I am appalled. I have scoured the TV News, have looked through newspapers – not a word! I steam at corruption in Kuwait and Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and then a small NPR Report on yesterday’s news alerts me to a measure, passed in Congress, WITHOUT A WHISPER!
(oh? I was shouting? Sorry. Carried away. Outraged) You can access the NPR station and listen to the entire repulsive report by clicking here.
Congress Repeals Financial Disclosure Requirements For Senior U.S. Officials
by EYDER PERALTA
A tourist takes cover underneath an umbrella while snapping a photo of the U.S. Capitol on March 6, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Joining the Senate, the House of Representatives approved a measure today that repeals a requirement that top government officials post financial disclosures on the Internet.
The House, like the Senate, acted quietly without a vote. Instead, they sent the measure to the president’s desk by unanimous consent.
The provision was part of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (Stock), which became law in March of 2012. The act was intended to stop members of congress from profiting from nonpublic information.
As NPR’s Tamara Keith reported, at the time, Sen. Joe Lieberman called the law “the most significant congressional ethics reform legislation to pass Congress in at least five years.”
“That law mainly addressed conflict-of-interest policies for members of Congress and their staffs, but it also included a requirement that the financial disclosure forms filed by some 28,000 high-ranking federal employees be posted online.
“While those forms are public records, they must be requested individually from employing agencies. The Stock Act envisions online posting first on agency sites and later in a central, searchable database.
“The posting requirement was delayed three times out of concerns about the potential for identity theft and other crimes against career employees, as well as security risks to the government.”
The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for a more open government,called today’s repeal an “epic failure.”
The foundation explained that instead of addressing specific security concerns, Congress has acted broadly.
For instance, they note, the president, vice president, members of Congress, congressional candidates and individuals subject to Senate confirmation are still required to make their financial disclosures public. But the change in law now makes the posting of those disclosures on the Internet optional.
“Not only does the change undermine the intent of the original bill to ensure government insiders are not profiting from non-public information (if anyone thinks high level congressional staffers don’t have as much or more insider information than their bosses, they should spend some time on Capitol Hill) but it sets an extraordinarily dangerous precedent suggesting that any risks stem not from information being public but from public information being online.
“Are we going to return to the days when the public can use the Internet to research everything exceptwhat their government is doing? Will Congress, in its twisted wisdom, decide that information is public if journalists, academics, advocates and citizens are forced to dig through file cabinets in basements in Washington, DC to find it? And does anyone think that makes us safer?
“As my colleague Tom Lee noted, ‘This approach is known as ‘security through obscurity.’ Essentially, the idea is that rather than fixing a system’s flaws, you can just make the system opaque or unusable or unpopular enough that those flaws never surface.’”
Update at 5:35 p.m. ET. 30 Seconds:
NPR’s Tamara Keith tells us the House procedure took exactly 30 seconds.
Correction at 5:29 p.m. ET. An earlier version of his post said the House followed the Senate. In fact, the Senate voted Thursday and the House voted today.
When I lived in Kuwait, many reporters self-censored, but there was still a lively – and, in relative terms, relative to the rest of the Gulf, free press. The Kuwait Legislature is going loony tunes with this proposed legislation. This, from the Kuwait Times:
Media draft law under fire for stiff penalties
KUWAIT: Former opposition MPs, writers, journalists and activists have strongly lashed out at a new media draft law that stipulates unprecedented hefty penalties against violators. The new draft law was approved earlier this week by the Cabinet but must pass the National Assembly to be effective. The 99-article draft law stipulates a 10 year sentence for insulting the Almighty, prophets, companions, relatives and wives of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It also stipulates a fine of between KD 50,000 and KD 300,000 for those convicted of insulting the Amir.
The draft law gives the Information Ministry the right to shut down with an administrative decision any publication for up to three years even without a court ruling, a key article in the current law. Former liberal opposition MP Abdulrahman Al-Anjari described the draft legislation as a “stigma” for the government which is “suffering from psychological disorders”. Former MP Obaid Al-Wasmi described it as the “capital punishment law” while former MP Jamaan Al-Harbash said it belongs to the old ages and will send too many people to jail.
