Sunday, January 10, 2010

Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified

For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned by U.S. classified satellites of natural fireball events in Earth's atmosphere – but no longer.

A recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly states that observations by hush-hush government spacecraft of incoming bolides and fireballs are classified secret and are not to be released, has learned.

The satellites' main objectives include detecting nuclear bomb tests, and their characterizations of asteroids and lesser meteoroids as they crash through the atmosphere has been a byproduct data bonanza for scientists.

The upshot: Space rocks that explode in the atmosphere are now classified.

"It's baffling to us why this would suddenly change," said one scientist familiar with the work. "It's unfortunate because there was this great synergy...a very good cooperative arrangement. Systems were put into dual-use mode where a lot of science was getting done that couldn't be done any other way. It's a regrettable change in policy."

Scientists say not only will research into the threat from space be hampered, but public understanding of sometimes dramatic sky explosions will be diminished, perhaps leading to hype and fear of the unknown.


Most "shooting stars" are caused by natural space debris no larger than peas. But routinely, rocks as big as basketballs and even small cars crash into the atmosphere. Most vaporize or explode on the way in, but some reach the surface or explode above the surface. Understandably, scientists want to know about these events so they can better predict the risk here on Earth.

Yet because the world is two-thirds ocean, most incoming objects aren't visible to observers on the ground. Many other incoming space rocks go unnoticed because daylight drowns them out.

Over the last decade or so, hundreds of these events have been spotted by the classified satellites. Priceless observational information derived from the spacecraft were made quickly available, giving researchers such insights as time, a location, height above the surface, as well as light-curves to help pin down the amount of energy churned out from the fireballs.

And in the shaky world we now live, it's nice to know that a sky-high detonation is natural versus a nuclear weapon blast.

Where the space-based surveillance truly shines is over remote stretches of ocean – far away from the prospect of ground-based data collection.

But all that ended within the last few months, leaving scientists blind-sided and miffed by the shift in policy. The hope is that the policy decision will be revisited and overturned.

Critical importance

"The fireball data from military or surveillance assets have been of critical importance for assessing the impact hazard," said David Morrison, a Near Earth Object (NEO) scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. He noted that his views are his own, not as a NASA spokesperson.

The size of the average largest atmospheric impact from small asteroids is a key piece of experimental data to anchor the low-energy end of the power-law distribution of impactors, from asteroids greater than 6 miles (10 kilometers) in diameter down to the meter scale, Morrison told

"These fireball data together with astronomical observations of larger near-Earth asteroids define the nature of the impact hazard and allow rational planning to deal with this issue," Morrison said.

Morrison said that fireball data are today playing additional important roles.

As example, the fireball data together with infrasound allowed scientists to verify the approximate size and energy of the unique Carancas impact in the Altiplano -- on the Peru-Bolivia border -- on Sept. 15, 2007.

Fireball information also played an important part in the story of the small asteroid 2008 TC3, Morrison said. That was the first-ever case of the astronomical detection of a small asteroid before it hit last year. The fireball data were key for locating the impact point and the subsequent recovery of fragments from this impact.

Link in public understanding

Astronomers are closing in on a years-long effort to find most of the potentially devastating large asteroids in our neck of the cosmic woods, those that could cause widespread regional or global devastation. Now they plan to look for the smaller stuff.

So it is ironic that the availability of these fireball data should be curtailed just at the time the NEO program is moving toward surveying the small impactors that are most likely to be picked up in the fireball monitoring program, Morrision said.

"These data have been available to the scientific community for the past decade," he said. "It is unfortunate this information is shut off just when it is becoming more valuable to the community interested in characterizing near Earth asteroids and protecting our planet from asteroid impacts."

The newly issued policy edict by the U.S. military of reporting fireball observations from satellites also caught the attention of Clark Chapman, a planetary scientist and asteroid impact expert at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

"I think that this information is very important to make public," Chapman told

"More important than the scientific value, I think, is that these rare, bright fireballs provide a link in public understanding to the asteroid impact hazard posed by still larger and less frequent asteroids," Chapman explained.

