rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat
upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
It Fell Not
In just a few days time, on June 5th and 6th of this year, one of the rarest of all astronomical phenomenon will be occurring. The planet Venus will be transiting the sun.
“Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years.
The next transit of Venus will occur on 5 and 6 June 2012, and will be the last Venus transit this century; the prior transit took place on 8 June 2004. The previous pair of transits were in December 1874 and December 1882. After 2012, the next transits of Venus will be in December 2117 and December 2125.“
Just a few scriptures that reflect on this type of event are: "I will shew wonders in heaven above." (Acts 2:19) "Great signs shall there be from heaven." (Luke 21:11) "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon." (Luke 21:25) "God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs." (Genesis 1:14)
There are many articles relating to this event on the Internet and its significance in relationship to the Mayan calendar and other prophetic interpretations.
“Transits of Venus across the Sun are among the rarest of planetary alignments. Only six events have occurred since the invention of the telescope - 1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874 and 1882, and 2004. The next transit of Venus will occur on June 6th, 2012. Mayan prophecy states that the renewed world of a new consciousness will be born on the occasion of the Venus passage across the Sun. The Venus cycle was especially important because the Maya believed it was associated with war and used it to divine coronations and war. Maya rulers planned for wars to begin when Venus rose.”
Amongst others is the Cherokee Rattlesnake Prophecy.
The Rattlesnake Prophecy contains reference to planets and stars, and shows similarities to Mayan astronomy, with emphasis on Venus and Jupiter, Orion and the Pleiades. Their calendars were similar, both apparently marking 2012 as a major cross over point. Rattlesnake Prophecy: “In the year 2004 and 2012 an alignment will take place both on the Cherokee Calendar and in the heavens of the Rattlesnake Constellation both. It is the time of the double head serpent stick. It is the time of the Red of Orion and Jupiter against White Blue of Pleiades and Venus.”
One of the Quatrains of Nostradamus is also supposed to concern this event.
In either case we don't have long to wait to find out if or what will happen.
Whatever happens though, as the opening verse states, if we are founded upon the Rock, Jesus Christ, we will not fall.
Science Daily (Edited from longer article.)
Venus to Appear in
ScienceDaily (May 1, 2012) — On 5 and 6 June this year, millions of people around the world will be able to see Venus pass across the face of the Sun in what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It will take Venus about six hours to complete its transit, appearing as a small black dot on the Sun's surface, in an event that will not happen again until 2117.
In this month's Physics World, Jay M Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College, Massachusetts, explores the science behind Venus's transit and gives an account of its fascinating history.
Transits of Venus occur only on the very rare occasions when Venus and Earth are in a line with the Sun. At other times Venus passes below or above the Sun because the two orbits are at a slight angle to each other. Transits occur in pairs separated by eight years, with the gap between pairs of transits alternating between 105.5 and 121.5 years -- the last transit was in 2004.
Building on the original theories of Nicolaus Copernicus from 1543, scientists were able to predict and record the transits of both Mercury and Venus in the centuries that followed.
Johannes Kepler successfully predicted that both planets would transit the Sun in 1631, part of which was verified with Mercury's transit of that year. But the first transit of Venus to actually be viewed was in 1639 -- an event that had been predicted by the English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks. He observed the transit in the village of Much Hoole in Lancashire -- the only other person to see it being his correspondent, William Crabtree, in Manchester.
Later, in 1716, Edmond Halley proposed using a transit of Venus to predict the precise distance between Earth and the Sun, known as the astronomical unit. As a result, hundreds of expeditions were sent all over the world to observe the 1761 and 1769 transits. A young James Cook took the Endeavour to the island of Tahiti, where he successfully observed the transit at a site that is still called Point Venus.
Alexander Higgins Blog
US Announces Plans To Arm Domestic Surveillance Drones With Missiles
May 30, 2012
The US announces plans to arm drones that will be operating inside the US with missiles and bombs as part of a 30,000 strong domestic deployment.
Fully armed remotely controlled aircraft used by the United States military and its allies in the War on Terror overseas are set to begin a new era of operating over domestic soil.
