Friday, 29 July 2011

Norway attacks: Memorial services for victims held

Two memorial services for the victims of last week's terror attacks in Norway are being held as the Norwegian man who confessed to the killings faces a second round of questioning by police.
The Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, has urged his country to show unity at the services in the face of the attacks – a bombing in Oslo and a shooting rampage at a youth camp on Utøya island – in which 76 people died.
Norway's police chief of staff, Johan Fredriksen, said that all the dead had now been identified and that those who had been reported missing were accounted for.
One of the memorial services is being hosted by Stolenberg's governing Labour party, while the other is taking place at a mosque in Oslo. The first funerals are also being held.
The Norwegian news agency NTB said suspect Anders Behring Breivik was transported to police headquarters in Oslo for a second session of questioning.
Investigators believe the 32-year-old acted alone, after years of meticulous planning, and have not found anything to support his claims of being part of an anti-Muslim militant network plotting a series of attacks across Europe.
Breivik was questioned for seven hours on Saturday, the day after the twin attacks, which targeted the government district of Oslo and a Labor party youth camp.
He admitted carrying out the attacks but has pleaded not guilty to terror charges, saying he is in a "state of war", according to his lawyer and police.
Police have charged Breivik with terrorism, which carries a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison. However, it is possible the charge will change during the investigation to crimes against humanity, which carries a 30-year sentence, Norway's leading prosecutor, Tor-Aksel Busch, told the Associated Press.
"Such charges will be considered when the entire police investigation has been finalised," he said. "It is an extensive investigation. We will charge Breivik for each individual killing."
A formal indictment is not expected until next year, he added.

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Chavez turns 57 vowing to stay in power until 2031

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sang, danced and said he intends to stay in power for two more decades as he celebrated his 57th birthday looking ahead to months of cancer treatment.
Chavez rallied a crowd of cheering supporters from the balcony of the presidential palace on Thursday, waving a large Venezuelan flag and briefly wrapping himself in it. He said he expects to lose his hair soon as a result of chemotherapy and that a long process of treatment lies ahead.
"This is going to be various months all of this year, but I'm going to continue in charge of my government functions," Chavez said.
He mixed serious statements about his upcoming treatment with the ecstatic rallying cries of a leader already in pre-campaign mode ahead of the 2012 election.

(AP) Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez wraps himself with a Venezuelan flag at a balcony of Miraflores...
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"Next year, we will win the presidential elections once again! Strength, unity!" Chavez said. Setting a goal he has never before reached, he said: "We're going for 10 million votes next year!"

The crowd chanted: "Oh, no! Chavez won't go!"
Chavez sang and danced briefly with one his daughters on the balcony while a band below played folk music. He saluted to the crowd and blew kisses, standing next to three grandchildren.
His supporters sang while atop a giant birthday cake sparkling candles burned.
"I invite you all to celebrate my 77th," Chavez said. "I had said I'd leave in 2021. Well, I'm not going away in 2021 or anything. Maybe in 2031."

(AP) Accompanied by relatives, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, second from right, waves to supporters...
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The leftist leader has been in office since 1999 and is seeking re-election next year to another six-year term. A poll released last week said Chavez's public approval rating remains at 50 percent and hasn't significantly varied since his cancer diagnosis. Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor. He hasn't said what type of cancer he has been diagnosed with or specified where exactly it was located, saying only that it was in his pelvic region.
He underwent his first phase of chemotherapy in Cuba last week and said the treatment aims to ensure that no malignant cells reappear.
"Soon surely my hair will start to fall out - inevitable," Chavez said. "They will apply new doses of chemotherapy in the coming days."
When patients undergo such surgery to remove a tumor, "there's always a concern of microscopic cells, or individual cells left behind even though all of the physical tumor is removed," said Dr. Jeffrey Crawford, chief of medical oncology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

(AP) Accompanied by relatives, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center, wears sunglasses as he speaks...
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"The role of chemotherapy is to go through the body and attack any remaining cells that may have been laying dormant or hidden," said Crawford, who is not involved in the president's treatment. Crawford said it's not possible to draw conclusions about Chavez's treatment based on the president's account that his hair will fall out because that's often the case with many chemotherapy regimes. But based on Chavez's comments, he added, "I think the best-case scenario would probably be three to four months of chemo."
Chavez said he should be finished with the most difficult phases of his treatment by December, when he hopes to host a summit of Latin American leaders in Caracas.
"At the end of the year, I should have passed this hard, careful, very, very strict phase," Chavez said in a telephone conversation aired on television Thursday morning.
He said he sent letters inviting Latin American and Caribbean leaders to the summit in Caracas on Dec. 9. That meeting had originally been scheduled for July 5-6 but was postponed due to Chavez's illness.
Around the country, the president's supporters held a series of televised events honoring his birthday. A group of children sang for him, oil workers in red hardhats wished him the best and the president's older brother, Adan, led a crowd in their home state of Barinas singing "Happy Birthday."
Chavez made his only public appearance of the day at the presidential palace. He said that for now he needs to limit his contact with the public because his white blood cell count has declined as a result of chemotherapy, lowering his natural immune defenses.
"I'd like to be down there with you all, but I shouldn't," Chavez told his audience from the balcony. "I have to take a great deal of care."
Still, he assured his supporters, "I feel that I'm being reborn. I'm starting a new life."
Turning to politics, Chavez denounced his adversaries as "los escualidos," or the squalid ones. He said some of his opponents have been "going around now with the tale that this is a show, that I don't have anything."

By IAN JAMES taken from

ME researchers 'receive death threats from sufferers'

Many ME patients believe that research into possible psychological causes for their condition represents an attempt to downplay their symptoms.
The illness, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is triggered by infections in the blood which are not fully understood.
Symptoms include extreme tiredness and aching muscles. Those severely affected often spend much of the day in bed or in a wheelchair
This morning a doctor representing sufferers said the intimidation of scientists researching the causes of ME was ''completely unacceptable'' but said there was anger about the way the illness is being investigated.
Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, was responding to reports that a small group of protesters have resorted to underhand tactics of intimidation to ensure any study of the illness focuses on whether the condition is caused by a virus.
According to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, a number of scientists investigating ME have been targeted by protesters angry that they are looking at whether the illness has any psychological causes.
Dr Shepherd said that while he condemned the intimidation, there was frustration that all the Government funding was focused on whether the illness has a psychological cause.
He added: ''This sort of personal intimidation ... is I believe completely unacceptable and it is also counterproductive because it doesn't stop the type of research going on and it puts good researchers off, there is no doubt about that.
''I think you need to put this into the context of the fact that we have about 250,000 people with this illness. A very, very tiny minority of these people are involved in this sort of behaviour.
''But what people do however have a justifiable complaint about is that there has been very little, or almost nil, Government-funded research into the biomedical aspect of this illness.
''We have a whole spectrum of people there who have an illness ranging from a physical illness at one end to a psychiatric cause of chronic fatigue at the other, and it is rather like putting everyone who has a chronic headache, from migraines to brain tumours, under a chronic headache syndrome saying that they all have the same cause and the same treatment.''
He added: ''Yes, there may be a psychological input to the illness in some people but the anger, the frustration, is the fact that all this effort, all this Government funding, has been going just to the psychological side.
''I don't want to see scientists leaving the field. I want a debate with scientists and it's the way I feel we should do it. It's the way I do it.
''Scientific debates, criticism is healthy but it should be done through the medical journals, through constructive criticism. As I said, intimidation, personal abuse, has no role to play in this whatsoever.''

