April 5, 2012 Loyalty to Syrian President Could Isolate Hezbollah By ANNE BARNARD
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Mazen, a carpenter who organizes protests against President Bashar al-Assad in a suburb of Damascus, Syria, has torn down the posters of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, that once decorated his car and shop.
Like many Syrians, Mazen, 35, revered Mr. Nasrallah for his confrontational stance with Israel. He considered Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political party, as an Arab champion of the dispossessed, not just for its Shiite Muslim base but for Sunnis like himself. But now that Hezbollah has stood by Mr. Assad during his deadly yearlong crackdown on the uprising against his rule, Mazen sees Hezbollah as a sectarian party that supports Mr. Assad because his opponents are mainly Sunnis.
“Now, I hate Hezbollah,” he said. “Nasrallah should stand with the people’s revolution if he believes in God.”
Mr. Nasrallah’s decision to maintain his critical alliance with Syria has risked Hezbollah’s standing and its attempts to build pan-Islamic ties in Lebanon and the wider Arab world.
Though Hezbollah’s base in Lebanon remains strong, it runs an increasing risk of finding itself isolated, possibly caught up in a sectarian war between its patron, Iran, the region’s Shiite power, and Saudi Arabia, a protector of Sunni interests in the Middle East. Its longtime ally, Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, has distanced itself from the Assad government, moving its headquarters out of Damascus, and Sunni revolutionaries in Syria have explicitly denounced Hezbollah as an enemy. At home, its Lebanese rivals sense a rare opportunity to erode its power.
In a delicate adjustment in the face of these new realities — and the resilience of the uprising — Hezbollah has shifted its tone. In carefully calibrated speeches last month, Mr. Nasrallah gently but firmly signaled that Mr. Assad could not crush the uprising by force and must lay down arms and seek a political settlement. He implicitly acknowledged the growing moral outrage in the wider Muslim world at the mounting death toll, obliquely noted that the Syrian government was accused of “targeting civilians” and urged Mr. Assad to “present the facts to the people.”
Behind the scenes, Mr. Nasrallah personally tried to start a reconciliation process in Syria early in the uprising and is now renewing those efforts, said Ali Barakeh, a Hamas official involved in the talks.
“He refuses the killing for both sides,” said Mr. Barakeh, the Beirut representative for Hamas.
Mr. Barakeh said that Mr. Nasrallah visited Damascus in April of last year and briefly persuaded Mr. Assad to try to reach a political solution, with Hezbollah and Hamas acting as mediators. But as Hamas began reaching out to fellow Sunni Muslims in the opposition, the plan was scuttled by the Syrian government.
Hezbollah rarely allows official interviews and has refused them for months. But supporters and current and former party activists suggest that the situation is fueling fears of an anti-Shiite backlash and is testing loyalists who must explain the party’s position to others, and themselves.
Mr. Nasrallah is tempering his position because he wants to avoid asking supporters to endure another war, said a former student activist who spends hours defending the party on Facebook, arguing, for example, that rogue forces, not Mr. Assad, are responsible for the “mistakes.”
Mr. Nasrallah “doesn’t want supporters to suffer,” said the woman, who works at a Hezbollah foundation, adding that some still feel “broken inside” from the 2006 war with Israel and “don’t want more pressure.”
Syria’s conflict is testing Hezbollah’s longstanding contradictions. It relies on public support, yet sometimes behaves autocratically; it is a national group founded to fight Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, but owes its military might — and the funds that rebuilt the south after the 2006 war — to Iran’s desire to project power; and it styles itself pan-Islamic, but it depends on rock-solid support from Lebanese Shiites for whom it won long-denied power as it became the Middle East’s most formidable militant group and Lebanon’s strongest political force.
Most of all, Hezbollah won respect by sticking to its principles, even among rival sects and the leftist cafe regulars in Beirut who are skeptical of its religious conservatism. Now it is paying a price for its politics of pragmatism in Syria.
To a young, college-educated health care worker who is a lifelong supporter of Hezbollah, the party’s support of Mr. Assad keeps faith with the most important principle of all: opposing Israel.
“This revolution is not made in Syria,” she told friends at a seaside cafe in Sidon, Lebanon, after shopping at a shiny new mall. “The real target is Lebanon and the resistance.”
Echoing the party line, she said that the United States and its Arab allies fomented Syria’s revolt to punish Hezbollah for fighting the Israelis in 2006.
