635: 28 Pages

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 59m
July 17th, 2014
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Executive Producers: Sir Don Tomaso Di Toronto, Logan Renz, Sir Hank, Richard Bangs

Associate Executive Producers: Sir Timothy Singleton

Cover Artist: 20wattbulb

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NA Search Open Sourced
Hi Adam,
Thanks for the credit on the show, glad it held up when you tried it live! FYI the reason some of the matches didn't seem to make sense for Putin and dogs was because it also searches text body, so those words would have been in there somewhere. I might add highlighting to results but for various reasons that gets ugly fast. Anyway, just wanted to let you know for future reference that I've fully open sourced the thing at https://github.com/lifenoodles/nasearch so if I get run over by a bus and you want to rehost somewhere it should be pretty easy to do. Also, maybe with this some other listeners might be inclined to expand on it, if people want to add features they are more than welcome to.
ITM,
Donagh
TODAY
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New agents sign for WikiLeaks in Germany and Iberia
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:32
Just Licensing signs Bavaria Sonor for German speaking markets and Lixesa for Spain and Portugal.
Just Licensing, the master agent for the WikiLeaks brand and Julian Assange's name and likeness, has signed deals for the brand with Bavaria Sonor for German speaking markets and Lixesa for Spain and Portugal.
The agreements continue the firm's plans to build a network of powerful agents in all key territories for WikiLeaks.
''Telling the truth is about to become fashionable,'' said Olafur V Sigurvinsson, Just Licensing CEO.
''From the widespread interest that we see already, these two edgy brands: WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, are poised to make waves in fashion, accessories and other consumer product categories that people use to express themselves.
"So I am extremely pleased to announce agency agreements with Bavaria Sonor and Lixesa to bring WikiLeaks branded merchandise to market. We look forward to working with both companies to build and execute outstanding licensing programs as we roll out across Europe.''
Jos(C) F(C)lix Garc­a, Lixesa managing director, added: ''People today are passionate about freedom, transparency and simply being told the truth.
"The support WikiLeaks enjoys in Spain is phenomenal. Research has shown that 85 per cent of people support WikiLeaks, so we believe that we will see rapid traction in the marketplace.''
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NA Search Open Sourced
Hi Adam,
Thanks for the credit on the show, glad it held up when you tried it live! FYI the reason some of the matches didn't seem to make sense for Putin and dogs was because it also searches text body, so those words would have been in there somewhere. I might add highlighting to results but for various reasons that gets ugly fast. Anyway, just wanted to let you know for future reference that I've fully open sourced the thing at https://github.com/lifenoodles/nasearch so if I get run over by a bus and you want to rehost somewhere it should be pretty easy to do. Also, maybe with this some other listeners might be inclined to expand on it, if people want to add features they are more than welcome to.
ITM,
Donagh
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MH-17 from AP
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - A Ukrainian official said a Malaysian passenger
plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday over a town in the east
of the country.
Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's
Interior Minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an
altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile
fired from a Buk launcher. A similar launcher was seen by Associated
Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier
Thursday.
Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed that it "has
lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over
Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow."
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Austin Mayoral Elections
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:30
Two deadlines approach in this year's historic City Council races: the first substantial campaign finance reports (through June 30) are due at 5pm today at the City Clerk's office, and beginning Monday, July 21, declared candidates can begin actually filing for office (through Aug. 18).
While we wait, a few updates:
In District 3, Miguel Ancira has decided not to run, and has accordingly made a final campaign finance filing.
Sidestepping District 3 (where he had earlier declared he intended to run), anti-fluoride activist Nicholas Ryan Lucier has filed a campaign treasurer designation for mayor.
In District 7, Leslie Pool has filed a campaign treasurer designation; Pool is a former legislative staffer and worked for the National Wildlife Federation, and is a longtime Democratic Party activist.
A few early campaign finance press releases have been issued. Most notably, mayoral candidate Steve Adler reported raising $363,000 by June 30 '' a new record in an Austin mayoral race '' and according to his filings, he's also lent his campaign a whopping $194,000 over the last several months. (As the saying goes, ''Money doesn't talk, it screams.'') As of Tuesday morning, no other mayoral candidate had yet filed a report.
In District 9, incumbent Council Member Chris Riley also issued an announcement of preliminary fundraising. Riley reports having raised more than $96,000, and as of last week had $65,000 on hand. (We're waiting on numbers from his opponents, CM Kathie Tovo and Erin McGann.)
A handful of other candidates filed in advance of the July 15 deadline, and we'll have updates in this week's print edition (and online, as reports become available). Of the folks who have filed thus far, the most eye-popping number is in District 10: Robert Thomas, who ran an unsuccessful 2012 campaign against state Rep. Donna Howard, has raised more than $52,000 and lent himself another $100,000.
For ongoing updates, follow Newsdesk and check the Chronicle Elections page.
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New Hams
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Deutchland Blitzkrieg
German probe turns to typewriters to avoid NSA | TheHill
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:09
Germany's parliamentary committee investigating the National Security Agency is mulling using manual typewriters to make sure American agents don't snoop on its work.
Patrick Sensburg, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party who is leading the panel, told a German broadcaster on Monday that the committee needed to do all it can to secure its work from spies' prying eyes.
"In fact, we already have [a typewriter], and it's even a non-electronic typewriter," he said, according to a translation from Ars Technica.
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''Unlike other inquiry committees, we are investigating an ongoing situation. Intelligence activities are still going on, they are happening,'' he added, according to the English-language outlet The Local.''And of course we have to keep our internal communication secure, send encrypted emails, use encrypted telephones and other things, which I'm not going to say here of course."
U.S. surveillance of German government agencies and top officials has created a rift between the two countries since last year's revelations that the NSA had been listening in on Merkel's cellphone conversations.
More recently, one German agent was arrested for handing information to the CIA about the parliament's inquiry into the NSA. That action caused the government to ask the CIA station chief to leave the country last week.
Over the weekend, German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that two members of parliament had also had their phones compromised.
In an interview this weekend, Merkel said it was ''not that easy to convince the Americans'' to change the way their intelligence operations work.
If German officials do decide to use typewriters for their work, they would not be the only ones.
Russian agents reportedly spent thousands on old-fashioned typewriters in recent months to avoid leaks.
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From Hillicon Valley Team the overnight email is a round-up of the day's top technology stories delivered every weekday morning.
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German sausage makers fined $461 million for price-fixing | Reuters
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:07
Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:50am EDT
* Company representatives met regularly for decades - regulator
* Cartel Office has handed out record level of fines this year
FRANKFURT, July 15 (Reuters) - More than 20 German sausage makers have been fined a total of about 338 million euros ($461 million) for years of price-fixing, the competition regulator said on Tuesday.
The hundreds of different types of sausage found on German supermarket shelves - such as salami, Bavarian weisswurst or liverwurst - are a household staple, with average annual consumption at about 30 kg per person.
Germany's Federal Cartel Office said representatives of major firms had met regularly for decades to discuss market developments and prices.
"Prices were fixed over many years," Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt said.
Particularly since 2003, there have been agreements between companies like Wiesenhof, Ruegenwalder and Meica, most of which are privately held, in an attempt to make supermarkets pay sausage makers higher prices, the watchdog said.
"The total fine seems high at first glance but is put in perspective if you consider the large number of companies involved, the duration of the cartel and billions of euros of revenues the sector generates," Mundt said.
The 21 companies and 33 individuals fined have two weeks to appeal the decision. Wiesenhof, Ruegenwalder and Meica were not immediately available for comment.
According to the German meat industry association, sausage production eased by 1.1 percent to 1.46 million tonnes last year, but the sector's sales grew to 6.9 billion euros as prices rose by 3.4 percent. In 2012, sausage prices rose 5.2 percent.
The fines on the sausage makers, ranging from a few hundred thousand euros to multi-million euro sums, bring the total penalties handed out by the Cartel Office in 2014 to almost 1 billion euros - already an annual record.
The penalties handed out this year included 280 million euros in fines levied against sugar producers and more than 300 million euros for beer makers.
Previously, the highest total for fines in one year was the 717 million euros the Cartel Office handed out in 2003.
($1 = 0.7331 Euros) (Writing by Maria Sheahan and Kirsti Knolle; Additional reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff and Anneli Palmen in Duesseldorf; Editing by Pravin Char)
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Zensursula | Know Your Meme
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 04:31
Status:ConfirmedYear2009OriginResearchingTagsgerman, censorship, germany, zensur, politics, non-english, politician, protest, activism, government, legislationAdditional ReferencesWikipediaAboutZensursula is the online nickname given to Ursula von der Leyen, the former German Minister for Family Affairs who came under media scrutiny in 2009 for her strong advocacy of censorship laws against online content that may be deemed ''inappropriate'' by the federal government, especially on the issue of child pornography.
OriginIn January 2009, Germany's Federal Ministry of Family Affairs launched the first government initiative towards more strict censorship of child pornography on the Internet. Formally known as the Access Impediment Act, it was drafted under the leadership of the Family Affairs minister Ursula von der Leyen, one of the staunchest advocates of Internet censorship in the federal government.
The Act proposed a mandatory blockage of online child pornography by Internet service providers through a blacklist of illegal websites maintained by the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA). In the following days, the legislative proposal sparked a political debate among German Internet users about whether the state may or should have an infrastructure to censor the internet.
SpreadWhile the initiative was mostly geared towards taboo topics like terrorism and child pornography, the scope of online debate became focused on general censorship of content on the web. Due to her vocal support of the censorship laws, the critics dubbed the Family Affairs minister ''Zensursula,'' a portmanteau of the German word ''Zensur'' (Censorship) and her first name ''Ursula.'' The nickname quickly gave way to a slew of parodies including original songs and remixes.
From the debate and news media coverage also emerged a catchphrase ''Das Internet darf kein rechtsfreier Raum sein,'' which means ''the Internet must not be a lawless territory.'' The slogan was initially adopted by advocates of internet censorship, but gradually became re-appropriated by the detractors with a layer of irony.
Another point of controversy and public ridicule arose from a particular clause which would require Internet service providers in Germany to display ''stop'' signs on the browser when Internet users try to access child pornography sites. Critics argued that such measure would be ineffective in preventing the spread of child porn, given that such taboo materials are rarely traded on open websites, but via peer-to-peer protocols. Soon, various images and videos featuring stop sign parodies and Ursula von der Leyen began to surface on the German web.
Pirate ProtestsThroughout June 2009, a series of protests were held throughout Berlin, Hamburg and rest of the country, which drew participation from various circles of digital rights activism including German Anonymous and members of the Pirate Party.
Legislation in GermanyIn February 2010, a federal law was passed regarding internet censorship of child pornography access and distribution. As a result of the German Elections in September 2009 and the coalition talks between CDU and FDP, the enacted law was adjusted to focus on deleting illegal sites instead of blocking the users access.
Derivative: CensiliaAs Germany tried to find a balance on this issue topic, the European Parliament also drafted a similar Union-wide access impediment act under the leadership of the Swedish politician Cecilia Malmstr¶m. Since taking the office of European Commissioner for Home Affairs in February 2010, Malmstr¶m has proposed stronger sanctions against the spread of child pornography by enforcing member states to block access to child pornography on the Internet. The proposal drew similar criticisms from the opposition, as well as earning her the nickname Censilia as a follow-up of Zensursula.
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Gerhard Schroeder's 'birthday party' with Vladimir Putin - Telegraph
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 08:48
Christoph Strasser, Mrs Merkel's Social Democrat human rights spokesman accused Mr Schroeder of cynicism: ''Right now this demonstrative shoulder rubbing with Mr Putin is a provocation. For anyone fighting for human rights and against Putin's aggressive politics, this seems cynical,'' he insisted.
Andreas Scheuer, the general secretary of the Bavarian conservative party in Ms Merkel's coalition said it was galling for Mr Schroder to be partying with Mr Putin while German army officer serving as diplomatic observers where being held hostage in Ukraine by pro-Russian activists.
''Our boys are on bread and water in prison and Schroeder is celebrating with Champagne and Caviar in a palace,'' he said. ''Even as a former Chancellor, he bears a great responsibility for the maintenance of peace and freedom,'' he added.
Andreas Schockenhoff, the deputy chief whip of Ms Merkels' ruling Christian Democratic Party descibed Mr Schroeder's behaviour as "completely irresponsible". He added: "The pictures from St Petersburg play into Putin's propaganda machine. Mr Schroeder knows that and he must take responsibility for it."
A spokesman for Mrs Merkel's coalition of Christian and Social Democrats stressed that Mr Schroeder's activities in St Petersburg had ''nothing to do'' with the German government.
Mr Schroeder was Germany's Social Democrat leader from 1998 until 2005. He is a personal friend of Vladimir Putin and once described the Russian President as a ''flawless democrat''. He joined the board of the Russian energy giant Gazprom after losing Germany's 2005 election and has defended Russia's response to the crisis in Ukraine on several occasions.
Gazprom warned on Tuesday that if Kiev failed meet the outstanding $2.2 billion gas bill its owes the energy concern, gas supplies to Ukraine and the rest of Europe could be cut.
The Three C's of U.S. Espionage in Germany | The XX Committee
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 08:28
New details continue to emerge about the brewing SpyWar between Berlin and Washington, DC, over alleged U.S. espionage directed at the German government. While significant questions remain, it's becoming clear that Markus R., the thirty-one year-old employee of the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst '' BND) who was spying for the CIA, fell well short of James Bond, having been caught by German counterintelligence when trying to sell classified materials to the Russians too. The second espionage suspect, a Defense Ministry official, although under suspicion, remains free, and that case may be misunderstood: time will tell.
What's not in doubt is that Germany is a full-fledged panic about American spying that has already resulted in the departure of the CIA's station chief in Berlin and will surely bring extra scrutiny to a lot of U.S. activities in Central Europe. Coming on top of the Snowden Operation, with its clear aim of harming U.S.-German relations, the timing of all this must be considered suspect as well as inopportune for the West. In response, German counterintelligence is conducting a molehunt for more U.S. agents who may be lurking in ministries and agencies, above all the BND, while new press reports that more than a dozen such spies exist promise that this story is far from over, and the already rocky relationship between Berlin and Washington, DC, may worsen further.
Given all this, it's worthwhile to ask what exactly the U.S. Government secretly wants to know about Germany. The answer isn't straightforward and it's much more nuanced than most media treatments would have you believe. While the CIA isn't likely to turn away German officials who volunteer their services to them, neither is there much active recruitment of German partners. In situations like this, where spy agencies work closely with each other '-- it's called liaison in the trade '-- occasionally lines get crossed and information gets overshared in a manner than can veer into actual espionage, sometimes gradually. Personal relationships develop and, well, things happen; it should be noted that this is fully a two-way street.
Helpfully, Eli Lake over at The Daily Beast has written a nice article that explains what it is U.S. intelligence actually wants to know about Germany; it sheds light on things that are understood among spooks but not much among normals. The bottom line is that American espionage priorities in Germany can be boiled down to the Three C's: Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism, and Counterproliferation.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, which we must not forget were staged from Hamburg, under the not-very-watchful eye of German intelligence '-- they managed to shut down the notorious mosque where Mohammed Atta and co-conspirators used to hang out '... in 2010 '' counterterrorism became the obvious priority, and so it has remained for years. After that debacle, German security agencies, above all the domestic intelligence arm, the mouthful Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt f¼r Verfassungsschutz '' BfV), began to treat the terrorist threat more seriously, with considerable assistance from U.S. intelligence partners. Nevertheless that relationship can never be seamless, given politics and bureaucracies, and in reality counterterrorism operations in Germany (or most any partner country, for that matter) boil down to this. In the event that CIA or NSA (it's more often the latter) gets information about possible terrorist activities in, say, Bielefeld, U.S. officials tell the Germans about it and there are then three possible responses from Berlin:
A) Great idea, let's run a joint operation against them and figure out what's going on (the preferred answer).
B) Thanks, but they're not doing anything illegal under German law, so get back to us if you develop that sort of information (the lawyerly answer, and German security agencies are very lawyerly).
C) We know about this, and we've spent the last six months placing an agent inside this group, we'll get back to you if we learn more (this may or not be true).
Any answer other than ''A'' may result in a U.S. operation on German soil, without German assistance, what spies term a ''unilateral,'' which always runs the risk of getting caught and something embarrassing happening. Per the old MOSSAD joke/curse: ''May we read about you in the newspapers!'' But in the post-9/11 world, U.S. intelligence has not been inclined to err on the side of caution when terrorism may be involved.
Then there's counterproliferation, especially Iranian. Tehran has a lot of businessmen running around Germany, and some of them are not what they seem to be; many are engaged in efforts to circumvent international sanctions on their country, and U.S. intelligence particularly takes an interest in Iranians who are looking to buy materials that could support the construction of weaponry and, worse, weapons of mass destruction. There are perennial concerns about German export control officials not being sufficiently diligent, plus shady German businessmen who will illegally sell contraband to Iran for the right price. There's a considerable Iranian intelligence presence in Germany, and they too can get involved in proliferation, when they're not assassinating people in restaurants, so interest in this in Washington, DC, is understandably high, and has been for many years.
But we must not forget counterintelligence, which is a longstanding German weakpoint and, given rapidly rising Russian espionage in that country, something that U.S. spies rightfully fret over, given the very close defense and security relationship between Washington, DC, and Berlin. Some of this Russian outreach is overt, including former German chancellors who work for Russian state companies and celebrate their birthday with Vladimir Putin, and the Kremlin's influence operations in Germany, particularly since the Ukraine crisis erupted, cannot be evaluated as anything less than highly successful. More than a few prominent German journalists are serving Russian intelligence, wittingly or otherwise.
But actual espionage, meaning the penetration of government ministries by spies, is a deep concern too, as it's common knowledge that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and military intelligence (GRU) have as many officers, including illegals (meaning deep-cover types posing as civilians without any ties to Russia), in Germany today as they had at the height of the Cold War. And West Germany's counterintelligence record during the Cold War was frankly dismal, for many reasons. East Bloc services had no trouble penetrating West German institutions at the highest levels. To cite only some of the most famous cases: Heinz Felfe, the BND's head of counterespionage, was revealed to be a Soviet spy in 1961, while Otto John, the very first director of the BfV, defected to East Germany in 1954, and 1974 saw the unmasking of G¼nter Guillaume, a top adviser to Chancellor Willy Brandt, as a spy for East Germany's legendary Stasi. The Stasi in particular had no difficulty swiss-cheesing West German institutions with their agents, many of whom volunteered their services to them; in some cases, these Stasi agents changed the course of Germany history in unlikely ways that have only come to light in recent years.
Given the extent of attention paid to Germany by the SVR and GRU, U.S. intelligence would be foolish not to be watching this closely, especially because even closely allied spy agencies seldom spill the beans about penetrations, which are embarrassing to admit. Moreover, for all its skills in combating extremism and terrorism, particularly Neo-Nazis '-- with whom they have a complex relationship '-- the BfV has never been a first-rate counterintelligence service, despite serious efforts now being devoted to the Russian espionage threat. It is to be expected that German security agencies are currently penetrated by the Russians and their friends, as they have been since the Second World War.
None of this is to deny that U.S. intelligence has made mistakes here. Running agents inside a friendly spy service is always a gamble, and must be assessed based upon risks and rewards, as may not have been done here properly. At a minimum, it would have been wise to have put all these agents ''on ice'' when the Snowden Operation put the U.S.-German intelligence relationship in serious jeopardy. Above all, if media reports are correct and the CIA failed to inform the president of their BND agent Markus R.'s arrest in advance of Obama's phone conversation with an agitated German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it is a puzzling mystery why CIA Director John Brennan still has a job at Langley.
Much more will emerge about these cases in coming days, but it's important to maintain perspective about what U.S. intelligence really cares about. It would be unfortunate if the BfV's scarce counterintelligence resources will now be devoted to blunting American espionage, as seems almost certain, rather than against the far greater Russian threat. But such are the ways of the SpyWar '...
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The Fix is In!
Ukraine slates Merkel for cosying up to Putin at World Cup
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:30
Pictures are mocking her recent World Cup meeting with PutinAccused of being the block to potent EU sanctions against Moscow because of German gas needsThe hostile messages were posted on Merkel's official siteBy Will Stewart
Published: 02:55 EST, 16 July 2014 | Updated: 13:21 EST, 16 July 2014
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German Chanellor Angela Merkel is the subject of a ruthless parody in the Ukrainian social media comparing her with Joachim von Ribbentrop for her supposed over-close relations to Moscow and specifically Vladimir Putin.
Pictures are mocking her recent meeting with the Kremlin leader at the World Cup Final in Rio de Janeiro, accusing her of being the block to potent EU sanctions against Moscow because of German gas needs.
'Danke, Frau Ribbentrop', reads one sarcastic message that has gone viral on the Ukrainian web.
German Chanellor Angela Merkel is the subject of a ruthless parody in the Ukrainian social media comparing her with Joachim von Ribbentrop for her supposed over-close relations to Moscow and specifically Vladimir Putin
Pictures are mocking her recent meeting with the Kremlin leader at the World Cup Final in Rio de Janeiro, accusing her of being the block to potent EU sanctions against Moscow because of German gas needs
Another message read 'Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact No. 2'.
Images show her face morphed onto that of Von Ribbentrop, a former German ambassador to London, who was co-author with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov of the notorious German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939.
The hostile messages posted on Frau Merkel's official site led to a warning that she was under 'spam' attack, yet the anger is palpable - fuelled by her smiling pictures with President Putin in Rio - on the Ukrainian web.
The hostile messages posted on Merkel's official site led to a warning that she was under 'spam' attack, yet the anger is palpable - fuelled by her smiling pictures with Putin in Rio - on the Ukrainian web
Messages have pointed to the bloodshed in Ukraine which locals blame on Mr Putin fomenting unrest in their country.
Ukrainian military analyst Dmitry Tymchuk - who today said that alleged attacks from Russian territory amount to the start of 'war' - said Frau Merkel was being 'trolled' as a new von Ribbontrop because Berlin 'acts as an inactive and passive participant of the bloody show'.
He questioned whether she was seeking a retirement deal working for Gazprom
'The two world leaders appeared to be enjoying each other's company, chatting and laughing together during the match,' said the Kyiv Post today.
'At the same time, Ukrainian soldiers were fighting and dying while trying to defend the nation against Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.'
A message posted by Nataliya Klymenko red: 'Danke Frau for being such a loyal friend of Putin, the monster.'
And Slava Rozhenko wrote: 'Danke, Frau Merkel-Ribbentropp! Poland 1939 - Ukraine 2014. Heil Putin!'.
Another version of the Danke, Frau Ribbentrop pictures
Images show her face morphed onto that of Joachim Von Ribbentrop, a former German ambassador to London, who was co-author with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov of the notorious German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939
The attack on the German leader came as the EU was on Wednesday deciding whether to impose new sanctions on Moscow.
It came as Kiev warned of a new build-up of Kremlin troops on its borders and making fresh claims that Moscow is striking targets in Ukraine from inside Russia, tantamount to the start of war.
The allegations come as the EU and US decide on new sanctions, accusing Putin of ignoring demands to reduce tension and instead stoking unrest on his neighbour's territory.
Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council Deputy Secretary Mykhaylo Koval has issued a blunt warning of a renewed threat of invasion from swelling troop numbers.
'Ukraine, like never before, stands on the cusp of a wide-scale aggression from our current northern border,' said the ex-defence minister, claiming a troop build up extends from north-central region of Chernigiv to the southeastern edge of the Russian-Ukrainian border on the Sea of Azov.
People wait for a bus before leaving for Russia in Donetsk
A woman cries as members to her family. EU leaders meet on Wednesday to decide on new sanctions against Russia and pro-Moscow separatists in east Ukraine as Kiev raises fears of an imminent invasion by thousands of Russian troops
Thousands of panicked refugees are flooding highways and packed trains heading out of the main remaining rebel strongholds in eastern Ukraine fearing attacks by government forces who lost 30 soldiers to defiant militants
A Pro-Russian militant kisses his little girl before she boards a bus for Russia
Officials have spoken of 'photo and video evidence' of Russia covertly supplying the fighters with weapons and armoured vehicles.
Ukrainian military analyst Dmytro Tymchuk warned today that strikes from Russian territory into Ukraine - causing casualties - represent a major new escalation.
'I don't know why we are so stubbornly ashamed to call a spade a spade and officially state that there is a war by Russia against Ukraine,' he said.
He insisted that an air strike on the town of Snizhne - killing 11 civilians - as well as a hit that downed a Ukrainian An-26 transport plane could only have been made by the Russian military as opposed to either rebel fighters or Kiev's armed forces.
'Until we call black, black, and the war a war, the theatre of the absurd will continue,' he said.
'In Russian cities, local authorities are openly holding send-off ceremonies for 'volunteers; as well as those openly recruited by military commissariats, for good money, to the war in Ukraine.
EU leaders meet on Wednesday to discuss sanctions with one source saying it was 'looking very possible' that the European Union at its summit in Brussels would agree to a new round of sanctions.
However, with Washington fearing the EU is dragging its feet due to close economic ties with Moscow, the US may go it alone on tougher measures against Moscow.
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Play it again, Vlad! Putin delights Argentinian President with his accordion on visit to South American nation on eve of World Cup final.
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 00:17
Russian President is on six-day tour of Latin AmericaOfficial visit to improve ties and investment with 'sympathetic' regionPublished: 23:14 EST, 12 July 2014 | Updated: 10:17 EST, 13 July 2014
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Russia's Vladimir Putin appeared to have found his Latin rhythm during the second day of his tour of the region, as he played accordion for Argentina's President on Saturday.
The Russian President, who yesterday discussed politics with Fidel Castro and agreed to wipe clean billions of dollars in Cuban debt, spent only a day in Argentina.
During the visit he and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner discussed Russian investment in the country and a nuclear deal before attending a state dinner.
Latin rhythms: Putin plays the accordion for Argentina's President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, during a state visit on Saturday
While at the presidential palace, Putin was pictured picking up an accordion while a delighted-looking Kirchner applauded.
The pair looked relaxed in each other's company during the official dinner, where they shared a toast.
Putin and Kirchner, who has been out of the public eye all week while recovering from a throat infection, were expected to use the official visit to sign a series of agreements, including cooperation on nuclear energy generation.