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Nirvana singer's hometown says no to Kurt Cobain bridge

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana
All apologies ... No Kurt Cobain bridge for late Nirvana singer. Photograph: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
Kurt Cobain's hometown has decided against renaming a bridge in honour of him. Aberdeen, Washington council turned down a proposal that would have seen North Aberdeen Bridge take Cobain's name, choosing instead to rename a small area of land after the late Nirvana singer.
"Leave the [bridge] as it is and let old history live with new history," said representative Doug Paling. Council officials voted almost unanimously against a resolution to honour the city's most famous son. Despite a recommendation by the local parks board, councillors argued that renaming the bridge would glorify Cobain's drug use and suicide. "Is this the legacy we want to leave to our children?" asked pastor Don Eden, according to KXRO Radio.
North Aberdeen Bridge, which crosses the Wishkah river, is known locally as Young Street Bridge. Among Nirvana fans, it's famous for its appearance in the song Something in the Way; Cobain reportedly slept under it for a time. Although the council refused the Cobain proposal, they also rejected an amendment that would have seen the bridge formally renamed after local pioneer Alexander Young. "We don't need to strip another part of our history away," said Aberdeen Museum director Dan Sears.
The council did approve renaming a small strip of land that borders the Wishkah river, as a place for grunge pilgrims to pay their respects. An electric guitar statue already stands in a nearby park, with a memorial plaque.

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US economic growth slows down

The US economy ground to a virtual halt in the first half of the year, with consumer spending at its weakest level in two years.
The world's largest economy grew by just 0.4% between January and June – half the pace of growth in austerity Britain. To make matters worse, total loss of economic output in the 2007-2009 recession was revised to 5.1% from a previous estimate of 4.1%.
The shock figures sent shares tumbling in London. The FTSE 100 index extended losses to fall 84 points to 5789, a decline of 1.4%.The Dow Jones fell by as much as 130 points in early trading.
The data comes at a time when the White House and Congress are locked in a battle over how to raise the debt ceiling to allow the government to borrow more money. If they cannot agree, the government will soon run out of money, leaving it unable to pay items such as social security payments, military pay and interest payments.
The US economy grew at an annualised rate of 1.3% between April and June, the US commerce department said on Friday. Wall Street economists had expected 1.8%. Moreover, the first quarter growth rate was revised sharply lower to 0.4% from 1.9%, which means the economy barely grew over the first six months of the year. Growth in the fourth quarter of last year was also revised down, to 2.3% from 3.1%.
"It is hard to conclude other than that the US economy is in deep trouble," said Nick Parsons, head of research, UK and Europe and global head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank.
"A very weak labour market, falling real incomes and house prices are hardly the basis for a sharp pickup in growth through the summer months. And, when a compromise agreement over the debt ceiling is finally reached, it is sure to contain measures to reduce the growth of government spending."
Consumer spending grew by just 0.1% in the second quarter, the weakest since the recession ended two years ago. Car production was severely disrupted by the earthquake in Japan.
Economists said the data could prompt the Federal Reserve to restart its quantitative easing (QE) programme to pump money into the economy.
"While this is somewhat disappointing, the big surprise is in the revisions, which show growth being downgraded sharply in the first and fourth quarters," said James Knightley, senior economist at ING. "Furthermore, the recession was deeper, and started earlier, than previously thought. This further reduces the prospect of any Fed policy tightening and offers some support to those arguing the case for QE3."
This means the US economy contracted by 0.3% in 2008, rather than posting zero growth, while in 2009 the economy shrank by 3.5% rather than 2.6%.
The American economy needs to grow by at least 2.5% to bring down the country's 9.2% unemployment rate.

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Hitler cat cant find home

Kitler was found alone and close to death at the side of the A421
The six-week-old cat - which was abandoned at the roadside - earned the moniker because of her distinctive black moustache.
Staff at Wood Green animal shelter in Godmanchester, Cambs., say they are struggling to find her a loving home because of her unusual markings.
Spokeswoman Tara Dundon said: ''Kitler is an adorable little girl who will make a wonderful addition to the right family. She is really playful and a typical sweet kitten.
''We rehome five and a half thousand animals every year but we cannot find a loving owner for Kitler. We think her unusual markings are putting people off.
''She is not a specific breed and we don't know where her black and white patches came from because we have no idea who her parents are.
''We think Kitler was either dumped by someone who didn't want her or couldn't look after her or she could have been a wild cat who was left by her mother.
''Sadly, Kitler is just one of hundreds of stray cats we take in every year. Last year we took in 1,294 cats and kittens, of which 422 were strays.''
Kitler was found alone and close to death at the side of the A421 near Kempston, Beds., by a member of the public on July 21.
The severely malnourished kitten would have died but recovered her health after receiving food and treatment at the Wood Green animal shelter.
Staff at the centre nicknamed her Kitler after noticing that the black markings on her top lip look like the Nazi leader's moustache.
However, hundreds of people visiting the centre looking for a pet have ignored Kitler and chosen more conventional looking kittens instead.

