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PFTF Feb 20 2012 Bird Flu Studies to be Published in full
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Post PFTF Feb 20 2012 Bird Flu Studies to be Published in full
Flu season off to latest start in decades

Health officials say the flu season is finally here - the slowest start in nearly 25 years.

Until this month, there weren't enough flu cases in the U.S. to signal the start of the season. This is the latest start to a flu season since the winter of 1987-1988.

Flu season usually starts in December or January. Often, it's half over by late February. CDC officials don't know why this season was slow but it could be a combination of factors.

On Friday, CDC officials said one state - California - has had widespread cases for the last two weeks, and Missouri has seen a spike in reports of flu-like illness.

So far the flu vaccine seems well-matched to the strains making people sick. Last flu season was considered average.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/02/1 ... z1mpeyin7G




Despite Safety Worries, Work on Deadly Flu to Be Released

The full details of recent experiments that made a deadly flu virus more contagious will be published, probably within a few months, despite recommendations by the United States that some information be kept secret for fear that terrorists could use it to start epidemics.

-----------------------------


The natural form of the virus being studied has infected millions of birds, mostly in poor countries in Asia, and although it does not often infect people, it has a high death rate when it does. If the virus were to develop the ability to infect humans more easily, and to spread from person to person — which it almost never does now — it could kill millions of people.

“The group consensus was that it was much more important to get this information to scientists in an easy way to allow them to work on the problem for the good of public health,” Dr. Fauci said. “It was not unanimous, but a very strong consensus.”


----------------------------

Bruce Alberts, editor of the journal Science, said his journal and another one, Nature, had been planning to publish redacted versions of the research in mid-March. Now, Dr. Alberts said, they will wait until it is considered appropriate to publish the full versions. He said he was surprised that the group meeting in Geneva had reached a decision so promptly.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/healt ... s&emc=tha2



Swan carcasses found in Westboro, a few infected with avian flu


WESTBORO — A battery of tests by state and federal inspectors on a dozen swan carcasses found in a local pond revealed that four of the dead birds tested positive for avian influenza.

The low-pathogenic, or relatively mild, avian influenza the birds had does not pose a threat to human health, state officials said.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services collected the carcasses from Mill Pond after a local resident reported seeing them floating near the shore in December.

Reginald Zimmerman, spokesman for the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, said the four birds tested positive for low-pathogenic avian influenza.

“That is fairly common in water fowl here,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “This means they could have been exposed to it, or at the end of it, but I have to stress there is no human risk.”

Mr. Zimmerman said the remaining eight birds tested came back negative for avian influenza and tests could not determine what caused their deaths.

http://www.telegram.com/article/2012013 ... 19875/1116

kkk so 4 of them are LPAI...and yet more then a dozen of them died...this really is left open ended..first they died of LPAI...and only 4 tested positive and now the investigation is closed...hummm how did the other 8 die if they did not have LPAI

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Fri Feb 17, 2012 7:57 am
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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
:::CH :::CH

Bird Flu Studies Can Be Published After All: WHO

SATURDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Research on a mutated, more contagious form of the bird flu virus can be published in full, the World Health Organization announced Friday, despite concerns that bioterrorists could use the information to start a pandemic.

The decision came during a special meeting of 22 bird flu experts in Geneva, Switzerland, that was convened by the WHO to discuss the "urgent issues" that have swirled around possible publication of the two bird flu studies since last November, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Most of those at the meeting felt that any theoretical terrorist risk was outweighed by the "real and present danger" of similar flu virus mutations occurring naturally in the wild, and by the need for the scientific community to share information that could help identify exactly when the virus might be developing the ability to spread more easily, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Times. Fauci represented the United States at the meeting.

"The group consensus was that it was much more important to get this information to scientists in an easy way to allow them to work on the problem for the good of public health," Fauci said. "It was not unanimous, but a very strong consensus."

However, Fauci added, the United States was not part of that consensus. U.S. bio-security chiefs had urged last November that critical specifics of the papers remain unpublished.

Although the bird flu virus, known as H5N1, rarely infects people, it appears to be highly lethal when it does. Of about 600 known cases, more than half have been fatal. If the virus were able to spread more easily from birds to humans, experts have estimated that millions of people could die after being infected.

The two studies at the center of the debate were to be published in the journals Science and Nature late last year. The papers, which were funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, describe how the H5N1 virus could mutate relatively easily into a strain that could spread rapidly among humans. The research was done by scientists at the University of Wisconsin and in the Netherlands.

The editors of both journals said they plan to publish the papers in full at a future date.

http://news.yahoo.com/bird-flu-studies- ... 06649.html






Public interest in pandemic flu vaccine faded over time

Researchers at RAND Corp. and the University of Michigan found that the more the public learned about this new type of influenza and the longer they had to wait for the vaccine, the less interested they were in getting it.

"Our results provide further evidence of how important it is to develop technology to speed vaccine production," said the study's co-author, Brian Zikmund-Fisher, an assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health. "Many more people would have been interested in vaccination had the vaccine been available even three months earlier."

