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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Radioactive reindeer surprise Norwegian scientists


© UPI.com

Oslo -- Maybe one of them will sprout a bright red nose. Norwegian reindeer are more radioactive than they have been in recent years, possibly owing to their mushroom snacks, researchers said.

Lavrans Skuterud, a scientist at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, said reindeer at Vaga reinlag AS, in the central Norwegian Jotunheimen mountainous area, were found in September to have nearly eight times the amount of radioactive substance Caesium-137 in their bodies as was measured around the same time in 2012.

"This year is extreme," Skuterud told The Local.

Skuterud said gypsy mushrooms, a popular food source for the reindeer as well as for humans, have been known to store high amounts of radioactive material.

"This year, there has been extreme amounts of mushroom. In addition, the mushroom season has lasted for a long time. And the mushroom has grown very high up on the mountains," he said.

Skuterud said the findings were surprising as the source of the Caesium-137, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, is approaching its 30th anniversary. He said the radioactive substance has a 30-year half-life, meaning half of the dust that crossed over to Norway from the disaster will be gone by 2016.

"The level of [radioactivity] in the environment still decreases faster than this. Some of it is washed out and most of it is bound to the soil. Only a small part of it is in circulation throughout the food chain. When we watch the values in the grazing animals in autumn, it bounces up and down, and it seems to be everlasting. But the winter values in reindeer luckily show a stable decrease," he said.

Wal-Mart raises healthcare costs, cuts benefits for some part-timers


© Reuters

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the biggest U.S. private sector employer, said on Tuesday that its 1.3 million workers would have to pay more for healthcare and it would end benefits for some part-time staff in a move that could prompt other companies to follow suit.

The world's largest retailer said it would raise health insurance premiums for its entire U.S. workforce beginning in January. In addition, Wal-Mart will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, a change that will impact 2 percent of U.S. workers, or about 30,000 people.

The move comes as U.S. companies brace for a January 2015 deadline under the Affordable Care Act. Starting then, companies with 50 or more employees will have to offer health insurance to those working at least 30 hours a week, a mandate that has drawn criticism from some companies worried about higher costs.

Wal-Mart, which announced the change in a blogpost on Tuesday, had cited health care expenses as a problem in August, when it cut its 2014 profit forecast. It said more people than expected had enrolled in its plans and its annual forecast for health care costs had risen by 50 percent.

"Like every company, Wal-Mart continues to face rising health care costs," Sally Welborn, senior vice president of global benefits, wrote in the blogpost on the company's website. "This year, the expenses were significant and led us to make some tough decisions as we begin our annual enrollment."

Wal-Mart said the bi-weekly premiums for its most popular and lowest-cost employee-only plans will rise by $3.50 to $21.90, which represents a 19 percent increase. Wal-Mart workers earn on average $12.92 an hour.

The decision to reduce coverage came a week before the company's chief executive, Doug McMillion, is due to face fund managers and analysts at an annual meeting for the investment community. Wal-Mart has been struggling to boost profits, with U.S. same-store sales flat or declining for the last six quarters.

Wal-Mart said the move would bring it in line with many of its competitors. Target Corp (TGT.N) and Home Depot Inc (HD.N) recently announced cuts to benefits in light of the Affordable Care Act.

According to consulting firm Mercer, 62 percent of large retailers did not offer health-care benefits to part-time workers as of 2013, a comparatively high rate that reflects low wages and high turnover in the industry. That figure drops to 37 percent for companies overall.

Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at Edward Jones, said the decision by Wal-Mart could force other retailers to rethink what benefits they provide.

All retailers are "trying to cut expenses, to keep things lean," Yarbrough said. "At some point you start looking across the board, and this is probably the next place to start looking at cuts."

Silver Lining?

Some big retailers, such as coffee chain Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) and Costco (COST.O) offer health coverage to part-time employees.

Critics of Wal-Mart's decision said it would primarily hurt lower-income workers, many of whom are being left behind in the economic recovery.

The jobless rate fell to a six-year low of 5.9 percent in September, according to the U.S. Labor Department. But that number would be much higher if it included the 7.1 million Americans who are working part time but say they need full time jobs.

"Taking away access to healthcare, even though many of my co-workers couldn't afford it anyway, is just another example of Walmart manipulating the system to keep workers like me in a state of financial crisis," Nancy Reynolds, a cashier at a Wal-Mart in Florida and member of Our Walmart, a group pushing for better wages and benefits, said in an email from the group.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was not unusual to hear reports of large companies reducing or eliminating health-care benefits. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, he said the difference now is that workers "have a legitimate alternative where they can acquire high-quality, affordable health care, and that is through the marketplaces that were constructed by the Affordable Care Act."

Others also noted a potential silver lining for some employees who could now apply for government subsidies on the public exchanges for which they would not have been eligible if covered by a corporate plan.

"There is another way employees can get coverage and for some employees it will actually may be a good thing because they'll get a subsidy," said Beth Umland, research director for health and benefits at Mercer.

Wal-Mart's Welborn said on a conference call that the company had not yet figured out how much it would save by cutting benefits. The company said in August it expected to spend $500 million on U.S. healthcare this year, up from its estimate of $330 million just a few months earlier.

Of Wal-Mart's 1.3 million U.S. employees, the company said 1.2 million currently elect to be covered under the company's health insurance plans.

The company said it was changing some eligibility terms for part-time employees working more than 30 hours a week, but did not provide details.

Wal-Mart shares ended down 5 cents at $77.30 in New York, on a day when the market slumped broadly.

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.2 - 121km WSW of El Dorado, Mexico

El Dorado Quake_081014


Event Time

2014-10-08 02:40:54 UTC

2014-10-07 19:40:54 UTC-07:00 at epicenter


23.817°N 108.423°W depth=10.0km (6.2mi)

Nearby Cities

121km (75mi) WSW of El Dorado, Mexico

128km (80mi) SW of Navolato, Mexico

128km (80mi) SW of Campo Gobierno, Mexico

135km (84mi) SW of Costa Rica, Mexico

1077km (669mi) WNW of Mexico City, Mexico

Scientific Data

Civil forfeiture: How the police get away with taking your stuff without charging you with a crime

John Oliver enlisted the help of Jeff Goldblum to hilariously explain one of the least-funny law enforcement practices you've never heard of in Sunday night's episode of "."

The segment explains a disturbing and escalating trend in law enforcement known as "civil forfeiture" - a process by which police can seize items including cash, cars and even houses from civilians who haven't been charged with a crime. Police departments are frequently allowed to keep the items and often-large quantities of cash to purchase things for the department at their discretion and leisure.

During a 2012 citizen police review board hearing, Missouri Police Chief Ken Burton said police routinely decide to seize funds "based on a need" and that there were "not really" any limitations "on the forfeiture stuff."

[embedded content]

"We usually base it on something that would be nice to have," the chief explained in the clip pulled by Oliver. "It's kinda like pennies from heaven, you know, it gets you a toy or something that you need."

Past purchases of these "toys" have included a Zamboni (yes, the machine the resurfaces ice at a skating rink) by one Massachusetts police department and kegs of beer, margarita machines and bottles of Crown Royal by a Texas district attorney's office.

Victims of "civil forfeiture" interviewed included one man carrying about $20,000 in cash to buy a car, another with over $2,000 in cash driving across the country, and the the seizure of a house belonging to the parents of a teenager arrested with $40 worth of illegal drugs.

"That is the sort of police behavior we laugh at other countries for," Oliver said. "Along with their accents and silly hats."

Those seeking to have their possessions returned must prove their property is "innocent" after an initial presumption of guilt.

Oliver then leaves it up to Goldblum to illustrate just how ridiculous that is by interrogating a pile of money.

"Rough night huh?" Goldblum says. "Well, it's about to get a lot rougher. What is $2,500 in cash doing hanging out in somebody's glove box huh? Answer me!"

