April 30, 2010 Killer fungus from Oregon could spread across the West Coast
Researchers have identified a highly fatal emerging disease caused by the spores of a fungus known as Cryptococcus gattii, or C. gattii. Because the fungus may spread in lumber, wind, water, and animals— including those as disparate as birds, dogs, farm animals, and even dolphins—researchers expect that the fungus will eventually spread to Northern California, where the climate is similar, but will be stopped from eastward expansion by freezing winters. The researchers involved in the study began looking at animal deaths caused by the fungus, and noticed they were dealing with a new, more virulent strain closely related to another—and still quite dangerous— C. gattii species found in nearby British Columbia.
“This novel fungus is worrisome because it appears to be a threat to otherwise healthy people,” said co-author Edmond Byrnes III, in a release from PLoS Pathogens, the journal that published the study
. “We more often see this fungal disease associated with transplant recipients and HIV-infected patients, but that is not what we are seeing yet.”
The fungus cannot spread from person to person, or from animal to person. A recent paper from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported that people appear mostly likely to become infected near their homes, and that the disease is most prevalent in forested, rural, or semi-urban areas where older trees are common, but it has also been found in urban areas. Mature trees, especially eucalyptus, are thought to provide a breeding ground for the fungus.
While the new strain of the disease has killed one in four people who have been known to come down with it, so far it has affected very few Americans. The researchers analyzed 21 cases and found 5 deaths, though there are almost certainly more cases.
While the study sample is small, an analysis of the pathogen in mice confirmed that the new species of C. gattii was more virulent than the British Columbia strain. Still, no special precautions or travel restrictions have yet been recommended, likely due to the low risk of acquiring C. gattii—even for people living in the endemic areas, according to the Oregon state health authorities
Most people who do encounter the fungus never develop symptoms, but those who do usually develop pneumonia
—an infection of the lungs—two months to about a year after the initial exposure. The signs of pneumonia
include, a cough lasting weeks, sharp chest pains, shortness of breath, headache, fever, nighttime sweats, and weight loss, among others.
Approximately 20 percent of C. gattii cases result in meningitis
—an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The symptoms of meningitis
may also include fever, headache, a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion, sleepiness and seizures, among others.
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Dems vigilant on Puerto Rico bill
By JAKE SHERMAN
| 4/29/10 11:24 AM EDT
Two of the most prominent Hispanic Democrats in Congress are continuing their all-out offensive to kill a bill that would mandate a vote on Puerto Rico’s political status.
And they’re taking direct aim at their leadership.
Democratic Reps. Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.) and Luis Gutierrez (Ill.) sent out an e-mail to members of Congress Thursday morning urging them to vote no on the Puerto Rican Democracy Act, which would allow the island’s residents to vote yes or no on whether they want to continue their political status. If that vote garnered a majority who didn’t like the island’s status, Puerto Ricans would then decide whether they wanted statehood, independence or free association.
“This bill is not the product of consensus. It does not provide for true self-determination. The two-step process in the bill is designed to craft an artificial majority for statehood,” Velazquez and Gutierrez said in their e-mail. “The people of Puerto Rico deserve a truly fair, democratic and inclusive self-determination process that is the product of consensus. H.R. 2499 does not provide for such a process. It is divisive, unfair and undemocratic.” Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/36550.html#ixzz0mVRB6Gm1
Supreme Court Keeps Mojave Cross Case Alive
Divided 5-4 Decision Sends Case to Lower Court, Hints That Cross Should Stand By ARIANE de VOGUE WASHINGTON, April 28, 2010
A divided Supreme Court ruled today that a lower court failed to conduct an appropriate analysis when it ordered a white cross removed from California's Mojave National Preserve. The cross, first erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars more than 70 years ago, had become a flashpoint in the ongoing debate about religious symbols on public property.
"The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement [of religion] does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 5-4 majority opinion. "A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished, need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs."
Kennedy's language was bold regarding the symbolism of a cross, which, he said, can include non-religious significance. Read entire article
Iran: Current world order in declineTue, 27 Apr 2010 17:43:47 GMTThe Iranian president says the current world order is on the slide, stressing that Tehran and Brasilia could play a leading role in establishing a new order.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a meeting with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on Tuesday during which the two officials discussed regional and international issues, including Iran's nuclear program.
Brazil has repeatedly voiced its support for Iran's right to develop a civilian nuclear program despite efforts by certain Western countries to garner Brasilia's backing for tougher sanctions against Tehran.
President Ahmadinejad said the Middle East region would benefit from friendly and strategic ties between Iran and Brazil.
"The current world order is declining and it should be replaced with a new order," he said.
"Iran and Brazil can play an important role in setting a new order based on justice," the Iranian president added.
Amorim, for his part, described having access to peaceful nuclear energy as the right of both the Iranian and Brazilian nations.