The study, a collaboration between Zikmund-Fisher and Courtney Gidengil and Andrew Parker of the RAND Corp, is being released today (Feb. 16) for advance online viewing by the American Journal of Public Health.
Each year the strains of influenza circling the world change slightly. Occasionally a new strain emerges, as happened in March 2009 with the H1N1 virus. Later that spring the World Health Organization declared a level 6 pandemic, the highest level possible, which meant that the disease had spread worldwide. In the United States, the peak rate of infections and hospitalizations from H1N1 occurred between September and December 2009.

While other research has looked at people's beliefs about the H1N1 influenza at one point at time, this study used the RAND American Life Panel, a large national sample, to track both the public's perceived risk of catching H1N1 and their intention of receiving the new vaccine over time. The authors gathered data 10 different times from May 2009 (when HIN1 illnesses were still very rare) until January 2010 (when the worst of the pandemic had passed in the United States). The vaccine came out in October 2009, was widely available by November.

The U-M and RAND study found that intention to get vaccinated dropped from 50 percent in May 2009 when news of H1N1 first surfaced but the vaccine was not available to just 16 percent of unvaccinated people by January, when the last survey was given.

The authors' findings are consistent with the fact that by December 2009, only 24 percent of the entire U.S. population received the H1N1 vaccine. Fortunately the 2009 H1N1 strain was not particularly deadly.
The study also found that those who received a seasonal influenza vaccine the previous year were more likely to get the new H1N1 vaccine during the pandemic. This is important, the study's authors note, because it suggests that encouraging regular seasonal flu vaccination is a valuable part of preparing for future pandemics.

One other interesting finding was that those with lower income or education tended to believe they were at higher risk for catching H1N1 but were nonetheless less likely to want to get the vaccine. Zikmund-Fisher and his colleagues speculated that these groups may have a higher level of mistrust of new vaccines.

The U-M and RAND researchers hope their study will be used to better understand what motivates the public to seek vaccinations, which will ultimately save lives when the next pandemic strikes.
In addition to SPH's Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Zikmund-Fisher also has appointments in the Department of Internal Medicine, the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine and the Risk Science Cente

The complete study, called "Trends in Risk Perceptions and Vaccination Intentions: A Longitudinal Study of the First Year of the H1N1 Pandemic," will be published in the April 2012 edition of the American Journal of Public Health and is available for advance, online viewing at http://www.ajph.org .

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-02-p ... ccine.html


Norway paying victims of swine flu vaccine

Norwegian authorities have so far received 93 compensation requests from people who claim to have suffered serious side effects from the swine flu vaccine widely administered amid a global outbreak of the virus in 2009.

Among the claimants are six adults and 30 children who say they developed narcolepsy after receiving the Pandemrix vaccine, newspaper VG reports.

Six children diagnosed with the sleep disorder have already had their claims for damages approved by the Norwegian System of Compensation for Injuries to Patients (NPE).

“These are quite serious injuries. You can just imagine how serious it is for children who have lost all strength in one or several muscle groups and fall asleep without warning almost regardless of what they’re doing,” said NPE spokeswoman Torill Svoldal Stæhr.

She said the NPE was now working to establish adequate levels of compensation.

“It’s going to vary depending on the scope of the children’s injuries,” she told VG.

Four adults who took the vaccine have received damages for injuries not related to narcolepsy.

http://www.thelocal.no/page/view/norway ... lu-vaccine?


Questions About Bird Flu Research Swirl Around Private WHO Meeting

A closed-door meeting to discuss controversial bird flu research is drawing to a close at the World Health Organization in Geneva, and the WHO plans to publicly report on what happened once it's officially over.

"We're very aware that there's a lot of interest in the meeting and that people will want to know, you know, what were the issues that were discussed and did you come to any consensus," the WHO's Keiji Fukuda noted before the meeting began. "So we will try to make that as clear as possible as quickly as possible."

The international gathering comes as the scientific community is divided about the risks and benefits of experiments that generated genetically altered bird flu viruses.

Critics say the newly created viruses are dangerous — that if the germs escaped or were used deliberately as a bioweapon, they could potentially kill large numbers of people.


Supporters of the work say the dangers have been exaggerated and that the research is essential to understanding how bird flu circulating out in the wild might someday mutate and cause a pandemic.

Before the meeting, Fukuda cautioned that it was not expected to address all of the questions surrounding the bird flu research.

"What we'll try to do is look at some of the more urgent specific issues at this meeting, and then take those broader issues and then try to address those at a later, broader process," Fukuda said.

There are major questions swirling around these bird flu experiments: Should the scientific manuscripts describing them be published openly, or would that just give bioterrorists ideas? If some of the information is kept under wraps, how will legitimate researchers get access to it? Should experiments like this continue to be done and, if so, under what conditions in terms of lab safety and international oversight?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/02 ... ng?ft=1&f=


WHO: Deadly bird flu studies to stay secret for now


Two studies showing how scientists mutated the H5N1 bird flu virus into a form that could cause a deadly human pandemic will be published only after experts fully assess the risks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Speaking after a high-level meeting of flu experts and U.S. security officials in Geneva, a WHO spokesman said an agreement had been reached in principle to keep details of the controversial work secret until deeper risk analyses have been carried out.

