The Raw Story Celebrating 10 Years of Independent Journalism Fri, 22 Aug 2014 04:18:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Frightening footage shows Georgia man shooting and nearly killing cop during traffic stop Fri, 22 Aug 2014 04:18:32 +0000 Arturo Garcia Police in Alpharetta, Georgia released frightening dashcam footage of an officer being shot seven times during a near-fatal traffic stop in April 2013 that, surprisingly, sidelined him for less than a year, and surviving during an April 2013 traffic stop, WSB-TV reported on Thursday.

The video from Officer David Freeman’s vehicle shows the suspect, exiting his car after being pulled over for an expired tag and shooting at him with a handgun. Hicks reportedly acted like he was cooperating before getting out and shooting at the officer. He then drove away from the scene. The footage shows Freeman leaning on his patrol car as he describes Hicks’ vehicle to the dispatcher.

After shooting Freeman, authorities pursued Hicks through Alpharetta and two other communities before he crashed his vehicle on an interstate. Hicks was then shot and killed by officers after reportedly firing at them after leaving his car again. A search of his apartment revealed he had been collecting guns and ammunition.

WXIA-TV reported that, while police have not determined what caused Hicks to begin gathering the weaponry, he had been out of work for 18 months and lost water service to his home. Police spokesperson George Gordon said Hicks’ family suspected he was on his way to kill one of them when he was stopped.

“He was just bent on causing carnage that night, for whatever reason,” Gordon was quoted as saying.

Freeman required two surgeries and extensive rehabilitation before being cleared to return to duty. Earlier this year, Freeman described the incident in a video released by a local church.

“I thought I was shot twice,” he was quoted as saying. “When they got me in the ambulance and cut the uniform off, they found more and more and more.”

Freeman’s wife, Kristie Freeman, told the church that the officer called her shortly after the shooting.

“He said, ‘Hey beautiful. I just need you to know I’ve been shot. I think I’m OK. I need you to get my parents over to the house and get to the hospital as soon as you can,’” she recalled.

Watch a report on Freeman’s near-fatal run-in with Hicks, as aired on WSB, below.

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German cop faces murder charges for stabbing fellow cannibalism fetishist dead Fri, 22 Aug 2014 02:59:33 +0000 Agence France-Presse Berlin (AFP) – A German police officer will go on trial Friday accused of murdering a willing victim he met on a website for cannibalism fetishists.

In a lurid case that made international headlines, prosecutors say the 56-year-old defendant, Detlef Guenzel, confessed to stabbing the throat of a man last November and then cutting his body into small pieces and burying them in his garden.

The indictment against Guenzel cites “satisfaction of sexual lust” as a motive but there is no evidence that the suspect ate any part of the victim.

He could face 15 years in prison if convicted on charges of murder and “disturbing the peace of the dead” by the court in the eastern city of Dresden.

“The fact that the victim was apparently willing played no role in determining the charges against him,” the prosecutor’s office spokesman Lorenz Haase told AFP.

“We do not believe this was a case of assisted suicide,” which carries a maximum sentence of five years’ jail, he added.

A grisly 50-minute video showing the dismemberment is to be presented during the trial, which is scheduled to last at least until November and hear around 20 witnesses.

But Guenzel’s defence team say the recording proves that the dead man, 59-year-old Polish-born Wojciech Stempniewicz, committed suicide by hanging himself.

The men are believed to have come across each other in October 2013 in an Internet chatroom for cannibalism fetishists billed as “the #1 site for exotic meat” and boasting around 3,000 registered members.

Stempniewicz, a business consultant living in the northern city of Hanover, and Guenzel, a member of the police force for three decades, had extensive contact via email, text message and telephone before finally arranging the fatal date on Nov. 4.

‘Pure horror’

They met at Dresden’s main railway station, from where Guenzel drove his visitor back to his house in the Ore Mountains town of Hartmannsdorf-Reichenau which he ran as a bed and breakfast for several years with his life partner.

What happened next is open to dispute.

Investigators say Guenzel told them he took Stempniewicz down to his cellar and stabbed his throat to kill him.

However his defence attorney Endrik Wilhelm said Guenzel has since withdrawn his partial confession.

Wilhelm said the video shows that Stempniewicz, while he was hanging by the throat from a pulley, had constant contact with the ground with his feet.

“He could have stopped the strangulation at any time,” he told the daily Saechsische Zeitung.

According to media reports, the video shows a man in boxer shorts dismembering the naked body of a man suspended from a hook whose mouth was taped shut and his hands bound behind his back.

At one point, the man with the knife stops to listen for a heartbeat before continuing to cut.

An investigator who watched the video told the Saechsische Zeitung it was “pure horror”.

If the death was an assisted suicide, Wilhelm argues, his client would only be guilty of disturbing the peace of the dead, often punished with a simple fine.

Guenzel spent at least four hours cutting the body into pieces and sawing through bone, and then buried body parts in various spots on the sloping lawn of his property.

An autopsy revealed Stempniewicz had cancer although it is not clear whether he knew this.

Guenzel pointed investigators to the sites where he buried the remains. The genitals, however, are still missing, according to local media.

The case has revived memories of German cannibal Armin Meiwes who admitted to killing, mutilating and eating the flesh of a lover in 2001 whom he had met on the Internet via an advertisement looking for a “slaughter victim”.

Meiwes was originally convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in 2004.

But another court found him guilty of murder in a 2006 retrial and jailed him for life.

The case exposed a murky underworld of violent fetish websites in which volunteers find partners to share fantasies and, in extremely rare cases, act them out in real life.

[Image: "A businessman holding knife behind his back," via Shutterstock]

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‘Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur blasts Hannity on Ferguson: ‘Why don’t you shut the f*ck up?’ Fri, 22 Aug 2014 02:23:30 +0000 Arturo Garcia Young Turks host Cenk Uygur hammered Fox News counterpart Sean Hannity on Thursday for his wanting to “educate” a Ferguson, Missouri official about the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

“Hey Sean, I’ve got a question for you: were you there?” Uygur asked. “I mean, you’ve got all these assumptions — ‘Oh, the cops, gotta respect the cops, maybe [Brown] had his head down and he was charging, he was doing all these things.’ Wait, Sean. Why don’t you shut the f*ck up, ’cause you weren’t there?”

On Wednesday, Hannity berated local committeewoman Patricia Bynes (D) during an interview, saying she could not say that Brown’s shooting at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9 was a case of police brutality because she was not at the scene at the time.

Hannity told Bynes on multiple occasions that he wanted to “educate” her regarding the criminal justice system, and argued that Wilson suffered “an orbital eye socket fracture” during his encounter with Brown. However, CNN reported that early reports that he suffered that kind of injury were false. The Washington Post also reported on Thursday that Wilson has still not spoken to prosecutors about the shooting.

“Eyewitnesses say that Brown charged at [Wilson],” Hannity told Bynes. “You weren’t there. What if that turns out to be true in our court system? Then that would mean you’re wrong, doesn’t it?”

“We have lots of eyewitnesses that are saying something different,” Bynes responded.

“So you don’t know, do you?” Hannity pressed.

On Thursday, Uygur sarcastically wondered why Hannity was so intent on reminding Bynes about the presumption of innocence for Wilson, then tried to “educate” the Fox News host.

“Just because we’re not in a court of law — and the reason we’re not is that the cop hasn’t even been arrested after he put 6 to 8 bullets in that kid — doe not mean that facts don’t exist,” Uygur explained. “Facts can exist outside of a courtroom. So you keep saying to her, ‘You don’t know ’cause you weren’t there,’ but you don’t know because you weren’t there.”

Uygur also chided Hannity for seemingly siding with accounts supporting Wilson, while claiming he was being impartial.

“Sean, nobody’s convicting the officer — they haven’t even arrested him,” Uygur repeated. “Bill O’Reilly talks about a ‘lynch mob.’ How dare you?”

Watch Uygur’s commentary, as posted online on Thursday, below.

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Leprosy: Myanmar struggles with ancient scourge Fri, 22 Aug 2014 01:14:25 +0000 Agence France-Presse Mawlamyaing (Myanmar) (AFP) – High in the hills of Myanmar’s war-torn borderlands, a clutch of new leprosy cases among communities virtually cut off from medical help is a sign that the country’s battle with the ancient disease is far from over.

It took six days by plane, boat, motorcycle, bus — and an arduous mountain trek — for a group of medical workers to treat two leprosy patients in a remote corner of the country, where conflict and neglect are the legacy of decades of military rule and even access to basic medicines is a distant dream.

But the charity-funded medics were also on the lookout for evidence that the disease had spread.

They soon found three more leprosy sufferers, including one man who had such a severe case he required hospital care.

“I promised him that I would come back for him or I would send someone to pick him up,” said Doctor Saw Hsar Mu Lar, after the May expedition, as he returned to his hospital in Mawlamyaing, Mon state — one of only two specialising in leprosy in Myanmar.

Weeks later the patient was still waiting to travel as tensions between the Myanmar army and local rebels closed transportation routes.

Myanmar reached so-called ‘elimination’ status for leprosy in 2003 — meaning less than one person per 10,000 has the illness.

But there are still around 3,000 new cases found each year and medical workers warn that the debilitating disease could be on the rise once more as the country’s creaking healthcare system fails to reach those at risk.

Decades of civil war in ethnic regions have also left vast swathes of its border areas cut off from all but the most basic medical help, meaning the disease could be passing undetected.

“There can be pocket areas, hidden areas,” Saw Hsar Mu Lar told AFP.

“We have to tell the world that it’s not finished yet.”

- A curable curse -

Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest — and most feared — diseases.

The bacteria affects the skin and deadens the nerves, meaning sufferers are prone to injure themselves, which results in ulcers and can lead to limb loss. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.

It is not particularly infectious, passing only through close contact over long periods, and modern medicine is able to cure patients relatively quickly.

But Myanmar has one of the world’s least developed medical systems, with government funding consistently among the lowest of any country, even with recent increases under a post-junta semi-civilian government.

State health workers are technically in charge of outreach and aid groups are banned from conducting leprosy awareness campaigns or looking for new patients — although they can treat people they find through dermatology clinics and during follow-up field trips.

The respected local aid group that organised the border expedition asked AFP not to give specific details of their work fearing that it could jeopardise future missions.

Saw Hsar Mu Lar’s Mawlamyaing Christian Leprosy Hospital, with its bright, simple wards, trained staff and plentiful supply of drugs, is a medical haven — funded mainly by international donations.

Most of the patients AFP met were farmers or had turned to begging to make ends meet.

“We had no medicine at our village even though we had a clinic,” said 40-year-old Mu Hai, who had travelled from western Rakhine state for treatment.

The hospital’s matron, Ni Ni Thein, is worried. In 2011 they saw 58 new leprosy cases, but that rose to 62 in 2012 and 68 last year.

“Now cases are increasing… the complication rate is increasing,” she said, adding that the age range for the disease had also appeared to have widened, with one four-year-old treated this year.

The fight to stop leprosy has been a major international success, with around 16 million people cured by multi-drug therapy (MDT) medicine in the last two decades.

But experts warn against complacency.

Myanmar is one of 18 countries that together account for almost all new cases of the disease.

The number of new cases it finds annually is dwarfed by its populous neighbour India, where there were some 127,000 new patients identified in 2011 according to World Health Organisation figures.

But while India managed an over 50 percent reduction between 2004 and 2011, Myanmar struggled to reduce its new incidences by 18 percent.

The WHO’s goodwill ambassador on leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa, said stagnation in Myanmar’s new case numbers over several years could indicate authorities are not doing enough to root out the disease.

One problem is that the numbers affected seem small compared to other health challenges like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

“It is quite easy to be brought down the priority list,” he told AFP during a recent mission to the country.

- ‘He shall dwell alone’ -

Even if patients are cured, many around the world still fall victim to the stigma that clings to the disease, ending up living in segregated colonies.

Public vilification dates back over two thousand years.

The Bible says of leprosy sufferers: “he is unclean: he shall dwell alone”.

Saw Roger was chased out of his village when he started to show signs of leprosy aged 18 in the 1950s.

“I lived only with the animals in the jungle and I was frightened. I used to go into my village under the moonlight and I took rice and fish paste before going back into the dark forest,” the 76-year-old told AFP.

After two years sleeping in the woods, Roger was found by missionaries and taken to the Mawlamyaing hospital.

Roger, whose legs, left hand and eye have been ravaged by the disease, has found sanctuary there ever since.

Passing the time reading and leading the church choir, he said he has found happiness despite a lifetime of travails caused by the illness.

“I can continue to look forward,” he added.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Pope Francis offers condolences to slain journalist James Foley’s family Fri, 22 Aug 2014 01:08:33 +0000 Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON – Pope Francis called the family of slain U.S. journalist James Foley on Thursday to offer his condolences, a Catholic priest close to the family said.

The gruesome video of Foley’s beheading, released Tuesday by the Islamic State, a jihadist group operating in Iraq and Syria, has caused worldwide revulsion and outrage.

“Pope Francis phoned the family of #JamesFoley this afternoon at their residence in New Hampshire. The family was ‘moved and grateful,’” Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, wrote on Twitter.

A Vatican official “gave me permission to share the news. May #JamesFoley rest in peace,” Martin said.

He added in a third tweet: “The quote ‘moved and grateful’ came from the Vatican official.”

Foley was reporting from Syria for GlobalPost and other news outlets including AFP when he was seized in November 2012.

In the nearly five-minute video of the beheading, the IS declares that Foley was condemned to die in retaliation for U.S. President Barack Obama’s ordering of air strikes against militant positions in northern Iraq.

Pope Francis on Monday called for collective action through the United Nations to “stop unjust aggression” in Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of people including many of the Christian minority have fled in the face of the rapid advance of the jihadists.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Univ. of Colorado fights request for records involving mass shooting suspect James Holmes Fri, 22 Aug 2014 00:54:50 +0000 Reuters By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – The University of Colorado is fighting attempts by lawyers defending accused cinema gunman James Holmes to turn over records that public defenders say the school was trying to hide about its former student, court documents show.

Lawyers for the 26-year-old California native sought earlier this week to have emails and other records released to them from an unnamed prosecution witness with connections to the school.

The university objected on Wednesday, while prosecutors and the unidentified witness likewise filed motions seeking to have the subpoenas quashed, calling the issue “a fishing expedition.”

Holmes was a doctoral candidate in the neuroscience program at the university’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, a suburb of Denver.

He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity for opening fire in July 2012 inside an Aurora theater during a midnight screening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The rampage killed 12 moviegoers and injured dozens more, and prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for Holmes if he is convicted.

Holmes’ lawyers have acknowledged he was the lone gunman, but that he was undergoing a psychotic episode at the time.

The defense motion filed this week, and all the responses to it, are heavily redacted, making it hard to identify the witness or establish their relationship to the university or to Holmes.

Holmes’ lawyers said they had come to the conclusion that the witness believes the records contain information that “university officials have an interest in hiding.”

They have asked Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour to review the records in private to decide if they should be turned over.

The information in question includes cellphone records and emails the witness sent to a friend discussing his interactions with law enforcement officials after the shootings.

“One issue I have is that some of my evidence will help the defense,” the defense motion said, quoting one of the emails.

Prosecutors counter that Holmes’ lawyers have already interviewed the witness and could have asked him about any “alleged inconsistencies.”

The trial is set to begin with jury selection in December.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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GOP attempts to block Washington D.C. marijuana and gun control laws spur protests Thu, 21 Aug 2014 23:55:04 +0000 Reuters By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Efforts by congressional Republicans to block new laws in Washington, D.C., decriminalizing marijuana possession and tightening restrictions on guns have provoked a summer tempest between residents of the capital and U.S. lawmakers.

The District of Columbia’s non-voting representative in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton and its residents are taking on Maryland Representative Andrew Harris, who is attempting to overturn a law that took effect last month making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal, offense. They also are focusing on Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie, who wants to cut off funding to enforce a ban on assault weapons in the city.

“No red-blooded American would take what these members have tried to do to this city,” Norton said in a July 25 speech on the House floor, adding that residents of the liberal-leaning district were being treated as second-class citizens.

A 1973 law gave Washington an elected mayor and council and the city has had a non-voting House delegate since 1971. But Congress, which has constitutional oversight over the district, still must approve its laws and budget.

Harris and Massie’s moves to block district laws through riders to a budget bill were an attempt to limit the autonomy of the city of 646,449 people, Norton said.

Massie’s budget amendment struck funding to enforce the ban on assault weapons, as well as a rule forbidding the private sale of guns without background checks. About a week after his amendment passed on July 16, a federal judge also ruled unconstitutional the district’s ban on carrying handguns outside the home.

The district was once known as the U.S. murder capital but in recent years the homicide rate has fallen to 50-year lows.

Massie said he did not believe “home rule means that you get to violate somebody’s rights, basic civil rights” regarding guns.

Harris said he wants to safeguard children’s health from the “devastating effects” of marijuana and that Congress was authorized “to stop irresponsible actions by local officials.”

Although Washington voters ratified an act last year to release the city from congressional budget approval, a U.S. District Court ruled in May that only Congress could take that step.

Last month, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee proposed a district budget bill including self-rule for its laws and budget. President Barack Obama gave residents hope when he said last month he supported the idea of statehood for Washington but he conceded it was politically unlikely.

The fate of the gun and marijuana laws likely will be decided in compromise talks over the House and Senate versions of the bill in September.

Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, said the city council should be able to make its own decisions.

“I have long resented the fact that some lawmakers treat D.C. like a colony,” Schakowsky said.

In July a group of residents stormed Harris’ office to complain about more mundane district issues – potholes, an outdated sewer system and the need for more health clinics.

Residents met in small groups with Harris’ chief of staff.

“If you’re saying we’re your constituents, then start helping our city,” resident Barbara Helmick said. “We wish you cared just as much about potholes as you do about pot.”

(Reporting by Annika McGinnis; Additional reporting by Moriah Costa; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Parched California communities institute bans on filling swimming pools Thu, 21 Aug 2014 23:48:50 +0000 Reuters By Aaron Mendelson

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The California dream of owning a house with a sparkling swimming pool is drying up for would-be swimmers in communities across the state as some local water districts have banned homeowners from filling empty pools in drought-stricken areas.
The restrictions come as California struggles through its third year of a catastrophic drought that has threatened a half-million acres of farmland, dried up reservoirs and shrunk the mountain snowpack that provides drinking water for millions of people.
“What we’re trying to prohibit is someone who makes a decision to empty their pool and then refill it,” said Jonathan Volzke, spokesman for the Santa Margarita Water District, which implemented a ban on filling pools this month in several suburbs south of Los Angeles.

Depending on the size of the pool, filling one up all the way would require 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of water, he said.
More than a dozen California water districts, including those serving Santa Barbara and parts of Sacramento, have limited or banned the filling of swimming pools this year, several of the restrictions taking effect this month to comply with new state conservation rules.
The Santa Margarita District’s ban is among the strictest, prohibiting 165,000 residents from adding more than a foot of water to any swimming pool – even one that’s just been built.
In Santa Barbara, residents are prohibited from draining and refilling pools by more than a third.
John Norwood, president of the California Pool and Spa Association, said strict measures like the one in the Santa Margarita District go beyond the conservation efforts required by the state.
The restrictions “will have a devastating impact on local small and large business,” he wrote in a letter to the district. 
“I think it’s unwarranted and unreasonable,” said Cecil Fraser, who owns Swan Pools in Lake Forest and estimates his company has built over 500 pools within the Santa Margarita District over the last few years.
The rules “basically put pool builders out of business until the rains come,” he said.
In addition to the restrictions on pools, many of the water districts also limit how residents may water lawns, ban washing sidewalks, and stipulate that restaurants can only serve drinking water on request.
Nationwide, the United States Drought Monitor said Thursday that a third of the United States is in a drought, with conditions most severe in the West.

(Reporting by Aaron Mendelson; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Beech)

[Image: "Woman's legs with blank screen smart phone at swimming pool," via Shutterstock]

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Oklahoma City policeman arrested for raping at least six women while on patrol Thu, 21 Aug 2014 23:43:42 +0000 Reuters OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) – An Oklahoma City police officer was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of sexually assaulting at least six women while on patrol, police said.

Daniel Holtzclaw, a three-year veteran, was booked on charges that included rape, oral sodomy and sexual battery, Chief Bill Citty told reporters.

A lawyer for Holtzclaw was not immediately available for comment. He is being held on $5 million bond.

Police expect there may be more victims who have not yet come forward. They added that some of the suspected assaults took place as a result of traffic stops.

(Reporting by Heide Brandes and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh)

[Image: "Police car," via Shutterstock]

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Govt. watchdog agency determines that Pentagon broke law in Bergdahl transfer Thu, 21 Aug 2014 23:29:17 +0000 Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Defense Department violated U.S. law by failing to alert Congress before releasing five Taliban members held at Guantanamo Bay military prison in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, a government watchdog agency said on Thursday.

The Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon broke the law by using money appropriated by Congress to carry out the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners without giving lawmakers the required 30-day notice.

“In addition, because DoD (the Department of Defense) used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, DoD violated the Antideficiency Act” barring agencies from spending more than authorized, the GAO said in a letter posted on its website.

The GAO assessment had been requested by Republican lawmakers who were angered over the lack of notice they’d received about the U.S. decision in May to transfer five Taliban prisoners to Qatar in exchange for the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

The Defense Department told the GAO that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to authorize the exchange based on a section of the law that allows transfers of Guantanamo prisoners if actions are being taken to reduce the risk that they will re-engage in hostile activity.

The Pentagon told the GAO it did not believe the failure to give 30-days notice would make it unlawful to approve a prisoner transfer that was otherwise permitted under the law. And similarly, payment for the transfer would be lawful.

The GAO disagreed with the Pentagon’s interpretation, saying it would essentially make the 30-day notification requirement “meaningless.”

Bergdahl spent five years as a Taliban captive after walking away from his outpost.

His release was greeted by an initial wave of euphoria, but the prisoner swap deal triggered a backlash among U.S. lawmakers angry over the Democratic administration’s failure to give 30 days notice as stated in the law. Some of Bergdahl’s former Army comrades also charged that he had deserted.

Bergdahl spent several days at a U.S. military hospital in Germany before being returned to San Antonio, Texas, where he underwent further treatment. He has since returned to active military duty and is hoping to return to civilian life, his attorney said this week.

Army Major General Kenneth Dahl is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance in Afghanistan and whether he broke any military regulations or laws. Dahl interviewed Bergdahl earlier this month and is expected to report on the case soon.

(Reporting by David Alexander and Missy Ryan; Editing by Leslie Adler)

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Minnesota GOP publicly snubs Supreme Court candidate from party booth at state fair Thu, 21 Aug 2014 23:15:22 +0000 Arturo Garcia A Minnesota Republican running for the state’s Supreme Court confronted members of her own party on Thursday after being barred from appearing at the party’s booth at the state fair, Minneapolis City Pages reported.

Despite being told by party leadership not to appear at the booth, Michelle MacDonald went to the booth Thursday morning, only to be rebuffed by security.

“I’m an endorsed candidate,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune quoted her as saying. “I was supported by the people at the Republican convention. The people want this.”

MacDonald was endorsed by the state party during its convention this past May. But she did not tell the delegates at the time that she was awaiting trial on charges of resisting arrest and driving under the influence.

On Wednesday, party chairman Keith Downey told MacDonald not to appear at the booth, citing a vote from the party’s executive committee to “restrict access” to candidates facing criminal charges.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that Downey did not go to the booth to address the situation, contrary to a statement from a party spokesperson.

After her initial run-in with security, MacDonald left the booth, saying, “We may as well look for justice on a stick because we can’t find it here” and calling on Downey to resign, as seen in this video:

She returned an hour later and managed to get inside the booth for a short time before departing, promising to return on Friday.

MacDonald was most recently cited by police on Aug. 1, when she was caught violating the terms of her limited driving license agreement.

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Texas GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling slams SEC over unauthorized leaks to media Thu, 21 Aug 2014 22:02:06 +0000 Reuters By Emily Stephenson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican lawmaker slammed the Securities and Exchange Commission over leaks of confidential information to media outlets, including Reuters, calling the disclosures “unacceptable.”

Representative Jeb Hensarling, who leads the House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee, said in the letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White that the leaks raised questions about who attends closed agency meetings and hurt the SEC’s ability to enforce securities laws.

At issue are Reuters stories from the fall of 2013 about SEC officials’ deliberations regarding a settlement with JPMorgan Chase over its “London Whale” trading scandal. A report from the SEC’s internal watchdog about nonpublic information included in the stories was itself later leaked to reporters in late July.

The watchdog was unable to identify the sources of the leaks.

“Leaks emanating from closed meeting deliberations jeopardize all of the SEC’s enforcement work,” Hensarling said in the letter, which was dated Aug. 18 and reviewed by Reuters on Thursday.

Hensarling, who did not mention Reuters by name in the letter, criticized both the initial disclosures and the leak of the watchdog’s report.

He asked the agency to detail how it is implementing the watchdog’s recommendations for preventing leaks and describe efforts to soundproof the room where closed meetings occur so that unauthorized people cannot listen in from outside.

SEC spokesman Kevin Callahan declined to comment. Thomson Reuters spokesman David Crundwell also declined to comment.

The leak probe began after Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources, on Sept. 17, 2013, that the SEC had approved its portion of a settlement with JPMorgan in a split vote taken in a closed-door meeting.

The agency made that decision public two days later. Reuters later published further non-public details about the vote.

The stories prompted the SEC’s Office of Inspector General to launch an extensive, months-long investigation into who had leaked the information.

The report said the SEC failed to remove employees during non-public votes of the five-member commission, and people standing outside the room where votes were held could hear the discussions inside.

Hensarling said the threat of leaks could prevent companies from engaging in settlement discussions with the SEC or discourage commissioners from conducting sufficient dialogue about actions they are considering.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Karey Van Hall, Martin Howell)

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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North Carolina judge: State’s school voucher program unfairly benefits religious schools Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:56:51 +0000 Reuters By Harriet McLeod

(Reuters) – A North Carolina judge on Thursday blocked the state’s new school voucher program, saying it unconstitutionally diverted money from public education to private schools, many of them religious.

The Opportunity Scholarship program, designed to give poor and middle-class families public funds to help pay private school tuition, was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature last year and had already begun operating.