Comment: Federal civil forfeiture law features an appalling lack of due process: It empowers the government to seize private property from Americans without ever charging, let alone convicting, them of a crime. Perversely, the government then pockets the proceeds while providing no prompt way to get a court to review the seizure. The police are taking advantage of civil forfeiture laws for their own means. Since they are getting away with killing people and their pets with impunity, they feel entitled to do as they please.

Feds seize family grocery store's entire bank account!

Goon cops have gone wild all over America

The police will kill your dog

Pesticide use linked to high rates of depression and suicides among farmers

© Ginnie Peters

Matt Peters, a fourth-generation farmer in Dallas County, Iowa, took his own life in May 2011. The Peters family lives on this farm surrounded by 1,500 acres of fields.

On his farm in Iowa, Matt Peters worked from dawn to dusk planting his 1,500 acres of fields with pesticide-treated seeds. "Every spring I worried about him," said his wife, Ginnie. "Every spring I was glad when we were done."

In the spring of 2011, Ginnie Peters' "calm, rational, loving" husband suddenly became depressed and agitated. "He told me 'I feel paralyzed'," she said. "He couldn't sleep or think. Out of nowhere he was depressed."

A clinical psychologist spoke to him on the phone and urged him to get medical help. "He said he had work to do, and I told him if it's too wet in the morning to plant beans come see me," Mike Rossman said. "And the next day I got the call."

Peters took his own life. He was 55 years old.

No one knows what triggered Peters' sudden shift in mood and behavior. But since her husband's death, Ginnie Peters has been on a mission to not only raise suicide awareness in farm families but also draw attention to the growing evidence that pesticides may alter farmers' mental health.

© Ginnie Peters

Matt Peters left behind his wife, Ginnie, and two children.

"These chemicals that farmers use, look what they do to an insect. It ruins their nervous system," Peters said. "What is it doing to the farmer?"

Farming is a stressful job - uncontrollable weather, physical demands and economic woes intertwine with a personal responsibility for land that often is passed down through generations. But experts say that some of the chemicals used to control pests may make matters worse by changing farmers' brain chemistry.

Recent research has linked long-term use of pesticides to higher rates of depression and suicide. Evidence also suggests that pesticide poisoning - a heavy dose in a short amount of time - doubles the risk of depression.

"For years there was a high level of denial in the farming community that mental illness exists, period," said Lorann Stallones, an epidemiologist and psychology professor at Colorado State University. "But there's been a shift - partly because there's more people talking about being mentally incapacitated."

Depression is the most common mental disability in the United States. About 7 percent of U.S. adults annually experience at least one two-week or longer stretch of depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. There is no national data on whether farmers and their workers are more prone to depression.

The causes are complex. There "are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life," according to a Harvard Medical School report.

Percentage of adults by state with depression

Some research suggests that the chemicals that farmers and their workers spread on fields may alter some of these brain chemicals.

Peters and his wife were among 89,000 farmers and other pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina who have participated in the Agricultural Health Study led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Last month, epidemiologist Freya Kamel and her colleagues reported that among 19,000 studied, those who used two classes of pesticides and seven individual pesticides were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression. Those who used organochlorine insecticides were up to 90 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than those who hadn't used them. For fumigants, the increased risk was up to 80 percent.

"Our study supports a positive association between depression and occupational pesticide use among applicators... and suggests several specific pesticides that deserve further investigation in animal studies and other human populations," the authors wrote in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The major strengths of the research are its large number of participants and its detailed pesticide exposure data, said Stallones, who was not involved in the study.

The applicators were asked about depression when enrolled in the study and then again around 2010. Most previous studies only asked once about depression.

Similar results were found when Kamel and colleagues analyzed the same group from 1993 to 1997. Farmers with the highest number of lifetime exposure days to pesticides were 50 percent more likely to later have a depression diagnosis.

The studies don't prove that pesticides cause depression, but animal testing indicates that it's possible, said Cheryl Beseler, an environmental health researcher at Colorado State University. In rat tests pesticides have altered brain cells, neurotransmitters and production of a protective acid.


These wheat seeds are treated with a systemic insecticide.

In France, farmers who used herbicides were nearly twice as likely to have been treated for depression than those who didn't use herbicides, according to a study published last year. The study of 567 farmers found that the risk was even greater when the herbicide applicators had been doing it for more than 19 years.

The studies suggest that chronic exposure to low levels over time may raise the risk of depression.

"It's not surprising she (Kamel) found the links between depression and those who had been poisoned," Stallones said. "But the association held true for those that didn't report poisoning."

Colorado farmers who suffered pesticide poisoning - a large dose in a short period of time - haddouble the risk of depression during the next three years. In addition, pesticide applicators in the North Carolina and Iowa group who suffered pesticide poisoning were 2.5 more likely to later have a depression diagnosis.

Most insecticides work by disrupting insects' nerve cells. At high enough doses, they can alter human nerve cells as well.

"I don't think there's any question that pesticides can affect the functions of the brain," Kamel said, referring to experiments that found pesticides harm rats' brain tissue and receptors. "There could also be indirect effects. Pesticides can promote other health problems, which could be related to depression."

For instance, Dr. Beate Ritz, a neurologist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that Californians exposed to pesticides are more likely to have Parkinson's disease. One effect of the neurological disease, characterized by a lack of the chemical dopamine, is depression.

Melani Forti, director of health and safety programs for the Association of Farmworkers Opportunity Programs, said one of the biggest challenges in protecting farmworkers is a lack of scientific evidence for health impacts from pesticides.

"A lot of it is anecdotal, we need more research like this from the federal government," she said. Depression "is yet another health effect from pesticides, and farmworkers need to know about this."

© Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Research suggests that pesticides applied by farmers and their workers may alter brain chemicals.

Several studies have linked suicide to pesticide use. In Brazil, workers that used more pesticides were more likely to commit suicide, and in China, a World Health Organization survey of 9,800 people in the rural Zhejiang province revealed that those who stored pesticides in their homes had more than double the risk of having suicidal thoughts.

Wendy Ringgenberg, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, combed through 19 years of national data and reported that farmers and farm workers were 3.6 times more likely to die of suicide than other professions.

However, the study did not examine the causes of suicide.

Ringgenberg noted that "farmers feel occupational stress for many reasons, including management of own company, self-reliance, personal illness, diseases in crop or livestock, long work days, few vacation days, caring for family members, relationships with family members and neighbors, work in a changing world, national and world politics, and weather."

Migrant and seasonal farmworkers face stresses related to working conditions, cultural barriers and being away from home and family, Forti said.

The seven individual pesticides that were linked to depression diagnoses in Kamel's study were the fumigants aluminum phosphide and ethylene dibromide; the phenoxy herbicide 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T); the organochlorine insecticide dieldrin; and the organophosphate insecticides diazinon, malathion and parathion.

© Jetsandzepellins/flickr

Matt Peters did almost all of his own crop spraying and was exposed to a variety of pesticides, including organophosphates.

Of those, "only aluminum phosphide, diazinon, and malathion are still registered and in use," Cathy Milbourn, a spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency, said in an emailed response. The EPA cancelled the registrations of ethylene dibromide, 2,4,5-T, dieldrin, and parathion, Milbourn said. Aluminum phosphide, diazinon, and malathion are undergoing EPA review.

Three of the largest pesticide manufacturers - Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience - said that they do not produce the seven pesticides linked to depression in Kamel's study, but none would comment on the broader issue of mental health and pesticide use.

Many developed countries, including the United States, have phased out organochlorines and organophosphates, but Stallones said regulations do not fully protect workers.

"It's really important to consider chronic low level exposure and most regulatory agencies base their work on acute high level exposure, which is not analogous to 20 years of occupational use of the pesticide," Kamel said. "That's a problem."

