Fed: Rates To Remain Low Into 2014

The Federal Reserve issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the economy of the United States has experienced moderate growth, despite slowing global economic growth, since the central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee met last month.

The Fed says that it will keep interest rates at a record low to “foster growth” of the moderately improving economy. The rates have been kept near zero for three years and will likely not be raised until late 2014.

The Fed statement says:

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with the dual mandate, the Committee expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy. In particular, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014.

According to Financial Times, the Fed decision suggests that the Federal Open Market Committee wants to do all it can via communications policy to bolster investment before considering another round of quantitative easing, which Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has not left off the table.

The central bank says it believes that one of the biggest threats to economic growth in the United States is the European financial crisis.

 

Natural Supplement Found To Improve Skin Health

With age, many people experience a gradual breakdown of collagen and elastin, the two structural proteins that are vital to healthy-looking skin; but researchers say that with the help of a natural supplement, your skin can be rebuilt and made healthier no matter how old you are.

A study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology this month finds that Pycnogenol ®, an antioxidant extract that is found in French maritime pine trees, improved skin hydration and elasticity in women who participated in a clinical trial.

The study was conducted at the Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Dusseldorf, Germany, and examined 20 healthy 55- to 68-year-old women.  Participants were given 75 mg of Pycnogenol® every day for 12 weeks.

Skin hydration, skin elasticity and skin fatigue were examined at the beginning of the trial and after six and 12 weeks.

The study found that:

•Pycnogenol® enhanced skin elasticity by 25 percent, in addition to skin hydration by 8 percent, and was especially noticeable in women who had dry skin from the start, with an increase of 21 percent.

•Pycnogenol® decreased skin fatigue considerably.

•Pycnogenol® reduced skin wrinkles by 3 percent and increased skin smoothness by 6 percent.

Pycnogenol® is a natural plant extract originating from the bark of the maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France and is found to contain a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids. The extract is available in more than 700 dietary supplements, multivitamins and health products worldwide.

Bin Laden SEAL Team Rescues Hostages In Somalia

The same Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden rescued two hostages, one of whom is an American citizen, from kidnappers in Somalia in a raid Tuesday night.

American Jessica Buchanan, 32, and a 60-year-old Dane, Poul Thisted, were kidnapped by “heavily armed common criminals” while working with a Danish demining group near Galcayo, Somalia, on Oct. 25, according to a statement from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

The Associated Press said that the team landed by helicopter near the compound where the two were held and approached the compound under heavy gunfire. Several of the kidnappers were reportedly killed; there was no word that any members of the SEAL team were wounded at the time of this report.

“This successful hostage rescue, undertaken in a hostile environment, is a testament to the superb skills of courageous service members who risked their lives to save others,” Panetta said in the statement. “I applaud their efforts, and I am pleased that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were not harmed during the operation.”

President Barack Obama said in a statement, the mission is “yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.”

Study: 1 In 5 Pregnancies Aborted

The global rate of abortions, which began declining in the 1990s, has stopped declining, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

The study was conducted using the World Health Organization’s definition of safe and unsafe abortion. Safe abortion estimates were based largely on official statistics and nationally representative surveys. Unsafe abortion estimates were based primarily on information from published studies, hospital records and surveys of women.

Globally, abortions fell from 35 per 1,000 women in 1995 to 29 per 1,000 by 2003 and have remained steady since.

Worldwide, the study found that 49 percent of abortions were unsafe in 2008, compared to 44 percent in 1995. About one out of every five pregnancies in the world ended in abortion in 2008. According to the study, abortion rates are lower in regions where more women live under liberal abortion laws. Some experts say that the decrease is related to more access to information and other options in those regions where abortion laws are more liberal.

“The substantial decline in the abortion rate observed earlier has stalled, and the proportion of all abortions that are unsafe has increased. Restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates,” the study says.

The abortion issue will take center stage for Americans during the Feb. 5 Super Bowl due to a comment by blogger Sophia Brugato who encouraged supporters of abortion rights to donate to the cause each time renowned Christian and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow scored in a game last month.