The WHO called the meeting to break a deadlock between scientists who have studied the mutations needed to make H5N1 bird flu transmit between mammals, and the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which wanted the work censored before it was published in scientific journals.

Biosecurity experts fear mutated forms of the virus that research teams in The Netherlands and the United States independently created could escape or fall into the wrong hands and be used to spark a pandemic worse than the 1918-19 outbreak of Spanish flu that killed up to 40 million people.

"There must be a much fuller discussion of risk and benefits of research in this area and risks of virus itself," the WHO's Gregory Hartl told reporters.

High fatality rate

The H5N1 virus, first detected in Hong Kong in 1997, is entrenched among poultry in many countries, mainly in Asia, but so far remains in a form that is hard for humans to catch.

It is known to have infected nearly 700 people worldwide since 2003, killing half of them, a far higher death rate than the H1N1 swine flu which caused a flu pandemic in 2009/2010.

Last year two teams of scientists - one led by Ron Fouchier at Erasmus Medical Center and another led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin - said they had found that just a handful of mutations would allow H5N1 to spread like ordinary flu between mammals, and remain as deadly as it is now.

In December, the NSABB asked two leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, to withhold details of the research for fear it could be used by bioterrorists.

They said a potentially deadlier form of bird flu poses one of the gravest known threats to humans and justified the unprecedented call to censor the research.

The WHO voiced concern, and flu researchers from around the world declared a 60-day moratorium on January 20 on "any research involving highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses" that produce easily contagious forms.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/02/1 ... z1mj3SYh6B


India

Pregnant woman tests positive for swine flu in Jodhpur


JAIPUR: A pregnant woman has tested positive for swine flu in Jodhpur. It is the seventh case of the disease this winter and the woman has been admitted to the MDM Hospital here.

The hospital authorities have kept her in the isolation ward to ensure that it does not spread.

Jodhpur chief medical and health officer Dr R C Mathur said, "The condition of the patient is improving. She is all right as the doctors have started treatment after diagnosis."

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes ... nant-woman


Bird flu spreads to 11 localities nationwide(Vietnam)


34,000 heads of poultry have been culled and 2 people have died as the H5N1 avian flu has spread to 21 districts in 11 provinces and cities across the country, said the National Steering Committee for Avian Influenza Prevention and Control.

At yesterday’s meeting to review the disease situation, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat, head of the committee, requested local authorities nationwide to take all possible measures to control, prevent and drive back the disease, with vaccination of poultry being the most important priority.

The minister asked the Ministry of Finance to facilitate the import of 50 million of doses of H5N1-Re 5 vaccine as soon as possible.

He also requested the 7 epidemic inspection teams set up several days ago to step up their mission in 48 provinces and cities and give necessary support to the 11 affected localities. These are Thanh Hoa, Quang Tri, Ha Nam, Ha Tinh, Quang Nam, Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Thai Nguyen, Bac Giang, Soc Trang and Kien Giang,

Acting head of the Ministry of Health’s Veterinary Department Hoang Van Nam warned that the avian flu virus had continuously evolved since 2003 and become more dangerous.

From 2003 to 2011, 121 people were affected by bird flu and 61 of them, or about 50%, died. In January 2012, 2 people were found to contract the H5N1 virus and both died, he said.

From 2003 to 2007, the H5N1 clade 1 virus prevailed in Vietnam, but since 2007, sub-clade 2.3.4 had appeared and existed until 2009, when sub-clade 2.3.2 was found. This sub-clade has later developed into two groups A and B.

Of the 2 groups, the former is three times more dangerous than the latter and has been found in almost all of the affected provinces and cities, while the latter has appeared in only 8 localities so far.

In the past several years, the H5N1-Re 5 vaccine was used to vaccinate poultry in the country, but since the appearance of sub-clade 2.3.2, the vaccine has been found to be not strong enough, Nam said.

http://www.tuoitrenews.vn/cmlink/tuoitr ... de-1.61966

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Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:08 pm
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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Crude Oil Rises to Nine-Month High Amid Optimism on U.S. Economy, Greece


Oil climbed to a nine-month high in New York as signs of an improving U.S. economy and progress on a bailout for Greece bolstered the outlook for fuel demand.

West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.9 percent to cap a weekly gain of 4.6 percent as the index of U.S. leading indicators advanced in January for a fourth month. Germany’s government signaled that finance ministers may be ready to support a 130 billion-euro ($171 billion) rescue for Greece.

“We’ve had a strong week and there’s strong upward momentum,” said Addison Armstrong, director of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “The headlines are what’s driving this market and if they point to a better economy, prices will rise. It looks like a Greek deal is going to finally get done.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-1 ... plans.html

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Sat Feb 18, 2012 4:48 am
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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Texas Rice Farmers Look for ‘Miracle’ as Irrigation Cutoff Looms


Rains in Texas have failed to refill water reservoirs for the state’s main rice-growing areas, prompting the first-ever restrictions on irrigation that may lead to the smallest planted acreage since the 1920s.

The Lower Colorado River Authority, which manages lakes supplying water to 1.1 million people, including the city of Austin, Texas, plans to stop releasing water for irrigation on March 1, right before the start of planting for this year. The restriction would affect farmers in Colorado, Matagorda and Wharton counties, which produced 62 percent of the Texas rice crop and 3.7 percent of the U.S. harvest in 2009.