Those objects are witnessed by unsuspecting people in far-flung places, Chapman said, often generating incorrect and exaggerated reports.

"The grounding achieved by associating these reports by untrained observers with the satellite measurements is very useful for calibrating the observer reports and closing the loop with folks who think they have seen something mysterious and extraordinary," Chapman said.

By Leonard David

Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than four decades. He is past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society's Ad Astra and Space World magazines and has written for since 1999.

Ga. revenues continue to plunge, drop 5.8 percent

ATLANTA (AP) - The red ink at the state Capitol continues.

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Friday that revenue collections in Georgia dropped 5.8 percent in December from the same month the year before.

For the fiscal year that began in July, tax collections are down 13.7 percent. That's a decline of about $1.1 billion.

Perdue has already ordered state agencies to slash $900 million. Additional cuts are likely on the horizon.

Sales and corporate income taxes both continued to decline in December, sales taxes by 20 percent and corporate taxes by 23 percent. But personal income taxes inched up 6.3 percent, which some see as an encouraging sign.

December's drop is the 13th straight month tax collections in Georgia have dropped.

Giuliani: ‘We Had No Domestic Attacks Under Bush’

The former New York City mayor who has sometimes been mocked for using "a noun, a verb and 9/11" in stump speeches appears to have forgotten -- or has mentally reclassified -- the worst terrorist attack on American soil. "We had no domestic attacks under Bush," Rudy Giuliani told ABC's George Stephanopoulos Friday.

Even if Giuliani doesn't consider the attacks on 9/11 a "domestic" attack then surely he forgot about the anthrax attacks of 2001.

While ABC's George Stephanopolous let Giuliani get away with his misstatement both during the interview and on his blog, ABC's Jake Tapper called the former mayor out. "Giuliani's comments that there were zero terrorist attacks under Bush, 1 under Obama, is false no matter how you slice it," tweeted Tapper.

Giuliani's remark came amidst a jeremiad against President Barack Obama's handling of the Christmas day Detroit airliner bombing suspect and appears at about 3:21 in the below clip.

"What he should be doing is following the right things that Bush did," Giuliani said. "One of the right things he did was treat this as a war on terror -- we had no domestic attacks under Bush; we had one under Obama."

The former mayor criticized Obama for opting to handle the alleged bomber's case in civilian court, essentially saying that the problem with civilian courts is that suspects are given lawyers.

"If you put someone in a civilian court, within a short period of time a lawyer is appointed and the person shuts up," he remarked. "If you have a person in the military system, you can question him endlessly for as long as you have to to make sure you've got the full scope of information."

Giuliani then praised Obama for using the phrase "war on terror."

"I'm very hopeful that President Obama turned a corner yesterday," he said. "He first used the words, thank goodness, 'War on Terror.'"

In 2007, while campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, Giuliani told a New Hampshire crowd that America would ultimately prevail against terrorists but that if a Democrat was elected president the United States would suffer more casualties.

"But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have?" Giuliani said. "If we are on defense [with a Democratic president], we will have more losses and it will go on longer."

"I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense," Giuliani continued. "We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense."

"The Democrats," he added, "do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us."

Curiously, Giuliani is the third high profile Republican to conveniently suggest that no domestic terror attacks occurred on President Bush's watch or to try to blame the Clinton administration for 9/11. Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and GOP operative Mary Matalin also recently said similar things during TV appearances blasting President Obama for allegedly ignoring terrorism.






















中國社科院人口與勞動經濟研究所所長蔡昉表示,受到人口不斷老化影響,中國勞動年齡人口(15 歲到59歲)供給增長率在2004年首次出現下降,預測2011年左右,勞動年齡人口開始不再上升,2021年開始絕對減少,屆時,原本讓各國羨慕的“人 口紅利”,將變成“人口負債”。











這幾年來,中國的婚戀網站市場規模正以驚人的速度擴張。2004年時,中國互聯網婚戀交友市場 規模僅約2000萬元人民幣(約馬幣985萬令吉);2008年達5億7000萬元(約馬幣2806萬6000令吉);預計今年的市場規模可達12億元 (約馬幣5億9000萬令吉)。



























































This Has Got To Be The End Of Tim Geithner - ED Show

Click this link ......

