Archive for October, 2012

Iranian Scientist Discovers Protein Generating Plaque in Cardiovascular System.

Wednesday 31st October 2012 By Dhul Hijjah

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Nima Aqili, an Iranian cardiologist, reported that he has discovered a protein responsible for the generation of plaques in the cardiovascular system, a breakthrough which can help patients with heart artery congestion.

“In researches on animals, the protein effective in the generation of cardiovascular plaques was discovered,” Dr. Aqili, an Iranian cardiologist who works for one of Boston’s main hospitals in the US, told FNA in Tehran on Tuesday.

He said that the first stage of the research has been accomplished and he and his colleagues have found a protein named NPY which produces plaques in the cardiovascular system.

Dr. Aqili underlined that the discovery can lead to the production of a medicine for cardiac patients who suffer from artery congestion.

Iranian scientists have made giant advancements in different fields.

In September, Iranian scientists developed and produced a new type of medication for the treatment of heart failure, breaking the US and Israel’s monopoly in the field.

“The heart or brain vessels are blocked by blood clots after a heart attack and the medicine can dissolve the blood clots and open the blood vessels immediately,” President of Isfahan Pharmaceutical Company Abolfazl Mostafavi told FNA in September.

He said that the drug named ATP is not a chemical compound but an enzyme which exists in the body of everyone.


Who were the SECRET 28 who ended all climate debate at the BBC?

By Andrew Orlowski  29th October 2012.

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Far from the Jimmy Savile scandal, the director of BBC News Helen Boaden took the witness stand in London today.

A squad of Beeb legal staff, including two barristers, crammed into a small court room to support the £354,000-a-year news chief against her opponent, a North Wales pensioner who was accompanied only by his wife. The case is a six-year freedom of information battle in which the BBC is refusing to disclose who attended a seminar it held in 2006.

This seminar is historically significant. The BBC’s global reputation for news reporting stems from its unshakable impartiality; even in wartime its commitment to maintaining evenhandedness has occasionally enraged British politicians (and sometimes servicemen). Following that 2006 seminar, however, the corporation made a decision to abandon impartiality when covering climate change – and that’s according to the BBC Trust. This was an unprecedented decision for the BBC in peacetime.

On what basis was this made? In June 2007, the Trust, which governs the gigantic publicly-funded broadcaster, published a report with the gnomic title From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel [PDF]. That document gives us this clue:

The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus [on anthropogenic climate change].

Blogger Tony Newbery was curious as to the identity of these “scientific experts”, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request, as he outlines here in an introduction to the saga.

The BBC merely confirmed to Newbery that the seminar took place but not who attended. Rather surprisingly, the “best scientific experts” – who you may think would want the world to know who they are – have not volunteered the information. This baffled our blogger.

“Advising such a body − or in the BBC’s words, providing training − at a formal seminar with a title such as ‘Climate Change – the Challenge to Broadcasting’ can in no way be considered to be a private matter of the kind that could reasonably fall within the scope of the Data Protection Act,” he argues. “It is a very public act and those involved could hardly be unaware of this. It is a very long way from the kind of privacy concerning medical records or personal finances that the Data Protection Act is intended to safeguard. It is unreasonable for anyone who embarks on such an exercise to expect to be anonymous.”

The BBC disagreed and, at great expense, continues to refuse to disclose the names of the participants. All we know is that in Boaden’s words, the 28 “external invitees” were “representatives from business, campaigners, NGOs, communications experts, people from the ‘front line’, scientists with contrasting views and academics”.

Your credit card details at risk as companies store them unwittingly.

By   30th October 2012.

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Mastercard credit card - Your credit card details at risk as companies store them unwittingly

One company that was adamant it had no credit card details on record was found to have more than 20 million card numbers on computers throughout its network, the research said.

A random survey of more than 100 businesses by Ground Labs, a software company, found that every one of them had credit card details unwittingly stored on its computers.

One company that was adamant it had no credit card details on record was found to have more than 20 million card numbers on computers throughout its network, Ground Labs said.

The finding supports fears that many businesses take inadequate steps to safeguard customers’ credit card details.

“Holding credit card details in this way is a breach of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards compliance obligations and can attract up to a £500,000 fine by the Information Commissioner’s Office in a case of a data breach,” Ground Labs said.

Even businesses that claimed to be compliant with agreed global standards for credit card data security held rogue details, the survey found. “There are various possible reasons for this, all linked to standard computer processes such as browser ‘caches’ or email duplications,” the company said.

Mohamed Zouine of Ground Labs added: “We have more than 1,000 businesses across the UK and Europe that have used our software and every single business found erroneous card records in its IT systems.

