. It may take time and some may suffer for being forthright. Whistle-blowing is a dangerous profession.

Thank God that there are still brave souls who call powers to account.

— Hanns F Skoutajan

Open Letter

To Amazon.com
Customer Service
 
Daniel Ellsberg Says
Boycott Amazon
 

December 2, 2010

I’m disgusted by Amazon’s cowardice and servility in abruptly terminating today its hosting of the Wikileaks website, in the face of threats from Senator Joe Lieberman and other Congressional right-wingers. I want no further association with any company that encourages legislative and executive officials to aspire to China’s control of information and deterrence of whistle-blowing.

For the last several years, I’ve been spending over $100 a month on new and used books from Amazon. That’s over. I ask Amazon to terminate immediately my membership in Amazon Prime and my Amazon credit card and account, to delete my contact and credit information from their files and to send me no more notices.

I understand that many other regular customers feel as I do and are responding the same way. Good: the broader and more immediate the boycott, the better. I hope that these others encourage their contact lists to do likewise and to let Amazon know exactly why they’re shifting their business. I’ve asked friends today to suggest alternatives, and I’ll be exploring service from Powell’s Books, Half-Price Books, Biblio and others.

So far Amazon has spared itself the further embarrassment of trying to explain its action openly. This would be a good time for Amazon insiders who know and perhaps can document the political pressures that were brought to bear–and the details of the hasty kowtowing by their bosses–to leak that information. They can send it to Wikileaks (now on servers outside the US), to mainstream journalists or bloggers, or perhaps to sites like antiwar.com that have now appropriately ended their book-purchasing association with Amazon.

Yours (no longer),

Daniel Ellsberg
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Another victory for the terrorists ...
 
By Daniel Tencer
RawStory.com

1 December 2010 — An expert in the fight against child sexual abuse is raising the alarm about a technique the TSA is reportedly using to get children to co-operate with airport pat-downs: calling it a "game".

Ken Wooden, founder of Child Lures Prevention, says the TSA's recommendation that children be told the pat-down is a "game" is potentially putting children in danger.

Telling a child that they are engaging in a game is "one of the most common ways" that sexual predators use to convince children to engage in inappropriate contact, Wooden told Raw Story. — Read the full article at RawStory.com, 454 words.
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Third Ways

Facing the arrogance of illigitimate power, France says non

'This is not the rabble having a fit, but the French people returning to the fray' 

By Serge Halimi
Le Monde diplomatique English Edition

1 November 2010 — France hasn’t seen demonstrations like this for 40 years. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s character, his arrogance and determination to crush the “enemy” have aroused wide opposition. But one man’s whims do not account for all the sound and fury. This is a response to a fundamental and unjust change of social direction chosen by European governments with allegiances ranging from confident right to compliant left, on the pretext of dealing with the financial crisis. Berlusconi has done no more good nor harm in Italy than the socialists under Papandreou in Greece and Zapatero in Spain. They all threaten the viability of public services and social security. To please the bean-counters on the stock exchange, they all propose to make ordinary people pay for the havoc wrought by the banks, who carry on just as before, free from any obligation to show “courage” (like the workers) or solidarity with future generations.

This is not the rabble having a fit, but the French people returning to the fray. The government has no legitimate defence against their claims. The National Assembly was elected immediately after a presidential campaign in which Sarkozy said nothing about his plan to reform pensions, later presented as the “highlight” of his five-year term. Four months before he was elected, he had declared that the “right to retire at 60 must be preserved”. A year later, referring to the possibility that this right might be deferred, the new president insisted: “I will not do it, I have not promised the French people that I would do it, I have no mandate to do it, and that counts for me, you know." — Read the full article at Le Monde Diplomatique, 504 words.

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In Ireland, 100,000 protesters take to the streets

Demonstrators protesting austerity measures throw fireworks at gardaí protecting the Dáil from anarchist groups

By Henry McDonald and Andrew Clark
The Guardian

27 November 2010, DUBLIN —  One of the largest demonstrations in the Irish Republic's history brought more than 100,000 on to Dublin's streets in protest over the international bailout and four years of austerity ahead.

As European officials thrashed out the finer details of an €85bn rescue package, huge crowds braved freezing temperatures to demonstrate against the cuts, aimed at driving down Ireland's colossal national debt.

The main march to O'Connell Street passed off peacefully but there was an uneasy standoff outside the Irish parliament as two lines of Garda Siochána officers hemmed in about 100 anarchist demonstrators who had broken away from the union-organised protest. Fireworks were thrown at gardai outside the gates of the Dail as protesters shouted: "Burn it down, burn it down." Extra police were rushed to the scene to surround the ad hoc demonstration by anarchist groups, who also set fire to a picture of the taoiseach, Brian Cowen.

