Daily Archives: January 23, 2012

US Marine Frank Wuterich faces just three months in prison for role in Haditha massacre


Frank Wuterich arrives at court with his lawyer Neal Puckett Photo: AP Raf Sanchez

A US Marine charged over one of the Iraq war’s most notorious massacres of civilians has agreed to a plea bargain that could see him serve only three months in prison.

Telegraph | Jan 23, 2012

By Raf Sanchez, Washington

Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich faced nine counts of voluntary manslaughter for his role in the 2005 Haditha massacre, when his squad of Marines gunned down 24 Iraqis, including many women and children.

Yesterday, his attorneys reached a deal with military prosecutors at his court martial in California, allowing him to plead guilty to one count of dereliction of duty in return for the other charges being dropped.

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A spokesman for the Marine Corps told the Daily Telegraph that the maximum sentence he faces is three months confinement, a two-third cut in pay and a demotion of up to five ranks. The sentencing hearing is expected to take place tomorrow.

His guilty plea is the first conviction secured in the years since the killing but is unlikely to satisfy campaigners in Iraq, who have long demanded accountability for the killings. Six other members of his squad saw charges against them dismissed while one was acquitted at court martial.

Prosecutors had earlier told the hearing that Staff Sergeant Wuterich “lost control of himself” after a roadside killed one of his squad members and wounded two others. The court had originally heard allegations that the unit went house-by-house killing civilians with machine gun fire and grenades.

Prosecutors alleged that Staff Sergeant Wuterich had stood at the foot of a bed in a back bedroom and shot dead a woman and her children. That charge has now been dropped.

The soldiers involved said they believed they were operating under the rules of engagement which allowed areas to be designated “hostile” and giving troops permission to open fire on anyone they found there.

In an un-aired 2007 interview that was shown at the hearing, Staff Sergeant Wuterich said he was not “a monster” and expressed regret over the civilian casualties.

The massacre caused international outrage and was one of the key reasons that the Iraqi government last year refused to extend immunity to American forces in the country.

The conviction comes at the end of a difficult month for the Marines Corps, which is currently investigating four of its troops over video footage that appears to show them urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters. Last week, six Marines were killed in a helicopter in Helmand.

Global temps in a Crash as AGW proponents Crash the Economy

wattsupwiththat.com | Jan 19, 2012

By Joe Bastardi, Weatherbell Analytics

When the PDO turned cold, most of the meteorological and climate community understood that the pattern was turning very similar the last time of the PDO reversal, the 1950s, and it was a matter of time before the global temperatures, which have leveled off, would start falling in the same herby jerky fashion they had risen when the PDO turned warm at the end of the 1970s. I am not going to rehash the sordid details of how the AGW crowd simply ignores the major drivers of a cyclical nature. We all know that. Nor am I going to question them as to why they believe a trace gas like CO2 (needed for life on the planet) with a specific gravity of 1.5 as compared to the atmospheres 1.0, was going to mix with air in a way to affect the earth’s temperatures. Instead I am going to drive home points I have been making since 2007 and are now dramatically validating.

The La Ninas of 2008-09 and now this one had rapid mid level temperature drops that followed their onset and this years was nothing short of the most dramatic mid tropospheric drop since the start of the millennium. It is much more plausible to believe that rapid cooling in the mid levels would have an effect at leading to extremes, rather than what the warmingistas claim, which of course is anything that happens. In any case, one very interesting level that cooled to record cold levels was 400 mb, the very levels that the so called trapping hot spots were going to show up because of CO2…again a neat trick since somehow CO2 was going to defy the laws of Gravity, since, as mentioned above, its specific gravity is higher than the atmosphere (of course even if it was, it a) has not been proven to cause warming and b) man’s contribution is so tiny as to render it a non item anyway in climate considerations.

However first came the flip in the PDO, seen nicely here on the Multivariate Enso Index chart, which clearly illustrates the colder Pacific when the earth was colder, the start of the warming period coinciding with the satellite era, and now.

Now from the AMSU site, the amazing one year drop in temperature, the orange tan line being after the El Nino of 2009/10, the purplish line this past year and one can see the green this year, we are near record cold levels again.

And oh my my, the trapping hot spot itself.. 400mb or 25,000 feet… coldest in the entire decade

But the 2 meter temperatures, being in the boundary layer, do not respond as fast as the ocean, or a transparent atmosphere above

Nevertheless three downturns in a jagged fashion started predictably after the last El Nino now falling again in fits and spurts through December.