“We found that even those businesses that believe that their systems are clean are carrying records that could be easily acquired by hackers.”

A similar routine test of 50 consumers’ personal computers found that all but one of them held credit card details without the owner’s knowledge.

Oliver Stone: Sandy Is ‘Punishment’ For Obama & Romney’s Silence On Climate Change.

The Huffington Post  By Kia Makarechi 30th October 2012.

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Ever-honest director and author Oliver Stone stopped by HuffPost Live on Tuesday to discuss Barack Obama’s presidency, climate change and his new book and documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States.”

Stone is an equal opportunity critic, arguing that neither Obama nor Mitt Romney tackled climate change in a substantive way. “I was a little disappointed at the third debate when neither of them talked about climate control and the nature of the situation on Earth,” Stone said. “I think there’s kind of a weird statement coming right after … this is a punishment … Mother Nature cannot be ignored. That’s all I thought about.”

American exceptionalism is among Stone’s “There’s this attitude that we ‘deserve’ to be in charge,” Stone said. “I don’t believe in that … We act as if we have this right of kingship — we act as tyrants.”

“We learn the history of the victors,” Peter Kuznick, a history professor at American University and partner of Oliver Stone said. “We learn this triumphant version of history, that the United States is the shining city on the hill.”

Despite his criticisms of the Obama administration, Stone freely admitted that he had already pre-voted in support of the president’s reelection. The filmmaker’s main reasons for casting his ballot in Obama’s favor were based on the president’s ability to think rationally and perform “brilliantly” in the context of debates.

Meet Mansa Musa I of Mali – the richest human being in all history.

By John Hall  October 16th 2012.

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A new study has produced an inflation-adjusted list of the richest people of all time.

When we think of the world’s all-time richest people, names like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and John D Rockefeller immediately come to mind.

But few would have thought, or even heard of, Mansa Musa I of Mali – the obscure 14th century African king who was today named the richest person in all history.

With an inflation adjusted fortune of $400 billion, Mansa Musa I would have been considerably richer than the world’s current richest man, Carlos Slim, who ranks in 22nd place with a relatively paltry $68 billion.

Here’s the full list of the ‘26 richest people of all time’:

1. Mansa Musa I, (Ruler of Malian Empire, 1280-1331) $400 billion

2. Rothschild Family (banking dynasty, 1740- ) $350 billion

3. John D Rockefeller (industrialist, 1839-1937) $340 billion

4. Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, 1835-1919) $310 billion

5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (last Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918) $300 billion

6. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (last ruler of Hyderabad, 1886-1967) $236 billion

7. William the Conqueror (King of England, 1028-1087) $229.5 billion

8. Muammar Gaddafi (former Libyan leader, 1942-2011) $200 billion

9. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company founder, 1863-1947) $199 billion

10. Cornelius Vanderbilt (industrialist, 1794-1877) $185 billion

11. Alan Rufus (Fighting companion of William the Conqueror, 1040-1093) $178.65 billion

12. Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft, 1955- ) $136 billion

13. William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey (Norman nobleman, ??-1088) $146.13 billion

14. John Jacob Astor (businessman, 1864-1912) $121 billion

15. Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel (English nobleman, 1306-1376) £118.6 billion

16. John of Gaunt (son of Edward III, 1330-1399) £110 billion

17. Stephen Girard (shipping and banking mogul, 1750-1831) $105 billion

18. Alexander Turney Stewart (entrepreneur, 1803-1876) $90 billion

19. Henry, 1st Duke of Lancaster (English noble, 1310-1361) $85.1 billion

20. Friedrich Weyerhaeuser (timber mogul, 1834-1914) $80 billion

21. Jay Gould (railroad tycoon, 1836-1892) $71 billion

22. Carlos Slim (business magnate, 1940- ) $68 billion

23. Stephen Van Rensselaer (land owner, 1764- 1839) $68 billion

24. Marshall Field (Marshall Field & Company founder, 1834-1906) $66 billion

25. Sam Walton (Walmart founder, 1918-1992) $65billion

26. Warren Buffett (investor, 1930- ) $64billion

A roll call of corporate rogues who are milking the country.

By   Tuesday 30th October 2012.

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Starbucks TUC protest Oxford Street

Police officers protect a Starbucks outlet in Oxford Street during the TUC anti-austerity protest in London on 20 October 2012. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

‘Only the little people pay taxes,” the late American corporate tax evader Leona Helmsley famously declared. That’s certainly the spirit of David Cameron and George Osborne’s Britain. Five years into the crisis, the British economy has just edged out of its third downturn, but construction is still reeling from government cuts and most people’s living standards are falling.

