Category - Newswire

Drinking coffee may lower risk of multiple sclerosis: researchers

Sydney Morning Herald, February 27

People who drink four to six cups of coffee a day may be less likely to get multiple sclerosis, US and Swedish researchers say.

While caffeine intake has been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, the findings of the research released on Thursday show the same could apply to MS, an incurable disease of the central nervous system that affects 2.3 million people worldwide.

“Our study shows coffee intake may also protect against MS, supporting the idea the drug may have protective effects for the brain,” said lead author Ellen Mowry of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

[…]

More research is needed to determine if caffeine has any impact on relapse or long-term disability due to MS.

Be a Coffee Achiever!

Italy anti-immigration rally draws thousands in Rome

BBC, February 28

Thousands of supporters of Italy’s Northern League have poured into one of Rome’s biggest squares for a rally against immigration, the EU and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government.

League leader Matteo Salvini accused Mr Renzi of substituting the country’s interests to those of the EU.

He also criticised the government’s record in dealing with Romanian truck drivers, tax, banks and big business.

A large counter-demonstration against Mr Salvini was also held in Rome.

Opinion polls suggest that Mr Salvini is rapidly gaining in popularity.

CIA looks to expand its cyber espionage capabilities

Washington Post, By Greg Miller, February 23

CIA Director John Brennan is planning a major expansion of the agency’s cyber-espionage capabilities as part of a broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work, current and former U.S. officials said.

The proposed shift reflects a determination that the CIA’s approach to conventional espionage is increasingly outmoded amid the exploding use of smartphones, social media and other technologies.

U.S. officials said Brennan’s plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations — whether identifying foreign officials to recruit as CIA informants, confirming the identities of targets of drone strikes or penetrating Internet-savvy adversaries such as the Islamic State.

Several officials said Brennan’s team has even considered creating a new cyber-directorate — a step that would put the agency’s technology experts on equal footing with the operations and analysis branches, which have been pillars of the CIA’s organizational structure for decades.

Via emptywheel: After Failing at the White House, Then Illegally Hacking SSCI, Brennan Wants Cyber

Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Bill

The Canadian Press, By Alexander Panetta, February 24

Washington – U.S. President Barack Obama made good Tuesday on a threat to veto a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing the two sides in the long-running controversy to a rare point of agreement: their battle is far from over.

”The president’s veto of the Keystone jobs bill is a national embarrassment,” said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

”We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built — not even close.”

[…]

Even the White House concurred that the issue is far from settled. It pointed out that Tuesday’s announcement was a step in a long, winding process — not a final destination.

The president cast the veto as a matter of procedural principle. In his letter to Congress, Obama said the bill he was scrapping had improperly tried to usurp presidential authority.
Read More

F.C.C. Net Neutrality Rules Clear Hurdle as Republicans Concede to Obama

New York Times, By Jonathan Weisman, February 24

Washington – Senior Republicans conceded on Tuesday that the grueling fight with President Obama over the regulation of Internet service appears over, with the president and an army of Internet activists victorious.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet. While the two Democratic commissioners are negotiating over technical details, they are widely expected to side with the Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, against the two Republican commissioners.

And Republicans on Capitol Hill, who once criticized the plan as “Obamacare for the Internet,” now say they are unlikely to pass a legislative response that would undo perhaps the biggest policy shift since the Internet became a reality.

“We’re not going to get a signed bill that doesn’t have Democrats’ support,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “This is an issue that needs to have bipartisan support.”

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’

The Guardian, By Spencer Ackerman, February 24

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

[…]

“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

Also, The Guardian: Bad lieutenant: American police brutality, exported from Chicago to Guantánamo
Previously: Guantánamo torturer led brutal Chicago regime of shackling and confession

JPMorgan Chase & Co. To Start Charging Large Customers Deposit Fees

Reports suggest JP Morgan will initiate charges on certain deposits

Bidness, Etc., By Larry Darrell, February 24

The largest bank in the US in terms of assets, JP Morgan Chase & Co., is likely to start charging large customers on deposits and is making holding money costly for clients, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The move is an attempt to reduce the effect on deposits that are affected by billions of dollars and is said to bring the number down in 2015. It is the recent in a series of discussions by big banks to discourage certain deposits by corporate clients that are attracted by the low interest rates and new regulations.

Sources privy to the matter said that the memo in place cites new rules that will not affect retail clients. However, some financial firms and corporate clients might be charged higher fees. It is reported that JP Morgan will unveil the bank’s strategy with investors on Tuesday.

“We are adapting to a changing regulatory environment across our company,” Wall Street Journal quotes the JP Morgan memo sent on Monday.

Wall Street Journal [paywalled]: J.P. Morgan to Start Charging Big Clients Fees on Some Deposits

Japan’s crown prince calls for ‘correct’ telling of history

Comments seen as rebuke to Abe and others in right wing who downplay Japan’s system of wartime sex slavery.

Al Jazeera / Wire Services, February 23

Japan’s crown prince has warned of the need to remember World War II “correctly,” in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country’s crimes.