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US School District adopts random drug testing for students

Belvidere School District students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades have more to worry about than finishing their summer reading before the start of school.
The Belvidere School Board on Wednesday adopted a random drug and alcohol testing policy for middle school students starting in the 2011-12 school year.
"Hopefully it works as a deterrent and to help kids," Superintendent Dirk Swaneveld said Wednesday, "as opposed to it being punitive."
Middle school students will enter the program on a voluntary basis with parental consent. A positive test will require at least six visits with a guidance counselor or nurse, and attendance in an early intervention program.
Parents would have to cover the cost of the treatment program.
The drug policy has been in place for Belvidere High School students since 2008, where students must agree to be in the random testing pool in order to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities and to receive a parking permit. The middle school testing program does not include any incentives for students to sign up.
The school board began discussing the possibility of extending the program to middle school students in January, but Swaneveld said it took time to officially approve because of administrative changes and ironing out specifics.
"We were working through the details to make sure we had it right," he said.
School Board Vice President Bob Smith said the policy is intended to be "care-oriented" and not a form of punishment.
"We just think it is good for students and good for the community," Smith said.
The policy also permits undercover operations.
"The chief school administrator may request law enforcement authorities conduct an undercover operation in the school," it reads, "if a less intrusive means of law enforcement intervention would be ineffective."
Swaneveld said students will not be noticing, for instance, any 6-foot tall, muscle-bound undercover cops trying to sneak into a classroom wearing a Justin Bieber T-shirt.
"No, there's not going to be any undercover operations," he said. "Not the way you're reading it."
North Warren to test
Officials in the North Warren Regional School District adopted a random drug policy of their own last week for high school students. Similar to the practice at Belvidere High School, students engaged in athletics and extracurricular activities and park on campus must consent to the testing. Roughly 10 percent of the 700 students will be subjected to the testing next school year, school officials say.
Different than Belvidere, North Warren Regional decided not to extend the policy to seventh- and eighth-graders because of previous state Supreme Court decisions which only approved the drug policies of high schools.
"It is just one more tool for students who want to have a reason to say no," North Warren Regional Superintendent Brian Fogelson said today.

Recruiters pressed to reach out to gays

An underground gay group in the military wants recruiters to reach out to the gay community in the same way they target blacks, Hispanics and women.
The Pentagon’s ban on openly gays members is due to be lifted Sept. 20, meaning avowed gay people can sign up, those in the ranks can come out of the closet and the military will no longer discharge personnel because of sexual preference.
What is unclear is the number of post-ban policies that might be adopted to meet the demands of gays and ease integration of different sexual identities.
The group OutServe, which claims more than 4,000 gay and lesbian military members worldwide, plans a “coming-out party,” of sorts, in Las Vegas in October.
The group has invited Defense Department officials to attend an OutServe Armed Forces Leadership Conference and expects hundreds of military personnel to attend.
J.D. Smith, an active-duty Air Force officer who founded OutServe, said the military should think of gays when recruiting. “J.D. Smith” is an alias he uses because the ban is still in effect.
“Absolutely, we endorse the DoD advertising recruiting for the gay community, just as they would any other community,” he said in an email exchange with The Washington Times. “The DoD regularly attends public events to recruit, and we believe they should be at Pride events next year around the country to let the gay community know the opportunities to serve their nation.
“The DoD doesn’t need to do a campaign to let the public know they accept gays; they should do it so gays know of the opportunity now open to them.”
Robert Knight, a conservative columnist, said he expects a list of gay-oriented demands for the Pentagon.
“No one should be surprised at what will be an increasingly shrill set of demands to use the military as an endorsing agency for homosexual activism,” said Mr. Knight, who helped draft the federal 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
“The idea that they would be satisfied with a military that is merely indifferent to sexual preference ignores what they’ve done in other institutions, such as corporations, schools and even some church denominations.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said no decision has been made about whether the department will officially attend the OutServe conference.
As to specifically recruiting in the gay community, she said, “The services are always looking for smart, talented young men and women who want to serve, and they determine which recruiting/marketing venues best meet their needs.”
What the gay community would like to gain from the Pentagon may materialize at the four-day Las Vegas conference. The agenda calls for several workshops, dinners, board meetings, group breakout sessions and an open-microphone session.
OutServe is urging attendance from cadets and midshipmen from the academies, active-duty personnel, veterans and federal employees. Conference sponsors include the CIA and
OutServe says the conference will provide “a means of building professional networks, sharing best practices and formulating strategies that help build a stronger and more inclusive military community.”
The Pentagon has said it will not track the number of gays in the ranks as it does other minority groups, arguing that one’s sexuality is private.
Advocates in the Department of Agriculture have urged the Obama administration to make gay sensitivity training available throughout the federal government, which presumably would include the armed forces. To date, the administration has balked.
“Post-repeal, the armed forces should be reaching out to all qualified Americans, including gays and lesbians, who are prepared and want to serve their country,” said Aubrey Sarvis, director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which pushed to repeal the ban. “There is no right to serve in our military, but all who are qualified and fit should be considered.”
Last week, President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, certified to Congress that openly gay members will not disrupt combat readiness. The certification was the last step in the ban’s full repeal after gay sensitivity training for troops was completed worldwide.

By Rowan Scarborough taken from

Two women students find hidden cameras in apartment

Vanya Samokovareva, 22, left, and roommate Ralitsa Dzhambazova, 23, stand in front of a shower in their apartment where a camera was aimed.
Vanya Samokovareva, 22, left, and roommate Ralitsa Dzhambazova, 23, stand in front of a shower in their apartment where a camera was aimed.

TAMPA — The tiny cameras were hidden in smoke detectors and motion sensors, placed in the bedrooms and bathrooms of a west Hillsborough apartment.
Late Monday, two Bulgarian women discovered the covert cameras in their apartment. And now the Bulgarian students are afraid their every move — from sleeping to showering — may have been broadcast on the Internet.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating and says detectives have recovered some equipment and are following several leads.
However, between Tuesday night — when a report about the episode appeared on Bay News 9 — and Wednesday morning when detectives returned, some of the electronic equipment was removed, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.
The women didn't answer their door Wednesday, but in an interview Tuesday with Bay News 9 said their landlord has a key to the apartment.
The Sheriff's Office declined to name any suspects.
Vanya Samokovareva, 22, and Ralitsa Dzhambazova, 23, have lived in the apartment near Westchase for three months, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Dzhambazova, a student from Sofia, Bulgaria, said they both found an employer through Sky Travel, a Bulgarian company that helps students travel abroad for the summer to improve their English. The company finds students an employer and then obtains travel documents including visas for a $1,000 fee, Dzhambazova said.
Samokovareva said their employer sub-leased them the apartment. They did modeling in an ad campaign for a pizza place and a delivery business.
"We wore superhero costumes and things like that," Dzhambazova said.
That job ended, and both girls were able to find work at Wing House to continue to fund their summer abroad.
"We had to buy all the furniture," Dzhambazova said of the sparsely furnished apartment.
When they first moved into the apartment, the two women joked that the wired devices might be cameras, Dzhambazova said. But they believed for weeks that the devices truly were smoke detectors and security devices.
That belief was shattered when one of their former roommates, a man, took down one of the devices and entered the serial number in an online search. The results showed tiny cameras, just like the one in his hand.
"I was shocked," Dzhambazova told Bay News 9. "This is terrible. I never expected that this would happen to me and my friend."
Immediately, the group followed the wires to a locked closet and broke the lock. Inside, deputies say, they found an electronic box and something that appeared to be a WiFi device.
The Sheriff's Office is investigating where the images may have gone and aren't sure yet if they were displayed online or were sent to a remote location, McKinnon said. Investigators also will try to trace the cameras' ownership through serial numbers.
The women disabled the cameras. They say they plan to stay in the apartment through the end of the month and then move elsewhere.
Dzhambazova said they reported the incident to the international agency that arranged their trip and also to Sky Travel.
"Many students from Europe came for the summer to travel and improve their language. They're just students and somebody needs to protect them and to be responsible for them and check with the employers," she said. "I don't know how else to help students."