The US military has revealed that stronger and more powerful versions of the famed Predator drones, known as MQ-9 Reaper drones, are being fitted with missiles and other explosive ordinances as part of a deployment of 30,000 drones authorized to fly over the US by the NDAA and the armed drones will now be operating inside the United States.
A military spokesman at the Hancock Field Air National Guard base in NY said the drones will only be armed with missiles and explosive ordinances when they are operating in airspace over US military bases and are only being armed as part of a program to train others to operate America's new drone fleet.
Legislation passed by congress authorized the integration of military and public airspace into a single national aerospace grid to support both civil and public drone flights over U.S. skies.
The news comes as law enforcement agencies announce plans to weaponize their drones with "less than lethal" weapons such as tasers, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Overseas, the UK has already equipped their once unarmed surveillance drones to carry missiles.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S. congress is expected to pass legislation that will arm Italy's fleet of Reaper drone aircraft with missiles in a deal that is likely to pave the way for the roll-out of armed drones across the spectrum of NATO allies.
The news comes as the Obama administration comes under fire for his use of drones in the secret U.S. assassination program.
Recently Obama appointed John Brennan as the first ever Assassination Czar delegating him as the sole authority to designate people for assassination under the United States top-secret assassination program.
The appointment led a public backlash which forced the Obama administration to reveal unprecedented details to the New York Times about the use of the drones in the assassination program.
The article revealed a series of hair-raising spine-tingling facts including revelations that Obama personally ordered attacks he knew were going to kill woman and children along with the admission that we are conducting a new type of attack called "signature strikes" which involves bombing entire groups of civilians not even knowing who they are
At the same time it was revealed in accounting for civilian casualties overseas, the Obama administration has categorically counted everyone killed by the program as an 'enemy combat' even while not knowing their identities unless US intelligence was able to obtain absolute proof of the assassinate person was not a combatant.
In the video Colonel Kevin Bradley, commander of the 174th Air National Guard Fighter Wing, discusses the new special mission assigned to him by the government to transition the MQ-9 reaper drones from overseas deployments in Afghanistan to deployments over US Skies.
Defense Department Seeks Legal Authority to Deploy Reservists onto American Streets
Susanne Posel, Contributor
Thanks to Posse Comitatus, the US military are forbidden from responding on the streets of America whenever the whim is announced.
The Posse Comitatus Act, Section 1385, states that only under "circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress" can a military presence on American streets be permitted.
Yet, if the Defense Department has their way, a new authorization act will give them the power to order the armed forces to be used against the American public.
Air Force reservists are slated to be the new response team for domestic disturbances. Disseminated from Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and other reserve agencies, these men and women could be called to be first responders to natural disasters within the United States. The legislation would extend mobilizations for indeterminate periods of time.
The AFRC affirms that reservists are traditionally not used in "homeland disaster response". The governors of individual states can request the National Guard's assistance during a natural disaster when local law enforcement becomes overwhelmed.
Our reservists have been asked and often volunteer to assist after disasters hit the homeland," said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of Air Force Reserve and AFRC commander. "Mobilizing needed reservists will help sustain their support for longer periods and make operations more efficient. We mobilize reservists to handle contingencies overseas, so it makes sense that we do that to take care of our own country."
Because of the specialized training that reservists are given in dealing with disasters, the US government has decided they would be perfect as a first response team.
Earlier this month, in Crookston, Minnesota, there were armed US National Guardsmen that were patrolling a residential neighborhood .
These functions are called "urban operations training" where military personnel carry armed weapons with the command not to "utilize armory or pyrotechnics".
Within the Air Force Reserve, there are other specialized units such as response personnel, supplies and equipment focused on disaster scenarios.
As recent as 2008 saw our National Guard unit in America under NORTHCOM as "domestic security".
Stenner proclaims that this new authority will allow the armed forces to make greater contributions to Americans should there be a natural disaster. He is referring to the frustration chiefs of reservists experience because they are "unable to help their communities."