Naruhito’s mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right-wing drive to minimize the significance of Japan’s institutionalized system of wartime sex slavery.

“Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back on our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation that knew the war to the generation that doesn’t,” Naruhito said.

The comments, released Monday on the prince’s 55th birthday, come as Abe’s controversial views on history roil Japan’s relations with China and South Korea and cause unease in Washington.

Reckon?

‘Gerbils replace rats’ as main cause of Black Death

BBC, By Rebecca Morelle, February 24

Black rats may not have been to blame for numerous outbreaks of the bubonic plague across Europe, a study suggests.

Scientists believe repeat epidemics of the Black Death, which arrived in Europe in the mid-14th Century, instead trace back to gerbils from Asia.

Prof Nils Christian Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, said: “If we’re right, we’ll have to rewrite that part of history.”

The study is in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[…]

And because this was a period when trade between the East and West was at a peak, the plague was most likely brought to Europe along the silk road, Prof Stenseth explained.

Exonerated!

Islamic State ‘abducts dozens of Christians in Syria’

BBC, February 24

Islamic State (IS) has abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians from villages in north-eastern Syria, activists say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.

Some Assyrians managed to escape and made their way east to the largely Kurdish-controlled city of Hassakeh.

It comes as Syrian Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes continue to advance into IS-held territory.

UN climate head Rajendra Pachauri resigns

BBC, February 24

The head of the United Nations climate change panel (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.

A spokesman for Mr Pachauri told the IPCC that he had resigned from his position with immediate effect.

Indian police are investigating a complaint from a 29-year-old woman working in Mr Pachauri’s office in Delhi.

Mr Pachauri has denied the allegations.

Are Siberia’s mysterious craters caused by climate change? Scientists find four new enormous holes in northern Russia

The Daily Mail (UK), By Will Stewart, February 23

Moscow – Four new mysterious giant craters have appeared in the Siberian permafrost in northern Russia, sparking fears that global warming may be causing gas to erupt from underground.

Scientists spotted the new holes, along with dozens of other smaller ones, in the same area as three other enormous craters that were spotted on the Yamal Peninsula last year.

The craters are thought to be caused by eruptions of methane gas from the permafrost as rising rising temperatures causes the frozen soil to melt.

[…]

‘We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,’ Professor Bogoyavlensky told The Siberian Times.

‘Five are directly on the Yamal peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr peninsula.

‘We have exact locations for only four of them.

‘The other three were spotted by reindeer herders.

‘But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them. I would compare this with mushrooms.

‘When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.’

The Siberian Times: Dozens of new craters suspected in northern Russia

U.S. Oil Workers’ Union Expands Biggest Plant Strike Since 1980

Bloomberg, by Lynn Doan & Barbara Powell, February 21

The United Steelworkers, which represents 30,000 U.S. oil workers, called on four more plants to join the biggest strike since 1980 as talks dragged on with Royal Dutch Shell Plc, negotiating a labor contract for oil companies.

The USW, with members at more than 200 refineries, fuel terminals, pipelines and chemical plants across the U.S., asked workers late Friday at Motiva Enterprises LLC’s Port Arthur refinery in Texas, the nation’s largest, to join a nationwide walkout on Saturday, and issued notices for three other plants to go on strike in 24 hours.

This brings the work stoppage — which began on Feb. 1 at nine sites from California to Texas and expanded to two BP Plc refineries in the Midwest a week later — to 12 refineries and 3 other facilities. The union has rejected seven contract offers from Shell, which is representing companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp.

An agreement would end a strike at U.S. plants that account for almost 20 percent of the country’s refining capacity. It’s the first national walkout of U.S. oil workers since 1980, when a work stoppage lasted three months. The USW represents workers at plants that together account for 64 percent of U.S. fuel output.

Previously: US oil workers on largest national strike since 1980

Ukraine preparing for ‘full-scale war,’ says former envoy to Canada

Vadym Prystaiko, now deputy foreign minister, calls on the West to ‘stiffen up in the spine’

CBC News, February 21

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister says he is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and wants Canada to help by supplying lethal weapons and the training to use them.

Vadym Prystaiko, who until last fall was Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, says the world must not be afraid of joining Ukraine in the fight against a nuclear power.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s The House airing Saturday, Prystaiko says the ceasefire brokered by Germany and France was not holding.

“The biggest hub we ever had in the railroad is completely destroyed and devastated,” he told host Evan Solomon about Debaltseve, captured by Russian-backed rebels after the terms were to have taken effect earlier this week.

Wisconsin Republicans plan to push right-to-work bill next week

Reuters, By Brendan O’Brien, February 20

Milwaukee – Wisconsin Republicans plan to call an extraordinary session to fast-track a right-to-work bill in the state legislature next week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said on Friday.

Governor Scott Walker, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, supports the policy and will sign it into law if the bill makes it to his desk, a spokeswoman said Friday.

So-called right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join and financially support a union – such as by paying dues – as a condition of their employment.

The announcement drew immediate criticism from Democrats and a union leader in Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers in 2011 approved restrictions on collective bargaining for most public-sector unions except police and fire amid large demonstrations.