While central and eastern Texas received as much as double the normal amount of rain so far this year, that isn’t enough to make up for getting less than half the normal moisture in 2011. Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan, the two main reservoirs providing irrigation for farmers, were about 38 percent full as of yesterday, according to the water district.

“If we get no water, I won’t farm any rice this coming year,” said Mike Burnside, who normally grows rice on 1,000 acres in Bay City, Texas. “We do have crop-insurance protection for prevented planting, which will let us survive the year. But the seed salesman, fertilizer salesman, everybody is suffering under the drought.”

Lower rice output in the U.S., as farmers switch to more profitable corn, and as saltwater erodes soil in Louisiana, may send prices on the Chicago Board of Trade up 11 percent to $16 per 100 pounds by November, the highest since November 2011, Dennis DeLaughter, the owner of Progressive Farm Marketing Inc. in Edna, Texas, said in a telephone interview. Futures for May delivery settled at $14.385 today in Chicago.

Global Supply

Rice futures have dropped 18 percent in the past six months as prospects for rising output in India, China and Indonesia signaled higher global stockpiles. World food prices have fallen 9.9 percent from a record in February 2011, partly because of lower grain costs, United Nations data show.

The UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization said Feb. 1 that prices probably will drop in coming months as global demand for imports weakens, while supplies and reserves expand. Global milled-rice trade may slip 5 percent to 32.8 million metric tons in 2012 from a record 34.5 million in 2011, the UN said.

“We are long-term bullish because rice is the staple food of the world, and there will be problems,” said DeLaughter, who correctly predicted last year’s rally to $18. In the U.S., “some of these mills are going to get really nervous about the supply of rice available to them, with acres declining.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-1 ... looms.html

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Sat Feb 18, 2012 4:50 am
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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Iran 'halts oil sales to France and Britain'

Iran has halted oil sales to British and French companies, the nation's oil ministry has said.

A spokesman was reported as saying on the ministry's website that Iran would "sell our oil to new customers".

European Union member states had earlier agreed to stop importing Iranian crude from 1 July.

The move is intended to pressure Tehran to stop enriching uranium, which can be used for civilian nuclear purposes but also to build warheads.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful, but the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency says it has information suggesting Iran has carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device".

Sunday's statement on the oil ministry website was attributed to spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad Rahbar.

Some Iranian media had on Wednesday announced that Iran had stopped oil exports to the Netherlands, Greece, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy in retaliation for the EU's oil embargo, but this was later denied by the oil ministry.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17089953



This one I did a couple of days ago...have to find a new link but it looks like this is being done to Iran..can you say RUH ROH


US, Europe eye risky, unprecedented penalty for Iran over pursuit of nuclear weapons

The United States and Europe are considering unprecedented punishment against Iran that could immediately cripple the country's financial lifeline. But it's an extreme option in the banking world that would come with its own costs.

The Obama administration wants Iran evicted from SWIFT, an independent financial clearinghouse that is crucial to the country's overseas oil sales. That would leapfrog the current slow-pressure campaign of sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to drop what the U.S. and its allies contend is a drive toward developing and building nuclear weapons. It also perhaps would buy time for the U.S. to persuade Israel not to launch a pre-emptive military strike on Iran this spring.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/02 ... z1mj5p5bui


Looking around for more info about this..it seems they are going to start this into action and I want to make sure I am following the right leads on this..ok found it ..they are getting ready to do this,not that they have done it yet



Global clearinghouse ready to evict Iranian banks

BRUSSELS (AP) - A financial clearinghouse used by virtually every country and major corporation in the world agreed Friday to shut out Iran from its respected network, an unprecedented escalation of global economic pressure to halt Iran's suspected drive for nuclear weapons.

Quicker than a succession of slow-acting economic sanctions, expelling Iran from the banking hub could put a sudden choke hold on its oil-dependent economy. The move was made under strong pressure from the United States and the European Union, which are looking for ways to derail Iran's nuclear program quickly without a military strike.

"If SWIFT follows through on its public commitment to ban Iranian banks, it could sever the Iranian regime's financial lifeline," said Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert advising the Obama administration. "It would also be a significant political embarrassment for the regime: Iran would be the first country in SWIFT's history to be expelled from what is the financial equivalent of the United Nations."

The European Union is expected to act within weeks to effectively cut off major Iranian banks from participation in The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as SWIFT. It's a move of last resort, with risks ranging from huge inflation and financial hardship for ordinary Iranians to disruption and price increases on the world oil market. Iran could also retaliate in unpredictable ways.

The EU has already imposed the first embargo on Iranian oil, to take effect this summer. The strongest-yet U.S. sanctions on Iran's lifeblood oil sector are due later this year.

SWIFT said in a statement on its web site that it will comply with the expected instruction to cut off Iranian banks. SWIFT has previously brushed off international efforts to use its network to target countries or companies, telling enforcers that it does not judge the merits of the transactions passing through the portal.