By Jessica Vander Velde taken from

Shot Iranian said to be nuke expert

A man shot dead on a Tehran street by motorcycle-riding gunmen last weekend was a scientist involved in suspected Iranian attempts to make nuclear weapons and not a student as officially claimed, a foreign government official and a former UN nuclear inspector said Thursday.

The man was shot Saturday by a pair of gunmen firing from motorcycles in an attack similar to other recent assassinations of nuclear scientists that Iran blames on the United States and Israel.  Such switches have nonmilitary uses as well in medical and scientific applications. But a former UN nuclear inspector – who also asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information – said the title of the document would make "an explosive application" likely, along with the fact that the co-author, Mojtaba Dadashnejad, had published several separate articles about explosives testing.

Iran's State-run media initially identified him as Darioush Rezaei, a physics professor and expert in neutron transport, but backtracked within hours, with officials subsequently naming him as Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electronics student.

Iran to UN: Israel behind scientist's murder / Dudi Cohen

Iranian senior official demands UN's Human Rights Council investigate Daryoush Rezayeenejad's assassination
Full story

An official, from a member nation of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, verified that the victim was named Rezaeinejad, but said he participated in developing high-voltage switches, a key component in setting off the explosions needed to trigger a nuclear warhead. An abstract seen by the AP and co-authored by Rezaeinejad appears to back that claim.
Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons and insists its activities are geared only to generate fuel for a future reactor network and other peaceful purposes. But it refuses to cease activities that could be used to make such weapons, despite UN sanctions, and is stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to probe intelligence-based allegations that it worked on components of such arms.
Because of UN embargoes prohibiting the sale to Iran of sensitive nuclear technologies, it has tried to secure components clandestinely, including the high-voltage switches.
The official described Rezaeinejad as a physicist who had worked in the past for the Iranian defense ministry on projects linked to nuclear weapons development, including the switches. He asked for anonymity because his information was privileged.
Rezaeinejad succeeded on his project, according to an abstract of an article he co-authored three years ago and presented to the 16th Conference of Iranian Power Engineering. If that is so, Iran would be a step closer to the technology needed to set off a nuclear explosion.
AP has learned that the article, entitled "Designing, Manufacturing and Testing a Closing Switch" provides "details about the designing, simulating, building and testing" of such hardware.

"The said switch has been manufactured and ... the results of tests show that the switch worked properly and met expectations," said the abstract.

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Czechs consider banning Communist Party

They're the Czech Republic's fourth-largest political party, but the hardline Communists could soon be outlawed if the center-right government has its way.
It's more than two decades since communism collapsed here, but the survivors and ideological heirs to the party that ruled from 1948 until the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989 are under increasing political pressure.
Petr Necas' government has taken the first step toward a possible ban by asking the Interior Ministry to work on a legal complaint to make it happen. A study commissioned by a Senate committee compiled numerous complaints from lawmakers about their conduct.
The party, which is vehemently opposed to NATO, brands opponents "terrorists" and maintains friendly ties with the ruling Communists in Cuba, China and North Korea.
Unlike most other communist parties in the region that have joined the left-wing mainstream, the Czech party has maintained its hardline stance.
Supporters of the ban say it is a direct successor of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, whose members killed more than 240 political prisoners while thousands of other opponents died in prisons.
Jaromir Stetina, the main force behind the Senate report, said the Communists are an anachronism.
"The Czech Communists adore the violent communism based on Marx and Lenin," Stetina told The Associated Press. "They adore revolutionary violence."
He says the party should have been banned immediately after the Velvet Revolution.
"Of course, it was a mistake, that's true - but it's still not too late to correct that mistake," he said. "The party remains dangerous."
But the Communists retain a support base. It's mostly formed of supporters of the communist-era party who oppose post-1989 changes. They are also able to attract voters by criticizing mistakes made by governments and problems connected with the country's transition from to democracy.
They currently have 26 members in Parliament's 200-seat lower house. In the 2010 election, they won 11.3 percent of the vote and regularly get more than 10 percent.
Communist Party chairman Vojtech Filip dismissed government criticism, saying his party's activities have never broken any law or violated the Constitution.
"They just can't ban a (political) view," Filip told AP. "They can't be serious about that."
Only the fringe, far-right Workers Party has been banned since 1989. The Supreme Administrative Court - which would have the final word on banning the Communists - took that decision in 2010 based on a government complaint, ruling that the party threatened democracy and was linked to neo-Nazis.
Filip said the government "is afraid of the opposition," and suggested they should spend their time tackling potential threats from right-wing extremists, especially in the wake of the Norway massacre.
Bohumil Dolezal, a prominent political analyst, called the government's move "a futile attempt" to regain sagging popularity and divert attention from fierce public opposition to its reforms of health and pension systems.
"It's nonsense," Dolezal said. "There's no sensible reason for the move. The Communists operate within the legal framework. They're careful not to break any law."
The Interior Ministry is scheduled to complete the legal complaint by the end of October.
Many Czechs who had to live under the totalitarian communist regime for more than four decades are welcoming the move but say it comes too late.
"I'd agree with the ban, but it seems we missed the right time," said Jaroslava Tesinska, 65, a retiree from Prague.
According to a 2011 survey, 50.1 percent of Czechs support the party's ban while 39.6 percent were against it. The SANEP agency questioned 6,812 people aged 18-69 in the Feb 17-20 poll. The margin of error was 1.5 percentage point.
Historian Petr Blazek of Prague's Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes said one of the reasons the party has not changed is that reform-minded communists were expelled from the party in the years after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion that crushed the Prague Spring.
"The party lost its reform potential, unlike their counterparts in Poland or Hungary," Blazek said.
Poland's communist party was dissolved after the Soviet collapse and most of its members have vanished from politics, into business. That party's offspring is the European-style leftist Democratic Left Alliance that is in parliament with support well over 10 percent.
In Bulgaria, the Communists abandoned their ideology and changed their name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which has been in power several times. In Hungary, most of the members of the old communist party transformed themselves into the Socialist Party, which has led three governing coalitions since 1990.
Adding insult to injury, the Czech Communists face ridicule as well as possible extinction.
Last month, a pink tank with a raised middle finger on top - moored in the middle of the Vltava River with Prague Castle as a backdrop - turned into an impromptu tourist attraction marking the 20th anniversary of the Soviet troops withdrawal.
Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia contributed.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