LT. Col Anthony Shaffer on Alex Jones 1/3: and DIA Prior Knowledge of 9/11

Click this link .....

We're all Icelanders now

If voters in the US or the UK had been given a vote on whether their governments should inject trillions of dollars into their banks (in the form of loans, guarantees and investments), it is pretty likely that those referenda would have been lost.

Most opinion polls indicated that citizens were furious with their banks - and were not persuaded that letting them fail would wreak the kind of economic havoc that would impoverish all of us.

So most economists, central bankers and finance ministers would probably say that we should be grateful that in America and Britain the people aren't quite as sovereign (if that makes sense) as in Iceland.

However most of us should surely empathise with the majority of Icelanders who don't see why they should be punished for the greed and stupidity of a handful of banks and bankers.

Actually, let's be clear: they will vote in their referendum on whether they should be punished yet more for the mistakes of their banks; there's no doubt that Iceland and its citizens have already been firmly spanked for the failures of their financial system.

Icelanders' real disposable incomes fell almost 20% last year and are forecast to fall a further 15.8% this year.

In other words, each of them will be a third poorer on average as a result of the deep dark recession caused by the collapse of their over-stretched banks.

Of course, they all became unsustainably wealthier during the boom years of the early-to-mid noughties, when hot money gushed into high-interest rate Iceland as part of the global carry trade and was re-lent and re-invested all over Europe, but especially in the UK.

That said, losing income is always painful, irrespective of whether that income is sustainable and deserved in some fundamental economic sense.

And by the way, those of you who put your money into Icesave accounts for the extra increment of interest that wasn't available from more mainstream banks: well, you too could well be charged with fecklessness and with receiving unsustainably high returns.

Yet you have been bailed out, by Her Majesty's Treasury - which is now insisting that Icelands' beleaguered citizens pay it back.

So let's be honest, Icelanders' reluctance to dig into their pockets to the tune of £3.4bn to repay Britain and the Netherlands is understandable.

And for me what this saga illustrates is something I've been banging on about for ages, which is the democratic deficit between people and finance, between citizens and big banks.

Icelanders now know, more than any nation on earth, that when banks run into difficulties, they have to be bailed out by all taxpayers.

We've learned that too.

But we weren't as aware of it as we should have been, before the crisis.

And, arguably, we haven't yet been properly consulted on what kind of banking system we want, what kind of risks we think the banks should run, for the future.

Given the economic price we've all paid for the reckless behaviour of banks, it's perhaps surprising that we're not all as angry as the Icelanders.

Shoplifting is on the rise as downturn bites harder

Retailers have reported a sharp surge in shoplifting during the recession.

The latest crime survey by the trade body the British Retail Consortium shows thefts by customers jumped by a third between 2008 and 2009.

Violence against staff also increased. Shopkeepers are asking the police to do more to protect them and their stock.

The BRC's research found there were almost half a million thefts - almost one a minute - something they say costs their industry £1.1bn ($1.7bn).

It could be far higher as many crimes are not reported. Pessimists suggest it could even be double this reported rate.

Physical attacks

More seriously for retailers on a personal level, violence and verbal abuse also rose significantly.

At least 22,000 staff nationwide say they have been targeted by customers.

Stephen Robertson, of the BRC, said police and others in the criminal justice system do not take store crime seriously enough.

He said: "It's shocking that a shop theft happens almost every minute, 24 hours a day... The police and criminal justice system must take retail theft more seriously."

The figures were revealed in a BRC survey of 60 major stores who employ 1.1 million staff and represent almost half the market.

You pay

Mr Robertson said shoplifting was not, according to the popular saying, a "victimless crime".