SWIFT's statement said the decision essentially to kick out a member country "reflects the extraordinary and highly exceptional circumstances of significant multilateral international support for the intensification of sanctions against Iran."

http://www.kusi.com/story/16959571/glob ... -sanctions


Banking's SWIFT says ready to block Iran transactions


BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON - Belgium-based SWIFT, which provides banks with a system for moving funds around the world, bowed to international pressure on Friday and said it was ready to block Iranian banks from using its network to transfer money.

Expelling Iranian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication would shut down Tehran's main avenue to doing business with the rest of the world - an outcome the West believes is crucial to curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

SWIFT, which has never cut off a country before, has been closely following efforts in the United States and the European Union to develop new sanctions targeting Iran that would directly affect EU-based financial institutions.


http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=258329


Report: Iran poised to greatly expand uranium enrichment production

VIENNA – Iran is poised to greatly expand uranium enrichment at a fortified underground bunker to a point that would boost how quickly it could make nuclear warheads, diplomats tell The Associated Press.

They said Tehran has put finishing touches for the installation of thousands of new-generation centrifuges at the cavernous facility -- machines that can produce enriched uranium much more quickly and efficiently than its present machines.

While saying that the electrical circuitry, piping and supporting equipment for the new centrifuges was now in place, the diplomats emphasized that Tehran had not started installing the new machines at its Fordo facility and could not say whether it was planning to.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/02/19 ... z1mpcahfnx

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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Negotiations With Iran Over Nuclear Program May Resume

The United States and the European Union signaled on Friday that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program could soon resume for the first time in more than a year, even as a telecommunications network vital to the global banking industry prepared to expel Iranian banks.

While senior American and European officials stopped short of declaring a diplomatic breakthrough, Iran dropped previously unacceptable preconditions for talks in a letter this week from its senior nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, who declared his country’s “readiness for dialogue” at “the earliest possibility.”

After weeks of official bluster, ominous threats of military action in the Persian Gulf, and assassination attempts on Israelis in India, Thailand and Georgia that Iranian agents have been blamed for, the offer appeared to be a genuine concession by Iran, the officials said, though one made under the duress of tightening economic sanctions against the country.

“I’m cautious and I’m optimistic at the same time for this,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said after meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the State Department.

“It also demonstrates the importance of the twin-track approach,” Ms. Ashton added in her first public response to the Iranian letter, referring to the international effort to intensify sanctions while leaving the door open for a diplomatic resolution of concerns about the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons.

Yet another potentially crippling sanction against Iran moved a step closer on Friday when the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as Swift, said in a statement on its Web site that it was “ready to implement sanctions against Iranian financial institutions.”

Pressure has been building on Swift to expel the banks, which have already been penalized in varying degrees of severity by the European Union and the United States under a coordinated effort. The United States and others have called Iran’s nuclear program a guise for developing nuclear weapons, while Iran has called its program peaceful and has denounced the sanctions as reckless intimidation.

Sanctions already applied to Iran’s banks and other companies have disrupted its economy and could sharply reduce its ability to export oil, Iran’s main source of foreign revenue, when the European Union imposes an oil embargo July 1. The sanctions have also impeded the ability of Iran’s Central Bank to conduct a range of international business.

If the Central Bank and other Iranian banks in the Swift network were expelled, the implications for Iran could be far more drastic. The move would essentially choke off Iran’s entire banking system by denying it the main conduit for exchanging crucial financial transaction information with banks in most countries. According to Swift’s 2010 annual report, the most recent available, 19 Iranian banks are members of the network, which processed nearly 2.3 million messages for Iranian financial institutions that year, a 7 percent increase from the year before.

“A clear multilateral legal framework in relation to international financial sanctions against Iran is emerging,” the Swift statement said, referring to the European Union regulations that would apply further restrictions to Iranian financial institutions. The statement said Swift was also “closely following the progress” of a bill under consideration in the United States Senate that has similar intentions.

Swift is overseen both by the National Bank of Belgium and the central banks of the other countries that form the so-called Group of 10: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

There was no immediate comment from Iran on Swift’s announcement, but advocates of tougher sanctions viewed the step as a significant advance.

“Swift appears to have made the right decision to end its relationships with sanctioned Iranian institutions,” United Against Nuclear Iran, a New York-based group that has been pushing for stricter sanctions, said in a statement.

It said Swift’s action “has the potential to significantly isolate the Iranian regime from the world’s markets, and lessen the capital it has to pursue nuclear weapons and fund terrorism.”

“Now is the time,” it continued, “for the most robust sanctions in history, and more pressure on the regime than ever before.”

The relatively muted official response to Iran’s offer to negotiate reflects the wariness of American and European officials who fear that Iran would merely use negotiations to ease international pressure while continuing to pursue activity that could bring it closer to the capability to build a nuclear bomb.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/world ... &ref=world




Iran risks nuclear Cold War

Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is threatening to trigger a “new Cold War” that poses an even greater threat of nuclear conflict than the stand-off between the USSR and the West, William Hague warns.


Dealing with the Iranian nuclear programme is a “crisis coming down the tracks” which could lead to military conflict in the Middle East, the Foreign Secretary warns.


In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary says that Iran is threatening to spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East which could be more dangerous than the original East-West Cold War as there are not the same “safety mechanisms” in place.