School vouchers have drawn criticism from those who say they drain money from public schools and subsidize overtly religious education. Supporters say they offer parents more choices on where to educate their children.

In his order blocking the program, Judge Robert Hobgood said it diverted money that under the state constitution can only be used for public schools.

Some of that money was going to private schools that discriminate based on religious affiliation, he added.    Backers of North Carolina’s $10 million voucher program said they planned to appeal the ruling and would seek to reverse the judge’s order suspending the program as the case works its way through the courts.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure that today’s decision is merely another speed bump on the way to victory at the North Carolina Supreme Court,” Richard Komer, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based pro-voucher legal center representing two parents in the case, said in a statement.

North Carolina’s attorney general also plans to appeal the ruling, a spokeswoman said.
About 20 states offer some form of school vouchers, with most of those programs having survived legal challenges, Komer said.

The legal challenge to the program was filed by a group of public school teachers and administrators.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, South Carolina; Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky, Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney)

[Image: "Bored girl sitting at desk in the classroom," via Shutterstock]

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Ohio cop involved in fatal Walmart shooting of John Crawford allowed to return to work Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:40:46 +0000 Arturo Garcia One of the officers involved in a fatal shooting of a man holding a toy rifle inside a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio earlier this month was cleared to return to work, the Dayton Daily News reported on Wednesday.

City Attorney Stephen McHugh told the Daily News that Sgt. David Darkow was allowed to resume his duties. Sean Williams, the other officer involved in the shooting of 21-year-old John Crawford. Authorities have not confirmed whether Williams fired the shot that killed Crawford on Aug. 5.

Crawford was killed when the two officers confronted him while he was holding a MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/Pellet rifle. Another shopper reportedly phoned 911 saying Crawford was trying to load the air rifle and ignoring officers’ orders to drop it.

His girlfriend, LeeCee Johnson, said at the time that she was speaking with him on the phone when the officers approached him.

“The next thing I know, he said, ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting, and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him,” she was quoted as saying. “I could hear him just crying and screaming. I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”

Think Progress reported that attorney Michael Wright, who was hired by Crawford’s family, has seen the store’s surveillance camera footage of the shooting and said it proves Crawford was only holding the gun.

“The BB gun was in a down position,” Wright was quoted as saying. “He was kinda using the BB gun as what it looked like was a crutch. He was just leaning on it. And at some point, he raised it up and he was shot and killed. At no point in time was he facing the officers. At no point in time was there any type of suggestive movements or anything like that.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine showed the video to Wright and Crawford’s family following a demonstration by more than 100 people outside his office, but has not released it to the public, citing the ongoing investigation into the fatal encounter. DeWine said a special grand jury will convene on Sept. 3 to see if the officers will be charged.

A grand jury determined in August 2010 that Williams was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed 45-year-old Scott A. Brogli when Brogli charged at him and another officer with a “large kitchen knife.” The two officers were responding to a report that Brogli was abusing his wife. The woman fled the scene before police arrived, but Brogli’s 17-year-old son witnessed the shooting. A toxicology report determined that Brogli’s blood-alcohol level at the time was 0.163, more than twice the state legal limit.

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Is Missouri newspaper’s ‘provocative’ cartoon kind of racist? Yup, it’s pretty darn racist Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:17:10 +0000 TBogg The Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune is facing a bit of heat today after running the above cartoon by Gary McCoy on Wednesday’s editorial page, with people pointing out, “Dudes, that some real racist bullshit you got there.”

Of course it didn’t help that the Trib ran it in conjunction with the buttoned-down racism of Rich Lowry from National Review, who wants the blacks to quit making the normally super-nice police officers — who punish jaywalking with summary execution in the street — become even meaner and try to kill them in larger numbers which would be much harder for conservatives to defend.

Not that they wouldn’t try.

In a response to Romenesko, CoTrib managing editor Jim Robertson explained:

I admit I didn’t anticipate the reaction. I’m responding to complaints, most of which have come through the Twitter universe, by asking them to consider the context. On three of the preceding four days our editorial page featured local cartoons about the Michael Brown tragedy, the militarization of the police response and a likeness of Lady Justice with six bullet wounds.

The editorial cartoon yesterday accompanied a Rich Lowry column about the unfortunate presence of looters and how that is not a legitimate form of protest. Provocative yes. Racist? Certainly not in intent.

So, you know, both sides do it. Equal time and such and such.  As for not anticipating “the reaction,” which is coming from you commie outside Twitter agitators and not from the good people of Columbia, MO., Robertson might have considered the reactions to the cartoon at McCoy’s home at Townhall.

Janice Dodd Why do blacks have a problem understanding why they don’t get any respect??? I have never been a racist but find I feel uneasy around a black person now.. This is not without reason.. I make myself smile at all people and give each a fair chance, but I will not go into certain neighborhoods.. Sad..

Elwood Ballard This is just like the adulterer, Martin Luther King. Every time he gave a speech, there were always 3 busloads of outside Blacks to get the riots started. Then they would leave so the ignorant and illiterate locals could continue with their plundering and theft. Yes, I am old enough to remember this type of lawlessness!

Dale Reynolds Let them Burn, Burn, Burn, Burn, Burn, Burn until Ferguson is a pile of ashes… OH while the Sane Ones use the not used fencing to build a Border Fence around Ferguson to contain the rampaging animals.

Even the folks at Townhall — which has never been mistaken for a Mensa watering hole — heard the siren’s call of McCoy’s dog whistle and proceeded to foam at the mouth in that delightful way they do.

To his credit, Gary McCoy, who conflates protestors demanding justice for Michael Brown with looters — presumably because they all look alike — made the man holding the 60″ plasma TV sign a slightly lighter color than the other protestor/looters so maybe he’s like the President: half-white/half-black (Hafrican), and we are all to blame. Or maybe Obama is the only one to blame which is certainly a line of thought out there. It’s hard to tell.

But McCoy has a body of work, most of it Obama-centered, that would indicate that he loves him some ethnic stereotypes.

mccoy 592014


I think his portrayal of Michelle Obama with a big ass is lovely.

Some, like Jim Robertson,  might even call it: “provocative”….

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Federal judge strikes down Florida’s gay marriage ban but issues stay on the ruling Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:11:17 +0000 Reuters By Letitia Stein

TAMPA Fla. (Reuters) – A federal judge in north Florida on Thursday struck down the state’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional, but stayed the ruling, leaving same-sex couples still unable to marry in the state.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Florida’s Northern District in Tallahassee is the fifth judge in the state to rule against a same-sex marriage ban approved by voters in 2008, but the first federal judge to do so.

“The institution of marriage survived when bans on interracial marriage were struck down, and the institution will survive when bans on same-sex marriage are struck down,” Hinkle wrote. “Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts,” he added.

Hinkle found the same-sex marriage ban violated equal protection and due process protections under the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling addressed two lawsuits involving 10 same-sex couples, mostly married in other states and seeking recognition in Florida. The plaintiffs also included a woman, Arlene Goldberg, whose wife had recently passed away.

In an exception to the stay, the judge ordered the death certificate for Goldberg’s wife to be corrected to reflect her marriage to her partner of 47 years.

“There is no good reason to further deny Ms. Goldberg the simple human dignity of being listed on her spouse’s death certificate,” Hinkle wrote.

While stayed, Thursday’s federal court ruling applies more broadly than previous rulings in state courts with limited jurisdiction in several south Florida counties, said Stephen Rosenthal, lead attorney in the case involving the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and SAVE, a gay-rights organization in South Florida.

The federal court ruling should speed up the process of bringing Florida’s cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, added David Weinstein, a former state prosecutor in Miami now in private practice.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the earlier rulings, arguing the issue should be decided by the Supreme Court. A spokeswoman said Bondi is reviewing Thursday’s ruling.

In all cases, marriage for same-sex couples in Florida remains on hold.

Since a June 2013 Supreme Court ruling struck down a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman, nearly 30 federal and state courts have ruled against state bans on same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court is expected to take up the issue in its coming term, which starts in October and ends in June. It will likely be the most momentous civil rights case in years.

(Additional reporting by David Adams and Bill Cotterell; Editing by David Adams, Eric Beech and Eric Walsh)

[Image: "Two Gay Men After Wedding On A Beach" via Shutterstock]

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Ukrainian president pledges to ‘talk peace’ with Putin in upcoming meeting Thu, 21 Aug 2014 20:13:58 +0000 Agence France-Presse Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – Ukraine’s president said he will “talk peace” with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by demanding the withdrawal of pro-Kremlin militants from the war-torn east when they meet next week for the first time in months.

President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday that “the whole world is tired of war” and that he would “call for militants to be pulled out of Ukraine” when he meets Putin for crunch talks in Minsk alongside top EU officials.

His strident tone reflects the fact that government forces have made significant gains against the pro-Russian rebels in recent days. A fierce offensive continued on Thursday, with Kiev hoping for a knock-out blow ahead of the fresh round of diplomacy.

Meanwhile, a controversial Russian aid convoy inched closer to the border with rebel-held areas. Ukraine’s customs officials said they had started processing the first of the lorries after a week of wrangling caused by fears that the convoy could be used to smuggle in military supplies to the rebels.

Kiev has accused Moscow of ramping up support to the rebels as their situation grows more desperate, and the West fears the Kremlin could even launch a full-scale invasion as a last roll of the dice.

Russia has persistently denied allegations that it is arming and effectively running the rebellion. It says it wants an end to the Ukrainian offensive and to four months of fighting that has killed over 2,200 people.

It ridiculed claims from Kiev that Russian military documents had been found in armoured vehicles captured following a battle near the rebel stronghold of Lugansk.

- Refugees rising -

On the ground, fighting continued in a string of key rebel towns as government forces refocused attempts to cut off alleged supply routes from Russia.

Shelling near the main separatist city of Donetsk left two civilians dead on Thursday, while an interior ministry official said 16 servicemen were killed in fierce battles for control of a railway hub in the region.

The United Nations on Wednesday increased its estimate of the number of people who have fled the fighting since April to at least 415,800.

In Lugansk, a city without communication, water or power for the past 19 days, authorities said residents were “on the brink of survival”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urged both sides to “take constant care to spare the civilian population” after a small team of aid workers visited the city.

Heavy shelling has left homes decimated in central Donetsk.

“I don’t know who to turn to, I don’t know who the government is anymore,” Inna, a physics professor, told AFP. “Today it is the rebels but tomorrow Kiev could be back.”

- Aid on the move? -

Meanwhile the week-long dispute over a mammoth Russian aid convoy parked at Ukraine’s border appeared to be nearing resolution.

An ICRC official told journalists in Moscow that trucks could cross “hopefully tomorrow” as Ukrainian officials began long-delayed checks.

Kiev and the West fear that an attack on the convoy in Ukraine could be used by Russia as a pretext to invade, which Moscow has denied.

The Red Cross has spent the past few days scrambling to nail down security guarantees from all sides for the convoy’s journey.

A day after the national currency tanked to a new record low, Economy Minister Pavlo Sheremeta announced his resignation citing prolonged disputes over how to fix the country’s disastrous financial situation.

Sheremeta has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who criticised the slow pace of reforms needed to unlock $1.4 billion (one billion euros) in international aid due later this month.

The money is part of a broader $27-billion rescue package to salvage the economy but questions remain over failures by the authorities in Kiev to push through key anti-corruption legislation.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Crowdfunding campaign raises nearly $150,000 for cop who shot Michael Brown Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:50:47 +0000 Eric W. Dolan A crowdfunding campaign set up to support the police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, who fatally shot an unarmed black teen has raised nearly $150,000.

The Ferguson police chief last week named Darren Wilson, 28, as the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Days after Wilson’s name was released, the “Support Officer Darren Wilson” crowdfunding campaign was launched on the website GoFundMe.

“We stand behind Officer Darren Wilson and his family during this trying time in their lives. All proceeds will be sent directly to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees,” the GoFundMe page explained.

The organizer of the campaign has insisted it is legitimate.

“We are working with Shield of Hope to get our site listed as a Certified Charity for Darren on GoFundMe. This will not only help ease the minds of those who may be skeptical but will help steer people away from the pages that are not legitimate. Thank you so much for your donations!” the organizer wrote in an update on the website.

Many people who donated to the campaign said Wilson was innocent until proven guilty.

“Innocent until proven guilty– we either follow the rule of law under our Constitution, or have anarchy. Be strong and courageous, Officer Wilson. We are praying for you,” one person said after donating $25.

“With All media backing Michael Brown. I donate to Wilson to Ensure this becomes a fair and just trail [sic],” said another person, who donated $10.

According to the GoFundMe page, more than 3,500 people have donated to the campaign.

The Huffington Post noted that groups in Ferguson and in other cities have rallied in support of Wilson, including the Ku Klux Klan.

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Arkansas college student in serious condition after being impaled by golf club at fraternity Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:19:27 +0000 Reuters By Steve Barnes

LITTLE ROCK (Reuters) – An 18-year-old female Arkansas State University student was in serious condition at a hospital after being impaled in the neck by a golf club that broke apart in an accident at a fraternity, the university said on Thursday.

Natalie Eaton, a first-year student, was struck at a fraternity cookout on Tuesday when a fellow undergraduate batted a tossed football with a golf club, breaking it and sending the lower portion flying 30 feet (9 meters) and into her neck, it said.

“We know her condition is serious but don’t have any information other than that,” said Bill Smith, a spokesman for Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, about 135 miles (220 kms) east of Little Rock.

Eaton, of Harrisburg, Arkansas, was treated initially at a local hospital, then flown by helicopter to a trauma center in nearby Memphis, Tennessee.

A second student was struck by another piece of the club but was not believed to be seriously injured.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Chris Reese)

[Ambulance at night via]

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Boeing one step closer to completing its space taxi Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:15:16 +0000 Reuters By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Boeing Co has completed a key review of its design for a new commercial venture to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, making it the only one of four rival bidders to finish the NASA work on time, company officials said on Thursday.

Boeing is competing with Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, and privately held Sierra Nevada Corp, to develop and build U.S. commercial space taxis to transport astronauts, rather than relying on Russia to ferry them to the station.

The multibillion-dollar program has taken on new urgency in recent months, given escalating tensions with Russia over its annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.

NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Martin said the U.S. space agency planned to choose one or more of the competitors to continue working on the program in late August or early September.

Martin confirmed that Boeing had completed a critical design review of its offering in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program. She said NASA was reviewing the data to determine if Boeing met its required “success criteria” for the review.

SpaceX and Sierra Nevada have sought and won extensions to finish their design reviews by May 2015. Blue Origin, a privately funded company set up by founder Jeff Bezos is also vying for the work.

John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s commercial space exploration programs, said the company faced some difficult challenges as it developed its design, but got “excellent” feedback from NASA during the review last month.

“From a technical standpoint, the review went very well,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge we’re the only CCiCAP competitor that actually was able to complete all of the milestones in the period of performance,” he said.

Mulholland said, measured in mass, the Boeing design for the cargo module was 96-percent complete at the time of the review, while its design for the crew module was 85-percent complete, two metrics that underscored the maturity of the design.

He said the critical design review marked a major step for the Boeing program. “You’ve got to be able to stand up at that review and show the analysis and tests that demonstrate that you’re going to be able to meet those requirements,” he said.

Boeing remains confident it could complete work on the new spacecraft in time to begin flight tests in 2017, Mulholland said.

He said Boeing’s design would be launched into space using the Atlas 5 rocket built by the United Launch Alliance, a venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp.

That rocket uses a Russian-built RD-180 engine, which has also triggered some concerns given tensions with Russia.

He said the module was designed from the beginning to be compatible with other launch vehicles, if necessary, although that would still entail some modification of the interface between the spacecraft and the launcher.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal)

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Keith Ablow still calling Michelle Obama a fattie and tells Fox women to drop 5 pounds too Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:07:25 +0000 David Edwards Fox News resident psychiatrist Keith Ablow on Thursday defended his previous assertion that First Lady Michelle Obama needed to “drop a few” pounds, and added that women at Fox News could stand to lose some weight too.

Earlier this month, Ablow told the four female hosts on Out Numbered that the first lady was not qualified to be giving nutritional advice.

“What is she eating?” he asked. “She needs to drop a few.”

The hosts gave Ablow a chance to defend his comments when he returned to the show on Thursday.

“Let’s provide some context,” he said. “The context was to remind people of the draconian standards set by the first lady in her school lunch program, such that children are throwing their school lunches away. They’re inedible.”

“And what I was reacting to was the hypocrisy, let me phrase it slightly differently,” he continued. “For someone who has struggled with her own weight, which I think she would agree with, who has struggled. So many of us have. For someone like that to say we’re going to set draconian standards.”

Host Harris Faulkner interrupted to ask how the doctor knew that Michelle Obama had “struggled with her weight.”

Ablow replied that he had seen “images online” that proved “she has struggled with her weight or chosen to be much heavier than at other points in the administration. Maybe she’s chosen it.”

“Maybe she didn’t struggle, maybe she chose to be a larger woman.”

Ablow then turned to the women hosting the show, and said that each of them “should lose five pounds,” including himself.

“I’ll tell you what the bottom line is,” co-host Sandra Smith quipped. “In future appearances, maybe think about what you’re going to say before you say it.”

“It thought about it this time!” Ablow insisted. “Listen if I came here on the couch and had a drink and you smelled it on my breath, wouldn’t you say, ‘Hey, Keith, what’s going on?’”

“I wish you were drinking now because that would explain this crazy behavior,” co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle lamented. “Hell, no, you didn’t just tell a Puerto Rican woman she needs to lose five pounds.”

Watch the video below from Fox News’ Out Numbered, broadcast Aug. 21, 2014.

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National Guard to withdraw from Ferguson, Missouri as tensions ease over police shooting Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:04:36 +0000 Reuters By Carey Gillam and Scott Malone

FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) – The governor of Missouri ordered the withdrawal on Thursday of National Guard troops from riot-torn Ferguson, where tensions have eased after sometimes violent protests were staged nightly since police killed an unarmed black teenager.

Peaceful demonstrations overnight were the calmest street gatherings in the small St. Louis suburb since riots erupted over the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer.

The controversial shooting by Officer Darren Wilson prompted angry demonstrations along with looting and random gunfire from largely black crowds. Police have used tear gas and heavy armored vehicles to clear the streets and the Missouri National Guard was called in to help.

But the crowds have thinned, and the mood is decidedly less tense. Police said six people were arrested overnight – far fewer than the scores detained on earlier nights of racial unrest.

Governor Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to begin withdrawing from Ferguson, saying in a statement: “We continue to see improvement.”

“Things are de-escalating,” said Roy Harris outside Original Reds B-B-Q, located on West Florissant Avenue where many of the protests have taken place.

The restaurant has boarded up its windows but written in large letters in red paint on the plywood planks is the promise: “We will be back!!!” and workers were selling sandwiches in the parking lot next to an outdoor meat smoker.

“We are seeing the judicial process beginning,” said Harris, who works as a youth counselor in St. Louis. “Voices are actually being heard.”

A grand jury met on Wednesday to begin hearing evidence in the case. That process could take into October before the panel releases its findings, said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch.

McCulloch, who is responsible for deciding whether to pursue criminal charges against the police officer, has held the top county prosecutor’s job for 23 years and has promised an impartial investigation.

Many Ferguson residents, angry that the police officer in question is not in custody and has gone into hiding, fear that if there is no indictment, more street violence is inevitable.


Frustrated by the pace of the process, protesters outside McCulloch’s office in nearby Clayton called for his removal from the case. They want the appointment of a special prosecutor, an expedited grand jury proceeding and the immediate arrest of Wilson, who has been placed on leave.

State Senator Jamilah Nasheed arrived at McCulloch’s office to deliver petitions calling for his ouster.

“I am here to deliver a message to Bob McCulloch that the people do not have any confidence in him,” Nasheed said. “The people’s opinion is that he totally has no ability to do the right thing.”

Zaki Baruti, a leader of the Universal African Peoples Organization, warned that Wednesday night’s relative quiet did not necessarily mean crowds would remain peaceful.

“Civil disobedience is coming down the line, in a strong way, until our demands are met,” Baruti said.

Outside a fast-food restaurant on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, a small contingent of angry young black men held a homemade wanted poster for Wilson, just blocks from the street where Brown was killed.

They warned there would be no lasting peace until the officer was brought to justice.

“For us he is a wanted man. It is time for calm and peace but only if they bring him to justice,” said 23-year-old Dontey Carter, shirtless with a scarf wrapped around his head.

Overnight into early Thursday, a few gunshots rang out and at least one officer was hit by a bottle, but Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said: “The trend is good.”

“Crowds were smaller, they were calm and orderly,” said Johnson, a black officer appointed to oversee security.

Outside the Ferguson Police Department, Nick Smith stood with a small group of protesters braving the hot sun and held a sign reading: “I am black. I am a man. Respect me.”

“I think things are calming down,” the retired railroad worker said. But he cautioned that the community could not return to such divisiveness and hostility between residents of the majority black town and the overwhelmingly white police force.

“I am quite sure it is hard to be a policeman in this day and age, but you can’t treat us like animals,” he said. “It is time for a change.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with Brown’s parents on Wednesday and promised a thorough investigation into the case that has fueled debate over the justice system’s treatment of African Americans.

The Justice Department has launched an investigation to whether federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges against Wilson.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam and Scott Malone; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Virginia man named Stoner busted on marijuana charge: police Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:02:29 +0000 Reuters (Reuters) – A Virginia man with the last name Stoner has been arrested for having $10,000 worth of marijuana plants, police said Thursday.

Acting on a tip that Paul Scott Stoner, 42, was selling marijuana to children, police raided his Unionville home last Thursday and discovered the plants, prescription drugs, hypodermic needles, drug paraphernalia and guns, according statement released by the Blue Ridge Narcotics Task Force.

Stoner has been charged with growing marijuana and for having a firearm while in possession of more than a pound of marijuana, police said.

Other charges are pending. Stoner’s trial was set for August 27.

(Reporting by John Clarke in Washington; Editing by Jim Loney)

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Colorado voters to weigh in on labeling genetically modified ingredients Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:01:23 +0000 Reuters By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) – Colorado voters in November will have their say on a proposition that would require labels on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, or GMOS.

Proponents of GMO labeling initiatives, who say they have the right to know what is in their food, have been gaining steam in the United States. Their wins have come despite well-funded opposition from GMO crop backers ranging from PepsiCo Inc to Monsanto Co who say GMOs are safe, labels will confuse consumers and switching to non-GMO ingredients would significantly increase the cost of food.

Colorado’s Secretary of State on Wednesday confirmed that supporters submitted enough valid signatures to get the GMO labeling measure, which will be Proposition 105, on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“If GMOs are safe, as companies say, then why not label them on food?” Right to Know Colorado campaign Chair Larry Cooper said on Thursday.

GMOs were introduced to the public in the 1990s. More than 90 percent of U.S. corn, canola, soybean and sugar beets are GMO and those ingredients are widely used in U.S. food production in everything from snack foods and soups to strawberry-flavored milk. Organic foods do no contain GMOs.

GMO crop developers and their supporters say genetically modified crops have been overwhelmingly proven safe.

That has done little to quell a backlash from consumers and critics, who call for independent research on the impacts of GMOs on human health and the environment.

Vermont in May became the first U.S. state to mandate labeling of GMO foods. As expected, industry groups representing U.S. food makers are challenging that law.

Oregon also will have a GMO labeling initiative on its November ballot.

Dozens of other states have considered similar measures this year. The effort failed in California, where massive spending by GMO labeling opponents led to a stinging defeat in 2012.

Connecticut and Maine already have passed laws that would go into effect if other northeastern states approve similar legislation.

With much at stake, the developers of genetically modified crops and the $360 billion U.S. packaged food industry have taken their fight to the nation’s capital, where they are pushing for passage of a bill in Congress that would nullify any state law to require labeling of GMO foods.

Some U.S. companies already have opted to label GMOs or eliminate them from their supply chain.

Natural and organic grocer Whole Foods Markets Inc has announce that it will require all products sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores to carry a GMO label by 2018. Popular burrito seller Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc has removed virtually all GMOs from its supply chain. And, after a push from consumers, General Mills Inc said it would reformulate its “yellow box” Cheerios to remove GMOs.

(Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; editing by Andrew Hay)

[Girl eating corn via Shutterstock]

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MN mom facing charges for treating son’s chronic pain in CO with medical marijuana Thu, 21 Aug 2014 18:23:47 +0000 Travis Gettys A Minnesota mother was charged with two misdemeanors after giving her teenage son medicinal marijuana to help alleviate pain from a traumatic brain injury.

Angela Brown said an acquaintance apparently reported her to family services after taking her 15-year-old son, Trey, to Boulder, Colorado, in the spring to buy medical marijuana oil, reported KARE-TV.

“Everything was great until I opened my mouth to the wrong person and I got turned in, and family services questioned my son at school, the cops came to my workplace,” Brown said.

Trey was struck in the temple by a line drive while pitching in a baseball game three years ago, and his mother said the teen has harmed himself and contemplated suicide due to severe pain.

An emergency room physician recommended the family trying medical marijuana, and Brown said the drug worked exactly as she had hoped.

“Trey would describe it as reducing the pressure in his head,” she said. “He didn’t have the pressure anymore and his muscles would calm down.”

Family services eventually dropped the case after talking to Brown and her husband, but the Lac Qui Parle County attorney decided to criminally charge her.

“I guess their definition of a good mom would have been a mom who sat back, let the doctors do whatever, and possibly let their child die,” Brown said. “I guess a bad a mom chooses to go find answers for her child and chooses to treat her child and takes his pain away, so if they want to call me a bad mom, then fine.”

Medical marijuana will be legal in Minnesota starting next July, and pro-pot advocates say they were “stunned” by the child endangerment charges filed against Brown.

“I can’t think of an instance where an individual has been brought up on charges like this simply because the effective date hasn’t come around yet for the law that has already been passed,” said Bob Capecchi, of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Let’s not forget — there is a medical marijuana law that has been endorsed by the legislature and by the governor.”

Capecchi said prosecutors have discretion over bringing charges in individual cases, and he said Brown’s case seems “tailor-made” to have the charges dropped.

The family has asked Gov. Mark Dayton for help, but they have not heard from him, and Brown said she and her family may move to Colorado after her court appearance in late September.