The official Russian state visit has been geared towards improving trade ties and influence in the region, which has been mostly sympathetic or uncritical of the Ukrainian crisis.
Kirchner has accused the U.S. and Britain of double standards for criticizing a pro-Russian secession vote held in Crimea while backing a status referendum in the Falkland Islands, claimed by Argentina.
Toast: Putin and Kirchner raise their glasses during an official dinner, after meeting to discuss Russian investment
Ceremony: Kirchner leads Putin through the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires on Saturday
However, there was some protest at the Russian involvement in Ukraine, with a crowd of about 150 gathering outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires to protest during Putin's visit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande urged Russia this week to use its influence on rebels in eastern Ukraine so that a meeting on a possible cease-fire can take place as soon as possible.
Merkel is due to watch her country's team play in the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, the same day Putin is expected to be in the city.
As well as the protest against Russian involvement in Ukraine, several activists turned out to protest the country's anti-gay laws and prejudice.
Putin last year had approved a law that banned what Moscow called gay 'propaganda' reaching children, and same-sex marriages are not recognized in Russia.
Tour: Russia's President Putin was in Argentina as part of his six-day tour of Latin America
Cold War friends: Putin holds on to Fidel Castro's arm during a meeting with the revolutionary leader on Friday
'It's not only the government's problem but the Russian society, which discriminates against us. I have friends who have committed suicide because of this,' Marina Mironova said.
The 38-year-old teacher said she lost her job in Russia because of her sexual orientation, and is now seeking asylum in Argentina with her partner.
'We want to stay here and marry legally. There's freedom, nice people and the president is tolerant,' she said.
Argentina is the first country in Latin America to legalize gay marriage. Two Russian homosexuals married in Argentina earlier this year and are also seeking asylum.
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BRICS $100B bank deal
The Magic Number Theory
Here's a nice intro for the show ;)
- "G" is the 7th letter of the alphabet, and Germany starts with "G"
- The name Germany contains 7 letters
- Germany was in group "G" or group "7"
- Germany ended group stage with 7 points
- Germany scored 7 goals in the group stage
* 4 vs Portugal
* 2 vs Ghana
* 1 vs USA
- Germany scored 7 goals vs Brazil
- And obviously we're in the 7th month of the year and the winning goal
was scored 7 minutes from the end of the extra time...
- Of the world cup 2014! --> 2+0+1+4 = 7
Nailed it
Only Oretty People SCORE and WIN
From Jesse
I'll keep it short because I know you've probably gotten a lot of hate mail.
Your analysis with John has missed the big picture. The matches HISTORICALLY were fixed so that a predetermined team would win. This is no longer the case. Now they are fixed so that people with good hair/good looks score the winning goals.
FIFA does not try to pick winners at this level. They do everything they can so that the players with the most Nike, Pespsi, Shampoo money behind them are covered in glory.
This explains why bald, ugly people like Robben simply cannot be allowed to win.
It's all about selling shampoo.
Every possible attempt was made to cover Messi in glory and fix the match for him to score, and he looked ready to play the part. But his team was simply not as good as the germans.
FIFA and the advertising cabal are ready for this though. Götze is a huge star and many advertisers have invested in him. You see Germany didn't win the world cup, Götze's shoe sponser, soda sponser, and hair cair sponser did.
Most of the same corporations would win if Messi was covered in glory (with some variation, which allows for some degree of soccer to actually be played to determine the winner).
Just never allow ugly people to win the game or people with names that are hard to pronounce for English speakers (probably some people slightly pissed off about the foreignness to Götze's name, but other than Muller, all the other german names are simply unappealing for advertisers. There other injured star is Marco Rues. See that is OK, it doesn't sound like a Nazi).
Still better for Argentina to win, so everything possible was attempted to get that result.
Some of your analysis about political winners may be true, but I think their influence is second to the "story line" promoting advertisers.
Also of note, here in LA, Messi is on the bustops with a Pepsi Ad "Vive Hoy" I am pretty sure Argentina was supposed to win, as Götze is a big star, but not as big outside of Germany. Yet I don't see Neymar on the bustops. They broke his back because his advertisers lost the bid war vs. Messi.
Don't you see?
GVS
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) | FCC.gov
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:09
BackgroundHave you ever thought that, for emergency alerts to be distributed as quickly as possible, they should be sent to cell phones? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the wireless industry, is working to make that possible.
What Are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?WEA (formerly known as the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) or Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN)) is a public safety system that allows customers who own certain wireless phone models and other enabled mobile devices to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. The technology ensures that emergency alerts will not get stuck in highly congested areas, which can happen with standard mobile voice and texting services. WEA was established pursuant to the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act.
WEA enables government officials to target emergency alerts to specific geographic areas (e.g. lower Manhattan) through cell towers. The cell towers broadcast the emergency alerts for reception by WEA-enabled mobile devices.
WEA complements the existing Emergency Alert System (EAS) which is implemented by the FCC and FEMA at the federal level through broadcasters and other media service providers. WEA and the EAS are part of FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).
Wireless companies volunteer to participate in WEA, which is the result of a unique public/private partnership between the FCC, FEMA and the wireless industry to enhance public safety.
Participating wireless carriers were required to deploy WEA by April 7, 2012.
How does WEA work?Pre-authorized national, state or local government may send emergency alerts regarding public safety emergencies, such as evacuation orders or shelter in place orders due to severe weather, a terrorist threat or chemical spill, to WEA.
Alerts from authenticated public safety officials are sent through FEMA's IPAWS to participating wireless carriers.
Participating wireless carriers push the alerts from cell towers to mobile devices in the affected area. The alerts appear like text messages on mobile devices.
Who will receive the alerts?Alerts are broadcast only from cell towers in the zone of an emergency. The alerts are geographically targeted to cell towers in the location of the emergency. Phones that are using the cell towers in the alert zone will receive the WEA. This means that if an alert is sent to an area in New York, all WEA-capable phones in the alert area can receive the WEA, even if they are phones that are roaming or visiting from another state. In other words, a customer visiting from Chicago would receive alerts in New York if they have a WEA-enabled mobile device and their phone is using a cell tower in the alert zone.
How much will consumers pay to receive WEA?Alerts are free. Customers do not pay to receive WEA.
Do consumers have to sign up to receive alerts?Consumers do not need to sign up for this service. WEA allows government officials to send emergency alerts to all subscribers with WEA-capable devices if their wireless carrier participates in the program.
What alerts will WEA deliver?Alerts from WEA cover only critical emergency situations. Consumers will receive only three types of alerts:
Alerts issued by the PresidentAlerts involving imminent threats to safety or lifeAmber AlertsParticipating carriers may allow subscribers to block all but Presidential alerts.
What will consumers experience when they receive a WEA?A WEA alert will be accompanied by a unique attention signal and vibration, which is particularly helpful to people with hearing or vision-related disabilities.
Will consumers be able to receive WEAs on a prepaid phone?Yes. Consumers with prepaid phones can receive WEAs as long as their provider has decided to participate in WEA and the customer has a WEA-enabled device. These consumers will receive WEA just as customers with postpaid, monthly service will.
Will WEA track my location?No. WEA is not designed to '' and does not '' track the location of anyone receiving a WEA alert.
Are WEAs text messages?No. Many providers have chosen to transmit WEAs using a technology that is separate and different from voice calls and SMS text messages. This technology ensures that emergency alerts will not get stuck in highly congested areas, which can happen with standard mobile voice and texting services.
Will consumers need a new phone or a smart phone to receive alerts?Some phones may require only software upgrades to receive alerts, while in other cases a subscriber may need to purchase a new WEA-capable device. Consumers should check with their wireless carrier regarding the availability of WEA-capable handsets.
Is WEA available everywhere?Participation in WEA by wireless carriers is widespread but voluntary. Some carriers offer WEA over all or parts of their service areas or over all or only some of their wireless devices. Other carriers may not offer WEA at all. Even if you have WEA-enabled device, you will not receive WEAs in a service area where the provider is not offering WEA or if your device is roaming on a provider that does not support the WEA service. Consumers should check with their wireless carriers to determine the extent to which they are offering WEA.
Can consumers block WEAs?Partially. Participating wireless carriers may offer subscribers with WEA-capable handsets the ability to block alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life and/or AMBER Alerts; however, consumers cannot block emergency alerts issued by the President.
Why can't consumers block WEAs issued by the President?In passing the WARN Act, Congress allowed participating carriers to offer subscribers the capability to block all WEAs except those issued by the President.
How will subscribers know if their carrier offers WEA?The FCC requires all wireless carriers that do not participate in WEA to notify customers. Consumers should check with their wireless carriers to determine the extent to which they are offering WEA.
My friends and I have the same wireless carrier. They just received a WEA over their cell phones, but I have not. Why?Some participating carriers are offering WEA on some, but not all, of their mobile devices. Consumers should check with their wireless carriers to find out if their cell phone is WEA-capable. Information about WEA-capable handsets.
Sometimes, even though you and a friend are in the same location, your mobile devices may be using different towers. If you are on the edge of an alert zone, your phone may be using a tower that is outside of the alert zone and therefore not broadcasting the alert. As you move around, your phone changes from tower to tower to offer the best service. When your phone starts using a tower that is in an alert zone, you will receive the WEA.
Why are some consumers receiving WEA test alerts on their mobile phones?Participating wireless carriers are required under FCC rules to conduct periodic testing of their WEA infrastructure. As part of their test, some participating carriers may choose (but are not required) to send test alerts to WEA-enabled handsets. Consumers with questions about these test messages should contact their wireless carriers.
How geographically precise is WEA?Participating wireless providers are generally required to send the alerts to a geographic area no larger than the county or counties affected by the emergency situation. In some cases, however, participating carriers may be able to target alerts to smaller areas.
For More InformationFor more information, visit FCC's Consumer website, or contact the FCC's Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:
Federal Communications CommissionConsumer and Governmental Affairs BureauConsumer Inquiries and Complaints Division445 12th Street, SWWashington, DC 20554
Print OutWireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) Guide (pdf)
SDR
BRICS nations set up bank to rival IMF and World Bank | euronews, world news
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:49
Leaders of five emerging market countries have launched a new $100bn development bank.
Known as the BRICS nations '' Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa -they agreed the aim of the bank will be to fund infrastructure projects in developing countries.
It will be based in Shanghai and as its first president will be Indian, it was left to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain its ethos:
''It will benefit BRICS nations, but will also support other developing nations. And it will be rooted in our own experiences as developing countries.''
The bank is the group's first concrete step towards reshaping the Western-dominated international financial system.
The group which was meeting in Fortaleza in Brazil also set up a $100bn currency reserve pool to help countries forestall short-term liquidity pressures.
BRICS nations have long criticised the World bank and the International Monetary Fund for not giving developing nations enough voting rights within their organisations.
Emerging nations plan their own World Bank, IMF - Yahoo News
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:08
WASHINGTON (AP) '-- Fed up with U.S. dominance of the global financial system, five emerging market powers this week will launch their own versions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa '--the so-called BRICS countries '-- are seeking "alternatives to the existing world order," said Harold Trinkunas, director of the Latin America Initiative at the Brookings Institution.
At a summit Tuesday through Thursday in Brazil, the five countries will unveil a $100 billion fund to fight financial crises, their version of the IMF. They will also launch a World Bank alternative, a new bank that will make loans for infrastructure projects across the developing world.
The five countries will invest equally in the lender, tentatively called the New Development Bank. Other countries may join later.
The BRICS powers are still jousting over the location of the bank's headquarters '-- Shanghai, Moscow, New Delhi or Johannesburg. The headquarters skirmish is part of a larger struggle to keep China, the world's second-biggest economy, from dominating the new bank the way the United States has dominated the World Bank.
The bloc comprises countries with vastly different economies, foreign policy aims and political systems '-- from India's raucous democracy to China's one-party state.
Whatever their differences, the BRICS countries have a shared desire for a bigger voice in global economic policy. Each has had painful experiences with Western financial dominance: They've contended with economic sanctions imposed by Western powers. Or they've been forced to make painful budget cuts and meet other strict conditions to qualify for emergency IMF loans.
Now, says Thomas Wright, a fellow at Brookings' Project on International Order and Strategy, "they want a safety net if they fall out with the West."
Developing countries have also been frustrated because the U.S. Congress has refused to approve legislation providing extra money to help the IMF make more loans to countries in trouble. The money is part of a broader reform program that would give China and other developing countries more voting power at the IMF.
Uri Dadush, an economist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, sees no problem with the BRICS countries' development bank and financial crisis fund. But he worries that the five countries' decision to go outside of existing institutions provides more evidence of the "fracturing of the postwar (economic) system that gave us so much peace and prosperity. The system has not been able to adapt to the new reality, the rise of the new powers."
The IMF and the World Bank seem to be taking the new challengers in stride.
"All initiatives that seek to strengthen the network of multilateral lending institutions and increase the available financing for development and infrastructure are welcome," said IMF spokeswoman Conny Lotze. "What is important is that any new institutions complement the existing ones."
Answering a question about the BRICS development bank earlier this month, World Bank President Jim Kim said: "We welcome any new organizations ... We think that the need for new investments in infrastructure is massive, and we think that we can work very well and cooperatively with any of these new banks once they become a reality."
Politics & GovernmentBudget, Tax & EconomyWorld BankInternational Monetary FundBRICS
BRICS and the Bank for International Settlements
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:16
Convergence and the International Development System
By JC Collins
Let us finally put to the rest the conspiracy theory which stipulates that the BRICS countries are about to overthrow the international banking cabal or elite. Whether intended or not, those promoting this scenario are propagating the usage of one of the weapons of the weak, namely gossip, utilized by the organized elite in the form of conspiracy theories.
As was covered in the post What Are Conspiracy Theories, the method by which the small organized elite attempt to modify the social and economic practices of the larger disorganized masses is by usurping one of the so-called weapons of the disorganized masses and turn it against them for full socioeconomic manipulation and conditioning.
This of course distracts and causes further disorganization amongst the masses, so that the real machinations behind the evolution and transition of global institutions remains well hidden. Untold levels of energy and time are spent by the masses chasing after illusions and fallacies instead of understanding the true mechanics of global governance and how institutional systems collude and converge.
Most of these conspiracy sites and personalities can be easily manipulated by the same psyop tactics which they attempt to expose or are in fact utilizing themselves.
Just recently I purposefully tossed a fishing line at one such site, and with the usage of dramatic flare and purposeful emotional and intellectual targeting, they took the bait, and responded as expected.
So exposed were the underlying fallacies of their structured storyline that they even attempted a rebuttal by insinuating that the reason for my ''attack'' upon them was based on one of the misleading information distracters which I placed into the article, which was a subtly perceived inadequacy of experience and education.
Most readers found the tone of the article was out of place and character based on past interpretations of my writings. There was a specific reason for that '' enflame and misdirect.
This particular site, of which there are many like it, clearly know nothing about the real mechanics of global governance and international development system transitions. If they did, their response would have consisted of more than an attempt to politely demean my staged emotional character. I've satisfied my curiosity that they are not a psyop but merely the propagators of a senseless conspiracy theory.
I've continuously stated that the source of my information is from the global institutions themselves and the full structure of what is being engineered can be discovered by simply taking the time to find and read this information, much of which is in the form of online PDF files.
One such file published by the Institute of Development Studies in March, 2014, is a perfect example of which I reference. It is loaded with information and evidence which both supports what I have been saying and proves the misdirection from conspiracy sites and personalities.
The IDS is a charity company registered in England and this specific report was funded by the UK government itself. The report, a part of a ''Rising Powers in International Development'' series, is titled as Evidence Report#58 and is subtitled The BRICS and the International Development System: Challenge and Convergence.
The report clearly states that the BRICS organization and associated summits, of which there is one this week, are the ''broadening'' of the global governance structure which was created and implemented after WW2. The BRICS Summits are, in essence, a new global governance ''process'', focusing on both economics and security, with the intent of transitioning a once US dominated world into the multilateral framework of a polycentric global governance system.
From the report:
''In the absence of a total breakdown or climactic event in the international system (arguably the financial crisis came close to such a point), the problem of redesign of global governance in the twenty-first century can hardly be negotiated in a Congress of Vienna or a Versailles Treaty, or a San Francisco Conference or new Bretton Woods Agreement. While the significance of current developments in the global governance system should not be underestimated, evolutionary change rather than revolutionary institutional redesign is, at this point, the order of the day.The BRICS Summit, and the G20 processes have thus been constructed in a new informal space in the global arena, where in terms of both time and budgets, transaction costs in origination and operation have been kept very low. And neither the BRICS Summit Process nor the G20 are looking to create whole new institutional frameworks.''
The first obvious statement from that quote is that an ''evolutionary change'' is desired over ''revolutionary institutional redesign''. So the BRICS will not be overthrowing the existing order, nor do they want too. As stated above, neither the BRICS or G20 are looking to ''create whole new institutional frameworks''.
Again from the report:
''In terms of vision, the BRICS Summits are the only global process with an explicit objective to constitute a new global order in line with the massive change in economic weight that is coming in the next decade. The stated objective of the BRICS here is to ensure that this coming world order is inclusive and just, in line with historic South-South principles for a post-colonial world order, with the United Nations (UN) as the centre of systemic legitimacy.''
There is no denying a multilateral approach to consolidating the global financial architecture when the BRICS themselves are stating that they want a ''new world order'', post colonial of course, structured around the United Nations for ''systemic legitimacy''.
The massive changes in economic weight which is referenced is what we have been describing as the balancing of wealth around the world, between developed countries and developing countries.
The south-south reference is to DAC, or Development Assistance Committee, created post WW2 for the purpose of modernizing the former colonies of the UK, France, Portugal, and the Dutch. All 4 countries used a multilateral approach to establish financial support to modernize their former colonies.
So let's pull back and look at the bigger picture here. After the creation of the Bretton Woods system, which made the US dollar the primary reserve currency of the world, there was started a cooperation of former reserve currency holders to finance the modernization of former colonies which were brutalized under their respective regimes. All the while the new reserve currency regime went about the world colonizing other countries and regions, presumably for the purpose of modernizing them, as that appears to be what in fact happened.
This whole process may be better understood by replacing the word ''modernization'' with the phrase ''building central banks''. As that seems to be the intent of the international bankers since the 17th century.
More from the report:
''In the case of China, a major component of foreign policy is the New Model of Major Power Relations between China and the United States, the NMMPR, explicitly directed at ensuring that its growing global interests do not replicate previous historical experiences where rising powers have been associated with war, notably in both European and Asian theatres. China believes that a basic accord has been reached with the United States on this concept as the essential framework for their relationship, with three key elements: 'no conflict orconfrontation'; 'mutual respect',and 'win-win cooperation'(Wang Yi 2013).''
This quote doesn't require much elaboration as it is fairly self-explanatory. Readers should either have butterflies in their stomachs at this point or be sitting back in their chairs waving their arms around like maniacs. This report was published in March, just 4 months ago, and was financed by the UK government as an accurate representation of the intent of the BRICS countries and the framework around the global transition to a multilateral and polycentric economic and security system.
The report is well worth the read and is loaded with other statements, like the following:
- BRICS members are fully committed to the G20 leadership process.
- BRICS Summit process is ''integrated within a larger process of systemic change in global governance which will produce the desired convergence'' (consolidation and centralization)
- BRICS endorse the G20 as the premier economic organization.
- BRICS, G20, United Nations, World Bank, etc.., all align on global governance issues.
- And the BRICS Contingency Reserve Agreement, or currency market stabilization fund, is only a ''degree of independence'' from the International Monetary Fund.
The statements of evidence and support for the engineering of a multilateral financial system are littered throughout the report.
The Bank for International Settlements controls and sets the priorities for the all the central banks in the world, of which every country now has one. The BRICS are still working underneath the mandates of the BIS, and as this report shows, there will be no true or purposeful break away from the international banking powers which have controlled the world for centuries.
From the beginning in the SDR's and the New Bretton Woods series I have postulated that the Hegelian Dialectic of problem/reaction/solution would be used to facilitate the transition to the multilateral system. I stated how the sovereign debt crisis would be used as the problem component and civil unrest and geopolitical tension would be used as the reaction component, with the slow methodical implementation of the new system being presented as the solution.
This is exactly what has been happening, even to the point where the head of the BIS themselves are stating that a sovereign debt crisis could now threaten stability and lead to another financial crisis. Need there be more said at this point.
Nothing in this world will change until each one of us change that which is deficient inside of us. The difference between the small rent seeking elite and large disorganized masses is only illusionary as both groups, and the various socioeconomic levels pressed in between, are motivated by the same selfish desires.
The system will continue in a forever convergence and consolidation because that is what is happening inside man. Money printing, or debt based money creation, the externalization of our inner division, will never change until man decides to change. As such, the Bank for International Settlements and its methodologies will continue to dictate the course of humanity. '' JC
Also see Cras In Transitu æŽå¤(C)轉型
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Palladian Rite
JCD is my handler? and Fascism
nice one on the palladian rite discussion.
since dvorak has been his doubting self,here is some clarification on the origins of fascism..
fascism actually derives from the term fasces/fascio,which during the 19th century, the bundle of rods, in Latin called fasces and in Italian fascio, came to symbolize strength through unity, the point being that whilst each independent rod was fragile, as a bundle they were strong.
(wiki)
nationalist "fasci" later evolved into the 20th century Fasci movement, which became known as fascism.
(wiki)
"fasces" were used as early as the roman empire existed....
so fascism is BY NO MEANS known only post WW1,as dvorak stated.
again,,,he might be your handler :P
Israel to gain geopolitical leverage with offshore gas
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:17
TEL AVIV, Israel, July 14 (UPI) --Israel will be able to reap the benefits of energy independence through growing gas reserves at the offshore Leviathan gas field, a development executive said.The partners developing the giant Leviathan offshore gas field said an audit by Dutch consulting company Sewell and Associates put the reserve estimate at 21.9 trillion cubic feet, up from the previous estimate of around 18.9 trillion cubic feet.
Gideon Tadmor, board chairman at Delek Drilling and chief executive officer at Avner Oil Exploration -- two of the project's developers -- said the revision "will ensure us energy independence for decades to come, and an expansion of export options, with all the accompanying economic and geopolitical benefits."
Leviathan should go onstream in 2016, with much of the offshore field's reserves already designated for exports to regional customers.
Noble Energy, another drilling partner, this year signed export contracts for gas from the Leviathan and nearby Tamar natural gas fields with Jordanian and Palestinian authorities.
Tamar, with an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, entered into production in March 2013.
(C) 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
DOTNET-MSFT-Behind the Iron Dome: How Israel Stops Missiles - Businessweek
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:27
Behind the Iron Dome: How Israel Stops Missiles
By Peter CoyNovember 21, 2012 5:22 PM EST
The success of Israel's Iron Dome in shooting down missiles fired from Gaza has a lot to do with a company you've probably never heard of: MPrest Systems. Led by a retired Israeli naval captain named Natan Barak, MPrest makes the smarts of Iron Dome. According to the company's website, its computer technology performs ''air awareness picture building, target classification, calculating interception programs, and controlling launch and interception processes.''
The system has stopped roughly 90 percent of incoming missiles, not counting the hundreds that it let through deliberately because it was clear they would land in unoccupied areas, according to a spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Iron Dome has undoubtedly saved the lives of Israeli citizens. It has probably saved the lives of people in Gaza, as well, because without the shield in place there would have been an outcry from the Israeli public for a ground invasion of Gaza to root out the missile launchers. That would have caused many more deaths on both sides.
''All of us are very proud,'' Barak said by telephone from the company's headquarters in Petah Tikvah, a city east of Tel Aviv. ''It seems like kind of science fiction.'' The system has ''more capabilities that they haven't seen yet,'' he added. ''I prefer not to get into the detail of the performance. We want to have some surprises.''
The Iron Dome program, partially funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, is headed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israeli government-owned company that is the general contractor and makes the Tamir interceptor missiles. The radar is from Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries. MPrest, the third partner, makes the command-and-control system and is half-owned by Rafael, while Barak owns a quarter of the company.
Typical command-and-control software for military gear is highly customized and hard to modify. The key to MPrest's success, Barak says, is that the command-and-control software is simple and modular, so customers can quickly adapt it without reprogramming. The Israeli army was able to recalibrate Iron Dome batteries almost immediately, without a software rewrite, when Hamas fighters began to fire longer-range missiles.
Microsoft's Windows and .NET architecture make up the base layer of the system. On top of that goes MPrest software that can ''manage tens of thousands of objects, each changing several times per second,'' the company says on its website. The ''objects'' are the building blocks of the software, consisting of either code or data or a mixture, which can communicate with one another as the program is running.
Barak calls the software ''generic,'' in a positive sense, meaning it's reusable for various purposes. The same basic technology is being used for civilian purposes, including for a vehicle fleet management system in Israel, Brazil, and Argentina, he says.
In the Israeli navy, Barak was the commander of C4I'--an acronym for command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence. Until the early 1990s, 10 incompatible systems were communicating simple messages at a ''lowest common denominator'' level, producing fragmented information to the military leadership. He led an effort to knit the systems together to form a complete picture of the battlefield.
Barak took over MPrest Systems at the end of 2003, immediately upon retiring from the navy. He teamed up with three men who had served under him, joining their existing company and changing its direction from wireless communications to command and control. The company now has 120 employees and is growing each year by ''double digits,'' Barak says. ''We have very good profits. A lot more than the average in our business.''
Business could get even better after Iron Dome's success in the Gaza conflict. Singapore has already fielded a system, according to Aviation Week. And South Korea has shown interest in the system, Alon Ben-David, an independent defense analyst, told Bloomberg.
German police megaphone used in anti-Israel rant - Yahoo News
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:16
BERLIN (AP) '-- German police allowed an anti-Israel protester to climb inside a police car and shout slogans including "child murderer Israel" and "Allahu akbar!" '-- Arabic for "God is Great!" '-- through a police megaphone, a spokeswoman for Frankfurt's police said Sunday.
Police let the protester use the megaphone during a Free Gaza demonstration Saturday because he had offered to calm down a protest that had turned violent, spokeswoman Virginie Wegner told The Associated Press.
"We as police had come up spontaneously with this unusual method and he abused it '-- we didn't expect that," Wegner said, adding that police were investigating the incident. "Police are neutral during protests."