“How can I support a guy that’s openly anti-choice?” she wrote. “This is the same man that used the Super Bowl to a) build his reputation and brand as the saintliest saint of an athlete that ever lived, and b) raise money for an anti-choice organization that would deny the right to abortion to millions of women that need it. Yuck.”

Her actions prompted longshot Presidential candidate Randall Terry, who in January 2011 put his name on the Democratic ticket in several States, to attempt to air graphic anti-abortion ads when the Patriots and the Giants face off in the Super Bowl, according to CNN.

 “She was raising money to kill babies, and we’re raising money to save them. Fight fire with fire,” he said.

Passwords And The 5th Amendment

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Blackburn ruled this week that a Colorado woman must give authorities the password to her personal computer so that police can view the files on it, according to CNET.

Ramona Fricosu has until Feb. 21 to comply with the order. The judge said Fricosu’s defense — the 5th Amendment’s right against self-incrimination — did not apply in the case. She is charged with bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Rather than being protected against self-incrimination because the password is in her own mind, prosecutors have treated the situation as if she had a key to a safe containing stolen goods.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization, filed a brief on Fricosu’s behalf. The organization argued that Fricosu should not be compelled to give up her password because it would violate her 5th Amendment right, and there was no immunity “offered for loss of this protection.”

Federal prosecutors argued that if Fricosu was not ordered to allow prosecutors to access her computer it would result in a “concession to her and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible.”

IMF: For 2012 China Dominates Global Economy, U.S. Stalls, Europe In Decline

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund said that it predicts slowing global economic growth and a rising risk of global economic calamity if governments fail to act appropriately.

Last fall, the IMF predicted that the global economy would expand by a paltry 4 percent, but has since downgraded its expectations to 3.25 percent global economic growth in 2012.

The economy that makes up the largest chunk of the projected growth is China (the world’s most rapidly expanding economy), which is expected to enjoy 8.2 percent growth over the next year. In comparison, the United States, which owes trillions of dollars to the Chinese, is expected to experience only 1.8 percent economic growth in 2012.

The IMF says that the slowed global economic growth falls heavily on the economic disaster unfolding in eurozone countries, where a “mild recession” is expected to take hold.

“The global recovery is threatened by intensifying strains in the euro area and fragilities elsewhere. Financial conditions have deteriorated, growth prospects have dimmed, and downside risks have escalated,” says a portion of the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Update.

The IMF calls for a series of “decisive and consistent” global policy actions, including:

  • Fiscal adjustment. In the near term, sufficient fiscal adjustment is in motion in most advanced economies. Countries should let automatic stabilizers operate freely for as long as they can readily finance higher deficits.
  • Liquidity. While fiscal consolidation proceeds in the advanced economies, monetary policy should continue to support growth, as long as inflation expectations remain anchored and unemployment stays high.
  • Bank deleveraging. To break the adverse loops between weak growth and deteriorating bank balance sheets, more capital needs to be injected into the euro area banks (including from public sources) and supervisors must do whatever possible to avoid excessively fast deleveraging that could lead to a devastating credit crunch.
  • Financial adjustment. Easy funding in the short-term must be coupled with continued progress to repair and reform financial systems. This is a critical element of normalizing credit conditions and would help reduce the burden on monetary and fiscal policy of supporting the recovery.

Ron Paul Can Be Bought By Special Interests Or Anyone For Less Than $100

A Political Action Committee in support of Ron Paul, Revolution Pac, has released a piece of campaign memorabilia that puts the Presidential candidate in good company; he is now in the same league as Superman and G.I. Joe.

Following the South Carolina primary, the PAC unveiled a series of collectible action figures bearing the Paul’s likeness. The launch was made in conjunction with the super committee’s webcast of the primary results.

The talking action figure is 12 inches tall and comes in two models: “Commander in Chief” Paul and “Superhero” Paul. Commander in Chief Paul is dressed in a suit and wields a copy of the Constitution as if it were a weapon that he will use against any violation of the principles of the Founders.

