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The USA is the most corrupt country in the world and I have 10,000 posts that point heavily to that fact…

Chimps to be spared from use in US medical experiments December 16, 2011

Chimpanzees should hardly ever be used for medical research, a prestigious scientific group told the US government on Thursday – advice that means days in the laboratory may be numbered for humans’ closest relatives.

The Institute of Medicine stopped short of recommending the outright ban that animal rights activists had pushed for.

Instead, it urged strict limits that would make invasive experiments with chimps essentially a last resort, saying today’s more advanced research tools mean the primates’ use only rarely would be necessary enough to outweigh the moral costs.

Chimp research was already dwindling fast as scientists turned to less costly and less ethically charged alternatives.

The US government agency in charge of it – the National Institutes of Health – called the new recommendations “scientifically well-founded” and signalled that it would make some changes.

“While operational details will need to be worked out, NIH intends to adopt the panel’s general conclusions,” said Dr Francis Collins, director of the NIH.

The apes’ genetic similarity to people has long caused a quandary. It is what has made them so valuable to scientists for nearly a century.

They were vital in creating a vaccine for hepatitis B, for example, and were even shot into space to make sure the trip would not kill the astronauts next in line.

But that close relationship has had animal rights groups arguing that using chimps for biomedical research is unethical and can be cruel.

“We understand and feel compelled by the moral cost of using chimpanzees in research,” said bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn of Johns Hopkins University, who chaired the Institute of Medicine panel.

“We have established criteria that will set the bar quite high for justification of the use of chimpanzees.”

For biomedical research – testing new drugs or giving the animal a disease – that means using chimps only if studies cannot be done on other animals or people themselves, and if forgoing the chimp studies would hinder progress against life-threatening or other debilitating diseases.

The panel advised the government to limit use of chimps in behavioural research as well, saying such studies must provide insights into the brain and behaviour that otherwise are unattainable – and use techniques that minimize any pain or distress.

The US is one of only two countries known to still conduct medical research with chimpanzees; the other is Gabon. The European Union essentially banned such research last year.

The practice has been dwindling fast in the US. The Institute of Medicine’s investigation found that over the past 10 years, the NIH has paid for just 110 projects of any type that involved chimps.

There are not quite 1,000 chimps available for medical research in the country. While it is impossible to say how many have been used in privately funded pharmaceutical research, the industry is shifting to higher-tech and less costly research methods.

One drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, adopted an official policy ending its use of great apes, including chimpanzees, in research.

Thursday’s report was triggered by an uproar over the fate of 186 semi-retired research chimps that the NIH, to save money, last year planned to move from a New Mexico facility to an active research lab in Texas.

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VIDEO: ‘Assad’s story is not believable’ December 9, 2011

During the past nine months the people of Syria have taken to the streets in protest against their government and over 4,000 have paid with their lives.

Yet on Wednesday, in a rare television interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flatly denied that he ordered the use of brutality, instead blaming the violence on others.

To discuss that interview, the BBC’s Jane O’Brien was joined by Bilal Saab, fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

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Tijuana drug tunnel impresses US November 30, 2011

Mexican security forces surrounded the Tijuana entrance of the tunnel

US police have found one of the most sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnels to date on the border with Mexico.

The tunnel was discovered on Tuesday and links warehouses in Tijuana, Mexico, with San Diego.

“It is clearly the most sophisticated tunnel that we have found in the last five years, perhaps ever,” a US police spokeswoman in San Diego said.

A similar tunnel was discovered in the area two weeks ago, adding to dozens that have been found in recent years.

Local media describe Otay Mesa as a busy area containing many warehouses, making it easier for smugglers.

The tunnel is 15ft (4.5m) deep and contains both lighting and transport carts, AFP news agency reports.

The tunnel extends twice as far into the US as it does into Mexico

Mexican security forces found the entrance in a Tijuana warehouse after being alerted to the discovery by the US authorities.

The warehouse is near Tijuana airport, and also stands close to the local headquarters of the federal police.

Mexican security forces seized three tonnes of marijuana at the tunnel’s entrance, which they suspect had only recently been put into use.

The use of underground tunnels for smuggling has increased in recent years as the US authorities have clamped down on overland smuggling activity.

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MPs warn Royal Navy’s carriers will be costly, late, and of limited use November 29, 2011

The aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy will be less useful, take longer to finish, and likely cost more than claimed, a parliamentary watchdog warns.

The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be mothballed immediately it is launched in 2016, according to the existing plan. However, the second, HMS Prince of Wales, is not now expected to be fully operational until 2031. Moreover, it will only be able to stay at sea for up to 200 days a year, significantly fewer than envisaged, says the Commons public accounts committee.

The MPs’ report, out on Tuesday, makes clear the quick decision to adapt the carriers to fly US-made Joint Strike Fighters, taking off by catapult and landing by arrester wires, will increase the planes’ cost as well as that of the carriers, but by how much will not be known until December 2012.

The cost of the US JSFs – or F35s as they are now called – is spiralling, and the Ministry of Defence has already cut substantially the number it plans to buy; development is also threatened by pressures on the American defence budget.

The catapult/arrester arrangement enables British aircraft to land on French carriers, and vice versa – increasing co-operation; the UK version also has longer range and carries heavier weapons.

The report says that the construction of the carriers themselves is “progressing well”, but warns the costs of converting the carriers “are not yet fully understood”.

It continues: “The technology proposed has yet to be tested and the [fighter] version the UK intends to buy will be unique to Britain. The costs of converting the carrier for use with the carrier variant aircraft will not be known until 2012.”

Margaret Hodge, the former Labour minister and chair of the public accounts committee, told the Guardian: “The carriers’ starting cost was £3.5bn, is currently about £6.2bn, and is likely to rise to up to £12bn. There will be nine years without a carrier, and it will be at sea for fewer than 200 days on average.”

She accused David Cameron of deceiving parliament by claiming, after the defence review was agreed last year, that cancelling the carriers would have cost more in compensation to BAE Systems, the builders, than going ahead with them. According to the MoD’s own figures, cancelling both ships would have immediately cost the government £2.4bn in cancllation fees but would have led to savings of £1.2bn in the long term.

Cancelling one ship, but going ahead with the other, would have saved just £200m in the long term.

Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, said: “Yet again we have a respected body giving a damning assessment of the defence review, which was driven by short-term cash savings, not strategic need, and limits Britain’s ability to project power”.

He added: “It will worry those in the services that ministers’ projected savings are in fact deferred expenditure, and so the long-term impact of their policy decisions on the defence budget and equipment programme remains unknown.”