Instead of calming things down, the protester '-- whose identity was not revealed '-- shouted anti-Israel slogans in German and Arabic in downtown Frankfurt. A video that went viral shows a crowd following the police car, cheering and repeating the chants.
More than 2,000 people participated in the Frankfurt protest, many waving Palestinian flags and wearing T-shirts calling for a boycott of Israeli products.
The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, condemned the incident.
"I'm shocked that a German police car was used to spread hatred and agitation," Graumann told the AP. "It was a big mistake that the police let themselves abuse for this."
Since the outbreak of the latest violence between Israel and the Palestinians six days ago, there have been several demonstrations for and against Israel in different German cities including Frankfurt, Berlin and Duesseldorf.
Unrest, Conflicts & WarSociety & Culturepolice carIsrael
Vaccine$
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From Brian the Gay Crusader
Adam:
So the World Health Organization has jumped on board the bandwagon for the proven ineffective drug Truvada PReP made exclusively by Gilead.
Funny that even though the FDA in their approval of PReP made it clear that the drug is only effective when used in conjunction with condoms, condoms are barely mentioned by the WHO and if you read any article about PReP in the gay magazines the message is clear: take PReP and bareback without worry.
It is truly disheartening that the ignorant masses who take PEeP will likely become infected with HIV because they view it as a license to bareback carelessly.
Even more troubling is how viciously those who dare to share the facts about PReP are attacked.
All my best,
Brian
TRUVADA promoted by WHO
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:45
AFP / Diptendu Dutta
Indian volunteers and members of the West Bengal Voluntary Health Association (WBVHA) light candles in the shape of a red ribbon during the closing ceremony of an AIDS awareness campaign in Siliguri on December 2, 2013
HIV infections are rising among gay men in many parts of the world, the World Health Organization warned Friday, urging all men who have sex with men to take antiretroviral drugs to prevent infection.
"We are seeing exploding epidemics," warned Gottfried Hirnschall, who heads WHO's HIV department.
Infection rates are rising again among men who have sex with men -- the group at the epicentre of AIDS pandemic when it first emerged 33 years ago, he told reporters in Geneva.
While images of skeletal men dying of AIDS in the 1980s pushed the world to act, a younger generation that has grown up among new treatments that make it possible to live with HIV are less focused on the disease, he suggested.
Today, this group is 19 times more likely than the general population to be infected by HIV, Hirnschall said.
In Bangkok for instance, the incidence of HIV among men who have sex with men stands at 5.7 percent, compared to less than 1.0 percent for the overall population, he said.
AFP / Tony Karumba
A picture taken in Nairobi on May 9, 2013 shows a billboard promoting the use of condoms by a US-based Catholic group calling itself "Catholics for choice"
In its new recommendations for combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published Friday, the UN health agency therefore for the first time "strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection".
US authorities made the same recommendation in May.
Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, stressing that this could avert "up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years".
The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, pointing out that men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
- Putting overall progress at risk -
At the same time, they are often the very groups who have least access to healthcare services, with criminalisation and stigma often dissuading them from seeking help even when it is available.
AFP / Brendan Smialowski
A volunteer with AIDS Healthcare Foundation waits for cars to stop to hand out free condoms on May 24, 2013 in Washington
When people fear seeking health care services it "will inevitably lead to more infections in those communities," Rachel Baggaley, of the WHO's HIV department, told reporters.
Globally, transgender women and injecting drug users, for instance, are around 50 times more likely than the general population to contract HIV, while sex workers have a 14-fold higher chance of getting infected, WHO said.
The world has overall been making great strides in tackling HIV, with the number of new infections plunging by a third between 2001 and 2012, when 2.3 million people contracted the virus.
And by the end of 2013, some 13 million people with HIV were receiving antiretroviral treatment, dramatically reducing the number of people dying from AIDS.
"Progress is however uneven," Hirnschall said, warning that failing to address the still sky-high HIV incidence among certain groups was putting the overall battle against the deadly disease at risk.
Most countries focus the lion's share of their attention on fighting HIV infections among the general populations, paying relatively little attention to the most high-risk groups.
This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to 71 percent of the some 35.3 million people worldwide living with HIV, the expert said.
Hirnschall stressed that tackling infections among the most at risk should be a general concern.
"None of these people live in isolation," he said, pointing out that "sex workers and their clients have husbands, wives and partners. Some inject drugs. Many have children."
Decriminalising and destigmatising these groups would greatly help bring down HIV infections among them, WHO said.
Promoting condom use, wide-spread voluntary HIV testing, treating at-risk individuals with antiretrovirals, voluntary male circumcision and needle exchange programmes figure among the other WHO recommendations for battling the disease.
FACT SHEET: Progress in Four Years of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy | The White House
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:21
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 15, 2014
On July 15, 2010, President Obama released the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which envisions that ''the United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.''
The goals of the Strategy are to reduce new HIV infections; increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV; and reduce HIV-related disparities and health inequities. Achieving these goals requires partnerships and coordination among Federal agencies, state and local governments, community-based organizations, and health care settings.
To further the implementation of the Strategy, last year, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, which outlines the pathway to accelerate and optimize health outcomes for those living with HIV. This update outlines just some of the major accomplishments and progress made over the last four years towards achieving the Strategy's goals and highlights new action steps taken today.
New actions to support the National HIV/AIDS Strategy:
Today, to support the goals of the Strategy, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of $11 million in funding to enhance Community Health Centers' HIV efforts in communities highly impacted by HIV, especially among racial and ethnic minorities. This initiative, funded through the Affordable Care Act and the Secretary's Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, aims to build sustainable partnerships between public health and health centers to help achieve the goals of the Strategy.
Additionally today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a Best Practices Guide to Reform HIV-specific Criminal Laws to Align with Scientifically Supported Factors. As noted in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, many states have criminal laws that have not keep pace with our current understanding of best public health practices for preventing and treating HIV and that, instead, may make people less willing to get tested, disclose their status, and undermine the public health goals of promoting HIV screening and treatment. This guide is intended to share best practices for aligning criminal law with the public health goal of reducing HIV-related stigma.
Implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy:
Reducing new HIV infections over the last four years: Ensuring that individuals know their HIV status is a critical step to reducing HIV infections. People who don't know they are infected miss an opportunity to access the life-sustaining care and treatment that can now lead to normal life-expectancy. Undiagnosed individuals can also unknowingly pass the virus on to others.
HIV testing: Screening all persons between 15 and 65 years of age is now a grade ''A'' recommendation of the independent United States Preventive Services Task Force. This means that, as of April 2014, new health plans under the Affordable Care Act must offer HIV screening without cost sharing.The number of people who know their HIV status increased: The overall number of people with HIV who know their HIV status increased to 84.2% in 2010, approaching the Strategy goal of 90% by 2015. Serostatus awareness was 90% or higher among persons 45 year or older and among injection drug users. Reduction in new HIV infections in some sub-populations: Black women saw a 21% reduction in new HIV infections from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, there was a 22% reduction in new HIV infections among injection drug users. However, there has been a 12% increase in new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) and 22% increase among young MSM aged 13 to 24. The Administration is committed to enhancing outreach to young, black, gay males.Reduced transmission of HIV: One of the most successful scientific advances in HIV prevention, treatment as prevention, shows that people living with HIV who have a suppressed viral load due to effective HIV treatment, reduce their HIV transmission risk by up to 96%.Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): In May 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released clinical practice guidelines on HIV risk and eligibility for PrEP use.Research for an effective vaccine and cure: An effective vaccine remains a critical component of any long-term strategy. In 2014, the President announced that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is redirecting $100 million for development of new therapies toward a cure and will continue to strive to be on the forefront of new discoveries. Increasing access to care and improving health outcomes over the last four years: To end the epidemic, in addition to providing prevention strategies, access to health insurance coverage and other key supports are essential.
Making coverage affordable: The Affordable Care Act has expanded access to affordable health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, including thousands living with HIV. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, people can no longer be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions, including HIV. The Administration will continue to focus on the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and Affordable Care Act coordination.Housing for people living with HIV: Since 2010, over 56,000 people with HIV receive housing assistance from the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program annually. In keeping with the goals of the Strategy, the President's Fiscal Year 2015 Budget proposes modernizing HOPWA's funding formula to better reflect the current state of the epidemic.Increasing access to life-saving HIV treatment: Thanks to targeted investments by the Administration, waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) have been nearly eliminated from a high of over 9,000 in 2011.Commitment to ensuring access to care for people living with HIV: Together, the Affordable Care Act and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program are improving and expanding access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS. Federal leaders have taken steps to ensure this collaboration, including providing guidance to Ryan White grantees to help them effectively interact with new coverage provided under the Affordable Care Act, and strengthening Ryan White data and information to improve program management. Reducing health disparities over the last four years: Gay and bisexual men, transgender women, and Black and Latinos continue to bear significant disproportionate burden of new HIV infections and poorer health outcomes. Black gay youth aged 13 to 24 have been identified in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy as a principal group facing HIV/AIDS-related health disparities.
Improving care continuum outcomes among people of color: In 2012, HHS funded a $44 million Care and Prevention in the United States (CAPUS) demonstration project to reduce HIV and AIDS-related morbidity and mortality among racial and ethnic minorities in eight cities. This project focuses efforts on improving outcomes along the HIV care continuum.Addressing the concerns of the communities most affected: In June 2014, Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) held listening sessions in areas most impacted by the epidemic in the southern United States (Jackson, Columbia, and Atlanta). Additionally, ONAP convened a meeting at the White House focusing on HIV and the southern United States, and will host another meeting to address HIV and gay men, particularly young black MSM, in fall 2014. Reducing stigma and discrimination: In May 2014, CDC launched the latest communication campaign under its Act Against AIDS initiative: ''Start Talking. Stop HIV.'' aiming to eliminate stigma and discrimination and promote open communication between gay and bisexual men about a range of HIV prevention strategies. Additionally, DOJ launched ADA.gov/AIDS, a portal for individuals to directly report cases of HIV-related discrimination.Integrating behavioral health for people at high risk: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) piloted a number of the Minority AIDS Initiative Continuum of Care programs focused on integrating HIV medical care into behavioral health programs designed for racial and ethnic minority populations also at high risk for behavioral health disorders and HIV. Achieving a more coordinated national response over the last four years: The National HIV/AIDS Strategy recognizes that a core principle of reaching its identified quantitative targets requires Federal agencies to coordinate efforts, along with coordinating across State and local government and the private sector.
Intersection of violence against women and girls, HIV/AIDS, and gender-related health disparities: In 2012, President Obama signed a memorandum forming a Federal working group and directing agencies to coordinate efforts on these key issues. Federal agencies and community partners are investing time and resources to provide co-screening for HIV and intimate partner violence as well as learn more about the benefits of trauma informed care. Implementing common core indicators: In 2012, HHS approved a set of seven common core indicators to monitor HHS-funded prevention, treatment, and care services in an effort to standardize data collection and grantee reporting requirements, thereby reducing burdens and increasing efficiency.Public-private partnerships to facilitate access to HIV treatment: In 2012, a convening of funders by HHS and the MAC AIDS Fund led to the development of HarborPath, an online portal for health care providers to help connect uninsured individuals with HIV to access medications and/or medication assistance programs through a streamlined common application.Investing in future research: NIH expanded their investment in research to address gaps and opportunities in the HIV Care Continuum, including investigations of the effectiveness of methods to identify HIV-infected people earlier and to link them to care; community-level interventions to expand HIV testing and treatment; interventions to improve HIV outcomes among substance users; and evaluation of innovative network approaches for HIV testing and referral for persons in the correctional system. Toward the Goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy:
The Administration, led by Office of National AIDS Policy and HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, in partnership with other Federal agencies, state and local governments, communities and people living with HIV, have made tremendous progress in addressing HIV/AIDS in the United States over the last four years. Together, we are committed to accelerating our efforts to reach the Strategy's goals and, eventually, attain an AIDS-free generation. Smart investments and collaborations will provide opportunities to scale up effective efforts so that every community affected by HIV can contribute to achieving the goals of the Strategy.
WHO says 'Gay men should take AIDS drugs - even if they're not infected' | Mail Online
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 02:04
High rates of HIV in gay men, prostitutes and prisoners are threatening progress in the AIDS battle, claims the World Health Organisation (WHO)WHO is recommending all gay men consider taking antiretroviral drugsThis approach is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEPIt is a way for at-risk groups to protect themselves by taking a single pillExperts estimate PrEP could cut incidents of HIV in gay men by 20 to 25%PrEP, when taken consistently, has been shown to cut the risk of HIV infection in high risk people by up to 92 percentBy Stephanie Nebehay And Kate Kelland
Published: 12:20 EST, 11 July 2014 | Updated: 15:00 EST, 11 July 2014
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World Health Organisation suggests gay men take antiretroviral AIDS drugs (stock image) to protect themselves from infection, alongside condoms
Gay men, prostitutes, and prisoners have stubbornly high rates of HIV and are threatening progress in the global AIDS battle, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
For the first time, the organisation is 'strongly recommending' gay men consider taking antiretroviral AIDS drugs as an extra way of protecting themselves against infection, alongside using condoms.
Such an approach, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, is a way for at-risk people to protect themselves by taking a single pill.
This is usually as a combination of two antiretrovirals, taken every day.
'Globally we are failing certain populations that have the greatest risk yet we know have universally poorer access to health services,' said Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO's department.
'These are men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender persons, specifically transgender women, persons who inject drugs and persons who are in prisons or other closed settings.'
AIDS experts estimate that globally, HIV incidence among gay men could be cut by 20 to 25 per cent through PrEP - averting up to one million new infections in this group over 10 years.
PrEP, when taken consistently, has also been shown to cut the risk of HIV infection in high-risk people by up to 92 percent.
'The reason we are adding this to our prevention choices for men who have sex with men is that we have these very worrying increases in HIV incidence,' added Rachel Baggaley, coordinator of the WHO's department for HIV/AIDS.
The WHO said studies estimate female sex workers are 14 times more likely to have HIV than other women, gay men are 19 times more likely to have HIV than the general population, and transgender women are almost 50 times more likely than other adults to have HIV.
The approach is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, and experts estimate PrEP could cut incidence of HIV in gay men by 20 to 25%. PrEP, when taken consistently, has also been shown to cut the risk of HIV infection in high-risk people by up to 92 per cent. Stock image of a HIV test is pictured
For injecting drug users, the risks of HIV infection can be 50 times higher than the general population.
These people are most at risk of becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, yet are least likely to get HIV prevention, testing and treatment services, the Geneva-based United Nations health agency said.
CHILD 'CURED' OF AIDS SHOW SIGNS OF THE DISEASEA Mississippi girl born with the AIDS virus and in remission for years, despite stopping treatment, is now showing signs that she still harbors HIV.
The news is a setback to hopes that very early treatment with powerful HIV drugs might reverse an infection that has seemed permanent once it takes hold.
The girl is now nearly four years old.
As recently as March, doctors said she seemed free of HIV despite not having been on AIDS drugs for about two years.
That was a medical first.
But on Thursday, doctors said tests showed that she is no longer in remission.
She is now back on treatment and is responding well, the doctors added.
'We are seeing exploding epidemics in some of these key populations,' Gottfried said - adding these groups account for up to 50 per cent of new cases of HIV infection.
Some 35.3 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, but the rising number of patients reflects great strides in recent years in developing sophisticated HIV tests and combination AIDS drugs and getting them to many of those who need them to stay alive.
As a result, the annual AIDS death toll is falling, dropping to 1.6 million people in 2012 from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005.
New HIV infections are also steadily declining, and dropped by a third in 2013 from 2011.
Yet figures show the key high risk populations continue to have high infection rates, and appear to be hard-to-reach in terms of getting the right prevention messages, or getting them the testing and treatment health services they need.
Hirnschall continued that in many countries, gay men, sex workers and other marginalised groups are left out of national HIV plans and excluded by discriminatory laws and policies.
'None of these people live in isolation,' he warned.
'Sex workers and their clients have husbands, wives and partners. Some inject drugs. Many have children. Failure to provide services to the people who are at greatest risk of HIV jeopardises further progress against the global epidemic.'
The WHO report, released ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia on 20 July, said that by the end of 2013, around 13 million people worldwide were taking AIDS drug treatment.
This has led to a 20 per cent drop in HIV-related deaths between 2009 and 2012, it said.
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World Health Organisation recommends that all gay men should take antiretroviral medicine to halt 'exploding' HIV epidemic
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 00:23
In a report published on Friday, the WHO made ''strong recommendations'' that all men who have sex with men should seriously consider taking antiretroviral medicine ''as an additional method of preventing the HIV infection from spreading'', even if they haven't got the virus themselves.
The report says that in addition to other forms of protection like condoms and regular testing, increased use of antiretroviral drugs in the gay community could have a significant impact in stopping the spread of HIV and could prevent a million new infections in the next ten years, according to the WHO.
In the report, it says that homosexual men are 19 times more likely to have HIV than the rest of the population, and it is believed that encouraging gay men to take the antiretroviral medicine could decrease this significantly.
According to the report, HIV rates in gay communities are still on the rise Some scientists predict that the antiretroviral drug use for all gay men could lower the spread of HIV by 20 to 25 per cent.
Speaking after the release of the report, Gottfried Hirnschall, who heads WHO's HIV department, said that they were seeing an ''exploding epidemic'' when it came to HIV rates in the gay community around the world.
He said this was largely down to a more relaxed attitude to HIV, which were the result of new drugs that made it possible to live with the disease.
Read More Stories: Doctors hope for HIV cure shatteredThousands of HIV patients go hungry as benefit cuts hitHe said that antiretroviral drugs could help stop this growth and supported the WHO's recommendations.
A number of studies looking into the impact antiretroviral drugs have on preventing the transmission of HIV have shown that those who regularly take the drug have a significantly smaller chance of contracting or passing on the virus.
The Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis as HIV Prevention Among Men who Have Sex with Men (Iprex) study published in 2010, the most in-depth study into this area, found that the use of antiretroviral drugs could reduce the risk of infection in men who have sex with men by up to 92 per cent.
As well as looking at how to best prevent the spread of HIV in the gay community, the report also focussed on other high-risk groups including transgender women, sex workers and people that inject drugs.
According to the study, transgender women and those that inject drugs are 50 times more likely to catch HIV, while sex workers are 14 times more likely to get the disease when compared with the rest of the population.
The report recommended that national agencies that deal with preventing the spread of HIV should spend more time focusing on these groups as they account for just under half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
BBC News - Aids epidemic under control by 2030 'is possible'
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:48
16 July 2014Last updated at 11:23 ET By James GallagherHealth editor, BBC News websiteThere is a chance the Aids epidemic can be brought under control by 2030, according to a report by the United Nations Aids agency.
It said the number of new HIV infections and deaths from Aids were both falling.
However, it called for far more international effort as the "current pace cannot end the epidemic".
And charity Medecins Sans Frontieres warned most of those in need of HIV drugs still had no access to them.
The report showed that 35 million people around the world were living with HIV.
There were 2.1 million new cases in 2013 - 38% less than the 3.4 million figure in 2001.
Aids-related deaths have fallen by a fifth in the past three years, standing at 1.5 million a year. South Africa and Ethiopia have particularly improved.
Many factors contribute to the improving picture, including increased access to drugs. There has even been a doubling in the number of men opting for circumcision to reduce the risk of spreading or contracting HIV.
WarningWhile some things are improving, the picture is far from rosy.
Fewer than four in 10 people with HIV are getting life-saving antiretroviral therapy.
And just 15 countries account for three-quarters of all new HIV infections.
The report said: "There have been more achievements in the past five years than in the preceding 23 years.
"There is evidence about what works and where the obstacles remain, more than ever before, there is hope that ending Aids is possible.
"However, a business-as-usual approach or simply sustaining the Aids response at its current pace cannot end the epidemic."
Michel Sidibe, the executive director of UNAids, added: "If we accelerate all HIV scale-up by 2020, we will be on track to end the epidemic by 2030, if not, we risk significantly increasing the time it would take - adding a decade, if not more."
AnalysisDrugs have been a miracle in reducing deaths from Aids.
Normally it takes about 10 years for Aids - acquired immune deficiency syndrome - to develop.
"Opportunistic infections" that a healthy immune system could fight off then become deadly.
But patients taking antiretroviral drugs can keep their HIV infection under control and have a near-normal life expectancy.
The tools are there, but too often they are beyond the reach of people who need them.
Some 54% of people living with HIV do not know they are infected and 63% are not getting antiretroviral therapy.
Diagnosing and treating the missing millions - often in sub-Saharan Africa - would significantly reduce the 1.5 million Aids-related deaths each year.
BBC News: Is HIV still a death sentence in the West?
Dr Jennifer Cohn, the medical director for Medecins Sans Frontieres' access campaign, said: "Providing life-saving HIV treatment to nearly 12 million people in the developing world is a significant achievement, but more than half of people in need still do not have access."
In Nigeria, 80% of people do not have access to treatment.
Dr Cohn added: "We need to make sure no-one is left behind - and yet, in many of the countries where MSF works we're seeing low rates of treatment coverage, especially in areas of low HIV prevalence and areas of conflict.
"In some countries, people are being started on treatment too late to save their lives, and pregnant women aren't getting the early support they need."
Marcus Low from South African campaign group Treatment Action Campaign told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme:
"It is still a crisis in South Africa - we still have about 1,000 new infections every day.
"On the treatment side, we have done well and people are living longer.
"But we must do more to prevent new infections."
WHO urges all gay men to use preventive drugs | The Japan Times
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 03:33
GENEVA '' The World Health Organization on Friday urged all men who have gay sex to take antiretroviral drugs, warning that HIV infections are rising among homosexual men in many parts of the world.
''We are seeing exploding epidemics,'' warned Gottfried Hirnschall, who heads the WHO's HIV department.
Infection rates are rising again among men who have sex with men '-- the group at the epicentre of the AIDS pandemic when it first emerged 33 years ago, he told reporters in Geneva.
While images of skeletal men dying of AIDS in the 1980s pushed the world to act, a younger generation that has grown up among new treatments that make it possible to live with HIV are less focused on the disease, he suggested.
Today, this group is 19 times more likely than the general population to be infected by HIV, Hirnschall said. In Bangkok for instance, the incidence of HIV among men who have sex with men stands at 5.7 percent, compared to less than 1.0 percent for the overall population, he said.
In its new recommendations for combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published Friday, the U.N. health agency for the first time ''strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection.''
US authorities made the same recommendation in May.
Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance, as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, adding this could avert ''up to 1 million new infections among this group over 10 years.''
The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, saying men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
At the same time, they are often the very groups who have least access to health care services, with criminalization and stigma often dissuading them from seeking help even when it is available. When people fear seeking health care services it ''will inevitably lead to more infections in those communities,'' Rachel Baggaley of the WHO's HIV department told reporters.
Globally, transgender women and injecting drug users, for instance, are around 50 times more likely than the general population to contract HIV, while sex workers have a 14-fold higher chance of getting infected, the WHO said.
The world has generally been making great strides in tackling HIV, with the number of new infections plunging by a third between 2001 and 2012, when 2.3 million people contracted the virus. And by the end of 2013, some 13 million people with HIV were receiving antiretroviral treatment, dramatically reducing the number of people dying from AIDS.
''Progress is however uneven,'' Hirnschall said, warning that failing to address the still sky-high HIV incidence among certain groups was putting the overall battle against the deadly disease at risk.
Most countries focus the lion's share of their attention on fighting HIV infections among the general populations, paying relatively little attention to the most high-risk groups. This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to 71 percent of the some 35.3 million people worldwide living with HIV, the expert said.
Hirnschall stressed that tackling infections among the most at risk should be a general concern. ''None of these people live in isolation,'' he said, pointing out that ''sex workers and their clients have husbands, wives and partners. Some inject drugs. Many have children.''
Decriminalizing and destigmatizing these groups would greatly help bring down HIV infections among them, the WHO said. Promoting condom use, widespread voluntary HIV testing, treating at-risk individuals with antiretrovirals, voluntary male circumcision and needle exchange programmes figure among the other WHO recommendations for battling the disease.
TRUVADA-Governor Cuomo Announces Plan to End the AIDS Epidemic in New York State | Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Wed, 02 Jul 2014 18:22
Printer-friendly versionThree-pronged Plan Focuses on Improved HIV Testing, Preventing the Spread of the Disease, and Better Treatment for People Who Have It
Albany, NY (June 29, 2014)Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a three-point plan to ''bend the curve'' and decrease new HIV infections to the point where the number of people living with HIV in New York State is reduced for the first time. The end of the AIDS epidemic in New York will occur when the total number of new HIV infections has fallen below the number of HIV-related deaths.
The ''Bending the Curve'' three-point program includes:
Identifying persons with HIV who remain undiagnosed and linking them to health care;
Linking and retaining persons diagnosed with HIV to health care and getting them on anti-HIV therapy to maximize HIV virus suppression so they remain healthy and prevent further transmission; and
Providing access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for high-risk persons to keep them HIV negative.
"Thirty years ago, New York was the epicenter of the AIDS crisis -- today I am proud to announce that we are in a position to be the first state in the nation committed to ending this epidemic,'' said Governor Cuomo. ''New York State has reached an important milestone in controlling the AIDS epidemic, and through this comprehensive strategy, we are decreasing new HIV infections to the point where by 2020, the number of persons living with HIV in New York State will be reduced for the first time.''
The first report of AIDS occurred 33 years ago on Thursday, July 3, 1981, with some of the first AIDS cases occurring in New York. The momentum to bring the HIV/AIDS epidemic to a close already exists in New York State. New York has eliminated HIV transmission via blood products; virtually ended mother to child HIV transmission; and decreased new HIV diagnoses due to injection drug use by 96% since the mid-1990s.
While the nation as a whole has seen no decrease in the number of HIV diagnoses, over the last decade, New York State has achieved a 40 percent reduction in new HIV cases and significant decreases in HIV incidence across all categories of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and risk. Although the number of new HIV infections has been declining for a number of years, the total number of New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS has continued to increase. This is because people with HIV can now live a normal life span and the number of HIV/AIDS deaths is also decreasing.
In 2014, there were 3,000 newly diagnosed HIV infections, down from 14,000 newly diagnosed AIDS cases in 1993. The goal is to reduce the number of new HIV infections to just 750 by 2020; about the same as the number of tuberculosis cases in New York State each year.