“Barack Obama certainly doesn’t have a corner on the action figure market,” said Revolution PAC chair Gary Franchi. “Ron Paul proved he could go head to head with Obama in the Jones Soda bottle ballots during the 2008 campaign. I’m quite confident that he’ll be competitive in the collectible toy demographic as well.”

The PAC says that all of the proceeds from the action figures — which retail at $94.95 each — will be used to support Paul’s Presidential campaign. Though the price is a little steep, the PAC says that the funds go to a good cause, and the action figures are sure to become collector’s items.

“Discerning consumers recognize a rare and valuable offering when they see it. Plus, they know that  — unlike Barack Obama — this is the only way that Ron Paul can be bought,” Franchi said.

The action figure’s phrases are familiar Paulisms:

  • “I am a champion of the Constitution.”
  • “Ideas spread, they can’t stop them.”
  • “An idea whose time has come cannot be stopped by any army or any government.”

 

Gingrich Loves The Media

There are few things that news reporters love more than covering stories centered around individuals who are likely to flip out or turn the interview into an attack on the reporter himself. Why? Because the situations make for juicy, controversial and often outrageous quotes and stories that almost always go viral.

That’s why, as Tony Harden pointed out in a piece for Mail Online on Monday, despite the scathing attacks Newt Gingrich frequently launches against members of the media, he is happy to be swarmed by reporters.

Harden writes:

Newt Gingrich hates the media, right? He unloaded on John King at the Charleston debate for raising this issue of his ex-wife’s allegations, blasting the “destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media”. In Myrtle Beach, he slapped Juan Williams down for asking a race-based question.

And the media despises Newt, right? He’s so sarcastic and condescending towards us, brands us as elite liberals and uses us to whip up the Republican base.

Actually, wrong and wrong.

Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to work in a newsroom, be it in a small town or in a large metropolitan area, understands the dynamic of the Newt/media relationship: Just about any press is good press.

When reporters have conversations with each other about sources or politicians whom they cover, they often say things like, “this guy knows how to work the press,” or “if we cut him some slack on this issue, he’ll say what we want him to about the other.” News consumers believe that they have been given the whole story, but it isn’t so; what they actually get is the product of an unspoken agreement between the reporter and the reported-on concerning how the news will be presented.

Ron Paul campaign blogger Jack Hunter noted in a recent post the dynamics of the Newt/news relationship. Hunter contends that Gingrich’s 12-point win in South Carolina was directly related to his scolding of King at a debate just two days earlier.

“Gingrich won South Carolina handily because he berated the media—which conservatives rightly see as often being in cahoots with Obama,” Hunter writes. “Gingrich won because conservatives want to challenge Obama. Conservatives don’t see this sort of fight coming from Mitt Romney.”

Hunter contends that Gingrich has a style that voters like, and he uses the news media to portray himself as a man not afraid to stand up to the media and who will do the same with Barack Obama.

But, writes Hunter, “Newt Gingrich is surly. Great. Ron Paul is substance. Newt Gingrich can yell. Fantastic. Ron Paul can go the distance.”

Noteworthy is the fact that Paul’s campaign has been largely ignored by the news media.

Hunter’s assertion that Romney does not have the same talent for berating or debating with reporters has been witnessed on a number of occasions.

Below are a few examples of the candidates’ styles of dealing with media:

Rand Paul ‘Detained’ By TSA

The Transportation Security Administration is not gaining any favor with Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who in the past has been critical of the agency and was detained by its agents on Monday.

After going through a body scanner at the airport in Nashville, Tenn., Paul was told that there was an “anomaly” with the scan and that he would have to have a full-body pat-down. The Senator refused the pat-down and offered another scan, but the TSA insisted on a pat-down.

According to The Associated Press, Paul claimed he was “detained” in a small cubicle in the airport, which is about an hour from his home. He missed his flight to Washington for a Senate session.

The TSA denies that Paul was ever detained, but said he refused to follow protocol.