Watch this video report posted online by KARE-TV:

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Hilarious video foresees Ireland’s impending same-sex marriage ‘ArmaGAYddon’ Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:56:11 +0000 David Ferguson In the video embedded below, an Irish married couple in the year 2017 named John and Mary tell the story of Ireland’s “Armagayddon,” which will purportedly happen when the country legalizes same-sex marriage.

Crouched in the front hall of their boarded up townhouse, Mary says, “They’re coming They’re coming, aren’t they?”

Peering out through the mail slot and holding a shotgun, John replies, “I don’t see any. It doesn’t mean they’re not out there somewhere.”

“Oh, God, John, they’re going to get in,” Mary says, beginning to sob. “They’re going to get in!”

Then sitting on their sofa together, the two tell of how in 2015, “Ireland had a referendum on marriage equality. Sure, we weren’t one bit worried.”

“We thought at best, it’d be close,” Mary says.

“As far as we knew,” John says, “there was only five or six gays operating in Ireland at the time.”

But then the referendum passed, and Ireland became “unrecognizable” from “so much equality.”

“We tried to fit in,” says John, “but the weddings…I felt so underdressed.”

“And the cakes,” says Mary. “Amazing.”

John and Mary have to keep their son Michael in a box and home school him for his own protection.

“I feel frightened all the time,” Mary says.

The video was made to promote the LGBT Noise March in Dublin, which takes place Sunday, Aug. 24 at 3 p.m. at Dublin’s City Hall.

Watch the video, embedded below via YouTube:

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Actor Kevin Sorbo: Ferguson unrest let black protesters be the ‘animals’ they ‘truly are’ Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:38:56 +0000 David Edwards Conservative actor Kevin Sorbo ranted on Facebook this week that African-American protesters in Ferguson had shown themselves to be “animals” and “losers” following the death of slain teen Michael Brown.

“Ferguson riots have very little to do with the shooting of the young man,” he wrote. “It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are.”

“It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when you give up.”

Sorbo argued that Brown’s death should be a “reminder to the African Americans ( I always thought we just Americans. Oh, well.) that their President the voted in has only made things worse for them, not better.”

The former “Hercules” said that the way to end unrest in the city was to “ban” all media who are “nothing more than agitators.”

“The media promotes chaos to boost their pathetic ratings. We should shut them all off and watch clips on the internet only when republished under fair use by a conservative media watchdog group.”

Update: Kevin Sorbo told TMZ Live that he was “stupid” to post remarks calling African-American protesters “animals.” He apologized to “anyone who was offended.”

[Photo: Kevin Sorbo on]

(h/t: TMZ)

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Florida man beaten up by bar patrons after leaving kids in car to go drink beer Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:26:44 +0000 Travis Gettys Police arrested a Florida man who was beaten bloody by fellow bar patrons after they learned he left his three children in the car to drink beer.

Officers found 28-year-old Joshua Delong bleeding on the floor of Dr. B’s Bar in Ocala after a security guard called police to report the children left attended outside, reported WESH-TV.

The security guard, Christopher Chung, said he tried to talk the man out of driving with the children, ages 5,7, and 8, because he believed Delong was too drunk.

Chung said another patron then struck the 28-year-old Delong, and several other men dragged him outside and beat him.

A witness had called police shortly before the beating to report the children left alone for four hours in a gold Cadillac with the windows up and a key in the ignition.

The children were honking the horn and yelling “daddy,” the witness said.

A woman at the scene stayed with the children and kept them calm until police arrived.

Delong told officers he left the children with his mother, but his wife dropped them off at the bar without him knowing.

But both women denied his claims.

Delong was treated and released from an Orlando hospital and then booked into Marion County Jail on three counts of child neglect.

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British Muslim calls for action on jihadi subculture after beheading video Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:55:39 +0000 Reuters By Kate Holton and Raheem Salman

LONDON/BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A senior British Muslim called on Thursday for action to tackle a jihadi sub-culture after an Islamic State video showed a suspected Briton beheading U.S. journalist James Foley held hostage in Syria.

In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. Justice Department had opened a criminal investigation into the death of Foley on the video, which featured a masked man apparently speaking English with a British accent.

Horror at the video spanned from the West to Baghdad, where Iraqis asked why the United States and its allies had not cracked down on Islamic State fighters long before they captured large areas of Syria and Iraq.

Foley, 40, was beheaded by an Islamic State militant in the video that surfaced on the Internet on Tuesday, and officials in Washington revealed that U.S. special forces had tried unsuccessfully to rescue him along with other American hostages earlier this summer.

A firefight between the U.S. forces trying to rescue the hostages and Islamic State militants appeared to be the first direct ground engagement between the two sides.

In Britain, the video caused particular shock as it featured the as yet unidentified man apparently speaking with a southeastern English accent, although the sizeable numbers of young British Muslims fighting with the militants in Iraq and Syria have created concern for some time.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, an adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain, said Britons from across the country’s communities had to stop young men being seduced by radical ideologies.

“This sub culture of this ‘jihadi-cool’ – as they call it in the media – within the margins of society …, that is the real challenge,” he told BBC Radio. “This is a problem that affects all of us and it will only be dealt with more effectively if all of us are working together on this.”

Sacranie said the Muslim community was pushing the message that “this is totally alien to Islam” and families were reporting to the authorities when they discovered their sons had headed to the Middle East to fight.

British officials have also expressed concern that the young men will return home to plan attacks there.


Until recently, Islamic State concentrated on establishing its self-proclaimed caliphate in areas of Syria and Iraq it has seized rather than on attacking the West like al Qaeda – the group from which it split.

But U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to order air strikes on its fighters in Iraq appears to have changed this. The video also showed images of another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, whose fate the group said depends on how the United States acts in Iraq. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the masked man says.

The gruesome video presented Obama with bleak options that could define American involvement in Iraq and the public reaction to it, potentially dragging him further into a conflict he built much of his presidency on ending.

In Baghdad, Iraqis expressed their horror at the video but questioned Western strategy on Islamic State which advanced out of Syria in June to capture several major Iraqi cities including Mosul before the United States intervened militarily.

“The killing is the crime of all crimes, whoever the victim is,” said Kareem Jamal, 55, an Arabic language teacher at a secondary school.

“I wish the world superpowers had fought these criminal groups in their incubators. The U.S. should have hit Islamic State when they first appeared in Syria. Why they didn’t they hit them when they first entered Mosul and other cities?”

Ali Mohammed Saeed, a 35-year-old doctor, called for deeper Western involvement, almost three years after U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq. “Air strikes are not enough, those criminals need ground troops to kill them and kick them out.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the man in the video had not yet been identified. “But from what we’ve seen it looks increasingly likely that it is a British citizen. Now this is deeply shocking,” he told broadcasters on Wednesday.

Cameron ruled out sending troops to step up Britain’s military involvement in Iraq, which has so far been focused on delivering supplies to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State jihadists and using jets to conduct surveillance.

“I’ve been very clear this country is not going to get involved in another Iraq war,” he said. “We’re not going to put combat troops, combat boots on the ground – that’s not something we should do. We have a clear strategy, we should stick to that strategy.”

(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards in Washington; Writing by David Stamp; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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Paul Ryan: If there is government shutdown this year, blame the Democrats Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:53:57 +0000 Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Paul Ryan expects his Republican Party to avoid a U.S. government shutdown this year, he told a Washington newspaper, saying he thought they would fund federal agencies through the upcoming elections.

Ryan, a Wisconsin representative who chairs the House Budget Committee, told the Washington newspaper Roll Call on Wednesday that Republicans were considering authorizing government expenditures until Dec. 11.

“If for some reason the Democrats don’t take that, then they will clearly have shut the government down,” said Ryan.

Ryan, who was the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012, is often mentioned as a potential U.S. presidential contender in 2016. His new book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea,” was released this week.

The U.S. government was closed for more than two weeks in 2013 after lawmakers failed to extend its funding. House Republicans took most of the public blame because they refused to approve the spending unless Democrats agreed to defund President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Ryan said on Wednesday that Republicans do not want another shutdown that would threaten their popularity heading into the midterms, when the entire House and one-third of Senate seats are up.

He also said lawmakers would likely extend the life of the U.S. Export-Import Bank until after the midterm elections. Its charter is currently set to run out at the end of September.

Many House conservatives have said the bank’s activities supporting exports through direct loans and credit insurance belong in the private sector. They also say the bank mainly benefits big businesses such as Boeing and Caterpillar.

Democrats, on the other hand, say the bank supports middle-class manufacturing jobs and helps many small businesses.

Ryan said the Ex-Im Bank would likely get a short-term reauthorization so lawmakers could agree on reforms, such as lowering its lending cap.

Business groups have endorsed a temporary extension to keep the Ex-Im Bank operating past September.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson, editing by G Crosse)

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Class action against Facebook for privacy violations attracts 60,000 users Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:50:29 +0000 Reuters VIENNA (Reuters) – An Austrian law student said his class action challenging Facebook for alleged privacy violations had gathered support from 60,000 users and passed its first legal review.

Max Schrems, who already has a case involving the social network pending at the European Court of Justice, is claiming damages of 500 euros ($663) per user from U.S.-listed Facebook. The $195 billion company has 1.32 billion active users.

Schrems said the Vienna Regional Court had ordered Facebook Ireland to respond within four weeks to his claims, which include that the social network aided the U.S. National Security Agency in mining the personal data of Facebook users.

Facebook Ireland, which runs the company’s international activities, was not immediately available to comment.

Schrems closed the list of plaintiffs earlier this month after 25,000 people joined the campaign, because his legal team needed to verify and administer each one.

Since then, another 35,000 have registered on to join the class action should it expand later, Schrems said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Larry King)

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Athlete accused of rape recruited to Tulsa, where he raped at least one more woman: suit Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:34:34 +0000 Travis Gettys A student accused the University of Tulsa of running an illegal and unfair investigation into her claims that a star athlete sexually assaulted her after he was accused of a similar crime at a previous campus.

The woman reported to Tulsa police in January that she had been raped by Patrick Swilling Jr., a member of the men’s basketball team at the time and now a member of the university’s football team.

She said Swilling invited her to his apartment to watch a basketball game on TV and used his physical strength to rape her.

The woman said Swilling instructed her not to tell anyone what had happened and allowed her to leave after she agreed, the suit claims.

After filing her own complaint, the woman said she learned Swilling – the son of former NFL linebacker Patrick Swilling Sr. – had been accused of raping a woman at Idaho junior college he had previously attended.

However, the suit claims, Tulsa’s head basketball coach, Danny Manning, and his staff actively recruited Swilling to transfer from the College of Southern Idaho.

The suit claims Tulsa police uncovered two other women had made similar claims against Swilling after his transfer to the NCAA Division I university in Oklahoma.

It’s not clear whether the university was aware of those two accusations, the suit claims university officials allowed Swilling to continue attending class after learning of the plaintiff’s allegations.

The woman said university officials contacted her friends to ask about her sexual history instead of investigating her rape claim, the suit claims, and no other witnesses testified during a university hearing on the case except the woman and Swilling.

The suit claims the woman was “forced to re-experience the rape and trauma on numerous occasions throughout the disciplinary process” and on campus, where Swilling is well known.

The lawsuit, which does not name Swilling as a defendant, claims the University of Tulsa violated the federal Title IX gender-equity law when it “deliberately undertook a gender-biased investigation.”

The suit seeks financial damages, including the woman’s cost of tuition and fees, as well as damages for emotional pain and suffering.

The filing also asks a court to require the university to establish comprehensive procedures for investigating and responding to sex crime allegations.

Watch this video report posted online by ESPN:

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Mother finds Seattle school district ignored ‘numerous’ rapes, including her daughter’s Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:53:16 +0000 David Edwards A Seattle mother who began looking into the Seattle School District after it refused to investigate the alleged rape of her daughter for six months said that she has found “numerous” other sexual assaults that had also been ignored.

A 15-year-old Garfield High School girl told authorities in 2012 that she had been raped by a classmate while they were on a field trip. The boy later told authorities that the girl had asked him to stop having anal sex with her, but he said that he was able to convince her to “roll with it.”

A hospital exam found vaginal trauma, semen streaked in her pubic hair, and in her anus. The hospital diagnosed her with rape trauma syndrome, and her victim advocate at the hospital was quoted as saying that the girl “presented as one who had experienced a rape.”

“I did not pay attention to her that much,” the boy reportedly explained to investigators when he was asked if the victim had said anything during the encounter.

The school contacted authorities, and the district attorney acknowledged that a sexual assault may have taken place. But in the end, the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute because it said that it did not have enough evidence to support her claims.

The mother, who did not want to be identified, told this week that it took the school nearly six months before it began investigating how a girl could have been raped during a field trip.

“There was no doubt that he raped our daughter,” the mother explained. “He admitted even to the principal, even when he rolled in with the bus, that our daughter told him to stop, and we know that from the district’s own investigation.”

“Our daughter sustained a devastating, life-scarring trauma which has completely demolished our family life,” she added. “These are very difficult things to prosecute, but that doesn’t mean that a rape didn’t occur. And we have that written from the Chief Ranger who was overseeing the investigation.”

While spending months pushing the school to investigate what happened, the mother said that she learned that the school had been violating Title IX, which requires educational institutions that receive federal funding to address sexual assaults.

“There have been numerous cases of sexual assault in the Seattle School District,” the mother pointed out. “Victims have come forward and reported their assaults to us. But the Title IX officer never fulfilled his duty to investigate those.”

She said the district appeared to be “ignorant” of the Title IX rules, because the sexual assault files were “completely empty.”

The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into possible Title IX violations by the school district.

“We take the issue of sexual assault seriously and are continuing to work with all parties involved including state and federal agencies and the family to address the concerns that have been raised and ensure that the appropriate legal process is followed,” a district spokesperson said in a statement. “The family has filed complaints with several oversight agencies, and we trust that resolution of those actions will be fair and equitable.”

At a board meeting on Wednesday, Interim Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland asked staff to review sexual harassment and discrimination policies.

Watch the video below from KOMO, broadcast Aug. 20, 2014.

['Sad And Lonely Girl Crying With A Hand Covering Her Face' via Shutterstock]

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Anti-trans trolling spree forces Wikipedia to ban U.S. House staffers for third time Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:43:31 +0000 David Ferguson Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has once again blocked all computers from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to stop malicious edits to popular pages on the site.

According to The Hill, Wikipedia instituted the ban on Wednesday night after users operating from the House IP address made a series of anti-trans edits to the page for Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

Anonymous users operating from the Republican-led House were persistently re-editing the page to slur trans actress Laverne Cox by mis-gendering her mentions on the show’s page. For instance, they changed Cox’s description from “real transgender woman” to “real man pretending to be a woman.”

One user in particular went on an anti-trans editing spree this week, changing entries on multiple pages related to transgenderism until Wikipedia administrators were forced to step in.

“An obvious transphobe is using this IP to edit the article on transphobia,” the Hill quoted one Wikipedia user as saying.

“I have no problem with Congressional staffers editing Wikipedia,” said another user to the anti-trans editor. “I have a problem only with YOU vandalizing Wikipedia.”

The person using the IP address responded — without revealing their identity — that the malicious edits were in fact “official business” endorsed by a member of the House. Their changes, they said, were intended to bring “fairness” to the discussion.

“There’s nothing illegal about editing Wikipedia to promote official business that has been explicitly authourized [sic] by the Representative,” the user wrote.

“When you have other Representatives trying to push for laws such as [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act],” the user continued, “or when you have the [European Union] using neocolonialist methods to impose transgenderism on the nation of Georgia through a visa agreement, it’s all the more important.”

Wikipedia administrator Fran Rogers said that if the user would like to be unblocked, they can open an account with their name on it.

“If you’d like to make good-faith edits, please create an account,” said Rogers.

This is the third time this summer that administrators have had to block anonymous editors using House computers on grounds of “disruptive editing.”

After this most recent banning, the outlawed anti-trans user wrote, “Blocked because I disagreed with the trans-lobby? These days, If I complain about a man using the womyn’s restroom then I’m cosidered transphobic and get called a TERF. This has been happening a lot lately here in the halls of Congerss. If feeling uncomfortable about some creeper coming into the same bathroom as me is considered transphobic, then why is transphobia considered a bad thing? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Admin who banned this IP is trans. If she is a real woman, then she should should be following real Feminists like Julie Bindel, not sellouts to the trans lobby like Anita Sarkeesian. People need to understand that transgenderism is being promoted by the Patriarchy to diminish the experiences of real womyn.”

The edits were brought to the attention of Wikipedia administrators by the pro-transparency Twitter account @CongressEdits, which tracks alterations made to Wiki pages by users of computers operating from the House domain.

Other recent attempts to re-edit pages include another anti-trans attack on the Orange is the New Black page, an edit on the page devoted to the epithet “tranny,” changes on the page dedicated to Gender Identity Disorder, and others.

Wikipedia prefers users not to make anonymous edits at all and administrators told the Hill that they always welcome genuine efforts by legislators and policy-makers to explain legislation and policies.

[photo of man having tantrum at computer via]

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Religious conservatives urge people to stop taking ‘ALS Challenge’ because it kills babies Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:20:11 +0000 Scott Kaufman Kevin McCullough of the American Family Association is urging his followers not to take “the ALS Challenge” because doing so will “kill” unborn children, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports.

The ALS Challenge is a viral movement that hopes to spread awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease” — by having individuals record video of themselves being doused with a bucket of ice cold water and posting it on social media. It has led to a dramatic increase in donations to the ALS Association — from $1.9 million at this time last year to $31.5 million this year.

But as McCullough pointed out, this money will be used to fund embryonic stem cell research, which “means that children are created and at their earliest stages of life they are destroyed so that the stem cells (from usually the base of the brain) can be harvested to perform tests with.”

According to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, “all the human embryonic stem cell lines currently in use come from four to five day old embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. After a couple has completed their family, they must decide what to do with any remaining embryos. In some states, couples can also choose to donate the frozen embryos for research. These donated embryos are the source of human embryonic stem cell lines.”

Still, McCullough insisted that “[t]here should be no forced taking of any innocent person’s life just so that another may live longer. That is in essence philosophical cannibalism and moral persons should have no part in it.”

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati agreed with that statement, noting that Pope John Paul II specifically forbid Catholics from donating to ALS related charities. In 2003, he said that “any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.”

[Screen capture of Bill Gates taking the ALS Challenge via YouTube]

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Richard Dawkins and the problem with focusing on abstractions and hypotheticals over the concrete Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:09:28 +0000 Amanda Marcotte So Richard Dawkins has stepped in it again by talking about the decision to abort a pregnancy after a positive test for Down’s syndrome.


This understandably offended a lot of people who have chosen to go forward with these pregnancies, because the implication is that they are immoral people for refusing to abort. By framing it this way, Dawkins basically made it impossible to have an intelligent and thoughtful discussion about this, even though some of his later tweets—pointing out that such abortions are not eugenics and pointing out that most DS pregnancies are aborted—are accurate enough. But watching all this spool out, I realized that the real problem here is that Dawkins, and a lot of his defenders who like to think of themselves as  above-it-all rationalists, has fallen for the notion that it’s somehow more intellectualized, lofty, and rational to talk about these Deep Moral Questions and Great Social Taboos in terms of hypotheticals and abstractions.

But having been a journalist whose work crosses into these territories a lot, I’ve come to realize that valuing the abstract over the concrete, while fun for an undergraduate philosophy 101 class, is actually a trap when it comes to talking about real world issues that affect real people. It all too often ends up obscuring rather than enlightening. I find that it’s actually much more useful to talk in terms of lived experiences and empirical data—something Dawkins, as a scientist, should agree with. In fact, I often find that reactionary sorts love to try to drag conversations away from concrete examples and data-driven discourse towards abstractions and hypotheticals, specifically because it allows them to make sweeping generalizations that just so happen to reinforce the social hierarchies they prefer.

That was part of my problem with the rape tweet dust-up that Dawkins waded into. Dawkins was trying to assert that one can use hypothetical sexual assault situations as thought experiments that allow us to categorically rate some rapes as worse than others. I find such a “thought experiment” silly. Why would you need to do that? In what context is it more valuable to know how you feel about hypothetical rapes than the lived experiences of actual victims? Certainly not in the court system, where the details of every crime are carefully laid out and measured to determine what kind of charges will be brought (or should be anyway), and there’s no sweeping generalization of what kind is “worse” than others. Certainly not when you’re talking about what kind of help survivors need, where again, the nitty-gritty of what actually happened to them and how they personally reacted makes a mockery of the idea that we can categorically rate rapes. A “thought experiment” that results in categorically declaring stranger rape worse than acquaintance rape, for instance, falls apart the second you start to think about crafting victim response and realize that some acquaintance rape victims straight up need more help than some stranger rape victims, and vice versa. There’s just no quick-and-easy thought experiment that will ever matter more than these kinds of specifics.

And so it is with the question of abortion and DS pregnancies. Dawkins wasn’t even talking about DS when all this started, but about Irish polices regarding abortion rights.

And some anti-choice nut busted out the DS gambit:

This is a classic derailing tactic, and the reason it works—and worked on Dawkins—is because it’s about trying to bait you into an abstract debate about whether or not it’s right or wrong to abort a hypothetical DS pregnancy. And, unable to avoid talking in abstractions and hypotheticals, Dawkins walked right into it.

But if you ground yourself in the concrete details of these issues and consider the lived experiences of people who get a DS diagnosis and have to make that determination, you’ll find that your reaction to this gambit is very different. It becomes clear that the anti wants to argue about abstract moral questions because what he doesn’t want to discuss is the actual policies pushed by anti-choicers. If you stop, calm down, and think, “What are the policy issues being debated here and what role does this argument play into it?”, you realize this anti-choicer is full of shit. I know, because despite all the DS-specific hand-wringing that anti-choicers engage in, they have ZERO interest in forwarding policies that actually tackle this specific question.

Take this asshole that helped bait Dawkins, for instance. He’s defending a blanket ban on abortion. That has nothing to do with his purported concern that DS fetuses are specifically targeted. You often see this with anti-choicers. They want to debate the reasons women get abortions—the more abstract, the better!—but the actual policies they push rarely address those reasons, except in a few cases like threat to women’s health or rape. If they’re actually worried about why women get abortions, they’d be talking about policies that address those causes.

Once you piece that together, the emptiness of the DS gambit becomes clear. If you’re really worried about DS abortions specifically, then you wouldn’t waste your time advocating for a ban on abortion. You’d want to ban prenatal testing for DS. That’s a much more specific and effective strategy, since there’s no reason to know unless you want to keep the abortion option open. But you will rarely hear an anti offer that option—and they will never seriously float it as a policy idea like they do restrictions on abortion—for one simple reason: They don’t give two shits about their purported belief that aborting DS pregnancies is “eugenics”. They want to keep the option to abort those pregnancies available to people who have the means to travel or to pay for discreet abortions and simply shut that option off for people who don’t have those means. You think that women who get DS diagnoses in Ireland don’t abort? Of course they do. They just go to England to do it. This anti was baiting Dawkins in pure bad faith. All this becomes clear the second you start talking about the nitty-gritty policy realities of abortion and prenatal testing.

There is no need to go down the rabbit hole of debating the morality of aborting a hypothetical DS pregnancy, not when there are real world people making that decision every day. Most do—Dawkins is right about this—but some don’t. I bet if you sat down with all those people and talked about why they made their decision without getting all judgmental up front, you’d find that most of them had very good reasons for their decision, whatever it was. Maybe some didn’t feel they had the resources to care for a disabled child. Maybe some had experiences with people with Down’s before and felt they could handle it, and, more importantly, wanted to. That’s why abortion bans are such a bad idea, because they take a scorched earth approach to what is actually a very individualized decision.

Anti-choicers want to erase the individuals and their unique needs and desires, because if you start to talk in terms of real people, those individual decisions become far more sympathetic. That’s why they love dragging this discussion away from real women’s lives into the realm of the abstract. But I recommend not taking that bait and instead focusing on real people making real decisions. Hopefully this is a lesson Dawkins will learn after this debacle.

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Comparing Hamas to biblical cult of child-killers is neither accurate nor helpful Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:00:23 +0000 The Conversation By David Tollerton, University of Exeter

From debates concerning the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to the 1967 Six Day War’s titular reference to the days of creation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has often been made to resonate with biblical images and language.

In an advert published last week by The Guardian the Nobel Prize-winning writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel contributed to this tradition by provocatively comparing Hamas’ treatment of Palestinian children in Gaza with child sacrifice described in the Hebrew Bible.

Was The Guardian right to print this?
Jewish Values Network


The advert, organised by This World: The Values Network, has been reproduced in a variety of prominent US newspapers but was rejected for publication by The Times. In response The Guardian ran the advert on Monday August 11, provoking a range of critical responses. These included a group of Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors and victims distancing themselves from Wiesel and the Stop the War Coalition asking for signatories to a letter condemning The Guardian for printing the advert.

Child sacrifice

The advert itself should not be dismissed out of hand even if it is problematic. In his attack on Hamas, Wiesel is careful not to come across as Islamophobic, praising the wisdom, learning and peaceful nature of “true Muslims”. And, in highlighting the danger Hamas is placing Palestinian children in, he cautions us to consider the profoundly difficult ethics of not only indiscriminately targeting Israeli citizens but also bringing the population of Gaza into the firing line of Israel’s counterattack.

But to frame the debate in terms of biblical descriptions of child sacrifice is unhelpful. In one passage, Wiesel creates a three-way comparison between Hamas, the child-sacrificing Moloch-worshippers of the Hebrew Bible, and the mass-murder of Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Hamas and the Nazis, he concludes, are “death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites”. The problem is that it is in fact really quite easy to distinguish between the actions of these three groups.

The worshippers of Moloch are presented in the Bible as sacrificing children as part of religious rituals designed to gain divine favour (the work of my colleague Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou is helpful in highlighting the complexities of trying to uncover the historical backdrop behind this presentation). The Nazis murdered Jewish children as a result of their racist desire to produce a Europe wholly free of Jews. Hamas endangers Palestinian children because of a tactic centred on firing rockets at Israel from built-up civilian areas.

Each situation is quite distinct. Although drawing an analogy between the three is possible, you just end up with an analogy so loose that it initially seems virtually useless.