NHS begins rationing operations

Hip replacements, cataract surgery and tonsil removal are among operations now being rationed in a bid to save the NHS money.
Two-thirds of health trusts in England are rationing treatments for "non-urgent" conditions as part of the drive to reduce costs in the NHS by £20bn over the next four years. One in three primary-care trusts (PCTs) has expanded the list of procedures it will restrict funding to in the past 12 months.
Examples of the rationing now being used include:
* Hip and knee replacements only being allowed where patients are in severe pain. Overweight patients will be made to lose weight before being considered for an operation.
* Cataract operations being withheld from patients until their sight problems "substantially" affect their ability to work.
* Patients with varicose veins only being operated on if they are suffering "chronic continuous pain", ulceration or bleeding.
* Tonsillectomy (removing tonsils) only to be carried out in children if they have had seven bouts of tonsillitis in the previous year.
* Grommets to improve hearing in children only being inserted in "exceptional circumstances" and after monitoring for six months.
* Funding has also been cut in some areas for IVF treatment on the NHS.
The alarming figures emerged from a survey of 111 PCTs by the health-service magazine GP, using the Freedom of Information Act.
Doctors are known to be concerned about how the new rationing is working – and how it will affect their relationships with patients.
Birmingham is looking at reducing operations in gastroenterology, gynaecology, dermatology and orthopaedics. Parts of east London were among the first to introduce rationing, where some patients are being referred for homeopathic treatments instead of conventional treatment.
Medway had deferred treatment for non-urgent procedures this year while Dorset is "looking at reducing the levels of limited effectiveness procedures".
Chris Naylor, a senior researcher at the health think tank the King's Fund, said the rationing decisions being made by PCTs were a consequence of the savings the NHS was being asked to find.
"Blunt approaches like seeking an overall reduction in local referral rates may backfire, by reducing necessary referrals – which is not good for patients and may fail to save money in the long run," he said. "There are always rationing decisions that have to go on in any health service. But at the moment healthcare organisations are under more pressure than they have been for a long time and this is a sign of what is happening across many areas of the NHS."
According to responses from the 111 trusts to freedom-of-information requests, 64 per cent of them have now introduced rationing policies for non-urgent treatments and those of limited clinical value. Of those PCTs that have not introduced restrictions, a third are working with GPs to reduce referrals or have put in place peer-review systems to assess referrals.
In the last year, 35 per cent of PCTs have added procedures to lists of treatments they no longer fund because they deem them to be non-urgent or of limited clinical value.
Some trusts expect to save over £1m by restricting referrals from GPs.
Chaand Nagpaul, a member of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, said he was concerned about PCTs applying different low-priority thresholds and rationing access to treatments on the basis of local policies.
He said the Government needed to decide on a consistent set of national standards of "low priority" treatments to help remove post-code lotteries in provision. "Patients and the public recognise that with limited resources we need to make the maximum health gains and so there needs to be prioritisation. What is inequitable is that different PCTs are applying different thresholds and criteria," he said.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Decisions on the appropriate treatments should be made by clinicians in the local NHS in line with the best available clinical evidence and Nice [National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] guidance. There should be no blanket bans because what is suitable for one patient may not be suitable for another."
Bill Walters, 75, from Berkshire, recently had to wait 30 weeks for a hip operation instead of the standard 18. "I believe that the Government is doing this totally the wrong way," he said.
Case study: 'They changed the rules to save money'
Anne Ball, 71, is a retired business consultant who used to work in electronics
"I have bilateral cataracts and under the original NHS criteria I was entitled to have at least one of mine treated – but then the West Sussex health authorities decided to change the threshold level to save money.
"It's like looking through gauze. Everything is foggy, and I've got quite a large 'floater' in my left eye. The consultant was as distressed as me, having to tell me, and he thought with my eyesight he wouldn't be able to function.
"I've appealed because the cataracts are having a significant impact on my quality of life and it's left me depressed and fearful about my low vision, which will continue to deteriorate. The new guidelines mean that people who fall below the standard set by the DVLA still do not qualify to have surgery. My vision is not good enough to drive at night.
"I'm not a cranky old lady. I'm the chair of a local village charity and I do a lot of computer work that is affected.
"It will just store up costs for future years, putting a strain on resources as more patients will end up in falls clinics. The longer you put it off the more complex the operation becomes and the riskier it is for the patient."

By Oliver Wright taken from

NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism

NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA's Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA's Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.
"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show," Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. "There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."
In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.
The new findings are extremely important and should dramatically alter the global warming debate.
Scientists on all sides of the global warming debate are in general agreement about how much heat is being directly trapped by human emissions of carbon dioxide (the answer is "not much"). However, the single most important issue in the global warming debate is whether carbon dioxide emissions will indirectly trap far more heat by causing large increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds. Alarmist computer models assume human carbon dioxide emissions indirectly cause substantial increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds (each of which are very effective at trapping heat), but real-world data have long shown that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing as much atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds as the alarmist computer models have predicted.
The new NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA's ERBS satellite showing far more longwave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted.
In short, the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth's atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth's atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.
When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a "huge discrepancy" between alarmist climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice. Whether or not they do so will tell us a great deal about how honest the purveyors of global warming alarmism truly are.

Riot police fire rubber bullets at loved up ravers

Riot police fired rubber bullets at a huge crowd of young ravers after the rioting youths sparked mayhem on Hollywood Boulevard.
Authorities were called after the youngsters threw bottles and set fire to cars after being denied entry to a Hollywood film première.
The unruly crowd began partying on the streets in protest and when they refused to disperse, officers took drastic action.
Over-zealous revellers jump up and down on a police car after crowds got out of hand outside a Hollywood film première
Over-zealous revellers jump up and down on a police car after crowds got out of hand outside a Hollywood film première
Hundreds gathered outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre before the crowd turned violent
Hundreds gathered outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre before the crowd turned violent
Officer Karen Rayner said additional officers were called to Grauman's Chinese Theatre around 5.40pm on Wednesday after several hundred people 'took over the streets'.
She said officers who first responded tried to disperse the crowd, but people refused to leave and began throwing objects and vandalising cars.

