Activists block Texas Keystone pipeline site

Posted Sept. 05, 2012, at 8:56 p.m.

Activists battling a new oil pipeline chained themselves to bulldozers in Texas on Wednesday, temporarily halting route-clearance work in the latest protest against the Keystone XL project to carry oil from the tar sands of northern Canada.

The activists targeted the southern portion of the project, which doesn’t require an international permit. They chained themselves to bulldozers that were preparing to clear large trees near Saltillo, Texas, for the pipeline’s path.

Meanwhile, TransCanada, the company that hopes to build the pipeline, announced a proposed new route for the northern segment of the line. The company says the route would skirt the delicate Nebraska Sandhills, the permeable sands that lie atop one of the nation’s most important agricultural aquifers.

The new route is designed to counter significant opposition in Nebraska, where ranchers and environmental activists have been worried about possible leaks of diluted bitumen into the aquifer. Their protests prompted President Barack Obama to veto the company’s initial application for an international permit to cross the U.S.-Canadian border.

Study finds new benefit of coffee: It reduces pain

LOS ANGELES — Scientists in Norway have more good news for coffee drinkers. Researchers have already found evidence that the drink — or the beans it’s brewed from — can help with weight loss, reduce one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, boost muscle growth, protect against certain types of cancers and even reduce risk of premature death, among many other benefits.

Now comes word that a cuppa joe reduces physical pain.

The surprising finding is based on a study involving 48 volunteers who agreed to spend 90 minutes performing fake computer tasks meant to mimic office work. The tasks were known to cause pain in the shoulders, neck, forearms and wrists, and the researchers wanted to compare how people with chronic pain and those who were pain-free tolerated the tasks.

As a matter of convenience, the scientists allowed people to drink coffee before taking the test “to avoid unpleasant effects of caffeine deprivation, e.g. decreased vigor and alertness, sleepiness, and fatigue,” they reported.

But in analyzing the data, the researchers from Norway’s National Institute of Occupational Health and Oslo University Hospital noticed that the 19 people who drank coffee reported a lower intensity of pain than the 29 people who didn’t.

In the shoulders and neck, for instance, the average pain intensity was rated 41 (on a 100-point scale) among the coffee drinkers and 55 for the coffee abstainers. Similar gaps were found for all pain sites measured, and coffee’s apparent pain-mitigation effect held up regardless of whether the subjects had chronic pain or not.

Afghan soldiers fired during insider attacks probe

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan authorities have detained or removed hundreds of soldiers in an investigation into rising insider attacks against international service personnel who are their supposed partners in the fight against Taliban insurgents and other militants, officials said Wednesday.

The crackdown is the result of the Afghan Defense Ministry’s effort to re-evaluate soldiers to stem the attacks, which are complicating plans to train Afghan forces so that most foreign troops can withdraw from the country by the end of 2014. President Hamid Karzai’s government hopes Afghan forces can take responsibility for security nationwide by that time.

The U.S. military is taking precautionary measures too and recently stopped training about 1,000 members of the Afghan Local Police, a controversial network of village-defense units that is growing but remains a fraction of the country’s army and police force. Karzai has expressed concern that without careful vetting, the program could end up arming local troublemakers, strongmen or criminals.

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