Neonocotinoids - the newer class of pesticides that Matt Peters was handling when he committed suicide - weren't included in Kamel's study. However, they are suspected of causing bee die-offs because they harm bees' brains and nervous systems. The chemicals' impacts on humans are unknown since no studies have been conducted.

Peters was heavily exposed to other pesticides, too, including organophosphates, his wife said. "Matt did almost all of his own spraying of the crops," she said.

Ginnie Peters remembers her husband as an even-keeled, kind, loving man who made it a point to treat younger farmers and farm workers with respect.

A fourth-generation farmer, he left behind a son and daughter. His grandfather, also a farmer, suffered from depression as well.

When he died, it "messed with every piece of my being," she said.


Chronic exposure to pesticides may contribute to depression.

While there is no evidence to blame the pesticides Peters was handling on his Dallas County farm, Stallones said it's possible he was poisoned because depression symptoms can show up suddenly after a large dose.

Rossman, the clinical psychologist, said it "certainly seemed that there was a chemical contribution to this man being unable to sleep and emotionally paralyzed."

But when Rossman and Ginnie Peters sent his blood in for chemical analyses, they were unable to get results due to complications at the medical examiner's office.

An adjunct professor in environmental and occupational health at the University of Iowa, Rossman said many farmers are open to hearing about the possible dangers of pesticides. But economic realities remain. "Even if they hear my message, they have to make choices: Do I need to use this chemical for the good of my farm, or do the negative factors - what it could be doing to the insects, food supply and possibly people - make it not worth it?" he said.

Ginnie Peters tries to cope by mounting her new mission: bringing suicide out of the darkness and drawing attention to the chemicals that could be playing a role.

"I don't have ability to do the science," she said, "but I have my gut, and what happened to Matt, it had to be the chemicals."

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First hint of 'life after death' in biggest ever scientific study

Southampton University scientists have found evidence that awareness can continue for at least several minutes after clinical death which was previously thought impossible.

Life After Death

© Shaun Wilkinson/Alamy

Some cardiac arrest patients recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining.

Death is a depressingly inevitable consequence of life, but now scientists believe they may have found some light at the end of the tunnel.

The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.

It is a controversial subject which has, until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism.

But scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.

And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of 'awareness' during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.

One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room.

Despite being unconscious and 'dead' for three minutes, the 57-year-old social worker from Southampton, recounted the actions of the nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines.

"We know the brain can't function when the heart has stopped beating," said Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now at the State University of New York, who led the study.

"But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn't beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped.

"The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experienced lasted for.

"He seemed very credible and everything that he said had happened to him had actually happened."

Of 2060 cardiac arrest patients studied, 330 survived and 140 said they had experienced some kind of awareness while being resuscitated.

Although many could not recall specific details, some themes emerged. One in five said they had felt an unusual sense of peacefulness while nearly one third said time had slowed down or speeded up.

Some recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining. Others recounted feelings of fear or drowning or being dragged through deep water. 13 per cent said they had felt separated from their bodies and the same number said their sensed had been heightened.

Dr Parnia believes many more people may have experiences when they are close to death but drugs or sedatives used in the process of rescuitation may stop them remembering.

"Estimates have suggested that millions of people have had vivid experiences in relation to death but the scientific evidence has been ambiguous at best.

"Many people have assumed that these were hallucinations or illusions but they do seem to corresponded to actual events.

"And a higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits.

"These experiences warrant further investigation. "

Dr David Wilde, a research psychologist and Nottingham Trent University, is currently compiling data on out-of-body experiences in an attempt to discover a pattern which links each episode.

He hopes the latest research will encourage new studies into the controversial topic.

"Most studies look retrospectively, 10 or 20 years ago, but the researchers went out looking for examples and used a really large sample size, so this gives the work a lot of validity.

"There is some very good evidence here that these experiences are actually happening after people have medically died.

"We just don't know what is going on. We are still very much in the dark about what happens when you die and hopefully this study will help shine a scientific lens onto that."

The study was published in the journal .

Dr Jerry Nolan, Editor-in-Chief at said: "Dr Parnia and his colleagues are to be congratulated on the completion of a fascinating study that will open the door to more extensive research into what happens when we die."

Most foods labeled "natural" in U.S. actually contain GMO ingredients

© Alamy

Three tomatoes grown from genetically modified seeds

A majority of US packaged foods labeled as "natural" and tested by Consumer Reports actually contained a substantial level of genetically modified ingredients, according to a report issued Tuesday by the non-profit product testing group.

Consumers are being misled by the "natural" label, said Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability.

Consumer Reports said it had conducted a survey of more than 80 different processed foods containing corn or soy, the two most widely grown genetically engineered crops in the United States, to determine whether labeling claims for GMO presence were accurate.

While foods labeled as "non-GMO", or "organic" were found to be free of genetically modified corn and soy, virtually all of the foods labeled as "natural" or not labeled with any claim related to GMO content contained substantial amounts of GMO ingredients, Consumer Reports said.

GMOs were present in breakfast cereals, chips and infant formula, the group said.

The organization said it tested at least two samples of each of the 80 products to measure GMO content. The products were purchased between April and July 2014, the group said.

Products considered to be free of GMOs contained no more than 0.9% genetically modified corn or soy.

The report comes as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 300 food companies, is pushing the federal government to develop a definition of the term "natural" on food packaging, and to allow foods containing GMOs to be labeled as natural.

Some food manufacturers have been sued for using "all natural" labels on products that contain genetically modified ingredients.

Biotech crops currently on the market include corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets that have been genetically altered to repel pests or tolerate direct spraying of herbicides. The companies that develop them say the crops are safe. Many scientific studies back those claims.

But critics point to studies that show links to human and animal health problems and environmental damage. Last October, an international coalition of scientists said there is a lack of consensus in the scientific community about the safety of genetically modified crops.

Vermont has passed a law that requires foods containing GMO ingredients to be labeled as such, and more than 20 other states are considering mandatory labeling of GMO foods, including Colorado and Oregon, which have the issue on the ballot for the November election.

The policy arm of Consumer Reports, Consumers Union, supports mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs.

Big Pharma rip off: Why do Americans allow it?

© David K/flickr/cc

America spends a fortune on drugs, more per person than any other nation on earth, even though Americans are no healthier than the citizens of other advanced nations.

According to a new federal database put online last week, pharmaceutical companies and device makers paid doctors some $380 million in speaking and consulting fees over a five-month period in 2013.

Some doctors received over half a million dollars each, and others got millions of dollars in royalties from products they helped develop.

Doctors claim these payments have no effect on what they prescribe. But why would drug companies shell out all this money if it didn't provide them a healthy return on their investment?

America spends a fortune on drugs, more per person than any other nation on earth, even though Americans are no healthier than the citizens of other advanced nations.

Of the estimated $2.7 trillion America spends annually on health care, drugs account for 10 percent of the total.

Government pays some of this tab through Medicare, Medicaid, and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. But we pick up the tab indirectly through our taxes.

We pay the rest of it directly, through higher co-payments, deductibles, and premiums.

Drug company payments to doctors are a small part of a much larger strategy by Big Pharma to clean our pockets.

Another technique is called "product hopping" - making small and insignificant changes in a drug whose patent is about to expire, so it's technically new.

For example, last February, before its patent expired on Namenda, its widely used drug to treat Alzheimer's, Forest Laboratories announced it would stop selling the existing tablet form of in favor of new extended-release capsules called Namenda XR.

The capsules were just a reformulated version of the tablet. But even the minor change prevented pharmacists from substituting generic versions of the tablet.

Result: Higher profits for Forest Labs and higher costs for you and me.

Another technique is for drug companies to continue to aggressively advertise prescription brands long after their twenty-year patents have expired, so patients ask their doctors for them. Many doctors will comply.

America is one of few advanced nations that allow direct advertising of prescription drugs.