But encompassing ancient child-sacrifice, the Holocaust and Hamas in a single category does nonetheless have its use for Wiesel in creating the vision of a vast evil that transcends particular points in history. Such a vision has an evocative, quasi-mythic power, but unfortunately it does little to help us make sense of the specific motivations and strategies of Hamas.

Rather than seeing Hamas fighters as human beings driven by varying mixtures of rage, desperation and extremist ideology, they become players in an ongoing battle between good and evil that is epic in scope and primordial in origin. Israeli soldiers become agents of light, and Hamas becomes a force of unqualified darkness. Using the Bible to render the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in such terms offers a comfortingly simple narrative, but it provides little insight into messy realities.

Should Guardian have run the ad?

But was Stop the War right to argue that Wiesel’s advert should not have been published by The Guardian at all? The matter is not straightforward, but if we follow a principle that says the burden of proof always lies with the party aiming to curtail free expression, it is hard to make a compelling argument that Wiesel’s advert should have been suppressed.

Nobel laureate: Elie Wiesel.
EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo


We might cynically conclude that The Guardian’s reasons for including the advert amounted to little more than trying to flag up its own commitment to free speech in comparison to a rival newspaper, but that in itself is not a sound reason to censor the advert. A more substantial argument may be that it invokes indiscriminate hatred.

However, as I have already noted, Wiesel is at pains not to target all Palestinians with his criticisms. Furthermore, when included in the pages of The Guardian I am not convinced that many readers would actually be swayed to start seeing the current conflict as a war between the unequivocal evil of Hamas and the morally spotless actions of the Israeli Defense Forces. The paper has repeatedly presented stern criticism of Israel and it is unlikely that many regular readers will have been convinced to wholly abandon these condemnations as a result of Wiesel’s clumsy rhetoric.

And there are, I suggest, positive aspects to publishing the advert. Wiesel is an influential and often admired thinker, particularly in the US, and is described by This World: The Values Network as “one of the most respected human beings alive” and “the living face of the Holocaust”. While it may be questionable for one person to singularly encompass the meaning of the Holocaust for current affairs, the undoubted extent of his reach renders his a voice worth wrestling with.

Witnessing Wiesel’s stark vision of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides a window through which to view an influential, and in some quarters pervasive understanding of the situation. Beyond all of this, reading rather than suppressing his provocative advert helps to show up the toxic potentials of mixing contemporary warfare with the Bible.

This issue of censorship is difficult and certainly publishing Wiesel’s advert has the potential to throw up all manner of complainants asking: “but if this can be printed, what else is permissible?” But each case must be treated on its own terms and the bar for invoking censorship must be set higher than we are always comfortable with.

The Conversation

David Tollerton does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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Sheriffs across US drawing on right-wing fringe ideas to decide which laws to enforce Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:55:01 +0000 Travis Gettys Sheriffs are increasingly refusing to enforce gun laws they have determined to be unconstitutional, reported News 21.

Although the U.S. Constitution does not mention sheriffs, the position is listed in state constitutions – and most of the nation’s 3,080 sheriffs are elected, and not appointed like state and city police officials.

The anti-government “Posse Comitatus” movement, which gave birth to sovereign citizens, believes government is illegitimate above the county, so county sheriffs are the highest legal authority in the U.S.

Right-wing groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association have repackaged some of these ideas, while downplaying the Posse Comitatus movement’s overtly racist and anti-Semitic elements.

“I made a vow and a commitment that, as long as I’m the sheriff of this county, I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my law-abiding citizens of the right to bear arms,” said Sheriff Mike Lewis, of Wicomico County, Maryland. “If they attempt to do that it will be an all-out civil war, because I will stand toe-to-toe with my people.”

Lewis, who is running for re-election this year, said sheriffs are duty-bound to resist what he believes is an encroachment by the federal government of Americans’ rights.

“State police and highway patrol get their orders from the governor,” Lewis said. “I get my orders from the citizens in this county.”

He’s certainly not alone in his interpretation of his job and its authority.

“The role of a sheriff is to be the interposer between the law and the citizen,” said Don Dwyer, a Republican member of Maryland’s House of Delegates. “He should stand between the government and citizen in every issue pertaining to the law.”

CSPOA claimed last month to have a growing list of 484 sheriffs who opposed federal gun control laws, and the Oath Keepers organization has an estimated 40,000 members and active chapters in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

A handful of New York’s 62 sheriffs have vowed not to enforce the state’s SAFE Act, which outlawed magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, broadened the definition of banned assault weapons, and stiffens penalties for killing first responders in the line of duty.

“If you have an (assault) weapon, which under the SAFE Act is considered illegal, I don’t look at it as being illegal just because someone said it was,” said Sheriff Tony Desmond (pictured above), of Schoharie County, New York.

A top official with the state’s Oath Keepers group encouraged sheriffs to disobey the SAFE Act to fight against tyranny.

“You need to understand that our socialist governor and our president and his fellow travelers are sending you into this conflict against honorable men and women who simply will not submit to a tyrannical lust for power by the political incompetence,” said John Wallace, vice president of New York’s Oath Keepers.

Desmond is not a member of CSPOA or Oath Keepers because he fears being perceived as an anti-government radical.

“I don’t want to get involved with somebody that may be a bit more proactive when it comes to the SAFE Act,” Desmond said. “I want to have the image that I protect gun owners, but I’m not fanatical about it.”

Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff with ties to the Posse Comitatus movement and scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy, said those concerns have likely held back growth of the CSPOA movement he founded.

“This is such a new idea for so many sheriffs that it’s hard for them to swallow it,” Mack said. “They’ve fallen into the brainwashing and the mainstream ideas that you just have to go after the drug dealers and the DUIs and serve court papers — and that the federal government is the supreme law of the land.”

A federal court rejected a suit filed by eight Colorado sheriffs who challenged 2013 state laws banning magazines that hold more than 15 rounds and established background checks for private gun sales.

The sheriffs sued as private citizens after a federal judge rejected a suit filed by 55 of the state’s 62 sheriffs, finding they could not sue as elected officials.

A federal court threw out their suit filed as private citizens, but the sheriffs are planning an appeal.

“It’s not (the judge’s) job to tell me what I can and can’t enforce,” said Sheriff John Cooke, of Weld County, Colorado. “I’m still the one that has to say, where do I put my priorities and resources, and it’s not going to be there.”

Watch this video report posted online by NBC News:

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How science is using the genetics of disease to make drugs better Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:42:08 +0000 The Conversation By Mark Lawler, Queen’s University Belfast

Personalised medicine is the ability to tailor therapy to an individual patient so that, as it’s often put, the right treatment is given to the right patient at the right time. But just how personal is it?

While the phrase might conjure up images of each patient getting their own individual therapeutic cocktail – this isn’t actually the case. Designing an individually tailored package would be too labour intensive and (at least currently) too expensive. Instead, the answer lies in understanding the genetics of patients and disease.

Diseases are not (genetically) equal

Up until the end of the 1990s (and in some diseases much more recently), we tended to employ a one-size-fits-all approach to the treatment of human disease. The traditional dogma has been as follows: a patient has a particular disease, say bowel cancer; we develop a drug or therapy that appears to be effective against it, and all patients with bowel cancer are given this drug or therapy. While some patients respond positively to the treatment and may even be cured, others show no response and derive no benefit from the treatment (perhaps even some side-effects). The drug continues to be prescribed.

This raises an issue: if all bowel cancer patients have the same disease, surely the treatment should work the same? Not true. How we respond to drugs and treatment can depend on our genetic makeup, or more precisely with this example, in the genetic make-up of the bowel cancer cells.

Recent technological developments have essentially allowed us to take a molecular snap-shot of bowel cancer cells (or any other disease cell type we wish to study) and these have revealed that not all bowel cancers are the same. The precise annotation of the genetic/molecular changes or mutations in bowel cancer cells varies.

What’s more, mutations or molecular changes in one or many genes in different individuals can govern whether patients with the “same” disease will respond in a similar fashion to the same treatment. Understanding this “genetic context” allows us to rethink how we approach therapy; if we know about the molecular change in a patient, we can design a specific drug that “targets” it. So although all patients may have different genetics (making an individual therapy for each patient unrealistic), subgroups of patients can share common mutations/changes which allows medicines to be designed for patient subgroups.

Testing it out on leukaemia

One of the first diseases where this approach was successfully used was in Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML). A one-size-fits-all approach to chemotherapy wasn’t working and were potentially toxic. Bone marrow transplants, though effective, were limited to those patients who had a donor.

CML patients have a genetic change in their bone marrow cells that leads to the production of a leukemia-specific protein (called BCR-ABL) that is hyperactive in CML cells. CML was a perfect candidate for developing a personalised medicine because a single genetic change in the disease cell characterises an entire condition. Because of this, researchers – from both the academic and pharmaceutical sectors – were able to develop Imatinib Mesylate, a drug that simply inhibited the activity of BCR-ABL. The drug has been so successful that it has replaced both chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation as the treatment for CML.

Stratifying disease

While Imatinib Mesylate has become the poster child for personalised medicine, most conditions aren’t characterised by a single genetic change in a disease cell. There may be five or even ten molecular sub-types of bowel cancer, for example, each defined by particular genetic/molecular changes called predictive biomarkers, that can also be thought of as “signatures”.

Knowing these biomarkers can help us to tell us who will and won’t respond to certain drugs and treatments and doctors can use this information to separate or “stratify” patients. This is particularly beneficial for cancer chemotherapy – if we know that the genetic make-up of a patient’s cancer cells won’t respond to the treatment, alternative treatment can be considered and they can be spared the potential toxic side effects chemotherapy can bring.

This method (sometimes called the stratified medicine approach) is a key component of personalised medicine and is increasingly being used in modern cancer therapy and work that is being done to find an even more precise definition of the genetic architecture of cancer cells is also identifying new targets for therapy , so there is still more scope for how far we can go in personalising medicine.

Although many of the early successes of personalised medicine have been in cancer, there is now evidence that this approach can be applied in other diseases such as cystic fibrosis (with significant success using a drug called ivacaftor which targets a particular mutation in the disease), cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And progress is also being made in the field of autoimmune and infectious disease.

The era of personalised medicine has well and truly arrived.

The Conversation

Mark Lawler does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


['Scientist Touching Dna Molecule' on Shutterstock]

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Elementary teacher suspended for asking white student ‘cops’ to shoot black ‘Michael Browns’ Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:26:44 +0000 Scott Kaufman A sixth-grade teacher at Brantley Elementary in Selma, Alabama has been placed on administrative leave after a parent reported that students were asked to research and reenact the Michael Brown shooting in class, The Selma Times-Journal reports.

The administration became aware of the assignment after Jessica Lynn Baughn posted about it on Facebook. “His teacher made them reenact the two current shooting of the young black males,” she wrote. “The white students had to play the police officer. She even has them get on the internet and research how many times the young man was shot where he was shot at.”

“That is absurd to me then you turn around and make them reenact every bit of it including the shooting,” she continued. “Then sit in class and tells them our black children can not walk in their own neighborhood without white people shooting them and she hated to sound racist but whatever.”

Baughn then accused the teacher of being racist, and of “teaching these children to hate one another when we’re supposed to be teaching them to love one another.”

Dallas County Schools Superintendent of Education Don Willingham said that the sixth graders were learning about current events and one of them asked about the Michael Brown shooting. The teacher then instructed the students to do research on the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and had them perform a “skit” about them.

Willingham did not say what that “skit” entailed, but did indicate that he had put the teacher on paid administrative leave until he can determine what happened.

Watch an interview with Baughn via WSFA below. Montgomery Alabama news.

["Elementary school students" on Shutterstock]

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SeaWorld drops appeal in safety ruling over dead orca trainer Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:51:58 +0000 Reuters By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) – SeaWorld Entertainment has ended its appeal of a federal safety agency’s citation in connection with the 2010 death of one of its killer whale trainers, the company has told investors.

“We have elected not to pursue further appeal,” the company wrote in its quarterly report filed Aug. 14.

Trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed in front of horrified spectators at a SeaWorld show in Orlando, Florida, when a 29-year-old male orca named Tilikum dragged her under water.

In April a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a ruling that SeaWorld had violated its duties as an employer by exposing trainers to “recognized hazards” when working with killer whales.

The ruling allowed the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require SeaWorld to limit the interactions trainers have with killer whales.

Fred Jacobs, the company’s vice president of communications, said Wednesday that trainers have not performed in pools with killer whales since Brancheau’s death.

Jacobs said trainers continue to work with killer whales in pools with “fast-lift” floors that can quickly rise to strand the whale out of water, in programs to de-sensitize the creatures so they are familiar with people and will not react violently if someone accidentally falls into their pool.

After Brancheau’s death OSHA fined the company $75,000, a sum later reduced to $12,000.

OSHA had told SeaWorld it could resolve the problem by requiring trainers to be protected by physical barriers or by adopting other measures.

A long-running controversy over human-orca interaction was reignited last year with the release of the movie “Blackfish” about Brancheau’s death and Tilikum’s career as an entertainer and stud for other captive whales. SeaWorld has criticized the film as “inaccurate and misleading.”

SeaWorld shares lost nearly a third of their value recently after the theme park operator slashed forecasts while acknowledging that the whale controversy was hurting attendance.

The company followed with an announcement Friday that it will nearly double the size of its killer whale tanks.

(Additional reporting by David Adams; Editing by Jim Loney)

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‘Nothing to do with patient safety’: Ohio clinic to halt surgical abortions due to 2013 state law Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:48:55 +0000 Agence France-Presse By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – A suburban Cincinnati clinic will stop performing surgical abortions as a result of a 2013 state law that bars agreements to move women needing emergency care to public hospitals, an attorney for the clinic said on Wednesday.

The Ohio Department of Health had ordered Women’s Med in Sharonville, also known as Lebanon Road Surgery Center, closed after it could not procure a required transfer agreement with a non-publicly financed hospital.

Hamilton County Judge Jerome Metz stayed the order in January, but ruled last week he did not have jurisdiction to continue his stay. The clinic decided not to appeal, according to clinic attorney Dorothea Langsam.

Langsam said the clinic will still provide other women’s health services, and is considering the option of medical abortions, in which drugs rather than surgery end a pregnancy.

Women’s Med is the only clinic within 100 miles that provided abortions between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy, which often address fetal anomalies and high-risk pregnancies, clinic spokeswoman Valerie Haskell said in a statement.

“This fight has everything to do with politics and absolutely nothing to do with patient safety or care,” Haskell said.

Ohio abortion clinics are required to have hospital transfer agreements so patients can be admitted in case of complications.

Last year, Ohio became the first state in the country to block taxpayer-financed public hospitals from forming transfer agreements with abortion providers. Clinics must have arrangements with private hospitals, or doctors with privileges at such hospitals.

A push by conservative Republicans to put fresh restrictions on abortion at the state level has resulted in a rash of new legislation over the past three years.

“If a facility fails to ensure that they are operating at the legally required health and safety standards to protect women then certainly they should close,” said Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, an anti-abortion group.

Four other Ohio abortion clinics have chosen to close since the beginning of 2013, according to Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. Three licenses for clinics in Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo are pending with the health department.

Copeland said she believes Republican Governor John Kasich wants to close the remaining Cincinnati clinic, which would leave the largest metropolitan area in America without an abortion provider.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Eric Walsh)

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CNN host calls out Ferguson mayor for referring to Michael Brown’s body as an ‘it’ Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:45:24 +0000 David Edwards Ferguson Mayor James Knowles (R) apologized on Thursday after CNN host Chris Cuomo called him out for repeatedly referring to slain teen Michael Brown’s body as an “it.”

In an interview on CNN, Knowles told Cuomo that he immediately began supporting counter-demonstrations as soon as protests broke out in Ferguson over the way that a white police officer gunned down Brown while he was unarmed.

“Right when this began, there were some people that thought, you know, we should go out there and counter-protest,” he explained. “The national media is saying that we’re this divided community. That we’re divided among socioeconomic lines, that we’re divided among racial lines. And so we wanted — everybody here wanted to make sure that people realized that we are not divided per se. We are united.”

Cuomo wondered if the police should have handle things better, like leaving Michael Brown’s body on the street for an extended period of time.

Knowles said that he wished the city could have handled things differently, but it was required to do certain things because of the investigation.

“If we hadn’t called St. Louis County police in from the start to do the investigation, which we did, we would have been criticized for covering up,” the mayor insisted. “We had to leave the crime scene — you know, for lack of a better term — intact.”

“The body was covered for a while, and so it wasn’t covered — it was uncovered for a while, and there was a lot of picture of that,” he continued. “But as soon as they got an ambulance there, they did cover it for a while. And then they put up the screens.”

“It was left out there for a while.”

“And when you say it, you mean he,” Cuomo interrupted.

“Yeah,” Knowles replied, seemingly reluctant to say Brown’s name. “I’m sorry. You’re right. The body. The gentleman.”

Watch the video below from CNN’s New Day, broadcast Aug. 21, 2014.

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Police interest in wearable cameras spikes after Ferguson shooting Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:31:47 +0000 Reuters By Mridhula Raghavan

(Reuters) – Digital Ally Inc has been busy fielding a rush of enquiries from U.S. police departments this past week about its wearable cameras, following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager that triggered large-scale rioting.

Interest in these tiny video cameras, which can be pinned to shirts, belts or eye-glasses, has surged as pressure mounts on the police for a transparent investigation into the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri.

A petition on the White House website calling for state, county and local police to be required to wear a camera has received 130,350 signatures since it was uploaded on Aug. 13.

“We have had a lot more enquiries because of the civil unrest that is going on over in Ferguson,” Digital Ally Chief Executive Stanton Ross told Reuters.

Larger rival Taser International Inc, best known for its stun guns, said it did not have data yet to gauge interest in the past 10 days.

But CEO Rick Smith said he expects an increase in interest for the company’s wearable cameras over the next six months “because of the events that are happening today.”

The total addressable market for wearable video cameras is about $500 million in North America, he estimated.

Shares of both the companies have soared since the Ferguson incident. Up to Tuesday’s close, Digital Ally’s shares nearly doubled since Aug. 8, a day before the fatal shooting. Taser shares rose 30 percent in the same period.

Some law-enforcement agencies are already using these rugged cameras.

The San Diego police department purchased 300 body-worn video cameras from Taser in May and signed up for a five-year data management subscription.

“We have had very positive feedback from the officers who are using (body cameras) in the field,” Lt. Kevin Mayer, spokesperson for the San Diego police department, said in an emailed statement.

Taser introduced its cameras about five years ago, but demand has been slow so far. The devices and cloud storage combined contributed about 12 percent to Taser’s total revenue of $37.2 million in the June quarter.

Digital Ally’s wearable cameras accounted for about 9 percent of its total sales of $3.4 million in the same period.

“On-officer video is still in its infancy but appears to be accelerating and we think that Taser is well-positioned to be a market leader in the space,” JP Morgan Securities analyst Paul Coster said in a note to clients.

Part of the reason demand hasn’t taken off is the cost. Apart from the device itself, which sells for $399-$795, customers need to buy cloud space to store the footage.

Some of these cameras are also tamper-proof – recorded video cannot be edited or deleted.

Taser said it charged a U.S. police department $400,000 for a recent 100-unit purchase including a 5-year cloud storage contract.

The additional cost might still be worth it.

Cambridge University’s study of the Rialto, California police department’s use of wearable cameras showed that complaints against police fell drastically and civilians behaved better when being videotaped.

Barak Ariel, a lecturer in the university’s criminology department who headed the study, said the use of body-worn videos was a strong deterrent against suspects and officers violating guidelines and regulations.

(Reporting by Mridhula Raghavan in Bangalore; Editing by Feroze Jamal and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

[Police officer is holding with a rifle on Shutterstock]

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Alabama federal judge ‘very embarrassed’ after being charged with wife-beating Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:26:32 +0000 Reuters (Reuters) – An Alabama federal district court judge charged with beating his wife has sought counseling and plans to enter a residential treatment program in the coming days, his attorney said Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller, 55, was arrested earlier this month and charged with a misdemeanor count of battery after his wife called police from an Atlanta hotel room to say he had hit her.

“He is very embarrassed,” said Barry Ragsdale, an attorney representing Fuller. “He takes the issues involved with his family very seriously.”

Fuller was stripped of his docket by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the wake of the Aug. 10 incident and is not receiving new cases, though he is still drawing his annual salary of roughly $200,000, Ragsdale said.

A 2002 appointee of former President George W. Bush, Fuller faces both a criminal case in Atlanta and an administrative complaint filed by the acting chief judge of the 11th Circuit, to which he has three weeks to respond.

Federal judges serve lifetime appointments and can only be removed through impeachment, though the 11th Circuit could reprimand Fuller or even ask him to resign, said Ragsdale, who is representing the judge on the administrative complaint.

Fuller is next due in state court in Atlanta on Sept. 5.

Ragsdale declined to specify what type of treatment facility Fuller plans to enter.

(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Eric Walsh)

[A judge and a gavel on Shutterstock]

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Illinois cop fired for sex assault on underage family member after year-long investigation Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:21:43 +0000 David Ferguson A police lieutenant in Grant Park, Illinois was fired on Tuesday after a year-long investigation into allegations that he sexually assaulted a family member.

According to Chicago’s ABC Channel 7 News, Lieutenant Stephen Nardi of the Grant Park Police Department was charged with felony sexual assault on a person under the age of consent.

The Associated Press reported that Nardi was ordered by a Will County Circuit Court judge to not contact the victim and to surrender all weapons and firearms to authorities.

His bond was set at $250,000.

Grant Park Police Chief Carl Frey told the AP that the accusations against Nardi were unrelated to his duties as a police officer in Grant Park.

Nardi is due back in court on Sep. 10.

[image via Will County Sheriff's Department]

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‘I will f*cking kill you!’ St. Louis cop suspended for pointing rifle at peaceful protester Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:20:12 +0000 Reuters By Carey Gillam

FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) – (Please note: there is strong language used by the police officer in paragraph seven)

A St. Louis-area police officer was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday for pointing a semi-automatic assault rifle at a peaceful demonstrator as tensions flared during protests over the Aug. 9 police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown.

The incident just before midnight on Tuesday punctuated the 11th straight night of racially charged demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, since Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was slain by a white police officer.

No one was hurt in the gun-pointing confrontation, but the incident underscored what many have criticized as heavy-handed and unprofessional police tactics that have helped stoke continuing civil unrest.

According to an official account from the St. Louis County Police Department, an unnamed policeman from the neighboring community of St. Ann leveled his weapon at a Ferguson protester “after a verbal exchange,” and that a superior county officer, a sergeant, quickly intervened.

The sergeant “immediately took action, forcing the officer to lower the weapon and escorting him away from the area,” a statement from the county department said.

In video footage of the episode widely circulated on social media, the white officer in question, wide-eyed and agitated, is seen pointing his rifle at numerous demonstrators and members of the media.

At one point, he is heard yelling, “I will fucking kill you, get back, get back,” before the sergeant calmly steps in to defuse the situation, orders him to lower the weapon and leads him away from cameras.

“The unified command strongly feel these actions are inappropriate, and not indicative of the officers who have worked daily to keep the peace,” the police statement said.

It said the officer in question had been relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely but gave no further details of any investigation or discipline he might face.

In an unrelated videotaped confrontation from earlier in the day in St. Louis that also went viral, police shot and killed a 23-year-old black man who they said brandished a knife at officers and yelled at them to “shoot me now, kill me.”

The two officers, who were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, opened fire after the man refused repeated orders to drop his weapon, police said.

The incident occurred a few miles from the scene of the protests in Ferguson near a convenience store where the man had snatched some drinks and snacks before police were called.

Footage of that incident, in which the man is seen moving toward police with his arms downward after exhorting them to shoot, led some observers to question why officers resorted to deadly force rather than use a Taser stun gun to subdue him.

“There are other ways to stop people if you feel you are in danger than shooting them,” said Linda Gladson, 63, a white resident of St. Louis who has spent 20 years as an urban planner in the city.

“We need to stop using lethal force as a first option,” she said, standing outside the St. Louis County Justice Center on Wednesday holding a homemade sign that read: “Taser Then Talk!!!”

The fatal shooting sparked concerns about a possible escalation of public anger in the aftermath of the Brown slaying, but as of late on Wednesday had yet to measurably add to the overall level of prevailing tension in the area.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman from Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Disney brings the force to the Star Wars franchise with free mobile game, TV show push Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:17:02 +0000 Reuters By Ronald Grover and Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Walt Disney Co is ramping up its first major push to promote the “Star Wars” franchise it purchased from George Lucas in 2012, blitzing consumers this year with a mobile game, animated TV show and an expanded line of toys and clothes.

The anticipated rush of light sabers, Wookiees and other “Star Wars” mainstays is Disney’s attempt to cash in on its $4.05 billion acquisition of LucasFilm, which gave the company a popular yet aging franchise that has not produced a new feature film in nine years.

On Thursday the company introduced “Star Wars: Commander,” a free mobile app that lets players direct battles with franchise heroes Han Solo, Chewbacca and Princess Leia.

It is available exclusively for 30 days through Apple Inc’s App Store and later on Google Inc’s Android devices. Disney generates revenue by selling a currency known as crystals that can be used to speed up game play.

On Sept. 29, the company will release computer-animated movie “Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion” online and on the Watch Disney XD app. The film debuts on Disney Channels around the world on Oct. 3, followed by a series based on the movie on the Disney XD channel starting Oct. 13.

This week, retailers began selling toys, bedding, backpacks and other products tied to the series, expanding the range of “Star Wars” items previously available. A line of “Star Wars”-branded healthy foods will hit shelves next year.

The game will be promoted on Disney’s website, which is drawing steady traffic from fans more than a year before the next film, “Episode VII,” hits theaters, said Jimmy Pitaro, president of Disney’s interactive unit.

“We are still a decent amount of time from the movie, and yet we are seeing a huge amount of interest,” Pitaro said.

It remains to be seen if “Star Wars” will be as much a draw as a couple decades ago.

But the campaign is representative of Disney’s strategy of banking on acquired names. This year, retailers generated $1 billion in sales from each of eight Disney’s franchises, including Marvel’s Spider-Man and Pixar movie “Cars,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger has said.

The company says will release a film annually starting with “Episode VII.” It also plans to “significantly” increase the space adventure’s presence at its theme parks, Iger said during an Aug. 5 earnings call.