Among those on the main march there was deep anger that most of the €80bn-plus from the EU and IMF will be used to shore up Ireland's ailing banks.  — Read the full article at The Guardian, 504 words.
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Science

Everything you need to know about NASA's new life

NASA scientists have just announced the discovery of life fundamentally different from anything else we've ever seen before. Here's what this discovery means for our understanding of biology, the search for extraterrestrial life, and even how this could revolutionize bioenergy.
 
By Alasdair Wilkins

2 December 2010 — The discovery, made by NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon and her team, is straightforward enough. We often think of carbon as the crucial element for life, but actually there are six elements that work together as the basis of every last organism we've ever found. These are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus.

Phosphorus is part of the structural framework of DNA and RNA, essentially acting as the molecular girders that hold everything else in place.That makes phosphorus essential to the stability of DNA and, in turn, the existence of life.

Wolfe Simon investigated whether a different element could be substituted in the place of phosphorus. The obvious place to start is with arsenic, which is directly below phosphorus on the periodic table and thus shares many of the same properties. — Read the full article at io9.com, 1,915 words.
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Annals of Education
 
 
Two 15-minute writing exercises shown to close academic gap between male and female physics students — it seems to close racial divides too
 
27 November 2010 — Think about the things that are important to you. Perhaps you care about creativity, family relationships, your career, or having a sense of humour. Pick two or three of these values and write a few sentences about why they are important to you. You have fifteen minutes. It could change your life.

This simple writing exercise may not seem like anything ground-breaking, but its effects speak for themselves. In a university physics class, Akira Miyake from the University of Colorado used it to close the gap between male and female performance. In the university’s physics course, men typically do better than women but Miyake’s study shows that this has nothing to do with innate ability. With nothing but his fifteen-minute exercise, performed twice at the beginning of the year, he virtually abolished the gender divide and allowed the female physicists to challenge their male peers.

— Read the full article at Discover, 1,023 words.
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Interview

"If there weren’t so many bureaucratic hands in the State apparatus, stopping resources from reaching the people, we would have overcome extreme poverty." The newly elected MP of the PSUV in Aragua and ex-Minister for Women and Gender Equality, Maria León spoke with Lucha de Clases to draw up a critical balance-sheet of the September 26 elections, the sabotage of the Venezuelan oligarchy and the need for international solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution."

New Venezuelan socialist MP hammers the deadly hands of bureaucrats in government

By Lucha de Clase
21 November 21 2010 — Lucha de Clase: What is your analysis of the September 26 election results?ML: As a Venezuelan who has dedicated all of her political activity in favour of the social interests of working men and women, and for the struggle for socialism, I look at every political event from a class point of view.
 
In Venezuela we have the phenomenon that Marx and Engels refer to in The Communist Manifesto, which states: “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”
 
 
 
By Edward Ellis
Venezuelanalysis.com

26 November 2010 — In preparation for the nation’s upcoming presidential election of 2012, Venezuelan head of state Hugo Chavez revealed last Monday a draft copy of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) political strategy for the next two years.

During a televised broadcast, Chavez, together with his council of ministers, spoke of the need of the governing PSUV party to consolidate its base and formulate a new strategic map to strengthen its popular support en route to victory in 2012’s presidential contest. — Read the full article at Venezuelanalysis.com, 594 words.

For me what is happening today in Venezuela and much of our America which is in struggle, involves not only the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but also the oligarchy and the working people. I say "working people" because some oligarchs, by the fact that they were born in Venezuela believe that they are part of the people and thus I use the term “working people” to avoid confusion. — Read the full article inside, 2,714 words.
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Nine-member Cuban medical team lugs hospital gear 8 km over mountain trails in cholera rescue mission; violence said exaggerated

 
For years hundreds of Cuban doctors have been conducting a humanitarian mission in Haiti. They were there when the earthquake struck. They're still there coping with the cholera epidemic. Following is an update by Fidel Castro. That's right, President Fidel Castro.
 
By Fidel Castro
Originally published at Granma
 

1 December 2010 — There is a lot to talk about the United States being embroiled in a colossal scandal as the result of the documents published by Wikileaks; nobody doubts their authenticity — notwithstanding any other motivation of that website.
 
However, at this time our country is immersed in a battle against cholera in Haiti, something that becomes a threat for all the other peoples of Latin America and the Third World.
 
In the midst of the consequences of an earthquake that killed and injured more than half a million persons and caused enormous destruction, an epidemic broke out that, almost immediately, was aggravated by the ravages of a hurricane. — Read the full article inside, 934 words.
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Health Watch
 
 
Children especially at risk from anti-bacterial soap and BPA
 
MedicalDaily.com
29 November 2010 — Young people who are overexposed to antibacterial soaps containing triclosan may suffer more allergies, and exposure to higher levels of Bisphenol A among adults may negatively influence the immune system, a new University of Michigan School of Public Health study suggests.

Triclosan is a chemical compound widely used in products such as antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, pens, diaper bags and medical devices. Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in many plastics and, for example, as a protective lining in food cans. Both of these chemicals are in a class of environmental toxicants called endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), which are believed to negatively impact human health by mimicking or affecting hormones.