A fourth tactic is for drug companies to pay the makers of generic drugs to delay their cheaper versions. These so-called "pay-for-delay" agreements generate big profits for both the proprietary manufacturers and the generics. But here again, you and I pay. The tactic costs us an estimated $3.5 billion a year.

Europe doesn't allow these sorts of payoffs, but they're legal in the United States because the major drug makers and generics have fought off any legislative attempts to stop them.

Finally, while other nations set wholesale drug prices, the law prohibits the U.S. government from using its considerable bargaining power under Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate lower drug prices. This was part of the deal Big Pharma extracted for its support of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

The drug companies say they need the additional profits to pay for researching and developing new drugs.

But the government supplies much of the research Big Pharma relies on, through the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, Big Pharma is spending more on advertising and marketing than on research and development - often tens of millions to promote a single drug.

And it's spending hundreds of millions more every year lobbying. Last year alone, the lobbying tab came to $225 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That's more than the formidable lobbying expenditures of America's military contractors.

In addition, Big Pharma is spending heavily on political campaigns. In 2012, it shelled out over $36 million, making it the biggest political contributor of all American industries.

Why do we put up with this? It's too facile to say we have no choice given how much the industry is spending on politics. If the public were sufficiently outraged, politicians and regulatory agencies wouldn't allow this giant ripoff.

But the public isn't outraged. That's partly because much of this strategy is hidden from public view.

But I think it's also because we've bought the ideological claptrap of the "free market" being separate from and superior to government.

And since private property and freedom of contract are the core of the free market, we assume drug companies have every right to charge what they want for the property they sell.

Yet in reality the "free market" can't be separated from government because government determines the rules of the game.

It determines, for example, what can be patented and for how long, what side payoffs create unlawful conflicts of interest, what basic research should be subsidized, and when government can negotiate low prices.

The critical question is not whether government should play a role in the market. Without such government decisions there would be no market, and no new drugs.

The issue is how government organizes the market. So long as big drug makers have a disproportionate say in these decisions, the rest of us pay through the nose.

Four men arrested, tasered on vague "suspicion" they "may have" foiled the "early stages of" a plan to attack the UK.

threat level

© n/a

Whitehall officials told the BBC the arrests "may have foiled the early stages" of a plan to attack the UK.

The men - two aged 21 and two aged 20 - were held by counter-terrorism police.

They were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, Scotland Yard said.

Officials said one individual had spent time in Syria. There was no word on alleged targets or how far advanced the alleged plot was.

Those arrested were taken to police stations in central London and remain in custody.

A number of residential addresses and vehicles are continuing to be searched by specialist officers in west and central London as part of the investigation.

Firearms officers assisted in one of the arrests but no shots were fired.

A 21-year-old who was Tasered by officers was not injured and did not require medical treatment, police said.

Ocala, Florida breaks 84-year old cold record

© Isocrates.us

Children were bundled at bus stops. Workers left home in sweaters and light jackets. Heat pumps switched on earlier than normal.

Monday morning, the temperature dipped to 49 degrees in Ocala - a record low for the day.

The previous record was 50 degrees, set in 1930. The official measuring site is the city water plant at Southeast 36th Avenue just north of Maricamp Road.

Monday morning's daybreak low temperatures ranged from 46 degrees near Salt Springs to 52 degrees in Ocala.

The official forecast for rainfall and temperatures can range significantly throughout Marion County. The county's official forecast is issued by the weather service, while the Star-Banner's weather page uses AccuWeather forecasts. Sometimes those predictions differ.

National Weather Service forecaster Kate Guillet said the cold front began pushing through late Friday night from the central Plains, bringing relief to a very wet three weeks in Marion County.

"It brought cooler and drier weather," she noted. "The temperatures dropped very quickly because there were no clouds (to hold in the heat)."

Sunday's morning low in Ocala hit 50 degrees, just missing the record of 49 degrees set in 1987.

While Gainesville broke a record on Sunday morning, hitting 47 degrees, Monday's low dipped to 49 degrees, a degree more than the Oct. 6 record of 48 degrees set in 1979.

The weather service's official forecast is calling for daybreak low temperatures to be in the low 60s for the next few days and then reach the mid-60s through Sunday. High temperatures will hit the upper-80s through Sunday.

Moldova joins anti-Russian coalition: 4 TV channels fined for re-broadcasting Russian programs

© Flickr/ Robert S. Donovan

Moldova Suspends Russia’s Rossiya-24 TV Channel Until 2015

Moldova's authorities have on Tuesday fined four local TV channels for re-broadcasting Russian programs over "anti-Ukrainian coverage of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine."

Moldova's decision to ban Russia 24 TV news channel for the next six months until January 1, 2015 is outrageous and will certainly produce a negative impact on the Russian-Moldovan relations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in July.

"It is clear that Moldova took this step under a far-fetched pretext on the wave of euphoria from signing an association agreement with the European Union. However, the decision does not meet an integral right of citizens to free access to information, one of the basic European democratic principles, which Chisinau is zealously trying to observe," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement.

Moldova has banned rebroadcasting of Russia's Russia 24 television channel being driven by the desire to please the United States and the European Union, Konstantin Starysh, a lawmaker with the Party of Communists and former chief of the Moldovan office of the MIR television company, told TASS.

"Nearly half of lawmakers were against the ratification of Moldova's Association Agreement with the European Union out of fears that it might complicate relations with Russia," he said. "The authorities tried to persuade us that they would do their best to remain in good relations with the strategic partner. And here is their first step - to ban Russian television channels on the territory of the republic."

The irony: Life long vegetarian Morrissey reveals he's being treated for cancer

Vegan Morrissey

Morrissey is being treated for cancer.

The former Smiths singer has been in hospital on several occasions over the last 18 months and he has now revealed that doctors have also been dealing with cancerous tissue in his body.

Despite his diagnosis, the 55-year-old songwriter insists he isn't afraid of death and accepts it is something that comes to us all.

Although he did not reveal what type of cancer he has, Morrissey confessed to Spanish newspaper El Mundo: "They have scraped cancerous tissues four times already, but whatever. If I die, then I die. And if I don't, then I don't.

"Right now I feel good. I am aware that in some of my recent photos I look somewhat unhealthy, but that's what illness can do. I'm not going to worry about that, I'll rest when I'm dead."

Morrissey's health issues have included a bleeding ulcer in early 2013, a double bout of pneumonia in March 2013, food poisoning in July 2013 and a respiratory infection in June 2014 which forced him to cancel his US tour.

The Irish Blood, English Heart singer also claimed he's at an age where he should have stopped making music and thinks he may retire from songwriting and performing once he has completed his first novel.

Morrissey - who was dropped by Harvest Records shortly after the release of his 10th studio album, World Peace is None of Your Business, in July - said: "I'm at an age when one should no longer be making music.

"Many composers of classical music died at age 34. And I'm still here, and nobody knows what to do with me. The audience that I have is very young, which leads me to think that the songs of the Smiths, as with those of the Ramones, are more significant now than before

"My novel is coming along well, but it would be presumptuous of me to talk about something that is not finalised yet. It will probably be published next year and with luck I will be able to stop singing forever, which would make many people happy!"

Comment: Though it's sad to hear of a talented musician being diagnosed with cancer, it is hard to ignore the irony of a situation in which a strong proponent of a supposedly "healthy" vegetarian lifestyle should develop such a myriad of illnesses at such a relatively young age. One can't help but wonder if his dietary choices are what's most responsible for his present state of poor health.

The Vegetarian Myth

Study: Vegetarians are less healthy and have a lower quality of life than meat-eaters

Burying The Vegetarian Hypothesis

The Naive Vegetarian

One must also wonder, if Morrissey had been Keto-adapted or had even been following a Paleo diet, whether he might be in such robust health as to grace us with his talent for many years to come.