The push for over-reaching authority allocated to the armed forces will negate local reservists' purpose by Title 10, which gives them federal power that supersedes state authority in Title 32.
Armed Forces chiefs claim that there were reserve-component Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who were close at hand with the capabilities needed, but they didn't have the authority to act," said Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of Army Reserve. "Finally, we got the law changed. This new legislation says that now we can use Title 10 reserves."
Without a declaration of emergency or disaster from the President, these armed forces could not act. With this new ability, they can . . . whenever and for whatever purpose they are ordered to.
The law specifies that local law enforcement is still mandated to provide initial response; yet if needed, the National Guard will become the first step requested by a state governor.
And then there is the matter of a scenario that allows reservists to be deployed for a promised 120 days, which could be extended based upon request. "We just have to make sure we have the procedures and processes worked out," Stultz remarked about the specifics that are now being worked out to avoid confusion of authority later on.
Stultz is very anxious to have this power at his fingertips. "Let's not wait until a hurricane hits to say, 'How do we do it?'" These reservists are going to be the response team for any future (and assured) "overseas contingencies".
As operations in the Middle East are winding down, Stultz can now refocus his attention on militarizing America.
WAR ON IRAN: US Launches New Computer Virus "Weapon of Mass Destruction"
by Finian Cunningham
May 29, 20012
The US-led economic war on Iran has been dangerously ratcheted up with the launching of a powerful new computer virus targeting the Islamic Republic's nuclear research facilities and other vital commercial sectors, including the oil and banking industries.
Previously, the Iranian economy and scientific research centres have been hacked with the computer malware or virus known as Stuxnet. That sabotage of Iranian facilities is widely believed to have been the work of American and Israeli military agencies.
Now an even more destructive virus appears to have been unleashed. The so-called Flame malware is said by internet security experts to be 20 times more disruptive to computer systems than Stuxnet. Compared with Stuxnet, which inflicted serious Iranian technical damage nearly two years ago, the latest malware can be seen as virtual weapon of mass destruction.
Again, American and closely collaborative Israeli military agencies are believed to have launched the latest salvo of cyber missiles.
Iranian and Syrian computer systems are reported to be among the main targets of Flame. Although other countries have this week also reported malfunctions from the Flame virus, including Austria, Hong Kong Hungary and United Arab Emirates, precedent would point to its origin as US intelligence, with the motive of adding yet more economic pain on Iran.
Independent internet security firms say that there is no obvious commercial motive for the malware, for example reports of blackmail attempts, and that the most likely instigator of the virus are "state agencies".
Over the past year, the US has been stepping up bilateral economic sanctions on Iran, aimed at crippling the country's central banking and oil sectors that are the backbone of the national economy.
Next month, the US and the European Union are set to tighten the economic embargo on Iran even further with new sanctions lined up to hit the country's international oil trade - some 80 per cent of Iran's national revenues derive from oil and gas sectors.
Moreover, the US, Britain and France, together with Germany and Israel, have been twisting the pressure on Iran at the resumed P5 + 1 talks this month over its nuclear programme, demanding that the country rescind its legal right to enrich uranium.
Tehran has steadfastly refused to suspend its uranium enrichment facilities, which it says it is legally entitled to as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and which are solely for civilian applications, such as energy production and medical radioisotopes.
The evidence certainly points to "regime change" being the thinly veiled objective of the Western powers and that the nuclear issue is a manufactured controversy with which to browbeat Iran. But the war of words goes way beyond browbeating. The US-led international campaign against Iran is tantamount to an all-out covert war, a war that is criminal in its conduct on several counts.
Military threats, invasion of Iranian territory with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, financial and economic sanctions, and now intensified computer virus attacks on Iran's telecommunications. This is all but a war of aggression without troops on the ground.
With mainstream news media becoming ever more servile to Western government foreign policy agenda, it is important to remind ourselves of realistic legal and moral perspective here.