Murphy also raised questions about the government’s decision, announced on Monday, to sell to the private sector the existing Royal Navy and RAF search and rescue service from 2015. There are 91 navy and RAF search and rescue pilots, including Prince William. “That would be a further blow to falling morale in the services as well as a waste of their valuable skills,” Murphy said.

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Britain unites with smaller countries to block US bid to legalise cluster bombs November 26, 2011

A coalition of countries including Britain on Friday defeated an attempt by the US, Russia, China and Israel to get an international agreement approving the continued use of cluster bombs. The weapons, which have been used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon scatter “bomblets” over a wide area, maiming and killing civilians, notably children, long after they have been dropped and are banned under a 2008 convention which was adopted by the UK and in more than 100 countries. The US, refused to sign and in negotiations in Geneva, over the past two weeks pressed for a protocol to be added to a UN convention to provide legal cover for the continuing use of cluster munitions. But smaller countries, supported by agencies including Amnesty and Oxfam, refused to give way.

Thomas Nash, director of Article 36, a group which coordinated opposition to cluster munitions, said: “The rejection of this attempt to set up a weaker standard on cluster bombs shows that states can act on the basis of humanitarian imperatives and can prevail in the face of cynical pressure from other states”.

He added: “It shows that it is not only the US and other so called major powers that call the shots in international affairs, but that when small and medium sized countries work together with civil society and international organisations we can set the agenda and get results”.

The US was supported in the Geneva talks by other cluster bomb manufacturers – including Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan.

They were backed by countries which had signed the 2008 convention, including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Australia, conference observers said.

The Foreign Office had said that the British government would not accept the proposed protocol unless it provided clear humanitarian benefits.

The US and its supporters argued that their proposal would allow the use of cluster bombs manufactured after 1980 and that these had a less than 1% failure rate. Opponents said that most bombs produced before 1980 are unusable and that modern cluster munitions have failure rates much higher than the manufacturers claim.

If the US bid had been approved, international legal cover would have been given to such weapons as the BLU-97 “combined effects” bomb which contains bomblets that, as they fall, fragment and can turn into an incendiary weapon.

The unexploded bomblets have the appearance of yellow drink containers and are attractive, often picked up by children who mistake them for toys. However, the consequences are lethal, often resulting in maiming or even fatalities.

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Cruel new punishment for hackers: Twitter, Facebook bans November 25, 2011

November 25, 2011

by legitgov


Cruel new punishment for hackers: Twitter, Facebook bans –UK’s cyber-sentencing proposals revealed –Plans in report include focus on giving IT training to police 25 Nov 2011 Fraudsters and hackers could soon get slapped with social media bans as the government plans to encourage judges to dish out online punishments for online crime. The online tagging system is one of several recommendations announced today in the 2011 Cyber Security Strategy. Criminals who commit online crimes will be more likely to receive online sentences – as well as meatspace ones – as judges are encouraged to make use of laws that allow them to restrict or monitor the use of computers by convicted criminals outside prison. [Just start hacking the judges' accounts. g]

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UC Davis chancellor: ‘I did not want use of force’ November 23, 2011

The University of California, Davis, chancellor has defended herself over criticism surrounding the campus police force’s pepper spraying of peaceful demonstrators as information emerged about the officer at the heart of the incident.

Video footage of police Lieutenant John Pike and another officer clad in riot gear casually spraying an orange cloud at the heads of protesters who were sitting peacefully on the ground has sparked national outrage since it began circulating online Friday night.

Students gathered on campus on Tuesday for the second time in as many days to condemn the violence and urged university officials to require police to attend sensitivity training.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who has faced criticism from students over Friday’s incident, defended herself during a town hall meeting on Tuesday night. She told an auditorium filled with more than 1,000 students that she asked police to remove tents from the university’s quad but did not direct them to forcibly remove the demonstrators.

“I explicitly directed the chief of police that violence should be avoided at all costs,” she said. “It was the absolute last thing I ever wanted to happen.”

She stressed that students have a right to demonstrate peacefully.

“Because encampments have long been prohibited by UC policy, I directed police only to take down the tents,” she said. “My instructions were for no arrests and no police force.”

Pike, another officer and the campus police chief have been placed on paid administrative leave in the wake of an incident that has generated international attention for the 32,000-student campus just west of the state capital.

Not all students who attended the town hall in a performing arts complex were satisfied with the response from Katehi, who attended a rally on campus on Monday and apologised to students. Puneet Kamal, 22, an environmental science and policy major, was among those lined up to ask questions on Tuesday.

“She didn’t say ‘I’m sorry that I did this, or I’m sorry I made this call,’” Kamal said. “She said ‘I’m sorry that this situation had to happen.’ Where’s the blame going to?”

Pike, one of the officers who sprayed the students, is a retired Marine sergeant who has been honoured for his police work on campus, but he also figured in a discrimination lawsuit against the university.

He has twice been honoured by the university for exceptional police work, including a 2006 incident in which he tackled a scissor-wielding hospital patient who was threatening fellow officers. Afterward, he said he decided against using pepper spray because it might harm his colleagues or other hospital patients.

As the controversy over the spraying incident has grown, images of the lieutenant have become the subject of a popular blog, which features his image superimposed on famous paintings and spraying famous figures, from Gandhi to John F. Kennedy. The handcraft site also is selling a T-shirt emblazoned with Pike’s image but showing flowers coming out of his spray can.

Dieter Dammeier, an Upland lawyer for the Federated University Police Officers Association, the union that represents UC Davis officers, said the operations plan issued by the department includes the use of pepper spray. Dammeier said he does not represent Pike because he is a manager.

“The officers were doing simply what they were instructed to do by upper management there,” Dammeier said, referring to police, not university, management.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers announced they would hold a hearing on the pepper-spraying incident. Assembly Speaker John Perez sent a letter to the University of California Board of Regents chairwoman Sherry Lansing and UC President Mark Yudof asking for a system-wide investigation.

“Students, parents and the public deserve to have answers to the myriad of troubling questions these incidents have raised,” Perez said in a statement.

Yudof later announced he had appointed former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton to review the UC Davis incident and provide “an independent, unvarnished report about what happened.”

Student government leaders on campus condemned the use of pepper spray on student protesters and called for Katehi to resign if she fails to enact reforms.

The student government passed a resolution on Monday night calling on the state attorney general’s office to investigate campus police misconduct. The students are demanding police go through sensitivity training, seek more student representation and review policies on student protests.

Katehi has already asked the county district attorney’s office to investigate, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven confirmed on Tuesday that the department will look into the matter.

Attorney General Kamala Harris was deeply disturbed by the videos of the incident, spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, about 50 tents formed an encampment on the site where the pepper-spraying happened as students went about going to class. Katehi showed up unexpectedly and asked to address students and occupiers during their general assembly meeting. She left after waiting about 30 minutes for her chance to speak.