“When an irregularity is found during the TSA screening process, it must be resolved prior to allowing a passenger to proceed to the secure area of the airport,” the TSA said in a statement to CBS News. “Passengers who refuse to complete the screening process cannot be granted access to the secure area in order to ensure the safety of others traveling.”

Both Ron and Rand Paul have been critical of the TSA screening process over the years.

 

Supreme Court: No Warrantless GPS Tracking

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant before tracking suspects with GPS technology.

The case stems from an incident wherein GPS technology helped authorities link Washington, D.C., nightclub owner Antoine Jones to a suburban house used to stash money and drugs after said authorities attached a device to Jones’ Jeep. An appeals court overturned a conviction that would have put Jones in prison for life.

The Justices said in their opinion that the act of attaching a tracking device to a vehicle was a form of search and, thereby, required officials to first obtain a warrant.

“By attaching the device to the Jeep, officers encroached on a protected area,” Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

The Supreme Court found that Jones’s Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

Justices Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed that GPS tracking of wireless devices, like mobile phones, should also be addressed.

 

EU Imposes Sanctions On Iran

Following the U.S. move to tighten sanctions on Iran late last year, the European Union has moved to ban the import of all Iranian crude oil and petroleum products — a measure that may lead to the Iranians closing the vital Strait of Hormuz.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a joint statement in response to the EU decision to impose further sanctions on Iran:

An excerpt from the statement reads:

Our message is clear. We have no quarrel with the Iranian people. But the Iranian leadership has failed to restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. We will not accept Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has so far had no regard for its international obligations and is already exporting and threatening violence around its region.

Following the European sanctions, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s third-largest bank, Bank Tejarat, for providing financial services to several Iranian banks and firms already subject to international sanctions for involvement in nuclear activities.

Amid dealing with heavy sanctions, Iran has warned if the country closes the Strait of Hormuz, the United States should not intervene.

“If America seeks adventures after the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran will make the world unsafe for Americans in the shortest possible time,” Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee, told Fars news agency a day after U.S., French and British warships sailed back into the Gulf, according to Reuters.

Senior Officials Refuses Fast And Furious Subpoena

Last week, a senior official from the U.S. Attorney’s office said he is refusing to appear before the committee headed by Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who issued him a subpoena as part of his investigation into Fast and Furious.

An attorney for Patrick Cunningham, chief of the Phoenix office’s criminal division within the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona, said his client was planning to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid acting as a witness against himself, according to The Hill.

Issa subpoenaed Cunningham early last week to be deposed before the committee over his role in Fast and Furious, which was run out of Arizona in coordination with the State’s U.S. Attorney office.

“Senior Justice Department officials have recently told the committee that you relayed inaccurate and misleading information to the department in preparation for its initial response to Congress,” said Issa in the letter, which was made public last Thursday.

Cunningham’s involvement centers on a letter sent from the Justice Department last year to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that contained false statements about the operation.

Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to appear before Issa’s committee in two weeks.

Loveless Triangle: Gingrich, Ex-Wife, Media

Newt Gingrich slammed CNN debate moderator John King at a Republican debate in South Carolina last Thursday following the first question, which involved allegations by Gingrich’s ex-wife that he requested an open marriage in 1999.

“Would you like to take some time to respond to that?” asked King.

“No, but I will,” responded Gingrich. “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”

Gingrich went on to criticize ABC, the network that ran the interview with his ex-wife, for not allowing him to provide people who could back up his side of the story. Gingrich says he never requested an open marriage.

“Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine,” he said. “My two daughters, my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am, frankly, astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.”

ABC said that Gingrich was lying in an email from its Senior Vice President Jeffrey W. Schneider to The Washington Post:

“That’s just not true. His daughters were in our story last night and we sought interviews with Gingrich or surrogates very aggressively starting Tuesday morning. Would have been happy to interview anyone they put forward.”

 

Study: Be Kind To Immigrants And They Will Become Legal Citizens

A new study from the University of California at Irvine says that kindness, not money, is the biggest inspiration for immigrants to go through the processes necessary to become legal U.S. citizens.