Meanwhile, the criminal court yesterday issued a two-year jail term against opposition tweeter Hijab Al-Hajeri for writing tweets deemed offensive to HH the Amir in yet another verdict targeting activists. But the court asked the convict to pay a bail of KD 100 to suspend the implementation of the imprisonment until the appeals court issues its verdict on the case. Like several opposition tweeters, Hajeri was charged of insulting the Amir and undermining his status. Several tweeters and former opposition MPs have been handed several years in prison over the same charge and some of them have been sent to jail.
In another case, the criminal court postponed the case of Al-Youm Television to May 8. Two announcers for the pro-opposition station, its chairman and a director are facing charges of violating the law by reading a statement issued by the opposition several weeks ago. Another court also set May 1 as the date to issue its verdict on opposition tweeter Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi on charges of insulting the Amir.
In a related development, the public prosecution released well-known Islamist thinker and university professor Abdullah Al-Nafisi on a KD 5,000 bail after interrogating him on accusations of threatening national unity. Nafisi had reportedly undermined Shiites at a diwaniya meeting about two weeks ago which was held to highlight the dangers Iran was posing against the Gulf states including Kuwait. During the speech, Nafisi was cited as saying that some of the 17 Shiite MPs in the Assembly have links with Iran and claimed that one of them had taken part in a suicide car bombing on the life of the late former Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in May 1985. He also claimed that another MP was involved in the hijacking of a Kuwaiti passenger plane in 1988 that was blamed on Shiite militias.
Meanwhile, Islamist MP Hamed Al-Dossari called yesterday on the ministries of interior and foreign affairs to follow the footsteps of Bahrain and treat the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. He also charged that Iran has ambitions in the Gulf and is inciting discord in Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf Arab states.
By B Izzak, Staff Writer
From Huffpost Science:
Meteorite Streaks Across Russian Urals, Leaves Approximately 500 Injured (VIDEO)
By JIM HEINTZ 02/15/13 06:56 AM ET EST
MOSCOW — A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured some 500 people and frightened countless more.
The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement that the meteor over the Chelyabinsk region entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 kilometers (18-32 miles) above ground.
The fall caused explosions that broke glass over a wide area. The Emergency Ministry says more than 500 people sought treatment after the blasts and that 34 of them were hospitalized.
“There was panic. People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people’s houses to check if they were OK,” said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, the biggest city in the affected region.
“We saw a big burst of light then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud thundering sound,” he told The Associated Press by telephone.
Another Chelyabinsk resident, Valya Kazakov, said some elderly women in his neighborhood started crying out that the world was ending.
Some fragments fell in a reservoir outside the town of Cherbakul, the regional governor’s office said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. It was not immediately clear if any people were struck by fragments.
The agency also cited military spokesman Yarslavl Roshupkin as saying that a six-meter-wide (20-foot-wide) crater was found in the same area which could be the result of fragments striking the ground.
Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are traveling much faster than the speed of sound. Injuries on the scale reported Friday, however, are extraordinarily rare.
Interior Ministry spokesman Vadim Kolesnikov said that about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof at a zinc factory had collapsed. There was no immediate clarification of whether the collapse was caused by meteorites or by a shock wave from one of the explosions.
Reports conflicted on what exactly happened in the clear skies. A spokeswoman for the Emergency Ministry, Irina Rossius, told The Associated Press that there was a meteor shower, but another ministry spokeswoman, Elena Smirnikh, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was a single meteor.
Amateur video broadcast on Russian television showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20 a.m. local time (0320 GMT), leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.
Donald Yeomans, manager of U.S. Near Earth Object Program in California, said he thought the event was probably “an exploding fireball event.”
“If the reports of ground damage can be verified, it might suggest an object whose original size was several meters in extent before entering the atmosphere, fragmenting and exploding due to the unequal pressure on the leading side vs. the trailing side (it pancaked and exploded),” Yeoman said in an email to The Associated Press.
“It is far too early to provide estimates of the energy released or provide a reliable estimate of the original size,” Yeomans added.
Russian news reports noted that the meteor hit less than a day before the asteroid 2012 DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid — about 17,150 miles (28,000 kilometers).
But the European Space Agency, in a post on its Twitter account, said its experts had determined there was no connection.
Small pieces of space debris – usually parts of comets or asteroids – that are on a collision course with the Earth are called meteoroids. When meteoroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere they are called meteors. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere, but if they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth they are called meteorites.
The dramatic events prompted an array of reactions from prominent Russian political figures. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said the meteor could be a symbol for the forum, showing that “not only the economy is vulnerable, but the whole planet.”