No stranger to controversy, Morrissey has gone on record to say that 'eating meat is as bad as paedophilia' and there is 'no difference' between the abattoir and supporting Auschwitz. Just last week he launched a new brand of t-shirt with the slogan 'Be kind to animals or I'll kill you'

Viva Hate, indeed.

Grey Lady ghost caught on camera for first time

Dudley Castle Ghost_1

© Birmingham Mail

The shot of the Sharington Range Tudor palace, taken from the top of Dudley Castle tower, which showed a red glow to the upper rooms and a ghostly figure in the archway beneath (inset).

She's the ghost who has supposedly haunted Dudley Castle for centuries.

Now Birmingham couple Dean and Amy Harper believe they have captured a chilling image of the fabled Grey Lady - after taking photos in the tourist attraction's courtyard.

A simple snap of the Sharington Range - buildings erected within the castle in the mid-1500s - oozed paranormal activity, but was hidden at the time it was taken.

Upper rooms glowed red and there, in the archway below, was a blurred figure in trademark grey.

Dean said: "We went up to the castle ruins and while we were up there we thought we'd get some pictures of the grounds.

Dudley Castle Ghost_2

© Birmingham Mail

The Grey Lady of Dudley Castle.

"On looking through the images that night, Amy saw a glow, as though a light was on, on the top window level. On zooming in we noticed on the bottom, inside an arch, there was a lady and what appears to be a little girl, too.

"Neither of us are ghost hunters but we do wonder if this could be the Grey Lady ghost - the picture is quite clear."

Built in 1071, Dudley is believed to be the most haunted castle in England, with the Grey Lady the most famous spook. She is reputed to be the spirit of Dorothy Beaumont, who died, along with her baby, shortly after childbirth.

On her deathbed, Dorothy asked for two things. She wanted to be buried next to her daughter and for her husband to attend the funeral.

Neither happened, so she is condemned to wander the castle and its grounds. Her favourite haunts are the castle keep and Grey Lady Tavern, a pub named after her.

Dudley Castle

© Birmingham Mail

Dudley Castle courtyard.

The picture, taken on August 30, has certainly excited Jill Hitchman, head of media and communications at Dudley Zoo, which is in the castle grounds.

She said: "There have been many stories about ghostly figures and happenings associated with the castle, mostly centred within the courtyard.

"This image is incredible because it was taken from the top of the castle on a mobile phone camera and still manages to pick out the outline of what seems to be a female figure in the doorway."

Nick Duffy, leading light in West Midlands Ghost Club, said: "It is a nice photograph. It is a credible photograph in comparison to a lot you do see. Time and again, we have been sent blatantly faked photographs."

China and India: Dragon and Elephant tiptoe a tango, iron out critical agreements

© Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L front) and his wife Peng Liyuan lay a wreath to the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi, India, Sept. 18, 2014

The China-India economic relationship is one of the fastest growing in the world: Bilateral trade has grown from virtually zero to $100 billion in just over a decade, and Chinese exports to India grew at 39 per cent a year since 2001.

India's rank as an export destination went up from nineteen to six, for China's exporters.

India's exports to China didn't keep the same pace, however, and as a result, the trade today is skewed in China's favour, by two to one. While India imports consumer and capital goods from China, its exports are mainly primary goods like ores, metals and cotton.

This growing imbalance spells ill health and unsustainability for the future of bilateral trade relations.

Furthermore the large trade numbers are not matched by any investment flows, in either direction.

In two decades, China's cumulative Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India is less than $1 billion, and India's investment into China is similarly low.

There are other signs of occasional friction and trade squabbles. Indian industry is suspicious of below cost dumping by Chinese exporters eager to harness India's relatively high growth, as the slowdown continued in conventional export markets Europe and North America.

As such India has slapped several cases of anti-dumping against China, consistent with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), of which both are members.

For its part, China seems to have raised hurdles in the export of pharmaceuticals and IT services, which are India's forte.

Notwithstanding these relatively minor irritants, growth in trade continues strongly.

Harnessing each other's advantages

In the past four years, the two countries have held three rounds of high-level Strategic Economic Dialogue discussing issues of trade, investment and economic cooperation in sectors like railways, infrastructure and energy.

Against this background, the maiden visit of President Xi Jinping to India this past week was much awaited by both sides. When he came into office last year, he had articulated five proposals to improve Sino-Indian ties.

He said that the two countries should maintain strategic communication, harness each other's comparative advantages, strengthen cultural ties, expand coordination in multilateral fora, and accommodate each other's core concerns and differences.

The last point refers to border disputes, treatment of Tibet's status and India's concern about protecting its downstream (river) riparian rights.

Nevertheless, Xi's visit was expected to strengthen trade relations, especially by boosting investment flows into India, as a counter to the growing trade gap.

His visit came soon after the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan, which resulted in New Delhi receiving a significant investment commitment from Tokyo.

There are many similarities between the two leaders of the two most populous nations in the world. Modi won a historic mandate in May to form a government with an absolute majority in the lower house of India's parliament.

The last time any single party won an absolute majority was 30 years ago. Modi is seen as a nationalist and reformist leader, with a track record of having led a provincial government for three consecutive terms, and someone who is intolerant of corruption.

During his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat, the state recorded China-like growth rates.

Xi too was elevated to the highest office with an implicit mandate to consolidate the diffusion of political power, to re-balance the economy away from investment toward consumption, to reduce social and economic inequality, and most importantly to crack down on corruption.

Like Modi, Xi too is seen as a strongman who will wield his power to pursue reform and an anti-corruption agenda.

Leadership 'bonhomie'

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan began their visit to India, not from the capital Delhi, but from Ahmedabad, the capital of Modi's home state.

The visit included Xi donning khadi (handspun Indian) clothes and making a trip to Gandhi's ashram (hermitage). He received a gift of the Hindu Bhagwad Gita epic scripture translated in Chinese, and a Gandhi autobiography. This itself signaled the bonhomie between the two leaders.

During the trip, trade ministers from both countries signed a five-year trade and economic development plan - this pact includes a commitment of an investment of $20 billion.

This is the first step toward restoring some balance in the trade asymmetry. The investment will include two industrial parks, one dedicated to the power sector and the other to automotive industry.

The size of the investment, however, fell short of the $100 billion touted in the lead up to Xi's visit.

But there were 16 other pacts signed of various sizes, including commercial loans from ICBC to Indigo Airlines. There was also an agreement which facilitates market access to Indian pharmaceuticals, handicrafts, textiles, and gems and jewelry.

In the detailed formal talks in Delhi, Modi brought up the thorny issue of periodic military incursions. The mention of this, in an otherwise friendly-fest atmosphere, did not vitiate, as much as point to the fact that the mutual relationship had reached a maturity to accommodate such frankness.

India and China have much to gain due to complementarity of their investment predicament. China has excess foreign exchange reserves, earning a pittance. Whereas India has a hunger for a trillion dollars of long term funding for infrastructure which can earn a healthy return.

The two countries' views on climate change, nuclear power and their positions regarding the WTO are mostly aligned.

Xi's maiden visit fell short on encashing these synergies, but has left open the possibility of a tighter embrace in the near future.

Life After Death? This is what people experience as the brain shuts down

Eyes Shut

© Hasibul Haque Sakib

The largest ever study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has found that 40% of people have some 'awareness', even after they are considered clinically dead.

Fifteen hospitals in the US, UK and Australia took part in the four-year study.

Over 2,000 people were included in the research, all of whom had suffered cardiac arrest (Parnia et al., 2014).

Of those people, 330 survived and were asked afterwards what they had experienced.

Amongst the survivors, 140 said they had some kind of awareness or experience while they were before they were brought back to life.

One woman reported being aware of the medical staff, and described hearing the medical equipment around her beeping.

Another man recalled leaving his body and watching from a distance as medical staff worked on his body.