Can you imagine how the US, Britain, France or Israel would react if Iran were to shut down their computer systems because it objected to their unlawfully persistent arsenals of actual weapons of mass destruction? Such an Iranian cyber attack would be met with ferocious retaliation or at best would be considered reprehensible, but such a move by Iran would certainly have a lot more legal and moral right than the Western campaign of belligerence towards Tehran.
The panoply of aggression towards Iran is emanating from Western powers that have murderous blood on their hands from the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, among other places, and this campaign is based on a repetition of outlandish allegations over "weapons of mass destruction". The latest sabotage of Iranian society through computer malware should be seen, and roundly denounced, as yet another war crime by US allies that is pushing the world ever closer to escalation of war.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.
'Flame' Virus explained: How it works and who's behind it
Flame may be the most powerful computer virus in history, and a nation-state is most likely to blame for unleashing it on the World Wide Web.Kaspersky's chief malware expert Vitaly Kamlyuk shared with RT the ins and outs of Stuxnet on steroids.
Iran appears to be the primary target of the data-snatching virus that has swept through the Middle East, though other countries have also been affected.The sheer complexity of the virus and its targets has led Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab to believe a state is behind the attack.
Kaspersky first spotted the virus in 2010, though it may have been wrecking havoc on computer systems for many years.Vitaly Kamlyuk told RT how his company discovered it, just what makes Flame so significant, features of the virus that could point towards its creator, and why we all lose out in this intensifying cyber-war.
RT: So, how did you spot the malware, was it a planned investigation, or did it come by surprise?
Vitaly Kamlyuk: It was by surprise. We were initially searching for a [different form of] malware. We were aware of the malware that had spread throughout the Middle East, attacked hundreds of computers and wiped their hard drives, making the systems unbootable after that. It was actually after an inquiry from the International Telecommunications Union, which is a part of the United Nations, who actually asked us to start conducting research. When we started looking for this mysterious malware in the Middle East, we discovered this suspicious application that turned out to be even more interesting than the initial target of our search.
RT: According to one of your experts, 'Flame' does not appear to cause physical damage, so why has it been dubbed the most hazardous cyber-attacks in history?
VK: It's actually on the same level as the notoriously known Stuxnet and Duqu [attacks], because we suspect that there is a nation state behind the development of this cyber attack, and there are reasons for that. This application doesn't fit into any of the existing groups of developed cyber attack tools. There are currently three groups. There are traditional cyber criminals who are hunting users' data (like log-ins and passwords) to access bank accounts over the Internet and steal money, send spam, or conduct dubious attacks.This [Flame] doesn't fit into the group of traditional cyber criminal malware. Also, it doesn't fit into the activists' malware who are using typically free and open source tools to attack computers on the Internet. And the third known group [at this time] is nation-states.
RT: What makes this malware different from all other Spyware programs and what damage can it do?
VK: It's pretty advanced - one of the most sophisticated [examples of] malware we've ever seen. Even its size - it's over 20 megabytes if you sum up all the sizes of the modules that are part of the attacking toolkit. It's very big compared to Stuxnet, which was just hundreds of kilobytes of code: it's over 20 megabyes. And the Stuxnet analysis took us several months, so you can imagine that a full analysis of this threat may take us up to a year. So we think it is one of the most sophisticated malware [programs] out there.
It's also quite unique in the way it steals information. It's possible to steal different types of information with the help of this spyware tool. It can record audio if a microphone is attached to the infected system, it can do screen captures and transmit visual data. It can steal information from the input boxes when they are hidden behind asterisks, password fields; it can get information from there.Also it can scan for locally visible Bluetooth devices if there is a Bluetooth adapter attached to the local system.
RT: Is there a connection between this new cyber threat and previous large-scale virus attacks?
VK: We are trying to compare and find similarities between this development and previous [ones] of course, but there are so few of them - Stuxnet or Duqu mostly. There is no reliable relation between Stuxnet and Flame as we call it...they are completely different. Because Stuxnet was a small application developed for a particular target with the specific objective to interact with industrial control systems and break them down. And Flame is a universal attacking tool kit used mostly for cyber espionage. So there are so things that [Flame] shares in common with Stuxnet and Duqu, and these are the vulnerabilities that are used by both [types of] malware. Probably one malware simply copied vulnerabilities from the other malware program when they were published.
