Daily Archives: July 22, 2009

Boy drinks gasoline to become a Transformer robot


A scene from the movie Transformers II

A nine-year-old Chinese boy has been left seriously ill after drinking petrol in order to turn him into a Transformer-type robot.

Telegraph | Jul 22, 2009

Xiao Fang, from Xingwen in eastern China, reportedly drank the petrol in secret, sipping it as he ate food in the belief that it could help him emulate the powers of robotic superheroes such as the Transformers.

However he has been left critically ill and has suffered serious nerve damage.

A doctor treating him said: “I am amazed he kept it down.”

The boy’s parents admitted their suspicions had been aroused by a strange smell.

“I wondered about the smell of petrol in our home,” said Xiao Fang’s father.

GM-free Britain develops GM crops for Africa

The white paper avoids the terms “genetically modified”

eurobiotechnews.eu | Jul 22, 2009

Britain is planning to spend up to EUR115m on support for genetically modified crops for the world’s poor.  A new white paper shows the government is committed to dramatically increasing spending on high-tech agriculture in the next five years, much of which will be on GM crop research. Biofortified crops, containing added vitamins, will receive £80m of development money, £60m will go to researching drought-resistant maize for Africa and a further £24m will be spent on pest resistance.

In addition, support will be doubled for an international network of GM crop research stations collaborating with GM companies. A further tranche of UK aid will go to a research initiative backed by the GM crop firm Syngenta, which is developing a strain of rice modified to increase vitamin A.

The white paper avoids the terms “genetically modified”. But scientists and development experts are certain that much of the money will be spent on GM, according to newspaper Guardian.

The plans are delicate because Britain has not allowed any GM crops to be grown commercially at home. The move to support the development of high-tech food for Africa is deemed as a way not only to to reduce poverty but also to gain acceptance for GM foods in Britain.

Obama’s Science Czar Considered Forced Abortions, Sterilization as Population Growth Solutions

Obama Science

John Holdren, President Obama’s chief science adviser, is facing scrutiny for radical population control measures he discussed in a 1977 ecology textbook. (AP photo)

John Holdren, director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, considered compulsory abortions and other Draconian measures to shrink the human population in a 1977 science textbook.

FOXNews.com | Jul 21, 2009

By Joseph Abrams

President Obama’s “science czar,” John Holdren, once floated the idea of forced abortions, “compulsory sterilization,” and the creation of a “Planetary Regime” that would oversee human population levels and control all natural resources as a means of protecting the planet — controversial ideas his critics say should have been brought up in his Senate confirmation hearings.

Holdren, who has degrees from MIT and Stanford and headed a science policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for the past 13 years, won the unanimous approval of the Senate as the president’s chief science adviser.

He was confirmed with little fanfare on March 19 as director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, a 50-person directorate that advises the president on scientific affairs, focusing on energy independence and global warming.


Obama’s Science Adviser Called for ‘Zero Economic Growth’

But many of Holdren’s radical ideas on population control were not brought up at his confirmation hearings; it appears that the senators who scrutinized him had no knowledge of the contents of a textbook he co-authored in 1977, “Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment,” a copy of which was obtained by FOXNews.com.

The 1,000-page course book, which was co-written with environmental activists Paul and Anne Ehrlich, discusses and in one passage seems to advocate totalitarian measures to curb population growth, which it says could cause an environmental catastrophe.

The three authors summarize their guiding principle in a single sentence: “To provide a high quality of life for all, there must be fewer people.”

As first reported by FrontPage Magazine, Holdren and his co-authors spend a portion of the book discussing possible government programs that could be used to lower birth rates.

Those plans include forcing single women to abort their babies or put them up for adoption; implanting sterilizing capsules in people when they reach puberty; and spiking water reserves and staple foods with a chemical that would make people sterile.

To help achieve those goals, they formulate a “world government scheme” they call the Planetary Regime, which would administer the world’s resources and human growth, and they discuss the development of an “armed international organization, a global analogue of a police force” to which nations would surrender part of their sovereignty.

Holdren’s office issued a statement to FOXNews.com denying that the ecologist has ever backed any of the measures discussed in his book, and suggested reading more recent works authored solely by Holdren for a view to his beliefs.

“Dr. Holdren has stated flatly that he does not now support and has never supported compulsory abortions, compulsory sterilization, or other coercive approaches to limiting population growth,” the statement said.