Earlier in the day, the Brazilian foreign minister told a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki that his country supported dialog as the only proper solution to Iran's nuclear dispute, adding it would continue diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue.
Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has categorically rejected Western accusations that its uranium enrichment activities are aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
US senators voice concerns to Facebook over privacy
Four US senators expressed concern to Facebook on Tuesday over recent changes to the social network that they say compromise the privacy of its more than 400 million users.
In a letter to Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, the senators said they were concerned that personal information of Facebook users is being made available to third party websites.
They also said Facebook should make sharing personal information an "opt-in" procedure in which a user specifically gives permission for data to be shared.
"Although we are pleased that Facebook allows users to opt-out of sharing private data, many users are unaware of this option and, moreover, find it complicated and confusing to navigate," the senators said.
"Facebook should offer users the ability to opt-in to sharing such information, instead of opting out, and should make the process for doing so more clear and coherent," they said.
"Providing opt-in mechanisms for information sharing instead of expecting users to go through long and complicated opt-out processes is a critical step towards maintaining clarity and transparency," they said.
The letter was signed by Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, and Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat from Alaska.
Zuckerberg rolled out a series of new features last week including the ability for other websites to incorporate Facebook data, a move that would further expand the social network's presence on the Internet.
The senators expressed concern about privacy ramifications.
"Facebook now obligates users to make publicly available certain parts of their profile that were previously private," they said.
"These personal details should remain private unless a user decides that he/she would like to make a connection and share this information with a community," they said.
"We are concerned, however, that this feature will now allow certain third party partners to have access not only to a user's publicly available profile information, but also to the user's friend list and the publicly available information about those friends," they said.
The senators urged Facebook to reverse a decision on the storage of profile data by third parties.
"Previously, Facebook allowed third-party advertisers to store profile data for 24 hours," they said. "We are concerned that recent changes allow that data to be stored indefinitely.
"We believe that Facebook should reverse this policy, or at a minimum require users to opt in to allowing third parties to store data for more than 24 hours."Read entire article
Judge tells defense:
Prove militia isn't dangerousBy ED WHITEAssociated Press Writer
DETROIT - A judge told attorneys for nine members of a Michigan militia charged with trying to launch war against the U.S. that they must prove their clients aren't as dangerous as prosecutors claim before she will release them.U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts heard appeals Tuesday of another judge's detention order. She told defense attorneys the burden is on them to show why their clients should be released from jail on bond.
The government says the group, called Hutaree, is an extremist organization. In court Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet played an audio tape of what he said were several militia members talking freely about killing police.Read entire article
Walking by a Dying Homeless Man
Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax bled to death on a street in Queens, N.Y., while at least 25 people walked past him. Tale-Yax had tried to stop a thug who was attacking a woman with a knife, and he got stabbed himself.
Surveillance video has revealed that one man took a cell phone photo of Tale-Yax and kept walking. Another shook him, seemed to notice that Tale-Yax was bleeding profusely, then kept going. Pairs of people stared at him, then went on their way.
What can explain this kind of inhumanity?
Social psychologists call it the “bystander effect.” It was first demonstrated in behavioral studies by John Darley and Bibb Latane in 1968. Their research was prompted by the case of 28-year-old Kitty Genovese, who was brutally raped and murdered in front of her Queens apartment building while 38 people witnessed the crime from the safety of their apartments — and did nothing to stop it.
The “bystander effect,” proven time and time again, asserts that in many emergency situations, any one bystander will do no more than other bystanders, and that all assume that someone else will intervene. The idea that no one else seems to be doing much causes a kind of anesthesia of our inborn, individual empathy.
var adsonar_placementId="1425888",adsonar_pid="151757",adsonar_ps="-1",adsonar_zw=224;adsonar_zh=93,adsonar_jv="ads.adsonar.com"; I would add that the “bystander effect” may be fueled by a kind of paralyzing, instantaneous psychological denial. The unconscious may lead us to “opt out” of participating in situations that seem too dramatic and out of the ordinary — like waking dreams. “How could I be on my way for a cup of coffee and come across a man bleeding to death?” the mind may ask. “This must be an illusion or a set-up. It certainly isn’t part of my reality.”
Obviously, the “bystander effect” is the opposite of personal responsibility, autonomy and courage.
I think the “bystander effect” is more widespread than most people imagine. It happens in many families, in which one member is being hurt by another (whether through drug abuse or sexual abuse or emotional abuse), and no one does anything to stop it. It is the reason that bullies can pick on a student in school and not incur the wrath of the group.