Although Iger didn’t disclose how the company intends to use “Star Wars” at its parks, in 2012 it tapped another franchise when it opened a 12-acre Cars Land, based on the 2006 Pixar film, at Disney California Adventure park in Anaheim.

“This is one of those franchises you just can’t overexpose,” said Peter Sealey, former head of marketing at Columbia Pictures. “You just put the metal to the floor and enjoy the ride.”

(Reporting By Ronald Grover; Editing by Edwin Chan and Cynthia Osterman)

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Butte man feels stiffed by lap dance, calls 911 to complain and gets arrested Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:56:15 +0000 Travis Gettys A Montana man called police to complain that he did not receive a sex act with his lap dance.

William McDaniel called 911 about 10:30 p.m. Saturday to report that he paid $350 for a private dance at Sagebrush Sam’s Exotic Dance Club but did not receive the ending he had requested, reported the Independent Record.

The 53-year-old Butte man demanded a refund because the private dance in a back room should have included multiple songs, but the woman told investigators she stopped dancing when McDaniel became “sexually aggressive” toward her.

“He felt he was ripped off by the bar,” said George Skuletich, Butte-Silver Bow undersheriff. “He assumed he paid the $350 for sexual acts that didn’t occur.”

Officers arrived at the strip club, which is located near a truck stop in Rocker, and told McDaniel that asking exotic dancers for sexual gratification was against the law.

McDaniel was arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution.

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Iowa 6-year-old won’t stop playing with mom’s BB gun — so she shoots him to teach a lesson Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:39:40 +0000 David Edwards An Iowa mother was arrested this week after police said that she shot her 6-year-old son with a BB gun because she wanted to teach him a lesson.

According to a police affidavit, 25-year-old Courtney Kie-Marie Owens had recently gotten a BB gun, and the 6-year-old boy repeatedly tried to play with it, the Quad City Times reported.

So on Tuesday, Owens decided to explain that the weapon was not a toy, and “purposely” shot him, the court document stated. The child was treated at scene for a red swollen hip, where he had been struck by a BB.

Owens was charged with child endangerment with injury, and then she was released from the Scott County Jail after posting $5,000 secured bond on Tuesday night. If convicted of the Class D felony, she could spend up to five years in prison.

[Photo: Scott County, Iowa Jail]

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Green energy opponents complain of ‘wind turbine syndrome’ — but courts aren’t buying it Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:37:46 +0000 Climate Central Originally published at Climate Central

To wind farm opponents, wind turbine syndrome is a manifold malady triggered by acoustic pulses and other unfortunate side effects of large wind turbines. To wind farm developers, syndrome claims can mean stomach-churning marches into courtrooms and municipal hearings, where legal teams defend projects against allegations they’re responsible for everything from headaches and sleeplessness to vertigo, blurred vision, and forgetfulness.

In these legal fights, the wind energy developers are winning. To the judges presiding over the cases, evidence that wind turbine syndrome exists has seemed as wispy as the cirrus clouds that can herald a stiffening breeze.

Credit: Mark Ellis/flickr

The Energy and Policy Institute, a clean energy advocacy group, reviewed rulings from 49 lawsuits and similar complaints filed in five Western countries. In a report published last week, the group says it could find just one case of a court siding with neighbors who claimed wind turbines had made them ill. That one ruling out of 49 is being appealed in Massachusetts.

“These claims about wind turbines causing health impacts are not being upheld, which means there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that wind turbines cause any problems with human health,” said Gabe Elsner, the nonprofit’s executive director. “That’s a big deal, because claims about that are used across the globe by anti-wind advocates to try to slow the development of wind farms.”

The 49 legal rulings identified by the institute came out of environmental, utility, civil, and higher courts since the late 1990s in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.K.

Elsner said the study began, in part, to provide wind developers’ attorneys with ideas and legal precedents to help them defend projects in court. “These claims about health impacts kept coming,” he said.

Of the eight American cases, the one instance where neighbors succeeded in hobbling wind turbine operations was in the Cape Cod town of Falmouth, Mass. A government board sided last year with neighbors, including a Vietnam War veteran recovering from PTSD, who said they were sickened by a pair of town-owned wind turbines. The turbines were installed in 2010 to power a wastewater treatment plant and to sell excess electricity onto the local utility’s grid.

Credit: Energy and Policy Institute.

The turbine blades are being locked down every night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and all day on Sundays and some holidays, while the town appeals the ruling in superior court. “We borrowed money to pay for these things, and we need that money to pay the bonds,” Town Counsel Frank Duffy said.

The Energy and Policy Institute and others trace claims of far-reaching health problems associated with wind turbines to 2009, when an American pediatrician published a book that popularized the phrase “wind turbine syndrome.” But scientists who have examined the claimed links between wind turbines and health problems have almost universally rejected them.

“Of course wind turbines make noise, and we all know that noise can be annoying,” said Melissa Whitfield Aslund, a scientist at the Canadian consulting firm Intrinsik, whose clients include wind energy developers. “Once sited properly, where you have appropriate noise regulations in place, and where people aren’t being exposed to excessive amounts of noise, there’s no direct evidence of adverse effects on human health.”

Whitfield Aslund collaborated with six Intrinsik colleagues to review nearly 60 studies dealing with the the health effects of wind turbines. The review, which was published in June in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, includes recommendations for protecting neighbors from the noise impacts of wind turbines, such as considering local conditions affecting how far sound travels when siting wind turbines — not just measuring the distances to the nearest home. The report says the nocebo effect, in which a patient can be convinced that something benign is making them sick, could be responsible for many of the health complaints associated with wind turbines. So, too, the scientists wrote, could be the annoyance and worries that some people experience when unwanted turbines go up in their neighborhoods. Such emotions in general have been linked by medical researchers to symptoms that resemble those of wind turbine syndrome.

“There’s really nothing else about wind turbines that’s unique to wind turbines that would be expected to cause any adverse health impacts,” Whitfield Aslund said.

But try telling that to the 19 Lake Winds Energy Park neighbors in Michigan’s Mason County who are suing over what they say are reduced properties’ values and pain and suffering. Headaches, ringing in the ears, dizziness, stress, “extreme fatigue,” nausea, and a “diminished ability to concentrate” are among the ailments they claim to be suffering because of the constant gyrations of the 56 turbines. Their attorney, Craig Horn, who worked on a similar case in the past, is largely focused on complaints of sleeplessness and headaches.

“The further you get away from sleep disturbance and headaches, the more difficult it is to find sound science to back those up,” Horn said. “I’ve had now 40 indivduals that I’ve represented, and their lives are markedly different than they were pre-wind farm. It’s not like they’re suffering from cancer or anything — they’re not going to die from it. It primarily can be tied back to sleep distrurbance, and they have a greater incidence of headaches.”

[Windmills via WDG Photo / Shutterstock]

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Atheist Richard Dawkins: It would be ‘immoral’ not to abort a fetus with Down syndrome Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:18:15 +0000 Scott Kaufman Noted atheist and evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins stirred up controversy again by saying that it would be immoral for a mother not to abort a fetus if she knew that it had Down syndrome.

The exchange began yesterday morning as Dawkins and some of his Twitter followers were discussing the case of a woman in Ireland who was denied an abortion at 8 weeks and forced by local authorities to undergo a caesarean section 17 weeks later after she threatened to go on a hunger strike.

As that conversation progressed, one of his followers asked him a hypothetical question, which he responded to:

He was quickly attacked by those who know people with Down syndrome who are happy, productive members of society; and then criticized more abstractly by those who claim that he was advocating eugenics. Dawkins returned to Twitter late last night to insist that he was advocating nothing of the sort:

He then answered critics who claimed he was telling women what to do if their fetus was detected to have Down syndrome:

Dawkins noted that the majority of women in the United Kingdom and United States who are told that their child will have Down Syndrome do, in fact, abort the fetus:

He also noted that many of those attacking him were doing so emotionally instead of logically:

Dawkins was also adamant that he was not imploring an actual woman to abort an actual fetus, merely responding to a hypothetical scenario in a rational way:

He reiterated that his position is “civilised” not because people with Down syndrome are inhuman, but because all fetuses are:

Raw Story spoke to Michael Bérubé, the former president of the Modern Language Association whose son Jamie was born with Down syndrome, about Dawkins’ comments. “I think the lesson of this episode is obvious,” he said. “We need to do much more rigorous prenatal screening for ignorant assholes.”

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Tea Partier: Obama brought back racism, made cops too afraid to shoot blacks Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:35:08 +0000 Travis Gettys A conservative commentator and occasional political candidate said the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, demonstrated that President Barack Obama had revived racism.

“It’s like we’re reliving the 1960s with Barack Obama,” said Wayne Allyn Root during a radio appearance Wednesday. “He didn’t come in to help us end the specter of racism, he brought it back, folks.”

Root, a Fox News contributor and the 2008 Libertarian Party vice-presidential nominee, told religious right broadcaster Steve Deace that police had been cowed into submission by Obama, reported Right Wing Watch.

“Is it not a racist overreaction by the police department that is scared to death of being called racist to allow people to loot and burn and do nothing but stand by while stores are being looted and burned because the people doing the looting and burning might have dark skin, and therefore if you hit one of them, if you arrest any of them – if you kill one of them in a gunfight – you’ll be charged with even more racism?” Root argued.

The Tea Party activist claimed Ferguson police were deeply concerned about being perceived as racist.

“It’ll make the riots that much worse, and you’ll look that much worse in the eyes of a president who’s looking to indict police officers for racism,” Root said.

Root has said he plans to run as a Republican in 2016 against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Listen to Root’s comments posted online by Right Wing Watch:

[Image via Facebook]

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New study highlights precarious state of the world’s primary forests Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:15:43 +0000 RedOrbit An estimated 95 percent of the primary forests that existed prior to the advent of agriculture have been lost in non-protected areas, according to new research published online Thursday in the Society for Conservation Biology journal Conservation Letters. The paper, which was prepared by an international team…

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Los Angeles settles case of disabled man shot dead by police with $5 million payout Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:04:34 +0000 International Business Times The Los Angeles City Council has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of an unarmed, disabled man, who was killed in December by local police. The settlement comes at a time when another city in the country is dealing with the fallout of a shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by local police.…

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New app allows you to shop in a way that reflects your politics Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:01:18 +0000 Moyers & Company Everyone is talking about the new study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluding that members of Congress respond to the demands of wealthy donors, corporations and business groups, while the preferences of ordinary citizens barely register.

As Robert Reich points out, Gilens and Page analyzed data back before the Supreme Court “opened the floodgates to big money in Citizens United,” so “ it’s likely to be even worse now.”

At a time of unprecedented political polarization, the study means that ordinary citizens have to be aware of the politics of the companies they patronize — some of the dollars they spend will end up influencing politicians whose values may not reflect their own.

But a company’s political leanings aren’t always easy to discern. Eden Foods, for example, markets itself as a progressive company, so many healthfood fans were surprised to learn that it had joined Hobby Lobby in calling for an end to Obamacare’s contraception mandate.

Last week, Colby Itkowitz reported for The Washington Post that a former congressional staffer has come up with a smartphone app that allows you to shop in a way that reflects your political orientation.

Itkowitz writes:

Bet the last time you were sipping Campbell’s soup or popping Pringles chips it never occurred to you that your eating habits could be political.

But every product has a parent company and most major corporations make political contributions. Are you a staunch Republican who would never pull the Democratic lever? Chances are some of your purchases at the grocery store go toward helping a Democratic candidate. Diehard Democrat? Ditto for you.

Never make that mistake again!

Enter Matthew Colbert, a former campaign and Hill staffer, who has built a new app for smartphones that allows users to scan the barcode of products in the grocery store and immediately find out what political party the company and its employees support. (Any relation to Stephen Colbert, who also shares an interest in money in politics? This Colbert played coy and curiously declined to answer.)

Colbert told the Loop he developed the “BuyPartisan” app to give consumers more knowledge about how they spend their money. For some, it may translate to not buying a certain cereal anymore, for others it could simply be a conversation starter, Colbert said. But he hopes all users will appreciate having at their fingertips an awareness that a fraction of their grocery bill went to political contributions.

The app is based on data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, the Sunlight Foundation and the Institute for State Money in Politics.

Read more at The Washington Post »

And if you download the app, let us know about your experience with it in the comments…

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ISIS operative who executed journalist James Foley may be a UK citizen Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:47:47 +0000 Nicholas Watt, The Guardian Cameron returns to Cornwall after chairing Cobra meeting following release of video of beheading, apparently by a Briton

David Cameron has resumed his holiday in Cornwall after returning to Downing Street on Wednesday to chair a meeting of the government’s Cobra committee in response to the beheading of the US journalist James Foley, apparently by a UK citizen.

Downing Street said the prime minister would remain in touch with officials and would continue to make calls to world leaders as British intelligence officials seek to identify the Islamic State fighter who killed the journalist.

Sources have told the Guardian that the English-speaking jihadist, who spoke with a London accent and was known as John, is believed to be the leader of a group of British fighters who have been holding foreign hostages in the Syrian city of Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State (Isis) rebels.

Government sources suggested after the Cobra meeting that the prime minister, who watched the video of the beheading, did not see a need for any changes in the law. But there will be a strong focus on up to 250 UK citizens who are believed to have returned from Syria after fighting for Isis. It is estimated that between 400-500 British fighters remain in Syria and Iraq.

Government sources said the power to revoke passports, designed to stop people from travelling abroad, has been used on only 23 occasions this year. Citizenship has been revoked on seven occasions.

One source said: “Overall, this is going to require a tough, patient, resolute response. It is going to take time. The measures we have got have enabled us to do things.”

But the challenge for the government in formulating the threat of British jihadis was highlighted when Lady Neville-Jones suggested that one of the main tasks for the government was to fund groups that could challenge Isis on social media. Neville-Jones told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 of a need to find means of “communicating with these young people who are tempted to go, in language and in ways which they are going to respond to”.

The former security and counter-terrorism minister said: “We have to use the social media as a means of counter-messaging. That is something government can’t directly do. But it can fund those who can do it. It does need to be done. There is work going on in voluntary bodies of a pilot kind which I think is very promising. That needs to be forwarded and accelerated to a much greater degree. We have to get much more proficient in how we discourage people from going.”

Neville-Jones also said that the UK needed to work with Turkey in preventing Britons from travelling through Turkey. “There is a huge task to be done by way of staunching the flow of people. There are various things the government can do, particularly in cooperation with the Turkish government, to disrupt the flow of people there and prevent them getting over the border. That has become an extremely urgent task. I am sure efforts are being made in that direction and they have to become more effective.” © Guardian News and Media 2014

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Obama unlikely to deepen Iraq military involvement, say US officials Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:39:31 +0000 Reuters Despite outrage at home and abroad over the grisly beheading of an American journalist, President Barack Obama is unlikely to deepen military involvement in Iraq or Syria and will instead stay the course with U.S. air strikes, U.S. officials say.

U.S. officials appeared rattled by the video posted on social media on Tuesday showing a masked, black-clad militant executing James Foley, 40, and declaring war against the United States in retaliation for nearly two weeks of U.S. air strikes on jihadist targets in Iraq.

But several administration officials said there were no plans to significantly alter the U.S. campaign against Islamic State militants who have seized a third of Iraq since June, or to expand military action to neighboring Syria, where the group has gained strength during its brutal civil war.

“From a military perspective, I don’t think this is going to change anything,” a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. “The military objective never was to degrade ISIL,” the official said, using another name for the militant group. “It was to protect U.S. personnel and facilities.”

Obama called Islamic State a “cancer” with a bankrupt ideology at a news conference on Wednesday. He described Iraqis waging a fight against Islamic state, with U.S. support. Not long after he spoke, the Pentagon said U.S. aircraft conducted 14 air strikes in the vicinity of Iraq’s Mosul Dam, destroying or damaging militants’ Humvees, trucks and explosives.

Obama’s decision to forego a direct military response to the killing underscores the White House’s aversion to becoming more entangled in the mayhem gripping both Iraq and Syria.

Since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011, the White House has stressed the limitations of U.S. power to shape events in the Middle East, pushing back against criticism of its muted response to bloodshed there.

In Syria, where an estimated 170,000 people have died in three years, the president has shied away from using U.S. military might, even after accusing Assad of using chemical weapons against civilians. U.S. officials instead have tried to broker a diplomatic deal and, with more success, sought to eliminate Assad’s chemical stockpiles.


In Iraq, where Obama ended a war that killed thousands of American soldiers and consumed U.S. foreign policy for nearly a decade, the White House launched air strikes only after militants threatened not only the capital of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region but Baghdad itself.

Since Aug. 8, U.S. drones and fighter jets have hit armored vehicles, artillery weapons and other targets of hardline Sunni Muslim fighters. The goal, U.S. officials say, has been to protect U.S. facilities in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil and nearby civilians, not to destroy Islamic State itself.

“Our strategy is to (help Iraqis) push them back from territory they’ve gained,” a second U.S. official said.

As U.S. air strikes gather momentum, so too have Islamic State threats against the United States. On Monday, the group promised to “drown all of you (Americans) in blood.” The next day, before the video of Foley’s killing surfaced, another message warned of a holy war against “crusader” America.

While there have been fears for several years that jihadists with European or U.S. passports could launch an attack in the West, the United States has avoided aggressive intervention in Iraq, leaving Iraqi forces to the fight the militants — a position generally supported by public opinion polls.

A Reuters-IPSOS Poll in June, for instance, showed that 55 percent of those surveyed would disagree with the Obama administration involving the U.S. military in Iraq. Only 20 percent of Americans polled would support military action in Iraq, according to the poll.

It’s unclear whether the beheading of Foley will turn the tide of public opinion, but support for military action appears to be growing. A poll this week, before the Foley video was published, showed that most Americans approve of U.S. air strikes in Iraq and an increasing number thought the United States has a responsibility to act there.

U.S. soldiers attempted to rescue Foley and other Americans held in Syria earlier this summer, but were unsuccessful, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

“The effort to roll (Islamic State) back into (Syria) is a commitment the administration has been unwilling to make,” said Faysal Itani, a Middle East expert at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “The death of this man, however tragic, will not cause a fundamental recalculation of that policy.”

While chances of deeper involvement are slim for now, the United States risks being pulled further into the Iraq-Syria conflict if the threat from Islamic State grows. That may force U.S. officials to revive options that military leaders presented in the past, such as launching air strikes in Syria. Other options could include drone attacks in parts of eastern Syria that Assad does not control, as has been done in areas of Pakistan and Yemen.

“Obama is being dragged into this,” said James Jeffrey, a veteran diplomat who was U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010-2012. “His reluctance is simply untenable.”

Washington has also sent over 800 soldiers to Iraq since June. On Wednesday, U.S. officials said that up to 300 additional military personnel could be sent to Iraq to provide security for U.S. diplomats.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Lesley Wroughton. Writing By Missy Ryan. Editing by Jason Szep and Peter Henderson)

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Calm largely holds in Ferguson after grand jury opens shooting investigation Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:36:19 +0000 Reuters Small crowds staged largely peaceful protests late on Wednesday over the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the calmest night since riots erupted over the racially charged killing.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met the parents of 18-year-old Michael Brown and promised his department would hold a thorough investigation into a case that has reignited a debate over the justice system’s treatment of African Americans.

“I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man … I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over,” Holder told a community meeting in the St Louis suburb, according to U.S. media.

A grand jury also began hearing evidence in the case on Wednesday, though protesters stepped up their demands that the local criminal investigation be turned over to a special prosecutor.

A few gunshots rang out overnight, at least one officer was hit by a bottle and police said early on Thursday six people had been arrested, much fewer than the scores detained in the past nights of riots and looting.

“We saw a different crowd that came out tonight. We didn’t have as many agitators and, as I said, criminals in the crowd,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, a black officer appointed to oversee security last week.

“The trend is good. Crowds were smaller, they were calm and orderly,” he told journalists.

An hour before sundown on Wednesday, groups of dozens of protesters began marching peacefully along a main thoroughfare that has been the scene of nightly demonstrations and sporadic violence, chanting: “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

A thunderstorm struck just after dark, scattering demonstrators, including an angry crowd that had surrounded a couple carrying a pro-police sign.

Members of the clergy were seen in the crowd, helping direct the march and acting as intermediaries between police and demonstrators. One black female minister in a long white robe calmed a woman who was screaming defiantly, then ushered her along the route.

Holder, the first African-American to take on the role of the top U.S. law enforcement official, met students and community leaders in the St. Louis suburb.

The Justice Department has launched an investigation to whether federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the police officer involved in the Aug. 9 shooting.


The turmoil has cast the St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people into the international spotlight as a symbol of often troubled U.S. race relations.

Ferguson is predominantly black, but its police force, political leadership and public education administration are dominated by white officials.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said his office could continue presenting evidence to the separate grand jury investigation through mid-October.

“On one side, people are saying: ‘You’re rushing to justice,’ and on the other side, they’re saying: ‘You’re dragging this thing out,’” he told a news conference. “We’re going to present this as expeditiously as possible, but we are not going to present it in a half-hearted manner.”

Outside McCulloch’s office, scores of protesters led by clergy members called for his removal from the case. They also demanded the appointment of a special prosecutor, an expedited grand jury proceeding and the immediate arrest of the p9olice officer, Wilson, who has been placed on leave.

McCulloch’s father was a police officer killed in the line of duty by a black man.

“There is no trust in Bob McCulloch,” said Clinton Stancil, senior pastor of Wayman AME Church in St. Louis. “We are seeking justice. We don’t think he can be fair.”

McCulloch has repeatedly promised a fair and impartial investigation.

Accounts of Brown’s slaying differ. According to police, Wilson reported that Brown reached into the policeman’s cruiser when Wilson approached him on the street, then grabbed for the officer’s gun.

A companion of Brown said the teenager was initially shot after the officer tried to grab him through the car window and again after Brown stopped and put his hands in the air.

Hundreds of people have already been interviewed and federal medical examiners have performed an independent autopsy, the third conducted in the killing.

(Additional reporting by Lucas Jackson and Julia Edwards in Washington; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Peter Cooney, Michael Perry and Andrew Heavens)

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Military weapons cache found in Florida man’s car after racially charged gas station shooting Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:30:07 +0000 Reuters A Florida man pulled over by police near a university in a Jeep laden with guns and military gear is facing hate crime charges after he fired gunshots at a gas station during a racially charged argument with an Arab man.

The Tampa Police Department said on Thursday the man hurled ethnic slurs during the altercation inside the station’s store and then, after walking out and pulling his Jeep in front of the store, fired three gunshots and drove off.

Police later stopped the man near the University of South Florida, finding two pistols, an assault rifle, and military equipment, the department said. A bomb squad was called to search his Jeep.

The man also faces charges of shooting from a vehicle and criminal mischief. There were no injuries.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

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American doctor treated for Ebola released from hospital Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:26:39 +0000 Reuters An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has been released from a U.S. hospital after receiving treatment with an experimental drug, his charity said on Thursday.

Kent Brantly was given ZMapp, a trial drug used on a handful of patients in the West African outbreak, and flown to the United States this month. He was released from Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, according to a statement from Samaritan’s Purse.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Daniel Flynn and John Stonestreet)

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39 kilotons a year: Mysterious source of ozone-depleting chemical banned since 2009 baffles NASA Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:55:08 +0000 Agence France-Presse A chemical used in dry cleaning and fire extinguishers may have been phased out in recent years but NASA said Wednesday that carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) is still being spewed into the atmosphere from an unknown source.

The world agreed to stop using CC14 as part of the Vienna Convention on Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol, which attained universal ratification in 2009.

“Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012,” the US space agency said in a statement.

“However, the new research shows worldwide emissions of CCl4 average 39 kilotons per year, approximately 30 percent of peak emissions prior to the international treaty going into effect.”

CC14 levels are not enough to reverse the decreasing trend of ozone-depletion, but experts are still mystified as to where it is coming from.

With no new reported emissions, atmospheric concentrations of the compound should have declined at an expected rate of four percent per year since 2007.

However, observations from the ground showed atmospheric concentrations were only declining one percent per year.

“We are not supposed to be seeing this at all,” said Qing Liang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“It is now apparent there are either unidentified industrial leakages, large emissions from contaminated sites, or unknown CCl4 sources.”

Researchers used NASA’s 3-D GEOS Chemistry Climate Model and data from global networks of ground-based observations to establish the first estimate of average global CC14 emissions from 2000 to 2012.

In going through the data, researchers also learned that the chemical stays in the atmosphere were 40 percent longer than previously thought.

“People believe the emissions of ozone-depleting substances have stopped because of the Montreal Protocol,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for atmospheres at NASA.

“Unfortunately, there is still a major source of CCl4 out in the world.”

The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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Medically-assisted ‘suicide tourism’ to Switzerland on the rise Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:34:57 +0000 Agence France-Presse A total of 172 “suicide tourists” travelled to Switzerland in 2012, double the 2009 number, to die with medical assistance — a practice prohibited in many countries, a study said Thursday.

German and UK citizens were the bulk of visitors, and the reasons most often cited were neurological conditions like paralysis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

There are four right-to-die organisations in Switzerland that allow nationals from other countries to use their services, according to a study published online in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

It is a phenomenon unique to Switzerland.

Records showed that 611 people from 31 countries had come to Switzerland as “suicide tourists” from 2008 to 2012 — all but four of whom had visited the Dignitas clinic.

“Their ages ranged from 23 to 97, with the average being 69,” said a press statement.

Nearly 60 percent were women.

Of the total, the top ten were from Germany with 268 and the UK with 126, 66 French, 44 Italians, 21 Americans, 14 Austrians, 12 Canadians, and eight each from Spain and Israel.

Most of the deaths were caused by the drug sodium pentobarbital, known as the “peaceful pill”.

Four people inhaled helium in 2008, and died deaths that were described as “excruciating” in the media — possibly the reason for a dip in visitors from 123 in 2008 to 86 the following year, the researchers said.

Suicide was plunged in the spotlight when Hollywood actor Robin Williams took his life last week after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Few countries regulate assisted suicide, or euthanasia, and in many it is a punishable crime to help someone end their life, even if they are suffering severe and incurable pain.

In Switzerland, assisted suicide is not clearly regulated by law, said the study authors.