While many did not have very specific details about what happened after their hearts stopped, one-fifth reported a feeling of peacefulness.

One-third noticed that time seemed to either speed up or slow down in this period.

Others talked about the sensation of being dragged through water, or of seeing a bright flash.

Around 13% had an out-of-body experience which included a heightening of the senses.

The researchers believe one person showed evidence of conscious awareness three minutes after their heart had stopped beating.

This is hard to explain because typically the brain stops functioning around 20-30 seconds after cardiac arrest.

Dr. Sam Parnia, who led the study, said at its inception:

"Contrary to popular perception, death is not a specific moment.

It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning - a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.

During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present.

There then follows a period of time, which may last from a few seconds to an hour or more, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process.

What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process."

Battleground America: militarization rampant as US Army surplus even going to coroners


The Pentagon's 1033 Program, which is militarizing state and local police forces with everything from high-powered firearms to armored vehicles, is also giving weapons to officials who have no law enforcement functions.

The practice is leading watchdogs and even some US government officials to question why the US military is so desperate to unload its cache of used military hardware that it is even willing to arm a local coroner, and other state and local officials who have no apparent need for firepower.

Doug Wortham is the coroner in Sharp County, Arkansas, whose working day consists of dealing with dead people. Nevertheless, he used the Defense Department's 1033 program to acquire an assault rifle, a handgun and a Humvee.

Explaining his need for the extra firepower, Wortham, who qualified for the program because as a coroner he is invested with the authority to arrest, told : "I just wanted to protect myself."

It was also reported that the coroner's office acquired items through the program but forfeited its rights last year following revelations about some of its procurements, including a kayak.

"Why would a coroner's office need a kayak?" asked Tina Owens, deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, as cited by .

Civic watchdog groups have been sounding the alarm over the militarization of local and state law enforcement agencies for years. However, the August shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, followed by violent protests that pitted hundreds of protesters against heavily armed police clad in military gear, attracted public attention to the issue.

© Reuters / Bill Waugh

In August, the White House ordered a review of the 1033 Program, which mostly delivered excess weapons and tactical equipment to local police departments.

According to the report, however, numerous government agencies not directly connected with law enforcement also took advantage of the gun giveaway, including "government agencies that enforce gaming laws at Kansas tribal casinos and weigh 18-wheelers in Mississippi, to the Wyoming Livestock Board and the Cumberland County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in Fayetteville, North Carolina."

Here are some of the agencies that received weapons and military gear through the program: The harbormaster in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, received a Humvee for negotiating tough terrain and "a night-vision scope to spot boaters in the dark;" the Arkansas Tobacco Control agency acquired five 12-gauge shotguns for its agents, "who help regulate tobacco retailers and wholesalers;" the Wyoming Livestock Board, which provides Glocks and .45-caliber handguns to its officers "who investigate cattle thefts and other industry-related crimes;" the Mississippi Department of Transportation got seven M-14 rifles through the program, AP reported.

Any investigation into the weapons giveaway, however, will be hampered by the program's cloak of secrecy that only reveals information on the county level regarding the transfers. Meanwhile, battlefield-grade equipment accounted for "a fraction" of the used items available, with some agencies participating in the program to receive office equipment and other such goods, said.

It was only through information voluntarily provided to that it was able to discover the destination of the inventories.

© AFP Photo / Michael B. Thomas

Police officers fire canisters of tear gas on protestors as they try to flee from West Florissant Road in Ferguson, Missouri.

Meanwhile, it was earlier revealed that at least 26 school districts have participated in the Pentagon's weapons program, which since the 1990s has provided free military surplus goods, including mine-resistant armored vehicles, grenade launchers and M16 rifles.

Last month, the San Diego Unified School District Police Department (SDUSD) announced that it had received from the federal government a $733,000 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle similar to the models used in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Although the 18-ton vehicle does not come with any weapons, watchdog groups are wondering exactly what type of school emergency would require the use of an armored military vehicle.

The ongoing militarization of school police departments has been explained by incidences of violence on school grounds, most notably the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which left 15 dead, including the two perpetrators of the shooting spree.

In September, almost two dozen educational and civil rights groups sent a letter to Pentagon officials, urging them to stop militarizing US school police departments, which have been reported in California, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Florida, Georgia, Kansas and Michigan.

"Adding the presence of military-grade weapons to school climates that have become increasingly hostile due to their over-reliance on police to handle routine student discipline can only exacerbate existing tensions," said the protest letter, signed by a number of groups, including the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Children's Law Center and Public Counsel.

President Barack Obama in August ordered a review of federal programs that allow state and local law enforcement to acquire military-grade weapons and equipment.

A second 1,300 year-old ancient village discovered in Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park

Archaeologists have uncovered a second ancient village in Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park that is 1,300 years old.

The latest basket-maker village dates between 200 A.D. and 700 A.D., based on the types of pottery found, according to Bill Reitze, the park's archaeologist. It was discovered this summer, following the first discovery last year of similar slab-lined pit-houses.

These are dwelling structures dug into the ground unique to the Southern Colorado Plateau and found throughout the park, but not often in these high concentrations, Reitze said.

Both of the large basket-maker sites are in neighboring, stabilized sand dunes less than a kilometer apart, Reitze said. The discoveries were made as part of an expansion project that has doubled the park's size after Congress passed the Petrified Forest National Park Expansion Act of 2004.

"There are not a lot of national parks that have the opportunity to get bigger like this to protect sites and produce future research," Reitze told ABC News. "A lot of archaeology happens in response to development. What makes this unique is new sites are discovered, research [is] being done and all these sites are being protected, all at once."

The artifacts are primarily stone tools, including spear points, scrapers and knives, made out of petrified wood, shells and small early ceramics. Last year, ruins of a multi-story house were discovered that may have been part of a trade network.

"It's really interesting because it really allows us to see on a larger scale things we've noticed in other areas in the park," Reitze said.

The park is split between Navajo and Apache counties.

Reitze said he plans to record additional discoveries and date what they've found with radiocarbon.

One of Reitze's colleagues will be conducting an ethno-botanical study to analyze prehistoric sites.

"Because the park is doubling in size, we are finding something every day -- certainly not like these sites, but we are finding things every day," he said.

Gerald Celente: Global economy weakened by insane sanctions imposed on Russia

grocery shopping EU economy downtrend

The European economy and much of the global economy is on a severe downtrend. Sanctions on Russia are adding to the misery.

Sanctions and trade wars between Russia and the West will have severe economic consequences, Gerald Celente, publisher of the Trends Journal, told RT. He added that it is "absolutely insane" to impose sanctions when much of the global economy is so weak.

RT: US Vice President Joe Biden admitted that the US had to - in his words - embarrass Europe into sanctioning Russia. But how embarrassing is this revelation for Brussels?

Gerald Celente: Well I do not think it is embarrassing at all for them, because they have been kowtowing to what America wants them to do now probably since the end of World War II. So it is very clear that Europe does not have what it takes to stand on its own.

And worse than that, well not worse than that but equal to it, is that this is at a time when the European economy and much of the global economy is on a severe downtrend. And to have sanctions at a time when the economy is weak is absolutely insane. And I say that not for myself. If you pick up today's Financial Times - a warning over global economic growth, from the Brookings Institution. If you go back to Friday - IMF expects to cut its forecasts following the loss of output momentum. And I could go on and on. One forecast after another showing slowing economic growth. And sanctions on Russia? To destabilize the region even more? It is insanity.

RT: Germany's coordinator for Russian affairs, Gernot Erler, said because the issue is so serious, Europe's economic interests are put on the back burner...But does that make sense? Economic or otherwise?

GC: They do not make sense at all in anything they have done. By their deeds you shall know them. Show me one success that America and NATO has had since it's been on this war path of aggression?