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For Chinese communists, only RedPad, not iPad, will do

CNET | Jan 19, 2012

by Don Reisinger

The iPad just isn't right for the China Communist Party; the RedPad is. (Credit: Apple)

When you’re a member of the China Communist Party, the iPad just doesn’t let you think different enough, it seems.

According to Reuters, China’s Communist Party members can now carry the RedPad Number One, which among other things comes bundled with software that allows up-and-coming commissars to monitor both the news and the journalists who report it. The Android-based tablet, which comes with a 9.7-inch display and a leather case, isn’t for the masses, though. The device sells for 9,999 yuan (about $1,600).

That exorbitant price tag is causing some bloggers in China to speak out against the Party. The critics say that it’s entirely possible the Party could use taxpayer dollars to pay for the tablets. In fact, Chinese Web site 91wenwen conducted an online survey earlier today on the topic, finding that about 2,000 people believed taxpayers could foot the bill. Nearly 3,000 respondents, however, say that it’s a “symbol of privilege.”

Perhaps what’s most interesting about the RedPad is that it comes with a host of applications designed to help party members keep tabs on the media. Reuters describes one application that lets members easily validate a journal’s accreditation. Another application lets them monitor blogs and microblogs.

Blogging services have long been a thorn in China’s side. The country has gone so far as to censor many of those services in an effort to “safeguard the public.”

“The rapid advance of this flood has also brought ‘mud and sand’–the spread of rumors–and to nurture a healthy Internet, we must thoroughly eradicate the soil in which rumors grow,” state-run media organization Xinhua wrote last year about blogs and microblogging services. “Concocting rumors is itself a social malady, and the spread of rumors across the Internet presents a massive social threat.”

That threat remains unchecked, apparently. The China Internet Network Information Center reported recently that as of the end of November, 300 million Chinese citizens were using microblogs. Last June, that figure stood at just 195 million.

Study Finds that Childhood Leukemia Rates Double Near Nuclear Power Stations

oilprice.com | Jan 19, 2012

By John Daly

In a report certain to cause fear and loathing in the global nuclear industry, an eminent French research institute published a study in the International Journal of Cancer, which notes increased rates of leukemia in children living close to French nuclear power plants (NPPs.)

How much greater?

The study by the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (French Institute of Health and Medical Research, or INSERM) found a leukemia rate twice as high among children under the age of 15 living within a 3.1-mile radius of France’s 19 nuclear power plants.

INSERM has carried out similar research in conjunction with the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire (Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety, or IRSN) CEPA UMRS1018, team 6 for over two decades, but has never before found a higher incidence of leukemia.

The report builds upon the findings of a German study published in late 2007 studying German children under 5 years old, which found that children of that age in the vicinity of German NPPs had suffered an increase in the incidence of childhood leukemia.

IRSN epidemiology research laboratory head Dominique Laurier observed, “This is a result which has been checked thoroughly and which is statistically significant.”

For those wishing to read the International Journal of Cancer study by C. Sermage-Faure, D. Laurier, S. Goujon-Bellec, M. Chartier, A. Guyot-Goubin, J. Rudant, D. Hemon and J. Clavel, “Childhood leukemia around French nuclear power plants – the Geocap study, 2002 – 2007,” the document is online in English at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.27425/pdf.

The study has ominous implications for the future of the nuclear industry in France, which opted for a full-blown nuclear energy program with minimal public debate after the first oil crisis in 1974 and whose 19 NPPs’ 58 reactors now provide more than 78 percent of the country’s electricity.

As for the study’s methodology, “The case-control study included all the 2,753 French childhood leukemia cases aged up to 15 years at the end of the year of diagnosis, diagnosed between 2002 and 2007, and residing in metropolitan France. The cases were obtained from the French National Registry of Childhood Hematological Malignancies (NRCH).”

Other unsettling findings from the study –

“The age distribution of the cases included in the study showed the expected peak of incidence, between 2 and 4 years old.”

“Overall, the results suggest a possible excess risk of AL (Acute lymphoblastic leukemia) in the close vicinity of French NPPs in 2002-2007.”

Nuclear power proponents will immediately seize upon the fact that the study fell short of establishing a direct causal link between the higher incidence of leukemia in children living near nuclear power plants. Laurier, one of the study’s authors remarked, “But we are working on numbers which are very small and results have to be analyzed with a lot of care. It’s a rare disease and working on a bigger scale would allow more stable results.”