RT: So this means that cyber warfare is evolving rapidly, and 'Flame' vividly confirms this trend. Can less technologically developed nations resist such attacks, or is it game over for them?
VK: It's never game over in this area, because even if the country isn't technologically developed in this area, it doesn't prevent them from cooperating with organizations like ours and with private companies in the security industry that can provide them with valuable pieces of information which can actually result in the discovery of such threats. And when we discover such threats, we permanently add them to antivirus databases, and users from those nations can use freely available trial tools and commercial antivirus [software] to protect their systems.
RT: This enormous stratum of data that 'Flame' can gather, who would need it and is it really possible to analyze such an avalanche of information?
VK: First of all, when we're talking about the size of data that is to be analyzed, we know that the attackers do not infect as many victims as possible. Their resources are limited; it seems that they understand that. They are keeping the number of infected machines more or less the same. So it's the same level. When they finish analyzing data that has been stolen from one network, they remove the malware and switch to another.So we think that it's still possible the extract only the data they are interested in.
RT: So can we call this a cyber war, and if so?
VK: Stuxnet and Duqu were bright examples of cyber weapons which could even physically destroy infrastructure, and this [Flame] is a continuation of this story. So this is another development in this roe which continues in addition to Stuxnet and Duqu.There are also nation stations supporting [these] developments. We think that cyber warfare has been going on for years already. People were just probably not aware of it because cyber warfare has a unique feature: it's hidden. Nobody knows when cyber warfare operations are going on. This is the key feature of it.
RT: Who is behind these cyber attacks?
VK: Like with Stuxnet and Duqu, it's currently unclear who is behind it. It's very hard to find out who is behind it because when we try to follow the traces, who controls the application - it connects to the command and control centers - it turns out to be... dozens or even more servers spread around different countries around the world. More than 80 or 90 domains are associated with those servers. Most of them are registered with fake identities. So they're pretty well protected and hidden. So it is unclear who is behind that, and we try not to speculate who could be behind such attacks. We try to base it on pure facts like the language we extract from the code. In this case, we only found traces of good English used inside the code.
RT: So who do you think is winning this war?
VK: I think that humanity is losing to be honest, because we are fighting between each other instead of fighting against global problems which everyone faces in their lives.
Japan and China to start direct currency trading on Friday
China overtook Japan to become the world's second-largest economy in 2010 AFP
Japan and China will start direct currency trading this week, Tokyo said Tuesday, the first time Beijing has let a major unit other than the dollar swap with the yuan.
The move, which will scrap the greenback as an intermediary unit, comes as China introduces measures as part of a long-term goal of internationalizing its currency to rival the dollar.
The two-way trade will also be allowed to move in a wider range than the narrow band at which the dollar and yuan change hands, Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei business daily reported.
China will set a daily rate based on dealer quotes with trade allowed to move within a 3% band above or below that rate, the reports said, compared with a 1% band fixed to yuan-dollar trading.
The Chinese central bank earlier Tuesday introduced a rate of 7.9480 yuan for every 100 yen, Dow Jones said.
However, there will be no fixed rates in Tokyo trade with the currencies trading freely, according to the same media reports which provided no further details.
The yen does trade freely against other major currencies on global foreign-exchange markets, including the greenback, with the dollar buying 79.50 yen in Asian afternoon trade on Tuesday.
"From June 1, the yen-yuan exchange rate will be constantly indicated in both markets, facilitating full-fledged direct exchange trading," Finance Minister Jun Azumi told a regular press briefing.
By not using the dollar as an intermediate currency "we can lower transaction costs and reduce settlement risks at financial institutions as well as making both nations' currencies more useful", he added.
The announcement comes as China introduces measures as part of a long-term goal of internationalizing the yuan to rival the dollar as the world's benchmark currency.
Beijing's tightly managed currency policy has triggered huge trade deficits in the United States, which accuses China of artificially undervaluing the yuan to boost exports, and has been a long-running source of friction between the world's two largest economies.