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US pushing UN to lift ban on cluster bombs, say campaigners November 22, 2011

The use of cluster bombs will be given backing under plans being drawn up at an international treaty conference, according to opponents of the weapons which maim and kill civilians, notably children, long after they have been dropped.

The bombs are banned under the 2008 convention on cluster munitions, which was adopted by the UK and more than 100 other countries. But the US refused to sign and is pressing for a protocol to be added to the UN convention on certain conventional weapons (CCW) to provide legal cover for the use of cluster munitions.

The US is being supported by other cluster bomb manufacturers – including Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan – at negotiations due to end in Geneva on Friday. The move is also backed by a number of signatories to the 2008 convention, including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Australia, conference observers said.

Amnesty International, Oxfam and Article 36, a group which co-ordinates opposition to such weapons systems, said humanitarian concerns were being ignored at the UN-sponsored talks and that they will on Wednesday call on Britain to resist US attempts to sanction what they described as a “licence to kill” with cluster bombs.

The Foreign Office said Britain was committed to the cluster bomb convention and would not accept the proposed protocol unless it provided clear humanitarian benefits, an official said. “The current draft protocol text does not do this.”

The US and its supporters argue that the proposed CCW protocol would permit the use of cluster bombs manufactured after 1980 and that these had a less than 1% failure rate. Opponents say that cut-off point is arbitrary, that most bombs produced before 1980 are unusable and that modern cluster munitions have failure rates much higher than the manufacturers claim.

Thomas Nash, director of Article 36, said the draft protocol gave legal cover for the use of cluster bombs and described any move towards that as “mind boggling”.

“It will allow some of the worst cluster bombs ever made to be used,” he added, referring to the BLU-97 combined effects bomb which contains bomblets that, as they fall, fragment and can turn into an incendiary weapon.

The weapon has been widely used by US forces with a reported failure rate of more than 30%. The unexploded bomblets have the appearance of yellow drink containers and are attractive, but lethal, when handled by civilians.

“We need the UK to speak up,” said Nash, adding that the British delegation in Geneva had so far said nothing during the negotiations.

Anna Macdonald, of Oxfam International, said: “We will need more leadership from ministers this week to resist US pressure.”

Amnesty’s Oliver Sprague said: “The UK has quite rightly championed the total ban on cluster munitions. It must not now support cynical attempts by the US to undermine efforts to eradicate these deadly and indiscriminate weapons by agreeing to a new legal standard.”

Other weapons, including white phosphorus, are on the agenda in Geneva.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK is committed to ridding the world of cluster munitions … We will take a view on the protocol at the end of these negotiations. We have been clear that we will not sign up to anything which would undermine [the convention on cluster munitions] or dilute our obligations under it.”

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US Occupy: officers in pepper spray incident placed on leave November 21, 2011

Credit: YouTube/terrydatiger

Two University of California, Davis police officers involved in pepper spraying seated protesters are being placed on administrative leave as the chancellor of the school accelerates the investigation into the incident.

Chancellor Linda Katehi said she has been inundated with reaction over the incident, in which an officer dispassionately fired pepper spray on a line of sitting demonstrators.

Video of the incident was circulated widely on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter on Saturday, and the university’s faculty association called on Katehi to resign, saying in a letter there had been a “gross failure of leadership”.

Katehi said she takes “full responsibility for the incident” but has resisted calls for her resignation, instead pledging to take actions to make sure “that this does not happen again”.However, a law enforcement official who watched the clip called the use of force “fairly standard police procedure”.

In the video, an officer dispassionately pepper-sprays a line of sitting protesters who flinch and cover their faces but remain passive with their arms interlocked as onlookers shriek and scream out for the officer to stop.

The protest was held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were jabbed with batons by police on 9 November.

Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a “compliance tool” that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.

“When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them,” Kelly said. “Bodies don’t have handles on them.”

After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of “active resistance” from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques, Kelly said.

Images of police actions have served to galvanize support during the Occupy Wall Street movement, from the clash between protesters and police in Oakland last month that left an Iraq war veteran with serious injuries to more recent skirmishes in New York City, San Diego, Denver and Portland, Oregon.

Some of the most notorious instances went viral online, including the use of pepper spray on an 84-year-old activist in Seattle and a group of women in New York. Seattle’s mayor apologised to the activist, and the New York Police Department official shown using pepper spray on the group of women lost 10 vacation days after an internal review.

In the video of this week’s UC Davis protest, the officer, a member of the university police force, displays a bottle before spraying its contents on the seated protesters in a sweeping motion while walking back and forth. Most of the protesters have their heads down, but several are hit directly in the face. Some members of a crowd gathered at the scene scream and cry out. The crowd then chants, “Shame on you,” as the protesters on the ground are led away. The officers retreat minutes later with helmets on and batons drawn.

Ten people were arrested at the protest. Nine students hit by pepper spray were treated at the scene, two were taken to hospitals and later released, university officials said.Elsewhere in California, police arrested six Occupy San Francisco protesters early on Sunday and dismantled a tent encampment in front of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Officer Albie Esparza said police and city crews took down about 12 tents. The six were arrested on charges of interfering with officers.

The raid came several hours after police and public works crews removed dozens of tents from the nearby Occupy camp at Justin Herman Plaza.

Earlier, several hundred protesters in Oakland tore down a chain-link fence surrounding a city-owned vacant lot and set up a new encampment five days after their main camp near City Hall was torn down.

“They obviously don’t want us at the plaza downtown. We might as well make this space useful,” Chris Skantz, 23, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Occupy Oakland protesters breached the fence and poured into the lot next to the Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue, police said in a statement.

The protesters passed a line of police surrounding the lot without a struggle, used wire cutters to take down the fence and pulled down “no trespassing” signs, the Chronicle reported.

Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said surrounding streets had been closed and officers were protecting nearby buildings

Watson said there had been no arrests or citations, but the city’s position remains that no camping will be allowed and protesters cannot stay overnight.

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UC Davis police placed on leave after pepper spray video outrage

The beleaguered chancellor of University of California, Davis, is preparing to explain her position to students after campus police deployed pepper-spray at close range on protesting students who apparently posed little threat.

Linda Katehi has agreed to speak to the protesters’ General Assembly on Monday. It was announced on Sunday that two campus police officers have been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is carried out.

The university did not name the officers officially, but at least one of the officers has been identified as Lieutenant John Pike.

A police officer at the University of California, Davis, deploys pepper spray on students taking part in an Occupy protest. Photograph: The Aggie/Brian Nguyen

UC Davis’s faculty association called on Katehi to resign, saying in a letter there had been a “gross failure of leadership.”