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Scientists behind Armageddon flu virus suspend research because it ‘could put world at risk of catastrophic pandemic’


Fears: Worries that the avian flu could escape from laboratories and cause a pandemic have led to the halt in research. If it did escape, the mutant virus created by scientists could cause disaster on a global scale

Daily Mail | Jan 21, 2012

Researchers studying a potentially more lethal, airborne version of bird flu have suspended their studies because of concerns the mutant virus they have created could be used as a devastating form of bioterrorism or accidentally escape the lab.         

In a letter published in the journals Nature and Science on Friday, 39 scientists defended the research as crucial to public health efforts.

But they are bowing to fear that has become widespread since media reports discussed the studies, and their possible fallout, in December.

Fears were raised that the engineered viruses may escape from the laboratories – not unlike the frightful scenario in the 1971 science fiction movie The Andromeda Strain – or possibly be used to create a bioterror weapon.

Among the scientists who signed the letter were leaders of the two teams that have spearheaded the research, at Erasmus Medical College in the Netherlands and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as well as influenza experts at institutions ranging from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the University of Hong Kong.

The decision to suspend the research for 60 days “was totally voluntarily,” virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus told Reuters.

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The pause in their is meant to allow global health agencies and governments to weigh up the benefits of the research and agree on ways to minimize its risk.

‘It is the right thing to do, given the controversies in the US,’ Fouchier said.

The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity in December had asked Science and Nature to censor details of the research from the Erasmus and Wisconsin teams that was submitted for publication.

Biosecurity experts fear that a form of the virus that is transmissible through airborne droplets – which the Erasmus and Wisconsin teams independently created – could spark a pandemic worse than the 1918-19 outbreak of Spanish flu that killed up to 40 million people.

‘There is obviously a controversy here over the right balance between risk and benefit,’ said virologist Daniel Perez of the University of Maryland, who signed the letter supporting the moratorium.

‘I strongly believe that this research needs to continue, but that doesn’t mean you can’t call a time out.’

The full open letter

Below is the full open letter from Ron A. M. Fouchier, Adolfo García-Sastre, Yoshihiro Kawaoka and 36 co-authors published in the journals Nature and Science on Friday.

‘The continuous threat of an influenza pandemic represents one of the biggest challenges in public health. Influenza pandemics are known to be caused by viruses that evolve from animal reservoirs, such as birds and pigs, and can acquire genetic changes that increase their ability to transmit in humans. Pandemic preparedness plans have been implemented worldwide to mitigate the impact of influenza pandemics.

A major obstacle in preventing influenza pandemics is that little is known regarding what makes an influenza virus transmissible in humans. As a consequence, the potential pandemic risk associated with the many different influenza viruses of animals cannot be assessed with any certainty.

Recent research breakthroughs identified specific determinants of transmission of H5N1 influenza viruses in ferrets. Responsible research on influenza virus transmission using different animal models is conducted by multiple laboratories in the world using the highest international standards of biosafety and biosecurity practices that effectively prevent the release of transmissible viruses from the laboratory. These standards are regulated and monitored closely by the relevant authorities. This statement is being made by the principal investigators of these laboratories.

In two independent studies conducted in two leading influenza laboratories at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, investigators have proved that viruses possessing a haemagglutinin (HA) protein from highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses can become transmissible in ferrets.

This is critical information that advances our understanding of influenza transmission. However, more research is needed to determine how influenza viruses in nature become human pandemic threats, so that they can be contained before they acquire the ability to transmit from human to human, or so that appropriate countermeasures can be deployed if adaptation to humans occurs.

Despite the positive public-health benefits these studies sought to provide, a perceived fear that the ferret-transmissible H5 HA viruses may escape from the laboratories has generated intense public debate in the media on the benefits and potential harm of this type of research. We would like to assure the public that these experiments have been conducted with appropriate regulatory oversight in secure containment facilities by highly trained and responsible personnel to minimize any risk of accidental release. Whether the ferret-adapted influenza viruses have the ability to transmit from human to human cannot be tested.

We recognize that we and the rest of the scientific community need to clearly explain the benefits of this important research and the measures taken to minimize its possible risks. We propose to do so in an international forum in which the scientific community comes together to discuss and debate these issues. We realize that organizations and governments around the world need time to find the best solutions for opportunities and challenges that stem from the work.