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the nationalist leader noted for vehement statements, said “It’s not meteors falling, it’s the test of a new weapon by the Americans,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space.
“At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies” to shoot down meteors or asteroids, he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
I found this article in the Weather Underground News this morning:
DOHA, Qatar — An amount of freshwater almost the size of the Dead Sea has been lost in parts of the Middle East due to poor management, increased demands for groundwater and the effects of a 2007 drought, according to a NASA study.
The study, to be published Friday in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, examined data over seven years from 2003 from a pair of gravity-measuring satellites which is part of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment or GRACE. Researchers found freshwater reserves in parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins had lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of its total stored freshwater, the second fastest loss of groundwater storage loss after India.
About 60 percent of the loss resulted from pumping underground reservoirs for ground water, including 1,000 wells in Iraq, and another fifth was due to impacts of the drought including declining snow packs and soil drying up. Loss of surface water from lakes and reservoirs accounted for about another fifth of the decline, the study found.
“This rate of water loss is among the largest liquid freshwater losses on the continents,” the authors wrote in the study, noting the declines were most obvious after a drought.
The study is the latest evidence of a worsening water crisis in the Middle East, where demands from growing populations, war and the worsening effects of climate change are raising the prospect that some countries could face sever water shortages in the decades to come. Some like impoverished Yemen blame their water woes on the semi-arid conditions and the grinding poverty while the oil-rich Gulf faces water shortages mostly due to the economic boom that has created glistening cities out of the desert.
In a report released during the U.N. climate talks in Qatar, the World Bank concluded among the most critical problems in the Middle East and North Africa will be worsening water shortages. The region already has the lowest amount of freshwater in the world. With climate change, droughts in the region are expected to turn more extreme, water runoff is expected to decline 10 percent by 2050 while demand for water is expected to increase 60 percent by 2045.
One of the biggest challenges to improving water conservation is often competing demands which has worsened the problem in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins.
Turkey controls the Tigris and Euphrates headwaters, as well as the reservoirs and infrastructure of Turkey’s Greater Anatolia Project, which dictates how much water flows downstream into Syria and Iraq, the researchers said. With no coordinated water management between the three countries, tensions have intensified since the 2007 drought because Turkey continues to divert water to irrigate farmland.
“That decline in stream flow put a lot of pressure on northern Iraq,” Kate Voss, lead author of the study and a water policy fellow with the University of California’s Center for Hydrological Modeling in Irvine, said. “Both the UN and anecdotal reports from area residents note that once stream flow declined, this northern region of Iraq had to switch to groundwater. In an already fragile social, economic and political environment, this did not help the situation.”
Jay Famiglietti, principle investigator of the new study and a hydrologist and UC Irvine professor of Earth System Science, plans to visit the region later this month, along with Voss and two other UC Irvine colleagues, to discuss their findings and raise awareness of the problem and the need for a regional approach to solve the problem.
“They just do not have that much water to begin with, and they’re in a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change,” Famiglietti said. “Those dry areas are getting dryer. They and everyone else in the world’s arid regions need to manage their available water resources as best they can.”
Woooo HOOOOO, Carleton Proctor at the PNJ just tweeted there will be two new restaurants, one Italian, opening this year on Palafox Place in downtown Pensacola:
The menu of downtown Pensacola’s restaurants is about to add another entree.
David Hambrick, owner and manager of Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille, has reached an agreement with Durnford Enterprises Inc. to lease the former Distinctive Kitchens property on Palafox Place.
Hambrick said Thursday he plans to open an Italian-themed restaurant in one half of the 11,000-square-foot building, and eventually will open a second adjacent restaurant within that space at a later date.
“We’ve been talking to them (Durnford) since October when he heard the property had become available,” Hambrick said. “We’ve verbally agreed to a lease and now we’re just waiting for incorporation papers and a name for the restaurant.”
“The core menu will be modern Italian,” he said.
The deal and lease is expected to close March 1, Hambrick said.
Durnford Manager Frank Webb confirmed the agreement with Hambrick. Durnford owns the building, which has addresses of 29 and 31 Palafox Place.
First opened in 2004, Distinctive Kitchens and Culinary Arts Center closed late last summer, and the building has been unused since then.
Hambrick said he is working with Pensacola architect Brian Spencer on the interior design of the proposed restaurant.
Hambrick and business partner Paul Bruno will design the entirely rebuilt kitchen area, which eventually will serve both proposed restaurants.