But that argument has frayed. Hamas, unable to disown Syria’s Sunni revolutionaries, declared itself neutral, angering Mr. Assad, and then moved its leadership from Damascus. Some Hamas leaders from Gaza went further, praising the Syrian revolution to crowds that shout, “No, no, Hezbollah.”
Deprived of Hamas’s political cover, Hezbollah has been accused of sectarian hatred, and has been its target as well. Syrian rebels have burned the Hezbollah flag, claimed that its snipers are killing civilians in Syria, and named their brigades after historic warriors who defeated Shiites in Islam’s early schismatic battles. Early on, some analysts thought that if a Sunni government would arise in Damascus it might support Hezbollah against Israel. But now, says Michael Wahid Hanna of the Century Foundation, Hezbollah may have missed a chance to hedge its bets.
Hezbollah’s supporters, none of whom wished to be identified because the party discourages interviews with reporters, framed their fears in sectarian terms. One worried that if Sunnis came to power in Syria, they would bar Shiites access to shrines there and in Iraq, as prophesied in a Shiite text. Another supporter thought Sunni extremists might bomb Hezbollah areas.
Hezbollah seems in no danger of losing its most hard-core supporters. But some of its loyalists have questions.
In the Sidon cafe, the health worker declared that Syrians, with free education and medical care, had no reason to rebel. Her friend, a Shiite from Hezbollah’s heartland in southern Lebanon, disagreed. “They have things,” she said, “but they are fighting for their rights.”
A supporter in the Dahiya, Hezbollah’s Beirut stronghold, said that Al Jazeera, the television news network, was faking atrocities and blaming the government for them. A friend mocked him: Mr. Assad’s fall would be bad for Shiites, he said, but he is “slaughtering his people.”
A Hezbollah party member said that government shelling had killed many civilians, but it was justified because the victims had let the rebels use their houses “as bunkers.” Israel used a similar argument, which Hezbollah condemned, to defend its bombing of Hezbollah neighborhoods in 2006.
Mr. Barakeh of Hamas suggested that Hezbollah’s leaders, who prize their reputations for morality, were troubled by the “killing of innocents” on both sides and knew that the government was not blameless. “They are aware,” he said.
He said he spoke with Mr. Nasrallah for five hours on March 9, telling him that neither side could win by force. On March 14, Hezbollah again blessed Hamas’s efforts to engage the opposition through its contacts in the Muslim Brotherhood, the pro-Hezbollah newspaper Assafir reported.
The next day, as Mr. Assad insisted that the rebels stop shooting first, Mr. Nasrallah called on all Syrians — “people, regime, state, army” — to lay down their arms “simultaneously.”
He later called for “serious and genuine” reforms. Citing religious, “pan-Arab and moral considerations,” he said a political solution was the duty of all “whose hearts are throbbing with sympathy for the Syrian people — men, women, children and elderly.” It was a dig at Saudi Arabia for trying to arm the rebels, but also nodded at regional anguish over the killing.
Even for Hezbollah loyalists who call Syria’s revolt foreign-inspired, the idea of revolution has a natural resonance.
“Arab people need to wake up,” the former student activist said at her office. “How do you spend your day, Arab guy? Watching Lady Gaga. Smoking argileh,” the traditional water pipe.
She fantasized about a “clean and pure” revolution in the Arab world. “If it was real, if it was really the people’s will,” she said, “it wouldn’t just be good, it would be great.”
An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Syria, and Ed Ou from Aarsel, Lebanon.
Coast Guard fires cannon on Japanese ghost ship ASSOCIATED PRESS Last Modified: Apr 5, 2012 08:04PM
OVER THE GULF OF ALASKA (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard unleashed cannon fire Thursday at a Japanese vessel set adrift by last year’s tsunami, stopping the ship’s long, lonely voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
A Coast Guard cutter fired on the abandoned 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru in the waters of the Gulf of Alaska and more than 150 miles from land, spokesman Paul Webb said. He said it could take at least an hour to sink it.
Officials decided to sink the ship, rather than risk the chance of it running aground or endangering other vessels. The ship has no lights or communications system and has a tank that could carry more than 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
They don’t know how much fuel, if any, is aboard. “It’s less risky than it would be running into shore or running into (maritime) traffic,” Webb said.