Using data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, U-M researchers compared urinary BPA and triclosan with cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibody levels and diagnosis of allergies or hay fever in a sample of U.S. adults and children over age 6. Allergy and hay fever diagnosis and CMV antibodies were used as two separate markers of immune alterations. — Read the full article at MedicalDaily.com, 597 words.
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By Brian Mossop
Slate.com
2 December 2010 — In the early 1940s, Dr. Harold Abramson, a New York pediatrician, pored over heartrending reports of babies who accidentally suffocated while they slept. As he reviewed case after case, he noticed that a vast majority of the deaths occurred when babies slept on their stomachs. In a commentary in the Journal of Pediatrics, Abramson suggested that the many case reports of infant suffocation hinted that a newborn's sleeping position might contribute to so-called "crib death," later called SIDS.
 
In the following decades, other researchers noticed that SIDS was less common in countries where infants typically slept on their backs. Fifty years after Abramson's study, the American Academy of Pediatrics formally launched a "Back to Sleep" campaign, instructing parents to put babies to sleep on their backs during their first year. The campaign has been hugely successful: Since it started in 1992, the SIDS rate in the United States has been cut in half.
 
There's a drawback, however: Telling parents not to put babies to sleep on their stomachs has scared them away from placing babies on their bellies altogether. And taking away "tummy time," it turns out, cuts off a pivotal avenue of development. — Read the full article at Slate.com, 1,227 words.
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From the Desk of Dennis Carr, Sustainable Development Editor
 
 
As negotiators, nonprofit organizations, and activists, flock to the Cancún, Mexico luxury resort in droves, serious tensions threaten to derail the process entirely
 
By Tina Gerhardt
29 November 2010 — Expectations are low that the United Nations two-week climate conference, which kicks off in Cancún, Mexico, this Monday, will produce a legally binding international agreement among the 194 nations in attendance. Nonetheless, negotiators, nonprofit organizations, and activists, are flocking to the luxury resort in droves.
 
The climate negotiations in Cancún will seek to achieve four goals: 1. Establish levels of greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions reductions of developed countries, such as the United States; 2. Set ghg reductions for developing countries, such as China and India; 3. Secure funding and technology transfers from developed countries to developing countries, to help them address and adapt to climate change; and 4. Decide on a method to monitor, report and verify (MRV) the agreed upon targets of an international climate treaty.
 
Nations gathering at the summit have made some progress on these topics leading up to the COP 16. All of the world’s leading emitters have agreed to cut their emissions. Historically, the EU and the US are the biggest emitters. This week, the EU reiterated its commitment to 20 percent ghg emissions reductions by 2020 based on 1990 levels, offering a 30 percent reduction if other nations make matching offers. — Read the full article at AlterNet.org, 1,140 words.
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Terrified Disney asked Johnny Depp whether Jack Sparrow was gay

Blastr.com

30 November 2010 — We've all heard the stories of how Disney execs were worried by Johnny Depp's performance in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie—that they felt his mumbling, Keith Richards-inspired delivery wouldn't be accepted by audiences. It turns out that was the least of Disney's worries about Captain Jack Sparrow.

According to Depp in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Disney also worried about the character's sexuality:

"I think it was Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time, who was quoted as saying, 'He's ruining the movie.' It was that extreme—memos, and paper trails, and madness, and phone calls, and agents, and lawyers, and people screaming, and me getting phone calls direct from, you know, upper-echelon Disney-ites, going, 'What's wrong with him? Is he, you know, like some kind of weird simpleton? Is he drunk? By the way, is he gay?"

Depp's answer to being asked about Sparrow's sexuality didn't go over too well:

"I actually told this woman who was the Disney-ite that called me about all that stuff, and asked me the questions, I said to her, 'But didn't you know that all my characters are gay?' Which really made her nervous."

But the film's phenomenal performance at the box office killed any concerns about Depp's performance on the screen, which calmed Disney down.

As usual, money talks. (Via eonline.)
 

In case you missed it ...
 
The Old Man's Last Sauna
A collection of short stories by Carl Dow

An eclectic collection of short stories that will stir your sense of humour, warm your heart, outrage your sense of justice, and chill your extra sensory faculties in the spirit of Stephen King. The final short story, the collection's namesake, The Old Man's Last Sauna is a ground-breaking love story.

The series begins with Deo Volente (God Willing). Followed by The Quintessence of Mr. FlynnSharing LiesFlying HighThe Richest Bitch in the Country or Ginny I Hardly Knows YaOne Lift Too ManyThe Model A Ford, the out-of-body chiller, Room For One Only and O Ernie! ... What Have They Done To You! The series closes with the collection's namesake, The Old Man's Last Saunaa groundbreaking love story. All stories may also be found in the True North Perspective Archives.