Those at the sharp end are being hit hardest: from cuts to disability and housing benefits, tax credits and the educational maintenance allowance and now increases in council tax while NHS waiting lists are lengthening, food banks are mushrooming across the country and charities report sharp increases in the number of children going hungry. All this to pay for the collapse in corporate investment and tax revenues triggered by the greatest crash since the 30s.

At the other end of the spectrum though, things are going swimmingly. The richest 1,000 people in Britain have seen their wealth increase by £155bn since the crisis began – more than enough to pay off the whole government deficit of £119bn at a stroke. Anyone earning over £1m a year can look forward to a £42,000 tax cut in the spring, while firms have been rewarded with a 2% cut in corporation tax to 24%.

Not that many of them pay anything like that, even now. The scale of tax avoidance by high-street brand multinationals has now become clear, in no small part thanks to campaigning groups such as UK Uncut. Asda, Google, Apple, eBay, Ikea, Starbucks, Vodafone: all pay minimal tax on massive UK revenues, mostly by diverting profits earned in Britain to their parent companies, or lower tax jurisdictions via royalty and service payments or transfer pricing.

Four US companies – Amazon, Facebook, Google and Starbucks – have paid just £30m tax on sales of £3.1bn over the last four years, according to a Guardian analysis. Apple is estimated to have avoided over £550m in tax on more than £2bn worth of sales in Britain by channelling business through Ireland, while Starbucks has paid no corporation tax in Britain for the last three years.

The Tory MP and tax lawyer Charlie Elphicke estimates 19 US-owned multinationals are paying an effective tax rate of 3% on British profits, instead of the standard rate of 26%. It’s all entirely legal, of course. But taken together with the multiple individual tax scams of the elite, this roll call of corporate infamy has become an intolerable scandal, when taxes are rising and jobs, benefits and pay being cut for the majority.

UK MPs dodge expenses rules to get first-class rail travel, Sunday 21st October 2012.

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Row over expenses widens as 185 members are shown to have claimed for first-class rail tickets despite official guidelines.

George Osborne and his aide on the train

George Osborne and his aide on the train where they entered first class without having the correct ticket. Photograph: ITV/Granada

More than a quarter of MPs have charged first-class rail travel to the taxpayer in the past year, contrary to parliamentary guidelines that discourage the practice unless it is genuinely cheaper than buying a standard fare.

An analysis of MPs’ expenses by the Sunday Telegraph found that 185 had claimed for first-class train tickets.

First-class travel has been curbed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), brought in after the 2009 expenses scandal to sweep away the previous discredited regime. However it is still permissible in circumstances where it would be cheaper than buying a standard open ticket.

The extent to which MPs are taking advantage of that rule was revealed after the chancellor, George Osborne, faced ridicule for entering a first-class carriage with only a standard ticket.

His office insisted he had always intended to pay for the upgrade and that an aide had sought out the train manager to do so. However, a television reporter travelling on the same train claimed that the aide had actually got into a confrontation with an inspector over the matter.

According to the Sunday Telegraph some of the first-class ticket claims have cost as much as £300, five times as much as the cheapest standard fare for the same route.

MPs who have travelled first class on expenses include the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin; the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude; the transport minister Norman Baker; the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls; and the former chancellor Alistair Darling, the paper said.

In total there were 113 Labour MPs, 48 Conservatives, 19 Liberal Democrats, two Plaid Cymru and three Scottish National party MPs who had claimed for first class rail travel in the past year.

Ipsa’s guidelines on travel expenses suggest MPs should consider “value for money” and whether cheaper, inflexible tickets will end up costing more if travel arrangements change at short notice. “You can claim for first class travel if it is less than the cost of a standard open fare,” the guidance states.

First-class tickets purchased far enough in advance can end up cheaper than open standard tickets bought shortly before the journey. But Matthew Sinclair, the chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “If MPs can get themselves organised to order a first-class ticket in advance, they should be able to order a standard-class ticket in plenty of time as well and it will almost always be cheaper.

“If standard-class travel isn’t good enough for MPs it isn’t good enough for ordinary commuters who pay for their own tickets.”

Despite stricter standards set for MPs in the wake of 2009 expenses scandal – which badly damaged the standing of parliament and led to Michael Martin becoming the first ever Commons Speaker forced to resign – it emerged this week that they are still prepared to stretch the rules to their limit.

Last week it emerged that 27 MPs have rented out their London homes while claiming public money to rent a house somewhere else.

The speaker, John Bercow, has moved to block the publication of details that woudl reveal the full extent of the practice. Some of the MPs implicated have argued it is necessary for them to let out their own homes and rent a property elsewhere to avoid being disadvantaged by new rules that ban them from claiming the cost of mortgage interest on their own properties.