The ship had been destined for scrapping when the Japan earthquake struck, so there is no cargo on board, according to Webb. He said he doesn’t know who owns the Ryou-Un Maru, which has been traveling about 1 mile per hour in the past days.
Earlier, Webb said the cutter was going to fire the cannons from several hundred feet away. The goal is to punch holes in the Ryou-Un Maru and sink it. A Coast Guard C-130 plane crew will monitor the operation.
A Canadian fishing vessel, the 62-foot Bernice C, claimed salvage rights over the ghost ship. The Coast Guard stopped their plans to fire so the Canadian crew could have a chance to take the stricken ship.
A Canadian official with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that the Bernice C was unable to tow the abandoned ship.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency studied the problem and decided it is safer to sink the ship and let the fuel evaporate in the open water.
The Coast Guard will warn other ships to avoid the area, and will observe from an HC-130 Hercules airplane.
The vessel has been adrift from Hokkaido, Japan, since it was launched by the tsunami caused by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011. About 5 million tons of debris were swept into the ocean by the tsunami.
The Japan earthquake triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl accident in 1986, but Alaska state health and environmental officials have said there’s little need to be worried that debris landing on Alaska shores will be contaminated by radiation.
They have been working with federal counterparts to gauge the danger of debris including material affected by a damaged nuclear power plant, to see if Alaska residents, seafood or wild game could be affected.
In January, a half dozen large buoys suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms appeared at the top of Alaska’s panhandle and may be among the first debris from the tsunami.
Wired Scores Exclusive Aerial Photos of Apple’s ‘Area i51′ By Robert McMillan April 6, 2012 | 6:30 am Categories: Data Centers, Secret Servers, Uncategorized
Construction is underway at Apple's Maiden data center. Photo: Garrett Fisher/Wired
Apple is building something at its Maiden, North Carolina, data center, but the uber-secretive company won’t say what it is.
So Wired took to the skies to find out.
These overhead photos — captured last month — show Apple’s $1 billion data center and two adjacent areas where Apple has started new construction. Rumors have suggested that Apple is building a second data center beside the first, but judging from these photos — and county building permits — it appears that this is not the case. In all likelihood, the two construction areas will house the new-age biogas fuel cell plant and the massive solar array Apple will use to help power the original facility.
The Maiden data center is home to Apple’s iCloud service, a way for consumers and businesses to store files, photos, and other data on the web and use it across a wide array of devices. The data facility itself cost $500 million, but Apple has pledged to spend $1 billion on the site over the next decade. Opened for business around the beginning of the year, the Maiden center is just one of the many custom-designed data centers the giants of the web are building to supply their ever-growing array of web services. Google has built several of its own dedicated data centers across the world, and the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo aren’t far behind.
The iCloud has been growing like gangbusters since it was introduced last fall, and when Apple pulled a few construction permits early last month, that prompted speculation that the company may be doubling down and building a second data center on the site. But clearly, that’s not the case — though Apple is starting to build a new data center on the other side of the country, right next door to Facebook’s massive facility in Prineville, Oregon.
Himalayan avalanche buried 100 Pakistani troops, army says
By Richard Leiby Updated: Saturday, April 7, 1:00 AM The Washington Post
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An avalanche buried around 100 Pakistani soldiers on a major army base on a Himalayan glacier close to India on Saturday, military officials said.
“It is a tragedy,” said Major Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman in Islamabad.
AP/AP - In this May 2003 file photo, an army helicopter flies over the Siachen Glacier on Pakistan-India border. An avalanche smashed into a Pakistani army base on the Himalayan glacier close to India on Saturday, burying around 100 soldiers.
The death toll was not immediately known. Officials said rescue efforts were underway with tracking dogs, helicopters and snowmobiles.
“It is feared that maybe it will become one of the major incidents” of weather-related disasters in the remote, frigid region, Abbas said.
That part of the disputed Kashmir region is often called the world’s highest battlefield. Thousands of Pakistani and Indian troops are based at elevations of up to 22,000 feet.
Siachen, at about 18,000 feet, sits at northern tip of Kashmir, which both India and Pakistan claim as their territory.
More soldiers have died because of harsh weather at the Pakistani outpost than in combat.
India and Pakistan have fought intermittently at Siachen since 1984. Both countries maintain a permanent military presence there. A cease-fire went into effect in 2003.
Before then, more than 2,000 Pakistani and Indian troops died in the inhospitable terrain, mostly because of avalanches, frostbite and other weather hazards.
