Bush Pushes for Seed Money for Missiles in Space

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) – The Bush administration and Republican allies in Congress are again pushing for seed money to explore options for putting a multibillion-dollar layer of ballistic-missile interceptors in space.

Last year, the Democratic-controlled Congress rejected the administration’s request for $10 million to resume studies on the idea, first floated in the 1980s as part of then-President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.

Derided by critics as “Star Wars,” the concept has been embraced by missile-defense backers as potentially more effective than sea- and ground-based parts of an emerging shield against missiles that could be tipped with chemical, germ or nuclear warheads.

Read moreBush Pushes for Seed Money for Missiles in Space

Mysterious Earthquakes Off Oregon

(GRANTS PASS, Ore.) – Scientists listening to underwater microphones have detected an unusual swarm of earthquakes off central Oregon, something that often happens before a volcanic eruption – except there are no volcanoes in the area.

Scientists don’t know exactly what the earthquakes mean, but they could be the result of molten rock rumbling away from the recognized earthquake faults off Oregon, said Robert Dziak, a geophysicist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Oregon State University.

There have been more than 600 quakes over the past 10 days in a basin 150 miles southwest of Newport. The biggest was magnitude 5.4, and two others were more than magnitude 5.0, OSU reported.

Read moreMysterious Earthquakes Off Oregon

Not-So-Quiet Food Riots

The big problem with inflation is that people get low blood sugar when they are hungry, and soon their moods turn sour. I know this for a fact because if breakfast or brunch or lunch or coffee break or dinner or any snack is five minutes late, I involuntarily turn into a screaming monster from hell demanding to know who stole my food and vowing bloody revenge. I can only imagine the anger when hunger is caused because someone can’t afford to buy food!

This “inability to buy food” is one of the problems with inflation, and that ugliness is now here, as we read from Bloomberg.com that “The World Bank in Washington says 33 nations from Mexico to Yemen may face ‘social unrest’ after food and energy costs increased for six straight years.” Hahaha! No kidding?

World Bank chief Robert Zoellick says, “Thirty-three countries around the world face potential social unrest because of the acute hike in food and energy prices”, and that since 2005, “the prices of staples have jumped 80%”.

Like what? Like corn and wheat, which are making the news by rising like crazy, and the latest food emergency is that “Rice, the staple food for half the world,” is now double the price of a year ago, and a fivefold increase from 2001. Yikes!

100% inflation in the price of rice in one year! And 500% in seven years! Yikes again! No wonder that Jody Clarke at MoneyWeek.com reports that “Since January 2005 the average price of a loaf of bread in the US has risen 32%. Overall, US retail food prices rose 4 % last year, the biggest jump in 17 years, says the US Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile restaurant owners have been even harder hit, with wholesale price increases of 7.4%. That’s the biggest jump in nearly three decades, according to the National Restaurant Association.”

And worse yet for us alcohol-besotted worthless lushes out here, heroically keeping bartenders and comely barmaids gainfully employed year around, the price of hops, an integral ingredient in beer making, has soared from $4 a pound to $40.

The Marketbasket Survey, conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation, says a basket of things like bread, milk, eggs and pork chops will cost you $3.50, or 8.9%, more this year than last. Both a five-pound bag of flour and a dozen eggs are up over 40% since January 2007.

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A Weekend to Start Fixing the World

As Finance Ministers Convene Here, Multiple Crises Test Their Ability to Cope

Financial markets are tumbling. The world economy is starting to sputter. Food prices have shot up so far, so fast, that there are riots in the streets of many poor nations.

It’s a hard time to be one of the masters of the global economy.

Those leaders — finance ministers from all over the world — are gathering in Washington this weekend to sort out their reactions to the most profound global economic crises in at least a decade. The situation could reveal the limitations that international economic institutions face in dealing with the risks inherent to global capitalism.

“There’s got to be something coming out of the weekend, a way to visibly assume public responsibility for trying to limit the damage that financial markets can do to our society,” said Colin Bradford, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The pressure is on politicians this weekend to come up with an answer. . . . What is the power structure going to do about this?”

The Group of Seven finance ministers of major industrialized countries meet today, and the governing boards of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank will meet tomorrow and Sunday. Their agendas: in the case of the G-7 and IMF, countering the breakdown in financial markets; in the case of the World Bank, food inflation that threatens to drive more of the world’s poorest people into starvation.