Follow Carlton Proctor at twiter.com/CarltonProctorPNJ.
This report is from Bottom Line. It seems to me that we are more primitive biological organisms that we think ourselves, but it also occurs to me that if sunlight helps prevent heart attacks, and helps limit damages, do people in the sunny places have a lower incidence of death due to heart attacks?
There’s nothing like being outdoors on a summer morning.
What you may not know is that sunshine doesn’t just boost your mood and your vitamin D level—it also may help you ward off a heart attack or minimize the damage that one can cause, according to a new first-of-its-kind study.
I talked to the researchers to find out more about how we can all harness the power of light to brighten our heart health.
I called the study’s lead author, Tobias Eckle, MD, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology, cardiology and cell and developmental biology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.
Dr. Eckle told me that our circadian rhythm—the physical, mental and behavioral changes prompted by light and darkness that occur over each 24-hour period—helps determine the level of a certain protein that can minimize the cell damage and cell death caused by a heart attack. This protein might even stop a heart attack in its tracks. So Dr. Eckle and his colleagues were eager to see whether exposure to certain kinds of light at a certain time might be effective at boosting levels of this protein.
In the study, researchers divided mice into two groups. One group was exposed to light boxes emitting light that was the same level of brightness as daylight (“bright light”), and others were exposed to regular room lighting (“regular light”). Both groups were exposed to the light first thing in the morning at 6:00 am.
Then the mice were given anesthesia and heart attacks were triggered in them. Researchers found that mice that had been exposed to three hours of “bright light” had three times the amount of the protective protein as the mice that had been exposed to “regular light”—and, incredibly, the “bright light” mice’s hearts had experienced only one-fifth as much damage!
HOW SUNNY ARE THE FINDINGS?
There are, of course, unanswered questions—for example, how the findings might apply to humans and how lasting the benefit of the protein might be.
That said, the results are promising. What’s especially interesting is that it’s the light exposure on the eyes—not the skin—that affects the protein levels, said Dr. Eckle. So humans wearing sunscreen or long sleeves wouldn’t blunt the effect.
SAFE WAYS TO LET IN THE LIGHT
Several forces have conspired over recent decades to keep people out of the sun during the day, such as indoor work and fear of skin cancer. But many people would be likely to benefit from getting more sunlight exposure as early in the morning as possible.
Here are some safe ways from Dr. Eckle to shed more light on your daily routine…
1. Take a daily walk outdoors, and keep wearing sunscreen. Even 10 to 20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Since, as I mentioned earlier, it’s the way that light affects your eyes (not your skin) that matters, apply sunscreen—that won’t dampen the benefits. The added exercise will boost your heart health, too.
2. Get sunlight while indoors. Sit near large, bright windows.
3. Use a light therapy box. If you can’t follow either of the first two tips, or if you’re at high risk for skin cancer and want to avoid UV rays at all costs, this may be the best option for you. Available online for about $50 and up, light therapy boxes mimic the brightness of sunlight while filtering out most damaging UV rays.
Source: Tobias Eckle, MD, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology, cardiology, and cell and developmental biology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver. His study was published in Nature Medicine.
The oldest pearl in the world is found in the United Arab Emirates, according to AOL news/Huffpost this morning:
French researchers are flashing their pearly whites after a historic discovery: what’s believed to be the oldest pearl in the history of the human world.
Discovered in a grave, the Umm al Quwain pearl — named for the location in the United Arab Emirates where it was found — has been carbon-dated back to the 5500 B.C., during the Neolithic Period, which makes it more than 7,500 years old, Press Trust of India reports. Previously, the oldest known pearl was just over 5,000 years old.
According to Discovery News, the pearl is 0.07 inches in diameter and remains fully intact. Pearls buried with the deceased were typically either half-drilled for a man or fully drilled for a woman, though unpierced pearls were often placed on the deceased’s upper lip.
The discovery provides insight into the origins of pearl oyster hunting, suggesting the practice began in Arabia and not in Japan, as researchers originally thought.
The Neolithic period, also known as the New Stone Age, was marked by the change in humans from hunter-gatherers to farmers. The recent discovery has proved that while dangerous, pearl oyster diving became an important part of society in ancient Arab cultures, according to Indian Express.
Discovery News notes that 101 Neolithic pearls have been unearthed from large pearl oysters over the years.