Naturalization rates increased after the 1996 Welfare Reform Act restricted many benefits to just citizens, leading many immigration experts to speculate that the promise of welfare benefits was inspiring more immigrants to become citizens.

But results of a study by demographers Susan Brown and Frank Bean suggest that there is a strong connection between how welcoming a community is toward immigrants, and the immigrants’ likeliness to opt to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

“Legal immigrants are twice as likely to naturalize when they live in states with a warm, welcoming attitude toward immigrants,” Brown said.

The researches defined “welcoming attitudes” as those in areas where locals believe immigrants are hardworking and beneficial, and where they tend to oppose English-only policies.

“There’s no doubt that welfare reform has contributed to increased rates of naturalization — it added value and salience to citizenship,” Bean said. “But when we look at all the different forces influencing immigrants to naturalize, money doesn’t seem to be the major factor — it’s whether the state puts out its welcome mat.”

The most favorable attitude toward immigrants was reported in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. Immigrants in those areas were more likely to naturalize.

SOPA/PIPA Appear Stalled For Now

Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he will delay action which would have taken place next week on the Stop Online Piracy Act until more people agree with the legislation.

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” Smith said in a statement. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) also announced that he is delaying consideration of online piracy measures until the concerns of those against them can be alleviated.

Many previous legislative supporters of the piracy bills changed their minds following a public protest against the legislation that made its way across the Internet.

Among those who withdrew support of quickly moving the piracy legislations was Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who said on Facebook, “Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.”

Critics of the legislation say that though the bills are on hold for now, Americans must remain wary of the issue.

SOPA, PIPA Protests Raise Awareness

Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act warned on Thursday — a day after many Internet companies shut down in protest of the bills — that though awareness and discontent with the bills is heightened, the fight continues.

After receiving emails and petitions from thousands of Internet users, lead sponsors of the bills have promised to make changes and are expected to remove the most controversial provision, which would allow Internet service providers to block access to foreign-based piracy sites, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Websites such as Reddit and Wikipedia temporarily shut down to oppose SOPA and PIPA. As a result, more than 162 million people saw the protest message on Wikipedia and other sites.

According to PC World, 18 Senators have backed away from the proposed legislation, and 4.5 million people signed a petition against the acts.

The next Senate vote for PIPA is scheduled for Jan. 24.

GOP Race Evolves As South Carolina Draws Near

As Saturday’s primary voting in South Carolina draws near, there have been some shake-ups in the 2012 Republican Presidential race.

When polls indicated that Ron Paul had a chance of a very strong finish in the Iowa caucus that took place earlier this month, many political insiders said that if he did, the results should be disregarded. The results initially showed Mitt Romney beating Rick Santorum by just eight votes and put Paul in third.

However, the Des Moines Register reported on Thursday that after a review of the results by the Iowa GOP, there are “too many holes in the certified totals” from the caucus to know for certain who really won — though Santorum came out 34 votes ahead by the final count. The results remain “unresolved” because GOP officials in the State say the results from eight precincts are missing, never to be recovered and certified, and that they discovered inaccuracies in the results of 131 precincts. The final decision by Iowa GOP officials was to call a “split decision” or “virtual tie” between Romney and Santorum.

Also on Thursday, Rick Perry abandoned his Presidential bid and endorsed the campaign of Newt Gingrich as an alternative to Romney for conservative voters. Political analysts say that it is unclear what weight Perry’s endorsement will carry for Gingrich; the Texas Governor was running last in polls of South Carolina voters before dropping out.

“I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country,” Perry said at a press conference in South Carolina. “We have had our differences, which campaigns inevitably bring out. And Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”

A Rasmussen poll of likely Republican voters in South Carolina conducted on Wednesday showed Gingrich leading in the State with 33 percent favorability.  In second place was establishment favorite Romney taking 31 percent followed by Paul’s 15 percent third-place finish. One-third (31 percent) of the likely voters polled said they could still change their minds before Saturday.