He said: "Whatever the motivation, shoplifting is never victimless or acceptable. The cash costs are met by honest customers who end up paying more and the human costs by shop staff who intervene."

Hawaiian Airlines Pilots Need To Calm Down

Joseph Hedlund Johnson, of Salem, Oregon, has been charged with the U.S. federal crime of interference with the performance and duties of a flight crew member or attendant. He is expected to surrender to authorities on Monday.

This is what happened.

On a flight from Portland Oregon to Maui (Hawaii), Johnson was upset to learn that airline regulations prohibit the stowing of a carry-on bag under an exit-row seat. Actually, I was quite pissed off to learn that fact some years ago and now I specifically request a seat in another row when I fly, but in this case, Johnson can be excused because he doesn't fly very often. Airline operators don't offer a discount to passengers in those rows and because they encourage manufacturers to construct seats in those important rows with less room for storage so that they can maximise their profits, I blame 'the airlines'.

Anyway, Johnson didn't threaten anyone, evidenced by the fact that the plane left Portland as scheduled and considering what happened next, had he simply exercised his right of free expression and extended his middle finger at the smart-mouthed Bitch who was obviously upsetting one of the airline's customers, I suspect the plane would not have flown.

Anyway, I digress.

About 90 minutes into the 5 hour and 40 minute flight, Johnson took advantage of the comment card provided to all passengers and expressed his thoughts. He wrote:

"I thought I was going to die, we were so high up," the card said. "I thought to myself: I hope we don't crash and burn or worse yet landing in the ocean, living through it, only to be eaten by sharks, or worse yet, end up on some place like Gilligan's Island, stranded, or worse yet, be eaten by a tribe of headhunters, speaking of headhunters, why do they just eat outsiders, and not the family members? Strange ... and what if the plane ripped apart in mid-flight and we plumited (sic) to earth, landed on Gilligan's Island and then lived through it, and the only woman there was Mrs. Thurston Howell III? No Mary Anne (my favorite) no Ginger, just Lovey! If it were just her, I think I'd opt for the sharks, maybe the headhunters."

The reference to "Gilligan's Island" concerns a 1960s-CBS television comedy about a charter boat crew and their passengers who had become shipwrecked and wound up living together on a deserted island.

Johnson handed the comment card to a stewardess who opened the sealed envelop in which Johnson had recorded his comments and after reading these frightening words she passed them to the pilot, who later told investigators that, considering Johnson's earlier behaviour regarding his bag, he felt threatened by the card and decided to turn the jet around. The pilot then lied to the passengers, saying that there were mechanical problems to explain why the plane would not be going to Maui. Imagine, in an effort to restore calm on the flight, this brave pilot told the airline's passengers that there was a mechanical problem that would prevent the plane from reaching Maui!

Then, the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) scrambled two fighter jets to escort the plane back to Portland, just in case Johnson attempted to complete another comment card.

Johnson and all of the other passengers were completely oblivious to the true reason for the turn-around—that the crew and pilot were literally quaking in their boots, afraid from Johnson's comment and his direct references to "Gilligan's Island".

So, upon landing in Portland, Johnson was met by FBI agents, who interviewed him, the flight crew and his girlfriend.

Johnson stated that he didn't think anyone would open it during the flight. He thought, as anyone would have, that the card would be taken back to an office somewhere, opened, and that everyone in the room would 'get a laugh' from it, and that perhaps he'd even get some frequent flyer miles out of it. Johnson didn't intend to scare anyone, like the pilot had when he told the passengers that the plane in which they were flying was faulty and could not make it to Maui.

There was a day when airlines valued their customer's business and appreciated (read: empathized with) the stress many people go through when flying. But today, it's "give us your money"; "sit down", "buckle up", "shut up" and if you don't treat them like the gifts from God that they obviously believe they are, then you'll be arrested when we land. Invite passengers to write their comments and then have them arrested for an innocent message that is in no way threatening and would not have been read during the flight had the stewardess been minding her own business and had not done something or said something to Johnson that she was obviously worried about.