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights urged the country to clarify the guidelines after an octogenarian who wanted to end her life failed to convince doctors to assist her because she was not ill enough.

The topic is hotly debated in the UK and France, among other countries.

Last month, South Africa’s Nobel Peace laureate, archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, said he supported assisted dying for the terminally ill.

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US accuses Israel of targeting relatives of kidnapped and murdered Palestinian 16-year-old Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:26:36 +0000 Agence France-Presse The United States on Wednesday charged Israel had targeted members of a Palestinian family whose teenaged son was kidnapped and killed in July along with two cousins, who are US citizens.

Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis in annexed east Jerusalem plunged to a new low on July 2 when 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder was snatched from an east Jerusalem street and later found burned alive.

Israeli police arrested six alleged Jewish extremists as suspects and on July 17 charged three, freeing the others.

The death of the Palestinian teen — thought likely in retaliation for the abduction and killing of three Israeli Students in late June — sparked rioting and helped unleash the conflict under way in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

Three days after his death, on July 5, the United States slammed Israel’s arrest of a 15-year-old cousin, Tarek Abu Khder, 15, a US citizen. He was beaten in detention and has since been freed and returned to Florida.

On July 28, another cousin of Abu Khder, also American, was arrested in Israel as well, the State Department said Wednesday.

Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf identified him as “Mohammed Abou Khdeir,” which would mean his name is the same as his murdered cousin’s.

“We can confirm that Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a US citizen, was arrested on July 28. The US consulate general in Jerusalem is providing consular assistance. A consular official visited him on August 14th. The consulate is also in contact with Mr. Khdeir’s family and his lawyer,” Harf said.

Yet “we are concerned that the US consulate general in Jerusalem was not notified of his arrest by the government of Israel.

And “we are also concerned about the fact that members of the Khdeir family appeared to be singled out for arrest by the Israeli authorities,” Harf added.

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Ancient scourge? Myanmar still sees 3,000 new leprosy cases a year Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:22:13 +0000 Agence France-Presse High in the hills of Myanmar’s war-torn borderlands, a clutch of new leprosy cases among communities virtually cut off from medical help is a sign that the country’s battle with the ancient disease is far from over.

It took six days by plane, boat, motorcycle, bus — and an arduous mountain trek — for a group of medical workers to treat two leprosy patients in a remote corner of the country, where conflict and neglect are the legacy of decades of military rule and even access to basic medicines is a distant dream.

But the charity-funded medics were also on the lookout for evidence that the disease had spread.

They soon found three more leprosy sufferers, including one man who had such a severe case he required hospital care.

“I promised him that I would come back for him or I would send someone to pick him up,” said Doctor Saw Hsar Mu Lar, after the May expedition, as he returned to his hospital in Mawlamyaing, Mon state — one of only two specialising in leprosy in Myanmar.

Weeks later the patient was still waiting to travel as tensions between the Myanmar army and local rebels closed transportation routes.

Myanmar reached so-called ‘elimination’ status for leprosy in 2003 — meaning less than one person per 10,000 has the illness.

But there are still around 3,000 new cases found each year and medical workers warn that the debilitating disease could be on the rise once more as the country’s creaking healthcare system fails to reach those at risk.

Decades of civil war in ethnic regions have also left vast swathes of its border areas cut off from all but the most basic medical help, meaning the disease could be passing undetected.

“There can be pocket areas, hidden areas,” Saw Hsar Mu Lar told AFP.

“We have to tell the world that it’s not finished yet.”

- A curable curse -

Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest — and most feared — diseases.

The bacteria affects the skin and deadens the nerves, meaning sufferers are prone to injure themselves, which results in ulcers and can lead to limb loss. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.

It is not particularly infectious, passing only through close contact over long periods, and modern medicine is able to cure patients relatively quickly.

But Myanmar has one of the world’s least developed medical systems, with government funding consistently among the lowest of any country, even with recent increases under a post-junta semi-civilian government.

State health workers are technically in charge of outreach and aid groups are banned from conducting leprosy awareness campaigns or looking for new patients — although they can treat people they find through dermatology clinics and during follow-up field trips.

The respected local aid group that organised the border expedition asked AFP not to give specific details of their work fearing that it could jeopardise future missions.

Saw Hsar Mu Lar’s Mawlamyaing Christian Leprosy Hospital, with its bright, simple wards, trained staff and plentiful supply of drugs, is a medical haven — funded mainly by international donations.

Most of the patients AFP met were farmers or had turned to begging to make ends meet.

“We had no medicine at our village even though we had a clinic,” said 40-year-old Mu Hai, who had travelled from western Rakhine state for treatment.

The hospital’s matron, Ni Ni Thein, is worried. In 2011 they saw 58 new leprosy cases, but that rose to 62 in 2012 and 68 last year.

“Now cases are increasing… the complication rate is increasing,” she said, adding that the age range for the disease had also appeared to have widened, with one four-year-old treated this year.

The fight to stop leprosy has been a major international success, with around 16 million people cured by multi-drug therapy (MDT) medicine in the last two decades.

But experts warn against complacency.

Myanmar is one of 18 countries that together account for almost all new cases of the disease.

The number of new cases it finds annually is dwarfed by its populous neighbour India, where there were some 127,000 new patients identified in 2011 according to World Health Organisation figures.

But while India managed an over 50 percent reduction between 2004 and 2011, Myanmar struggled to reduce its new incidences by 18 percent.

The WHO’s goodwill ambassador on leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa, said stagnation in Myanmar’s new case numbers over several years could indicate authorities are not doing enough to root out the disease.

One problem is that the numbers affected seem small compared to other health challenges like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

“It is quite easy to be brought down the priority list,” he told AFP during a recent mission to the country.

- ‘He shall dwell alone’ -

Even if patients are cured, many around the world still fall victim to the stigma that clings to the disease, ending up living in segregated colonies.

Public vilification dates back over two thousand years.

The Bible says of leprosy sufferers: “he is unclean: he shall dwell alone”.

Saw Roger was chased out of his village when he started to show signs of leprosy aged 18 in the 1950s.

“I lived only with the animals in the jungle and I was frightened. I used to go into my village under the moonlight and I took rice and fish paste before going back into the dark forest,” the 76-year-old told AFP.

After two years sleeping in the woods, Roger was found by missionaries and taken to the Mawlamyaing hospital.

Roger, whose legs, left hand and eye have been ravaged by the disease, has found sanctuary there ever since.

Passing the time reading and leading the church choir, he said he has found happiness despite a lifetime of travails caused by the illness.

“I can continue to look forward,” he added.

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Shakira hit song ‘Loca’ a copy of 1998 song written by Dominican musician: judge Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:16:22 +0000 Agence France-Presse Colombian pop star Shakira’s 2010 hit song “Loca” is an illegal copy of a tune written by a Dominican musician in 1998, a US judge said Wednesday in a copyright trial.

In a 40-page ruling Judge Alvin Hellerstein said the song was a replication of one written by singer and composer Ramon Arias Vasquez, known as Arias.

During an 11-day trial in June, Arias testified that he wrote the song between 1996 and 1998, and he even sang it in the courtroom.

His version of the song which had been recorded on a cassette, was presented as evidence at the trial.

The song became a hit in the Dominican Republic when it was later performed by another singer, Eduard Edwin Bellou Pou, also known as “El Cata”, in 2007. This singer, who works for Sony, said at the time he had composed the song.

Shakira’s 2010 album “Sale el Sol” (The Sun Comes Out), which had both Spanish and English versions of the song based on that by “El Cata” who is also featured in the recording as well as several others on her album.

Mayimba Music, which had the rights to the songs of Arias, had filed a suit against Sony Corp of America and other units of Sony in 2012 for copyright violation.

The judge said liability was limited to two units of Sony — Sony/ATV Latin, and Sony/ATV Discos.

“Loca” was a hit that sold millions of copies.

“The next stage in this case is determining Mayimba’s entitlement to damages and an injunction,” the judge wrote.

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Liberia’s Ebola clampdown turns violent as local official and her family are evacuated Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:06:19 +0000 Agence France-Presse Violence erupted in an Ebola quarantine zone in Liberia’s capital Wednesday when soldiers opened fire and used tear gas on crowds as they evacuated a state official and her family.

Four residents were injured in the clashes that flared in Monrovia’s West Point slum which has been contained as part of new security measures aimed at containing the deadly virus.

The crackdown in Liberia comes as authorities around the world scramble to stem the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola, which has killed more than 1,200 people across west Africa this year.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf quarantined West Point and Dolo Town, to the east of the capital, and imposed a night-time curfew as part of new drastic measures to fight the disease.

Residents of West Point, where club-wielding youths stormed an Ebola medical facility on Saturday, reacted with fury to the crackdown, hurling stones and shouting at the security forces.

“It is inhumane,” resident Patrick Wesseh told AFP by telephone.

“They can’t suddenly lock us up without any warning, how are our children going to eat?”

Liberia, with 466 deaths from 834 diagnosed cases, has seen the biggest toll among the four west African countries that have been hit by Ebola.

Deaths from the epidemic that has swept through west Africa since March now stand at 1,229 after a surge of 84 victims in just three days, according to the World Health Organization.

Fears that the virus could spread to other continents have seen flights to the region cancelled, and authorities around the world adopting measures to screen travellers arriving from affected nations.

Late on Wednesday Vietnam said it had released two Nigerian air travellers from isolation after their fevers subsided. In Myanmar a local man is still undergoing tests after arriving from Guinea with a fever.

- Health services ‘overwhelmed’ -

From its initial outbreak in Guinea — where 394 people have died so far — the virus spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, overwhelming inadequate public health services already battling common deadly diseases such as malaria.

Straining the situation even further, several top officials leading the fight have lost their lives to the disease.

A doctor who treated Nigeria’s first Ebola patient was named among the dead on Tuesday, taking the death toll in Africa’s most populous country to five.

Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said the doctor was “the most senior who participated in the management of the (first Ebola) patient,” Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, 40.

The UN’s new pointman on Ebola, David Nabarro is due Thursday to begin a visit to west Africa aimed at shoring up health services in the four affected nations.

The British physician said he would focus on “revitalising the health sectors” in the affected countries, many of which have only recently emerged from years of devastating conflict.

Efforts to contain the epidemic have also run up against local distrust of outside doctors, and stories of aid workers carrying the infection.

Liberia’s leader warned that local rituals were among the factors spreading the disease.

“We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government,” Sirleaf said.

- ‘Encouraging signs’ -

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib noted “encouraging signs” in Nigeria and Guinea, where prevention measures and work to trace lines of infection were starting to take effect.

The Nigerian outbreak has been traced to a sole foreigner, a Liberian-American who died in late July in Lagos. All subsequent Nigerian victims have had direct contact with him.

In Sierra Leone, where 365 people have died from the virus, the outbreak has also been traced back to one person: a herbalist in the remote eastern border village of Sokoma.

“She was claiming to have powers to heal Ebola. Cases from Guinea were crossing into Sierra Leone for treatment,” Mohamed Vandi, the top medical official in the hard-hit district of Kenema, told AFP.

No cure or vaccine is currently available for Ebola, which is spread by close contact with body fluids, meaning patients must be isolated.

Given the extent of the crisis, the WHO has authorised largely untested treatments — including ZMapp and the Canadian-made VSV-EBOV vaccine, whose possible side effects on humans are not known.

Three doctors in Liberia who had been given the experimental US-made ZMapp are reportedly responding to the treatment.

Countries throughout Africa and beyond remain on high alert, however, with the Equatorial Guinea airline, Ceiba Intercontinental, the latest to suspend flights to the whole region.

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Three top Hamas commanders and four children among 15 dead in Israeli strike on Gaza Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:00:39 +0000 Agence France-Presse Three senior Hamas commanders and four children were among at least 15 Palestinians killed in Gaza Thursday as Israel stepped up air strikes on day 45 of the bloody conflict.

The leaders in the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades were among at least seven people killed when Israeli missiles totally destroyed a four-storey home in the southern city of Rafah before dawn, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The Brigades, the military wing of Hamas which holds de facto power in Gaza, identified the three as Mohammed Abu Shamala, Raed al-Atar and Mohammed Barhum.

The deadly raid came 36 hours after the wife and infant son of the Brigades’ top military leader, Mohammed Deif, were killed in an Israeli strike on Gaza City late Tuesday.

Shortly afterwards, another person was killed in a raid on Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

During the morning, two strikes targeted groups of people in the street in the northern town of Beit Lahiya and in Gaza City, killing another seven Palestinians, four of them children, Qudra said.

The strike in Beit Lahiya killed a man and a 13-year-old boy, while five people, including three children died in Gaza City, he said, without giving their ages.

As well as the 15 killed in air strikes, another person in Nusseirat camp died of injuries sustained earlier in the conflict, Qudra said.

The latest deaths bring to 2,065 the number of Palestinians who have been killed during six weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The UN says around three-quarters of the victims in Gaza are civilians. Sixty-seven people have died on the Israeli side.

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St. Louis cops release incriminating video of fatal police shooting, think they look good Thu, 21 Aug 2014 07:10:17 +0000 Katie Halper I have to applaud the police of St Louis. They are pretty powerful. Somehow, they managed to take  a video which captures a fatal, unjustified and unnecessary police shooting, and turn it into a video which, they claim, is “exculpatory” and proves that they were in the right.

In order to understand how they were able to transform the footage to suit their needs, let’s review what everyone agrees happened.

On Tuesday, in St Louis, fewer than four miles away from where the unarmed teenager Michael Brown was killed by police, a convenience store owner called 911 to report that a man later identified as Kajieme Powell had stolen pastries energy drinks. Another woman called the police and said that Powell had a knife in his pocket and was behaving erratically. Two white officers arrived in an SUV. 23 seconds later, Powell, who was black, was dead on the ground, having been shot by the two officers.

On Wednesday, The St. Louis Police Department released footage recorded on a cell phone by a bystander. According to a police union representative, the footage released was “exculpatory.” In other words, the police decided to release the footage, along with the 911 calls, to show they had nothing to hide.

But let’s compare the footage of what happened and what the police claimed happened.

Police Claim: the police officers started shooting when Powell was within three or four feet of them.

Footage shows: Police started shooting before Powell was that close.

via youtube. This is how far away from the cops Powell was when the cops shot him.

via youtube. This is how far away from the cops Powell was when the cops shot him.

Police Claim: Powell was holding the knife ”in an overhand grip.”

Footage shows: Powell’s hands were by his sides.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 2.10.03 PM

Police Claim: It was justifiable and self defense. when Police Chief Sam Dotsons was asked whey the police had not used a taser on Powell, he responded, “The way that tasers operate; there are two probes that are fired.  Both probes have to make contact with the individual and their skin in order for them to work…. This individual had a jacket on.  I’m not saying tasers are not an option, what I’m saying is tasers are not 100 percent.” He also said,   “These officers felt they were in a lethal situation, that their lives were in jeopardy and I think we have to remember that these officers have a right at the end of the day to go home…. They have a right to protect themselves.”

Footage shows: The shooting could have been avoided and the officers did not appear to be in immediate danger. Powell did not, in fact, have his knife up in the air. Nor was he that close. Nor was he running towards the police. He was walking at a normal pace. The police had time to fire a warning shot or to shoot him once. But what can justify shooting someone nine times? Especially after they are down on the ground?

Why would the police tout a video, which not only presents the shooting as unnecessary but directly disproves certain facts as they had presented them? In other words, even if you watch the video and say these guys made the right choice, they still lied about the position of the gun and the distance between Powell and the officers.

It would be one thing to argue about the justification but what about the veracity?

I can’t help but think that the police are so out of touch with the communities they “serve,” are so sure of themselves and of their impunity, that they either didn’t care or didn’t notice that they were outing themselves as dishonest or, at the very least mistaken. I can’t help but think that had the victim been white, the police wouldn’t have seen the video as such exculpating. But really, had he man been white, he probably wouldn’t have become a victim in the first place. He probably wouldn’t have been shot nine times. Just like Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Ezell Ford and John Crawford III would be alive today if they had been white instead of Black.

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Missouri lawmakers and civic leaders threaten to recall Ferguson’s mayor if he doesn’t quit Thu, 21 Aug 2014 04:48:52 +0000 Arturo Garcia An advocacy group that includes Missouri state lawmakers and members of various civic groups is demanding that the mayor and police chief of Ferguson, Missouri leave their respective positions, the Huffington Post reported on Wednesday.

A one-page letter from the “Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition” called for Mayor James Knowles and Chief Thomas Jackson “to immediately resign from their positions of authority and if not we will call upon the people to immediately do a recall of the Mayor of Ferguson.”

According to the letter, the coalition includes at least 21 members, including two Democratic Party state senators, Maria Nicole Chappelle-Nadal and Jamilah Nasheed, local committeewoman Patricia Payne, and Robert Ringo, an alderman from the nearby city of Greendale. Other members are affiliated with organizations including the NAACP, the state Green Party, the New Black Panther Party, and the St. Louis Urban League, among others.

The statement also calls for the city to fire Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, an incident that spurred protests both in the city and around the country. Wilson was allowed to leave the city on paid leave by local officials out of concern for his safety.

It also demands that Gov. Jay Nixon (D) “immediately remove” St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch from the case. Nixon said in a statement on Tuesday that he would not do so, while allowing McCulloch the option of recusing himself if he sees fit.

McCulloch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a local grand jury might not see all of the evidence in the case until October.

“Some people say we are rushing to judgment and others say we are dragging it out,” he was quoted as saying. “We will do this as expeditiously as possible but certainly not in any haphazard manner.”

The coalition’s demands came to light a day after Knowles told MSNBC that, despite only having 3 Black officers out of 53 in the local police department and a nearly all-white city council in a community that is 63 percent Black, Ferguson has “no racial divide.”

The group’s statement can be seen in full below:

[Image via MSNBC]

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Report: Bank of America expected to pay $17 billion in mortgage settlement Thu, 21 Aug 2014 03:57:18 +0000 Agence France-Presse Bank of America is expected to pay $17 billion to settle charges it misled investors on mortgage-linked securities in a deal that could come this week, U.S. media reported Wednesday.

The agreement, the largest U.S. settlement with a single company, could come as soon as Thursday, reported the Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed source.

The agreement is the latest to hold large banks accountable for the packaging and sale of securities linked to risky mortgages that were marketed as low-risk to investors ahead of the housing bust.

Some of the allegations are expected to cover securities sold by Merrill Lynch and Countrywide, both of which were acquired by Bank of America amid the housing bust.

The BofA settlement would exceed a record 13 billion pact between JPMorgan Chase and the Justice Department last November over similar allegations. Citigroup in July agreed to pay 7 billion to settle similar claims.

Representatives of the Bank of America and the Justice Department declined comment.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Texas gun club named after Black Panthers leader holds armed march against ‘killer cops’ Thu, 21 Aug 2014 03:37:22 +0000 Arturo Garcia A Texas gun club named after one of the founders of the Black Panthers Party marched in Dallas on Wednesday to protest against police brutality, KTXA-TV reported.

Around two dozen members of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club carried rifles and red, black and green flags as they marched through the city’s south side, sometimes chanting in support of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.

“If they don’t get these killer cops and corrupt cops under control,” a member identifying himself as Commander Drew X was quoted as saying. “What happened in Ferguson is going to be nationwide.”

The club’s leader, Huey Freeman, said Wednesday’s march would be the first step in a campaign of “civilian patrols” through the area. The state’s open carry law allows “long gun” owners to display them unless it is meant “to cause alarm.”

“We believe we can police ourselves and bring security to our community, ridding our community of black-on-black crime, violence, police terror, etcetera, etcetera,” Freeman told KXAS-TV.

Another participant, Priest Brazier, said it took the protests that followed Brown’s shooting to bring the issue of police violence into the public arena.

“If the protests hadn’t happened, you wouldn’t have the attorney general, and all these people, the FBI and the federal people looking at the situation,” said Brazier, a member of the New Black Panther Party. “They normally would have ignored it.”

Huey Newton formed the original Black Panther Party with Bobby Seale in 1966. The group instituted a “ten-point program” for helping the African-American community, which included an end to police brutality, upgraded housing for Black communities, and free healthcare for both Black and “oppressed” communities, among other features. He was shot and killed in August 1989 in Oakland, where his career as an activist began.

Watch WTXA’s report, as aired on Wednesday, below.

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Oklahoma Catholic bishop sues Satanist group for stealing wafers to use in ‘black mass’ Thu, 21 Aug 2014 02:28:45 +0000 Reuters By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) – Oklahoma’s Catholic Archbishop filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to halt the use of what he said were stolen communion wafers destined for a satanic black mass ceremony to be held next month in Oklahoma City.

The lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court claims the black mass is a deliberate attack on the Catholic Mass as well as the foundational beliefs of all Christians.

“I have taken a legal step to combat this blasphemous and obscene inversion of the Catholic Mass,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the Holy Eucharist can only be distributed by an ordained minister of the Catholic Church and must be consumed immediately and never taken outside of the church.

The Angra Mainyu satanic group named in the suit as a defendant planned a countersuit claiming defamation and will go on with its black mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center, according to Adam Daniels, the group’s leader.

“I will allow the lawyers to pull that onion apart,” he said, adding the communion wafers being used in the black mass were not stolen.

The Black Mass of Oklahoma has been held for several years and has faced resistance from state, and local leaders as well as setting off anger in a state where many identify themselves as deeply religious Christians.

Officials for the Oklahoma Civic Center said that since the center is a city-owned facility, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not allow for them to turn away productions based on their content.

A Black Mass involves a sacrifice to the devil, a practice known as inversion of the Christian ritual. According to the Angra Mainyu website, it is a modern form of ritual to celebrate the perversion of the Catholic Mass.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh)

[Image: "Low Key Portrait Of Evil. Dark Portrait Of Devil Looking Man With Horns," via Shutterstock]

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WATCH LIVE: Protests continue in Ferguson despite rainy weather conditions Thu, 21 Aug 2014 02:07:49 +0000 Arturo Garcia Demonstrations appeared to be continuing in Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday night despite rainfall pelting the area.

Argus Radio, which has been livestreaming protests for most of the past week, reported that demonstrators were taking shelter under storefront awnings during the evening.

Buzzfeed posted a picture of the storm as it approached the community:

Wednesday marked the 11th night of demonstrations against police violence in the wake of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by local Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. This latest protest followed the arrival of Attorney General Eric Holder to the area to supervise a federal investigation into the shooting.

Earlier in the day, an unidentified officer based out of the neighboring town of St. Ann was relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely for threatening to shoot a reporter on Tuesday night.

Watch Argus Radio’s livestream, as aired on Wednesday, below.

[Image: A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown, holds her hands in the air as she walks past police officers in riot gear, in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 19, 2014. By Joshua Lott for Reuters]

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Georgia aquarium sues federal officials in bid to import 18 beluga whales from Russia Thu, 21 Aug 2014 01:24:28 +0000 Reuters By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta sued the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries service in September for the right to acquire the whales, which were captured off the coast of northern Russia in the Sea of Okhotsk and are currently in the care of Russian scientists.

Lawyers for both sides argued the case before a U.S. district judge in Atlanta on Wednesday, but a final decision could be two months away.

The government contends that bringing the whales to the United States would contribute to the depletion of the known wild beluga whale population and violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The aquarium disputes that and wants NOAA Fisheries to hand over more internal documents to show how the government made its decision.

As recently as March 2013 the permit to bring in the whales seemed to be getting the green light, said Daniel Diffley, an attorney for the aquarium. But five months later the government denied the aquarium’s permit.

“If they’re going to change their minds, we’re entitled to look at why,” he said. “We believe the decision is arbitrary.”

The aquarium also wants to submit more studies about the known whale population.

Ethan Eddy, an attorney with the Department of Justice representing NOAA, told the court that the memos and emails are protected discussions among staffers about the merits of the permit request.

“What we’re hearing is a lot of innuendo, that there might be a bad motive behind this,” Eddy told the court. Allowing staff to have candid conversations in private was a valuable tool for making decisions, he added.

Eddy discounted the aquarium’s request to submit more studies, which he described as three obscure Russian papers with incomplete or unverified translations.

He also raised concerns as to whether or not all the whales were captured in a humane way, as required by law.

Aquarium President David Kimmel said that acquiring the whales would help protect them.

“We want to pursue the goals of conservation, research and education,” Kimmel said. “With global climate change, it’s more important now than ever to learn how to protect these animals.”

If approved, some of the whales would join the four belugas that currently reside at the aquarium and the rest would go to other approved marine sites, including SeaWorld theme parks.

(Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Pakistani lawmakers meet with protestors pushing to force PM Sharif from office Thu, 21 Aug 2014 01:09:16 +0000 Agence France-Presse Islamabad (AFP) – Pakistani ministers and opposition politicians met anti-government protesters on Wednesday, but talks ended for the day with the sides appearing no closer to resolving a week-long political crisis that has rattled the restive, nuclear-armed nation.

Thousands of followers of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have been demonstrating outside the parliament building in Islamabad, trying to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office.

Khan and Qadri say last year’s general election that swept Sharif to power by a landslide was rigged and are demanding his resignation.

Late Wednesday Khan’s team met with government negotiators in Islamabad to discuss his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s demands.

“We put our demands before the government team and they promised to get back to us on Thursday after examining them,” PTI vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters after talks.

Khan had earlier struck a defiant note, insisting Sharif must resign before he would participate in negotiations.

Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, a member of the government team and governor of Punjab province said the talks were cordial.

“Whatever decision the two committees take will be in the best interest of Pakistan,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday evening, a cross-party delegation met members of Qadri’s team to try to resolve the standoff, but the session finished with no concrete result.

Talks were dominated by the issue of the alleged murder by police of at least 10 of Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) movement’s workers in Lahore in June, Rahiq Abbasi, a member of the cleric’s committee, told reporters afterwards.

“We called for the immediate registration of a case and the arrest of all accused,” Abbasi said, reiterating his call for Prime Minister Sharif’s government to stand down. The government’s response was not immediately known.

- Showdown adds instability -

The showdown has added to instability in a country that has had three military coups since its creation in 1947 and which is struggling with a homegrown Taliban insurgency, a crippling power crisis and a sluggish economy.

The two protest movements are not formally allied and have different goals, beyond toppling the government. But their combined pressure — and numbers — have given extra heft to the rallies.