Given the recent use of excessive force by police against “occupy” protestors at UC Berkeley and elsewhere, the Chancellor must have anticipated that, by authorizing police action, she was effectively authorizing their use of excessive force against peaceful UCD student protestors. The Chancellor’s role is to enable open and free inquiry, not to suppress it.

Her position has been under threat after a series of mis-steps following the incident on Friday. In her first statement, while expressing concern at the use of pepper spray, Katehi said her responsibility had been to protect the “safety and health” of protesting students.

She initially said an inquiry would report in 90 days – on Sunday, she brought the deadline forward to 30 days.

After a news conference on Saturday, Katehi remained inside a building at UC Davis for three hours, as hundreds of students surrounded it. A university official accompanying Ketehi told the Davis Enterprise that he believed the crowd was hostile and that she would not be able to leave safely.

But when she left, she walked to her car through a seated, silent phalanx of students.

The protests, which had been endorsed by a faculty association, were called to oppose tuition fee increases and the force used by police on other University of California campuses in response to recent protests.

The students had set up about 25 tents in a quad area, but they had been asked not to stay overnight and were told they would not be able to stay during the weekend due to a lack of university resources.

Some protesters took their tents down voluntarily while others stayed. Footage uploaded to YouTube shows an officer wearing riot gear blasting pepper spray into the faces of students sitting on the ground, their arms linked.

In a statement on Sunday, Katehi indicated she would not resign:

I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident. However, I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again. I feel very sorry for the harm our students were subjected to and I vow to work tirelessly to make the campus a more welcoming and safe place.

‘I’m going to spray these kids down’

BoingBoing interviewed one of the students who was pepper-sprayed on Sunday.

We were never warned that we were going to be pepper-sprayed. Lt Pike walked up to my friend, and I am told that he said, “Move or we’re going to shoot you.”

Then he went back and talked to a few of his police officer friends. A couple of other officers started to remove people who were sitting there, blocking exit. Pike could have easily removed us, just picked us up and removed us. We were just sitting there, nonviolent civil disobedience.

But Pike turned around and I am told that he said to the other officers, “Don’t worry about it, I’m going to spray these kids down.” He lifts the can, spins it around in a circle to show it off to everybody.

Then he sprays us three times. As if one time of being sprayed at point blank wasn’t enough.

I was on the end of the line getting direct spray. When the second pass came, I got up crawling. I crawled away and vomited on a tree. I was yelling. It burned. Within a few minutes I was dry heaving, I couldn’t breathe. Then, over the course of the next hour, I was dry heaving and vomiting.

The Second Alarm blog posted an interview with a student who identifies herself as Shannon, who was also sprayed at the protest. She says no-one from the university authorities has contacted her to discuss her welfare following the incident.

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US campus pepper spray outcry November 20, 2011

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An officer appeared to spray the protesters at close range

A US university says it is launching an investigation into the use of pepper spray by riot police trying to clear a demonstration.

Video of the incident at the University of California, Davis, shows officers blasting seated protesters in the face with the chemical at close range.

The university chancellor, who had called in the police, described the pepper spray incident as “chilling”.

The protest, on Friday, was in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It was intended to show solidarity with protesters at another branch of the University of California, in Berkeley, who were hit with batons by police on 9 November.

The footage of the pepper spray incident, which has been circulated widely on the internet, has caused outrage among students.

The protesters are seen sitting in a line on the floor with their arms interlocked, refusing to move.

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The violence was unprovoked, disproportional and excessive”

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Davis Faculty Association statement

They try to cover their faces as officers in riot gear walk along emptying canisters of the spray onto them.

‘Excessive force’

Linda Katehi, Chancellor of the University of California, Davis, near Sacramento, says she is forming a task force to investigate what happened.

“The use of pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this,” she said in a message on the university’s website.

The Davis Faculty Association, which represents academic staff, has condemned the University of California’s approach to protests on several different campuses.

“This week, we have seen excessive force used against non-violent protesters,” said a statement on the association’s website.

“Student, faculty and staff protesters have been pepper-sprayed directly in the eyes and mouth, beaten and shoved by batons, dragged by the arms while handcuffed, and submitted to other forms of excessive force.”

There have been ‘Occupy’ protests on several campuses of the University of California, including in this rally at Berkeley

“The violence was unprovoked, disproportional and excessive,” it said.

“We demand that the Chancellors of the University of California cease using police violence to repress non-violent political protests.”

The Association said Ms Katehi should resign, a call she rejected.

“I do not think that I have violated the policies of the institution,” she said.

“I have worked personally very hard to make the campus a safe campus for all.”

The Occupy Wall Street protest began in New York more than two months ago against perceived corporate greed and economic inequality.

Similar protests have since sprung up in other places around the United States and elsewhere in the world.

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US brands cancer drug ineffective November 19, 2011

The drug-maker says it will undertake further study to establish which patients will benefit from the drug

US drug regulators have rescinded approval of a breast cancer drug, saying it is not effective enough to justify the risks of taking it.

The drug, Avastin, was approved for US use in 2008, but UK officials have also rejected claims that it prolongs life.

Further research showed it did not help patients live longer or improve quality of life, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Margaret Hamburg said.

Avastin will still be used to treat other kinds of cancer.

The drug is used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It works by starving cancer cells of a blood supply.

However, its side-effects include severe high blood pressure, massive bleeding, heart attack or heart failure and tears in the stomach and intestines, FDA studies have found.

FDA approval of the drug had initially been given under a special programme that allows patients to start using promising treatments while the manufacturer finishes the studies to prove the medicine works as well as expected.

The decision to withdraw the approval – which can happen if results of the research do not match predictions – was not easy, the FDA said.

Stalling cancer growth

“With so much at stake, patients and their doctors count on the FDA to ensure the drugs they use have been shown to be safe and effective for their intended use. Sometimes, the results of rigorous testing can be disappointing,” Ms Hamburg told the Associated Press news agency.

US health insurance companies could remove the drug, which can cost as much as $100,000 (£63,342) per year, from their coverage – although doctors would still be permitted to administer the drug.

But the government-backed Medicaid programme has said it has no immediate plans to change its policy of paying for it.

Some advocates of the drug disagree with the watchdog’s decision.

“The bottom line is that they are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There absolutely may be subsets of carefully chosen breast cancer patients who benefit from Avastin,” said Dr Elisa Port, co-director of the Dubin Breast Center of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Roche, the Swiss manufacturer of the drug, has said it will undertake further study of the treatment, especially with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, to try to identify which patients might be best suited to benefit from use of the drug.

The company says it expects the medicine will generate $7.6bn (£4.8m) of revenue annually, despite the FDA decision.

The drug was approved on the basis of a study that showed Avastin was able to stall the growth of breast cancer by five-and-a-half months, when used together with a standard chemotherapy treatment.