Today, the passengers get to wonder if the pilots' flying the plane while loaded, or about to nod off or surfing the Internet and missing the airport or indeed whether some incompetent bastard or cost cutting pencil pusher working for the airline hasn't jeopardised the flight in their own special way.

...And this pilot felt threatened by Johnson's comment card?

Johnson merely expressed himself as invited to do so by the airline—the crew and pilot clearly overreacted and need to calm down.

The crewmember that opened Johnson’s comment card was obviously worried that he had written something about her and should be held responsible for everything that happened after she violated the confidence to which Johnson was entitled— Hawaiian Airlines provides those cards so that passengers can express their thoughts about their experiences with crewmembers and the flight and airline in general . My understanding is that those comment cards are supposed to be opened and read by Customer Service staff and not the stewardesses...

Greg Smith is, inter alia, the publisher of OfficialWire. A serial entrepreneur and "one-man think-tank," as well as an avid lifelong pollster, statistician and political junkie, Greg is dedicated to the perpetuation of an absolutely free press as one of the cornerstones of liberty and informed decision-making in a democratizing world. Considered too Liberal by his Left-Wing liberal friends, he periodically offers his two-cents at, where he podcasts his freewheeling opinion on numerous and varied topics. Greg is also President of the SpudsToGo and the owner of MrPressRelease, both of which businesses boast a fast-expanding profile in the global market. He is married to Kathy Smith and, together, they and their three children, Max, Phoebe and Clio, divide their time between homes in several European capitals. However, Kathy says Greg's true base of operations is on the Worldwide Web. You may contact Greg through this website.

Nine Months Later, Obama Plan To Help 1.5 Million Struggling Homeowners Yet To Launch

An Obama administration plan announced in April to help up to half of all struggling homeowners modify their second mortgages has yet to officially launch, the Treasury Department acknowledged Friday.

The program, a component of the administration's $75 billion Making Home Affordable effort, was supposed to attack second-lien mortgages, which are additional, second mortgages taken out on a home on top of the initial first mortgage. It's like taking out two loans to pay the same debt.

The Second Lien Program is supposed to automatically reduce the payments on a second mortgage when the first mortgage is modified under the administration's loan modification effort, the Home Affordable Modification Program. The administration says that by lowering monthly mortgage payments, HAMP will eventually help up to four million homeowners stay in their homes

Some housing experts say the second-mortgage component of the plan is necessary to effectively tackle the foreclosure mess -- 3 million foreclosure notices were sent out in 2009; another 3 million are estimated to go out this year -- because so many distressed homeowners have second mortgages. When rolling out the program in April, the administration estimated that "up to 50 percent of at-risk mortgages currently have second liens." Addressing only the first lien is insufficient, experts say, if no changes are made to seconds.

Per the administration's fact sheet on the program accompanying its April 28 announcement:

Second liens contribute to the number of American homeowners unable to afford their housing payments. Even where a first mortgage payment may be affordable, the addition of a second mortgage payment can increase monthly payments beyond affordable levels. In addition, second mortgages often complicate or prevent modification or refinancing of a first mortgage.

The Second Lien Program will help create a sustainably affordable mortgage payment for millions of homeowners who qualify for a first mortgage modification, yet still face challenges in affording their monthly payments because of a second mortgage.

Compounding the problem is the fact that millions of homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth, putting them "underwater." About a quarter of all homeowners with a mortgage have negative equity, according to real estate research firm First American CoreLogic.

"The single largest problem [with the housing market] is negative equity," said Laurie S. Goodman, senior managing director at Amherst Securities and one of country's top mortgage bond analysts according to Institutional Investor magazine, before a Congressional panel last month. "The [government's] current modification program does not address negative equity, and is therefore destined to fail."

Shrinking U.S. Labor Force Keeps Unemployment Rate From Rising

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- An exodus of discouraged workers from the job market kept the U.S. unemployment rate from climbing above 10 percent in December, economists said.

Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent, according to economists including David Rosenberg at Gluskin Sheff & Associates in Toronto and Harm Bandholz at UniCredit Research in New York.

“The actual unemployment rate is higher than shown by the official numbers,” Bandholz said yesterday after a Labor Department report released in Washington showed the economy unexpectedly lost 85,000 jobs in December while the jobless rate was unchanged.

About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.

The so-called underemployment rate -- which includes part- time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want work but have given up looking -- rose to 17.3 percent in December from 17.2 percent.

The number of discouraged workers, those not looking for work because they believe none is available, climbed to 929,000 last month, the most since records began in 1994.

Length of Unemployment

The backdrop to the disillusionment is that it’s taking longer and longer to find work, economists said. Workers were unemployed for 29.1 weeks on average last month, the most since records began in 1948.

“Longer-term unemployment is one of the biggest problems,” said Bandholz. “Payroll declines will come to a halt in the next couple of months, but the people who are unemployed are having problems getting a job and it’s getting tougher by the month.”

Revised figures showed payrolls climbed by 4,000 in November. The gain was the first since the economic slump began in December 2007.

“Workers seem to be particularly discouraged by this recession,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York.

Participation Rate

The participation rate, or the share of the population in the labor force, fell to 64.6 percent in December, the lowest level since 1985, from 64.9 percent.

The labor force will probably grow this year as the economy continues to expand and Americans believe jobs will be easier to get. That will mean the unemployment rate will head higher because there won’t be enough jobs available to satisfy the demand for work.

“The exodus from the labor force can’t contain the unemployment rate indefinitely,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “We expect unemployment to resume rising over the next few months, peaking near 10.5 percent in the third quarter.”

Federal Reserve policy makers, while noting stabilization in the labor market, have expressed concern about unemployment and poor job prospects. That’s one reason policy makers will keep the benchmark interest rate near zero longer than most anticipate, said John Ryding.

Fed ‘On Hold’

Treasury two-year notes yesterday gained the most in three weeks following the worse-than-expected payroll numbers. The yield fell five basis points, or 0.05 percentage point, to 0.97 percent at 4:31 p.m. in New York.

President Barack Obama on Dec. 8 proposed additional spending on the nation’s transportation system, tax credits to spur hiring by small businesses and incentives to make homes more energy efficient in a second round of efforts to cut the jobless rate.

“We’re going to have to work harder to create jobs.” U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “This is a very stubborn recession.”

UPDATE 1-Horizon Bank first U.S. bank failure of 2010

WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators closed Horizon Bank (HRZB.O) of Bellingham, Washington, on Friday, kicking off what has been forecast as a peak year for small bank failures.

Stocks | Regulatory News | Bonds | Financials

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said Horizon Bank had approximately $1.3 billion in total assets and $1.1 billion in total deposits as Sept. 30.

Friday's bank failure is expected to cost the FDIC's insurance fund a total of $539.1 million.

The 18 branches of Horizon Bank will reopen during their normal business hours beginning on Saturday as branches of Washington Federal Savings and Loan Association and deposits will continued to be insured by the FDIC.

Community banks are facing persistent pressure from deteriorating loans, many tied to commercial real estate projects that have collapsed or are in decline.

Regulators closed 140 banks last year, the highest level since 1992 when officials were still cleaning up from the savings and loan crisis. That compares with 25 in 2008 and only three in 2007.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has said in the current banking crisis, failures will peak in 2010 and then start to subside.

The price tag for the bank closings is expected to total $100 billion from 2009 through 2013, according to the FDIC.

The failures have drained the agency's deposit insurance fund, but the agency recently collected about $45 billion by having banks prepay three years of industry assessments.

The FDIC expects the insurance fund's balance will remain negative until 2013 but says it has plenty of access to cash, including the ability to tap a $500 billion line of credit with Treasury.

In a new twist in the way the FDIC collects fees, the agency may propose next week that banks with risky employee compensations practices be ordered to pay more for deposit insurance.