Together, the nuclear-armed nations have about 150 manned outposts along the glacier, totaling upwards of 20,000 troops.
A former Pakistan Army brigadier, Muhammad Saad, said two Pakistani brigades -- or roughly 9,000 men -- are stationed in the region. Each brigade consists of three battalions; and each battalion, with support staff, consists of 1,000 troops.
Previous causes of avalanches, Saad said, include glacial melt and the loud retorts caused by cross-border exchanges of gunfire.
Officials estimate that the cost of maintaining the outposts is $200 million for Pakistan and $300 million for India. The nations have gone to war twice over Kashmir, a source of dispute since the 1947 partition of India.
Correspondent Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this article.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Employers hired far fewer workers in March than in previous months, keeping the door open for the Federal Reserve to provide more monetary support for a still sluggish economy.
The report was seized upon by Republicans hoping to make the weak economy the centerpiece of their campaign for November's presidential and congressional elections.
Even as the unemployment rate fell to a three-year low of 8.2 percent, job growth slowed to 120,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, the smallest increase since October.
That was less than half the average monthly increase in the prior three months and way below the lowest estimate in a Reuters survey. Economists had expected an increase of 203,000 and the jobless rate to hold at 8.3 percent.
The numbers likely reflected the fading boost from unseasonably warm winter weather and brought the job market, which had been showing surprising strength since December, more in line with signs of a broader slowdown in the overall economy.
It also backed the caution expressed by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last week about whether the labor market could sustain gains above the 200,000 mark when economic growth is tracking a sub-par rate.
The data raises the chances of the central bank launching a third bond buying program or quantitative easing.
"The economy may not be growing as strongly as the data around the turn of the year, benefiting from favorable weather, suggested," said Michelle Girard, senior economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut. "While QE3 may not be seen as the odds-on bet, nothing can be ruled out."
Retail employment surprisingly fell for the second straight month, resulting in the vast private services sector adding jobs at the slowest pace in seven months.
Economists were puzzled by the drop given that retailers such as Macy's and Target reported brisk business in March.
Manufacturing jobs picked up, even though the workweek fell slightly. Factory jobs have increased by 120,000 so far this year, helped by carmakers trying to meet pent-up demand for motor vehicles.
The gains in manufacturing contributed to lifting hourly earnings by five cents last month, which should help to support spending.
Prices for Treasury debt rallied on the report, pushing yields to more than three-week lows, as investors anticipated further bond purchases by the Fed. The dollar fell against a basket of currencies.
Stock futures fell more than 1 percent, suggesting that shares could fall on Monday when the New York Stock Exchange reopens after being closed for the Good Friday holiday.
GIVE UP THE SEARCH FOR WORK
The cooling in hiring last month, if sustained, could hurt President Barack Obama's chances of re-election in November.
White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said the data showed the economy is making progress, but still has a long way to go.
"The economy's on a much much better trajectory than it was when the president came to office and we just have to keep at the policies and keep doing the things that are helping the economy recover," Sperling told Reuters TV.
Mitt Romney, his likely Republican opponent, called the report "very troubling".
"It is increasingly clear the Obama economy is not working and that after three years in office the President's excuses have run out," he said.
While the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since January 2009, that was mainly because some people gave up the search for work. The household survey - from which the jobless rate is derived and is separate to the measure of new jobs - showed a drop in employment for the first time since June.
The unemployment rate has fallen from 9.1 percent in August.
In one of only a few bright parts of the report, a broad measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have stopped looking and those working only part time but who want more work, fell to a three-year low of 14.5 percent from 14.9 percent.
The economy is believed to have slowed in the first quarter to around a 2 percent annual growth rate from the 3 percent rate in the October-December period.
Despite the slowdown in job growth last month, several economists said it was not the start of a new trend and were hopeful the labor market would not see a repeat of the spring of 2010 and 2011 when job creation faltered.
"This is not the new run rate for payrolls, but it will feed fears that will work to the advantage of the Fed because it will keep rates lower," said Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities in New York.
"This will fade because we have had this adjustment for the seasonal effects. What we do from here is we move back to 200,000 (jobs) in coming months."
Last month, the services sector added only 90,000, a sharp step back from February's 204,000 gain in payrolls. That was in stark contrast with a survey on the services sector, showing a relatively strong increase in employment.
Retail employment fell dropped 33,800 after falling 28,600 the prior month.
