Japan’s Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations

MARIKO Watanabe admits she could have chosen a better time to take up baking. This week, when the Tokyo housewife visited her local Ito-Yokado supermarket to buy butter to make a cake, she found the shelves bare.

“I went to another supermarket, and then another, and there was no butter at those either. Everywhere I went there were notices saying Japan has run out of butter. I couldn’t believe it – this is the first time in my life I’ve wanted to try baking cakes and I can’t get any butter,” said the frustrated cook.

Japan’s acute butter shortage, which has confounded bakeries, restaurants and now families across the country, is the latest unforeseen result of the global agricultural commodities crisis.

A sharp increase in the cost of imported cattle feed and a decline in milk imports, both of which are typically provided in large part by Australia, have prevented dairy farmers from keeping pace with demand.

While soaring food prices have triggered rioting among the starving millions of the third world, in wealthy Japan they have forced a pampered population to contemplate the shocking possibility of a long-term – perhaps permanent – reduction in the quality and quantity of its food.

A 130% rise in the global cost of wheat in the past year, caused partly by surging demand from China and India and a huge injection of speculative funds into wheat futures, has forced the Government to hit flour millers with three rounds of stiff mark-ups. The latest – a 30% increase this month – has given rise to speculation that Japan, which relies on imports for 90% of its annual wheat consumption, is no longer on the brink of a food crisis, but has fallen off the cliff.

According to one government poll, 80% of Japanese are frightened about what the future holds for their food supply.

Last week, as the prices of wheat and barley continued their relentless climb, the Japanese Government discovered it had exhausted its ¥230 billion ($A2.37 billion) budget for the grains with two months remaining. It was forced to call on an emergency ¥55 billion reserve to ensure it could continue feeding the nation.

“This was the first time the Government has had to take such drastic action since the war,” said Akio Shibata, an expert on food imports, who warned the Agriculture Ministry two years ago that Japan would have to cut back drastically on its sophisticated diet if it did not become more self-sufficient.In the wake of the decision this week by Kazakhstan, the world’s fifth biggest wheat exporter, to join Russia, Ukraine and Argentina in stopping exports to satisfy domestic demand, the situation in Japan is expected to worsen.

Read moreJapan’s Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations

Israel Causes UN Food Aid Relief For Gaza to Halt

Fuel shortage forces UN to halt Gaza food aid

The UN is to halt food handouts for up to 800,000 Palestinians from tomorrow because of a severe fuel shortage in Gaza brought on by an Israeli economic blockade.

John Ging, the director of operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees, said there had been a “totally inadequate” supply of fuel from Israel to Gaza for 10 months until it was finally halted two weeks ago. “The devastating humanitarian impact is entirely predictable,” he said.

A shortage of diesel and petrol means UN food assistance to 650,000 Palestinian refugees will stop tomorrow, and aid from the World Food Programme for another 127,000 Palestinians due in the coming days will also be halted.

“The collective punishment of the population of Gaza, which has been instituted for months now, has failed,” said Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East.

Gaza’s streets have largely been emptied of cars, except for those running on the last reserves of fuel, or on cooking gas or used vegetable oil.

Gaza will be high on the agenda at a meeting of donors to the Palestinians in London next Friday. Last year, after Hamas seized full control of Gaza, Israel imposed an economic blockade, preventing exports and allowing in only limited supplies of food, fuel and aid.

Recent militant attacks on Gaza’s crossings, strongly condemned by the UN, have meant a tightening of the closures.

Hours before Gaza’s sole power plant was to shut down, Israel pumped in 1m litres of industrial diesel, enough to last the plant around three days.

Read moreIsrael Causes UN Food Aid Relief For Gaza to Halt

Face scans for air passengers to begin in UK this summer

Officials say automatic screening more accurate than checks by humans.

A face recognition system will scan faces and match them to biometric chips on passports. Photograph: Image Source/Getty

Airline passengers are to be screened with facial recognition technology rather than checks by passport officers, in an attempt to improve security and ease congestion, the Guardian can reveal.

From summer, unmanned clearance gates will be phased in to scan passengers’ faces and match the image to the record on the computer chip in their biometric passports.

Border security officials believe the machines can do a better job than humans of screening passports and preventing identity fraud. The pilot project will be open to UK and EU citizens holding new biometric passports.

But there is concern that passengers will react badly to being rejected by an automated gate. To ensure no one on a police watch list is incorrectly let through, the technology will err on the side of caution and is likely to generate a small number of “false negatives” – innocent passengers rejected because the machines cannot match their appearance to the records.

Read moreFace scans for air passengers to begin in UK this summer

Massachusetts Police Get Black Uniforms to Instill Sense of Fear

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Springfield’s men in black are returning.
The city’s new police commissioner, William Fitchet, says members of the department’s Street Crime Unit will again don black, military-style uniforms as part of his strategy to deal with youth violence.

Fitchet’s predecessor, Edward Flynn, had ditched the black attire as part of an effort to soften the image of the unit. Flynn left Springfield in January to become the police chief in Milwaukee.

Sgt. John Delaney told a city council hearing Wednesday that the stark uniforms send a message to criminals that officers are serious about making arrests.

Delaney said a sense of “fear” has been missing for the past few years.

Source: Fox News

(They even admit now that they want to instill fear in you. – The Infinite Unknown)

CIA has 7,000 documents relating to rendition, detention, and torture programs

Documents suggest CIA stonewalled Congress

The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged having 7,000 pages of documents pertaining to President George W. Bush’s secret rendition and detention programs, according to three international human rights groups.

Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law made the claim following a summary judgment motion by the agency this week to avoid a lawsuit that seeks to force the nation’s top spy outfit to make the documents public under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

“Among other assertions, the CIA claimed that it did not have to release the documents because many consist of correspondence with the White House or top Bush administration officials, or because they are between parties seeking legal advice on the programs, including guidance on the legality of certain interrogation procedures,” the groups wrote in a release. “The CIA confirmed that it requested-and received-legal advice from attorneys at the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel concerning these procedures.”

“For the first time, the CIA has acknowledged that extensive records exist relating to its use of enforced disappearances and secret prisons,” Curt Goering, AIUSA senior deputy executive director, said in a statement. “Given what we already know about documents written by Bush administration officials trying to justify torture and other human rights crimes, one does not need a fertile imagination to conclude that the real reason for refusing to disclose these documents has more to do with avoiding disclosure of criminal activity than national security.”

RAW STORY was the first news outlet to identify the exact location of one of the sites in the CIA’s secret prison network, which was revealed first by the Washington Post. Raw Story identified a prison in northeastern Poland, Stare Kiejkuty, that was used as a transit point for terror suspects.

Read moreCIA has 7,000 documents relating to rendition, detention, and torture programs

Border Agents Can Search Laptops Without Cause

Federal agents at the border do not need any reason to search through travelers’ laptops, cell phones or digital cameras for evidence of crimes, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, extending the government’s power to look through belongings like suitcases at the border to electronics.

The unanimous three-judge decision reverses a lower court finding that digital devices were “an extension of our own memory” and thus too personal to allow the government to search them without cause. Instead, the earlier ruling said, Customs agents would need some reasonable and articulable suspicion a crime had occurred in order to search a traveler’s laptop.

On appeal, the government argued that was too high a standard, infringing upon its right to keep the country safe and enforce laws. Civil rights groups, joined by business traveler groups, weighed in, defending the lower court ruling.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, finding that the so-called border exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches applied not just to suitcases and papers, but also to electronics.

Read moreBorder Agents Can Search Laptops Without Cause

Senator: VA lying about number of veteran suicides

WASHINGTON — The Veterans Administration has lied about the number of veterans who’ve attempted suicide, a senator charged Wednesday, citing internal e-mails that put the number at 12,000 a year when the department was publicly saying it was fewer than 800.

“The suicide rate is a red-alarm bell to all of us,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Murray also said that the VA’s mental health programs are being overwhelmed by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, even as the department tries to downplay the situation.

“We are not your enemy, we are your support team, and unless we get accurate information we can’t be there to do our jobs,” Murray told Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon Mansfield during the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

Read moreSenator: VA lying about number of veteran suicides

FBI wants widespread monitoring of illegal Internet activity

WASHINGTON–The FBI on Wednesday called for new legislation that would allow federal police to monitor the Internet for “illegal activity.”

The suggestion from FBI Director Robert Mueller, which came during a House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing, appears to go beyond a current plan to monitor traffic on federal-government networks. Mueller seemed to suggest that the bureau should have a broad “omnibus” authority to conduct monitoring and surveillance of private-sector networks as well.

The surveillance should include all Internet traffic, Mueller said, “whether it be .mil, .gov, .com–whichever network you’re talking about.” (See the transcript of the hearing.)


Robert Mueller (Credit: FBI )

Read moreFBI wants widespread monitoring of illegal Internet activity

FROM DNA OF FAMILY, A TOOL TO MAKE ARRESTS

PRIVACY ADVOCATES SAY THE EMERGING PRACTICE TURNS RELATIVES INTO GENETIC INFORMANTS

He was a church-going father of two, and for more than 30 years Dennis Rader eluded police in the Wichita area, killing 10 people and signing taunting letters with a self-styled monogram: BTK, for Bind Torture Kill. In the end, it was a DNA sample that tied BTK to his crimes. Not his own DNA. But his daughter’s.

Investigators obtained a court order without the daughter’s knowledge for a Pap smear specimen she had given five years earlier at a university medical clinic in Kansas. A DNA profile of the specimen almost perfectly matched the DNA evidence taken from several BTK crime scenes, leading detectives to conclude she was the child of the killer. That allowed police to secure an arrest warrant in February 2005 and end BTK’s murderous career.

The BTK case was an early use of an emerging tool in law enforcement: analyzing the DNA of a suspect’s relatives. In the BTK example, police had a suspect and were looking to tie him to the crime. But now, states are moving to conduct familial searches of criminal databases, looking for close-to-perfect matches with DNA from crime scenes. A partial match with a convicted criminal could implicate a brother or daughter or father of the convict. Such searches, advocates say, constitute a powerful law enforcement tool that, experts say, could increase by 40 percent the number of suspects identified through DNA.

Read moreFROM DNA OF FAMILY, A TOOL TO MAKE ARRESTS

Environment head not liable for 9/11 assurances

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cannot be held liable for assurances she gave about air safety following the September 11 attacks in New York, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

Christine Todd Whitman led the agency at the time of the attacks and was sued by people who lived and worked in lower Manhattan who accused her of statements that “falsely represented … that the air in and around lower Manhattan was safe to breathe.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that Whitman was faced with conflicting information about dangers posed by the dust and that she had passed on assurances that came from the White House.

While the judges understood the concern that the agency’s performance was “flawed,” they said that “legal remedies are not always available for every instance of arguably deficient governmental performance.”

The court also noted that Congress has set aside a process to compensate victims of the attacks.

“A bare allegation that the head of a government agency, guided by a relevant White House office, knew that her statements were false and ‘knowingly’ issued false press releases is not plausible in the absence of some supporting facts,” the decision said.

Rescue workers and others who spent time near the disaster site have reported a variety of respiratory ailments that they believe came from breathing the ash and dust caused by the collapse of the Twin Towers.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Daniel Trotta and David Storey)

Tue Apr 22, 2008 2:39pm EDT

Source: Reuters