“Straining to conclude otherwise from passages treating controversies of the day in a three-author, 30-year-old textbook is a mistake.”

But the textbook itself appears to contradict that claim.

Holdren and the Ehrlichs offer ideas for “coercive,” “involuntary fertility control,” including “a program of sterilizing women after their second or third child,” which doctors would be expected to do right after a woman gives birth.

“Unfortunately,” they write, “such a program therefore is not practical for most less developed countries,” where doctors are not often present when a woman is in labor.

While Holdren and his co-authors don’t openly endorse such measures on other topics, in this case they announce their disappointment — “unfortunately” — that women in the third world cannot be sterilized against their will, a procedure the International Criminal Court considers a crime against humanity.

Click here to see the passage on sterilizing women | Click here for the full section on “Involuntary Fertility Control”

“It’s very problematic that he said these things,” said Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Lieberman faulted Holdren for using government as a solution to every problem and advocating heavy-handed and invasive laws.

But other members of the scientific community said accusations against Holdren are wholly misplaced.

“John Holdren has been one of the most well-respected and prominent scientific voices urging the federal government to address global warming,” wrote Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a statement.

Holdren’s co-authors, Paul and Anne Ehrlich, said in a statement that they were “shocked at the serious mischaracterization of our views and those of John Holdren,” caused by what they called misreadings of the book.

“We were not then, never have been, and are not now ‘advocates’ of the Draconian measures for population limitation described — but not recommended” in the book, they wrote.

Still, William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, faulted the Senate for not screening Holdren more strenuously during his hearings before confirming his nomination by unanimous consent both in committee and in the full Senate.

Despite “the litany of apocalyptic warnings that turned out to be incorrect, no one was willing to stick his neck out” and vote no, Yeatman said.

Some of Holdren’s views on population came under fire during the otherwise quiet confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, where Sen. David Vitter, R-La., asked him to revisit his past statements about environmental catastrophes that have never come to pass.

“I was and continue to be very critical of Dr. Holdren’s positions — specifically his countless doomsday science publications and predictions that have been near universally wrong,” Vitter told FOXNews.com.

“I wish that the Commerce Committee had taken more time to evaluate his record during his nomination hearing, but like with everything else in this new Washington environment, the Democratic majority and the White House were pushing to speed his nomination along,” Vitter said.

Vitter grilled Holdren during the hearing, asking him to clear up his 1986 prediction that global warming was going to kill about 1 billion people by 2020.

“You would still say,” Vitter asked, “that 1 billion people lost by 2020 is still a possibility?”

“It is a possibility, and one we should work energetically to avoid,” Holdren replied.

Sen. John Kerry, a leading Democrat on the committee, said the renewed scrutiny was essentially a Republican smear on Holdren’s good record. Kerry told FOXNews.com that senators already had “ample opportunity” to question Holdren, who “made clear that he does not and never has supported coercive approaches, end of story.

“The Commerce Committee and the Senate then unanimously concluded what I have long known — that John Holdren is a leading voice in the scientific community and we are fortunate to have him lead the fight to restore the foundation of science to government and policymaking that has been lacking for almost a decade.”

Holdren has confronted a number of challenges during his four-decade scientific career, including nuclear arms reduction, and was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics,” as the Nobel Committee said.

Now his greatest focus is global warming, which he said in a recent interview poses a threat akin to being “in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog.”

Holdren told the Associated Press in April that the U.S. will consider all options to veer away from that cliff, including an experimental scheme to shoot pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays and cool the earth, a last resort he hoped could be averted.

“Dr. Holdren is working day and night for the Obama Administration and the American people, helping to develop science and technology policies to make the country stronger, more secure, and more energy independent, and to make Americans healthier and better educated,” his office told FOXNews.com.

Four months after Holdren’s confirmation, his critics are keeping a wary eye on his work in the White House, where they assert that he has the president’s ear on scientific issues.

“It is interesting that this 30-year-old book is finally coming to light,” said Lieberman, of the Heritage Foundation.

“The people who are concerned about Holdren, quite frankly we didn’t do enough homework.”