But subsequent studies revised the period of delay to between one and three months, and there was no evidence to show that the drug extended patients’ lives.

International problems

The US decision comes after Avastin fell foul of health authorities in the UK and in Europe.

In February 2011, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the NHS drugs advisory body, said Avastin should not be used to treat secondary breast cancers.

NICE, which issues guidance for NHS in England and Wales, said there was insufficient evidence that the drug prolonged life.

This guidance followed a recommendation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that doctors only prescribe the drug in combination with the taxane drug, paclitaxel.

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Apple looks to polish China image November 17, 2011

Apple has identified China as one of the key markets for its future expansion and growth plans

Apple has met with environmental groups in China in a bid to quell concerns about pollution caused by its Chinese manufacturers.

The move comes after a report in August alleged that some Apple manufacturers were discharging harmful pollutants.

The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) said the technology giant had shared its plans to address the issues during the talks.

When contacted by the BBC, Apple refused to comment on the meeting.

“They explained a bit what they have been doing, which includes probes of 15 of their suppliers,” Ma Jun, Director, told the BBC’s Chinese service.

“They’ve since laid out improvement plans, and are now working on them to a timetable.

“They promised to increase assessment of environmental impact and management when they look for new suppliers in the future, and they will make use of the data that we made public about their supply chain management,” he added.

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Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply chain”

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Carolyn Wu

‘Environmentally responsible manufacturing’

The IPE said Apple did not disclose the identity of its suppliers, but was confident that the US company will work to ensure that its partners comply with environmental regulations.

Although Apple refused to comment on specific talks, its Beijing-based spokeswoman, Carolyn Wu, told the BBC that the company conducts regular audits of its suppliers.

According to its Supplier Responsibility report, Apple conducted such checks at 127 different facilities last year.

The company also said that it required its suppliers to resolve any violation within 90 days.

“Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply chain,” Ms Wu said.

“We require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.”

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Letters: Pragmatic approaches to nuclear proliferation November 14, 2011

I feel it necessary to respond to the naive letter from Tony Benn et al (Letters, 10 November). Nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to human survival ever invented. Benn is old enough, as am I, to remember that some 150,000 human beings were evaporated in August 1945. What is not generally realised is that the weapons used in Japan were mere firecrackers compared to what is available today. We must now consider the instantaneous deaths of millions.

The cause of non-proliferation was greatly hampered by the lies of Bush and Blair over Iraq. But there is a real and increasing threat. There is no military need or use for the horrible instruments. Not from Israel, and certainly not from the UK, where £25bn is foolishly allocated for their renewal. Israel is the only country with such arms whose very existence has been threatened by Iran. And Iran has directly violated the non-proliferation treaty for decades, not years, as carefully documented by David Albright and colleagues at the Institute for Science and International Security. The poison of weapon development has spread from North Korea to Libya, even to Syria, all regimes with the blood of their citizens on their hands.

It is non-proliferation that is the huge threat. Every country that develops these weapons represents a huge increase in the threat to civilisation. Every weapon produced increases the possibility of their use, whether on purpose, by accident, or by terrorism. It is unlikely that Iran’s programme can be stopped, and military action is useless, stupid and counterproductive. But no country should be allowed such production with immunity. Some international actions, probably in the form of diplomatic pressure and sanctions, are called for. Illegality which threatens the survival of the human race cannot be allowed to proceed unhindered.
David Wolfe
Director, Oppenheimer Institute for Science and International Co-operation

• Simon Tisdall (Unmaking of a presidency, 9 November) makes a convincing case that US military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities “would be morally insupportable … a rupture of faith” by President Obama. Iranian opponents of the current clerical regime would surely agree. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, which helped expose details of Iran’s nuclear programme, seeks regime change. But it explicitly rejects both foreign military intervention and continued appeasement in favour of regime change by the Iranian people.

There are two things Obama can do about Iran without losing faith with those who welcomed his election. First he can pursue the tightest sanctions. Even without Chinese and Russian support, sanctions impact directly on members of the clerical regime and the Revolutionary Guard on which it depends for power, who between them control and profit from most of Iran’s economy.

The second is more pressing. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) needs to be allowed time and security to process the asylum applications of the 3,000-plus residents of Camp Ashraf. The Iraqi government insists the camp must close by the end of the year. But it appears to be obstructing UNHCR from starting work, insisting, for example, that interviews take place in Baghdad, where Ashraf residents have reason to fear for their safety. Extending the closure deadline, and stationing a UN force at Ashraf, would be sufficient to ensure their safe and early resettlement in third countries.

In April, after the second attack on Ashraf, I wrote that we were “waiting for President Obama’s strong condemnation of the atrocities committed by Iraqi troops at Ashraf” (Letters, 12 April). We are still waiting. Time is running out for international action to prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.
Martyn Storey

• Your editorial’s defeatist acceptance of nuclear proliferation (Editorial, 10 November) was correct on one point: that the non-proliferation treaty is flawed. Its central delusion is it assumes nation states can be persuaded not to turn the knowledge learned in running nuclear power into developing nuclear weapons. India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea and potentially Iran illustrate the colossal folly of such an approach.

You report on the same day that France’s foreign minister Alain Juppé has called for sanctions against Tehran to be raised to an “unprecedented scale” (Russia rejects calls for more sanctions against Iran over nuclear programme, 10 October) and foreign secretary William Hague has told MPs: “We must continue to increase the pressure [on Iran] and we are considering with our partners a range of additional measures.”

One immediate measure should be to insist that France wind up the extraordinary industrial partnership between the Iranian state Atomic Energy Organisation and the French state-owned nuclear fuels company, COGEMA, a joint venture in uranium enrichment.

Development of policies for a nuclear-free future must be seen as a global priority. A crucial first step is to follow Germany’s lead and halt the building of new nuclear power plants worldwide.
Dr David Lowry and Colin Hines
Co-founders, European Proliferation Information Centre

• The Guardian is to be congratulated for its brave suggestion that governments take a pragmatic approach to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Unfortunately, its voice is unlikely to be heard above those with a hysterical dread of the regional consequences of a nuclear Iran, and the dreamers who cling to the impossibility of global nuclear disarmament. While efforts to limit proliferation must continue, my fear is that the hopelessly biased and poorly observed nuclear non-proliferation treaty will cause greater damage than it is likely to prevent. In a world where climate change and financial collapse are clear and present threats, we will have to accept that nuclear weapons are among the global risks we must learn to live with.
Dr Brian Jones
Author of Failing Intelligence

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Mapping New York’s hidden gems: how crowdsourcing is taking the city back November 9, 2011

Cities are more than concrete and traffic; look a little harder and you can find places to sit, and breathe and escape the world. But sometimes, you have to look really hard.