Indeed, I believe the “bystander effect” can operate culture-wide, as a society watches, anesthetized, as it slowly bleeds to death in full view of its citizenry, while everyone believes that someone else will intervene. Perhaps the terrible tragedy of Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax is not only a window on how little we sometimes protect one another, but also how little we protect our very future as a nation.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for Fox News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement including www.livingthetruth.com. Dr. Ablow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goldman Sachs executives come under fire at hearing US Senator Carl Levin:
"Goldman... often saw its clients as objects for its own profit" The chairman of an inquiry into the causes of America's financial meltdown has attacked the role of Goldman Sachs.
Senator Carl Levin spoke of the reckless greed that infected Wall Street's financial community.
In his opening address to the hearing in Washington, Mr Levin said Goldman executives had caused widespread harm to their fellow citizens.
Several Goldman executives are giving evidence at the hearing, and all have denied they acted improperly. The "masters of the universe" would be wise to curb their arrogance and not vent their frustration by making wisecracks.
Mark Mardell, BBC North America editor Read Mark's blog in full
Mr Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said that Goldman had proclaimed a responsibility to its clients, "yet the evidence shows that Goldman repeatedly put its own interests and profits ahead of the interests of its clients and our communities".
The firm packaged complex mortgage-backed securities and then sold them to investors knowing that the housing market was about to collapse, it is alleged.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleges that in the case of one of these products Goldman and its executive, Fabrice Tourre, defrauded investors by failing to tell them of a conflict of interest.
Goldman says the allegations are wrong in "fact and law".
Mr Levin said it was not his committee's role to judge the legality of the SEC's claims, adding that the hearing was concerned with "ethics and policy".
But he said that Goldman's actions reverberated around America. The firm's "misuse of exotic and complex financial structures helped spread toxic mortgages throughout the financial system," he said.
"And when the system finally collapsed under the weight of those toxic mortgages, Goldman profited from the collapse," he added.
Goldman executives at the hearing include Fabrice Tourre, Daniel Sparks, Joshua Birnbaum, and Michael Swenson.
Lloyd Blankfein, the firm's chief executive, is due to appear later in the day.
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Stocks drop in Greece; debt is downgraded to 'junk'
By Pan Pylas, AP Business Writer LONDON —
Greece's debt has been downgraded to junk status by Standard & Poor's as fears mount that the debt crisis in Europe could spiral out of control. In a statement Tuesday, S&P said it is lowering its rating on Greece's debt to BB+ from BBB- — meaning that the country's debt no longer is considered investment grade.
The agency is also warning debtholders that they only have an average chance of 30% to 50% of getting their money back in the event of a debt restructuring or default. LATEST WORLD MARKETS: See most recent indexes
The Greece downgrade follows an earlier one for Portugal
and comes at the end of another bad day for the eurozone.
Greek shares led a European stock market retreat of 1% to 4% Tuesday as concern grew about the country's ability to tap a bailout facility. .
In Greece and Portugal— the Athens
composite main index plunged 5.2% to 1,711.70 while Lisbon
's main PSI 20 index slid 2.5% to 7,367.71.
Once again, the Greek debt crisis had investors' attention despite last week's request by the Greek government to tap a rescue package from its 15 partners in the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund
With German Chancellor Angela Merkel
pursuing a hardline stance towards the release of the money — Germany's share is euro8.4 billion — ahead of a May 9 election in North Rhine/Westphalia
, Greek borrowing continues to carry sky-high interest rates.
"The situation in the Greek financial market has descended into chaos," said Jeremy Batstone-Carr, head of private client research at stockbrokers Charles Stanley.
"Investors hate delay during times of crisis...two weeks or more is a long time to wait in times of crisis," he added.
Greece has to make its next batch of debt repayments May 19 — whether it gets the money in time is now in question.
"Greece has a funding requirement of just under euro10 billion for May, so there is very little time for a stand-off on the issue," said Jane Foley, research director at Forex.com. Even if it does receive the bailout in time,...
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Outcry Continues Over Controversial Ariz. Immigration Law
Brewer Says White House Showing
'Complete and Total Disrespect' to Arizona Citizens Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer
is feeling the heat of the national spotlight as thousands protest across the state and some have called for a boycott of Arizona
goods following the signing of a controversial immigration bill into law.
Opponents across the U.S. call for a boycott of Arizona goods and tourism. In response to the criticism, Brewer has lashed out at President Obama
who has called the new law "misguided" and ordered the Justice Department
to see if it would violate civil rights.
Brewer said that five letters she's written to the federal government about her state's immigration issues have gone unreturned.
"I've spoke to the president personally in regard to [the letters], has been met with complete and total disrespect to the people of Arizona. I mean, we don't even get an answer back," Brewer said Monday.
Brewer said it was the state's way of working to solve a crisis that it did not create and which the federal government refused to fix.
"I firmly believe [the law] represents what's best for Arizona," Brewer said before signing the bill into law Friday. "Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues for the people of our state, to my administration, and to me as your governor and as a citizen."Read entire article