''Bending the Curve'' will precipitate a dramatic downward trend in new HIV infections beyond the current trend. Though this effort will result in increased HIV medication expenses, it is well worth the investment given the human cost, and over time the initiative will pay for itself. Each averted HIV infection saves almost $400,000 in lifetime medical costs, and by 2020, ''Bending the Curve'' will save the State an additional $317 million and prevent more than 3,400 new cases of HIV.
This plan would not have been possible without the support of our legislative leaders, and several key policies in support of ''Bending the Curve'' have already been enacted this year in the budget, including:
The removal of the requirement for written informed consent to get an HIV test, allowing HIV tests to be ordered through a verbal consent like any other medical test.Allowing data collected by the health department to be shared with health care providers to find persons with HIV who have fallen out of care.A 30% cap of the proportion of an HIV patient's income that can be spent on rent, keeping persons with HIV stably housed, which improves their ability to stay on their medication.
Additionally, the New York State Department of Health Medicaid Program has successfully negotiated supplemental rebates with the three pharmaceutical companies representing 70% of the HIV market, AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Gilead; this agreement will further decrease the costs to the state for ensuring all HIV-infected persons are on appropriate medications. Additional pharmaceutical companies may join the agreement.
Housing Works CEO Charles King said, "This step by Governor Cuomo, setting a clear goal to end the AIDS crisis in New York State, is absolutely courageous. In doing so, the Governor is reshaping the way we think about the AIDS epidemic and is setting a new standard for leaders of other jurisdictions in the United States and, indeed, around the world."
New York City Human Resources Administration Chief Special Services Officer Dan Tietz said, "On this LGBT Pride Day, I greatly applaud Governor Cuomo for boldly leading in our three decade long fight to end the AIDS epidemic. We have the science and means to bring HIV infections below epidemic levels and with the Governor's and Mayor Bill de Blasio's smart leadership, we can end AIDS in New York by 2020. HRA is now implementing the 30% rent cap, agreed to by the Mayor and Governor in February, which is another part of this effort to save lives and money. Today's game-changing action will push other leaders in the U.S. and beyond to take the necessary steps to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic for all."
Harlem United CEO Steven C. Bussey said, ''While we are heartened by the progress we have made in confronting the AIDS epidemic in New York State, we know that we still face an epidemic of crisis proportions for many communities. Governor Cuomo's announcement to create a plan to end AIDS demonstrates the leadership and political will needed to end the epidemic as we know it in New York State.''
Treatment Action Group Executive Director Mark Harrington said, ''The goal is ambitious, but grounded in reality. NYS has always been a leader and center of innovation in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We have seen an almost 40% decrease in new HIV diagnoses in the last decade, with fewer new infections each year, while nationally there has been no decline in the number of new HIV infections diagnosed each year. With continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the State's successful Medicaid reform, we've gained the momentum necessary to put more people living with, and at risk for, HIV into primary care and the support services necessary to achieve success.''
Gay Men's Health Crisis CEO Kelsey Louie said, ''We applaud the Governor for his decisive leadership and commitment to end AIDS as an epidemic on this 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a rallying cry to fight back against social injustice. The plan to end AIDS can hopefully result in a dramatic decrease in new infections among MSMs and transgender women, especially within the low income communities of color, some of our hardest hit populations.''
Acting Executive Director of AIDS Community Research Initiative of America Benjamin Bashein said, "ACRIA applauds Governor Cuomo for his bold plan to end AIDS in New York State. We now have the knowledge and the means to dramatically reduce new infections and promote optimal health for those with HIV. Governors Cuomo's leadership will make New York a model for ending AIDS across the country and around the globe."
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11 scientists from biosafety panel FIRED as CDC reveals bird flu breach | Mail Online
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:30
In a newly disclosed incident, CDC scientists contaminated a weak bird flu strain with a vicious strain that promptly killed a group of lab chickensThe action came two days after federal health officials released details of an investigation of the mishandling of anthrax samples by the CDCDozens of CDC employees were potentially exposed to anthrax after a high level lab failed to inactivate samples it sent to several other labsFour of the scientists had signed a petition raising alarms over fears that research into flu viruses could lead to deadly releaseBy Reuters
Published: 20:00 EST, 15 July 2014 | Updated: 03:18 EST, 16 July 2014
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Federal officials, amid the worst U.S. biosafety crisis in years, have dismissed 11 eminent scientists from a 23-member panel that advises the government on how and whether research on dangerous pathogens should be conducted.
The purged members were informed that their service was no longer needed via an email on Sunday night from Mary Groesch, executive director of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB).
Two of the dismissed members told Reuters that the notice came without warning. The panel is overseen by the National Institutes of Health.
Serious safety concerns: The CDC has revealed still more safety breaches at some of its top level labs and 11 scientists from a 23-member safety panel were fired via email Sunday night
The action, first reported on Science magazine's website, came two days after federal health officials released details of an investigation of the mishandling of anthrax samples by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the Independent, four of the scientists have since signed a petition to limit the types of research that may be done into highly dangerous flu types over fears of potential release.
That probe turned up numerous additional breaches at CDC, igniting concerns about how scientists at the agency and nationwide handle dangerous microbes.
In one newly disclosed incident, CDC scientists contaminated samples of low-pathogenic bird flu viruses with a highly pathogenic strain and in March shipped them to a Department of Agriculture lab, where the viruses promptly killed all the chickens exposed to them.
On Wednesday, a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the CDC's biosafety lapses.
'Add these to the long list of questions we have about how biosecurity is being managed,' said Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican. 'Why hasn't the panel met in years, and why is now the time to dismiss nearly half the experts on this panel tasked with advising the administration on biosecurity?'
String of mistakes: The action came following an investigation into lab safety brought on after dozens of lab technicians and CDC staff were potentially exposed to live anthrax due to human error in June
In the Sunday night email from NIH, which was reviewed by Reuters, Groesch wrote that she 'wanted to tell you that a new slate of NSABB members has been approved as your replacements, and thus your service on the board is ending.'
'This may come as welcome news!' she wrote, adding that the departing members 'will be missed.'
An NIH spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday that 'it is routine for federal advisory committees to rotate their membership over time so that fresh and diverse perspectives can be brought to bear,' and that the dismissed scientists' terms 'had been renewed several times.'
One of the dismissed members, Michael Imperiale of the University of Michigan, tweeted that it was a 'bizarre time to eliminate all institutional memory.'
The biosecurity board does not approve particular experiments but offers policy advice on, among other things, oversight of 'dual use' studies, meaning research that could be used for biowarfare or bioterrorism as well as for legitimate purposes.
In 2012, for instance, the board recommended that details of experiments on an especially deadly form of avian influenza, H5N1, not be published. They feared the information could be used to create a strain that, unlike the natural form, is highly transmissible between infected people.
Another error: Health officials have revealed that a bird flu breach occurred in addition to the anthrax debacle. A CDC lab sent another lab a sample that was supposed to be weak bird flu but had been contaminated with a potent strain and killed all the lab chickens exposed to it
At the time, the board's concerns led to a 60-day self-imposed moratorium on NIH-funded projects on H5N1.
One of the dismissed board members expressed surprise that the purge included virtually all of the people with experience of the H5N1 debate and included experts known for communicating openly with fellow scientists and the public on biosafety issues.
Dr. Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, for instance, co-authored a 2012 editorial in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology on the H5N1 debate, calling for 'a clear scientific rationale' for studies that enable pathogens to be more deadly or contagious than they are in nature. Casadevall was dismissed from the advisory board on Sunday night.
Also dismissed was microbiologist Paul Keim of Northern Arizona State University, who played a crucial role in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and infected another 17. Keim's DNA analysis of the anthrax mailed to U.S. senators and news organizations allowed investigators to trace the bacteria to an Army lab in Maryland.
'I fell over in my seat,' Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, said of the advisory board dismissals. Given the CDC's recent biosafety missteps, 'this seems to not be the time to make major changes.'
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'Humdinger': Swine flu virus which killed half-million modified to 'incurable' '-- RT News
Thu, 03 Jul 2014 05:35
Published time: July 02, 2014 10:07Edited time: July 02, 2014 11:37AFP Photo / Noah Seelam
A controversial flu researcher has modified the flu virus responsible for the 2009 pandemic to allow it evade the human immune system. His lab's previous works include recreating the Spanish flu and making a deadly bird flu strain highly transmittable.
The yet-to-be-published research by Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka and his team is meant to give scientists better ways to fight influenza outbreaks, but gives chills to some people in academia, who are fearful that accidental release of the strain would result in a global disaster, according to a report by the Independent.
At his level-3 biosafety lab at Wisconsin University's Institute for Influenza Virus Research in Madison, Kawaoka experimented with the H1N1 flu strain that was responsible for the pandemic in 2009, dubbed the swine flu pandemic by the media. The work resulted in a mutated strain that is able to evade the human antibodies, effectively rendering humans defenseless against the virus.
''He took the 2009 pandemic flu virus and selected out strains that were not neutralized by human antibodies. He repeated this several times until he got a real humdinger of a virus,'' a scientist familiar with Kawaoka's research told the British newspaper.
''He's basically got a known pandemic strain that is now resistant to vaccination. Everything he did before was dangerous but this is even madder. This is the virus,'' he added.
H1N1 flu had caused serious outbreaks and two recorded pandemics, the first being the notorious Spanish flu of 1918. Kawaoka's newest work is partially derived from his experience in recreating the deadly strain.
The first H1N1 pandemic left between 50 and 100 million people dead, according to estimates. The 2009 pandemic death toll is debated, with some estimates putting the number as high as 560,000, most of them in Africa and Southeast Asia.
The professor assured the newspaper that the mutant virus is well under control in his lab and that making a strain that can beat human immune system will help epidemiologists be prepared for a contingency of a similar mutation occurring naturally.
''Through selection of immune escape viruses in the laboratory under appropriate containment conditions, we were able to identify the key regions [that] would enable 2009 H1N1 viruses to escape immunity,'' he said in an email.
''Viruses in clinical isolates have been identified that have these same changes in the [viral protein]. This shows that escape viruses emerge in nature and laboratory studies like ours have relevance to what occurs in nature,'' he added.
The research was approved by Wisconsin's Institutional Biosafety Committee, although a minority of the 17-member board is critical of Kawaoka's line of study. One such vocal critic at the committee is Thomas Jeffries, who argues that an accidental release of the virus from the safe lab is possible, citing the recent incident at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which potentially exposed some 80 people to anthrax bacteria.
"I think we can sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we have more control over a situation in a laboratory than we do," he told Wisconsin State Journal last week. "Accidents do happen."
When The Independent approached Jeffries for comments on Kawaoka's new research, he said he was not made aware of details of the study at the time the approval was given.
''What was present in the research protocols was a very brief outline or abstract of what he was actually doing'...there were elements to it that bothered me,'' Professor Jeffries said.
Rebecca Moritz, who is responsible for overseeing Wisconsin's work at the institute, said it is needed to create new vaccines.
''The work is designed to identify potential circulating strains to guide the process of selecting strains used for the next vaccine'...The committee found the biosafety containment procedures to be appropriate for conducting this research. I have no concerns about the biosafety of these experiments,'' she said.
Kawaoka said he presented preliminary results of his research to the World Health Organization and they had been ''well received.''
''We are confident our study will contribute to the field, particularly given the number of mutant viruses we generated and the sophisticated analysis applied,'' he explained.
''There are risks in all research. However, there are ways to mitigate the risks. As for all the research on influenza viruses in my laboratory, this work is performed by experienced researchers under appropriate containment and with full review and prior approval by the [biosafety committee],'' he added.
Flu virus strains are notorious for changing rapidly, with new strains emerging and causing seasonal flu epidemics. Scientists have to try and predict what kind of flu they would have to face each year and have a vaccine ready. When they succeed, an outbreak causes much less damage that it could have otherwise.
Research of 'gain of function' by viruses like the works of Kawaoka is focused on exploring how a virus can become deadlier and more transmittable or resistant to existing vaccines. Critics of such studies say they are too dangerous, both due to the risk of accidental or even deliberate release.
For instance some people in the academia called on Kawaoka to withhold parts of his research on H5N1 bird flu. Normally the virus is highly lethal, but does not transmit well, but a series of experiments with ferrets resulted in an easily transmittable strain. The experiments were simple enough for any person with expertise in microbiology to replicate, which critics said some group of would-be bioterrorists would eventually do.
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Family Planning - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 01:37
We work with countries that are committed to expanding access to high-quality, voluntary family planning to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. Our deepest engagements are in India and Nigeria. We also work with public and private partners and make selected investments in Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In francophone West Africa, we are core members of the Ouagadougou Partnership for Family Planning, and support Senegal and Niger to implement supply and demand approaches that can inform practice across countries in that region.
We work to keep family planning on the global agenda and to hold donors and developing countries accountable for their commitments to support family planning. Our work in this area includes grantmaking, direct advocacy, communications counsel and support, and engagement with leaders.
To monitor changes in contraceptive use and help all FP2020 countries track annual progress toward their goals and improve program performance, we are investing in rapid surveys that will provide data on family planning use in 6- and 12-month intervals, supplementing country-wide health surveys that provide data only every 3 to 5 years.
A mother and newborn in Uttar Pradesh, India
We are also leading the effort to harmonize the way various organizations track family planning resources. The new data systems will use standard metrics and provide reliable data at the national and sub-national levels. Better data and monitoring are crucial to holding donors, governments, programs, and providers accountable.
Better service delivery is critical to expanding access to and use of contraceptives, particularly in the poorest countries with the weakest health service infrastructure. We build evidence about what works to address supply and demand barriers on a large scale and in multiple countries, promote collaboration between the public and private sectors on delivery solutions, and synthesize and communicate research findings to donors, countries, and partners.
Some women do not access or use contraceptives for a variety of reasons, even when they want to avoid pregnancy. They may have misconceptions about their risk of becoming pregnant, or be deterred by the cost, inconvenience, or concerns about side effects. In some cases, opposition from family members or a limited range of available methods can be a key factor in non use.
Less than 20 percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa and barely one-third of women in South Asia use modern contraceptives.
Continued innovation in contraceptive technology is needed to address these barriers and meet the demands of women in different circumstances and at different stages of their lives. We support the discovery, development, and distribution of new technologies that address reasons for non-use, with a focus on improving acceptance and continued use among priority user groups: women who have achieved their desired family size, women who are not using an existing methods due to side effects, and young women. These long-term investments will address contraceptive needs far beyond 2020 and will also include collaboration with the foundation's HIV program to develop new technologies that prevent both pregnancy and HIV acquisition.
Remote-controlled chip could be the future of contraceptives - CNET
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 04:56
A tiny chip implanted under a woman's skin can deliver hormonal birth control for up to 16 years and is entering pre-clinical trials next year.
MicroCHIPS
If you could have safe, effective, long-term birth control that you didn't have to think about, would you jump at the chance? That's what's being proposed by a company called MicroCHIPS of Lexington Massachusetts -- in the form of a chip to be implanted under the skin.
The chip, just 20 x 20 x 7 millimetres, is designed to last up to 16 years -- about half of a woman's reproductive lifespan -- delivering a daily dose of 30mg of levonorgestrel, used in several hormonal contraceptives and emergency contraceptives. In the event a couple wants to conceive, the woman can use a remote control to turn the chip off, and then back on again when she needs to.
The implications of the technology go beyond contraceptives. Inside the chip is a reservoir array which contains and protects the hormone. In these reservoirs, however, any drug could be placed, to be released on demand, or according to a pre-programmed schedule.
"These arrays are designed for compatibility with pre-programmed microprocessors, wireless telemetry, or sensor feedback loops to provide active control," the MicroCHIPS web page reads. "Individual device reservoirs can be opened on demand or on a predetermined schedule to precisely control drug release or sensor activation."
The chip releases the contents of the reservoir when a minute electric current from a small internal battery is passed through the hermetic titanium and platinum seal, melting it and allowing the dose to release into the body.
So far, the chips have been tested in a human clinical trial, delivering osteoporosis medication to post-menopausal women over a one-month period, demonstrating that the technology works, producing no adverse immune reaction, and demonstrating the durability of the chip. The device was implanted using a local anaesthetic, and the procedure took no more than 30 minutes.
There are still some logistics to work out -- such as encrypting the chips to keep wireless data secure -- but the concept has been proven to work as desired.
Now, as part of the Bill & Miranda Gates Foundation Family Planning program, the team, led by MIT's Robert Langer, is adapting it for contraceptives, and hopes to have FDA approval for pre-clinical trials next year, with a view to have it available on the market by 2018.
MicroCHIPS Technology
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 01:36
TECHNOLOGYmicrochips' technology is based on proprietary reservoir arrays that are used to store and protect potent drugs within the body for long periods of time. These arrays are designed for compatibility with preprogrammed microprocessors, wireless telemetry, or sensor feedback loops to provide active control. Individual device reservoirs can be opened on demand or on a predetermined schedule to precisely control drug release or sensor activation.
Our reservoir-based platform can also be used in passive control systems without microprocessors or power sources. microchips' passive systems are designed to release or expose their contents based on the controlled degradation of polymeric matrices over time. These systems form the basis for miniature insertable devices that provide maximum flexibility for device placement.
Intellectual PropertyOur intellectual property portfolio supports our platform technologies and commercial products in development with approximately 140 issued or pending patents. These patents range from microreservoir fabrication and control, to long-term implantable technologies and wireless communications, as well as protein and peptide formulations for challenging delivery conditions.
microchips' intellectual property portfolio encompasses 140 issued or pending patents on platform technologies and commercial products in development.
1/3 of All Americans Already Implanted with RFID Chip | Zen Gardner
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 21:42
Red Ice Creations
In a shocking study it was recently revealed that 1 in 3 individuals tested had an active RFID in them, and they were unaware of it
In a publication from the Wyoming Institute of Technology (WIT) ''Analysis of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chip Prevalence in 3 Discrete United States Populations'', it has been reported that doctors tested 2955 Americans from different geographic locations and walks of life.
The test subjects were stripped down and scanned bodily to see if RFID chips could be detected.
From the abstract: (emphasis ours)
''Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chips have been used extensively in wildlife ecology and conservation to identify and track individual specimens in a population. It has been unknown, however, how often RFID chips have been implanted in human populations for the tracking and identification of individuals. This study analyzed the prevalence of RFID Chips in 3 geographically discrete populations and found that, on average, 1 in 3 individuals carried an RFID Chip. Interestingly, there was a strong correlation with RFID Chip presence and previous dental work.''
Far from knowingly implanting the RFID chips in their hands as is often reported in the media, the majority detected by the researchers were from dental work - fillings, bridges, crowns, etc. The chips are often inserted during the manufacturing process, and the patient is never aware of its existence.
A report on RFID implants from The Open Dentistry Journal explains:
A general dentist without any special training or assistance from a laboratory technician can easily perform the incorporation of a microchip transponder in a denture and the procedure is extremely economical. Its inclusion offers many benefits in dental prosthetic labeling; allowing not only the storage of patient's medical records on a searchable database, but also information on the materials used and so providing traceability. Ultimately the chip could play an invaluable forensic role in assisting with human identification.
In the end, the WIT researchers conclude, ''Our work has shown that approximately 1 in 3 individuals in the United States is carrying an RFID microchip.''
Being implanted without knowledge or giving permission is not a new phenomenon. For years people have claimed to have inexplicable implants, but are often ridiculed or dismissed. Anthony Gucciardi from Activist Post writes about a man who took legal action against a government hospital for microchip implant:
A Danish man has filed a writ against Alexandra Hospital for secretly implanting a microchip inside of his body during a 1988 operation, which he says later caused him to hear voices.
After being stabbed in the lung, Mr. Mogens Tindhof Honore received surgery at the hospital in his chest and lung. Later, in 1997, X-rays revealed a metal instrument akin to a microchip present in his left lung. At the time of the operation, Alexandra Hospital was a government hospital under the Ministry of Health.
The former seaman said that after being discharged from the hospital in 1988, he kept hearing voices in his head and could not lead a normal life. In addition to feeling unwell and coughing up blood, Mr. Honore said that strange individuals would walk up to him on the street and speak to him about outlandish subject matters.
Honore may have been implanted with an RFID chip
'(Mr Honore) also discovered and experienced that strange people on the streets would approach and speak to (him) about strange subject matters or pass strange irrelevant comments,' according to the papers filed.
Feeling constantly tracked and plagued by unusual medical problems, Mr. Honore felt a ''perpetual state of apprehension and fear for the safety of his life.'' Unable to hold his job and live a normal life, Honore returned to Alexandra Hospital in order to investigate his condition. The hospital turned him away, stating that they had no record of his stay.
[...]
In a shocking study it was recently revealed that 1 in 3 individuals tested had an active RFID in them, and they were unaware of it
In a publication from the Wyoming Institute of Technology (WIT) ''Analysis of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chip Prevalence in 3 Discrete United States Populations'', it has been reported that doctors tested 2955 Americans from different geographic locations and walks of life.
The test subjects were stripped down and scanned bodily to see if RFID chips could be detected.
From the abstract: (emphasis ours)
''Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chips have been used extensively in wildlife ecology and conservation to identify and track individual specimens in a population. It has been unknown, however, how often RFID chips have been implanted in human populations for the tracking and identification of individuals. This study analyzed the prevalence of RFID Chips in 3 geographically discrete populations and found that, on average, 1 in 3 individuals carried an RFID Chip. Interestingly, there was a strong correlation with RFID Chip presence and previous dental work.''
Far from knowingly implanting the RFID chips in their hands as is often reported in the media, the majority detected by the researchers were from dental work - fillings, bridges, crowns, etc. The chips are often inserted during the manufacturing process, and the patient is never aware of its existence.
A report on RFID implants from The Open Dentistry Journal explains:
A general dentist without any special training or assistance from a laboratory technician can easily perform the incorporation of a microchip transponder in a denture and the procedure is extremely economical. Its inclusion offers many benefits in dental prosthetic labeling; allowing not only the storage of patient's medical records on a searchable database, but also information on the materials used and so providing traceability. Ultimately the chip could play an invaluable forensic role in assisting with human identification.
In the end, the WIT researchers conclude, ''Our work has shown that approximately 1 in 3 individuals in the United States is carrying an RFID microchip.''
Being implanted without knowledge or giving permission is not a new phenomenon. For years people have claimed to have inexplicable implants, but are often ridiculed or dismissed. Anthony Gucciardi from Activist Post writes about a man who took legal action against a government hospital for microchip implant:
A Danish man has filed a writ against Alexandra Hospital for secretly implanting a microchip inside of his body during a 1988 operation, which he says later caused him to hear voices.
After being stabbed in the lung, Mr. Mogens Tindhof Honore received surgery at the hospital in his chest and lung. Later, in 1997, X-rays revealed a metal instrument akin to a microchip present in his left lung. At the time of the operation, Alexandra Hospital was a government hospital under the Ministry of Health.
The former seaman said that after being discharged from the hospital in 1988, he kept hearing voices in his head and could not lead a normal life. In addition to feeling unwell and coughing up blood, Mr. Honore said that strange individuals would walk up to him on the street and speak to him about outlandish subject matters.
Honore may have been implanted with an RFID chip
'(Mr Honore) also discovered and experienced that strange people on the streets would approach and speak to (him) about strange subject matters or pass strange irrelevant comments,' according to the papers filed.
Feeling constantly tracked and plagued by unusual medical problems, Mr. Honore felt a ''perpetual state of apprehension and fear for the safety of his life.'' Unable to hold his job and live a normal life, Honore returned to Alexandra Hospital in order to investigate his condition. The hospital turned him away, stating that they had no record of his stay.
[...]
In June 2011, Honore underwent an operation at Mount Elizabeth Hospital to remove the fragment.
The numbers of c hipped individuals must surely be on the rise in the U.S. and worldwide, as tracking chips are being used in many various fields, and patients and their families are lining up to receive them.
In June 2011, Honore underwent an operation at Mount Elizabeth Hospital to remove the fragment.
The numbers of c hipped individuals must surely be on the rise in the U.S. and worldwide, as tracking chips are being used in many various fields, and patients and their families are lining up to receive them.
MORE
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zengardner.com
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Rotten-egg smell of farts could help battle heart disease and Alzheimer's - Independent.ie
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 19:58
Kashmira Gander
Published 12/07/2014|08:30
Scientists have harnessed the healing powers of the putrid-smelling gas present in rotten eggsThe thought may make your stomach churn, but scientists claim that the gas which makes farts smell of rotten eggs could be used to help tackle conditions including diabetes and Alzheimer's.
The gas behind the putrid stench which is present in both offensive-smelling flatulence and rotten eggs is known as hydrogen sulphide, and is highly toxic in large quantities.
But researchers claim that if dosed correctly, the gas can help tackle diabetes, strokes, heart attacks and dementia.
Professor Matt Whiteman, of the University of Exeter Medical School, explained that when cells become stressed by disease they produce tiny quantities of hydrogen sulphide. This is because the gas helps sustain mitochondria, the powerhouse of a cell, and in turn keep the cell alive. If this process does not happen, the cells die.
Experts at the University have harnessed the power of this process by designing a new compound (AP39).
''[AP39] slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria. Our results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive,'' Professor Whiteman said.
Attempting to prevent or reverse damage to mitochondria is vital to treating a variety of conditions such as stroke, heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, and dementia.
Dr. Mark Wood of Biosciences, at the University of Exeter, said: ''Although hydrogen sulphide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases.''
The study linked to the findings, which was published in the journal 'Medicinal Chemistry Communications', suggests that pre-clinical trials of the method are promising.
Lab models of cardiovascular disease show that if the AP39 is administered, more than 80 per cent of the powerhouse mitochondria cells survive under otherwise highly destructive conditions.
Professors Whiteman and Wood are now working towards advancing the research to a stage where it can be tested in humans.
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Boots on the ground at the NIH
Just for your information, I actually happen to work at the NIH. I'm in IT, been here more than two months but less than twelve. (Sorry, mildly cautious in case this ever comes up.) I've worked on a number of tickets that involve lab workers--interns, department heads, professors, etc. etc. Most of these labs are a mess--they may know how to analyse things but they aren't as meticulous when it comes to inventory. There's way too much to watch over, from tissue samples to only the gods know what. In many hallways it does look like there's stuff that's been crammed into the corners since the 40's and 50's. (Don't know about the freezers used for various samples, other than they're all over the place.)