And that’s what The New York World has been doing for the past two weeks, ever since it went on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show to ask New Yorkers to help find the city’s “privately owned public spaces” – those small patches of indoor and outdoor real estate that property owners have committed to making available for public use. The world has heard of Zuccotti Park, thanks partly to the Occupy protests. But New York is dotted with these beautiful spaces.

Members of Occupy Wall Street sleep in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, New York. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Developers were given valuable exemptions to the city’s zoning rules in exchange for building and maintaining public areas. But building a space and letting the public use it are two different things. Michael Keller, behind the project, says there’s very little enforcement of the “public” part of these privately owned public spaces and equally little data about the shape they’re in. “Some, like Zuccotti Park, are very well maintained, while others, including Dag Hammerskjold Plaza are actually locked up.”

Responsibility for policing these areas falls on the the Department of Buildings, but there’s little evidence this is enforced.

The New York World got the official list of these spaces from the Department of City Planning and asked New Yorkers to check them out, see if they could get in and rate them. (By the way, if you want to get this dataset yourself, says Keller, watch out for some weirdness in the new NYC Socrata-powered data handling system – this dataset was corrupted in the process. “Notice how after “.zip” there’s a bunch of garbage characters. If you delete those characters and then unzip, it will function normally. It’s in Access format. We converted it to a csv, and added “New York, NY” to the address field for geocoding. We also had to spot check and clean up some odd geocoding behavior, which is wont to happen.”)

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The result is this crowdsourced map – created using Fusion tables and with a couple of nifty features, including an address finder so people could easily see what sites are near their home or office. “If they’re on a mobile device, we added a GPS locator to make it easy to find nearby spaces. To give people feedback we added the progress bar and we’re sorting the responses to
prepare followup stories on what we find,” says Keller.

They’ve received over 150 submitted comments and 132 unique sites have been visited. “From those comments, we identified places where readers were denied access such finding locked gates or security guards asking for ID and turning people away,” says Keller.

Go to the site today and you will find an elevated acre at 55 Water Street in Lower Manhattan (where summer visitors can take in outdoor movies). But there’s also the Loftus garden at 275 W. 96th Street, which is only open one afternoon a week, leaving visitors to gaze longingly at its verdant website.

Taking the process one step further, the group have looked at city records to go over the details of the land deals and contacted management to ask them about policy when it comes to public use of space. “So far we’ve found some spaces that look like they’re in violation of their agreements with the city to provide this space and as more comments come, the more places we get to look at.”

Crowdsourcing tends to be used for huge datasets, partly to make them more manageable. But this shows how crowdsourcing can create meaningful data anywhere and with any project. And find some beautiful places along the way.

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California’s medical marijuana outlets threatened in government crackdown November 8, 2011

The Obama administration is heading towards an ugly confrontation with California‘s medical marijuana dispensaries after the federal government ordered dozens of outlets to close by Saturday or face an immediate crackdown.

Growers and sellers of marijuana for medicinal use say the threats amount to a betrayal of campaign promises made by Obama in 2008, and that they fear a nationwide attempt to destroy the burgeoning industry. Partly encouraged by Obama’s campaign messages that he would not use federal force against practitioners complying with state laws, dispensaries have spread over the past two years across 16 states, including Arizona, New Jersey, Delaware and Maine as well as Washington DC, with a combined annual turnover of up to $100bn.

California, which permitted medical marijuana in a referendum in 1996, is by far the leader in the field, with some reports suggesting it has more dispensaries than Starbucks coffee houses. Nobody knows precise figures, given the still murky nature of the business, but there are thought to be more than a million Californians who are registered with doctors for growing and consuming cannabis, and hundreds of thousands more across the country.

The Obama administration has steadily toughened its approach over the past two years, arguing that medical marijuana has become a front for illegal distribution of the drug. This summer it sent out letters to several towns in states across America, including California, which have passed their own independent regulations permitting the medical use of the drug. Prosecutors pointed out that cannabis remained illegal under federal law and warned the municipalities, from Montana to Rhode Island, not to allow cultivation on their land.

Then, on 7 October, federal prosecutors held a press conference in which they announced they were extending their threatened action to landlords who provided rental space to dispensaries, giving them 45 days to send their tenants packing or face the consequences. For many of those outlets, the deadline runs out on Saturday.

“This is a clear case of the federal government overreaching itself,” said Morgan Fox of the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project. “It goes against what Obama said many times in his presidential campaign, so either he has lost control of the Department of Justice or he is betraying his election promises.”

It is not known how far the federal authorities intend to go in enforcing their threats; the sight of Swat teams going in to smash dispensaries used at least in part by seriously ill patients may not produce the most sympathetic headlines in the more liberal towns and cities of California. But already the chill has spread, and several outlets are understood to have shut their doors or been evicted by landlords.

Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, ASA, the largest pro-medical marijuana group in the country, said the Obama administration was being substantially more aggressive on this issue than its Bush predecessor. “We are seeing a new vitality in the attacks against medical marijuana and that’s extremely troubling. Political will in this country is changing, and its about time the administration caught up with it.”

A recent Gallup poll found that for the first time since records began, more than a half of Americans were in favour of legalising all marijuana use.

ASA has filed a lawsuit that accuses the department of justice of violating the 10th amendment of the constitution, which devolves any power not specifically delegated to the federal government to the states.

Further lawsuits have been launched across California pressing for a temporary restraining order on the federal authorities to prevent raids happening after the 45-day time limit is reached.

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US airlines begin powering flights with biofuels

Do not be alarmed if your aircraft begins to smell suspiciously like a fast food restaurant – or pond scum for that matter.

US airlines were racing this week to demonstrate their clean energy credentials, scheduling a number of flights partially powered by biofuels.

First United Continental announced the departure on Monday morning of Flight 1403 from Houston for Chicago – or the Eco Skies test flight as the airline called it – using a mix of 60% conventional jet fuel and 40% algae-based fuels.

Then Alaska Airlines announced it would operate 75 flights using a mix of 80% conventional jet fuels and 20% biofuels starting on Wednesday. Instead of algae-base, the airline is using used cooking oil or fast-food restaurant throw-aways, said Robert Ames, vice-president of Dynamic Fuels, which produced the fuel.

“We can use vegetable oil. We can use used cooking oil,” he said. “A good mental reference is McDonald’s used fryer grease.”

The flights will include 11 between Seattle and Washington DC, and 64 between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, the airline said.

“We wanted to demonstrate the use of sustainable biofuels both on a transcontinental route and on a short haul that competes with ground vehicle traffic,” Bobbie Egan, a spokeswoman for Alaska, said in an interview.

The airline calculates that the use of the biofuels mix cuts greenhouse gas emissions on those particular flights by 10%.

