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Wednesday, June 8, 2011


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Futuristic Airport Security to End Invasive Searches and Long Lines

Post 9/11 airport security has caused comic levels of hassle for almost a decade, and shows no sign of letting up. But by using biometric sensors, special noninvasive scanners and a dose of common sense, the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) "Checkpoint of the Future" make flying the tolerable, dignified activity we all remember.

"Today's checkpoint was designed four decades ago to stop hijackers carrying metal weapons. Since then, we have grafted on more complex procedures to meet emerging threats. We are more secure, but it is time to rethink everything. We need a process that responds to today's threat. It must amalgamate intelligence based on passenger information and new technology. That means moving from a system that looks for bad objects, to one that can find bad people," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.

Three security lanes will have technology to check passengers according to risk. Each traveler will undergo an iris scan to determine their identity. A computer will then crosscheck each persons′ travel history, and determine their relative risk based on a complex intelligence algorithm.

"Known travelers" who have registered and completed background checks with government authorities will have expedited access. "Normal screening" would be for the majority of travelers. And those passengers for whom less information is available, who are randomly selected or who are deemed to be an "Elevated risk" would have an additional level of screening.

In this scheme, your elderly grandmother would only need to pass through the standard metal detector, while a young man returning from a trip to Pakistan would go through a more extensive explosives check. Screening technology is being developed that will allow passengers to walk through the checkpoint without having to remove clothes or unpack their belongings. Moreover, it is envisioned that the security process could be combined with outbound customs and immigration procedures, further streamlining the passenger experience.

"We have the ability to move to the biometric scanning and three-lane concept right now. And while some of the technology still needs to be developed, even by just re-purposing what we have today, we could see major changes in two or three years time," said Bisignani.
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Chinese GM Cows Make Human Breast Milk

Chinese scientists have genetically modified dairy cows to produce human breast milk, and hope to be selling it in supermarkets within three years

The milk produced by the transgenic cows is identical to the human variety and has the same immune-boosting and antibacterial qualities as breast milk, scientists at China's Agricultural University in Beijing say.

The transgenic herd of 300 was bred by inserting human genes into cloned cow embryos which were then implanted into surrogate cows.

The technology was similar to that used to produce Dolly the sheep.

The milk is still undergoing safety tests but with government permission it will be sold to consumers as a more nutritious dairy drink than cow's milk.

Workers at the university's dairy farm have already tasted the milk, and say it is sweeter and stronger than the usual bovine variety.

There are 1.5 billion people in the world who don't get enough to eat. It's our duty to develop science and technology, not to hold it back. We need to feed people first, before we consider ideals and convictions.Professor Li Ning, director of the research project

"It's good," said worker Jiang Yao. "It's better for you because it's genetically modified."

The scientists have also produced animals that are resistant to mad cow disease, as well as beef cattle that are genetically modified to produce more nutritious meat.

The director of the research project, Professor Li Ning, says Western concerns about the ethics of genetic modification are misplaced.

"There are 1.5 billion people in the world who don't get enough to eat," he said. "It's our duty to develop science and technology, not to hold it back.

"We need to feed people first, before we consider ideals and convictions."

Sky News

East Africa faces 'world's worst food security crisis

Somali women wait to receive food rations in Mogadishu. Photo: February 2011

The world's worst food security crisis is continuing in the eastern Horn of Africa, a US agency has warned.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) said areas of particular concern were in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

It said large-scale emergency assistance was urgently needed "to save lives and treat acute malnutrition" in the region.

It also stressed that the current humanitarian response was "inadequate".

In a statement, Fewsnet said the eastern Horn of Africa "has experienced two consecutive seasons of significantly below-average rainfall, resulting in one of the driest years since 1995".

It said that crops had failed and local cereal prices remained very high.

"This is the most severe food security emergency in the world today," the statement said.

In southern Ethiopia and some pastoral areas of Somalia, the agency said, "poor households are unable to access the basic food supplies needed for survival".