"It's puzzling, I don't think it will continue because the reports from retailers have generally been upbeat. I struggle to understand why these numbers would be so negative," said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Construction hiring fell 7,000, the second straight monthly decline. Temporary help, a harbinger of future hiring, dropped 7,500. That was first decline since June and followed a 54,900 rise in February.
Government employment edged down 1,000 after rising 7,000 in February.
(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis, Editing by Neil Stempleman)
Controversy Deepens Over Pesticides and Bee Collapse By Brandon Keim April 6, 2012 | 4:30 pm Categories: Animals, Food
A controversial new study of honeybee deaths has deepened a bitter dispute over whether the developed world’s most popular pesticides are causing an ecological catastrophe.
Researchers led by biologist Chensheng Lu of Harvard University report a direct link between hive health and dietary exposure to imidacloprid, a so-called neonicotinoid pesticide linked to colony collapse disorder, the mysterious and massive die-off of bees across North America and Europe.
The study isn’t without critics, who say doses used in the study may be unrealistically high. But the level of a realistic dose is also a matter of controversy, and even critics say the findings are troubling.
“Our result replicates colony collapse disorder as a result of pesticide exposures,” said Lu, who specializes in environmental exposures to pesticides. “We need to look at our agriculture policy and see if what we’re doing now is sustainable.”
Developed in the 1990s as a relatively less-toxic alternative to pesticides that seriously harmed human health, neonicotinoids soon became the world’s fastest-growing pesticide class and an integral part of industrial agricultural strategy. In the United States alone, neonicotinoid-treated corn now covers a total area slightly smaller than the state of Montana.
Like earlier pesticides, neonicotinoids disrupt insects’ central nervous systems. But unlike earlier pesticides, which affected insects during and immediately after spraying, neonicotinoids spread through the vascular tissues of plants. They’re toxic through entire growing seasons, including flowering times when bees consume their pollen.
The first reports of colony collapse disorder came in the mid-2000s from commercial beekeepers, who depending on region have experienced colony losses ranging from 30 to 90 percent. Commercial pollination costs have since skyrocketed, and as wild bees are also afflicted, even naturally occurring pollination is threatened.
Measuring bee declines, however, proved much easier than explaining them. Among a lineup of potential culprits including fungus, mites, viruses, bacteria and pesticides, studies failed to find an obvious, smoking-gun cause — but, piece by piece, evidence against neonicotinoids has steadily accumulated.
Honeybees are clearly exposed to them throughout the year and through multiple environmental routes. At certain times, especially in spring, death often follows exposure, and even non-lethal exposures may disrupt bee learning and navigation. Neonicotinoids also appear to make bees especially vulnerable to certain parasites and may interact similarly with other stressors.
Some European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, have even banned neonicotinoids, though pesticide companies vehemently defend their ecological safety and say concerns are based on inconclusive and premature science.
Lu’s study, released April 5 and scheduled for publication in the June Bulletin of Insectology, attempts to replicate the life history of commercial bees, which are often fed dietary supplements of high-fructose corn syrup that may contain neonicotinoid residues that survive processing.
“We tried to mimic commercial beekeepers’ practices. I believe one reason that commercial beekeepers are experiencing the most severe colony collapse disorder is because of the link between high-fructose corn syrup and neonicotinoids,” Lu said.
In the spring of 2010, the researchers set up four groups of commercially purchased colonies. Each contained five hives, and during the summer months were fed a diet containing either no imidacloprid, what Lu considered a small dose of 20 parts per billion, or a much higher dose of 400 parts per billion.
Colony collapse disorder is characterized in part by bees abandoning their hives during winter, and that’s precisely what Lu’s team reported in 15 of 16 imidacloprid-receiving hives. While other colony collapse disorder symptoms, such as queens that stay in the hive while workers flee, were not reported, Lu considers the experimentally induced collapse to be realistic.
Reaction to the study was swift and varied.
Bayer, the chemical and pharmaceutical giant that manufactures imidacloprid, issued a formal statement denouncing the findings as “spectacularly incorrect” and “based on artificial and unrealistic study parameters that are wildly inconsistent with actual field conditions insecticide use.”
But Jeffery Pettis, a bee biologist at the United States Department of Agriculture, called the results “tantalizing but not conclusive.” With only four colonies used per dose level, the study’s statistical significance is limited, “but I would love to see this study replicated such that the trends … they observed could be actually validated,” wrote Pettis in an email.