The proposal is preliminary and it is unclear if it will gain favor with other regulators or the industry. (Reporting by Doug Palmer and Karey Wutkowski; Editing by Gary Hill)

How Big Pharma Profits From Fear

With Big Pharma raking in billions off swine flu fears, the last thing they need is a government handout.
Yet Uncle Sam is busy playing Daddy Warbucks with YOUR lunch money, helping Swiss drugmaker Novartis open a new vaccine plant in North Carolina. You've generously contributed around $700 million to help Novartis build their shiny new drug factory -- $220 million three years ago, and $486 million this year.
And I'll bet you didn't even get a thank-you card.
In return for this bad investment in a foreign company, the U.S. government gets the right to PURCHASE vaccine for 17 years. Not only that, but these vaccines will be created using a new and unproven biotech method that relies on dog kidneys instead of chicken eggs.
In other words, this plan really is a dog.
I'm a doctor, not an economist. But if this is someone's idea of stimulus, you do the math: The plant now employs 191 people making an average of $50,000 per year. At that rate, it would take around 75 years for the government money put into this joint to make its way back into our own economy.
Slice off a few years if you believe them when they say they'll ultimately employ 350 people when the plant is fully operational in 2013 -- in any case, it'll be decades before Americans ever see that cash again.
But don't worry -- I'm sure somewhere, a poor Swiss ski resort is hosting a group of free-spending Novartis executives.
Maybe they'll be joined by their yodeling friends at the World Health Organization. A report at World Net Daily says at least three of the WHO's top flu "experts" have financial ties to vaccine makers.
That sure explains a lot.
Meanwhile, anyone who doubts that money is the real driving force behind swine flu fears only needs to check out Business Week magazine.
A recent headline there tells whole story by itself: "How Big Pharma Profits from Swine Flu."
Careful there, Business Week. That kind of thinking would have gotten you branded a radical conspiracy theorist just a few months ago!
Just check out these big paydays off swine flu vaccine sales:
$1.7 billion for GlaxoSmithKline
$700 million for Novartis
$500 million for Sanofi-Aventis Those figures are for the fourth quarter of 2009 alone -- analysts expect them to grab similar piles of cash for the first quarter of 2010 as everyone from President Obama to Santa Claus push these needless vaccines on you and your children.
Business Week also notes that vaccine sales are booming just in time: Patents on prescription drugs worth a combined $135 billion in annual sales are about to expire... with no new meds ready to replace them.
And that means you can expect another phony swine flu scare any moment now.
That's not the only sickening swindle. Keep reading for the latest on Tamiflu...
Hide and seek with Big Pharma
Get ready for some more flu funny business -- except you won't be laughing when you hear about this one.
Drug giant Roche is being accused of hiding key data from eight unpublished studies on its flu drug, Tamiflu... and, as a result, researchers now say there's no evidence that the drug can reduce the risk of flu complications such as pneumonia.
What are they hiding? Who knows -- but you don't lock the smartest and most attractive kids in the attic.
The Cochrane Collaboration tried to update their earlier review of the research -- but the company demanded a confidentiality agreement in exchange for access to those eight shady studies.
I'm thrilled to say the researchers told Roche where to stick that agreement. Too bad that kind of integrity is all too rare.
In an editorial that accompanied the new review in the British Medical Journal, editor Fiona Godlee tore into the company. She wrote that the studies originally used to back Tamiflu were written by Roche employees and consultants, and that one researcher named in a study even claimed no involvement in the project.
Shady? You bet. Surprising? Not at all.
It's par for the course when it comes to Big Pharma.
So here's about all those researchers can say about Tamiflu now: It could reduce flu symptoms by about a day.
And here's what I can tell you about this dangerous drug: Its side effects include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Some patients experience severe allergic reactions, confusion, bizarre behavior, hallucinations, seizures, fever, sore throat and more.
Some of these reactions are far more common than anyone wants to admit -- especially in children, as I've warned you before.
Worth it? You decide -- but I think you're better off investing in another box of tissues and that extra day of rest.
Never feeding the flu fears,
William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

Strong Earthquake Shakes Northern California; Damage Reported

FERNDALE, CA - A strong earthquake magnitude, 6.5, struck northern California, causing significant damage.