For what it's worth, it's a lovely campus full of very pleasant but politically close-minded people. I can't tell you how many offices I walk into have personal photos of employee X with Bill Clinton and Barak Obama--or of either one holding their grandson or niee. There's a large contingent of overseas professionals working here, they keep things private. But the Americans and Europeans alike are blatantly left-wing. They 're comfortable flying their flag--the political one, of course.
Mister C in Maryland
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West Africa Ebola outbreak spreading out of control -- WHO.
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:56
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said an Ebola outbreak in West Africa is spreading out of control.
The death toll has risen to more than 600 since February.
''It is very difficult for us to get into communities where there is hostility to outsiders,'' explained WHO spokesman Dan Epstein.
''We still face rumours, and suspicion and hostility. '...People are isolated, they're afraid, they're scared,'' he told a news briefing in Geneva.
''It's probably going to be several months before we are able to get a grip on this epidemic and this outbreak and reduce the numbers of cases, so there will be ups and downs, that's a normal part of this outbreak,'' added Epstein.
Sierra Leone recorded the highest number of deaths followed by Liberia and Guinea.
Experts believe patients are being hidden. Friends and relatives believe hospitalisation is a death sentence.
In Liberia, health workers have been chased away by armed gangs.
More than 500 dead from Ebola in west Africa as virus continues to spread.
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 18:54
It has been called the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history and the virus is continuing to spread in West Africa.
Twenty-one people died in just two days alone in July in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the deaths happened between July 6 and 8, adding there were 44 news cases reported during that time
It brings the total of deaths in West Africa to 539 since February with 888 cases recorded.
''The epidemic trend in Liberia and Sierra Leone remains precarious with high numbers of new cases and deaths being reported,'' the WHO said.
At the beginning of July, health ministers from the three countries met at an emergency meeting in Accra in Ghana. Ministers from eight other African countries at risk joined them.
They adopted a new strategy to fight the epidemic which includes better surveillance to detect cases of the virus, improving cross-border collaboration, working with local communities and setting up a control centre in Guinea to coordinate technical support. They will also work closely with the WHO and other global partners.
On Twitter, advice from Sierra Leone's health ministry was retweeted with encouragement for people to donate to charity.
Ebola first surfaced in the 1970s in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bats are believed to be the main carrier of the virus. It is then transmitted through contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids.
The virus causes vomiting and diarrhoea, harms kidney and liver function and can then cause internal and external bleeding.'‹
Ebola outbreak spreads in West Africa
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 22:31
By John Rowe9 July 2014In an ongoing outbreak that has been characterized as unprecedented in size, geographic distribution and location, the Zaire Ebola virus is currently infecting people throughout the countries of West Africa. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said the epidemic is currently out of control in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where laboratory analysis has confirmed 759 cases with 467 deaths.
Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever whose first symptoms resemble those of the flu, making it hard to differentiate from other common infections. As it progresses, the disease causes internal and external bleeding, as well as multiple organ failure, often leading to death. The virus is spread through exposure to the bodily fluids of the infected and the ingestion of infected animal products, such as bush meat. There is currently no vaccine against the virus or treatment beyond that designed to alleviate the symptoms.
The fatality rate for the current Ebola epidemic is over 60 percent in lab-confirmed cases. In actuality it could be much higher due of underreporting, the hiding of cases by communities, and lack of surveillance in the beginning of the epidemic. According to MSF, Ebola death rates can be as high as 90 percent.
As of June 24, there were over 60 separate areas in West Africa with known Ebola outbreaks. This constitutes the largest and deadliest outbreak since the disease first appeared in Sudan and Zaire in 1976, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The outbreak was first confirmed in Guinea on the western coast of Africa last February, though it may have been ongoing since December. It appears to have spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia mostly due to people trying to flee the infection out of fear.
The risk of the virus spreading to areas outside of Africa is the most significant it has ever been. In the past, Ebola has been isolated to rural areas and only a few locations. The current outbreak has affected multiple urban centers and border areas that are ill-defined and see a constant flow of people.
The WHO and representatives from the affected countries held emergency talks in Ghana last week to coordinate local, national and international responses to the epidemic. Primary concerns are isolating the infected from the general population and educating the populace about the nature of the epidemic. According to the Guardian, in Liberia those hiding family or friends with suspected cases of Ebola could face prosecution by the state.
The inability of West Africa's governments to contain the epidemic is a product of the terrible poverty in the affected area. Ebola, though hard to contract under normal circumstances, spreads easily in the inadequate medical infrastructure found throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa, where needles and other medical equipment that contain bodily fluids are often reused.
A recent report by CBS revealed the inadequate conditions of the quarantine facilities where patients are isolated, which are often nothing more than plywood and tarps with a makeshift decontamination area. Doctors, nurses and other caregivers, who are more likely to contract the virus due to their close proximity to the infected, often work in clinics outside the larger cities that lack proper barrier protection and become ill as a result. Some clinics that had been set up to deal with treating and isolating the infected were later identified as sources of the infection and had to be destroyed.
The region does not have enough trained medical professionals or proper equipment. Local populations thus must rely on traditional healers, who cannot treat the disease and then become a new source of transmission. Burial practices in West Africa often bring victims' families into contact with the deceased's bodily fluids, further spreading the infection.
Doctors Without Borders has stated that it is currently stretched beyond its limit and cannot help people in all the affected areas, which requires a massive international mobilization of resources. Regardless of whether or not international agencies are able to contain the present Ebola outbreak, the miserable social and economic conditions that prevail in West Africa ensure that thousands more will die as a result of diseases that could otherwise be contained.
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WHO | Ebola virus disease, West Africa '' update
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 22:16
Epidemiology and surveillanceWHO continues to monitor the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The current epidemic trend shows a mixed picture, as follows:
Liberia reported 16 new EVD cases and Sierra Leone, 34 new cases '' since 3 July. These numbers indicate that active viral transmission continues in the community.There has been a reduction in the number of new EVD cases reported in Guinea, with no new cases during the last 7 days.WHO continues to encourage and support outbreak containment measures in the three countries.
Health sector responseHealth Ministers and technical staff from 11 countries, representatives from WHO, and key international partner organizations met in an Emergency Ministerial meeting in Accra, Ghana July 2 and 3 to address the ongoing Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa. After hearing technical updates and sharing country and field experiences, they agreed on a strategy for an accelerated operational response to control the outbreak with priority actions to address the serious threat to countries in West Africa.
In agreeing to priorities and actions, it was acknowledged that a number of gaps and challenges remain. To address these, the World Health Organization (WHO) will establish a Sub-Regional Centre in Guinea to act as a coordinating platform to consolidate and harmonize the technical support to West African countries by all major partners and to assist in resource mobilization. Delegates to the meeting also emphasized the importance of WHO leading an international effort to promote research on EVD and other haemorrhagic fevers.
Among the key priorities at this time are:
mobilization of community, religious, and political leaders to improve awareness about and understanding of EVD;strengthening surveillance, case finding, and contact tracing;deploying additional human resources with relevant qualifications to key hot spots;identifying and committing additional domestic financial resources;organizing cross-border consultations to facilitate an ongoing exchange of information; andworking together and sharing experiences with countries that have previously managed EVD outbreaks in the spirit of south-south cooperation.In addition, national intersectoral meetings involving key government ministries, national technical committees, and other stakeholders will be held to map out a plan for immediate implementation of a sub-regional response strategy. It has also been recommended that issues related specifically to the EVD outbreak be addressed at an upcoming summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of States.
WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone based on the current information available for this event.
Disease updateNew cases and deaths attributable to Ebola virus disease (EVD) continue to be reported by the Ministries of Health in the three West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Between 3 and 6 July 2014, 50 new cases of EVD, including 25 deaths, were reported from the three countries as follows: Guinea, 0 new cases and 2 deaths; Liberia, 16 new cases with 9 deaths; and Sierra Leone 34 new cases and 14 deaths. These numbers include laboratory-confirmed, probable, and suspect cases and deaths of EVD.
As of 6 July 2014, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the three countries stands at 844, including 518 deaths. The distribution and classification of the cases are as follows: Guinea, 408 cases (294 confirmed, 96 probable, and 18 suspected) and 307 deaths (195 confirmed, 96 probable, and 16 suspected); Liberia, 131 cases (63 confirmed, 30 probable, and 38 suspected) and 84 deaths (41 confirmed, 28 probable, and 15 suspected); and Sierra Leone, 305 cases (269 confirmed, 34 probable, and 2 suspected) and 127 deaths (114 confirmed, 11 probable, and 2 suspected).
Confirmed, probable, and suspect cases and deaths from Ebola virus disease in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, as of 6 July 2014New (1)ConfirmedProbableSuspectTotals by countryGuineaCases02949618408Deaths21959616307LiberiaCases16635038131Deaths941281584Sierra LeoneCases34269342305Deaths14114112127TotalsCases5062616058844Deaths2535013533518(1) New cases were reported between 3 and 6 July 2014.The total number of cases is subject to change due to reclassification, retrospective investigation, consolidation of cases and laboratory data, and enhanced surveillance. Data reported in the Disease Outbreak News are based on best available information reported by Ministries of Health.
Fear, cash shortages hinder fight against Ebola outbreak.
Fri, 04 Jul 2014 03:54
By Kwasi Kpodo
ACCRAWed Jul 2, 2014 7:05pm EDT
Health workers carry the body of an Ebola virus victim in Kenema, Sierra Leone, June 25, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Umaru Fofana
ACCRA (Reuters) - West African states lack the resources to battle the world's worst outbreak of Ebola and deep cultural suspicions about the disease remain a big obstacle to halting its spread, ministers said on Wednesday.
The outbreak has killed 467 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since February, making it the largest and deadliest ever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
West African health ministers meeting in Ghana to draw up a regional response mixed appeals for cash with warnings of the practices that have allowed the disease to spread across borders and into cities.
Abubakarr Fofanah, deputy health minister for Sierra Leone, a country with one of the world's weakest health systems, said cash was needed for drugs, basic protective gear and staff pay.
Sierra Leone announced on Wednesday that President Ernest Bai Koroma, his vice president and all cabinet ministers would donate half of their salaries to help fight the outbreak, though the total amount of the donations was not disclosed.
"In Liberia, our biggest challenge is denial, fear and panic. Our people are very much afraid of the disease," Bernice Dahn, Liberia's deputy health minister, told Reuters on the sidelines of the Accra meeting.
"People are afraid but do not believe that the disease exists and because of that people get sick and the community members hide them and bury them, against all the norms we have put in place," she said.
Authorities are trying to stop relatives of Ebola victims from giving them traditional funerals, which often involve the manual washing of the body, out of fear of spreading the infection. The dead are instead meant to be buried by health staff wearing protective gear.
Neighboring Sierra Leone faces many of the same problems, with dozens of those infected evading treatment, complicating efforts to trace cases.
RED CROSS STAFF THREATENED
The Red Cross in Guinea said it had been forced to temporarily suspend some operations in the country's southeast after staff working on Ebola were threatened.
"Locals wielding knives surrounded a marked Red Cross vehicle," a Red Cross official said, asking not to be named. The official said operations had been halted for safety reasons. The Red Cross later said only international staff were removed.
A Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) center in Guinea was attacked by youths in April after staff were accused of bringing the disease into the country.
Ebola causes fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhea and kills up to 90 percent of those it infects. Highly contagious, it is transmitted through contact with blood or other fluids.
WHO has flagged three main factors driving its spread: the burial of victims in accordance with tradition, the dense populations around the capital cities of Guinea and Liberia and the bustling cross-border trade across the region.
Health experts say the top priority must be containing Ebola with basic infection control measures such as vigilant handwashing and hygiene, and isolation of infected patients.
Jeremy Farrar, a professor of tropical medicine and director of The Wellcome Trust, an influential global health charity, said people at high risk should also be offered experimental medicines, despite the drugs not having been fully tested.
"We have more than 450 deaths so far, and not a single individual has been offered anything beyond tepid sponging and 'we'll bury you nicely'," Farrar told Reuters in an interview. "It's just unacceptable."
(Additional reporting by Misha Hussain in Dakar and Umaru Fofana in Freetown; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Joe Bavier, Toni Reinhold)
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Packet Equality
DDOS!-FCC extends deadline for user comments on net neutrality | Technology | theguardian.com
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:51
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was forced to extend the deadline for comments over its controversial plans to change the way it regulates the internet, after its systems were overwhelmed by thousands of new submissions.
By Tuesday afternoon, more than 780,000 comments had been submitted to the regulator over its proposed ''open internet'' rules that have cable companies, politicians, consumers and activists at loggerheads over the future of the internet.
Thousands more submissions were expected before the planned deadline of midnight Tuesday, as activists and consumer groups rallied supporters to lobby the FCC to moved: protect ''net neutrality'' - the concept that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally '' and stop cable companies setting up high-speed ''fast lanes'' for some customers.
The FCC, which has struggled to get Congress to fund an upgrade to its antiquated systems, has now extended the deadline to midnight Friday. A second round of comments on the original submissions will then begin, ending in September, with the FCC expected to make its ruling by the end of the year.
''Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comments through our electronic comment filing system (ECFS). Please be assured that the commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record,'' said FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart.
Amazon, Google, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and others submitted a joint comment Monday arguing against an FCC proposal that would allow broadband providers to charge websites for faster service as long as the arrangements are "commercially reasonable."
The Internet Association, a lobby group representing dozens of major tech firms, wrote to the FCC arguing the proposal is a direct threat to the concept of net neutrality.
''Segregation of the internet into fast lanes and slow lanes will distort the market, discourage innovation and harm internet users,'' said Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of The Internet Association. ''The FCC must act to create strong, enforceable net neutrality rules and apply them equally to both wireless and wireline providers.''
But the association stopped short of calling for the internet to be regulated as a utility, a proposal that would give the FCC far greater powers, and which the cable companies are lobbying against fiercely.
Consumer groups including Common Cause, Fight for the Future (FFTF) and Free Press are pushing for that idea, arguing that the internet should be reclassified as a ''common carrier'' like the telephone system, which would allow the FCC to ban tiered charging.
''The FCC has the power to do that,'' said FFTF's Evan Greer. ''At this stage it's clear that the public want real net neutrality, and that anything short of that is just another example to the undue influence wielded by cable companies in the corridors of power.''
Comcast, Time Warner and their cable rivals argue that tighter regulation would deter investment and likely fail in the courts. The FCC is being forced to redraw its rules after a court defeat narrowed the extent of its regulatory powers.
The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) is expected to file its submission later Tuesday. In a blogpost, the lobby group called on the FCC to reject ''extreme voices that wrongly suggest that the only acceptable course for the commission to take is to turn back the clock on progress by reclassifying broadband as a title II common carrier service.
''For well over a decade, Democratic and Republican policymakers confronted with the promise of high-speed internet access have embraced a 'light touch' regulatory model that has spurred unprecedented levels of investment in our nation's broadband infrastructure.''
Comments to the FCC received a major boost after comedian John Oliver attacked the proposals last month on his HBO show Last Week Tonight.
''What's being proposed is so egregious that activists and corporations have been forced onto the same side,'' said Oliver. He attacked FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, a former cable company lobbyist, saying his appointment was ''the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo."
So far, the number of comments the FCC has received on its open internet plans trails well behind the 1.4m comments submitted following Janet Jackson's notorious ''wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl.
Battle For The Net
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:02
CABLE COMPANIES ARE SPENDING MILLIONS TO GUT NET NEUTRALITY AND slow your internet to a crawl. WE CAN'T LET THEM.
Take action now!Congress & the FCC must hear from all of us before the new deadline, 11:59pm Friday.
This is a placeholder, probably for sponsor logos, etc.
They are Team CableCable companies are famous for high prices and poor service. Several rank as the most hated companies in America. Now, they're attacking the Internet''their one competitor and our only refuge''with plans to charge websites arbitrary fees and slow (to a crawl) any sites that won't pay up. If they win, the Internet dies.
We are Team InternetUnlike cable channels, sites don't need to negotiate deals to get on the Internet. That changes if cable companies get their way at the FCC. We need to stand up and defend an Internet that is fair, and equal. Are you in?
Take action nowUnderstand the battleLeave it to comedians. If you're looking to understand Team Cable's plans for the Internet, watch this video. Nobody explains it better than John Oliver.
Political scoreboardTeam Cable has the money, so they have the power. They've been lobbying Congress and the FCC for years, and now they're calling in their favors. Here's where our leaders stand. We're losing. But public pressure works.
Contact them!
Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data equally. As an Internet user, net neutrality is vitally important to me. The FCC should use its Title II authority to protect it.Most Americans have only one choice for truly high speed Internet: their local cable company. This is a political failure, and it is an embarrassment. America deserves competition and choice.Without net neutrality, a bad situation gets even worse. These ISPs will now be able to manipulate our Internet experience by speeding up some services and slowing down others. That kills choice, diversity, and quality.It also causes tremendous economic harm. If ISPs can speed up favored services and slow others, new businesses will no longer be able to rely on a level playing field. When ISPs can slow your site and destroy your business at will, how can any startup attract investors?My friends, family, and I use the Internet for conversation and fun, but also for work and business. When you let ISPs mess with our Internet experience, you are attacking our social lives, our entertainment, and our economic well being. We won't stand for it.ISPs are opposing Title II so that they can destroy the FCC's net neutrality rules in court. This is the same trick they pulled last time. Please, let's not be fooled again. Title II is the strong, legally sound way to enforce net neutrality. Use it.
Stop the Cap! >> Rupert Murdoch Wants Time Warner (Entertainment), But TW is Playing Hard to Get'... for Now
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:45
http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNN Fox Time Warner Takeover 7-16-14.mp4CNN broke into regular programming this morning with ''Breaking News'' the news network may be acquired, at least temporarily, by Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News. (2:37)
Rupert Murdoch is grasping for Time Warner (Entertainment).
Rupert Murdoch usually gets what he wants. What he wants now is Time Warner (Entertainment), but he will have to pay a lot to get it.
This morning, Time Warner went public with its rejection of Murdoch's opening bid of $80 billion, made through 21st Century Fox. That represents a 20% premium for Time Warner shareholders, but executives at the entertainment company that owns HBO, Cinemax, CNN and Turner Broadcasting delivered a firm ''no'' in response, calling Murdoch's bid too low.
Although initially rebuffed, many believe the tenacious Murdoch will be back until he wears down Time Warner's board.
''Rupert Murdoch is not going away,'' said Porter Bibb, managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners. ''He's going to keep upping the price until he gets it.''
Some analysts speculate the magic number will be somewhere in the $100 billion range, despite the fact sources tell CNN that Time Warner really prefers remaining independent.
In light of the recent frenzy of mergers among telecom entities, some believe Time Warner made a major mistake when it spun off its cable properties in 2009 to become wholly independent Time Warner Cable, which today has nothing to do with Time Warner itself. At the time it decided to part ways with its cable systems, the company was still restructuring itself after the failure of the 2000 AOL-Time Warner merger deal, which took years to completely unwind. While the early 2000s saw media consolidation as an important priority, the inability to properly monetize the joint assets of super-sized conglomerates made spinoffs more fashionable.
Time Warner effectively sold off its in-house distribution platform: Time Warner Cable systems that could be easily convinced to carry every Time Warner-owned network. Comcast didn't and has become a larger content and distribution company because of its ownership interests in cable networks and its acquisitions like NBC and Universal Studios.
Comparing the two models today, many Wall Street analysts believe Comcast's vision that bigger is better is probably the right one, especially as cable television faces new competitive threats from online video.
Murdoch clearly believes that, and Bibb speculates Murdoch's interest in Time Warner is really all about HBO.
http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Murdoch Wants HBO 7-16-14.flvBloomberg News talked with Porter Bibb, managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners, who believes Rupert Murdoch would buy all of Time Warner just to get his hands on HBO. (6:29)
''It's really now HBO that's the driver, and I think that's the Holy Grail that Rupert had his eye on,'' said Porter Bibb, managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners, said in a Bloomberg News radio interview. ''It's a huge money-maker with a huge potential. And probably the only Netflix killer that's in the world right now.''
Fox and its advisers value HBO, the home of ''Game of Thrones'' and ''Girls,'' at more than $20 billion, said one person familiar with the negotiations.
HBO GO, HBO's online streaming platform, is currently hamstrung by content companies imposing restrictions to make sure the online video service is only sold to HBO premium channel subscribers. Nobody can buy HBO GO a-la-carte. But the TV Everywhere-like service is wildly popular with subscribers, some who use it more than they actually watch HBO on linear television. Combining HBO's coveted content with Fox's deeper movie and television show library could deliver significant competition to Netflix and Amazon's video offerings. Murdoch's media empire is global, opening the door to an international streaming video service.
In short, Rupert Murdoch wants HBO so badly, he's willing to buy all of Time Warner, Inc. to get it.
''If they succeed, if Rupert gets Time Warner, what he's got is HBO and Warner Brothers and that's it,'' Bibb said. ''He doesn't need another movie studio. 21st Century Fox is doing great right now. It's HBO.''
To avoid political landmines, the owner of Fox News Channel said he is willing to spin-off CNN to avoid perceptions that his favored conservative news channel would now control the second largest cable news network. But Murdoch would also effectively control three broadcast television networks if the deal succeeds '-- FOX, the CW, and MyNetworkTV. Admittedly the latter two lack significant audiences and don't produce any news or public affairs programming, but they can have influence over their choice of local broadcast affiliates, some who still produce local news, especially in larger cities.
If a deal is reached, four giant media conglomerates will have control over 90 percent of American media.
http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WSJ Time Warner Fox Merger 7-16-14.flvThe Wall Street Journal notes this kind of media consolidation would never have been possible just a decade or two ago. But does another media mega-merger even make sense? A lot of those on Wall Street believe it does. (5:23)
Here We Go Again: How Rupert Murdoch/Time Warner Merger Would Fuck You In Hollywood | NikkiFinke.com
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:05
"Rupert Murdoch moves more swiftly than most rivals, takes bigger risks, and never gives up." The same year that was written about him, in 1995, he ordered his bankers and lawyers to examine a takeover attempt of Time Warner, then valued at $40M pre-AOL fiasco. Murdoch didn't like that Time Warner was joining with Turner Broadcasting because it blocked some of his expansionist plans. Now it's deja vu all over again. Hollywood woke up today to big news about the first-in-a-while possible Big Media mega-merger. The New York Times reported, subsequently confirmed by both sides, that Murdoch offered $80 billion to purchase Time Warner for his 21st Century Fox. The price, $85/share in a combination of non-voting stock and cash, was too low for Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes and his board to accept on the spot so they politely declined. That's now prompted speculation that Murdoch can and might pay over $100/share and won't stop until Time Warner is his.
Such media consolidations shocked us in the nineties and the naughts but now they elicit little more than a shrug. The only surprise is that this deal didn't involve Google or Apple or Amazon but instead two large cap content conglomerates. Already talking heads on Wall Street are nodding approvingly of Murdoch's offer for Time Warner while they discussed when Time Warner would be bought, not if, and what other content companies might be in play. That list now includes Discovery, AMC, Scripps Network, even the studios Viacom/Paramount/CBS and Sony and Lionsgate and Starz. Almost every media company's stock price except Murdoch's jumped on the news.
What wasn't discussed is how media consolidations like this hurt Hollywood and its content providers. Because it stinks. In sum, the Street sees scale as only helping the 'Content Is King' theory. But the people who actually provide that content are peons who become prisoners of these deals.
For the past 25 years I've written story after story warning about the downsides of Big Media mergers. But it's been like pissing in the wind. Neither the FCC nor the FTC nor the DOJ no matter who's been in the White House have stopped them because of anti-trust or anti-access concerns. Put 21st Century Fox and Time Warner together, and they make up 25%-to-30% of the market share for movies being made. The Fox and Warner Brothers TV studios are the #1 and #2 film and TV studios in the entire industry. Merging their significant distribution infrastructures '-- for international box office, home video distribution, and/or digital distribution '-- would create both revenue and cost synergies for their outsized businesses. That's good for the companies. Merge their movie and TV production studios who are now bitter rivals looking to sign the best talent, and suddenly directors and writers and actors and showrunners can't play off the two companies against each other for bigger deals. That's bad for you. Combine their international cable footprints and its uber-huge with Fox revenue 44% of total and strong in Europe while TW 36% and well penetrated in Latin America. Murdoch's resultant international cable scale would create synergies on ad sales, affiliate fees, and pay-TV penetration, according to the analysts. Good for the companies.
What this also means is that, just as a time when a wealth of new buyers like Goggle, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Yahoo and Netflix for scripted professional TV programming have appeared, it's entirely possibly that 2 of the biggest traditional buyers will become one combined entity to better control over how content is sold to these new online players. That's bad for you. A merged Fox/Time Warner company would negotiate digital rights more effectively and create an even more formidable rival to these still fledgling programmers and distributors. That's good for the companies.
Today media analysts couldn't wait to explain that Murdoch needs the more clout that Time Warner could provide to press for more favorable terms from the cable and telecommunications industries. True, those octopus arms are only getting longer with their own pending mergers of Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV. So having more cable networks would give traditional Big Media more negotiating leverage with these mega-distributors so they can receive dual revenue streams from advertising as well as retransmission fees, not to mention take "billions of dollars of synergies". Investment bankers are putting pressure on media companies to consider mergers and partnerships to gain scale to push back. Of course, Wall Street wants more Big Media consolidation in order to pocket big bucks fees from the deals.
Take Goldman Sachs, which is handling Murdoch's takeover offer. It just beat profit expectations last quarter because revenues from investment banking were up 15% (outweighing a 10% drop in its traditional powerhouse of trading bonds, currencies and commodities). And Goldman already has set aside nearly $4B out of the last three months' revenues to pay annual bonuses for its top executives at the end of 2014. The rich get richer. They don't care what happens to 21st Century Fox or Time Warner employees when the redundancy studies are made and the job layoffs are started. They also won't be around when the next billions of dollars of a goodwill writedown takes place after another recession hits and neither corporation will be worth what is now at the top of the stock market. (Interesting how only Time online, which soon won't be owned by Time Warner, notes that Murdoch has a track record of making bids that all coincide with market peaks and mark the end of bull runs. Shortly after he makes these deals, stocks go splat.)