On Tuesday, Beijing described yuan-yen trade as an "important step" in "strengthening cooperation between China and Japan in developing financial markets and mutually promoting direct trading between the two currencies based on market principle."
China overtook Japan to become the world's second-largest economy in 2010, and the neighbors are forging closer business ties despite frequent diplomatic spats over territorial claims and lingering historical animosities.
China is Japan's largest trading partner, but about 60% of their mutual trade is denominated in U.S. dollars.
In March, Japan said it had won approval from Beijing to buy Chinese government bonds for the first time--Beijing does not allow investors to freely purchase its debt, requiring official approval instead.
Tokyo said it got the green light to buy Chinese government bond issues worth about 65 billion yuan ($10.25 billion), a relatively small amount that was seen as largely symbolic.
The economic powerhouses have also agreed to promote the use of their currencies in bilateral transactions--such as yuan-denominated foreign direct investment by Japanese companies in China--to reduce foreign exchange risks.
The yen, meanwhile, hit historic highs against the dollar last year, denting exporters whose products become less competitive overseas when the currency strengthens.
Japanese finance officials have vowed to step into foreign-exchange markets again to tame the value of the unit, which is increasingly seen as a safe-haven currency as the euro takes a hit owing to worries about the debt-hit eurozone.
World scrambles to prepare for collapse of the eurozone
Policymakers and firms across Europe are making preparations to cope with a break-up of the single currency, with the president of the Swiss central bank yesterday becoming the latest senior figure to admit to contingency plans for a "collapse" of the eurozone.
"We must be prepared just in case the currency union collapses, although I don't expect that to happen," said Swiss National Bank boss Thomas Jordan. He added that his objective would be to prevent funds flooding into the safe haven of the Swiss franc, which could damage his country's export sector.
Switzerland has already taken an economic hit from appreciation of the Swiss franc over the past year. Last September, the SNB put a cap on the currency's value against the euro to protect exports.
Sterling has also appreciated considerably since the beginning of the year as market fears over the future of the single currency have increased. Bank of England Governor, Sir Mervyn King, said this month that the Bank was preparing contingency plans to cope with a potential major economic shock to the UK economy emanating from the eurozone.
Last week, the European Commission said that it has asked member states to make plans to deal with a potential Greek exit, ahead of a second round of Greek elections on 17 June.
It is not just eurozone officials who are making emergency preparations. The chief executive of Lloyd's of London, Richard Ward, yesterday said the insurance market was also developing contingency plans. "I don't think that if Greece exited the euro it would lead to the collapse of the eurozone, but what we need to do is prepare for that eventuality," Mr Ward told The Sunday Telegraph. "We would switch to multi-currency settlement if the Greeks abandoned the euro and started using the drachma again."
Last week, sources told Reuters news agency that French banks - the most exposed of Europe's banks to a Greek debt default - have stepped up contingency planning. At the end of December 2011, French lending to Greece was $44.4bn (£28.3bn), according to data from the Bank for International Settlements. Meanwhile, Spain will try to shore up confidence in its fragile banking sector this week. On Saturday, the president of Spain's fourth-largest lender, Bankia, said that it would be looking to sell off many of its overseas assets, including stakes in British Airways and Iberia, after it was effectively nationalised last week.
Market concern about the solvency of its banks has exacerbated fears about the solvency of Spain itself since its lenders have been the largest purchasers of Spanish sovereign debt since the turn of the year. Spanish banks are estimated to be holding 30 per cent of the country's debt. Many analysts fear Madrid could become the fourth eurozone state to require a rescue.
More political pressure in the single currency could materialise on Thursday when Ireland holds a referendum on whether or not to approve the new fiscal compact, which has been strongly pushed by Germany as the quid pro quo for its financing of bailouts for weaker member states.
The pact could still come into force if Ireland votes "no", since the ratification of only 12 eurozone countries is needed. But an Irish rejection would still intensify the political and economic turmoil in the single currency.