“It is a crisis coming down the tracks,” he said. “Because they are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme … If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons.


“And so, the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the destabilising effects in the Middle East. And the threat of a new cold war in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms … That would be a disaster in world affairs.”


Mr Hague repeatedly stressed that “all options must remain on the table” when confronting the Iranian regime, despite Liberal Democrat concerns that the Government may be dragged into another military conflict.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... d-War.html

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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
After Move by Prosecutors, German President Resigns

following up to see who will take over his position


Mr. Wulff’s resignation was a blow to the country’s prestige at a time when German officials have been critical of politicians in other European countries. And it was an embarrassment to Mrs. Merkel, who has now lost two consecutive presidents. Mr. Wulff’s predecessor, Horst Köhler, resigned in May 2010 after public outrage over comments he made about the role of the German military in protecting the country’s economic interests.

Mrs. Merkel said Friday that Mr. Wulff and his wife, Bettina, had “represented Germany at home and abroad with dignity.” But commentators and analysts here said the affair had deeply damaged the office of the presidency, which, while largely ceremonial, is meant to provide a moral compass for the nation.

Mrs. Merkel said that her conservative bloc would hold discussions with the opposition Social Democrats and Greens over “a joint candidate” to replace Mr. Wulff. If that fails, the special assembly to elect the president, where her coalition has only a slim majority, could evolve into a serious test of her control.

Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary leader for the Social Democrats, called on Mrs. Merkel to meet with all seated parties “to find a candidate not aligned with any one party.” In a letter to Mrs. Merkel, Green leaders urged her to call a meeting of the parties’ parliamentary heads to discuss “the search for a candidate who will enjoy the widest possible support.”

Bernd Ladwig, a professor of political science at the Free University here, said that the political toll at the moment was “controllable,” but that a consensus candidate was probably necessary, not one chosen, like Mr. Wulff, on party lines. “Using the election of the federal president to draw party political advantages clearly not only disappoints the public but ultimately harms the chancellor as well,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr. Wulff said in his resignation announcement that Horst Seehofer, the head of the Bundesrat, the upper house of Parliament, would assume the role of acting president. Mr. Seehofer is head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union to which Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Wulff belong.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/world ... &ref=world

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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Staring into the abyss: Inside a despairing Greek nation where families queue at soup kitchens and women threaten to jump to their deaths as job losses mount

When Eleni Nikolaidou agreed to help a university research project, she was asked to plough through 6,000 newspapers from World War II.

Life was so difficult for the Greeks under Nazi occupation, she discovered, that papers printed ‘Recipes for Hunger’ on their front pages to help readers survive the deprivations of a dark chapter in history.

These included recipes for fried radishes and greens scavenged from parks, along with tips such as grating an aubergine on top of boiled rice to give the look of meat.


One item especially disturbed her: a suggestion that families collect the crumbs from their table after eating to make into a meal at the end of the week. ‘These were terrible times and thousands died of hunger, especially in Athens,’ said Nikolaidou, who is also a teacher. ‘But it struck me as outrageous that people were so hungry they had to keep the crumbs from their table to survive.’ She was so moved she turned her research into a book, reprinting many of the recipes and suggestions. To her surprise Starvation Recipes has become a big hit — a chilling symbol of the stark times confronting Greece once again.

What is so shockingly evident as you walk around Athens are the awful parallels between that war-time era and today. The soup kitchens, the beggars, the pensioners picking up discarded vegetables after street markets close, the homeless scavenging for food in bins. These are the signs that can be seen.

Less noticeable is the quiet desperation of dignified people who turn off heating despite the cold and share dwindling savings with jobless relatives. Or the workers unable to afford fares home and the children fainting in school from hunger.

It is three years since the financial tsunami struck Greece with dreadful force, exposing the most shocking example of a country living beyond its means. Three years of savage austerity — of sudden new taxes, salary cuts, job losses, rising prices and falling demand — have left the nation shattered and its citizens locked in a spiral of despair.

‘There are so many similarities between these periods,’ said Nikolaidou. ‘Of course, it was the Germans then, and once again the Germans are the dominant figures in our crisis now.’
Greeks seem torn between outrage at their venal politicians, anxiety over the future and the fierce anger they direct at Germany for demanding tough measures as the price of a European Union bailout to allow their country to continue to function.


The imposition of the latest package of conditions by the German-dominated EU and International Monetary Fund provoked riots last weekend, while newspapers made ugly references to the Nazis, and politicians talked of living under a ‘German jackboot’ as Europe’s festering wounds burst open.

Greece’s EU-imposed, unelected government has backed another devastating cutback in their economy — slashing the minimum wage, savaging welfare payments, sacking one-fifth of state workers — but many fear this is just one more chapter in a long-running tragedy.
It is only eight months since a previous package of austerity measures was supposed to solve everything.


On the streets, people debate whether Greece should accept this latest deal or default on its debts and leave the euro, with all the devastating repercussions a return to the drachma would bring.
They are damned whatever they do. Only one thing is certain: this nation of 11 million people is being slowly crucified on the cross of its adherence to the single currency.