Among Bayer’s criticisms is that imidacloprid, a first-generation neonicotinoid, is little-used in the United States. It’s largely been replaced by newer formulations — but these, said pesticide expert Charles Benbrook of The Organic Center, an organic food research consultancy, are chemically similar to imidacloprid.
“Virtually all our corn seed has been treated with a very similar neonicotinoid,” said Benbrook. If the study had been conducted with clothianidin, another controversial neonicotinoid, “they’d almost certainly have found the same thing.”
According to Bayer, “analysis from actual field grown corn samples have shown no detectable imidacloprid residues” in high-fructose corn syrup. But Benbrook said that extensive testing by the Organic Center found traces of imidacloprid, but they were impossible to quantify.
“It’s very difficult to test for this particular chemical in high-fructose corn syrup. A lot of labs have spent lots of time trying to do it, but high-fructose corn syrup is a very sticky, dense matrix that basically gums up the testing machines,” said Benbrook. “That’s why relatively little is known about imidacloprid in high-fructose corn syrup.”
Separate from the corn syrup issue is how the experiment’s imidacloprid doses compared to real-world neonicotinoid exposures from pollen and crop residues. Bee biologist Dave Goulson of Scotland’s University of Stirling, co-author of a recent paper on neonicotinoids and hive health, said the doses “seem to be unrealistically high,” a critique echoed by Bayer.
But Pettis said the study’s lower dose ranges, which were sufficient to destroy the colonies, “were what bees could encounter in the environment.” His take was echoed by biologist Christian Krupke of Purdue University, who said the doses “are certainly within the range that bees may encounter in the field.”
One way in which bees are regularly exposed to neonicotinoids is through drops of sap that form on the edge of plants. Studies of these droplets have found neonicotinoid levels even higher than those used in the new study, and the droplets can be fatal to bees (see video above).
Another major route of exposure is through dust emitted by air-powered seed planters. Several years before the emergence of colony collapse disorder, neonicotinoid manufacturers started to coat seeds in the pesticides, vastly increasing the amount used in fields. The coatings are partially pulverized inside seed planters and emitted in plumes that appear to be highly toxic. Neonicotinoids also remain biologically active in soil for years and perhaps decades, and it’s possible that they seep into roots and throughout plants in ways that haven’t yet been measured, said Krupke.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently evaluating the safety of neonicotinoids, and more than 1.25 million people have signed petitions requesting a ban. In parts of Europe that have already banned neonicotinoids, colony collapse disorder may have slowed, though Krupke said these reports are too anecdotal to consider scientifically reliable.
“If the relationship was as easy as that, we’d have noticed it long ago. There are areas where neonicotinoids are used, but you don’t have colony loss,” Krupke said. “But what these studies are showing is that because neonicotinoids are absolutely ubiquitous, and we’re seeing sub-lethal effects, is that they’re stressors. They’ve softened up the bees for other parasites.”
Pesticide risk analysis in the United States has focused too much on whether chemicals are immediately, obviously toxic, said Krupke. “Our way of thinking is fundamentally flawed,” he said. “We need to look at sub-lethal effects, and for a longer time period. These pesticides are everywhere, every year. We’ve never used pesticides in the way we’re using them now, where we charge up a plant and it expresses pesticides all year long.”
Lu described standing in front of the dosed beehives used in his experiment, and referenced Silent Spring, an influential work that lamented the unintended consequences of bird-killing pesticides.
“The hives were dead silent,” he said. “I kind of ask myself: Is this the repeat of Silent Spring? What else do we need to prove that it’s the pesticides causing colony collapse disorder?”
Citation: “In situ replication of honey bee colony collapse disorder.” By Chensheng Lu, Kenneth M. Warchol, Richard A. Callahan. Bulletin of Insectology, June 2012.
Afghans, US sign deal on night raids, clearing way for pact on long-term US presence
Sunday, April 8 2012 By Associated Press KABUL, Afghanistan
The Afghan government and the U.S. signed a deal Sunday governing night raids by American troops, resolving an issue that had threatened to derail a larger pact governing a U.S. presence in the country for decades to come.
Night raids involve U.S. and Afghan troops descending without warning on homes or residential compounds searching for insurgents. They are widely resented in this deeply conservative country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai had called repeatedly to stop the raids, saying that they make civilian casualties more likely and that international troops are disrespectful in the way they conduct the operations. The U.S. military has said such operations are essential for capturing Taliban and al-Qaida commanders.