The Times Of India
Radioactive cesium from Fukushima found in tuna caught off US
May 29, 2012
(Trace amounts of radioactive...)
TOKYO: Trace amounts of radioactive cesium released from Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been found in bluefin tuna caught off the western coast of the United States, according to a study.
While the amounts are not considered a health hazard, the detection reflects the magnitude of the nuclear disaster, which resulted in the release of massive amounts of radioactive materials into the atmosphere and sea, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published online Monday.
Vatican leakers say cardinals among plotters in scandal
May 28 2012
Italy papers quote leakers as saying cardinals involved
* Crisis worst in Benedict's papacy
* Ouster of Vatican bank head reflects badly on secretary of state
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, May 28, (Reuters) - The worst crisis in Pope Benedict's pontificate deepened on Monday when Italian media said at least one cardinal was among those suspected of leaking sensitive documents as part of a power struggle at the top of the Church.
The scandal exploded last week when within a few days the pope's butler was arrested for leaking documents, the head of the Vatican's own bank was abruptly dismissed and a book was published alleging conspiracies among the cardinals or "princes of the Church".
Newspapers, quoting insiders who had themselves leaked documents, said the arrested butler was merely a scapegoat doing the bidding of more powerful figures in the scandal, which has been dubbed "Vatileaks".
Documents passed to Italian journalists accuse Vatican insiders of cronyism and corruption in contracts with Italian companies. La Stampa daily quoted one of the alleged leakers as saying the goal was to help the pope root out corruption.
On Saturday, Paolo Gabriele, 46, Pope Benedict's personal butler, was formally charged with stealing confidential papal documents. But leakers quoted by La Stampa, La Repubblica and other media said the leaking plot went much wider.
"There are leakers among the cardinals but the Secretariat of State could not say that, so they arrested the servant, Paolo, who was only delivering letters on behalf of others," La Repubblica quoted one alleged whistleblower as saying.
The Secretariat of State is run by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope's powerful right-hand man, and the scandal appears to involve a power struggle between his allies and enemies, reminiscent of Renaissance conspiracies in the Vatican.
It has been brewing for months, but since it burst into the open it has shaken the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church.
Aides say the pontiff is "saddened and pained" by the events. His critics say a lack of strong leadership has opened the door to infighting among his powerful aides - and potentially to the corruption alleged in the leaked documents.
Many Vatican insiders believe the butler, who had access to the pope's private apartment, could not have acted alone. He is being held in a "safe room" in the Vatican police station and has been charged with aggravated theft.
Now known in Vatican statements as "the defendant" - he was until Wednesday night the quiet man who served the pope's meals, helped him dress and held his umbrella on rainy days.
"He did not steal the documents. His role was to deliver documents," La Stampa newspaper quoted the unidentified alleged leaker it interviewed as saying.
WEED OUT CORRUPTION
The Vatican's announcement of the arrest of the butler came a day after the president of the Vatican bank (IOR), Italian Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was fired by its board of external financial experts, who come from Germany, Spain, the United States and Italy.
Gotti Tedeschi's ouster was is a blow to Bertone, who as secretary of state was instrumental in bringing him in from Spain's Banco Santander to run the Vatican bank in 2009.
While news of the butler's arrest has filled pages and pages of newspapers in Italy and beyond, the Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has ignored the story. Some say this may be because the paper itself has been an instrument in the power struggle between Bertone's allies and foes.
Documents leaked over the last few months included letters by an archbishop who was transferred to Washington by Bertone after blowing the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption in a memo that put a number of cardinals in a bad light. Other documents alleged internal conflicts over the Vatican bank.
"I feel very sad for the pope. This whole thing is such a disservice to the Church," said Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus charity group and a member of the board of the Vatican bank who voted to fire Gotti Tedeschi.
Anderson told Reuters the bank president was sacked because of "a fundamental failure to perform his basic responsibilities". Gotti Tedeschi has said he was ousted because he wanted the bank to be more transparent, but Anderson rejected that assertion.
"Categorically, this action by the board had nothing to do with his promotion of transparency," Anderson said. "In fact, he was becoming an obstacle to greater transparency by his inability to work with senior management."