It does not take long to discover the depth of the pain. Walking near Omonia Square, a central shopping area in Athens, I came across a large crowd. A man was pointing to a balcony three storeys up on an office block, where I could see the dangling legs of a distraught woman who was threatening to jump.


---------------------------------------

One in five people live below the poverty line. Rates of crime, disease, homelessness and suicide are shooting up, while capital spending and property prices plummet.
One bright spot is tourism, which rose last year as holidaymakers avoided unrest in North Africa.

This year, however, nervous Germans are cancelling trips for fear of hostility — and already on some well-known shopping streets about one in three shops are closed.

Behind these shocking statistics are millions of people betrayed by useless and corrupt politicians, who cooked the books to get Greece into the euro by grotesquely exaggerating the country’s economic situation.




-----------------------------

Barter economies have emerged, while networks of neighbours help each other by collecting food and clothes for the homeless, jobless and those in need. Soup kitchens run by volunteers have sprung up across the capital, serving meals to 20,000 Athenians a day. Perhaps fittingly, one of the biggest is on the former site of the stock exchange.

At one of 73 kitchens run by the Archbishop of Athens, hundreds of people queued for cartons of beans in tomato sauce and chunks of bread. One woman, a diabetic, told me she had not eaten for two days.

A middle-aged man in a suit, tie and trenchcoat turned his face away in shame when I tried to talk to him. Afterwards, a pile of clothes was tipped on the ground and people grabbed shabby grey trousers and old sweaters.

‘It feels terrible to see this each day,’ said Maria Bini, a journalist whose paper closed in December and was among the volunteers. ‘I feel ashamed and angry — this is not the Europe of solidarity they talk about.’

Giorgos Pefanis, 52, a divorced father of three, was among those collecting his lunch. For more than two decades he ran a celebrated pastry shop, creating delicacies for some of the city’s top hotels. Today, he shares a room in a church hostel, has no money and survives on handouts.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... z1mjE6aoJx


ppp ppp coming to the country you live in...soooo very very soon




Euro leaders 'optimistic' Greek deal can be approved Monday

ddd ddd drum roll please and the bottom line is(bolded)


BERLIN (AP) – The leaders of Germany, Italy and Greece are "optimistic" that a deal on a second bailout for Athens can be clinched next week, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.

-----------------


Debt-stressed Portugal is locked into an austerity program through 2013 in return for last year's €78 billion ($103 billion) financial rescue.

All three major parties — the governing center-right Social Democrat and Popular parties, and the main opposition center-left Socialist Party— endorsed the bailout terms.

However, the austerity measures are widely blamed for a deepening recession, with the government forecasting a 3% contraction this year, and a record 14% jobless rate.

Socialist leader Antonio Jose Seguro told Parliament that economic conditions have changed considerably since the bailout terms were agreed. He argued that austerity during an economic downturn is misguided.

"This remedy is wrong," Seguro said.

But Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, who came to power seven months ago and has staked his reputation on turning around Portugal's fortunes, repeated his commitment to the bailout program.

"This government won't ask for any more money, nor more time," he told lawmakers. "This government will abide by what was agreed and started eight months ago."

http://www.usatoday.com/money/world/sto ... 53130758/1

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Sat Feb 18, 2012 5:35 am
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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Traders suspended in growing scandal of 'manipulation of rates' which determine how much we pay for loans and mortgages

Swiss bank UBS has suspended some of its traders in connection with a growing scandal over the alleged manipulation of rates which determine how much we pay for loans and mortgages.
An unspecified number of traders at UBS were suspended last year and another group followed in late January, according to reports.

This is the latest twist in an international probe which has been dragging on for over a year.

Regulators are investigating allegations that banks have been manipulating crucial interbank lending rates which help determine how much we pay for mortgages and loans.



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... z1mjFhQCDe

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Sat Feb 18, 2012 5:41 am
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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Only in Canadier eh


Canadian government is 'muzzling its scientists'


The Canadian government has been accused of "muzzling" its scientists.

Speakers at a major science meeting being held in Canada said communication of vital research on health and environment issues is being suppressed.

But one Canadian government department approached by the BBC said it held the communication of science as a priority.

Prof Thomas Pedersen, a senior scientist at the University of Victoria, said he believed there was a political motive in some cases


"The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won't be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship," he said.



I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don't discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is."

The Canadian government recently withdrew from the Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The allegation of "muzzling" came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.

The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.

Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.

'Orwellian' approach

Andrew Weaver, an environmental scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, described the protocol as "Orwellian".


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16861468

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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Weather trickle effects



Wolves close in on Yakutia settlements



Some 240 wolves are closing in on several settlements in Yakutia’s Aldan region, and the residents are under an apprehension for their lives. Poisons were extensively used in the past to fight wolves, but now this is a banned practice.

To use helicopters against wolves would prove quite costly. An ad-hoc centre has been set up in Yakutia, with experts considering the best way to solve the problem. Every year wolves kill many reindeer at deer farms in Yakutia.

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012/02/10/65754659.html



Armenian city besieged by wolves


Residents of the city of Sisian, in the south of Armenia, try not to go out at night for fear of wolves, according to local media reports.

Due to heavy snowfall wolves can not find food in the mountains and at night enter the town in search of food.