They did a great job in Afghanistan. It is only the longest war in American history. It's wonderful, we're now back in Iraq bombing away. Look what Obama, the humanitarian peace prize winner, did to Libya. Now we are involved in Syria. It is one losing adventure after the other. Why would any sane person believe that the strategies that they are putting in place are going to bring anything more than more war, and more hardship to anyone involved?

RT: Germany's factory orders had their sharpest drop since 2009 in August. Yet Chancellor Merkel says it's too early to lift sanctions imposed on Russia. How big is the risk for the country's economy with sanctions remaining in place?

GC: It is huge, because when you look again, just look at the facts..."IMF warns new threats against global economy due to global risk taking." This was September 17. "Rich countries risk permanently weak demand - IMF." This is from September 30. How much more proof do people need, to see where the trend is leading?

So to say these sanctions aren't going to hurt? They are not only going to hurt Europe, they are going to hurt Russia. And they are going to weigh down on the global economy because following trade war sanctions, you have real wars. So this is just a mix of more volatility.

At least 19 dead as a result of artillery strikes on Donetsk over past 24 hours


At least 19 people died as a result of artillery strikes on Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, over the past 24 hours, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk's People Republic defense ministry's political department, Eduard Basurin told TASS on Tuesday.

Over the 24 hours at least three militias were killed and another 36 fighters were injured, Basurin said.

Earlier, the press service of the self-proclaimed Donetsk's People Republic Interior Ministry said the remains of the bodies of four people were found after artillery strikes between the village of Biryuzovo and the cemetery of the mine 29. A criminal case was launched under the article 'murder of two or more people'."

Artillery fire hit the Kievsky, Kuibyshevsky and Kalininsky districts, the report states.

"Some people were killed at the scene and other people died in ambulances and hospitals," the press service said.

According to the Interior Ministry's data, a man born in 1941 was wounded from shrapnel when artillery strikes hit the area of Gladkovka.

Seattle to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day

Indigenous Peoples' Day

Seattle City Council passed a unanimous decision on Monday to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The Seattle City Council passed a unanimous decision on Monday to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day in the city.

Tribal members and other supporters say that the move recognizes the rich history of people who have inhabited the area for centuries.

Last week, the Seattle School Board decided to have its schools observe Indigenous Peoples' Day on the same day as Columbus Day; earlier this year, Minneapolis made the same decision.

As Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Nation, a tribe on the Olympic Peninsula, said, "This action will allow us to bring into current present day our valuable and rich history, and it's there for future generations to learn."

Sharp's statement that "nobody discovered Seattle, Washington," was met with a round of applause.

ABC News reports that several Italian-Americans objected to the change on the grounds that while Indigenous People's Day honors the heritage one group, it simultaneously disregards the Italian heritage of another group. After all, Columbus Day, a federal holiday, commemorates the arrival Christopher Columbus - who was Italian - to the Americas in 1492.

"We don't argue with the idea of Indigenous Peoples' Day, said Ralph Fascitelli, an Italian-American resident of Seattle. "We do have a big problem of it coming at the expense of what essentially is Italian Heritage Day."

Fascitelli added that many Americans of Italian heritage "feel disrespected" by the change.

Councilmember Nick Licata, who is Italian-American, said he saw the legislation as allowing everyone to celebrate a new day where everyone's strength is recognized.

Seattle councilmember Bruce Harrell, who co-sponsored the resolution, said that he makes "no excuses for this legislation" and noted that he believes the city won't be successful in its social programs and outreach until "we fully recognize the evils of our past."

According to Mayor Ed Murray's spokesman Jason Kelly, Murray is expected to sign the resolution.

Escalation of war in Ukraine? Victoria Nuland arrives in Kiev

Victoria Nuland

© Unknown

Victoria Nuland, previously foreign policy adviser to vice-president Dick Cheney. Married to neo-con Robert Kagan. The administrations change in the US, but the same people keep popping up in key positions.

In an ominous sign that the war in Ukraine is set to further escalate, US state department official Victoria Nuland arrived in Kiev where she met with senior members of the Western-backed regime.

In recent days the ceasefire brokered on September 5 has come under intense pressure as Kiev military forces have stepped up their barrage of the eastern city of Donetsk, with several civilian casualties reported almost on a daily basis.

As civilian homes burn in Donetsk, the Kiev regime has also begun openly talking about resuming its war footing by «raising combat readiness» and mobilising new army units toward the eastern Donbass regions, where it is trying to suppress a pro-independence movement in the self-declared People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

For the past month, the Kiev regime has been talking out of both sides of its mouth. At times it has been declaring commitment to a ceasefire brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At other times, hardliners in the regime have been warning that there was no such truce in practice, and that it was on the verge of an all-out war with Russia.

All the while, the putative ceasefire has been in tatters largely because Kiev's forces have refused to withdraw from the conflict lines and continued to shell civilians centres.

Now the Kiev President Petro Poroshenko has flipped to a strident war rhetoric. In a televised appearance this week, the former industry tycoon had swapped his tie and suit for military uniform, and was warning that forces under his command were ready to use «modern fighting techniques».

Poroshenko said that «Ukraine has transferred its economy to a military footing and will provide everything possible for the Ukrainian army to be stronger». This while his bankrupt country owes Russia $5.3 billion in unpaid gas bills.

Last week his hardline Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk declared that Kiev's military had been replenished with new equipment and winter gear.

The timing of this renewed militarism across the board in Kiev's political leadership - together with increasing violations of the ceasefire in the east - seems more than coincidental with the arrival of eminence grise Victoria Nuland.

Nuland, who is Assistant Secretary of State to John Kerry, hasn't been in Kiev since March. For the past seven months, she has taken a noticeably low profile with regard to Ukraine. Her absence was no doubt aimed at deflecting from her earlier controversial involvement in overseeing the CIA-backed coup on February 22, when the elected government of then President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed by the fascist cabal headed up by Yatsenyuk.

Two weeks before that coup, Nuland had been caught in a private phone call with the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, plotting on the shape of the new regime, with Yatsenyuk nominated as the point man. Nuland was also caught disparaging the European Union with expletives, in a clear signal that Washington was taking the driving seat to install the new regime, headed up by their man «Yats».

Yatsenyuk's Fatherland Party and the neo-Nazi Svoboda party, with its Right Sector stormtroopers, have dominated the regime's anti-Russia policies ever since. Following a secret visit to Kiev in April by CIA director John Brennan, the regime embarked on a massive military offensive to suppress dissident ethnic Russian populations in the east of the country who were refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the US-backed coup.

That offensive - dubbed an anti-terror operation - has been largely under-reported by Western news media, even though it has resulted in more than 3,600 deaths and up to one million refugees. Most of the casualties have been civilian, with a Russian Investigative Committee reporting last week that at least 2,500 people have been killed from indiscriminate shelling of civilian centres in Donetsk and Luhansk by Kiev forces. The latter comprise regular army units, as well as neo-Nazi paramilitaries belonging to the so-called National Guard and various private militia (death squads) run by pro-Kiev oligarch figures, such as Igor Kolomoisky.

Both Washington and Brussels have obfuscated this terror campaign by affecting to give it legality by referring to the Kiev regime as the «government of Ukraine». Washington and Brussels have also amplified Kiev's diversionary propaganda accusing Russia of covert aggression and destabilising the Donbass regions. Moscow has consistently denied any involvement; and Western governments, the Kiev regime and NATO have not produced a shred of verifiable proof to support their tendentious claims against Russia.

Russia's President Putin and the OSCE chairman, Didier Burkalter, who is also the Swiss president, this week reiterated that all sides in the Ukrainian conflict must abide by the terms of the ceasefire signed in Minsk on September 5.

But it seems that Kiev is now moving to dispel any pretence of recognising that ceasefire.

Since the truce was called - and apparently signed up to by Kiev's President Poroshenko - the pro-independence Russian-speaking militia in Donbass have claimed that Kiev's forces were only using the lull in violence as an opportunity to regroup.