He said the Vatican was aiming to make the OECD's "white list" of states with an adequate level of financial transparency. Vatican sources have pointed to the bank head's very public ouster as an example of the drive to achieve this.
Gianlugi Nuzzi, the Italian journalist who has received many of the documents over recent months and last week published a new book called "His Holiness", on Monday criticised the Vatican for rounding up leakers.
"Surely, arresting someone and rounding up people and treating them like delinquents to stop them from passing on true information to newspapers would cause an uproar in other countries," he said. "There would be a petition to free them." (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Barry Moody and Peter Graff)
Norway separates church and state
Published: 21 May 2012
The Norwegian parliament has voted to abolish the state church, a decision which is set to be confirmed in a constitutional amendment on Monday.
The vote last Wednesday was backed by parties across the political spectrum and has the effect of severing the connection between Norway and the Church of Norway, making Norway a secular state.
Svein Arne LindÃ¸, chair of the church council, welcomed the decision which is the result of an agreement signed between the government and the church in 2008.
"Once the decision to change the constitution is made on Monday, it will be a great day for us. It's a great day for both church and country," he told state news agency NRK.
In practice the change means that the state relinquishes any control over the Church of Norway including the appointments of pastors and bishops. The decision will furthermore establish equality between the Church of Norway and other faiths represented in the country.
Church leaders will be in attendance at Norway's Stortinget parliament to witness the constitutional amendment on Monday afternoon.
The Lutheran Church was formally recognised as the state church in the Norwegian constitution framed after independence from Denmark in 1814.
Some 79.2 percent of Norwegians were registered as members of the Church of Norway as of January 1st 2010, although membership has been in steady decline over the past decade.
According to recent figures only 2 percent of Norwegians attend church regularly, and according to 2005 Gallup poll, 46 percent considered themselves atheists.
Healthy hit by a plague of over diagnosis of conditions that will never cause serious symptoms
By Jenny Hope
29 May 2012
Healthy people are being harmed by the trend to 'overdiagnose' conditions that will never cause serious symptoms, say medical experts.
Millions of adults at low risk are being told they may eventually suffer diseases that require drugs for life, according to an analysis.
But the decision to hand out such information is often made on lower thresholds of evidence than in the past, it is claimed.
Overdiagnosis: Millions of adults at low risk are being told they may eventually suffer diseases that require drugs for life, according to an analysis
Overdiagnosis is harming the healthy who are afflicted by anxiety and over-treatment and it wastes resources on unnecessary care, say specialists writing for the British Medical Journal.
Changing diagnostic criteria are increasing the numbers of 'sick', causing 'virtually the entire older adult population to be classified as having at least one chronic condition' claim the authors.
Research suggests one-third of people diagnosed with asthma may not have the condition, up to one in three breast cancers detected through screening may never have led to symptoms and some women at low risk of breaking bones are being harmed by osteoporosis treatment.
Around eight million Britons take statins for high cholesterol levels, some of whom have not had a heart attack or stroke, but there is pressure for even lower risk people to take them at younger ages.
Co-author Ray Moynihan, senior research fellow at Bond University in Australia, said overdiagnosis wastes £128billion a year in the US alone.
He said: 'Increasingly we've come to regard being "at risk" of future disease as being a disease in its own right. Evidence mounts that we're harming the healthy.'
Controversially, the experts believe the benefits of early diagnosis, particularly of cancer, have been oversold to patients.
'Contrary to popular notions that cancers are universally harmful and ultimately fatal, some cancers can regress, fail to progress or grow so slowly they will not cause harm before the individual dies from other causes,' the authors claim.
Such cancers include prostate, breast and thyroid cancer, the bulk of which will never harm.
The over diagnosis trend is being driven by the cultural belief in early detection, fed by a deep faith in medical technology.
Vested interests are also to blame, along with legal and health systems that punish under diagnosis, say the authors.
Proposals for change include revising disease thresholds to reduce treatment for people at low risk of ill-health.
Until next week...keep on believing.
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