Fewsnet also said that recent nutrition surveys suggested that global acute malnutrition remained above 20% in the region, and more than seven million people needed humanitarian assistance.

In Kenya, the government has declared the drought and food crisis a national disaster.

In late May, consumers in the country took the government to court in a landmark case, claiming that their constitutional right to be free from hunger had been violated.

Every Kenyan's right to "be free from hunger and to have adequate food of acceptable quality" is protected in Article 43 of a new constitution, approved in a referendum last August.

The BBC's international development correspondent, Mark Doyle, says that in another sign of the severity of the crisis, farmers in the region are so desperate to raise funds that they are selling scrawny livestock - which represent their biggest asset - at low prices.

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Peculiar Earthquake Touches Southern Illinois

JACKSON COUNTY-- Experts are studying an early morning earthquake that rattled some people awake in eastern Missouri and southern Illinois. Some of you may have felt the tremor just after three o'clock Tuesday morning, it was a magnitude 4.2 earthquake
The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake was centered near Sullivan, Missouri, about fifty miles southwest of St. Louis. People felt the rumbling as far west as Columbia, Missouri, and as far east as Carbondale.

When SIU geology professor James Conder checked overnight readings from the university's seismograph Tuesday morning, he was a little shocked.

"I thought well, that's rather interesting," he said.

The equipment in Carbondale registered activity from the 4 earthquake near Sullivan. What surprises him is that it happened nowhere near the New Madrid Fault line, the area's most active fault.

"This one is pretty well outside the New Madrid region," he explained. "So this is probably the biggest earthquake in Missouri this far outside the New Madrid system as far as we've been reading earthquakes."

Federal geology officials say the quake was more than three miles deep. The problem is, there's no telling what fault may have caused it.

"There are faults all over the midwest," Conder said. "Very deep ones that haven't been mapped very well, so I'm sure there is some sort of fault that it occurred on but it probably has not been mapped very well."

Conder says Sullivan sits on the northern edge of the Ozark Plateau, and that may be the key to this quake.


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Greek joblessness at record as new austerity looms

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Unemployment in debt-ridden Greece hit new record highs in March as government officials wrangled over tough new austerity measures required to tap the country's rescue funds.

The jobless rate increased to 16.2 percent in March from 15.9 percent in February, the country's statistics agency said Wednesday. The total number of Greeks out of work was 811,340, up 40 percent from a year earlier, when the unemployment rate was 11.6 percent.

March's is the highest level of joblessness recorded since the statistics agency began issuing figures in 2004. The government had projected an overall unemployment rate of 14.5 percent for this year in its 2011 budget.

The situation is expected to get worse as the government imposes yet more austerity measures to meet targets set out in the agreement for Greece's euro110 billion ($161 billion) package of rescue loans.

Cutbacks and tax increases taken over the past year have already led to anger among workers and unions, which has been compounded by the realization that the measures did not produce all of the results they were expected to.

Ministers are now tussling over the details of additional cutbacks and tax hikes, including euro6.4 billion worth of remedial austerity measures for this year, and a midterm program to run from 2012-2015, two years beyond the current government's mandate.

The government is also pushing through a euro50 billion privatization program that includes public utilities. Workers at state companies facing privatization have called their first strike against the plan for Thursday. Joined by much of the state sector in work stoppages, the strike will affect public transport, banks, post offices and the state television and radio stations.

Strikes have affected virtually all sectors at some stage, with workers holding demonstrations or picketing ministry buildings.

On Wednesday, radiology technicians became the latest group to protest, with about 300 gathering outside the Health Ministry in central Athens. The technicians, who held up placards printed on x-ray film, were protesting cuts to extra time off they receive due to their exposure to radiation at work.

Prime Minister George Papandreou is also faced with increasing frustration from within his own Socialist party -- and among his ministers -- over the new austerity.

Several Socialist lawmakers have criticized the measures, although none have said outright they oppose the plan, due to be voted on in Parliament by the end of this month.