Murdoch has always had an unquenchable appetite for acquiring companies and growing bigger. It led his News Corp to the precipice of bankruptcy in 1990. But that was then and this is now. So he'll be seen as an acquirer in one way or another even if Time Warner becomes out of reach. But Murdoch knows this offer gives him scale in sports and cable networks to bolster the negotiating power of a content provider like his vis a vis Fox News, F/X, and the Fox regional sports networks alongside TNT, TBS, and others. (One analyst sees 10+% affiliate rate increases assured for the next 5 years.) Sports rights ownership of Time Warner would help with launches of Fox Sports cable networks along with Turner's rights to NBA, NCAA basketball, and the PGA on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), which itself has strengths in other sports including MLB, NASCAR, and USGA. A combined portfolio of sports could better challenge ESPN and keep NBC's growing sports coverage at bay.
For Time Warner, the price may simply still be too low, even with a 20% control premium and the non-voting stock offer unacceptable. (The separate voting stock is how Murdoch and his family keep control.) That prompted analysts today to speculate that Time Warner may require a much higher percentage of cash, if not all cash, from Murdoch. Meanwhile, sounding quite arrogant, Time Warner is saying in response that its existing business plan is superior to any proposal no matter how ''determined'' Murdoch is to buy TWX.
But could this offer, or any offer, have been avoided by Time Warner? Of course. But by the company stripping away asset after asset '' first AOL, then Time Warner Cable, finally Time Inc later this year '' the once biggest global media conglomerate is now just Warner Bros, HBO and the Turner Networks. That, in turn, made Time Warner more attractive but also more vulnerable as a takeover target. For instance, why wasn't chairman Jeff Bewkes using the resulting cash from the cable sale to acquire what even Gordy Crawford had said were rare opportunities in its core entertainment arena? So while Disney's Bob Iger was buying Pixar and Marvel and LucasFilm to build Mouse House value, Bewkes was sitting on his hands during the recent recession. There were repeated stock buybacks, a move which I consider to be the equivalent of burning dollar bills.
Bewkes also has resisted repeated calls to spin off extremely lucrative HBO. "The inherent value of HBO's business probably exceeds the 8x-10x EV/ EBITDA multiples ascribed to HBO by the Street in TWX's sum-of-the-parts models (especially if you index HBO to Netflix valuations)," wrote Nomura media analysts Anthony DiClemente and Benjamin Black about the proposed merger today. "And even on a standalone basis, HBO is a desirable asset that is well positioned for a digital media future."
Oh, and let's not forget the platinum parachute which Bewkes' compensation contract will call for if Time Warner gets bought and/or he gets canned.
Back in 1983, some 90% of the U.S. media was controlled by 50 companies. I thought Hollywood had it bad enough when studios started gobbling up networks, and cable companies started taking over studios and networks. Now 90% of media is controlled by 5 companies '' Comcast, Viacom, CBS, Walt Disney, Time Warner and 21st Century Fox. The Nation used to complain about "The National Entertainment State" and the journalistic, political and cultural questions raised by the ongoing concentration of media power in so few hands. Nowadays, journalism doesn't matter because it's barely in existence. Note how quickly Murdoch said he would toss aside CNN. (No journalism on that so-called cable news channel anymore: just watered-down partisan political polemics, reruns of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknowns, and endless searches for that missing Malaysian plane.) I now see where Big Media will soon consist of Disney and Comcast and 21st Century Fox. Analysts today called Murdoch's Time Warner offer "basically the first salvo in a wave of media consolidation." You're fucked.
Shut Up Slave!
Smartphone App Keeps Watch Over Schizophrenic Patients - IEEE Spectrum
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:10
Photo: Mads Perch/Getty Images
What if a schizophrenic patient could have the equivalent of a therapist in a pocket, watching for symptoms of a relapse? That's the promise of a smartphone-based system now being tested at a hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. The app, called CrossCheck, uses a suite of sensors to create a profile of a patient's healthy behavioral and social patterns and can then raise an alert when the patient deviates from the norm.
For a schizophrenic patient, a relapse is both damaging and demoralizing, says Dror Ben-Zeev, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth College and the study's principal investigator. The patient can end up in jail or in the hospital, which disrupts therapies and normal routines.
The CrossCheck study will include 150 schizophrenic patients who have been discharged from Zucker Hillside Hospital, in Glen Oaks, within the past year. Half of those patients will receive smartphones with the app, while the other half, the control group, will receive the standard clinical services that the hospital provides after a patient is discharged. To see if the app leads to better outcomes, ''we'll be looking at the time lag between when they're recruited and their first relapse, and also at the number of relapses they have over a year,'' Ben-Zeev explains.
Mobile health apps have the potential to change the management of chronic illnesses in general and may be particularly valuable for mental illnesses, says John Kane, chairman of psychiatry at the hospital. Kane says his patients come to the clinic about once a month, and in between those visits he has no way of knowing if they're sliding back into psychosis. ''When they're having the relapse, they might not have the insight to call us and say, 'I think I'm becoming ill again,' '' Kane says. ''This technology lets us observe the patient's condition in real time.''
CrossCheck ties together a number of data sets to create patient profiles. It uses GPS to create a map of patients' typical locations, and accelerometer data to determine when patients are walking, running, or sedentary. It uses the microphone to detect conversations that occur either over the phone or in person, and it records the duration and frequency of conversations (it doesn't record or analyze content). Finally, to discern sleep patterns, CrossCheck looks for times when the phone is stationary and not in use, and when light and sound sensors determine that the environment is dark and quiet. All this behavioral monitoring occurs in the background as patients go about their lives.
The patient's only active participation is filling out a brief questionnaire once a week, which asks about mood and symptoms. ''When they indicate that things are going poorly, that they're feeling bad or not getting enough sleep, we mark that as a near-relapse event,'' explains Ben-Zeev. CrossCheck looks for behavioral markers associated with that event to create each patient's unique ''relapse signature.'' Then, the next time CrossCheck detects that signature in the patient data, it sends out alerts: The patient is encouraged to get in touch with a doctor, and the study investigators at the hospital are notified that the patient may need help.
Other Mental Health AppsA number of mental health researchers are experimenting with apps for psychological monitoring and intervention. Here are a few that are in the works.
Priori: Created by researchers at the University of Michigan, this smartphone app will attempt to spot the early signs of mood swings in people with bipolar disorder. So far researchers have trained the app to recognize manic and depressive moods by analyzing the user's voice, tracking pitch as well as patterns of speech and silence. The next iteration of Priori will use these subtle signals to prompt an intervention, such as a call from a therapist.
Companion: This app, created by the start-up Cogito, in Boston, analyzes both vocal characteristics and social behavior to detect symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The company was testing its app with Boston-area veterans at the time of the marathon bombing in 2013, and the researchers say the app did pick up signs of stress in the participants. Cogito is now working to commercialize the app and is preparing for a limited release in 2015, in cooperation with health care providers.
Mobilyze: Northwestern University researchers are developing Mobilyze to help people with depression manage their illness. In a small pilot study, users ''trained'' the app by periodically rating their moods, which the app correlated with data based on GPS, accelerometer movement, and phone use. Mobilyze could then use that data to roughly predict users' moods. Researchers are now working on the next version of the app, which will use those predictions to trigger either statements of positive reinforcement or suggestions for mood-improving actions.
All this monitoring may seem intrusive and possibly alarming to patients who already have paranoid tendencies. ''Part of the challenge with any kind of monitoring is making sure the patients understand why we're doing this,'' says Kane. He says the study will include an education component, in which investigators will present CrossCheck as a partnership between doctor and patient. ''We're trying to work with them and help prevent them from going back into the hospital,'' he says.
Ben-Zeev has also developed an app called Focus, which gives schizophrenic patients a much more active role in managing the illness. That app's home screen lists categories such as ''medication,'' ''voices,'' and ''social,'' and users can tap on which ever category they want help with. After they answer brief assessment questions, they receive either positive reinforcement or some friendly advice. For example, the social assessment might lead to the feedback ''You can't control other people's behavior, only how you respond to it.'' That system is currently being tested in a multistate study that will conclude in 2016.
At Northwestern University's Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies, assistant professor Stephen Schueller says he has evaluated a wide variety of apps intended to help patients cope with a mental illness. He's enthusiastic about apps like CrossCheck, which send smartphone data to health care providers. ''When these things are embedded in the existing care relationship, then they hold a lot of potential,'' he says. In contrast, he says, those apps that are designed to let patients actively manage their own conditions aren't effective, because they're not downloaded often or used consistently. '' 'If you build it, they will come' is not true at all,'' says Schueller.
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Millenials email
Hola Arab,
As a millennial with shitty handwriting, your and John's rant about the ultra picky, neoliberal, rule-following, Trader-Joes-shopping, hardly-working, government and Obama lovin' Millenial generation disturbed me deeply. I did some looking while racked with fear and the urge to buy seeds and found this article, saying that Millenials aren't lefty government pawns but, in fact, distrust any large authority and hold centrist views. We've got a No Agenda generation going on here.
IRAQ
America's Biggest Arms Sale Of 2014 Is To A Country With Fewer Than 300,000 Citizens
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:09
Jul. 14, 2014, 4:18 PM56,707Qatar is purchasing $11 billion in Patriot missile batteries and Apache attack helicopters from the United States, according to AFP. It's the largest single sale of U.S. weaponry in 2014, and it's to a country with only 278,000 citizens (and about 1.5 million expatriates).
With this purchase, Qatar might be swapping soft power for military might. The gas-rich emirate gambled on the region-wide success of the Muslim Brotherhood in the years after the "Arab Spring" protests. But its strategy toppled with the military coup that removed Mohammed Morsi in Egypt. Qatar's neighbors also became increasingly suspicious of its support for Islamist movements throughout the Middle East, leading to one of the biggest diplomatic crises in the history of the Gulf monarchies.
Qatar's been unable to insulate itself from regional chaos through its diplomatic outreach, which has had substantial blowback. But Patriot missiles will do just fine: They're perhaps the most advanced projectile of their type, and have the ability to intercept incoming missiles and destroy enemy tanks and planes.
AFP
The Qatari monarchy has yet another hard power asset insuring its survival: Qatar is home to Al Udeid Air Base, one of the most important U.S. military installations in the Middle East.
This purchase is a sign that Qatar's ambitions haven't dimmed in spite of its inevitably unsuccessful approach to the region's post-Arab Spring turbulence. It's also a sign of how little a price in terms of its relationship with the U.S. Qatar has paid for its support of groups like Hamas, or its citizens' alleged assistance for extremist groups in Syria.
Qatar is still a favored U.S. partner in the region, perhaps because of this ability to provide an opening to extremist groups: The emirate played a major role in mediating the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap in June.
U.S. selling $11B in arms to Qatar | Army Times | armytimes.com
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:44
WASHINGTON '-- The Pentagon is making an $11 billion sale of Apache attack helicopters and Patriot and Javelin air-defense weapons to the Gulf state of Qatar.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Qatari counterpart, Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, met Monday at the Pentagon to sign the deal.
Qatar is a key U.S. ally and hosts a major U.S. air operations center. Qatar was instrumental in completing the deal that gained the May 31 release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held for five years by the Taliban, in exchange for the release by the U.S. of five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The U.S. in recent years has made a priority of improving the air defenses of its Gulf allies.
Bashar al-Assad is west's ally against Isis extremists, says Syria.
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 17:52
Girls walk past damaged buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Myassar neighbourhood. Photograph: Hosam Katan/Reuters
Syria is determined to "eliminate" the Sunni extremist group Isis, according to a senior minister, who urged western countries to recognise "new realities" by joining the battle against terrorism and ending their support for rebels trying to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad.
"The only way to resolve the situation is to work with president Assad," Faisal Mekdad, Syria's vice foreign minister, told the Guardian. Mekdad said that "many countries" were now seeking security cooperation with Damascus, but "security matters could not be separated from the political cooperation".
He rejected suggestions that Assad is in league with Isis, which controls large parts of northern and eastern Syria as well as contiguous areas of Iraq. Assad's enemies accuse him of tolerating the group or tacitly cooperating with it to foment fighting between rival rebel units and present himself as a secular bulwark against al-Qaida and jihadi fanaticism.
"I know the rumours," Mekdad said. "But to those who claim that Syria is not doing its best to combat this group, I answer that if these extremists '' Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free [Syrian] Army and Isis '' are killing themselves and fighting for more influence and expansion, do you think we are sad? But the Syrian army has its priorities and we shall decide what to do next."
The Free Syrian Army, backed by the US, Britain, EU, Turkey and the Gulf states, insists that it is the only group capable of defeating Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra while bringing about democratic change in Syria. Isis '' originally the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant '' now calls itself the Islamic State. Latest estimates say 170,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began in March 2011. Millions have been made homeless.
Mekdad, dismissing what he called cheap propaganda, used a wide-ranging interview to broadcast Syria's determination to defeat Isis with the help of Iraq and "all those who are willing to fight terrorism". As the government's most articulate spokesman, his arguments clearly echo Assad's views, which will be heard when he is inaugurated for a new presidential term this week.
European countries, including Britain, were changing their minds about Syria, Mekdad suggested. "Deep in their hearts they know that what they did is a grave crime against the people of Syria. Thinking that the regime would fall in few weeks [in 2011] has led to the flourishing of terrorism inside Syria and threatening the security of European countries themselves. They have started to understand that what is happening in Syria is not a revolution but a threat to Europe.
"Many countries are approaching us to establish cooperation on security matters. We told all of them that security matters could not be separated from political cooperation."
Mekdad was "not aware" that Britain had made any such approach. Among EU countries, Germany is thought most likely to go down the path of rapprochement, according to well placed Syrian sources. Thousands of Europeans, including an estimated 400 Britons, are thought to have fought in Syria. The attack in May on the Jewish museum in Brussels by a Frenchman who spent a year in Syria was widely seen as a wake-up call about the risks posed by returning jihadi fighters.
Assad's re-election last month '' though the vote was held only in government-held areas '' must change calculations, Mekdad argued. "The overall situation is improving. The government has more self-confidence. President Assad will be sworn in soon for a new term of office. The British, Americans, the French and Europeans in general have to change and accommodate themselves to the reality of developments in Syria. And they have to respect the will of the Syrian people. I hope that will happen, although I have my doubts."
Accusations of war crimes carried out by Syrian government forces were propaganda, he claimed. "This is politicisation and a continuation of the onslaught by European countries."
Mekdad attacked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for backing the rebels. But he suggested that Syria's position in the Arab world was improving with signs of growing support from Egypt, where President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi shares Assad's hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood. Neighbouring Jordan is now reportedly balking at US plans to expand training for Free Syrian Army fighters on its soil.
Syria still wanted a political solution to the conflict despite the failure of the Geneva II talks earlier this year, but only after defeating terrorism, Mekdad said.
Stefan de Mistura, the Swedish-Italian diplomat appointed to replace Lakhdar Brahimi as UN envoy, must remain neutral, he warned '' and recognise the "new realities" after Assad's election.
Mekdad also dismissed suggestions that an agreement on Iran's nuclear programme would mean reduced support from Tehran. Backing from Iran, the Lebanese Shia organisation Hezbollah '' and Russia '' has been crucial to Assad for the past three years. "We are not afraid of any Iranian-American-European rapprochement," Mekdad said. "We have every confidence in the Iranian leadership and the strategic nature of relations between Syria and the Islamic Republic."
Isis defector speaks of life inside brutal jihadist group.
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:16
13 July 2014Last updated at 20:22 ET By Paul WoodBBC PanoramaAn "Islamic caliphate" has been declared in the Middle East and the group behind it, Isis, has now rebranded itself simply "the Islamic State". Panorama has spoken to a defector about life inside the feared jihadist group.
Isis is not an organisation it is easy to leave. We met a man who had - and he was terrified of the consequences. "The brutality of Isis terrifies everyone," he said. "My family, my cousins, my siblings are all still there. I fear for them. If they can't reach me, they will reach my family."
He was nervous, agreeing to record an interview only after several hours of discussion, over customary tiny glasses of scalding hot, sweet tea. He would talk to us only if we would not reveal his identity. He wrapped himself in a keffiyeh for our camera and we promised not to use his name.
He summed up the jihadists' tactics like this: "If you're against me, then you'll be killed. If you're with me, you work with me. You submit to my will and obey me, under my power in all matters."
'Heart impassioned'There are few accounts of how Isis works. That is no surprise when Isis says it will detain as spies any foreign journalists who enter its territory. So we travelled to Turkey's border with Syria to meet the defector.
The border is a hinterland of safe houses and supply lines for the rebels in the Syrian uprising. Turkey has made clear that Isis is no longer welcome here, so it is possible to meet people who have sought refuge from the Islamic State.
Continue reading the main story Paul Wood presents Isis: Terror in Iraq on 14 July at 20:30 BST. The defector had initially joined an Islamist brigade of the Free Syrian Army to fight the Assad regime. He joined Isis when his whole tribe pledged allegiance to the group - and because he believed in creating an Islamic state.
His first orders, as an Isis fighter, were to attend a course on Sharia, or Islamic law. "Not the principles of Islam, the principles of the Islamic State. So they teach you the Islam they want," he said.
"It appeals to the heart and not to the mind, so that your heart becomes impassioned with their words. This is the first stage. The second stage is military exercises, military training."
He explained that Isis had learned the lessons from Iraq in the early days on the anti-American insurgency. Then, it alienated the Sunni population. In Syria, the defector said, Isis tried to do things differently as it entered each new town.
"In the beginning Isis used goodness with the population in order to attract the people and they provided them with what they needed in order to attract them quickly, because they suffered so much under Bashar and his regime," he said.
"Once Isis succeeded in attracting people they changed dramatically, from being good to being cruel and harsh. You're either with me or against me! There is nothing in between."
Sharia lawIn all the towns and villages it controls, Isis has implemented its very conservative version of Sharia. Rules on appearance are strictly enforced: a beard for men, the full veil for women, this is required for the whole population.
"Anything that contradicts their beliefs is forbidden. Anyone who follows what they reject is an apostate and must be killed," the defector said.
Our producer met one woman who had fled with her husband and children to Turkey from Raqqa in Syria. She said an Isis fighter policing the streets had threatened her after she had accidentally shown one centimetre of her trousers.
"I was wearing it [abaya, or cloak] but I just forgot to lift it up, that's while I was getting out of the car. I don't know how he saw me, I really don't know. And he was Egyptian, unfortunately. He is not a Syrian worrying about a woman from his nation."
The defector said it was a deliberate Isis strategy to use outsiders to police the towns it took over.
"The Islamic State have brought in people from other countries, different nationalities who are quite young in age so that they can brainwash or indoctrinate them with their Isis ideology," he said.
"And so they control the areas, not through the local people but with their own forces and their own men whom they prepare for this task."
The jihadists of Isis wish to go back to what they see as a more pure form of Islam from the time of the Prophet and his companions. They believe in a literal interpretation of the Koran.
The lslamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has now proclaimed himself "Caliph", a descendant of Muhammad and of his tribe. He has demanded that all Muslims, everywhere, swear loyalty to him -a ruling condemned by other religious scholars around the region.
But Baghdadi is also spoken of as a cunning tactician. Some reports from Mosul, for instance, speak of confidence-building measures. Security barriers have been torn down to open roads, electricity lines restored, municipal salaries paid'... if this does not work, Isis can rely on the whip and the sword, as it has done many times in the past.
Panorama: Isis: Terror in Iraq is broadcast on BBC One at 20:30 BST on Monday, 14 July.
Freed American POW Bowe Bergdahl returns to active duty with US Army TODAY in 'desk job' ...and may receive $350,000 tax-free | Mail Online
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:29
Sgt. Bergdahl will resume his military duties at Fort Sam Houston, San AntonioBergdahl will have 'an office job within the headquarters,' Col. Scott Bleichwehl saidHe will also have sponsor to help with assimilatingBergdahl may also receive $350,000 from the US government without paying taxes$200,000 worth of that money would be from wages earned during his captivity and $150,000 if he is found to have been a prisoner of warBergdahl will continue to attend debriefing sessions with his superiorsComes days after photo of Bergdahl posing with Taliban official posted to TwitterBergdahl posed with Badruddin Haqqani, who died in a drone strike in 2012By James Nye and David Mccormack and Lydia Warren and Zoe Szathmary
Published: 01:05 EST, 14 July 2014 | Updated: 08:02 EST, 15 July 2014
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The US Army confirmed Monday that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is returning to active duty just four weeks on from his return to the United States after five years as a Taliban captive - and will be working behind a desk.
'To use a slang term, he will be working a desk job,' Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the Pentagon, told ABC News.
'Sgt. Bergdahl is not restricted in any way,' he said, noting Bergdahl will reside in noncommissioned barracks. 'He is a normal soldier now.'
Col. Scott Bleichwell offered a similar description in a phone interview with MailOnline.
'It's an office job within the headquarters - just general office work,' he said.
Bleichwehl explained that Bergdahl will also have a sponsor, which he described as 'a person who's designated, not only for him, but for every soldier in Army North [...] and assists with assimilating into the unit.'
The sponsor helps with 'very basic administrative functions,' Bleichwehl said, which include '[helping become] a part of the unit, processing records, becoming familiar with the day to day schedule.'
'We're always there for every soldier,' he said.
Bergdahl may also receive $350,000 from the US government without paying taxes: $200,000 would be for wages earned during his captivity and $150,000 if he in fact was a prisoner of war, according to Fox News.
Money earned while in a combat zone is excluded, per IRS regulations.
Return to duty: This is Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl six weeks ago at his handover by the Taliban to US forces. The US Army said Monday he will return to active duty
Responding to that report, Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Alayne Conway told MailOnline 'The Army's determination of Sgt. Bergdahl's eligibility for pay and benefits will be in accordance with the appropriate laws, regulations and policies. Pay is always linked to duty status.'
In a statement, the Army said that the soldier 'has completed the final phase of the reintegration process under the control of U.S. Army South and is currently being assigned to U.S. Army North, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston (JBSA).'
'He will now return to regular duty within the command where he can contribute to the mission. The Army investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the disappearance and capture of Bergdahl is still ongoing.'
According to the New York Times, Bergdahl was in therapy at Fort Sam Houston.
Since his return from Afghanistan, Sgt. Bergdahl has been involved in debriefings with his superiors, the paper said.
Just last week, a photo of Bergdahl, smiling and posing with a former senior Taliban official in Afghanistan was posted on Twitter.
The undated photo, likely taken during Bergdahl's five years in captivity, was posted on the social media site on Wednesday by @khorasan3, an account associated with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Along with the image were the words '#US Solider #Bergdahl with Martyr #Taliban Leader Badar'udin Haqqani(RH) S/O Shaykh Jalaludin Haqqani(HA).'
This photo of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, smiling and posing with Taliban Commander Badruddin Haqqani, a senior member of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, was posted on Twitter on Wednesday
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) confirmed Bergdahl was photographed next to Taliban Commander Badruddin Haqqani, a senior member of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan.
The son of Haqqani head Jalaluddin Haqqani, he reportedly handled daily operations and was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August 2012, CNN said at the time.
Former POW Bergdahl was controversially released by the Taliban in May in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Last week it emerged that Bergdahl is being allowed to wander off the Texas base and while under supervision he has visited multiple stores and locations.
Bergdahl alternates between civilian and military clothing and shakes hands with passerby when they recognize him, an Army spokesperson told CNN.
The details have emerged as soldiers who served with Bergdahl before he left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 revealed to Fox News they have still not been contacted by military investigators.
The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Taliban prisoner swap
Questions: A new investigation has been launched to determine whether Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, pictured, deserted his post or went AWOL when he was reported missing in Afghanistan in 2009
The former soldiers told the news channel they believe the Army has already made up its mind about how Bergdahl ended up in the hands of the Taliban - and that they believe he deserted his post.
But when he was swapped for five Guantanamo Bay detainees on May 31, President Obama gave him a hero's welcome and said the switch had been prompted by Bergdahl's poor health.
'I think it's very clear he deserted his post,' Army Sgt. Evan Buetow told FoxNews.com. 'He thought about what he was doing, he mailed some things home, he walked away and we have witnesses who saw him walking away.
Left out: Former platoon leader and Army Sgt. Evan Buetow, pictured in a previous Fox interview, said he believes the investigators have already made up their mind about what happened
'And if you're walking away in one of the worst, most dangerous areas of Afghanistan without your weapon and gear, I don't believe you're planning on coming back.'
'Investigators have already concluded what they want to be said. They know exactly what happened'Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow
Of the investigation, Buetow added: 'They've already concluded what they want to be said. They know exactly what happened.'
Former Army Sgt. Matt Vierkant also told Fox News said he had not been contacted by Army officials - but that here are probably still sworn statements by the unit's members made after he left the post.
'I have confidence that they're going to do what's right,' Vierkant said. 'I just feel this should've happened a long time ago and it should've been public.'
Both Buetow and Vierkant told Fox they believe Bergdahl deserted his unit.
Speaking out: Former Army Sgt. Matt Vierkant, pictured in a previous interview on CNN, also said he had not been contacted by Army officials and believes that Bergdahl deserted the unit
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Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE: Olympics Committee sports complex opens in Haiti - Haiti - MiamiHerald.com
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:53
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- 'ŽA group of diplomats relived childhood dreams Tuesday as they practiced jump shots, played table tennis and jockeyed to score GOOOOAAAALLLL on the soccer field.
Led by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach toured Haiti's newest sports complex: a still underconstruction $18 million facility.
The complex, with courts for basketball and outdoor handball, rooms for boxing and table tennis and an expansive multipurpose center, was donated by the International Olympic Committee after Haiti's devastating Jan.12, 2010 earthquake.
''We wanted to help because we had seen the Haitian people terribly suffering under this earthquake,'' Bach said about the decision behind the gift. ''We want to demonstrate that sport is an important tool to rebuild the country.''
Before declaring the center opened, Bach told Haiti's youth that it was a day of hope for them.
''Sports,'' Bach said, ''stands for social cohesion. It stands for self confidence; stands for fair play and for the future of youth.'''Ž
Haitian President Michel Martelly agreed, saying that while the complex is an opportunity for Haiti's youth to discover their talents, it's an important part of helping form individuals.