Police union defends ‘very safe’ Tasers


‘Very, very safe’: The Police Union is defending the use of Tasers (AAP: Dave Hunt, file photo)

abc.net.au | Jul 21, 2009

The West Australian Police Union has vehemently defended the use of stun guns after an Aboriginal man caught fire after being tasered in the state’s far east.

Police Internal Affairs is investigating the incident involving 36-year-old Ronald Mitchell in the Goldfields town of Warburton on Monday.

It is alleged Mr Mitchell was threatening officers with a container of fuel and a cigarette lighter when he was tasered.

Mr Mitchell burst into flames and suffered third degree burns to his face, arms and chest. He remains in a critical condition in Royal Perth Hospital’s burns unit.

Police Union president Russell Armstrong says officers are given guidelines for the use of Tasers, but ultimately they need to use their own judgement.

“Tasers are very, very safe. They don’t kill people, the only people to have died from Tasers are the ones with medical conditions, heart problems and drug users,” he said.

“It’s a well known fact and we have 100 per cent confidence in the Tasers.”

Mr Armstrong, says while it was an unfortunate outcome, the officers did their best in trying circumstances.

“There certainly is standard operating procedures with all Tasers but this will be subject to an inquiry,” he said.

“We fully support the police officers and their actions. It was a life-threatening situation for them.”

Meanwhile, three people are facing charges in relation to yesterday’s incident.

An 18-year-old Warburton woman has been charged with two counts of assaulting a public officer.

Two boys, aged 12 and 13, have been charged with possessing a harmful substance.

It is not yet clear if the lighter or the Taser caused Mr Mitchell to catch fire, but police say it is likely he will be charged over the incident once he is well enough.

Yesterday, the Aboriginal Legal Service in Western Australia called for a ban on the police stun guns.

Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Dennis Eggington said there was mounting proof that Tasers were dangerous.

“I think that the jury’s still out on whether or not Taser is a lethal weapon in itself, particularly if you’ve got a part of the population that is very vulnerable to this type of electric shocks,” he said.

Mr Eggington said the man was a petrol sniffer, and Tasers should not be used on Aboriginal people who suffer from a range of health problems.

“The idea of a man getting burnt and Tasers being used while there’s volatile substances around is of great concern to the ALS,” he said.

Man bursts into flames after Taser shock

CNN | Jul 21, 2009

By Saeed Ahmed

(CNN) — A man, who doused himself with gasoline and charged at an officer, burst into flames when he was hit with a Taser, police in Australia said Tuesday.

“He was carrying a lighter and pouring himself with petrol,” said Inspector Bill Munnee with the West Australian Police. “We don’t know if the lighter set it off or something from the Taser.”

Authorities have launched an inquiry into what happened Monday when an officer arrived at the 36-year-old man’s house in the remote desert community of Warburton.

Police had received a report that the man and some others were sniffing glue, Munnee said.

At the sight of the arriving officers, the man ran out of the house with a container of gasoline and a cigarette lighter, police said.

When he ignored the officer’s command to stop, the officer fired his Taser stun gun — and the man “caught alight,” Munnee said.

When used, some stun guns emit an electric spark as they deliver an electric current. The jolt of electricity inhibits voluntary control of muscles, temporarily incapacitating the person.

While the officer tried to put out the fire, a woman from inside the house threw rocks at him, Munnee said. The officer suffered both burns from the fire and cuts from the rocks.

The man was airlifted to a hospital in the Western Australian capital of Perth, where he is undergoing treatment for severe burns.

Police charged him with assault with intent to prevent arrest and possession of a deleterious substance.

The rock-throwing woman was charged with assaulting a public officer.

“He has an extensive record of very violent behavior toward police and people,” Munnee said of the man. “He’s not Mother Teresa or the Pope.”

Two years ago, a man in Texas died in a similar incident when he too caught fire after he was shot with a Taser.

Russian government gives itself power to read personal mail of citizens


Russian security services to examine personal post

Reuters | Jul 21, 2009

by Amie Ferris-Rotman

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia passed a law on Tuesday making it easier for security services to inspect personal mail, a week after setting up a monitoring center to track dissent across the country.

The new law was condemned by rights groups and political analysts who labeled it anti-constitutional and totalitarian.

Inspection rooms and cameras will be set up in post offices, where authorities, including the successor to the KGB, the FSB, will open the mail of those suspected to be planning to or already breaking the law.