The wolves have started to prey on stray dogs as a source of food.

So far there have not been any reported cases of attacks on humans.

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012/02/16/66170273.html


Japan....had to use google translate

Since early February the Eurasian continent is experiencing a major winter offensive, especially in Japan with a record snowfall since late December on the island of Hokkaido, where there are between 2 and 5 meters from the coast by heading to the mountains. This is exceptional for these regions, even if they are used to a harsh climate in winter.

Further south of the archipelago, it must be remembered that the capital Tokyo, subtropical climate was moderately affected by snow two weeks ago of days.


Deadly snowfall in the north

And things get worse ever. Indeed, the record snowfalls have again produced throughout the week in northern Japan where they have caused avalanches: there are more than 80 victims.

A snow depth of nearly 3 meters high covers prefectures Sea coast of Japan, on the northern island of Honshu and Hokkaido. In Sukayu prefecture (Aomori Prefecture) or Hijiori (Yamagata Prefecture) and Aomori (Honshu), the snowpack is nearly 4 feet high ... In the center of Honshu Island, Hyogo Prefecture located in the Kyoto area received 83 inches of snow in 48 hours, completely paralyzing traffic.


Drifts of nearly 15 meters high

Due to very heavy snowfall past and present and very strong wind which accompanies them, huge snowdrifts were formed in places, especially in the center of the island of Hokkaido. Some of them reaching almost 15 meters high, equivalent to the height of a 6 storey building.


No respite in sight before the middle of next week

Indeed, depression continent to form rapidly in northern Japan; supplied with air very cold and wet, they maintain more scattered snowfalls (as rain) until next Tuesday before the return of a time milder.


Since early February the Eurasian continent is experiencing a major winter offensive, especially in Japan with a record snowfall since late December on the island of Hokkaido, where there are between 2 and 5 meters from the coast by heading to the mountains. This is exceptional for these regions, even if they are used to a harsh climate in winter.

Further south of the archipelago, it must be remembered that the capital Tokyo, subtropical climate was moderately affected by snow two weeks ago of days.


http://actualite.lachainemeteo.com/actu ... -15694.php

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Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:29 am
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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012
Syrian forces open fire on protest in Damascus

By REUTERS02/18/2012 13:03



AMMAN - Syrian forces opened fire with live ammunition to break up a protest against President Bashar Assad in the capital Damascus on Saturday, wounding at least four people, witnesses said.

The shooting broke out at the funeral of three youths killed in earlier protests against Assad on Friday.

http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=258341

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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012 Bird Flu Studies to be Published in ful
Beef products recalled over E. coli fears

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning people not to consume food from certain packages of Country Morning Beef Burgers and No Name Club Pack Beef Steakettes because of fears they may be contaminated with E. coli.


The manufacturer New Food Classics of Ontario is conducting a voluntary recall of the products from stores across Western Canada, Manitoba, Ontario and the Northwest Territories.

So far there is one reported case of illness associated with the beef burgers and steakettes.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency website has detailed information on where the products may have been sold.


http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/201 ... gary-.html


The following products are affected by this alert:



Brand

Size

UPC

Lots



Country Morning Beef Burgers

1kg

0 57316 02941 6

52841 EST 761
62841 EST 761
72841 EST 761
82841 EST 761.



no name Club Pack Beef Steakettes

2.27kg

0 60383 01321 9

BB 2012 AL 10 EST 761

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Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:56 am
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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012 Bird Flu Studies to be Published in ful
nflation rate higher in January


Statistics Canada says rising gasoline prices last month helped propel the country's annual inflation rate up 0.2 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

The agency says consumer prices overall rose by half a percentage point last month from December, almost reversing a similar one-month drop that month.


The big trigger to both the annual and monthly increase was gasoline, which registered a one-month pop of 2.8 per cent in January.

The annual inflation rate had been on a downward track since the summer, but January's reversal lifted both the headline number and underlying core inflation — which excludes volatile items — to one tick above the Bank of Canada target to 2.1 per cent.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2 ... anada.html

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Post Re: PFTF Feb 20 2012 Bird Flu Studies to be Published in ful
North Korea threatens retaliation over South's war games

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea warned South Korea on Sunday that it would shell islands close to their disputed sea border if the South violates its territorial waters during a military drill reported to begin in the Yellow Sea this week.

The official KCNA news agency also quoted the North's military as urging civilians living on five islands near the disputed area to evacuate before the start of the military exercises on Monday.

The North has repeatedly threatened armed retaliation against the South's military exercises but it is rare for Pyongyang to mention in advance about evacuation of civilians over such drills.

The North's military said that if the South "starts a reckless military provocation in those waters, trespassing on the DPRK's inviolable marine demarcation line,.... the KPA will promptly make merciless retaliatory strikes."
DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea and KPA for Korean People's Army.
South Korean media last week reported the South Korean and U.S. troops will stage a joint five-day anti-submarine exercise in the Yellow Sea from Monday.

There was no official confirmation of the exercises.

Both Koreas regularly conduct exercises near their disputed maritime border, raising the risk of a miscalculation by either side which could ignite a wider war.

http://news.yahoo.com/north-korea-threa ... 40936.html

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Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:27 am
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