The resolution of this dispute is a key step toward finalizing a long-term “strategic partnership” to govern U.S. forces in Afghanistan after the majority of combat forces leave in 2014. The long-term pact is seen as important for assuring the Afghan people that they will not be abandoned by their international allies.
The memorandum was signed in front of reporters by Kabul’s Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak and the commander of U.S. forces, Gen. John Allen. It appeared to give important benefits to both sides: the document gives the Afghans authority over the raids and gives the Americans an Afghan partner that will now be held equally to account if there are civilian casualties or allegations of mistreatment.
It also was a sign that Karzai may be willing to compromise on some of his conditions for a long-term pact. Americans and even some of his own advisers feared that his unyielding bargaining style would endanger the entire agreement, and along with it Afghanistan’s long-term security.
Similar agreements with other NATO nations would also have been endangered if one had not been signed with the United States.
Karzai had originally ruled out any type of night raid and his willingness to accept them in any form indicates that he is willing to sacrifice some of his political capital with other Afghans to prevent the agreement from falling apart.
“This is a landmark day in (the) rule of law,” Allen told reporters. He said that Afghans are now “in the lead on two of the most important issues: capturing the terrorists and ensuring they remain behind bars.”
“This is another important step in strengthening the sovereignty of Afghanistan,” Wardak said.
The Afghans say that foreign-led raids lead to the mistreatment and the accidental killing of civilians, but the Pentagon disputes this.
The Americans say 89 percent of night operations occur without a shot fired and fewer than 1 percent result in civilian casualties.
Washington also says that the foreigner-dominated raids that Karzai so frequently condemns are already a rarity. More than 97 percent of night operations are combined operations involving Afghan forces and almost 40 percent of night operations are now Afghan-led.
“This formalizes what has been the working standard,” Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby told BBC News. “They will be making these decisions and they will be making the decisions of what support they want from us.”
However, it’s unclear whether Afghan forces have had much authority even in operations that are nominally “Afghan-led.” Sometimes this designation means only that an Afghan soldier is the first one through the door, or that officials have given a rubber-stamp to the mission just as it starts.
According to the document, all “special operations” will have to be reviewed and approved by a panel pulled from the Afghan military, government and intelligence services. The definition of a “special operation” is left vague, but appears to apply to night raids as well as other operations that involve going into Afghan homes.
Any disagreements will be resolved by a joint U.S.-Afghan committee including the defense minister and the U.S. forces commander, the agreement says. It does not specify how this higher-level committee would make its decisions.
The agreement says Afghan forces will conduct home searches and that U.S. forces will be allowed to enter private compounds “only as required or requested.”
It’s unclear if a higher level of Afghan authority will actually mean that the targets of raids will be treated more humanely. There have been instances of villagers complaining that when Afghan forces conduct raids they also loot houses. Also, the U.S. military stopped transferring detainees to a number of Afghan prisons after the U.N. discovered evidence of torture at the facilities.
But it is clear that the memorandum brings a strategic partnership closer.
“It opens the way for the signing of the strategic partnership agreement which we hope our two presidents will be able to sign in the near future,” said Janan Mosazai, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. Both U.S. and Afghan officials have said that they expect to sign the full partnership deal in time for a NATO summit in Chicago in May.
The night raids deal follows an earlier memorandum signed on the transfer of authority over detentions to the Afghans — another issue that had threatened to derail the strategic partnership talks.
The detention pact sets forth a timetable to give Afghans operational control of facilities used to hold Afghan detainees, but leaves decisions on who to release to a panel that includes American military officials that must come to a consensus before any detainee is let go — essentially giving the Americans the ability to veto any release.
Kabul Bank scandal: Hamid Karzai sets up special tribunal
Afghan president moves to tackle $900m Kabul Bank corruption scandal ahead of latest round of aid funding decisions
by Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul guardian.co.uk Wednesday 4 April 2012 13.39 EDT
Hamid Karzai is to set up a special prosecutors office and court to tackle a $900m (£567m) banking corruption scandal that threatened funding for his Afghan government, and has demanded all bad loans be repaid within two months.
Diplomats in Kabul were cautiously optimistic about the surprise announcement, which is the first sign for months of serious government action over the Kabul Bank scandal, a case that has become a benchmark for the Karzai administration's willingness to tackle rampant corruption.