Captain Andy Smith told the Los Angeles Times the disturbance began when fans who tried to attend the première of a film about the Electric Daisy Carnival rave were turned away.
Smith said the première was by invitation only, but many tried to crash the event.
Local DJ Kaskade then sparked a huge 'block party' in protest, according to reports, and when the crowd refused to disperse riot police intervened.
The gathering gained momentum after the DJ tweeted: 'Today@6pm in Hollywood @Mann's Chinese Theatre.ME+BIGSPEAKERS+MUSIC=BLOCK PARTY!!! RT!'
As they tried to control the crowd, the LAPD was forced to shut down a large section of Hollywood Boulevard, causing massive traffic problems.
Ravers refused to leave the area and started fighting and throwing bottles. A police car was also set on fire, it was reported.
Kaskade later went back on twitter to try to stop the chaos.
Ravers on the streets also tweeted about the chaotic scramble.
Jessica Fleming wrote: 'LA is out of cntrl LAPD:Officers have been shooting @ crowds w/bean bags & the crowds have set fires.Police cars vandalised.'
Clinton Sparks added: 'Man a riot just broke out @p this EDC premiere here in LA.. Cops shooting rubber bullets @ kids #NoSwag We just want to have an Awesome time.'

A rising hunger among US children

Doctors at a major Boston hospital report they are seeing more hungry and dangerously thin young children in the emergency room than at any time in more than a decade of surveying families.

Many families are unable to afford enough healthy food to feed their children, say the Boston Medical Center doctors. The resulting chronic hunger threatens to leave scores of infants and toddlers with lasting learning and developmental problems.
Before the economy soured in 2007, 12 percent of youngsters age 3 and under whose families were randomly surveyed in the hospital’s emergency department were significantly underweight. In 2010, that percentage jumped to 18 percent, and the tide does not appear to be abating, said Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at BMC.
“Food is costing more, and dollars don’t stretch as far,’’ Sandel said. “It’s hard to maintain a diet that is healthy.’’
The emergency room survey found a similarly striking increase in the percentage of families with children who reported they did not have enough food each month, from 18 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2010.
Pediatricians at hospitals in four other cities - Baltimore; Little Rock, Ark.; Minneapolis; and Philadelphia - also reported increases in the ranks of malnourished, hungry youngsters in their emergency rooms since 2008. But Boston’s increases were more dramatic, said Sandel, a lead investigator with Children’s HealthWatch, a network of researchers who track children’s health. Researchers said higher housing and heating costs in Massachusetts probably exacerbated the state’s surge.
BMC has also seen a 58 percent increase, from 24 in 2005 to 38 in 2010, in the number of severely underweight babies under the age of 1 who were referred by family physicians to its Grow Clinic, where doctors provide intensive nutritional, medical, and other services to boost babies’ growth. Such malnourishment is similar to what is more typically seen in developing countries, Sandel said.
Among the children treated at the clinic last year was Jordan Turner-Goode, who at age 1 weighed just 19 pounds, while the average child that age is more than 24 pounds.
“We were living in a hotel in Chelmsford at the time, and it was hard to cook meals because all we had to cook in was a microwave and that wasn’t helping his weight at all,’’ said his mother, Janell Goode. “He was eating cereal, noodles, and eggs in the microwave and hot dogs and fruit snacks.’’
The 27-year-old single Lowell mother, a former telemarketer who is now unemployed, relies on food pantries and other public assistance to feed her three young sons.
Jordan is a healthier weight now, but Goode says it is still a struggle. The family managed to move out of the state-subsidized motel where they were living, but their housing situation is precarious. The owner of the Lowell apartment where they are renting is about to be foreclosed on, Goode said.
Children’s HealthWatch monitors very young children, like Jordan, because their bodies tend to be more vulnerable to changes brought on by a recession. Chronic hunger during toddler years, when young brains are still growing, can negatively affect learning and psychological, social, and a raft of other skills, said Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, professor of epidemiology and public health at the Yale School of Public Health.
Some studies have found that young children who grow up with not enough to eat can become overweight or obese adolescents and adults, though the link is not firmly established.
“Babies born with low birth weight may become metabolically programmed during gestation to become very efficient at conserving calories, thus becoming obese later in life,’’ Pérez-Escamilla said.
Health advocates say another sign that families are struggling to feed their children can be found in the steep rise in the number of Massachusetts residents, like the Goodes, relying on food stamps. The numbers nearly doubled, from 452,000 in 2007 to 815,000 in May, the latest available data.
Advocates estimate that there are tens of thousands more Massachusetts residents who are eligible but have been stymied by the complex enrollment process.
“We believe a lot of them are families with kids,’’ said Pat Baker, a senior policy analyst with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, a legal services nonprofit for low-income people.
Baker said that in recent years Massachusetts has not devoted enough money to the federally funded, state-administered food stamp program, called SNAP, to hire the staff needed to help residents enroll.
A decade ago, Massachusetts ranked nearly last nationally for signing up its eligible residents, but after a concerted push by the state and health advocates, it is eighth, said Julia Kehoe, commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance, which runs the food stamp program.
Kehoe attributed the rise in enrollment to the state’s outreach, coupled with the recession. Without that campaign, she said, the number of hungry, malnourished children in BMC’s emergency room would have been “much worse.’’
The flood of people signing up for food stamps has eased since 2009, Kehoe said, but several thousand residents are still signing up each month and there are probably thousands more who are eligible that staff has been unable to reach.
She said her department is working to streamline the enrollment process.
Kehoe said she is concerned because the state’s federal stimulus money ran out in June, funds that were used to help defray the cost of signing up new families for food stamps.
The state recently increased its spending to cover more than half the shortfall, but it probably will not be enough, she said.
“We will have effectively fewer staff at the end of the year then we do now,’’ Kehoe said. “The state is doing what it can, but there are just so many other public safety and human service needs out there right now.’’

By Kay Lazar taken from

Facebook bans Nirvana album cover – then says Nevermind

Nirvana's Nevermind cover
Still making waves ... Nirvana's Nevermind cover from 1991
Facebook can't seem to decide how it feels about nudity on the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind. The social networking site reportedly removed – and later replaced – the artwork in its page for the 1991 album, initially finding the cover photograph violated the site's terms of use.
Although one of the most iconic album covers in rock history, there is no getting away from the fact that the Nevermind sleeve features a baby in the buff. That 20-year-old controversy was revived this week when Facebook removed the image from the site's official fan page, according to the Hollywood Reporter, citing nudity. "[Facebook] sent us a form message," a source told Entertainment Weekly. "I'm guessing it's probably due to the baby penis – still making waves 20 years later."
Whether because of fan outcry or through an administrative error, Facebook has since returned the cover – and its dangling digit – to its Nirvana and Nevermind pages. The latter is promoting the 20th-anniversary reissue of Nevermind, due on 27 September. In addition to a digital remaster, Universal Music is releasing deluxe packages that include studio demos, rehearsal recordings and producer Butch Vig's original mix of the album – the "Devonshire mixes". A 90-page book and DVD/Blu-Ray of Nirvana's Halloween 1991 concert in Seattle – the band's only concert ever shot to film – will also be available.
As for the owner of Nirvana's most provocative, er, member, Spencer Elden is notoriously proud of his place in rock history. "Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis," he told NPR in 2008. "So that's kinda cool." The son of a friend of Nirvana's photographer, Elden is now 20.