Santorum has reportedly been struggling to make a connection with South Carolina voters, but some political experts say that his Iowa upgrade may help him gain steam as the “anti-Romney” right before the primary. Establishment media have also said that Paul was showing lackluster campaign performance in South Carolina after he left the State last weekend to take a short break from campaigning and then traveled to Washington to vote against a debt-ceiling increase Wednesday.  The Paul campaign says that it expects to do well on Saturday because of its dedicated supporters.

Though many candidates have dropped out of the race, the South Carolina Election Commission said nine candidates (Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Paul, Perry, Romney and Santorum) will be listed on the ballot Saturday.

 

New Cases Of Bird Flu In Asia, Mideast Spark Concerns

New cases of the H5N1 virus — or bird flu — are being reported more frequently throughout Asia and the Mideast.

On Thursday, Vietnam confirmed its first human death resulting from the virus since April 2010. The fatality came just one day after neighboring Cambodia reported a bird flu death.

The 18-year-old Vietnamese man, who died on Jan. 11, was a duck farmer in the southern Mekong delta province of Hau Giang, according to Channel News Asia. Experts in the country are investigating whether the infection came from his flock.

In Cambodia, a 2-year-old boy from northwestern Banteay Meanchey province, died on Jan. 18 after contracting the virus. The child is thought to have been exposed to infected poultry, according to the World Health Organization.

Vietnamese authorities say that there is no need to be alarmed about the recent H5N1 reports.

“The bird flu situation is still within our control,” said Le Minh Hung, a doctor from the Health Department of Ho Chi Minh City. “Some healthcare teams have been sent to check on the situation in southern provinces.”

Urgent Warning: Global Pandemics... Scarce Food And Water...
 

Since 2003, the disease has killed 340 people worldwide; 59 of those deaths have been in Vietnam and 17 in Cambodia. Other human bird flu cases have recently been reported in Indonesia, Egypt and China. Indonesia, which has been the hardest-hit by bird flu in recent years, last week reported its third fatal case in three months. Bird flu is most likely to occur in the winter months.

The WHO says that a worldwide bird flu pandemic in humans is a possibility:

The H5N1 AI virus remains one of the influenza viruses with pandemic potential, because it continues to circulate widely in some poultry populations, most humans likely have no immunity to it, and it can cause severe disease and death in humans. In addition to H5N1, other animal influenza virus subtypes reported to have infected people include avian H7 and H9, and swine H1 and H3 viruses. H2 viruses may also pose a pandemic threat.

Recent scientific experiments with bird flu deepen concerns about the possibility of a human bird flu outbreak. To try to better understand the virus, scientists in Wisconsin and the Netherlands have recently successfully mutated bird flu so that it can more easily spread among humans. Many health and government officials believe that in the wrong hands, the scientists’ discoveries could be used to spark a pandemic for terror purposes.

Gingrich’s Dirty Laundry

Tonight on Nightline, Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s second wife Marianne Gingrich may provide insight to some of the candidate’s personal baggage that his opponents are so fond of mentioning.

Marianne Gingrich said she is coming forward now so voters can know what she knows about her ex-husband, according to Global Post.

Newt Gingrich’s two daughters from his first marriage, Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman, sent a letter to ABC News saying that the media should focus on other issues, “ABC News or other campaigns may want to talk about the past, just days before an important primary election.  But Newt is going to talk to the people of South Carolina about the future– about job creation, lower taxes, and about who can defeat Barack Obama by providing the sharpest contrast to his damaging, extreme liberalism.  We are confident this is the conversation the people of South Carolina are interested in having.”

In an interview with ABC News, Marianne alleged that when she found out that Newt Gingrich was having an extramarital affair with his now-wife Callista, he asked if they could have an open marriage and said that Callista did not care what he did.

Obama To Accept Nomination At Bank Of America Stadium

The Democratic Party has decided to move President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for the 2012 Democratic Presidential nomination to the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., — a venue named for a company that was at the center of the financial crises.

According to MSNBC, Democratic officials defended the decision, which has drawn a fair amount of controversy, saying that the stadium was chosen for its seating capacity.