If PAT were to reach a settlement with the government and withdraw, PTI’s position would be significantly weakened, despite Khan’s tough stance.

Neither movement has mobilised mass support beyond their core followers and opposition parties have shunned Khan’s call to unseat the government and begin a campaign of civil disobedience.

The Supreme Court, which has played an influential role in Pakistani politics in recent years, ordered Khan and Qadri to appear on Thursday to explain their protests.

The ruling came after petitions urging the court to restrain Khan and Qadri from “making illegal and unconstitutional demands”, Kamran Murtaza, a senior lawyer, told AFP.

The protests have so far been peaceful but the crisis has raised fears that Pakistan’s fragile democracy could be under threat of another military intervention.

Rumours have abounded that elements within the influential military have been behind Khan and Qadri’s moves, though the cleric and the interior minister have adamantly denied this.

- ‘Patience required’ -

The army’s chief spokesman General Asim Bajwa said via Twitter the situation required “patience, wisdom and sagacity” from all sides and could only be resolved through “meaningful dialogue”.

Sharif has a history of testy relations with the military — his second term as prime minister ended abruptly in 1999 when then-army chief Pervez Musharraf seized power in a coup.

His government is thought to have angered the military further by pursuing criminal cases against Musharraf dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, including treason charges.

Military analyst Ayesha Siddiqui warned that the situation was precarious.

“From the military perspective, they have tried and tested Nawaz Sharif a third time and they feel disappointed. Why would they let him be?” she told AFP.

But Hamid Gul, the former head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, said that despite the military’s differences with Sharif, he thought they were unwilling to get involved.

“They (Khan and Qadri) are trying to drag the army into it, to pull the army, but the army is very reluctant,” Gul told AFP, adding that the crisis would inevitably weaken Sharif.

“If Nawaz wants to stay in power he has no choice” but to listen to the army, Gul said.

The United States, Britain and the European Union have all voiced support for Pakistani democracy and urged the feuding sides to negotiate a way out of the impasse.

Last year’s election, rated free and credible by international observers, was an important landmark for Pakistani democracy — the first time one democratically elected government had completed its term and handed over power to another.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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New York man awarded $10 million after being wrongfully convicted of killing a rabbi Thu, 21 Aug 2014 01:04:22 +0000 Agence France-Presse New York (AFP) – A New York man was awarded $10 million after spending 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, his lawyer said.

Jabbar Collins, now 42, was convicted and sent to prison for the February 1994 murder of Abraham Pollack, an Orthodox rabbi who had been collecting rent at a Brooklyn building.

Collins, who is African American, was 21 when he was sent to prison in March 1995. He was sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence based mainly on testimony of witnesses who claimed that they had seen him fleeing the scene of the crime.

But he was exonerated in 2010.

Collins “has settled his lawsuit against the City of New York for $10 million,” his attorney Joel Rubin said in a statement.

Previously, Collins had settled an unjust conviction lawsuit with the state of New York for $3 million.

Both the city and the state agreed to a settlement to avoid a trial.

While in prison, Collins studied law, and learned that one of the witnesses retracted his testimony before the trial, but his defense lawyer was never notified.

Police wrote a statement that the witness said he signed under duress to avoid being charged in another case.

Collins also discovered other inconsistencies, so he appealed.

U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry vacated his conviction due to pervasive misconduct by the office of District Attorney Charles Hynes, which she termed “shameful.”

New York has recently settled several cases of people wrongfully convicted by Hynes in the 1980s and 1990s.

Other examples include five men unjustly accused of murdering a runner in Central Park in 1989, when they were teenagers. The men were awarded $1 million for each year they spent in prison.

Since leaving prison, Collins has worked as a paralegal at his lawyer’s office, “but now has plans to take a lengthy leave of absence and then to enter the ministry,” Rubin’s statement said.

“He plans to continue his work in wrongful conviction cases.”

[Image: "Hands Of The Prisoner In Jail," via Shutterstock]

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St. Louis cops say video backs up their story in fatal shooting of 25-year-old man Thu, 21 Aug 2014 00:55:33 +0000 Arturo Garcia St. Louis police released eyewitness video of their fatal shooting of a 25-year-old man who had allegedly stolen donuts and an energy drink from a local convenience store, KMOV-TV reported on Wednesday.

The footage shows two officers shooting and killing Kajieme Powell after responding to two calls from the scene on Tuesday. Less than a minute later, Dotson can be heard yelling, “Shoot me now, kill me now” at the officers and moves toward them before they begin shooting him.

“These officers felt they were in a lethal situation, that their lives were in jeopardy and I think we have to remember that these officers have a right at the end of the day to go home,” Police Chief Sam Dotson was quoted as saying. “They have a right to protect themselves.”

However, the Huffington Post reported that the video undermines earlier statements by Dotson saying Powell was within three or four feet of them while brandishing a knife “in an overhead grip.” Dotson’s arms are pointing downward in the video.

The owner of the convenience store told police that Powell was carrying a knife when he allegedly took the items from the store. Alderwoman Dionne Flowers, who also notified authorities, said Powell was behaving “erratically.”

Dotson released both the video and 911 dispatchers calls regarding the incident in response to growing calls for police transparency following the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, an officer in nearby Ferguson. Brown’s death has spurred nightly protests for more than a week, and frequent confrontations between demonstrators and local authorities.

St. Louis Police Officers Association spokesperson Jeff Roorda told St. Louis Public Radio that he supported the decision.

“It’s exculpatory for one thing,” he was quoted as saying.

Watch KMOV’s report, as aired on Wednesday, below.

The eyewitness footage, as posted online, can be seen below.

[Image: "Policeman with gun," via Shutterstock]

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Florida man caught creeping on women in Walmart with camera stuffed in his shoe Wed, 20 Aug 2014 23:55:22 +0000 Arturo Garcia A 40-year-old Florida man was arrested on Tuesday and accused of taking upskirt pictures at a local Walmart by stuffing his phone inside his shoe, WESH-TV reported.

Authorities said a female shopper caught Paul Senzee following her in the checkout aisle, where he lined up behind her without any merchandise. At that point, she reportedly spotted a hole in his shoe, but Senzee tried to walk away when she asked to see the footwear.

The same woman allegedly saw the suspect tailing her elsewhere in the store minutes earlier. Senzee reportedly turned and walked away when he realized the woman had noticed him.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that after leaving the checkout aisle, Senzee was stopped by an unidentified male shopper. He took the phone, which contained a camera, out of his shoe and showed it to this second shopper.

After being called to the scene, Sanford police charged Senzee with video voyeurism.

“Senzee walked up behind the victim multiple times and extended his foot forward and under her skirt,” police spokesperson Shannon Cordingly said in a statement. “Once police are able to execute a search of Senzee’s cell phone they will be able to determine if there are additional victims.”

Watch WESH’s report, as posted online on Wednesday, below.

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Report: U.S. tried and failed to rescue James Foley from ISIS in Syria earlier this year Wed, 20 Aug 2014 23:05:13 +0000 Arturo Garcia U.S. special forces mounted a mission earlier this year to rescue journalist James Wright Foley and other hostages from the extremist group Islamic State (ISIS), only to find that the hostages were not there, ABC News reported on Wednesday, citing “senior administration officials.”

The officials said the mission was based on a “broad collection of intelligence” saying the hostages were being held in an unidentified location inside Syria. The mission involved “several dozen” American troops, who encountered ISIS forces after arriving.

But according to ABC, while the U.S. forces reportedly only suffered one minor injury, they discovered the hostages were not at the location, despite the prior intelligence.

“The truth is, we don’t know,” one official was quoted as saying . “And that’s the truth. When we got there, they weren’t there. We don’t know why that is.”

Foley had been missing since November 2012 after being captured. ISIS released a video on Monday of one of its members beheading him, which quickly drew condemnation from President Barack Obama.

“No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day,” Obama said on Wednesday. “Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim, out of expediency, that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is, they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.”

The U.S. has been attacking ISIS with airstrikes for the past few days, in support of Iraqi Kurds fighting to stop the group from establishing a self-identified “caliphate” in their country.

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California bill would require listing of parental rights for sperm donors and surrogates Wed, 20 Aug 2014 22:07:35 +0000 Reuters By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) – A bill aimed at protecting the parental and adoptive rights of non-traditional families in California was sent to Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday in an effort to close gaps in a state law that have led to at least one high-profile legal case.

The measure by San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a Democrat, would require sperm donors, surrogate mothers and the people with whom they work to have a child to fill out a series of forms detailing the rights and responsibilities of each person.

“My bill represents an opportunity to have state law keep pace with the changes in reproductive technology,” Ammiano said. “With a few simple changes, we can help families thrive without needless legal battles or expensive court actions.”

Legal issues around the parental rights of sperm donors have made headlines recently over a debacle involving actor Jason Patric, who donated sperm to a now-former girlfriend and is suing for the right to be part of the child’s life. Under current law, sperm donors do not typically have parental rights unless otherwise agreed by the parties involved.

Ammiano’s bill would require people who use sperm donors or surrogate mothers to fill out a series of forms outlining the parental rights and responsibilities of the donor or surrogate involved before conception.

The forms required under the legislation are designed to eliminate any gray area about who has the right to visit or care for a child conceived through in vitro or other non-traditional reproductive methods.

The bill would also create an expedited adoption process for same-sex parents. The process is meant to protect families who move from California to states where a non-biological parent is not recognized under state law unless the child has been legally adopted.

The measure also requires couples using a surrogate to spell out how they will pay for the medical expenses of the surrogate and the care of the newborn.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

[Image: "Pregnant Woman," via Shutterstock]

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‘Michael Brown smoked jazz cigarettes’ is the new ‘Emmett Till had it coming’ Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:53:08 +0000 TBogg If there is one thing  conservatives hate/fear/loathe more than gays, strong independent single women who enjoy sex, brown people who bus their tables and mow their lawns, and anyone getting government assistance other than themselves, it is African-Americans; although few conservatives call them ‘African-Americans,” usually opting for the shorter, sneerier: ‘n*ggers.’

As a matter of fact, white conservatives inability to throw the word ‘n*gger’ around with impunity (because “but all the rappers get to do it, so unfair!” ) contributes mightily to their inchoate rage because it violates their God-given 1st Amendment right to be a loudmouthed racist bigot. I believe that right is  discussed in detail in the Federalist Papers, or The Turner Diaries both of which are equally canonical in any library that contains more than two books published by Regnery.

But, for conservatives, their whitest and hottest hate is reserved for young black men whom are all regarded as being violent gang-sign-throwing  drug-using heavily-armed  predatory thugs who live to despoil the virtue of American’s ever-dwindling reserves  of dewy young white virgins. Also, they take all the cool fireman jobs away from potential legacy hires. Why can’t the Chicago Fire Department be more like NBC?

So when  a young black man is murdered — say, Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown — the puke funnel is  immediately filled to the brim with white people speculating as to why said young dead black man probably  had it coming before his body has even cooled.

Less than thirty-six hours after Michael Brown was identified, pictures of him supposedly being all gangster — just like these ‘gangbangers‘ –popped up, and the race to justify his death was on for people who still think black people call them ‘honkies’ . There was ‘the rap music’ filed under: Michael Brown, A Criminal and a Thug

In one of them labeled “Free$tyle Big’Mike,” one performer raps, “My favorite part’s when they bodies hit the ground. I soak ‘em up like I’m wringin’ out a sponge.”

The fact that Brown liked performing thug music obviously doesn’t by itself make him a thug, but it does provide insight into his state of mind.

Also Brown was on some kind of marijuana-fueled reign of terror just like all those hopheads in Colorado and Washington:

In addition, Brown had marijuana in his system when he was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, according to this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

Of course, there are some who have been to a Phish concert and know that pot doesn’t turn you into an unstoppable cop-charging killing machine that requires two well-placed shots to the head to be brought to heel. Having discovered something in his ass that could be easily pulled out, James Pinkerton explained:

“Ask a Secret Service agent what would happen if an individual who’s six foot-four, 290 pounds, went charging anywhere near the direction of the president. I suspect they’d put a lot more than six bullets in him….We’ll know more with a blood test. If he was high on some drug, angel dust or PCP or something…it’s entirely possible you could take a lot more than six bullets and keep charging.”

Which  tapped into the rich vein of “bum rushed the cop”  mined by missing airplane comedy network CNN who took an interview given by “Josie” to feral trailer park  ham radio operator Dana Loesch and then gussied  it up with whatever shred of credibility CNN still had sitting around.

And that was topped off when a St. Louis Dispatch reporter tweeted out that “Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop’s version of events in shooting , ” only to be followed the next day with an admission that she was on maternity leave and therefore, that previous thing? Yeah, it doesn’t really count as journalism: “On FMLA from paper. Earlier tweets did not meet standards for publication.”

Whoopsie! Too late. Because  now the low-information people who feel a white police officer can do no wrong, and a black teenager always has it coming, have all  they need to throw their lot with the real victim here: Darren Wilson.

Rebecca Kuzma Michael Brown, he made some very bad choices that night. He has paid for those choices with his life. No one killed him, no one murdered him. He chose to rob that store, he chose to attack the police officer, he chose to charge again at the police officer and he left no other options for the police officer but to fire his weapon. He chose to fight and he lost the battle. There is no one to blame but himself.

Sharon Schmuhl Since when does an officer be indicted for upholding the law? What message does this send to the general public and the law officers that have taken the oath to protect them? That in itself says why there is a limited number of black officers on staff in a 2/3 black community. Where are the good 2/3rds people of this community?

John-Sherry Boylen I am so sick of the media, always playing the black card….If it was a black cop who shot a white 18yr old, we would never hear about it….In todays society which is a scary place to live anymore, we had better be supporting our police the law enforcement… When you have someone who is big, strong and lets just say evil…there is not many ways to stop them, exspecially if you are smaller, have no help or for whatever reason…This is not ok America to prosecute someone who is out there looking over us, protecting us…. Can you imagine what would happen if we did not have the police to protect us, how bad it would get….There are good black people and good white people, but the bad no matter the color has to be stopped at what ever necessary means…

Mark Hein That’s right because this is all racial.FYI also this week there was another police involved shooting I believe on august 12th can’t remember where it was but it was a black officer shooting a white guy nothing on the news about it surprise surprise google the story I heard it on rush limbaugh’s show today might be out of Utah not sure where is Al Sharpton when you need him

Richard Gallanti One more example of how the entertainment news media needs to sensationalize an event to promote viewership. If they practiced journalism instead of sensationalizm they would provide a law enforcement prospective and what officers deal with on a daily basis in some difficult places around the country and why a rush to judgement about this case or any other serves no purpose. Why are the religious leaders in that community? Where are the other national religious leaders that usually pop up on TV asking for calm and allowing the system to take it’s course. I feel sorry for the good people that worked hard to revitalize the community over the years. Once again the 10% of thugs and 10% of misinformed followers can damage a community in the matter of days. We give our prayers and support for Officer Wilson and his family.

William Laird No correct way of policing. If you do your job, protect yourself from a large, aggressive suspect you go on AL. Don’t protect yourself and you end up in a box. Support from my family to you and yours. You did nothing wrong. It is a direct result of the entitlement culture of the current Negro lifestyle. No responsibility for their actions. Keep your head up and protect your family!!

Ellen J. Fleming The way I look at it, is . . . if you are going to break the law you have to pay the consequences, had the young man not been out doing crimes, then he would be alive today! He was bound to get shot sooner or later at the rate he was going! Strong arm robbery today, murder tomorrow! If you are going to live in a criminal environment then you have to expect to be treated like a criminal! Its just THAT simple! The police are there to protect EVERYONE against people just like Brown!
Thebao Tran Nguyen What Officer Wilson did was justified at that moment and situation. As an immigrant from Vietnam who became US citizen, I am surprised that the police force in the US don’t carry assault rifle. Given the same situation was to happen in Vietnam, the police there would unload a full mag of AK47 into that assaulting thug. The person need to be charged with a crime is the assaulting thug, Michael Brown, crimes of robbery and assaulting an officer of law enforcement.
Marco Biaggi Fact… Brown had drugs in his system, Fact …. Brown was aggressive and committed a robbery moments before confrontation. Fact… Brown was 6′ 03” and assaulted police officer Wilson prior to being shot. Fact… Witnesses lied about Officer Wilson shooting him in the back…. I will continue to support Officer Wilson and all Police Officers until the facts show otherwise.

As they like to say: Mission accomplished.

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Cop barred from Ferguson protests after telling reporter, ‘I’m going to f*cking kill you’ Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:45:05 +0000 Arturo Garcia A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri was removed from duty on Wednesday after being caught on video threatening to kill a reporter during the latest demonstration in the city.

The Missouri branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on its website that the officer’s removal followed a letter sent to state Highway Patrol Superintendent Cpl. Ron Repogle questioning his behavior.

CNN reported that the officer was relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely.

The video shows the officer approaching the reporter, identified by the Free Thought Project as Joe Biggs, with his firearm raised. The officer can be seen looking toward him and saying, “I’m going to f*cking kill you.”

The Free Thought Project also posted an image of the officer:

ferguson cop full1

When the person filming the encounter, who identifies himself as “Rebelutionary_Z,” asked the officer for his name, he replied, “Go f*ck yourself” before being led away by another officer.

The ACLU included a link to the video in its letter to Repogle, calling on him to identify and remove the officer from duty.

“This officer’s conduct — from pointing a weapon, to threatening to kill, to responding with profanity to a request for identity — was from start to finish wholly unacceptable,” the letter stated. “Such behavior serves to heighten, not reduce, tension.”

On its website, the ACLU said it was told by the Highway Patrol that the officer — whose name has still not been revealed — was a member of the police department in St. Ann, a town about 7 miles away. The police department there did not respond to The Raw Story’s request for his identity before publication.

Watch the video, as posted online on Wednesday, below.

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FBI tells healthcare companies that ‘malicious’ hackers are looking to steal their data Wed, 20 Aug 2014 20:25:06 +0000 Reuters By Jim Finkle

BOSTON (Reuters) – The FBI has warned that healthcare industry companies are being targeted by hackers, publicizing the issue following an attack on U.S. hospital group Community Health Systems Inc that resulted in the theft of millions of patient records.

“The FBI has observed malicious actors targeting healthcare related systems, perhaps for the purpose of obtaining Protected Healthcare Information (PHI) and/or Personally Identifiable Information (PII),” the agency said in a “Flash” alert obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

“These actors have also been seen targeting multiple companies in the healthcare and medical device industry typically targeting valuable intellectual property, such as medical device and equipment development data,” the one page document said.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security periodically release such alerts to provide U.S. businesses with technical information they can use to either prevent or identify cyber attacks.

The FBI’s alert to healthcare companies did not identify any specific victims targeted by hackers. An agency spokesman declined comment when asked about the document.

Community Health Systems, the No. 2 U.S. publicly traded hospital operator, disclosed the attack on Monday, saying stolen data included patient names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle. Editing by Andre Grenon)

[Image: "Hacker at work," via Shutterstock]

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Supreme Court puts same-sex marriage on hold in Virginia Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:26:36 +0000 Reuters By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday prevented gay marriage in Virginia from going into effect by blocking an appeals court ruling that struck down the state’s ban.

The court granted a stay application filed by gay marriage opponents who said a July 28 ruling by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should not be implemented while litigation continues.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Chizu Nomiyama)

The court’s decision can be read in full below.

McGuigg v. Bostic Order by tpmdocs

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Hot and getting hotter: See how urban heat islands are cooking US cities Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:18:08 +0000 Climate Central Originally published at Climate Central

Cities are almost always hotter than the surrounding rural area but global warming takes that heat and makes it worse. In the future, this combination of urbanization and climate change could raise urban temperatures to levels that threaten human health, strain energy resources, and compromise economic productivity.

Summers in the U.S. have been warming since 1970. But on average across the country cities are even hotter, and have been getting hotter faster than adjacent rural areas. (report continues below interactive)


With more than 80 percent of Americans living in cities, these urban heat islands — combined with rising temperatures caused by increasing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions — can have serious health effects for hundreds of millions of people during the hottest months of the year.  Heat is the No.1 weather-related killer in the U.S., and the hottest days, particularly days over 90°F, are associated with dangerous ozone pollution levels that can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other serious health impacts.

Our analysis of summer temperatures in 60 of the largest U.S. cities found that:

  • 57 cities had measurable urban heat island effects over the past 10 years. Single-day urban temperatures in some metro areas were as much as 27°F higher than the surrounding rural areas, and on average across all 60 cities, the maximum single-day temperature difference was 17.5°F.
  • Cities have many more searing hot days each year. Since 2004, 12 cities averaged at least 20 more days a year above 90°F than nearby rural areas. The 60 cities analyzed averaged at least 8 more days over 90°F each summer compared to adjacent rural areas.
  • More heat can increase ozone air pollution. All 51 cities with adequate data showed a statistically significant correlation between higher daily summer temperatures and bad air quality (as measured by ground-level ozone concentrations). Temperatures are being forced higher by increasing urbanization and manmade global warming, which could undermine the hard-won improvements in air quality and public health made over the past few decades.
  • In two thirds of the cities analyzed (41 of 60), urbanization and climate change appear to be combining to increase summer heat faster than climate change alone is raising regional temperatures. In three quarters (45 of 60) of cities examined, urbanized areas are warming faster than adjacent rural locations.
  • The top 10 cities with the most intense summer urban heat islands (average daily urban-rural temperature differences) over the past 10 years are:
  • Las Vegas (7.3°F)
  • Albuquerque (5.9°F
  • Denver (4.9°F)
  • Portland (4.8°F)
  • Louisville (4.8°F)
  • Washington, D.C. (4.7°F)
  • Kansas City (4.6°F)
  • Columbus (4.4°F)
  • Minneapolis (4.3°F)
  • Seattle (4.1°F)
  • On average across all 60 cities, urban summer temperatures were 2.4°F hotter than rural temperatures.

Urban heat islands are even more intense at night. Over the past 10 years, average summer overnight temperatures were more than 4°F hotter in cities than surrounding rural areas.

Urban heat measured by satellite in Louisville, Ky. Click image to enlarge. 


Several independent studies have shown that urban heat islands (in the U.S., and around the world) do not bias global warming measurements, ruling out the possibility that rising global temperatures have been caused by urbanization alone.

Research suggests that urban planning and design that incorporates more trees and parks, white roofs, and alternative materials for urban infrastructure can help reduce the effects of urban heat islands.

But rising greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drive average U.S summer temperatures even higher in the coming decades, exacerbating urban heat islands and their associated health risks.

Research report written by Alyson Kenward, Senior Scientist and Research Director for Climate Central; Dan Yawitz, Research Analyst and Multimedia Fellow; Todd Sanford, Climate Scientist; and Regina Wang, Research Fellow.

[Sweating woman on a hot day on Shutterstock]

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Pat Robertson calls for anti-Obama ‘revolution’ because computers make his doctors slow Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:08:01 +0000 David Edwards Conservative TV preacher Pat Robertson said this week that Americans needed to stage a “revolution” against President Barack Obama after a trip to the doctor that took too long because his nurse had to use a computer.

“Obamacare has been a massive disaster!” Robertson opined on the Wednesday edition of The 700 Club. “Now doctors have another problem coming down from big government!”

According to a doctor that CBN spoke to in Farmville, Virginia, a government push for standardizing electronic medical records could put his practice out of business.

“We need a revolution in this country to change this stuff,” Robertson lamented. “You know, I had a little procedure or something done. And I’m sitting there, and this nurse is saying, ‘Well, tell us about this.’ And she’s accessing in her computer, ‘Well, how many vitamins do you take? How about something else? When did you have…?’ She spent forever and forever logging stuff into the computer because that’s what they want to do!”

“Well how about me? I’m sick! Help me! Well, that’s too bad. We’ve got to get the records fixed.”

The CBN co-host argued that it was an example of “socialism.”

“It isn’t right,” Robertson agreed. “Ladies and gentlemen, we need a revolution to stop these so-called progressives from destroying this country anymore. But they’re getting pretty close to the tipping point. It is not a pleasant scenario.”

The televangelist added that he didn’t vote for President Obama, “but the American people voted him into office twice, and this is the result.”

“We reap what we sow.”

Watch the video below from CBN’s The 700 Club, broadcast Aug. 20, 2014.

(h/t: Right Wing Watch)

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‘Touching therapy’ psychologist charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:00:00 +0000 Reuters (Reuters) – A Pennsylvania psychologist was arrested on charges of sexual assault for treating patients with a special brand of “touching therapy” he practiced, the state attorney general said on Wednesday.

Dr. Richard Lenhart, 53, of State College, Pennsylvania, sexually assaulted two female patients at his private practice under the guise of treatment and then billed insurers as if he had provided legitimate services, prosecutors said.

“The charges state Lenhart prescribed ‘touching therapy’ for the women, which included touching and holding the patients. The therapy allegedly included stroking, sexual contact and rubbing of genitals,” according to a news release from state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

From 2008 to 2011, Lenhart submitted nearly 700 insurance claims seeking a total of more than $71,500 in reimbursement, falsely indicating he was rendering proper treatment, the attorney general’s office said.

Lenhart is charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, sexual assault and criminal use of a communication facility.

He is also charged with three counts of indecent assault and two counts of both insurance fraud and theft by deception.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

[Psychologist Consulting Pensive Man on Shutterstock]

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Obama vows to be relentless with Islamic State after beheading of James Foley Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:58:24 +0000 Reuters By Steve Holland and Elizabeth Barber

EDGARTOWN Mass. (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Wednesday vowed that the United States will not be swayed from airstrikes against Islamic State after the group beheaded an American journalist, an act he said is proof that the militants stand for no religion.

Obama’s response to the execution of James Foley marked his strongest condemnation yet of Islamic State militants, and he gave no sign of a pause in U.S. targeting of militant positions in Iraq.

“The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done,” he said.

Obama’s remarks, to reporters covering his vacation on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, came shortly after the White House announced that a video showing the beheading of Foley had been authenticated by the U.S. intelligence community.

The beheading appeared to mark a turning point in the growing U.S. focus on Islamic State as a potential threat to American interests, but whether it will lead to an intensified bombing campaign was not yet clear.

The United States has launched dozens of airstrikes against Islamic State targets in order to protect the religious minority Yazidis in Iraq and prevent the takeover of the Mosul Dam out of concern that a breach in the structure could end up flooding Baghdad, where the U.S. embassy is situated.