It was centered 20 miles west northwest off the coast of Ferndale in northern California Saturday afternoon at 4:28, Pacific Time. The earthquake's depth is estimated at 14 miles.

The location is about 27 miles south of Eureka and 224 miles northwest of Sacramento.

Ferndale police officer Paul Diaz said there was “structural damage all around town — pretty bad” including broken glass in stores and stucco falling off of City Hall, in an interview with the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

Authorities in the nearby city of Eureka and other area communities said no major injuries have been reported. But several people received minor cuts and scrapes from broken glass at the Bayshore Mall in Eureka, and an elderly person fell and broke a hip, authorities said.

''We're mostly getting reports of bumps, bruises and hits on the head,'' said Laurie Watson Stone, a spokeswoman for St. Joseph Hospital, a 146-bed hospital in Eureka. ''The emergency room is busy, but we haven't heard of any major injuries.''

Amanda Nichols, a dispatcher for Eureka Police Department, said she received a report that an infant was struck in the head with some flying debris at the mall.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman J.D. Guidi said power outages were widespread across most of Humboldt County, affecting about 25,000 customers.

Nearly 10,000 remained without power some five hours after the quake, and some could remain without power through Sunday, said PG&E spokeswoman Janna Morris.

No damage was done to the company's former nuclear power plant outside Eureka, Morris said.

Several traffic lights fell and numerous residents reported water, gas and sewer leaks, Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services spokeswoman Jo Wattle said.

''People have chimneys down, and we're hearing about minor property damage and lots of glassware broken,'' Wattle said. ''People are really shaken up. It was shaking pretty good, then it had a big jolt to it at the end.''

Police in Ferndale said the earthquake caused stucco to fall off City Hall and broke shop windows, strewing the historic downtown streets with glass shards.

''I thought a tire had blown off my truck because it was so hard to keep control of the vehicle,'' Officer Lindsey Frank said. ''Power lines were swaying, and I could see people in the fields trying to keep their balance.''

The quake was felt as far south as Capitola in central California and as far north as central Oregon, agency geophysicist Richard Buckmaster said.

The area is about 270 miles north of San Francisco in a coastal area known for periodic earthquakes.

In 1964, a tsunami washed away 11 people in Crescent City, 85 miles north of Eureka. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there was no threat of the quake generating a tsunami.

Sandra Hall, owner of Antiques and Goodies in Eureka, told the Los Angeles Times that the quake moved her shop in all directions.

Her store is now littered with broken lamps, dishes, and wardrobe items. She said there were at least four people in her store when the quake struck. A couple managed to run out of the store’s main entrance, while two women took cover under a table.

“We’ve been through a lot of earthquakes but I can’t recall there ever being any this bad,” Hall said.

More than a dozen smaller earthquakes have been felt after the initial earthquake with the strongest aftershock a 4.5 quake at 6:22 p.m.

The earthquake knocked out the power in Arcata, a small town that's home to Humboldt State University, and one resident said many people had objects knocked off walls and televisions tumble.

“It was huge — one of the biggest earthquakes we've had up here in 20 years,” said Judd Starks, the kitchen manager at a bar and restaurant known as The Alibi. “The whole town is kind of freaked out right now. All the power is out, people are out walking around.

Tweets from Ferndale area residents on Twitter gave first-hand reports of the quake:

"broken glass, bookcases over, no power. Folks checking on neighbors..."

"Some power lines down, large boulders in the road, and city hall damaged in Ferndale, but no major damage reported."

"whoa! we shook!!! no power, but we're alive and our house is still standing."

"live feed from Humboldt County says residents are being evacuated due to gas leaks."

"Falling caribou head narrowly missed striking employee"