It’s not clear however when – or even if – Alaska will begin running regular flights on biofuels.

The cooking oil substitute cost six times as much as conventional jet fuel, said Egan. That makes a permanent switch prohibitively expensive – unless production increases and prices come down.

Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture between Tyson Foods Inc, the world leader in chicken, beef and pork production, and Syntroleum Corporation, is the only producer of this type of fuel in North America. The plant has been operating just over a year, and has an annual capacity of 75m gallons.

Ames would not discuss current prices, but he said he was hopeful that prices would eventually come down.

“There is enough used cooking oil,” he said. “Are we shutting down Saudi Arabia? The answer clearly is no. In America, we like our fast food but we really don’t have those kinds of quantities available.”

Monday’s flights were not exactly historic. Virgin Atlantic first began trying out biofuels three years ago, and KLM tested a 50-50 blend of conventional fuel and used cooking oil on its Paris-Amsterdam route last June.

The US airforce, meanwhile, plans to test 40 of its aircraft on a biofuels blend by 2013.

But the flights could encourage the rest of the industry move towards cleaner fuels.

Following Monday’s flight, Solazyme said on its Facebook page it hoped to sell as much as 20m gallons of biofuel a year beginning in 2014.

“Sustainable biofuels, produced on a large scale at an economically viable price, can one day play a meaningful role in powering everyone’s trip on an airline,” United’s chief operating officer, Pete McDonald, said in a statement.

Egan said meanwhile she hoped that Alaska’s move would encourage other biofuels suppliers to get into the market, bringing costs down.

The test flights are also a sharp contrast to threats of a trade war by the US aviation industry to moves by European airports to charge carriers for greenhouse gas emissions.

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Arrests follow Occupy Oakland demonstrations November 6, 2011

November 4, 2011

by legitgov


Arrests follow Occupy Oakland demonstrations By David Brown 04 Nov 2011 A one-day protest in Oakland, California on Wednesday that involved more than ten thousand people was followed by police action in the early morning hours of Thursday, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, followed by dozens of arrests. The demonstrations on Wednesday involved the participation of many workers and youth outraged over earlier police actions that led to the near-fatal injury of one protester, Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who was struck in the head by a projectile.

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‘Kill team’ soldier faces trial October 29, 2011

The Pentagon has said the murders have damages America’s image in the rest of the world

A US soldier accused of killing Afghan civilians and keeping their remains as war trophies is to face military trial.

It is alleged that Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs, 26, was the ringleader of a “kill team” that included four other soldiers who carried out the killings.

The trial, held in Washington state, involves some of the most serious allegations of atrocities committed by US soldiers in Afghanistan.

If convicted, Sgt Gibbs could face life in prison without parole.

Sgt Gibbs, from Billings, Montana, has been charged with three counts of premeditated murder as well as cutting fingers off dead bodies.

He was found in possession of “finger bones, leg bones and a tooth taken from Afghan corpses,” according to the charges.

He is also accused of beating a soldier who alerted army superiors to drug use within the unit.

‘Dope-smoking soldiers’

The court martial of Sgt Gibbs is the culmination of an investigation into the use of marijuana in his squad that began 18 months ago.

Judges have already convicted three other members of the rogue platoon who pleaded guilty in exchange for reduced sentences.

Sgt Gibbs’ trial is due to last around one week, with approximately 30 witnesses expected to testify.

Proceedings on Friday will include jury selection, as well as other procedural motions.

Jeremy Morlock, 23, who was sentenced to 24 years in jail and dishonourably discharged, is expected to testify against Sgt Gibbs under the terms of his plea deal.

The 5th Stryker Brigade was deployed in western Kandahar, Afghanistan

During his hearing, Morlock admitted to involvement in the murders and to using stolen weapons to implicate the victims as enemy fighters.

But in a pre-trial hearing in November 2010, Phillip Stackhouse, who is representing Sgt Gibbs, said his client had not participated in the murders.

He argued against the reliability of evidence from “these dope-smoking soldiers in a combat zone. Who are you going to believe, where does the credibility lay?”

All five soldiers in the “kill team” were members of the 5th Stryker Brigade, based in Fort Lewis, Washington, in the north-western US.

Seven other soldiers were charged with less serious, related offences but most have agreed plea deals.

Several of the men were convicted for offences ranging from shooting at civilians to the use of illegal drugs.

In March 2011, photographs were published showing the soldiers posing with the bloody corpses of Afghan civilians they had just killed.

The images, described by the US Army as “disturbing and in striking contrast to the standards and values of the US Army” prompted the army to apologise for the distress the photos caused.

The killings took place between January and March 2010.

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Occupy Wall Street: live coverage of protests October 25, 2011

2.40pm: It was only a matter of time before the first book was written about Occupy Wall Street, and news has arrived in my inbox of just such a tome.

OR Books today announces a new book: Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed the Course of America. An instant history of the anti-capitalist protest which began on September 17th in Liberty Square, downtown Manhattan, the book is being written by a group, Writers for the 99%, who are active in supporting the occupation.

Those hoping for a Mills and Boon-esque novel are likely to be disappointed. It sounds heavy.

Based on extensive interviews with those taking part and written as a compelling story, the book focuses on the everyday activity in the square, drilling down into the detail of how the occupation works. Separate chapters look at the general assembly, the kitchen, the medical center, clean-up, education and empowerment, the library, media center and outreach. Along the way the book tells the stories of those involved in the action and recounts the major events that have occurred in its early days.

The book will be published on 17 December in paperback and as an ebook, and all profits will go to the occupation OR Books said. Colin Robinson, co-publisher at OR Books, said it was a “a tremendous challenge” to produce.

“But Occupy Wall Street is an action of historic proportions and we believe it’s important to create at least a first draft of that history as its occurring,” he said. “We’re making no claims to be creating the authorized version of events, that’s impossible at this point. But by bringing together first-rate interviewers, writers and editors, we believe we can tell a story of the occupation that describes its extraordinary achievements and encourages their spread across America and around the world.”

12.56pm: My colleague Karen McVeigh writes that half of the 750 Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested on Brooklyn Bridge in a controversial mass arrest operation have had offers to have their cases dismissed.

Lawyers for the protesters, who are seeking a dismissal of all cases of disorderly conduct, said they had not yet spoken with those charged about the offer and it was unclear whether they would accept it.

Martin Stolar, a defence lawyer, said he was wary of the deal, as it would become void if a protester was re-arrested over a six month period.

“That might put a chilling effect on further protest activities” Stolar told the Daily News.

The offer came after a meeting between civil rights lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild and prosecutors at Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office.

This type of conditional offer, of an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, is typical of minor cases where those arrested have no previous convictions.