To provide time for these discussions, we have agreed on a voluntary pause of 60 days on any research involving highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses leading to the generation of viruses that are more transmissible in mammals. In addition, no experiments with live H5N1 or H5 HA reassortant viruses already shown to be transmissible in ferrets will be conducted during this time. We will continue to assess the transmissibility of H5N1 influenza viruses that emerge in nature and pose a continuing threat to human health.’

66-year-old-dementia sufferer kicked to the ground and beaten by police officer who tried later to delete video


Beating: Officer Middendorf strikes Mr Flowers several times in the face

Shocking moment a 66-year-old-dementia sufferer is kicked to the ground and beaten by police officer who tried to delete video from his police car camera

Daily Mail | Jan 21, 2012

By Charles Walford

This is the shocking moment a police officer launches a vicious assault on a 66-year-old-dementia sufferer.

Officer Derek Middendorf then tried to cover his tracks by deleting the recording from his dashcam.

But it has been recovered by technicians in Florida, in the US, and now the attorney for victim Albert Flowers told Florida Today that his client was prepared to sue the city of Melbourne.

Melbourne City Attorney Paul Gougelman promised to review the video to see if the city had any responsibility to pay for Mr Flowers’ health care.

‘What I urge everybody to do is stand back and let the dust settle,’ Mr Gougelman said. ‘There is always more to the story. It’s always important to have a good working relationship in the community.’

Charges against Flowers were dropped by the Brevard County State Attorney’s Office after they learned about his dementia.

Middendorf was initially reprimanded for tampering with the recording device, but the city chose not pursue an administrative review at the time.

‘Information regarding the arrest of Albert Flowers was sufficient to indicate that an internal investigation was not warranted,’ Melbourne Police Chief Steve Mimbs said in a press advisory before the video was released. ‘Officer Derek Middendorf is a valued officer whose record since joining the department in 2005 reflects the fact that he has done a very good job for the city.’

Middendorf indicated in his report that he used force against Flowers after the man did not obey orders to stop moving toward him. The officer said he suspected Mr Flowers may have had a knife.

‘I had to react and protect myself in fear he was going to attack me,’ the report said. ‘Not knowing if he was still armed or not … I struck the defendant in the face to distract him.’

Mr Flowers’ dementia has worsened since returning home from the hospital, according to his granddaughter, Donna Jackson.

‘The family’s just upset by the whole thing,’Ms  Jackson explained. ‘We are glad they dropped the charges. We just want to move forward.’

Officer beating man with dementia

Russian ship leaves after ice-bound Alaska fuel run


Russian-flagged tanker Renda sits just off the coast of Nome, Alaska with two fuel transfer hoses running to a causeway in the harbor, in this January 16, 2012 handout photo. Reuters

AFP | Jan 21, 2012

NOME, Alaska — A Russian tanker left the Alaskan coast Saturday bound for home after delivering fuel to a remote Alaskan port, in an unprecedented winter operation helped by a US Coast Guard ice-breaker.

The Vladivostok-based Renda followed its escort the USCG Healy into the mist, leaving Nome after supplying 1.3 million gallons of fuel to top off the ice-locked town’s winter fuel supply.

The Russian ship had arrived a week earlier after battling across 300 miles (480 kilometers) of Arctic ice to reach Nome, a town of 3,500 people, with the help of the Healy.

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In some cases, the ice has been so thick that the Healy has opened a path for the Renda, only to see it close before the Renda could use it, forcing the Healy to circle around and reopen a path.

The remote town did not get its usual pre-winter oil delivery due to a storm, necessitating the unprecedented operation to bring fuel in during winter.

A special waiver had to be granted to allow the Renda to head to the rescue, as under a 1920 law only US-owned and operated vessels are allowed to make such deliveries.

The two ships finally arrived near Nome late last week, although it took several days to move the tanker into position and start pumping fuel through some 460 yards (meters) of arctic-proof hoses to fuel storage tanks onshore.

Once out of the ice, the ships will separate. The Healy will go to Seattle for maintenance.

Mark Smith, head of Vitus Marine, the company that chartered the Renda for the fuel delivery, said ice and wind conditions could be favorable for the ship’s return to Vladivostock, its home port in Russia’s Far East.

Forecasts suggested 100-150 miles of open water were opening up, he said before the tanker and its US escort left.

“They are optimistic that if they can get away from shore fast ice they can make some rapid progress,” he said.

“It’s all about ice conditions, but once the Renda is free of the ice pack, they are probably 10 days away from homeport in Vladivostok.”