Detention terms have also been tightened on the two main suspects, the bank's chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, and CEO, Khalilullah Ferozi, said a source with knowledge of the investigation.
They have officially been under house arrest, with leave to travel in order to identify and transfer assets, but have been seen around Kabul enjoying meals at high-end restaurants and gambling with friends, according to the New York Times.
Kabul Bank, which had ties to the family of Karzai and his first vice-president, nearly collapsed in 2010 and has since been described by western officials as a virtual Ponzi scheme. An initial Afghan investigation found there was no paperwork on loans worth nearly $500m.
Karzai's announcement followed the completion of a months-long independent forensic audit that should give a much clearer idea of who is responsible for what portion of the missing money.
"We look forward to seeing the results of these decisions, especially the return of assets stolen from Kabul Bank and prosecution of those responsible for the crisis," said a US official who declined to be named.
The plan was settled at a meeting packed with most of Afghanistan's top economic and legal officials, including the head of the central bank and the attorney general, suggesting Karzai had marshalled the support of the country's elite.
"It was decided that a special prosecutors office and a special tribunal be set up at the earliest to conduct the investigation and bring to the table those who have illegally taken loans from Kabul Bank and who are involved in the bank's financial crisis," the president's office said in a statement.
Some western officials said the decisions to set up a special court rather than referring cases to the attorney general, and to set a two-month limit for loan returns, suggested political motives behind the move.
The outgoing British ambassador to Kabul, William Patey, said in an interview last month that Britain could withdraw funding for the Afghan security forces if the government fails to tackle rampant corruption, and described the handling of Kabul Bank as a "litmus test".
"Kabul Bank is so symbolic, because it's two people [Farnoon and Ferozi] who have been caught red-handed," he said.
The announcement comes weeks before a Nato conference is expected to agree billions of dollars in long-term funding for Afghanistan's security forces, and shortly before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is due to check progress on tackling the scandal.
The IMF last year suspended millions of dollars of aid to Afghanistan because it was not satisfied with the government's efforts, and could potentially do so again. "Progress on asset recovery related to Kabul Bank is one of the benchmarks for the upcoming first review of Afghanistan's IMF programme," said the US official.
Clint Eastwood Sues Furniture Company for Selling 'Eastwood' Chairs
The legendary actor/filmmaker claims that entertainment centers, ottomans and chairs are being marketed using his name and image.
5:56 PM PDT 4/7/2012 by Matthew Belloni
Eastwood has a message for the owner of a furniture company selling products branded "Clint" and "Eastwood": Do you feel lucky?
The Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker has sued a company called Evofurniture, as well as a website called Inmod.com and its domain name owners Alan Finkelstein and Casey Choron, for allegedly offering for sale entertainment centers, ottomans and chairs named after one of the most iconic Hollywood figures of all time.
In a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court this week and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Eastwood claims Evofurniture and the Inmod site "are continuing to use Mr. Eastwood's name, identity and persona for the purpose of attracting attention to the infringing products...."
Further, Eastwood claims the stores have used marketing statements such as:
"When you're invited into a person's home, you get to see the good, the bad and the ugly. When visitors come to your home, the Clint 47'' Entertainment Center makes your family room alone look like you live in a perfect world of a million dollar baby"
"Whether your favorite movies are westerns from the 1970s or dramas from the 2000s, you need a comfortably stylish place to hang out and watch them. If you're planning on having friends over for Dirty Harry marathons, then you definitely need something hip and modern. What you need is the Clint 71'' Entertainment Center."
The bolded portions above (also bolded in the lawsuit) are references, of course, to Eastwood movies. The actor-filmmaker claims the furniture stores didn't seek permission to trade on the goodwill associated with his name and his movies. "Accordingly," says the complaint, "Defendants are liable to Mr. Eastwood for the infringement of his rights."
Eastwood is seeking a permanent injunction against the use of his name, image and other rights of publicity, as well as unspecified damages.
We reached out to the defendants via the Inmod website and will update with a response. A search of the website for "Clint" and "Eastwood" did not pull up any furniture, so perhaps the allegedly infringing products already have been taken down.
The suit, filed by attorneys Charles Harder and Jeffrey Abrams at Wolf Rifkin Shaprio Schulman & Rabkin, alleges two causes of action for misappropriation of right of publicity.