Read moreA Weekend to Start Fixing the World

Spain’s worst drought for a generation leaves water and comradeship in short supply

Llosa del cavall reservoir in Sant Llorencs de Morunys, north of Solsona

Spain is suffering its worst drought in more than four decades, pitting the country’s regions against each other in a fierce battle over water resources.

There has been 40 per cent less rain than usual since October 1 across the nation as a whole, according to the Meteorology Institute, although in some regions the impact has been far worse. Mediterranean regions such as Catalonia and Valencia have been the worst affected – they have had less rain than at any time since 1912.

Farmers in Catalonia fear they could lose their crops altogether if it does not rain in coming weeks, and Britons with homes on the coast could soon face restrictions on water.

The situation in Barcelona – Catalonia’s capital and top tourist draw – could soon become critical. Water reserves there are at 19 per cent of capacity – they must be shut down when they reach 15 per cent because there is too much sediment near the bottom. José Montilla, president of Catalonia, said: “We must prepare for the worst.”

Read moreSpain’s worst drought for a generation leaves water and comradeship in short supply

SPY CELLS – Phones Will Soon Tell Where You Are

Would you want other people to know, all day long, exactly where you are, right down to the street corner or restaurant?

Unsettling as that may sound to some, wireless carriers are betting that many of their customers do, and they’re rolling out services to make it possible.

Sprint Nextel Corp. has signed up hundreds of thousands of customers for a feature that shows them where their friends are with colored marks on a map viewable on their cellphone screens. Now, Verizon Wireless is gearing up to offer such a service in the next several weeks to its 65 million customers, people familiar with it say.
WSJ’s Jessica Vascellaro tests out Loopt’s new buddy-tracking device to see whether it’s helpful for hooking up with friends or just another invasion of privacy.

Making this people-tracking possible is that cellphones today come embedded with Global Positioning System technology. With it, carriers have already offered mapping features such as turn-by-turn driving instructions. But they long hesitated to offer another breakthrough made possible by GPS — tracking of cellphone users’ whereabouts in real time — because of privacy and liability concerns.

Read moreSPY CELLS – Phones Will Soon Tell Where You Are

They knew: Bush, Cheney authorized ‘harsh interrogations’

WASHINGTON — President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, news agencies have learned.

The Associated Press reported earlier that senior Bush administration officials took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.

However, ABC News is now reporting that President Bush himself was aware of the discussions and approved the controversial interrogation tactics himself.

“Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people.” Bush told ABC News. “And, yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.”

Read moreThey knew: Bush, Cheney authorized ‘harsh interrogations’

Haiti’s government falls after food riots

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haiti’s government fell on Saturday when senators fired the prime minister after more than a week of riots over food prices, ignoring a plan presented by the president to slash the cost of rice.

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Sixteen of 17 senators at a special session voted against Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, an ally President Rene Preval placed at the head of a coalition cabinet in June 2006 that was meant to unite the fractious Caribbean nation.

Read moreHaiti’s government falls after food riots

Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, NRA hired ‘black ops’ company that targeted environmental groups

Dumpster-diving firm collected Social Security numbers of activists

A private security firm managed by former Secret Service officers spied on myriad environmental organizations throughout the 1990s and the year 2000, thieving documents, trying to plant undercover operations and collecting phone records of members, according to a new report.

Documents obtained by James Ridgeway, a Mother Jones correspondent formerly with the Village Voice, reveals the contractor collected confidential internal records — donor lists, financial statements — even Social Security numbers, for public relations outfits and “corporations involved in environmental controversies.”

Beckett Brown International also offered “intelligence” services to the Carlyle Group, the controversial DC-based investment company; “protective services” for the National Rifle Association; “crisis management” for the Gallo wine company and for Pirelli; “information collection” for Wal-Mart.

“Also listed as clients in BBI records,” Ridgeway reveals: “Halliburton and Monsanto.”

Read moreTaco Bell, Wal-Mart, NRA hired ‘black ops’ company that targeted environmental groups

Mumps found to have made alarming comeback in U.S.

BOSTON – Mumps made an alarming comeback in the United States in 2006 and may take years to completely eradicate, federal health experts reported on Wednesday.

The outbreak of the viral disease came despite the widespread use of a second dose of a mumps vaccine, produced by Merck, beginning in 1990.

Read moreMumps found to have made alarming comeback in U.S.