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High court forces BT to block file-sharing website

Hollywood film studios won a landmark UK high court ruling on Thursday forcing BT to block access to an illegal file-sharing website accused of operating "on a grand scale".
The Motion Picture Association, the trade body whose members include Warner Bros, Fox, Disney and Paramount Pictures, has been granted an order requiring BT — the UK's biggest internet service provider — to block its customers' access to the website Newzbin2.
Thursday's verdict will be viewed by the creative industries as a landmark that could set a precedent for the widespread blocking of illegal filesharing websites by ISPs, helping to stem the flow of digital piracy in the UK.
"In my judgment it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and operators of Newzbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes," said Justice Arnold in his ruling at the high court in London.
"[BT] knows that the users of Newzbin2 include BT subscribers, and it knows those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin2," Arnold added.
BT had argued that forcing it to ban its 6 million UK customers from accessing a website would usher in a new wave of online censorship.
However, the creative industries claim website blocking could save them hundreds of millions of pounds in illegal downloads.
The MPA said that Newzbin2 makes unlawful copies of television programmes and films, and receives in excess of £1m a year from its 700,000 users.
"This ruling from Justice Arnold is a victory for millions of people working in the UK creative industries and demonstrates that the law of the land must apply online," said Chris Marcich, MPA managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "This court action was never an attack on ISPs, but we do need their cooperation to deal with the Newzbin site, which continually tries to evade the law and judicial sanction."
The film industry's fight to block Newzbin stretches back to March last year, when the high court ordered the site to take down all of its pirated material and pay damages to the studios.
The three men behind Newzbin Ltd – Chris Elsworth, Thomas Hurst and Lee Skillen – sold all of their shares in the company to David Harris shortly before the trial. Newzbin Ltd went into administration soon after the ruling and avoided the huge payouts.
Months later a clone site appeared operating anonymously from Sweden. Rights holders said they had no choice but to force BT to block UK users' access to the website, saying all other legal avenues had been exhausted.
Simon Milner, director of group industry policy at BT, said the latest judgment means rights holders will now have to prove in court that a website infringes copyright before it is blocked.
Milner added that the judgment puts the Digital Economy Act voluntary blocking scheme, drawn up at industry roundtable meetings earlier this year with Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, in an uncertain position.
"[The judgment] is actually helpful and we welcome it because it clarifies a complex area of law and shows that rights holders can use the copyright laws in this country. It means they have to prove a site is infringing before [a] court and get a court order," he said.
Milner did not reveal how much it will cost ISPs such as BT to block infringing websites.
Other internet providers, including TalkTalk and Virgin Media, declined to join BT's battle against the film studios, the court was told in June.
Speaking after Thursday's judgment, a spokeswoman for TalkTalk said the ruling had "no direct or immediate" impact on the ISP, the second largest in the UK, but that it would consider any similar court orders brought by film studios against it.
The Internet Service Providers' association, which represents Britain's ISPs, said: "Concerns about over-blocking, ease of circumvention and increased encryption are widely recognised which means that blocking is not a silver bullet to stop online copyright infringement."

by and taken from

'meow meow', as popular as cocaine, drugs survey says

Mephedrone, the former legal high known as "meow meow", is as popular as cocaine among teenagers and young adults despite being banned last year, according to official figures.
Home Office figures drawn from the authoritative British Crime Survey estimate that around 300,000 16 to 24-year-olds, or 4.4% of their age group, used mephedrone in the past 12 months.
This is a similar level of popularity to the use of powder cocaine by teenagers and young adults. The BCS survey, drug misuse declared 2010/2011, say that mephedrone and cocaine rank joint second in popularity behind cannabis for this age group.
Mephedrone ranks alongside ecstasy in popularity among all drug users aged between 16 and 59, with 1.4% of all adults reporting they had used them in the past year.
The results of the annual survey of drug use in England and Wales show that almost 3 million people (8.8% of adults) used illicit drugs in the past year. They also show that one million of them – or 3% – used class-A drugs, with a fall in the use of cocaine accompanied by a rise in the use of methadone.
Around 2.2 million people aged 16 to 59 used cannabis last year and the survey also indicates a rise in popularity in ketamine in recent years.
The use of illegal drugs among the younger age group of 16 to 24 has, however, undergone a long-term decline, from 29% of the age group reporting they had used an illicit drug in 1996 to 20% in 2010/2011.
Home Office minister, James Brokenshire, denied that the alarming figures for the use of mephedrone, which was made illegal in April 2010, demonstrated that the ban had been ineffective. He said the BCS figures covered patterns of use before and after the ban had come into force. He stressed that just because a drug had been sold as a legal high it did not mean it was harmless.
But the interviews undertaken by the BCS for this year's report would have took place between April 2010 and March this year. Respondents were however asked about their illicit drug use in the previous 12 months, and so could have related to the period when mephedrone was a legal high.
Martin Barnes, the chief executive of drugs information charity DrugScope, said: "While the broad downward trends we can see in today's figures on drug use among school pupils and adults are both welcome and encouraging, the UK still has high levels of drug use in comparison to many of our European neighbours.
"The inclusion of mephedrone in the British Crime Survey for the first time reveals conclusively the extent to which the drug has become established on the drug market.
"Evidence on the long-term harms associated with the drug is still unclear, as is information on the risks of using it in combination with other substances. Given the timing of this survey, it is likely to include people who used the drug before it was classified in April 2010."
He said Addaction, a provider of young people's treatment, had seen a rise in the number of young people coming forward with problems relating to alcohol, ketamine and mephedrone. "This is at a time when funding for young people's treatment services is being severely affected by local authority cuts," Barnes said. "DrugScope and a number of our member organisations have recently spoken out about funding cuts which appear to be disproportionately affecting young people's drug treatment, education and prevention work."
The detailed BCS figures show that other banned "legal highs" such as "spice", which imitates the effects of cannabis, have not established themselves in the same way as mephedrone. The research shows that the vast majority of those who said they had taken mephedrone in the past year were existing drug users rather than new users.