Papandreou was holding a second day of consultations with his party deputies Wednesday before the Cabinet discusses the plan on Thursday and submits it to Parliament.

His finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, came under heavy fire from disgruntled deputies during a marathon meeting Tuesday.

Greek media reported that Vasso Papandreou, head of parliament's financial affairs committee, accused Papaconstantinou of "lacking a plan and taking measures that will be short-lived."

Labor Minister Louka Katseli said some of the proposed measures would be "re-evaluated."

The government also appears shaken by sustained anti-austerity rallies in Greek cities, which climaxed on Sunday with tens of thousands of peaceful protesters in central Athens.

Papandreou suggested after an informal Cabinet meeting on Monday that he was open to holding a referendum on austerity measures, although government spokesman George Petalotis said the following day that there were no immediate plans for such a vote.

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China warns U.S. debt-default idea is "playing with fire"

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Republican lawmakers are "playing with fire" by contemplating even a brief debt default as a means to force deeper government spending cuts, an adviser to China's central bank said on Wednesday.

The idea of a technical default -- essentially delaying interest payments for a few days -- has gained backing from a growing number of mainstream Republicans who see it as a price worth paying if it forces the White House to slash spending, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

But any form of default could destabilize the global economy and sour already tense relations with big U.S. creditors such as China, government officials and investors warn.

Li Daokui, an adviser to the People's Bank of China, said a default could undermine the U.S. dollar, and Beijing needed to dissuade Washington from pursuing this course of action.

"I think there is a risk that the U.S. debt default may happen," Li told reporters on the sidelines of a forum in Beijing. "The result will be very serious and I really hope that they would stop playing with fire."

China is the largest foreign creditor to the United States, holding more than $1 trillion in Treasury debt as of March, U.S. data shows, so its concerns carry considerable weight in Washington.

"I really worry about the risks of a U.S. debt default, which I think may lead to a decline in the dollar's value," Li said.

Congress has balked at increasing a statutory limit on government spending as lawmakers argue over how to curb a deficit which is projected to reach $1.4 trillion this fiscal year. The U.S. Treasury Department has said it will run out of borrowing room by August 2.

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Syria Intervention will prove craziness

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Russia will counter any NATO missile defense - Russian envoy

Dmitry Rogozin

Russia can develop missile systems capable of penetrating any missile defense deployed by NATO, Russia's envoy to the alliance Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday.

"Any attempts by those in NATO who dream of neutralizing our strategic potential will be futile," Rogozin said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV channel. "We have enough capacity to create both defensive and offensive means to counter any missile threat and to penetrate any missile defense."

Rogozin spoke on the eve of a NATO-Russia Council meeting on Wednesday, which is expected to cover a wide range of issues relating to the partnership between Russia and NATO, including a proposal two build one or two missile shields to protect Europe against attacks.

The diplomat reiterated that nuclear deterrent was the only guarantor of Russia's sovereignty, and Moscow would never allow it to be put under threat.

Rogozin said that Russia's response to any threat would be "comprehensive," without expanding further.

The envoy expressed hope that Russia and NATO could overcome existing controversy on the missile defense issue with enough "goodwill."

However, NATO's current position is not constructive and the alliance has not been willing to compromise so far, Rogozin said.

NATO insists there should be two independent systems that exchange information, while Russia favors a joint system with shared responsibility and involvement.

"They [NATO] stubbornly refuse to link their system with ours, insisting on the principle that only NATO should be responsible for its own security and no one else should interfere with this task," Rogozin said.

He added that Russia was concerned about NATO moves to place elements of their missile shield close to Russian borders and by the absence of guarantees that U.S. warships would not be deployed in the northern seas near the Russian border as part of the U.S. four-phase European missile defense initiative until 2020.

"Their combat and information-support systems [radars and control centers] should be moved away from our borders," he said.

MOSCOW, June 7 (RIA Novosti)

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