''Playing for children is important,'' he said. ''It's important for kids to play with one another.''
Martelly pointed out that in 30 years, no Haitian government had ever built a sports complex in the country. His administration, he said, had restored 12 '-- mainly soccer stadiums.
Martelly also defended the complex's location on the outskirts of the capital, near the sprawling post-quake slum, Canaan. Many have questioned the location because of the distance from the city center and near the mountainside slum that the Haitian government, with assistance from the United States, is now trying to organize and provide infrastructure.
''We are one country. We are one people,'' Martelly said during the inauguration ceremony, Canaan's shacks and denuded mountainside visible in the backdrop. ''We cannot exclude Canaan.''
''We built this for Canaan, too,'' he added.
The event was also attended by Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Albeto Moreno, who last year traveled to Haiti to promote sports development. The IDB is one of the organizations that has contributed to the complex's funding.
''This is great, just to watch all of these kids doing sports,'' Moreno said. ''My dream is to see one day a couple of Olympians and Haitians winning models. Not that Haitians need any more pride because they do have pride, but I think it will do a lot for this country.
''You've seen it around the Caribbean, look at what (sprinter) Usain Bolt did for Jamaica and how the whole question of athletics has become a big thing in the Caribbean.''
Ban, the United Nations chief, said sports can be a strong social changer. The biggest beneficiaries he said of the complex will be Haiti's disenfranchised youth.
''People on the margins will have a place to belong again,'' he said. ''This center will also be an arena for promoting teamwork, fair play and mutual understanding, values that are far beyond the playing field.
''We can see yet again sports go beyond the competition, beyond the events such as World Cup, even beyond star athletes,'' he added.
Ban ended his two day visit to Haiti on Tuesday, calling his fifth visit here ''inspiring,'' and reiterating his call for the country to stage its long overdue elections.
''These encounters have given me a strong sense of the significant progress that Haiti has achieved in the last 10 years with the support of the MINUSTAH peacekeeping operations,'' he said.
But Ban also said he was ''especially concerned'' that Haiti could regress given the ongoing stalemate over the country's legislative and local elections.
''Sadly, for now I have little concrete news of progress from these long overdue elections'' to report to the Security Council, he said. '''ŽThe holding of elections in October is essential.''
Obama Nation
Whitehouse email about traffic jams
If you hate traffic jams:
Since our earliest days, the American transportation system has comprised our economic backbone -- part of what's made us great as a nation.
But right now, there's a big problem with our roads and bridges: Over the years, we've invested in them less and less. They haven't kept up with the needs and demands of our growing economy.
That's why the President has been clear: Investing in our infrastructure is a top priority, and it's why he's put out a long-term plan that shows we can invest in our infrastructure and pay for it in part by closing unfair tax loopholes and making commonsense reforms to our tax system.
With funding for surface transportation running out, and hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, we simply can't afford to stop investing in our transportation.
65% of America's roads are already in less than good condition, and a quarter of our bridges require significant repair or can't handle today's traffic.
Take a look at our new interactive state-by-state map to learn more about the current condition of your state's roads and bridges.
Learn more about the condition of America's roads and bridges.
The President has a plan to fix our nation's infrastructure for the long run -- making targeted investments in the short term and laying the groundwork for increased efficiency down the road. But in the meantime, he's calling on Congress to avoid a lapse in funding of the Highway Trust Fund.
His long-term plan to invest in rebuilding our nation's infrastructure would (among other things):
Invest $302 billion over four years into our highways, railroads, and transit systems
Provide certainty that cities, states, and investors need to break ground on major projects
Build a world-class freight network that gets our products out to overseas markets
Find out more about the roads and bridges in your state -- and what will happen if Congress fails to act.
Texas Plans to Fingerprint EVERYONE within the Next 12 Years
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:50
The Texas Department of Public Safety might as well be called the Texas Department of Public Invasiveness.
They've launched a plan to fingerprint every single person of driving age in the state, after which they will add the person's prints to the criminal database.
Is it just me or is that a rather Dystopian plan?
Jon Cassidy of Watchdog.org writes:
The credit for breaking the news on those two items goes to consumer affairs columnist Dave Lieber of the Dallas Morning News, whose long-running ''Watchdog'' column often shows up in my Google Alerts, for obvious reasons.
As an old-school columnist, Lieber tends to keep his opinions subdued, and he doesn't generally call people dishonest. But I have no problem with doing that, so I'd like to point out that the DPS spokesman he quotes at length is less than straightforward about his department's legal authority.
Last month, Lieber broke the news that DPS had started collecting full sets of fingerprints on everyone who went in to renew their license.
Friday, he followed up with a story on DPS' dubious legal authority to do so, and then posted lengthy quotations on the issue to his blog.
Lieber quotes an entire email from DPS spokesman Tom Vinger, who quotes Transportation Code Sec. 521.059 at length, including the key phrase, ''The department shall establish an image verification system based on the following identifiers collected by the department: '....an applicant's thumbprints or fingerprints.'' (source)
So the gist of this is: if you don't allow the ''authorities'' to take your prints and file them away in the event that you commit some heinous crime in the future, you won't be issued a driver's license in the state of Texas. This means you'd theoretically be unable to drive or get insurance, because you'd be unlicensed. If you can't get insurance, it will be difficult to own a car. This, of course, could effect your livelihood, your ability to get your kids to school, and myriad other day-to-day issues. I'm a big fan of opting out, but this makes it a lot more difficult for the average Joe or Josephine to do so.
Doesn't this sound like a pre-crime system, gathering evidence for the potential day in the future when they wish to use a person's cataloged prints to identify them? At the very least, it is an invasion of personal privacy that is being enforced by hindering one's ability to travel freely.
According to the laws on the books, it's legal to take ONE print, but not a set of ten.
To get the full context, you'd have to go back to the original bill that was signed into law, and then look up the relevant section of law, which states that an application for a drivers' license ''must include: 1) the thumbprints of the applicant or, if thumbprints cannot be taken, the index fingerprints of the applicant.''
So that's why the law mentions fingerprints '' it's index fingerprints, not a full set of 10 fingerprints. While the law mentions that those records can be used by law enforcement agencies investigating a crime, it doesn't say anything about making them generally available in a criminal database.
According to Lieber, a political science professor at Texas Christian University named Donald W. Jackson, who has a new organization called the North Texas Civil Rights Project, is offering legal support if anybody wants to challenge this new policy in court. (source)
I bet a lot of Texans will have one particular fingerprint they'll be happy to give '' the middle one.
Hat tip to Kimo
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Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca
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Detroit police chief gives credit to armed citizens for drop in crime | The Detroit News
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:32
Detroit'-- Fed up with crime, some armed Detroiters have developed itchy trigger-fingers '-- and Police Chief James Craig said lawbreakers are getting the message.
In the latest incident, police say an 88-year-old who was beaten and robbed inside his east side home last week probably thought he was defending himself against attackers when he opened fire Monday on a television news crew.
On Thursday, a woman appeared on his front porch asking for help, and when he opened his door, two men rushed in, assaulted him and tied him up with a phone cord before robbing him of several items.
A reporter from Channel 2 (WJBK) knocked on the man's door on Arndt Street Monday, and conducted a short interview, although the man, whose name was not released, would not open his door. After a crew from Channel 7 (WXYZ) came onto the man's porch, he fired a single shot. No one was hurt, and the bullet lodged into a tree.
Police took the man into custody, where he is undergoing a psychological evaluation, Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said.
''I think he was traumatized; he got beat up pretty good,'' Dolunt said. ''When the second reporter went onto his porch, he may have thought she was the woman who had tricked him, and he probably thought he was defending himself.''
Dolunt said police are investigating the matter, and it will be up to prosecutors to decide whether to bring charges.
The incident was the latest in a string of homeowners opening fire to defend themselves, although after a flurry of such shootings early this year, before Monday there hadn't been a reported incident since May 4 '-- an indication that criminals are thinking twice about breaking into people's houses, Craig said.
Detroit has experienced 37 percent fewer robberies in 2014 than during the same period last year, 22 percent fewer break-ins of businesses and homes, and 30 percent fewer carjackings. Craig attributed the drop to better police work and criminals being reluctant to prey on citizens who may be carrying guns.
''Criminals are getting the message that good Detroiters are armed and will use that weapon,'' said Craig, who has repeatedly said he believes armed citizens deter crime. ''I don't want to take away from the good work our investigators are doing, but I think part of the drop in crime, and robberies in particular, is because criminals are thinking twice that citizens could be armed.
''I can't say what specific percentage is caused by this, but there's no question in my mind it has had an effect,'' Craig said.
Craig made national news in January, when he told The Detroit News he believed armed citizens deter crime '-- an unusual stance for an urban police chief. In May, the chief was featured in an NRA publication, America's 1st Freedom, in a cover story titled ''A Show of Courage in Detroit,'' in which Craig reiterated his support for citizens using guns to protect themselves.
Through the years, various studies have reached different conclusions on whether tighter gun laws equal less crime. A 2013 study by the American Journal of Public Health found that the states with the loosest restrictions on gun ownership had the highest gun death rates. But a 2007 Harvard University study found that banning guns would not have an effect on murder rates.
Josh Horwitz, director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington D.C., insisted citizens with guns don't deter crime.
''Our position is, more guns equals more crime,'' Horwitz said ''These are complicated issues, but the empirical evidence shows the states with the lowest gun ownership and the tightest restrictions have the fewest instances of gun violence.
Detroit resident Al Woods, a self-described former criminal who is now an anti-violence advocate and author, agreed criminals are thinking twice about attacking citizens.
''If I was out there now robbing people these days, knowing there are a lot more people with guns, I know I'd have to rethink my game plan,'' said Woods, 60.
Craig said he doesn't believe gun ownership deters criminals from attacking other criminals. ''They automatically assume another criminal is carrying,'' he said. ''I'm talking about criminals who are thinking of robbing a citizen; they're less likely to do so if they think they might be armed.''
Bill Welborne, 80, a former Tuskegee Airman and Korean War veteran, said he agreed with Craig.
''I have a pistol and a shotgun,'' said Welborne, who wasn't home 15 years ago when burglars broke into his west side house and stole his coin collection. ''Without a doubt, if my life is in danger, I wouldn't hesitate to shoot.''
F-Russia / Ukraine / Syria
Syrian President Assad sworn in for 3rd term
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:52
BEIRUT (AP) '-- In a lavish ceremony, a smiling and confident President Bashar Assad was sworn in for a third seven-year term on Wednesday, praising his supporters for "defeating the dirty war" and denouncing insurgents who have "failed in trying to brainwash you or break your will."
As he declared victory, the Western-backed push to topple him or reach a political deal seem increasingly elusive. And while new conflicts in the region have grabbed attention, Syria's 3-year-old civil war is grinding on without reprieve, with 170,000 dead and a third of the country displaced.
While combat continues along all major front line towns and cities across the country '-- opposition activists say more than 400 people have been killed in the past three days alone '-- much of the fighting has now shifted.
Rebels once focused on Assad's forces are now simultaneously fighting increasingly belligerent jihadis seeking to expand a cross-border fiefdom they carved out with neighboring Iraq.
The stunning takeover by militants of the Islamic State group of large areas of northern and eastern Syria and parts of neighboring Iraq has created a new adversary for the West '-- one that threatens their national security far more than Assad ever did.
No longer the focus of attention, Assad's forces continue to steadily advance against rebels in key areas, most recently in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and a much coveted prize for both sides of the conflict.
"This is a critical moment for the West to give promised aid to the moderate forces," said Hussam Al-Marie, a spokesman for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army in northern Syria. "If not enough aid is given, we could see the annihilation of several battalions, who have said they'll fight to the last bullet."
Assad appeared keenly aware Wednesday of the advantage he now holds over the weak and arms-strapped rebels as he took the oath of office Wednesday.
Looking confident and self-assured and striking a victorious tone, he suggested that he was fighting terrorism on behalf of the entire world "which will sooner or later be subjected to similar terrorism."
"Congratulations for your victory and congratulations for Syria and its people who have defied all kinds of terrorism," he said, addressing the Syrian people.
The war in Syria and recent turmoil in Iraq and now Gaza, he said, were all connected. "These are all part of a series (of conspiracies) planned by Israel and the West."
Syrian state TV showed Assad arriving at the People's Palace on Qassioun Mountain, the scenic plateau that overlooks the capital from the north, to a red carpet reception by a military band.
Wearing a dark blue suit and a blue shirt and tie, Assad placed his hand on Islam's holy book, the Quran, pledging to honor the country's constitution before a hall packed with members of parliament and Christian and Muslim clergymen.
A barrage of mortar shells struck the capital during his 80-minute speech, killing four people and wounding 30 others, according to the state-run news agency.
Reflecting security concerns, the inauguration was for the first time held at the presidential palace and not in the Syrian parliament as has been the tradition, drawing criticism from the opposition which described the event as "political theater."
The grandiose ceremony at the presidential palace in Damascus caps what has been a recent reversal of fortune on the battlefield for Assad's forces battling the rebellion against him. In the past year, troops backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have managed to seize the momentum in the civil war, dislodging outgunned rebels bogged down in infighting from several key areas.
Throughout the crisis, Assad has maintained that the conflict that has torn his nation apart was a Western-backed conspiracy executed by "terrorists" '-- and not a popular revolt by people inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, seeking democracy and disenchanted with his authoritarian rule.
As the conflict slid into civil war, Assad refused to step down and last month, he was re-elected in a landslide victory. the opposition and its Western allies dismissed the vote as a sham. The voting did not take place in opposition-held areas, effectively excluding millions of people from the vote.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Assad "has no more credibility now than he did before the so-called presidential election."
"We will continue to help the Syrian people stand up against Bashar Assad and support those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own futures," she said.
Syria's civil war, now in its fourth year, has killed more than 170,000 people and displaced one third of the country's population.
Remaining residents are trapped in an ever-shrinking space wedged between Assad's forces and the Islamic militants who have callously imposed their strict interpretation of Islam in areas under their control.
Warplanes carry out airstrikes on opposition-held areas on daily basis. Helicopters drop barrel bombs '-- crude explosives known by Syrians as "barrels of death" '-- randomly, smashing homes and shops and leaving death in their trail.
Some rebels concede that their priority is now to fight off the grave menace posed by the expansionist ambitions of Islamic State jihadis.
Addressing his fighters headed off to battle IS extremists last month, senior rebel commander Zahran Alloush used expletives to describe the jihadis. In a contentious speech uploaded by activists on the Internet, he said the reward for fighting the Islamic State group was double the reward for fighting Assad's forces.
The rare on-camera diatribe captured the bitter loathing rebels once reserved only for Assad's troops and inner circle.
"We shall crush them, God willing," Alloush said.
___
Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Bassem Mroue and Sam Kimball in Beirut and Matt Lee in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.
EU delays decision on Russian access to Opal gas pipeline
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:51
Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:23am EDT
* Commission cites technical reasons, gives no date
* Russian ministry says decision delayed to mid-September
* Latest in a series of delays
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, July 16 (Reuters) - The European Commission said it had delayed indefinitely a decision on whether to allow Russia greater access to the Opal gas pipeline in northeastern Germany, even though its approval would improve the security of gas supply to Central Europe.
Russian gas giant Gazprom has limited access to the pipeline because of an EU law that seeks to prevent energy suppliers from dominating infrastructure.
But no-one else has taken up the spare capacity, and western analysts as well as Russian officials say giving Russia more access could play a major role in improving EU energy security because it connects to Russia's Nord Stream pipeline.
Citing technical reasons, Commission spokeswoman Sabine Berger said on Wednesday the Commission had agreed with German regulator (BNetzA) to prolong the deadline for a decision on Opal.
"It is difficult to specify the exact timing of the decision," she added in an emailed statement.
The Russian Energy Ministry said in a separate statement, however, that the decision on Opal had been extended till mid-September.
Introduced in 2011, Nord Stream pumps gas from Russia via the Baltic Sea into Germany, bypassing traditional transit state Ukraine.
Nord Stream's capacity is 55 billion cubic metres a year, but Gazprom, which heads the consortium of shareholders, has been pumping only half that.
Opal provides a link from Nord Stream where it makes landfall in northeastern Germany to the Czech Republic. It has a capacity of 36 bcm but has also been operating at half that for the past three years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in January the Commission had agreed to allow Russia 100 percent access to Opal, but the Commission subsequently said a decision had been delayed, again citing the need for technical clarifications.
NORTH AND SOUTH
Gazprom, which has been pressuring the European Commission to lift the restrictions, is also locked in conflict with the EU authorities over its even bigger pipeline project, South Stream.
South Stream would carry gas from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria and other EU states. Like Nord Stream, it bypasses Ukraine.
The Commission says South Stream breaks various pieces of EU law, including rules on third-party access and intergovernmental agreements.
Following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, the Commission suspended talks aimed at bringing South Stream into line with EU legislation.
Dominique Ristori, head of the Commission's energy department, said this week the suspension remained firmly in place.
"In the present context our position is very clear. South Stream has no place when we are still in such difficulties with Russia," he told a Brussels meeting on Tuesday.
Talks could resume only on the basis of "clear principles and in particular one principle is crystal clear: the full implementation of EU legislation", he said.
Russia is locked in conflict with the European Union and Ukraine over Ukraine's decision to sign a partnership agreement with the European Union and over Moscow's annexation of Crimea.
The dispute has been aggravated by a row between Ukraine and Russia over how much Ukraine pays for its gas, which has led Russia to cut off gas supplies.
Because Ukraine is a transit state for around half of the gas the EU receives from Russia, there is a risk of knock-on effects for EU nations if the cut-off is prolonged.
The European Commission has brokered talks between Kiev and Moscow, but the last round collapsed without a deal. EU diplomats said this week they did not expect new tripartite talks before the end of August. (additional reporting by Vera Eckert in Frankfurt and Katya Golubkova, Denis Pinchuk in Moscow; editing by Jane Baird)
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The Sims 4 rated Adults Only in Russia | PC Gamer
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:05
The Sims 4 has been rated 18+ by the Russian Federation, prohibiting sales of the game to minors. The rating is due to a controversial Russian law that prohibits the promotion of same-sex relationships to children.
Ars Technica reports the news of the rating, which comes from a tweet on the Russian Sims account about the rating. Asked by a follower why The Sims 4 received the rating, the account posted, "18 + has been assigned in accordance with the law number 436-FZ 'On the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development.''" (via Google Translate).
436-FZ was signed into law by Russian president Vladimir Putin in June 2013, and has drawn criticism worldwide as an attempt to effectively ban the promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the country, as well as encouraging violence against homosexual Russians.
The rating is exceedingly high for a series that has historically been rated appropriate for teens. The Sims 3 was rated T for Teen in the US by the ESRB when it was released in 2009, who cited crude humor and sexual themes in its rating.
"These avatars often interact socially, which can sometimes lead to mild flirtation or more intimate encounters," reads the game's rating information. "Players can choose to 'try for a baby' or 'WooHoo' with another Sim '' the later option being available to both heterosexual and same-sex couples. These two actions cause the selected avatars to jump into bed and go under the covers, where they wriggle, giggle, and moan until confetti bursts over the bed."
Other countries have rated previous Sims games even lower. According to Ars, "In Germany,The Sims 3 was even rated as appropriate for ages 6 and up by the country's USK rating board."
It's unclear how the 18+ rating will affect sales of The Sims 4 in Russia, a potentially valuable PC gaming market but country also known for rampant game piracy. At press time, The Sims 4 has not been rated by the ESRB.
We've reached out to Electronic Arts for comment, and will update with its statement.
Georgian ambassador at time of 2008 war with Russia found dead
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:48
TBILISITue Jul 15, 2014 2:24pm EDT
TweetShare thisEmailPrintGeorgia's ambassador to Russia Erosi Kitsmarishvili arrives at Tbilisi airport July 11, 2008 file photo.
Credit: Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili
TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia's former ambassador to Russia at the time of the two countries' 2008 war was found shot to death on Tuesday in his car at the Tbilisi apartment block where he lived, the state prosecutor's office said.
It said an investigation had been launched into what may have been a suicide by Erosi Kitsmarishvili, 50, a onetime ally of former president Mikheil Saakashvili who became a critic over his decision to wage war with Georgia's former Soviet master.
Investigators said a gun found next to Kitsmarishvili's body belonged to him, although it remained unclear whether the gunshot that killed him came from that weapon.
Kitsmarishvili was Georgia's ambassador in Moscow when the two countries fought in August 2008.
Kitsmarishvili testified to an investigative commission after the war that Georgia had been the aggressor having mistakenly convinced itself that it U.S. support for fighting Russia, an accusation Saakashvili dismissed as "utter nonsense".
Moscow blamed the U.S.-backed Saakashvili for the war and recognized the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after the conflict. Saakashvili's United National Movement lost a national election two years ago and his presidential term ended in November last year.
Kitsmarishvili served as a leader of the opposition Georgian Party in 2010-11 and ran for mayor in his native town of Rustavi last month, losing to the candidate from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition.
(Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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Bashar al-Assad is west's ally against Isis extremists, says Syria.
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 17:52
Girls walk past damaged buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Myassar neighbourhood. Photograph: Hosam Katan/Reuters
Syria is determined to "eliminate" the Sunni extremist group Isis, according to a senior minister, who urged western countries to recognise "new realities" by joining the battle against terrorism and ending their support for rebels trying to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad.
"The only way to resolve the situation is to work with president Assad," Faisal Mekdad, Syria's vice foreign minister, told the Guardian. Mekdad said that "many countries" were now seeking security cooperation with Damascus, but "security matters could not be separated from the political cooperation".
He rejected suggestions that Assad is in league with Isis, which controls large parts of northern and eastern Syria as well as contiguous areas of Iraq. Assad's enemies accuse him of tolerating the group or tacitly cooperating with it to foment fighting between rival rebel units and present himself as a secular bulwark against al-Qaida and jihadi fanaticism.
"I know the rumours," Mekdad said. "But to those who claim that Syria is not doing its best to combat this group, I answer that if these extremists '' Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free [Syrian] Army and Isis '' are killing themselves and fighting for more influence and expansion, do you think we are sad? But the Syrian army has its priorities and we shall decide what to do next."
The Free Syrian Army, backed by the US, Britain, EU, Turkey and the Gulf states, insists that it is the only group capable of defeating Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra while bringing about democratic change in Syria. Isis '' originally the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant '' now calls itself the Islamic State. Latest estimates say 170,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began in March 2011. Millions have been made homeless.
Mekdad, dismissing what he called cheap propaganda, used a wide-ranging interview to broadcast Syria's determination to defeat Isis with the help of Iraq and "all those who are willing to fight terrorism". As the government's most articulate spokesman, his arguments clearly echo Assad's views, which will be heard when he is inaugurated for a new presidential term this week.
European countries, including Britain, were changing their minds about Syria, Mekdad suggested. "Deep in their hearts they know that what they did is a grave crime against the people of Syria. Thinking that the regime would fall in few weeks [in 2011] has led to the flourishing of terrorism inside Syria and threatening the security of European countries themselves. They have started to understand that what is happening in Syria is not a revolution but a threat to Europe.
"Many countries are approaching us to establish cooperation on security matters. We told all of them that security matters could not be separated from political cooperation."
Mekdad was "not aware" that Britain had made any such approach. Among EU countries, Germany is thought most likely to go down the path of rapprochement, according to well placed Syrian sources. Thousands of Europeans, including an estimated 400 Britons, are thought to have fought in Syria. The attack in May on the Jewish museum in Brussels by a Frenchman who spent a year in Syria was widely seen as a wake-up call about the risks posed by returning jihadi fighters.
Assad's re-election last month '' though the vote was held only in government-held areas '' must change calculations, Mekdad argued. "The overall situation is improving. The government has more self-confidence. President Assad will be sworn in soon for a new term of office. The British, Americans, the French and Europeans in general have to change and accommodate themselves to the reality of developments in Syria. And they have to respect the will of the Syrian people. I hope that will happen, although I have my doubts."
Accusations of war crimes carried out by Syrian government forces were propaganda, he claimed. "This is politicisation and a continuation of the onslaught by European countries."
Mekdad attacked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for backing the rebels. But he suggested that Syria's position in the Arab world was improving with signs of growing support from Egypt, where President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi shares Assad's hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood. Neighbouring Jordan is now reportedly balking at US plans to expand training for Free Syrian Army fighters on its soil.
Syria still wanted a political solution to the conflict despite the failure of the Geneva II talks earlier this year, but only after defeating terrorism, Mekdad said.
Stefan de Mistura, the Swedish-Italian diplomat appointed to replace Lakhdar Brahimi as UN envoy, must remain neutral, he warned '' and recognise the "new realities" after Assad's election.
Mekdad also dismissed suggestions that an agreement on Iran's nuclear programme would mean reduced support from Tehran. Backing from Iran, the Lebanese Shia organisation Hezbollah '' and Russia '' has been crucial to Assad for the past three years. "We are not afraid of any Iranian-American-European rapprochement," Mekdad said. "We have every confidence in the Iranian leadership and the strategic nature of relations between Syria and the Islamic Republic."
Russia threatens Ukraine after shell crosses border.
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 00:20
By Anton Zverev and Katya Golubkova
DONETSK Ukraine/MOSCOWSun Jul 13, 2014 3:57pm EDT
Ukrainian troops are pictured in the eastern Ukrainian town of Seversk July 12, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich
DONETSK Ukraine/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia threatened Ukraine on Sunday with "irreversible consequences" after a Russian man was killed by a shell fired across the border, while Kiev said Ukrainian warplanes struck again at separatist positions in the east of the country, inflicting big losses.
Although both sides have reported cross-border shootings in the past, it appears to be the first time Moscow has reported fatalities on its side of the border in the three-month conflict which has killed hundreds of people in Ukraine.
Kiev called the accusation its forces had fired across the border "total nonsense" and suggested the attack could have been the work of rebels trying to provoke Moscow to intervene on their behalf. The rebels denied they were responsible.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who earlier turned down an invitation to attend the World Cup soccer final in Brazil where he may have met Russia's Vladimir Putin, accused Russian forces of crossing the border and attacking Ukrainian servicemen.
In a telephone conversation with the European Union's Herman Van Rompuy, he called on the EU to consider "the illegal crossing of the Russian-Ukrainian border of heavy military equipment and an attack by Russian soldiers on the positions of Ukrainian servicemen," his website said.