Speaking on September 8, Donetsk People's Republic deputy premier Andrei Purgin said: «They are doing what was impossible without truce conditions. All the movements of convoys would have been impossible. During the truce, convoys of combat vehicles are reaching destinations and preparing for attacks.»

Poroshenko's public role in all this seems to have been to give an outward impression of adhering to a cessation and paving the way for political dialogue with the dissident regions.

However, that impression has to be set against continual breaches of the ceasefire and mounting civilian casualties by his forces, relentless anti-Russian rhetoric from the hardliners like Yatsenyuk, and the supply of military aid to the Kiev regime from Washington - the last tranche worth $53 million was announced while Poroshenko was being feted in the White House three weeks ago.

This week on the day that Nuland landed in Kiev, the regime announced what many suspected all along - that it was merely using the month-old ceasefire as a tactical launchpad to redouble its military operations.

Andrey Lysenko, Kiev's National Defence and Security Council spokesman, said on Monday: «We have managed to upgrade the equipment currently in service, to get new armaments, and to reorganise and retool the defence industries that manufacture armaments and repair hardware.» He added: «We have also managed to regroup our forces, to carry out deep reconnaissance and to gather more information about the enemy. We have completed the third wave of mobilisation. We have replaced the units that needed that, we gave them a chance to have some rest after heavy fighting and to get back to normal».

By «normal», Lysenko means «terrorising civilians in eastern Ukraine».

This underscores what Poroshenko has in recent days said about «the economy moving to a war footing».

The sinister sign is that the Kiev regime, including the «Candy King» Poroshenko, is now realigning to an all-out belligerent policy toward the people of eastern Ukraine, and by extension, toward Russia itself.

The long overdue visit to Kiev this week by Victoria Nuland - Washington's Ukraine hawk - carries the foreboding imprimatur of US-backed war escalation.

Super Typhoon Vongfong rapidly intensifies overnight - equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane and heading for Japan

Super Typhoon Vongfong, as feared, intensified rapidly overnight Monday into Tuesday, U.S. time. The satellite image above with the classic distinct eye says it all.

As of midnight local time Wednesday, the eye of Vongfong was about 750 miles southeast of Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, moving west at 10-15 mph.

Maximum sustained winds had increased to an estimated 155 mph, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane, according to the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Vongfong became the fifth super typhoon (150 mph max sustained winds or higher) of 2014. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Vongfong has now surpassed Genevieve for the most intense western Pacific typhoon of 2014 by estimated central pressure (905 millibars).

With low vertical wind shear (change in wind speed and/or direction with height), impressive outflow (winds in the upper levels spreading apart from the center, favoring upward motion and thunderstorms) and warm western Pacific water, Vongfong may intensify further over the next day or so, possibly reaching Category 5 equivalent status (157 mph or higher max sustained winds).

Intense tropical cyclones undergo eyewall replacement cycles (ERC), during which the old inner eyewall is replaced by a contracting outer eyewall. During that time, the intensity backs off a bit. The timing of these ERCs cannot be forecasted using present technology.

Similar to what happened with Typhoon Phanfone, Vongfong will turn north in the next day or so, as it rounds the western edge of the subtropical steering high mentioned above.

However, in contrast to the scenario with Phanfone, a second, temporary blocking high pressure system aloft may deflect Vongfong slightly to the west Friday through Sunday.

This is a disconcerting possibility, as it could bring the core of Vongfong's strongest winds much closer to the Ryuku Islands this weekend than otherwise would happen. It should be noted Vongfong is expected to weaken once it begins moving north this week, but should still be a formidable typhoon as it draws close to Japan this weekend into early next week.

That temporary upper-level ridge will eventually be replaced by a dip in the jet stream, or trough, that will finally grab hold of Vongfong and accelerate it toward the east-northeast, similar to what happened with Typhoon Phanfone.

It is still too soon to be certain regarding specific impacts to Japan from Vongfong.

However, at the present time it appears Vongfong will end up tracking far enough west and north to at least bring some high winds, heavy rain and storm surge flooding once again to Okinawa, Kyushu, Shikoku, and at least central and eastern Honshu Saturday through Tuesday.

Those with interests or travel plans in these areas should monitor closely the progress of Vongfong on weather.com and The Weather Channel.

Guam Impact

Based on data from the National Weather Service Doppler radar on Guam, the eye of Typhoon Vongfong passed near or over Rota Island, which is about 45 miles north-northeast of Guam, between 3 and 4 a.m. local time Monday (1 and 2 p.m. EDT Sunday).

In a series of statements issued Sunday, the NWS office repeatedly warned that "devastating damage [was] expected" on the island of Rota, which lies in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth.

The bulletin, eerily reminiscent of one issued by the NWS New Orleans office before Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, included these ominous descriptions of potential destruction from winds that were forecast to gust as high as 140 mph:

"Collapse of some residential structures will put lives at risk. Airborne debris will cause extensive damage. Persons or animals struck by the wind blown debris will be injured or killed. Electricity and water will be unavailable for days and perhaps weeks after the storm passes. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted. Fallen trees may cut off residential areas for days to weeks."

The bulletin said the islands of Tinian and Saipan to the north, as well as Guam to the south, could expect damage of a less extreme nature.

Fortunately, damage was much less severe than expected on Rota. While 70 percent of the island lost power, there had been no reported injuries.

Guam experienced sustained tropical storm force wind with typhoon strength gusts at times. Flash flood warnings were issued for Guam due to heavy rain.

Vongfong was first designated a tropical depression early Thursday, local time, and steadily gained strength as it approached Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. According to the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Vongfong strengthened into a typhoon Saturday.

WTO sez spread of Ebola through Europe "unavoidable"

© Reuters / Fabian Bimmer

Members of the German army, Bundeswehr, prepare volunteers during a barrier nursing course for dealing with infectious diseases at the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute in Hamburg Ocotber 7, 2014.

The spread of Ebola in Europe is "unavoidable", the World Health Organization said shortly after the contraction of four new cases was announced in Spain.

"Such imported cases and similar events as have happened in Spain will happen also in the future, most likely," the WHO European director Zsuzsanna Jakab told Reuters.

On Monday scientists predicted that there was a 75 percent chance that Ebola would reach France by the end October and a 50 percent chance for the UK.

The most dangerous contributor to the spread is the behavior of the virus. Its symptoms catch people unawares and normally follow a 21-day incubation period, during which there's literally no visible sign the person has contracted Ebola.

This is further complicated by the EU's free movement system - one can literally infect anyone they come into contact with in the space of a few days if they were to drive or fly from one country to another.

"It is quite unavoidable ... that such incidents will happen in the future because of the extensive travel both from Europe to the affected countries and the other way around," Jakab said.

WHO has so far placed no restrictions on flights to the worst-affected countries. While British Airways and Emirates are no longer flying there, Air France has only suspended flights to Sierra Leone - not Liberia, Guinea or Nigeria (though air crews were recently offered the option to refuse flying to those destinations).

Additionally, patients who have contacted the disease in West Africa have been repatriated for treatment - such as the two missionaries who died in Septamber in Spain - one of whom infected a 44-year-old Spanish nurse who was diagnosed on Monday.

Health officials in Madrid said on Tuesday that three more people are in hospital on suspicion of contracting Ebola after the diagnosis of the nurse.

The nurse is now being treated with a drip using antibodies from those previously infected with the virus. Approximately 22 people who have been in contact with the woman, dubbed by media the"Spanish Ebola nurse," have been identified and are being monitored, Madrid health officials told reporters Tuesday.

However, WHO has stated that the continent is well prepared to control the disease.

"It will happen," she said. "But the most important thing in our view is that Europe is still at low risk and that the western part of the European region particularly is the best prepared in the world to respond to viral haemorrhagic fevers including Ebola," Jakab said.