Stolar was critical of the DA’s decision to dismiss only 340 of the 750 cases the police logged during the mass arrests of 700 on Brooklyn Bridge on 30 September and others a week earlier at Union Square.

He said that prosecutors claimed they could dismiss cases in which desk appearance tickets were issued by police but not the cases in which police issued summonses, but that it was “totally arbritary” who got a summons and who got a desk appearance.

12.45pm: That was interesting… here’s a summary of what we’ve just learned:

Oakland police confirmed they deployed teargas and said a “non-lethal” projectile was fired from a shotgun in this morning’s operation. “Several hundred” officers were involved in clearing Frank Ogawa Plaza and Snow Park, a spokesman said.

The police spokesman said he was “very pleased” with how the operation was conducted. Officers were “being pelted with rocks and bottles” by protesters, hence the use of tear gas and the shotgun, which was used to fire beanbags, police said.

Most arrests were for misdemeanours, including unlawful assembly, police said. Some were arrested on felony charges. The arrested are being processed in the usual fashion.

Police were pressed on why they arrested people in Snow Park, Oakland after 6am – when it is legally open. The spokesman said the operation there began at 4.30am, but did not seem to deny arrests took place post 6am.

12.34pm: As the team of three police representatives gets up to leave there are shouts from the room where the press conference took place.

“What about my daughter, who’s in jail right now,” shouts one woman.

12.33pm: Police don’t know how many officers were at Occupy Oakland, and they aren’t in a position to say. IT was “several hundred”.

Those arrested will be protested in the usual fashion.

Most were arrested for misdemeanours, such as unlawful assembly. There were some felonies.

The spokesman says he is “very pleased” with how the operation went.

12.30pm: Police said “as far as we know we were the ones that deployed tear gas”. There were mixed reports that it may have come from protesters.

An officer says they were “being pelted with rocks and bottles” before it was used. He adds that firecrackers were thrown at police.

He confirms a non-lethal shotgun was used.

He repeats that police had bottles thrown at them. Protesters “were going back for more bottles” to throw at them.

12.26pm: A press conference is being given by Oakland police now. You can watch it live here.

12.10pm: I’ve just been speaking to Susie Cagle, a graphic journalist who was at Occupy Oakland when the police moved in this morning.

Cagle said there were three police lines at Frank Ogawa Plaza. She was stood between the second and third lines when tear gas was let off in the crowd of protesters at the plaza.

“It was completely blinding and opaque. It just shot a white cloud up into the air, across a multi-lane road. It was quite a ways-away, but the quickness that it came to us took me by surprise.”

“It burned my eyes and throat. We ran two blocks away but it was still coming down towards us, the wind was carrying it down the street.”

Cagle, a freelancer who has been reporting on Occupy Oakland since demonstrations began, described the police operation as “extremely militant”.

“There were three helicopters, hundreds of police officers, vastly outnumbering any potential group of protesters that they would have faced, and then on top of that this gross use of force that just seemed completely out of line with what was happening.

“My last view of the camp before the tear gas went off was protesters stood inside the camp with their arms linked, chanting.”

I haven’t been able to get through to Oakland police department’s press office yet, but will post the police response as I get it. The use of tear gas has been widely reported.

11.13am: I’m hoping to speak to someone from Occupy Oakland shortly. In the meantime here’s Reuters’ take on the events there:

Police cleared out protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement in Oakland, California, early Tuesday, breaking up a camp near city hall that has been the site of two weeks of demonstrations, a city spokeswoman said.
Oakland city spokeswoman Karen Boyd said she did not know how many of the protesters had been arrested in what the city described as an enforcement action at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
“We have contained the plaza, we are in the process of mobilizing the clean-up phase,” Boyd said.
The city said in a statement it had told protesters last Thursday to cease overnight camping and cooking at the plaza. More warnings were issued on Friday and Monday. Daytime demonstrations will be permitted, the city said.
Officials said police began to clear the plaza at about 4:30 a.m. and had “contained” the area in about an hour.
Businesses were asked to delay opening indefinitely Tuesday and city employees were advised to delay their arrival at work. A nearby rail station was closed and buses rerouted temporarily, the city said.
A statement from the city said conditions at the plaza had started to deteriorate by the second week with police, fire and medical personnel saying they were denied access to the plaza to respond to calls.

10.48am: More from Oakland, where dozens of people were arrested according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Protesters had been occupying the Frank Ogawa Plaza in the city, but the early morning police raids appear to have moved them on:

The police action there began at 4.45am and involved hundreds of officers from at least 10 law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, the Alameda County sheriff’s office and various East Bay police departments. Squads of officers had assembled at the Oakland Coliseum before traveling downtown in convoys.

Officers in riot helmets began arriving in force and formed a line in the street adjacent to the plaza while motorcycle officers shut down the street. Some protesters began shouting, “Cops, go home!”

Protesters pulled a metal trash container into the middle of the intersection, and officers quickly pushed it to the side of the road.

At 4.40am, an officer used a public-address system to warn protesters that they would be making arrests if they did not leave the plaza.

“Attention all persons in Frank Ogawa Plaza. It has been determined you are illegally blocking Frank Ogawa Plaza and are the subject to arrest,” said the officer, who ordered protesters to remove their belongings, secure their dogs and exit toward Telegraph Avenue. “Those remaining in the park will be arrested,” he said.

The officer further warned that those who did not comply could, besides being arrested, face other “police action” that could result in injury.

At 4.50am, some loud bangs were heard after officers lobbed “flash-bang” grenades, and smoke rose into the air. After a protester apparently released a smoke bomb, officers began putting on gas masks. A police helicopter flew overhead with its spotlight on.

10.30am: Good morning. Today we’ll try to gain an understanding about what comes next for the Occupy movement. After a whirlwind seven weeks of occupations, meetings and arrests, Occupy Wall Street will vote tomorrow on a proposal to change their decision making process to that of a ‘spokescouncil’, with the hope that it will speed up the group’s ability to decide on issues while maintaining their consensus-based democracy.

The vote could represent a new stage for the Occupy movement, with people empowered to speak on behalf of different working groups. (Although there would be checks – more on that later).

We’ll also have live updates from around the occupations. In the early hours of this morning Oakland police moved to disperse the demonstrations at Frank Ogawa Plaza and Snow Park, reportedly using tear gas and ‘flash bang grenades’ to clear protesters. Some reports suggest up to 70 people were arrested.

Meanwhile in New York state assemblyman Vito Lopez is leading a march from Brooklyn to Occupy Wall Street this afternoon – a reverse route of that which saw 700 people arrested at the beginning of October.

If you were at the Oakland occupation, it’d be great to hear from you. Contact me on Twitter @AdamGabbatt or email

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