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Public sector pensions: unions angry over £1bn bill

Unions have condemned proposals that will see 2.5 million nurses, teachers and civil servants face pension contribution increases totalling more than £1bn next year if proposed changes to their occupational pension schemes are implemented.
The Cabinet Office, Department for Education and the NHS have published consultations on pension contribution increases that will cost their pension scheme members £180m, £300m and £530m respectively in the financial year 2012-13. The increases represent just 40% of the average 3.2 percentage point increase in public sector pensions which the government said it would phase in from April 2012.
This means that people working in these sectors face further hikes in their contributions in the following two years to make up the remaining 60% of the proposed increase.
The Royal College of Nursing has reacted with anger. Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: "The government has clearly torn up the agreement that would have led to increasing affordability in public sector pensions. That agreement would have delivered long-term savings. It appears that nurses and other public servants are now bearing the brunt of a financial crisis caused by reckless risk-taking in the banking sector.
"Hardworking nurses are in the middle of a two-year pay freeze, inflation is soaring and they now face the prospect of paying more money into their pension next year for no additional benefit. This latest development is not just about contributions in 2012. It is the start of a process that will increase contributions even further and make nurses work until they are dropping on their feet. All this is likely to have a devastating impact on the morale of dedicated nurses."
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said starting a consultation during the parliamentary recess was a cynical move as there would be little chance for scrutiny.
Christine Blower, the NUT general secretary, said: "There is no surprise in this announcement. It has been obvious from the start that the government has no intention of listening to reason and has been determined to implement changes to public sector pension schemes regardless of whether they are necessary or not."
The proposals, based on work by former work and pensions secretary Lord Hutton, exempt 750,000 people earning less that £15,000 from the increases. Above this level, next year's increases will be tiered: 1 million public sector workers earning £15,000-21,000 will have their increase capped at 0.6 percentage points and the maximum increase of 2.4 percentage points will apply to another 1 million people.
Even if the proposed increase in contributions goes ahead, public sector employees still face uncertainty about the level of income they will receive on retirement and the age at which they can draw their pension.
The government wants to scrap the current final salary pension scheme, which bases pension income on the salary in the last year of employment and length of service, multiplied by an "accrual" rate (usually one 80th or in some cases, one 60th).
Under the replacement – a career average revalued scheme (Care) – the pension benefit earned each year is based on the salary in that year rather than the final salary. The benefit is then "revalued" each year until the member retires or leaves by a prescribed amount. This revaluation rate is as crucial to the quality as the accrual rate.
The government is still in discussions with unions about most details of the new schemes, including the accrual and revaluation rates.
But the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the main civil service union, said the announcement about increases to contributions "made a mockery of the ongoing negotiations and proves that the government is determined to make people pay more and work longer in return for smaller pensions".
The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: "These highly detailed proposals show that the government has made its mind up and is not negotiating seriously. It makes a mockery of the ongoing talks. We're committed to negotiation but these have to be serious, not limited to the government's predetermined outcomes.
"Already more trade unions have indicated they will take part in further strike action and today's announcement will only increase that resolve. The government talks about the need to make changes to help reduce the deficit in four years. But these changes would be permanent – a life sentence for civil servants."
However, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said the proposals were firm but fair.
Charles Cotton, the CIPD reward and pensions adviser, said: "Government proposals to increase pension contributions for public sector workers are part of a necessary compromise to retain a great employee benefit at a fairer cost to hard pressed tax payers.
"It is incorrect that most public sector pensions are 'gold plated', but they are still a great staff benefit and one that is almost impossible to find now in the private sector. Because of this it is important that both the government and unions communicate and educate public sector employees that their pension is still a great benefit and well worth paying to stay in.
"With rising life expectancy, it is increasingly hard for the public purse to fund a growing length of time spent in retirement, so these reforms are needed."
Tom McPhail, pensions expert with independent financial adviser Hargreaves Lansdown, said the uncertainty about future benefits made it "a bit like having a money purchase pension" but added that the schemes would still be generous compared to those built up by most people working in the private sector.
The consultations apply to the NHS and teachers in England and Wales, and the Civil Service in England, Scotland and Wales.
Older workers who are a couple of years from retirement will not be affected by the switch to a Care scheme or the later retirement age, but they will face an increase in contributions during the last few years of their career.
The government has confirmed in the consultations that employees who have already contributed to a public sector scheme will retain all the benefits already earned and that all pension benefits earned up to the proposed point of change in April 2015 will continue to be calculated as before.

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Who'd be a dustman in Cairo?

With mountains of rubbish towering over children and endless bin bags bulging from high-rise flats, these are the shocking images that show Cairo's 'Garbage City' - where thousands of Egyptians live amongst piles of stinking rubbish.
Manshiyat naser, or Garbage city, as it is known by locals, is a slum on the outskirts of Cairo, just a short drive away from luxury five star resorts.
But these shocking photos show a whole community which has been living in the slums for hundreds of years surrounded by rats and rotting rubbish.
Piled high: Rubbish dominates the streets in Manshiyat naser, or Garbage City
Piled high: Rubbish dominates the streets in Manshiyat naser, or Garbage City
Overworked: The driver of a vehicle which appears to be collecting rubbish clearly has his work cut out against the mass of waste
Overworked: The driver of a vehicle which appears to be collecting rubbish clearly has his work cut out against the mass of waste
Trash town: Children play in Manshiyat naser, or 'Garbage City', while surrounded by the enormous sacks of rubbish
Trash town: Children play in Manshiyat naser, or 'Garbage City', while surrounded by the enormous sacks of rubbish
Photographer Ilya Stepanov took the pictures to document the lives of the Zabbaleens - a people who have been living among rubbish, and making a living out of recycling it, for generations.
One image shows huge piles of bagged rubbish stacked high in the streets, with most of the piles twice the size of the helpless children stood nearby.
Another shocking image shows dozens of bulging bags teetering over the walls of high-rise apartment buildings, apparently blocking out light and access.
Ilya, from Cheboksary, Russia, said: 'The place stinks and there are myriads of flies.
'It is so hot, everything is rotting, and there is rubbish piled several floors high on every street.
Making do: The locals in 'Garbage City' are said to make a good living out of being surrounded by filth by recycling the huge amounts of rubbish
Making do: The locals in 'Garbage City' are said to make a good living out of being surrounded by filth by recycling the huge amounts of rubbish
'But the people there are happy. They have never known anything different than living among the rubbish.  'It's definitely not a place I'd like to stay for a long time - it was difficult to stay a couple of days to take the photographs.
'It often has no running water, sewage or electricity.
'But the people there are so friendly and welcoming - they don't see anything unusual about it.
'The Zabbaleens are Christians, and in Cairo, Muslims don't have much dealing with rubbish, which is why niche was taken by Zabbaleens.  'Besides many hundreds years ago they were not allowed to do anything else, only the most dirty jobs.
Mountains of waste are stacked up around walls of an apartment block in Cairo's Garbage City
Mountains of waste are stacked up around walls of an apartment block in Cairo's Garbage City
'But they make a good living out of recycling rubbish. About half of all the rubbish in Cairo ends up in Garbage City.
'About 85 per cent of it is sorted and recycled by the people there, and then sold on.
'Rubbish is taken to this quarter by big lorries. Then it is taken to houses and yards by smaller cars, on horses or donkeys or in hands, where it is sorted.
'They sort it into piles of used paper, metal, plastic and so on - and make quite a bit of money from it.'