“That allows for greater participation by Americans from all walks of life,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

But critics say that the move, if only in a symbolic sense, is a slap in the face of many Americans who believe that there is too much corporate influence in American politics.

“It’s a surprising and disappointing choice,” Mary Boyle, vice president of Common Cause, told MSNBC. “Bank of America is the poster child for corporate greed and corporations out-of-control. The president would be better served by choosing a large public space with no corporate logo attached to it.”

The convention will have available the stadium’s plush skyboxes to donors in attendance who drop $1 million for a package including a “premier uptown hotel room” and a “platinum events package and “concierge services.” The $500,000 “Gold Rush” package includes hotel room, credentials and a “premiere events package.”

Occupy Protests May Be Losing Steam, Funding

Though the OWS protests have continued throughout the country, with protesters rallying outside the White House and on Capitol Hill earlier this week, donations for the movement are reportedly drying up.

According to CNN, the original OWS general assembly, which makes major decisions for the group, recently approved a partial spending freeze. Spending on housing, food and other items deemed crucial will reportedly continue.

“There’s been a lot of disagreement lately about how things have been spent,” said Pete Dutro, a member of Occupy Wall Street’s accounting working group. OWS has reportedly recently become much less frugal in its spending than it was at the beginning of the movement.

More than $800,000 has been donated to OWS, and the group reportedly has about $170,000 available to spend, according to the accounting working group. It also has more than $100,000 in the Alliance for Global Justice, a Washington-based nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status, and $100,000 set aside for bail in the event of member arrests.

Some people say that OWS’s eviction from Zuccotti Park gave the movement less attention from the media and, therefore, cut donations by making the protests less visible.

As funding dries up, OWS protesters in Los Angeles reached a sort of milestone for the protest movement: its first felony arrest. Sergio Ballesteros, 30, objected — in some fashion — to the arrest of another protester at a demonstration. Police then arrested Ballesteros and charged him with lynching, which is defined by California penal code as “taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer,” with “riot” defined as two or more people threatening violence or disturbing the peace.

 

Poll: Economy Still Bush’s Fault

A new poll found that three years into the Barack Obama Presidency, a majority of Americans still believe President George W. Bush is to blame for economic problems in the United States.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 54 percent of respondents said that Bush was more to blame and 29 percent put the blame on Obama; 9 percent said both men deserved blame while 6 percent said neither. Among registered voters, the numbers are similar; 54 percent blame Bush, and 30 percent blame Obama.

Independents were reportedly the most likely to say that economic troubles were more Bush’s fault than Obama’s, 57 to 25 percent.

 

Obama Rejects Keystone

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said that he would not bow to Congressional pressure as he announced that he was rejecting a Canadian firm’s application for a permit to build and operate the Keystone XL pipeline, the massive project that would have connected Canadian oil sands with refineries in Texas.

The President claimed that the Feb. 21 deadline set by Congress as part of the temporary payroll tax cut extension made it impossible to do an in-depth review of the pipeline project proposed by TransCanada.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” the President said in a statement.

TransCanada will be allowed to reapply for a permit after it develops an alternative route that bypasses Nebraska’s Sand Hills which many people call too sensitive a habitat to be marred by the pipeline. TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said his company will re-apply for a permit to build the pipeline, and will continue its work with officials in Nebraska on an alternative route that avoids the region.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the President is afraid to stand up to his environmentalist base, even if it means breaking his jobs creation promises.

“The President has said he’ll do anything that he can to create jobs. Today that promise was broken. The president expedited the approval of the Solyndra loan project, but won’t approve a project that’s been under review for over three years,” he said during a press conference. “Yesterday, the president’s own Jobs Council said the energy pipeline projects like this one can create hundreds of thousands of American jobs. The unions support it. The states along the proposed route support it. And it has bipartisan support here in the Congress of the United States — and yet the president decided to reject it anyway. The President won’t stand up to his political base even in the name of creating American jobs. And now Canada is going to have to look to other nations like China to sell its oil reserves to.”