Obama’s remarks carried a tough message about the Islamic State’s harsh penalties against anyone who does not agree to accept its brand of Islam.

He said militants have rampaged across cities and villages, abducted women and children and subjected them to torture and rape and killed Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands.

“No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day,” he said.

“Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim, out of expediency, that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is, they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior,” Obama said.

Obama also said he called Foley’s family to express his condolences.

(Additional reporting by Bill Trott in Washington; Editing by Susan Heavey)

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Our life with the Neanderthals was no brief affair Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:55:08 +0000 Reuters By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) – Far from wiping out Neanderthals overnight, modern humans rubbed along with their shorter and stockier cousins for thousands of years, giving plenty of time for the two groups to share ideas – and have sex.

The most accurate timeline yet for the demise of our closest relatives, published on Wednesday, shows Neanderthals overlapped with present-day humans in Europe for between 2,600 and 5,400 years before disappearing about 40,000 years ago.

Pinpointing how and when the Neanderthals became extinct has been tough because the mainstay process of radiocarbon dating is unreliable for samples that are more than 30,000 years old, due to contamination.

The latest six-year project by researchers at the University of Oxford used modern methods to remove contaminants and accurately date nearly 200 samples of bone, charcoal and shell from 40 important archaeological sites across Europe.

The data showed that Neanderthals vanished from Europe between 39,000 and 41,000 years ago – but rather than being replaced rapidly by modern humans, their disappearance occurred at different times across sites from the Black Sea to the Atlantic.

“Now that we are using better techniques, the picture is becoming much more clear in terms of the process by which Neanderthals disappeared from Europe,” said lead researcher Tom Higham. “Our results suggest there was a mosaic of populations.”

Scientists already know from DNA evidence that there was some interbreeding between the two groups, although it is not clear whether this occurred once or many times. Recent studies have suggested between 1.5 and 2.1 percent of the DNA of modern non-African human populations originates from Neanderthals.

“In a way, our close cousins, as Neanderthals are, aren’t extinct,” according to Higham. “They carry on in us today.”

Paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the research, said the new findings were “striking” and backed up the idea that modern humans and Neanderthals may have learnt from each other.

He believes interbreeding probably first occurred in Asia soon after modern humans began to leave Africa around 60,000 years ago, so the latest evidence indicates the two populations may have been in some kind of contact for up to 20,000 years – much longer than in Europe alone.


Many scientists now reject the notion that Neanderthals were dim-witted brutes and point to evidence of use of symbolic objects, which may have been learnt from modern humans.

The Oxford team dated a number of items from sites of so-called transitional stone tool industries – viewed as either the work of the last of the Neanderthals or early modern humans – and found they were all between 40,000 and 45,000 years old, indicating a period of possible cultural exchange.

Interestingly, they found no evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans lived particularly closely together. Rather, Neanderthals probably survived in dwindling populations in pockets of Europe before dying out altogether.

It is unclear what killed off the Neanderthals, although theories include an inability to adapt to climate change and increased economic competition from more agile modern humans.

While the latest work provides the most robust timeline so far of the last days of the Neanderthals, there are still gaps in coverage, particularly in Siberia and eastern regions of Eurasia. That is something the researchers plan to address in follow-up investigations.

“Ultimately, our aim is to create kind of movies that show the arrival and departure of different sub-species of humans across Europe,” Higham said in an interview filmed in his lab. “We are part-way towards that but there is a still a lot more work we can do.”

Some scientists have hypothesized that late-surviving groups of Neanderthals lived in places such as Gibraltar after 40,000 years ago, but the latest dating provides no evidence of this, according to the Oxford team, whose findings were published in the journal Nature.

(editing by David Stamp)

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Attorney General Eric Holder visits Ferguson amid federal probe into fatal police shooting Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:53:30 +0000 Reuters By Scott Malone and Ellen Wulfhorst

FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was visiting Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, hours after nearly 50 protesters were arrested in the 11th straight night of demonstrations over the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office will also begin presenting evidence on Wednesday to a regularly seated grand jury investigating the August 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch said his office could continue presenting evidence to the grand jury through mid-October as he confronts conflicting pressures for speed and thoroughness.

“On one side, people are saying you’re rushing to justice, and on the other side, they’re saying you’re dragging this thing out,” he said at a news conference. “We’re going to present this as expeditiously as possible, but we are not going to present it in a half-hearted manner.”

Outside McCulloch’s office, a few dozen protesters called for him to be removed from the case and for the immediate arrest of the officer involved in the shooting. The officer, 28-year-old Darren Wilson, has been placed on leave and gone into seclusion.

“The criminal justice system in America … is as racist as it was 50 years ago,” said 62-year-old African-American minister Stanton Holliday, who said he was a longtime civil rights activist and was concerned that prosecutors were taking too long.

Holder said he planned to visit Ferguson, a predominantly black St. Louis suburb of 21,000 residents, to be briefed on the progress of a separate civil rights investigation he has ordered into the Brown killing.

In Ferguson, some said they hoped Holder’s visit would lead to a speedy arrest and prosecution of the police officer involved in the shooting, while others cautioned against hasty justice.

Jason Schmidt, a 28-year-old black man who works for a temporary agency, said he hoped the federal government’s involvement would lead to “the killer paying for his actions.

“… If this was done to any other race, to any other place, in any other situation, I don’t think it would have taken this long to get justice,” Schmidt said.

Another resident, 66-year-old retired Vietnam War veteran Walter Garrett, also black, called for patience.

“You don’t want to rush it and have him get off if it turns out he is guilty,” Garrett said.

In a special message to the community published online by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Holder said about 40 FBI agents have been assigned to the case, along with prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Louis.

Hundreds of people have already been interviewed, Holder said, and federal medical examiners have performed an independent autopsy, the third conducted in the killing.

“Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent,” Holder said.

He joined Governor Jay Nixon and other officials in a renewed appeal for public calm following demonstrations that have gripped Ferguson since Brown was killed.

Most of the protests have been punctuated by looting, vandalism and clashes between demonstrators and police.


The turmoil has generated international headlines and exposed simmering racial tensions in Ferguson, whose police force, political leadership and public education administration are dominated by whites.

The case also has re-ignited a national debate over racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, even drawing sharp words on Tuesday from top United Nations human rights envoy Navi Pillay, a native South African.

“I condemn the excessive force by the police and call for the right of protest to be respected,” she said in Geneva.

Police and the governor have insisted that thugs or outside agitators have caused most of the trouble.

On Tuesday, demonstrators were noticeably fewer in number and more subdued than on previous nights. Onlookers milled about as civic activists, members of the clergy and even Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster mingled with protesters.

The relative calm abruptly dissolved just before midnight, however, as police in riot gear ordered lingering demonstrators to disperse, then charged into the crowd to make arrests.

Police later said they took 47 people into custody and seized several loaded firearms, but no gunshots were fired.

(Additional reporting by Lucas Jackson in Ferguson, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo.; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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Minnesota Democrat to gun rights lobbyist: ‘Come near me, and I’ll blow your head off!’ Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:58:33 +0000 Travis Gettys A Minnesota gun rights group complained that a Democratic lawmaker threatened to blow his head off while seeking comment about his views on firearms laws.

Andrew Rothman, president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, signed an affidavit that outlined the alleged July 19 incident, reported Minneapolis City Pages.

He claims he contacted state Rep. Ron Erhardt (D-Edina) for a survey on his gun views, just as the GOCRA does with each of the more than 280 candidates running for the Minnesota House of Representatives.

GOCRA sent two emails earlier this year to the 84-year-old Erhardt, but he didn’t respond, so Rothman called him.

The lawmaker said he did not intend to complete the survey, and Rothman reminded him that GOCRA handed out failing grades to candidates with no voting record or survey.

“Give me a double F,” Erhardt shouted, according to the affidavit. “No more surveys! You come near me, and I’ll blow your head off!”

Then the lawmaker hung up the phone, ending the 78-second phone call.

“Your affiant found it quite remarkable, in his experience, to be threatened in such a fashion,” Rothman said in the affidavit.

Rothman said candidates had, until now, been unfailingly civil and professional to him, even when they were “openly antagonistic to GOCRA.”

The gun rights lobbyist said he did not interpret Erhardt’s remark as a credible threat, but he said he planned to keep his distance from the lawmaker.

“I have no intention of visiting Mr. Erhardt in Edina,” he said, adding that he had not called the lawmaker again.

GOCRA summarizes candidate responses to its questionnaire on the group’s website, and Erhardt’s entry briefly summarizes his exchange with Rothman before recommending “anger management therapy and early retirement.”

Erhardt was first elected to the state House in 1990 as a Republican, but he switched to Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in 2008 after a dispute with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who withdrew the lawmaker’s GOP nomination.

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8-year-old endured horrific abuse before mom and boyfriend beat him to death: witnesses Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:58:16 +0000 David Ferguson An 8-year-old Antelope Valley, California boy was viciously abused by his mother and her partner until the two allegedly beat the boy to death, according to court records of testimony in a Los Angeles County grand jury trial.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Gabriel Fernandez suffered innumerable forms of abuse before his death in May of 2013.

Sworn testimony revealed that he was forced to eat rotten food, feces and his own vomit. He was repeatedly locked in a tiny cabinet with a sock shoved into his mouth to muffle his screams.

According to the Times, the 800-plus pages of heartbreaking testimony in the case reveal exactly how the Los Angeles County foster-care system fails to protect children in spite of repeated reports of abuse and neglect.

Two social workers and two supervisors in the L.A. County foster-care system have been fired, but critics of the struggling agency say that its problems do not lie in just a few bad workers, but that its issues are pervasive and systemic.

On May 22, 2013, Gabriel’s mother Pearl Fernandez called 911 to say that her son wasn’t breathing. When paramedics arrived on the scene, she told them that Gabriel had fallen and hit his head on a dresser.

Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic James Cermak said that the child’s scarred and battered body told another story.

“It was just like every inch of this child had been abused,” Cermak told the grand jury.

Pearl Fernandez, 30, and her partner Isauro Aguirre, 34, stand accused of deliberately torturing 8-year-old Gabriel to death. They used a patchwork of forged doctors’ notes and elaborate lies to fool police, health care personnel and social workers.

The Times said the two are both currently in custody and awaiting trial on charges of “capital murder and a special circumstance of torture.” Both have pleaded not guilty.

Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami told the grand jury that “(f)or eight straight months, he was abused, beaten and tortured more severely than many prisoners of war.”

Gabriel’s two siblings, both minor children, testified that the abuse of their brother became more and more intense in the months leading up to his death. They contended that he was force-fed rotten food, and that if he vomited it up, he was forced to eat it again. Aguirre and the boy’s mother fed him cat feces and humiliated him by making him wear girls’ clothes to school.

Gabriel was beaten with coat hangers, a belt buckle, a wooden club and a baseball bat. Pearl Hernandez used the bat to knock out several of the boy’s teeth.

He was pepper sprayed, shot with a B.B. gun and forced into a tiny cabinet for hours at a time.
The medical examiner who performed Gabriel’s autopsy, James Kemp Ribe, said, “I have never seen this many skin injuries on one child.”

The boy was removed at birth in 2005 from his mother’s custody and sent to live with relatives. He spent the first seven years of his life with his grandparents, but his mother claimed him and his siblings in October of 2005.

Within two weeks of joining his mother’s home, teachers at Gabriel’s school contacted child welfare authorities saying that he came to school showing signs of abuse like black eyes, burns and cuts. He showed teachers that he knew how to snort cocaine and told them that his mother hit him with a belt buckle and made him bleed.

Deputies and social workers visited the apartment on multiple occasions investigating reports of abuse or that Gabriel was suicidal. Each time they came away confident that the boy was safe in the home.

Los Angeles County’s child welfare program is severely backlogged and Antelope Valley is particularly ill-served, with some of the county’s least experienced social workers handling the heaviest caseloads.

Gabriel’s 13-year-old brother testified that their mother told the children to lie to social workers or else face the same brutal treatment as their younger brother.

“I thought she was going to do the same things to me,” he testified.

On the day of his brother’s death, he said, his mother and Aguirre became angry with Gabriel for not picking up his toys. They began to beat the boy and dragged him into a bedroom, but then all of the banging and screaming suddenly stopped.

“It just went quiet,” he said. Gabriel was unconscious when paramedics arrived. His skull was cracked, three of his ribs were broken and there were B.B.s lodged in his lungs and groin.

He died in the hospital two days later. The official cause of death was ruled to be blunt force trauma and child neglect.

When investigators visited the apartment after the death, they found blood-spattered floors and walls, B.B. holes and a club smeared with the child’s blood.

Prosecutors convened the grand jury after weeks of delays on a preliminary hearing for Pearl Hernandez and Aguirre. An indictment was handed down on July 28.

[image of boy alone in an empty room via]

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New York City will pay $10 million to settle wrongful conviction case Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:46:48 +0000 Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica New York City has agreed to pay $10 million to settle a wrongful conviction lawsuit filed by Jabbar Collins, who spent 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

The settlement announced today concludes a decades-long struggle for Collins, now 42.

He was just 22 when he was sent to Green Haven Correctional Facility in upstate New York for the 1994 murder of Brooklyn landlord Abraham Pollack. In the years that followed, Collins turned his cell into a full-fledged jailhouse lawyer’s office. He filed Freedom of Information Requests, re-interviewed witnesses, and taught himself to write and submit legal motions. Eventually, he gained the attention of a Manhattan defense attorney named Joel Rudin, who helped Collins win his freedom by persuading Federal Judge Dora Irizarry to vacate his conviction in 2010.

As ProPublica has reported, the effort by Rudin and Collins, in many ways, helped trigger the downfall of former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes, whose top aide Michael Vecchione prosecuted Collins. In their lawsuit, Collins and Rudin accused Vecchione of violating several bedrock legal principles in order to win the conviction, saying he coerced witnesses, withheld exculpatory evidence, and suborned perjury. To bolster their claim, Collins and Rudin pointed to other instances of similar abuses by Brooklyn prosecutors, suggesting thatwhat Vecchione did was part of a larger, systemic pattern of misconduct that Hynes either overlooked or encouraged during his 23 years in office.

In an interview, Rudin said that the settlement marked a very gratifying moment for himself and Collins.

“I worked for four years to get him out of prison and another four years to get him some compensation and some sort of vindication,” Rudin said.

Rudin also represented Collins in his lawsuit against the state of New York, which settled last month for $3 million. The total of $13 million Collins will receive is among the largest settlements New York has agreed to pay anyone wrongfully convicted in the state.

“I had three goals when I brought this lawsuit,” Collins said in a press statement issued today. “One was to expose the illegal practices of District Attorney Hynes and to help drive him from office. The second was to obtain personal vindication and to demonstrate my innocence. The third was to receive compensation that would recognize the enormity of the harm that was done to me and my family and would provide financial security for the rest of my life. I accepted the City’s offer because it meant that I had achieved all of my goals.”

Collins’ victory comes on the heels of several other settlements for high-profile wrongful convictions in New York. Earlier this year, David Ranta was awarded $6.4 million after spending 23 years in prison for a murder he always swore he did not commit. In June, five men wrongly convicted in the infamous Central Park jogger case were awarded $1 million each for every year they spent in prison.

A spokesperson for the New York Law Department issued a brief statement about Collins’ settlement, pointing out that when Collins’ conviction was first overturned in 2010, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office conceded that exculpatory evidence was withheld.

“We believe this settlement is fair and is in New York City’s best interests,” the statement said.

Last year, Hynes lost his bid for a seventh term as Brooklyn District Attorney after coming under heavy criticism for his handling of wrongful convictions. He is now being investigated by the New York Department of Investigation over allegations that he received advice from a top Brooklyn judge on several sensitive matters, including media coverage of Collins’ case.

A spokesperson for Kenneth Thompson, who has since taken over the District Attorney’s office declined to comment for this story.


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Cop Tasers compliant teen into fit of seizures: ‘He was trying to kill my son,’ says mom Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:45:31 +0000 David Edwards An African-American teen in Connecticut is recovering in the hospital after being shocked by Hartford police with a Taser, even though his family said that he was obeying officers’ commands.

In surveillance video obtained by WTIC, 18-year-old Luis Anglero Jr. can be seen walking up to an officer, and then comes to a sudden stop and puts his arms to his side.

However, the officer continues to advance toward Anglero, and fires his Taser, causing the teen to fall to the ground.

Members of Anglero’s family who witnessed the incident said that the teen hit his head on the sidewalk, and started to bleed. In cell phone video recorded by witnesses, Anglero shakes uncontrollably as if he is having a seizure.

“[The officer] told my brother, if you move up more I’m going to tase you, so my brother he went like this, he went like this, he was standing like this and then the guy just shot him for no reason with the tase,” Nautigo Negron, Anglero’s sister, told WTIC.

According to Anglero’s mother, MaryAnn Yearwood, he was running to the aid of his sister, who had been involved in a fight at a nearby convenience store.

“This man could have just stopped and went like that and my son would have stopped. You took that out for no reason, you just wanted to shoot him for no reason,” Yearwood said.

As of Tuesday, Anglero was still in the hospital.

“The hospital wants to keep him over night because his seizing won’t stop. My son is barely 140 pounds,” his mother explained. “For him to hit my son with all that and keep his hand on it intentionally, I think he was trying to kill my son.”

Deputy Chief Brian Foley told WTIC that Anglero had been place under arrest, but declined to specify the charges. Foley also refused to watch the video evidence, saying that he could be accused of trying to influence the investigation.

“The supervisor told him not to go any further, he could clearly see that he was an agitator, I guess he took his shirt off at that point and disregarded the orders of the supervisor and continued toward the scene where there was quite a disturbance,” Foley insisted, adding that the officer had followed regulations by using a 5-second Taser burst on Anglero.

“If they have a claim of excessive force we’d be happy to listen to them. We have a system of checks and balances in place right now and if they feel that way, we encourage them to come forward,” he said.

The Courant reported that the officer, who was identified as Det. Shawn Ware, was still on active duty.

Watch the videos below from WTIC, broadcast Aug. 19, 2014.

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Louisiana man charged in disturbing plot to buy and rape 10-year-old child Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:25:04 +0000 Travis Gettys A western Louisiana man was arrested after police said he tried to buy and rape a 10-year-old child.

Ernest Kickel Jr., of Leesville, was arrested Monday on charges of attempted aggravated rape and trafficking of children for sexual purposes, reported KPLC-TV.

State police were tipped off to the 66-year-old Kickel’s plan, and detectives said they found unspecified items in his home related to his plot.

“This is one of the most disturbing incidents that law enforcement has encountered,” said Vernon Parish Sheriff Sam Craft.

A judge set bond at $1.5 million for Kickel.

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Missouri official apologizes for racist Facebook posts: ‘I was a very active Republican at the time’ Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:14:08 +0000 Scott Kaufman A Poplar Bluff, Missouri City Councilman is being criticized for posting what some consider to be racist images of President Barack Obama on his Facebook wall, KFVS reports.

At a city council meeting Monday night, Reverend Tommy Robinson said that Councilman Peter Tinsley’s posts were blatantly offensive. “To come from a city council member, a city government official, this is highly unthought of, even in Poplar Bluff,” he said. “I’m highly upset over this, along with the residents of our ward.”

The photographs published include this one opposing the Affordable Care Act:


“We want to see some positive outcomes and that really validates an individual’s apology,” Robinson continued. “We are looking for the same thing that the church would be looking for and that is healing and restoration.”

Tinsley apologized on Monday, saying that “at one time, I was a very active Republican, very opposed to Obama. I want people to know that I am very remorseful for it. It was inappropriate. I believe I got caught up in an emotional moment of sharing jokes. It seemed funny at the time but today it’s very serious and it’s not funny at all.”

Poplar Bluff Republicans were not happy with apology. “It even got more intense when he proceeded to blame the republican party for him thinking like that,” said the chairman of the Butler County Republicans, Eddy Justice. “Republicans believe everyone should be judged on their qualifications, on their ability.”

Tinsley then apologized again, this time to the Republican party. “Anything that I have said, that I referred to the activity because I was a Republican, that is not true,” he said. “It’s not an excuse.”

Watch a report on Tinsley’s posts via KFVS below.

KFVS12 News

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Octopus inspires new adaptive camouflage material Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:05:27 +0000 Agence France-Presse The octopus’s ability to camouflage itself has inspired a new kind of thin, flexible fabric that can automatically match patterns, US researchers said Tuesday.

Creatures of the ocean known as cephalopods — including cuttlefish, squid and octopuses — are naturally equipped with sensors in their skin that help in some way to mimic the look of their surroundings.

By closely studying how these soft-bodied swimmers do it, engineers and biologists joined in a nearly three-year-long US Navy-funded research collaboration to create a material that acts in a similar way.

The team’s initial result, described in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is far from ready for commercial use.

But architects, interior designers, fashion houses and the military all have their eyes on its eventual capability to provide a first-of-its-kind man-made camouflaging material, experts say.

“If you illuminate it with white light and different patterns, it will automatically respond to that and produce a pattern that matches,” said lead author John Rogers, a professor in the department of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois.

“Having said that, we are a long way from color-morphing wallpaper, but it is a step that could lead in that direction over time,” he told AFP.

The flexible material’s layers include temperature-sensitive dye and photosensors that respond in one to two seconds to changing patterns.

The dye appears black at low temperatures and clear at temperatures above 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit).

“These devices are capable of producing black-and-white patterns that spontaneously match those of the surroundings, without user input or external measurement,” said the study.

The international research team included chemistry and mechanics experts at leading Chinese institutions as well as Roger Hanlon, a top world expert on the physiology of cephalopod skin.

- Patterns help avoid predators -

“Adaptive camouflage is extremely important to this animal group,” explained Hanlon, senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Since cephalopods are soft-bodied and are in the middle of the food chain, they are under constant threat from diving birds, barracuda and other fish that want to eat them.

Therefore, they have evolved the ability to quickly survey their surroundings and turn on the right camouflage pattern, choosing from three to five basic templates in their repertoire.

“Within a second, in general, they are doing this magical process of looking at this complex visual world immediately surrounding them,” said Hanlon.

“That is stunning. There is no other animal group that can do it.”

These skills help them escape predators and attack prey.

Hanlon said his lab has published research showing that cephalopods seemed to have light sensors distributed throughout the skin which they presumably use to create the appropriate disguises.

“We only proved that the molecules were there, we couldn’t prove that they were doing something with light. We are still looking at that,” Hanlon said.

“We didn’t think that should hold John back. He took the idea and embedded them in his materials the way we think animals do.”

In that sense, the mechanical engineers on the team were able to make a material that was inspired by what biologists believe animals are doing, but haven’t quite proven yet.

“I think it was quite a feat,” said Hanlon.

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Fox News suggests foxes are more objective than hens when assessing henhouse safety standards Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:56:01 +0000 Amanda Marcotte Don’t worry, hens. He’s got your back.

After a very brief flirtation with the idea of being consistent with libertarian ideals, the right has—to no one’s great surprise—decided to go all in with the racist fear-mongering approach to Ferguson. That was put fully on display on Fox News when Eric Bolling threw a major fit because Eric Holder is getting involved, which Bolling is worried is inappropriate because Holder admits that racism is a thing that has happened in American history.

“Can he be fair and balanced and administer justice on a race case?,” Bolling worries. Bolling’s evidence that Holder can’t be fair:

1) A clip showing that Holder believes racism has happened in our history, something that is objectively true—think slavery, segregation—but something Bolling clearly believes you are supposed to pretend is not true. In order to be “fair”, then, you have to ignore reality and facts.

2) Previous statements from Holder indicating he has personally experienced racism. In order to be “fair”, in Bolling’s formulation, then, you should be as ignorant as possible about the extent of the problem.

Granted, “fair and balanced” is Fox News newspeak for “conservative and bigoted”, but even by that measure, this is outrageous. The argument is based on the utterly false notion that people who are attached to white privilege are somehow more “objective” than people who have a more thorough understanding of what racism has meant for black people in this country. Certainly, as a feminist writer, I’ve come across this attitude from men a lot, this notion that men somehow don’t have a gender and therefore are able to assess gender issues more “objectively” than women.  This is full blown blooey, particularly considering that it was men and it was white people who set up these unfair systems in the first place so that they can benefit from unearned privilege.

Are all foxes incapable of guarding henhouses? No, of course not. But it’s ludicrous to argue that a fox is somehow objective than the hens when it comes to assessing the safety needs of henhouses. Having a fox argue, “You hens are too attached to your life to be fair and balanced about this situation?” should send up a red flag, because obviously the fox is trying to distract you from the fact that he, too, has a stake in whether or not the henhouse is available to hungry foxes.

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Chicken-suited New Hampshire Republican arrested for flapping and clucking at Dems Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:34:39 +0000 David Ferguson A 23-year-old Republican staffer was arrested in Londonderry, New Hampshire on Saturday and charged with disorderly conduct after he repeatedly harassed two Democratic officials who were marching in the town’s “old home day” parade.

According to WMUR Channel 9, Michael Zona, operations coordinator for New Hampshire’s Republican State Committee, was taken into custody after officers repeatedly asked him to stop following U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) along the parade route.

Detective Christopher Olsen told WMUR that Zona was repeatedly asked by the governor’s security detail and by local police to stop shadowing the two elected officials and in particular to stop flapping his arms, yelling and making chicken sounds.

Reuters reported that Zona was carrying a sign that read “Jeanne Shaheen too chicken for town halls,” a dig at the senator for declining Republican Senate hopeful Scott Brown’s invitation to a town hall-style debate. Brown is the former Massachusetts senator who was unseated by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Zona told WMUR that the arrest is a violation of his right to free speech.

“I believe Senator Jeanne Shaheen should be holding town halls and I have a First Amendment right to express that point of view,” he said. “I wasn’t bothering anyone. I wasn’t disturbing anyone. In fact, I got a good deal of encouragement from people along the parade route.”

Olsen said that Zona was arrested and taken to Londonderry jail, where he was charged with a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.

A Democratic spokesperson told Reuters that state Republicans should stop wasting “taxpayer resources and local law enforcement time with these juvenile antics when we should be discussing critical issues that matter.”

Zona is due in court on Sep. 8.

Watch video about this story, embedded below via YouTube:

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