“These latest steps form a new chapter in Russia’s progression toward a totalitarian state,” said Yuri Zarakhovich at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S.-based think-tank.

“More punitive and repressive steps are being implemented… the authorities are using the crisis as an excuse to tighten up the police screws,” said Zarakhovich.

Months of protests, spurred by the country’s deep economic recession, have unnerved the government, which fears mass social unrest.

Even the Ministry of Communication and Mass Media said the new law “limits the rights of a person and a citizen” by checking their post, electronic and telephone exchanges, but that it only applies to suspects.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Helsinki Group, Russia’s oldest NGO, said the inspection rooms are a front and will allow the security services to rifle through private correspondence with impunity.

“No one is actually going to examine the text of the law, they will simply allow the authorities to look at whatever they want,” she was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

“It is completely anti-constitutional and we will of course fight against it in court.”

Though Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has cultivated an image as a liberal and touted openness and transparency, analysts say he has made very few substantive changes.

Liberal daily Noviye Izvestia said the new law will make way for other forms of control by the state: “A complete violation of rights will follow, which will include the monitoring of all that citizens do,” it said in its Tuesday edition.

Last week Russia set up a center to monitor and prevent social unrest and said monitors will be placed across regions to analyze reports of “social tension.”

Gallup poll: Obama’s popularity even lower than George W Bush’s

Obama is facing criticism about how he is going to pay for $1 trillion plans to reform the US health care system

Barack Obama’s honeymoon period appears to be coming to an end in America as polls have shown his ratings have fallen to their lowest point yet.

Telegraph | Jul 21, 2009

By Alex Spillius in Washington

Obama_BushA USA Today/Gallup survey suggested that six months into his presidency, his popularity was lower than George W Bush’s at the same stage of his tenure.

Amid rising unemployment and falling confidence in his economic plans, Mr Obama’s job approval rating has dropped by nine points since January to 55 per cent, a point below his predecessor in mid-2001.

The president is facing criticism about how he is going to pay for $1 trillion plans to reform the US health care system. Half of respondents in one poll disapproved of his health care policy compared with just 44 per cent who approved.

Mr Obama admitted there was work to do and said he would not sign any of the bills currently being considered in Congress.

“Right now, they’re not where they need to be,” he told NBC. He has already admitted that his August deadline for draft legislation could “spill over” into the autumn.

Mr Obama is due to hold a prime time televised press conference on Wednsday designed to restate his case to an increasingly sceptical nation.

Whit Ayres, a pollster, said: “His ratings have certainly come back down to Earth in a very short time period.”

Mr Obama is said to be losing the most support among independent voters and moderate Democrats, whose votes were crucial in winning him swing states in November’s election. In those states, where congressmen face re-election next year, Democrats are already concerned.

Steve Glorioso, a Democratic strategist in Missouri, said devout Democrats were as enthusiastic as ever for Mr Obama but that the less committed were feeling disappointed.

“People are scared,” he said. “This is the worst economic time anyone under the age of 80 has ever experienced, and you can’t discount people being afraid.

“Now that we are in July, the fear is turning to disappointment that the president hasn’t fixed everything yet. I don’t know why they thought he could change everything by now, but some did.”

Although Mr Obama inherited immense economic troubles from Mr Bush, the economy is now seen as almost solely his responsibility.

Experts say that White House reassurances about “the green shoots” of economic recovery are sounding hollow as unemployment has now risen to more than ten per cent in 15 states,

Chris Redfern, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said: “When it’s the president’s economy, it’s the president’s trouble. Americans are eager for the change that they voted into office. They support him, they just want to see results sooner rather than later.”

Even Democrats have privately criticised the president for not taking firm control of health care reform. Congress is now working on three different bills but has been stuck on who to tax to pay for expanded coverage.

Eager to avoid the mistake made by the Clintons in 1993, who handed a vast health care bill to congress with little consultation, Mr Obama has been accused of straying too far in the other direction.

This week he has delivered a tough message on health care on a daily basis, reminding Congress that 47 million uninsured Americans cannot wait for reform.

John McHenry, a Republican strategist, said: “At some point he needs to decide if he is taking ownership of this or contracting it all to the Democratic congress.

“This autumn will tell if his honeymoon is well and truly over. He has been more popular personally than many of his proposals were, but there is only so long you can continue that.”