His comments were linked to an earlier report on Sunday by the government's "anti-terrorist operation" that a convoy of about 100 separatist armored vehicles and trucks had crossed into Ukraine carrying rebel fighters from Russia. A Ukrainian military spokesman said Ukrainian artillery had destroyed the column.
Combat has intensified dramatically in Ukraine since a rebel missile attack killed dozens of government troops on Friday.
Ukrainian forces said their warplanes on Sunday carried out five air strikes on rebel bases near Luhansk airport, at Izvarino on the border and against Chechen fighters who it said had occupied a National Guard base at Lysychansk.
"The enemy suffered significant losses of men and equipment," a statement from the "anti-terrorist operation" said, adding the attacks had sown "fear and panic" among the rebels.
Rebels controlling Luhansk, on the border with Russia, said Ukrainian forces had now begun to storm the town with about 50 tanks and attack planes. There was no word of this from the Ukrainian side.
In other incidents, local officials said 18 civilians had been killed in shooting in Luhansk and Donetsk, the region's main city, which is also controlled by separatists. There were no details of these incidents.
BELLICOSE RESPONSE
Moscow's bellicose response to the cross-border shelling raises again the prospect of Russian intervention, after weeks in which President Vladimir Putin had appeared intent on disengaging, pulling back tens of thousands of troops he had massed at the frontier.
Russia sent Ukraine a note of protest describing the incident as "an aggressive act by the Ukrainian side against sovereign Russian territory and the citizens of the Russian Federation", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement warning of "irreversible consequences".
"This represents a qualitative escalation of the danger to our citizens, now even on our own territory. Of course this naturally cannot pass without a response," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Rossiya-24 state TV.
Russia's Investigative Committee said a shell had landed in the yard of a house in a small town on the Russian side of the frontier, killing a man and wounding a woman. The Russian town is called Donetsk, sharing the name of the Ukrainian city of 1 million people that the rebels have declared capital of an independent "people's republic".
Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, said reports that Ukrainian forces were responsible were "total nonsense and the information is untrue".
"The forces of the anti-terrorist operation do not fire on the territory of a neighboring country, and they do not fire on residential areas," he said. "We have many examples of terrorists carrying out provocation shooting, including into Russian territory, and then accusing Ukrainian forces of it."
The Ukrainian foreign ministry echoed this view and called on Russian authorities to carry out "an objective and impartial" evaluation of what it described as "a tragic incident". It said Ukrainian authorities would cooperate in any investigation.
The rebels denied blame. Interfax news agency quoted the rebels' self-proclaimed first deputy prime minister, Andrey Prugin, as saying he was "90 percent certain" it was Ukrainian troops that had fired across the border.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in April when armed pro-Russian fighters seized towns and government buildings, weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in response to the overthrow of a pro-Moscow president in Kiev.
The fighting has escalated sharply in recent days after Ukrainian forces pushed the rebels out of their most heavily fortified bastion, the town of Slaviansk.
DONETSK EMPTIES IN FEAR
Hundreds of rebels, led by a self-proclaimed defense minister from Moscow, have retreated to the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, built reinforcements and pledged to make a stand. The once-bustling city has been emptying in fear of a battle.
"Everybody here is sitting on a suitcase. People are only prevented from leaving by work - that is if they have any work. If they (the Ukrainian forces) are going to bomb, then I shall, of course, go, too," said Olga, 35.
On the streets there are fewer and fewer cars. Some drivers no longer bother to stop at red lights since there are no police around and few vehicles.
Rebel fighters vowed to fight to the end if the army comes.
"We are ready for them. We will not leave. Let women and children leave. But I don't care much for grown men going. They are cowards, rascals, scum," said a man named Lis, who described himself as an officer in the Vostok battalion, a rebel force.
Kiev says Moscow has provoked the rebellion and allowed fighters and heavy weapons to cross the border with impunity. It has struggled to reassert control over the eastern frontier, recapturing border positions from rebels.
The past two days have seen an escalation in retaliation after dozens of Ukrainian troops were killed in a rocket attack on a base near the border on Friday. Kiev said it killed hundreds of rebels in air strikes on Saturday, although there was no independent confirmation of such high casualties and the rebels denied suffering serious losses.
Ukrainian security spokesman Lysenko said on Sunday that forces had used artillery to strike a convoy of about 100 armored vehicles and trucks after confirming that the convoy was carrying "a large number of recruits" into Ukraine from Russia.
He said seven Ukrainian service members had died in attacks in the east in the past day.
The Donetsk city council said in a statement on its website on Sunday that 12 people had been killed at a mining settlement near the Ukrainian city. It gave no details of who had fired. Municipal authorities in Luhansk, capital of the other rebellious eastern province, said six people were killed in clashes there. It also gave no details of who was to blame.
Western countries have threatened to impose harsh economic sanctions on Moscow if it intervenes openly. Russia denies fuelling the conflict, but Kiev and Western countries say it has supported the rebels.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia's Putin, meeting briefly on Sunday before the soccer final in Brazil, called for a stepping-up of peace efforts in Ukraine, Putin's spokesman said.
The pair have been in regular telephone contact over the Ukraine crisis, with Merkel urging Putin to use his influence with pro-Russian separatists to help bring about an end to fighting in the east of the former Soviet republic.
Poroshenko in his telephone conversation with Van Rompuy said Ukraine also wanted the release of all "hostages" held by Russia including Nadezhda Savchenko, a military helicopter pilot seized by rebels who is now being held in Russia.
(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets and Maria Tsvetkova in Donetsk; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Peter Graff and Will Waterman)
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Bank$ters
Citigroup: The Original Gangsta
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:51
Barack Obama's Justice Department on Monday announced that Citigroup would pay $7 billion in fines, a move that will avoid a humiliating trial dealing with the seamy financial products the bank had marketed to an unsuspecting public, causing vast damage to the economy.
Citigroup is the too-big-to-fail bank that was allowed to form only when Bill Clinton signed legislation reversing the sensible restraints on Wall Street instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt to avoid another Great Depression.
Those filled with Clinton nostalgia these days might want to reflect back on how truly destructive was his legacy for hardworking people throughout the world who lost so much due to the financial shenanigans that he made legal.
''Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority,'' a beaming Clinton boasted after signing the Financial Services Modernization Act into law in 1999.
Called the Citigroup authorization act by some wags at the time, those antiquated laws, the Glass-Steagall Act primarily, had put a safety barrier between the high rollers in Wall Street investment firms and the staid commercial banks charged with preserving the savings of ordinary folk. The new law permitted them to merge.Clinton handed the pen that he used in signing the new law to Citigroup Chairman Sanford Weill, whose Citicorp had already merged with Travelers Group before the law was even officially changed. On an earlier occasion, Weill had informed Clinton about his merger plans in a telephone conversation. After hanging up, Weill then bragged to his fellow banking executive John S. Reed, who was on the call, that ''we just made the president of the United States an insider,'' according to Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley in her book on the Citigroup merger.
In 2000, just before leaving office, Clinton went much further in radical deregulation of the financial industry when he signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. In one swoop this eliminated from the purview of any existing regulation or regulatory agency the new financial products, including the mortgage-backed securities at the heart of the financial meltdown and the subject of the $7 billion fine levied in what has to be viewed as a copout deal.
This is not just because the fine is paltry compared with the far greater damage Citigroup wreaked upon working Americans who lost so much but because, without a trial, there will be no public accountability of the cynicism that Citigroup's leaders visited upon unknowing consumers.
That cynicism begins with Robert Rubin, who was selected from his leading position at Goldman Sachs to be Clinton's Treasury secretary. It was Rubin who as much as anyone is responsible for pushing through the legislation that ended the effective regulation of Wall Street and made the merger of Travelers Group and Citicorp possible. Rubin was a darling of the mass media while in office, and the fawning adulation continued even as he moved through the revolving door and took a $15 million a year job with Citigroup, the megabank he had helped make legal. Rubin was at Citigroup during the years when it engaged in most of the practices involving subprime and other questionable mortgages that resulted in the fines the bank must now pay.
Rubin's deputy in the Treasury Department, Larry Summers, who replaced him for the last years of the Clinton administration, was particularly important in pushing through the legislation that freed Collateralized Debt Obligations from any regulation. Summers worked to silence Brooksley Born, the heroically prescient chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission who had warned of the dangers posed by unregulated CDOs. Her reward for such insight was to be denied reappointment by Clinton and denounced by Summers.
Summers set the gold standard for out-of-touch stupidity when he testified before a Senate committee that the ''largely sophisticated financial institutions'' were ''capable of protecting themselves from fraud and counterparty insolvencies,'' and ''given the nature of the underlying assets involved'--namely supplies of financial exchange and other financial interest'--there would be little scope for market manipulation.''
Summers later made $8 million in 2008 in speaking fees from Citigroup and other banks and consulting for a hedge fund before being tapped by Obama to be his top economic adviser. Summers was instrumental in guiding the Obama administration's efforts to keep the bankers whole while largely ignoring the fate of their victims.
The collapse of the derivative market that Summers predicted was immune to ''fraud and counterparty insolvencies'' plunged U.S. household worth $16 trillion or 24 percent between the third quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2009, according to a study by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.
That's trillions of dollars, not the $7 billion fine that Citigroup just got slapped with as a means of avoiding the harsher judgment in a court of law that the bank and its politician enablers so richly deserve.
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Three New JPMorgan IT Deaths Include Alleged Murder-Suicide
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:17
By Russ Martens and Pam Martens: July 14, 2014
Julian and Alita Knott: From Alita Knott's Public Facebook Page
Since December of last year, JPMorgan Chase has been experiencing tragic, sudden deaths of workers on a scale which sets it alarmingly apart from other Wall Street mega banks. Adding to the concern generated by the deaths is the recent revelation that JPMorgan has an estimated $180 billion of life insurance in force on its current and former workers.
Making worldwide news last week was the violent deaths of JPMorgan technology executive Julian Knott and his wife, Alita, ages 45 and 47, respectively, in Jefferson Township, New Jersey. However, two other recent, sudden deaths of technology workers at JPMorgan have gone unreported by the media.
The bodies of the Knott couple, who have a teenage daughter and two teenage sons, were discovered by police on July 6, 2014 at approximately 1:12 a.m. According to a press release issued by the Morris County Prosecutor's office, Jefferson Township Police Officers Tim Hecht and Dave Wroblewski responded to the Knott home located in the Lake Hopatcong section following a ''report of two unconscious adults.''
Who made the call to police and whether the children were home at the time has not been announced by the police or the prosecutor's office. After a preliminary investigation, the police announced on July 8 that they believe Julian Knott shot his wife repeatedly and then took his own life with the same gun.
Friends and colleagues say Julian Knott was a kind and thoughtful individual. The idea that he would orphan his three teenage children, leaving them with the memory of the brutal murder of their mother at the hands of a father they loved and trusted, is causing shock and disbelief among relatives and friends in the U.K.
The Morris County Prosecutor's office has said the ''investigation is ongoing'' and anyone with information is asked to contact First Assistant Morris County Prosecutor Thomas Zelante at 973-285-6252 or by email to tzelante@co.morris.nj.us
Knott had worked on JPMorgan computer networks in London since 2001, initially on behalf of Computer Science Corporation and, later, IBM, according to his LinkedIn profile. In January 2006, Knott formally joined JPMorgan Chase in London and worked there until July 2010. At that time, Knott transferred to JPMorgan's sprawling operations in Columbus, Ohio and eventually rose to the rank of Technical Director of the Global Tier 3 Network Operations. Knott relocated again in September 2012 in order to work at the high tech Global Network Operations Center of JPMorgan in Whippany, New Jersey. He received a promotion in January 2014 to Executive Director.
Knott's years at JPMorgan in London overlapped with those of Gabriel Magee, a JPMorgan Vice President who worked in computer infrastructure. Magee, aged 39, is alleged to have leaped from the rooftop of the 33-story JPMorgan London headquarters at 25 Bank Street on the evening of January 27, 2014 or the morning of January 28, 2014. Despite initial London newspaper reports that the jump was observed by ''thousands of commuters'' and JPMorgan colleagues, the coroner's inquest on May 20 of this year revealed that not one eyewitness actually saw Magee leap from the building. Nonetheless, based on evidence produced internally by JPMorgan, the coroner ruled that Magee's death was a suicide.
Six weeks before Magee's tragic death, another sudden death of a technology worker at JPMorgan Chase occurred in Pearland, Texas. Jason Alan Salais, age 34, was standing outside a Walgreens on the evening of December 15 and died of a sudden heart attack according to a family member. Prior to joining JPMorgan in 2008, Salais had worked as a Client Software Technician at SunGard and a UNIX Systems Analyst at Logix Communications. Wall Street On Parade previously reported on the death of Salais.
Richard (Rich) Gravino: From Public Facebook Page
Just 13 days before Julian and Alita Knott were found dead in their home, another highly skilled technology worker at JPMorgan died suddenly. This death has not previously been reported by the media. Richard Gravino, age 49, was an Application Development Team Lead for JPMorgan in Tampa, Florida. His death occurred on June 24, 2014 at his home in Riverview, Florida. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's office said the cause of death is ''pending'' with toxicology tests not expected back for 8 to 12 weeks.
Gravino had an extensive and accomplished career in the computer technology field. Previous employers included Motorola and HSBC bank where he was a Senior Technical Consultant.
Thomas James Schenkman: From Public Condolences Page
In the month prior to Gravino's death, on May 7, 2014, Thomas James Schenkman, age 42, died suddenly in Connecticut. (Schenkman's death has not previously been reported by major media.) Schenkman held the high rank of Managing Director of Global Infrastructure Engineering for JPMorgan Chase and had a highly marketable resume. Schenkman began his technology career with Microsoft, where he worked for 11 years. He moved on to Goldman Sachs in 2000 and worked there for six years. In 2006, Schenkman moved to Bear Stearns and was there at the time of its collapse in March 2008. Schenkman had been with JPMorgan for the past six years.
According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Connecticut, which only gets involved in an investigation if the death is ''sudden, unexpected, or violent,'' the initial cause of Schenkman's death was listed as ''pending.'' It has since been amended to read: ''atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.''
This Chief Medical Examiner's office is the same one that investigated the death of JPMorgan Executive Director, Ryan Crane, age 37, who died suddenly at his home in Stamford, Connecticut on February 3, 2014. The Medical Examiner did not release the cause of death for approximately three months, finally assigning it to ethanol toxicity/accident. Crane was not directly engaged in computer technology but his work in algorithmic trading may have led him to interact with various technology teams at JPMorgan.
The Justice Department, the FBI, Congressional committees and the New York State Attorney General's office are currently investigating if the stock and futures markets have been rigged by some Wall Street firms using high speed computer technology in conjunction with algorithms deploying artificial intelligence. The investigations gained momentum after bestselling author, Michael Lewis, brought details of the allegations to light in his new book, Flash Boys, and shared the allegations with millions of Americans in a March 30 appearance on Sixty Minutes.
The sheer quantity and persistence of the sudden and/or violent deaths related to JPMorgan is raising eyebrows both in mainstream media and the internet. In addition to Magee, a JPMorgan employee in Hong Kong, 33-year old Dennis Li (Junjie) is alleged to have leaped to this death on February 18, 2014 from the 30-story Chater House office building where JPMorgan occupies the top floors. Days went by with no clarification from JPMorgan as to Li's job function at the firm.
The South China Morning Post published three articles calling the man an ''investment banker.'' The Standard newspaper in Hong Kong said Dennis Li was an accounting major who worked in the finance office at JPMorgan. The China Times called Li a ''Forex trader.'' Despite multiple requests from Wall Street On Parade, JPMorgan has declined to clear up the confusion.
Then, on March 12, 2014, there was another alleged leap from a building '' this time in Manhattan. Kenneth Bellando, age 28, was found dead outside his six story apartment building. The young Bellando had previously worked for JPMorgan Chase as an analyst and was the brother of JPMorgan employee John Bellando, who was referenced in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations' report on how JPMorgan had hid losses and lied to regulators in the London Whale derivatives trading debacle that resulted in depositor losses of at least $6.2 billion in the commercial bank of JPMorgan Chase.
During the full year of 2008, the period of an epic financial collapse and tens of thousands of job terminations on Wall Street, the New York City Department of Health reported only 93 deaths resulting from leaps from buildings in Manhattan and boroughs. The 93 deaths represented just .000011625 of the City's population of 8 million. JPMorgan's global workforce population is 260,000, including full time and part time employees. And yet, two of its current workers and one former worker allegedly leaped from rooftops in January, February and March.
JPMorgan's peer banks, like Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley have not reported any suicides resulting from leaps from buildings in 2014 nor have they had an alleged brutal murder-suicide by a long-tenured technology executive.
JPMorgan's corporate profit center that revolves around taking life insurance policies on the lives of tens of thousands of its workers (which pay to the corporation, not the family, upon death) naturally draws speculation about these unusual workers deaths at such young ages. When young workers die, it can shorten by decades the amount of premiums the corporation has to pay out before collecting the death benefit. Both the death benefit and the build up in the cash value of the policies are reported as tax free income to JPMorgan to fatten its profits.
On March 31, 2010, the holding company for JPMorgan Chase held $15,981,000,000 in cash value for these Bank Owned Life Insurance (BOLI) policies. That amount has grown to $18,044,000,000 as of March 31, 2014 according to JPMorgan's financial filings with the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) '' an increase of over $2 billion. The cash value of life insurance influences the dollar amount of life insurance in force. Experts estimate, based on JPMorgan's cash value reports, that it may hold as much as $180 billion of life insurance on the lives of its current and former workers.
For months now, Wall Street On Parade has filed public record requests (and appeals) attempting to learn how many lives JPMorgan has insured; the job titles of the employees it is insuring; the total dollar amount in life insurance proceeds it has collected each year since 2008; the annual number of deaths it has collected on since 2008; and peer review studies showing how these numbers compare with other mega banks which hold Bank Owned Life Insurance on their workers.
Thus far, only one regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal regulator of national banks, had admitted to having any relevant information. Last month the OCC informed us that it has 450 pages of relevant data but it was privileged and would not be released. The OCC wrote:
''The OCC has no responsive records pertaining to the number of employees insured by JPMC under BOLI policies, the face amount of the policies, the rank of employees who are insured, or the number of deceased who have generated death benefits under the policies. The OCC does have documents provided by the bank to OCC examiners during examinations that are responsive to the aspects of your request dealing with revenues and peer data'...As previously stated, all of this responsive information is properly exempt pursuant to FOIA exemptions 4 and 8.''
Our most recent response came from the Ohio Department of Insurance. Rather than a signed and dated letter, we received the following unsigned, one sentence answer via email on July 2, 2014: ''The Department has no way knowing (sic) what products are purched (sic) by a bank, consequently the Department has no public records responsive to your request.''
Ohio is home to the headquarters of JPMorgan's largest commercial bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. As of March 31, 2014, that bank held $1.3 trillion (with a ''t'') in deposits, representing the life savings of average folks across America who wander into the bank's 5900 branches spread across the country, unaware that part of the bank's profits are derived from the untimely deaths of workers.
The bank's Ohio headquarters are located at 1111 Polaris Parkway in Columbus, a facility described in a 2011 article in the Columbus Dispatch as a 2 million square foot ''city unto itself.'' And clearly, the Ohio Department of Insurance has no idea what's going on inside this ''city unto itself.''
One bedrock of insurance law dating back to the 19th Century is that a party must have an insurable interest in the life of another person in order to take out an insurance policy. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Warnock v. Davis in 1881 that ''in all cases there must be a reasonable ground, founded upon the relations of the parties to each other, either pecuniary or of blood or affinity, to expect some benefit or advantage from the continuance of the life of the assured. Otherwise the contract is a mere wager, by which the party taking the policy is directly interested in the early death of the assured. Such policies have a tendency to create a desire for the event. They are, therefore, independently of any statute on the subject, condemned, as being against public policy.''
The state of Ohio has a statute, 3911.091, which specifically allows corporations to insure their workers and collect the death benefit, providing that the corporation obtains ''the prior written consent of the prospective insured.'' The statute notes further: ''At the time the employer or trust seeks the consent of the prospective insured, the employer or trust shall disclose in writing to the prospective insured that the employer or trust may maintain the proposed life insurance in force after the insured's employment terminates or the insured's retirement benefits expire.''
Who else but the Ohio Department of Insurance would be responsible for policing corporations inside its borders to see if employees are actually being advised of their right to consent to or decline the insurance. (Not to mention the absurdity of suggesting that a new hire who has been unemployed for months would jeopardize his new job by refusing to agree to a corporate longevity bet on his life.) By disclaiming any knowledge of this product being purchased within JPMorgan, the Ohio Department of Insurance is also disclaiming any obligation to police a statute on its books.
Some banks are also profiting by collecting management fees on the insurance assets by keeping them under their roof rather than paying the premiums to an outside insurance company. JPMorgan is the assignee for Patent number 5,806,042 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, titled ''System for Designing and Implementing Bank Owned Life Insurance (BOLI) With a Reinsurance Option.''
The terms of the patent suggest that a bank:
'''...may take out a death benefit policy in the amount which is a multiple of 8-10 times the annual compensation of that employee'';
May reinsure ''the BOLI plan by a captive insurance subsidiary of the parent bank or holding company,'' allowing ''the bank to augment the cash value gains of the BOLI plan by providing cash revenue sources from fee income associated with investment and trust management'';
''the administrative support subsystem performs periodic sweeps of social security records to identify death claims for covered employees who have terminated or retired'...''
We know that as of the first quarter of 2012, JPMorgan had not turned over a big chunk of its bank owned life insurance assets to an outside insurance company. We know this because Ina Drew, former head of JPMorgan's Chief Investment Office (CIO), which blew a $6.2 billion hole through bank deposits in a wild derivatives bet in London, raised her right hand and testified before the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on March 15, 2013 that the CIO, in addition to managing the company's $350 billion investment securities portfolio (courtesy of bank depositors), was also managing $9 billion of corporate owned life insurance assets as of the time she was still employed at the bank in the first quarter of 2012.
Through the magic of lobbying and regulatory capture, BOLI assets have been carved out of the Volcker Rule, which was ostensibly to stop the practice of Wall Street mega banks gambling for the house while running the risk of blowing up Main Street '-- again.
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Banking on a new global order
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 04:38
14 July 2014Last updated at 00:01 By Katy WatsonBBC South America Business reporterBrazil is hanging up its football boots after what has been seen as a hugely successful World Cup - perhaps not for the hosts but for the thousands of fans who came to watch the games here.
Brazil's hospitality will now move from the pitch to politics, as it prepares to welcome the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa for the sixth BRICS summit in the north-eastern city of Fortaleza.
It is an annual diplomatic meeting that brings together these regional leaders and economic powerhouses. And every time it happens, there are questions about whether the BRICS grouping is anything more than a catchy acronym.
"The BRICS isn't a trade block, it's a group of letters making up a word and created by an economist," says Jose Augusto de Castro, the President of the Brazilian Foreign Trade Association. "If Brazil exports to China, India or Russia, or vice versa, it doesn't get any benefit - it's just an informal grouping."
Low exportsAnd far away from Fortaleza, in Brazil's southern-most state of Rio Grande do Sul, on the border with Argentina, this observation seems fitting. Micheline Grings Twigger proudly shows me around Piccadilly, her family-owned shoe factory. The four production lines on the factory floor are buzzing with people cutting material, gluing heels and putting into boxes just some of the nine million pairs of shoes that the company produces every year.
Micheline says Piccadilly has come a long way since her grandfather started the company nearly 60 years ago. With 4,000 employees, it exports to around 90 countries. But look at the figures more closely and they reveal that of the shoes the company produces, only 10% are exported outside of South America.
Brazil is one of the world's most closed economies. According to the World Bank, exports account for just 13% of GDP - its BRICS peers export double that. And while China is Brazil's biggest trading partner, it is a relationship that is based on China's appetite for Brazil's commodities. That is where the important relationship ends - for most other industries, China is seen as a threat.
"We are competing all the time because no-one can produce shoes with the prices of China," says Micheline. "At the same time, it's a big opportunity considering the size of the market, it would be crazy not to look at China as a big market for us."
While trade may not be BRICS's strength, the one thing that does unite these countries is their dissatisfaction with the current global order. They feel that with their population and economic might, they deserve a bigger political role in the world. One that traditional Western institutions do not recognise.
Continue reading the main storyNow for the first time they will create an actual institution''
End QuoteOliver StuenkelProfessor of International Relations at the Getºlio Vargas FoundationSouth-south trade"The BRICS is more than just about economic relations - it's also a way to diversify and hedge against western influence," says Harold Trinkunas, a Latin America expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. "Brazil sees itself as part of the countries that are rising and critical of the present international system which is structured in a way that doesn't reflect the actual distribution of power and influence in the world."
Brazil's diplomatic efforts in the past decade or so underline this feeling - under former President Lula da Silva, Brazil promoted South-South co-operation - the exchange of knowledge and technology and the building of relationships between developing countries in the global south. But while politically it was important because it tried to move away from traditional markets like the US and Europe, experts are not convinced of its economic benefits.
"South-south relations were a catchy phrase but, aside from the huge surge in trade with China, which would have occurred without the south-south rhetoric, it didn't do much for Brazil's economy," says Peter Hakim, President Emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue. "The US, EU, and Latin America have remained Brazil's key trade partners aside from China."
So, while the grievances about world order have been various, the approach to deal with them has been weak. But this summit could be different - it is expected that leaders will announce plans for a BRICS development bank to rival the World Bank. A step that is seen as significant.
Slowing growth"So far they've only been an informal set-up and now for the first time they will create an actual institution," says Oliver Stuenkel, Professor of International Relations at the Getºlio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo. "The big question is whether the institution can really challenge the World Bank and develop a sense of competition or whether it will be a mere symbol and I think it depends a bit on how these countries get along."
Its strength also depends on finances - how much the countries can contribute to the development bank. BRICS economies are slowing. Brazil grew just 0.2% in the first three months of this year. And with elections coming up in October, Brazil's focus has turned back to domestic issues.
"I don't think that if Brazil was now to be thinking about these plans from the drawing board, it would really be thinking about a BRICS development bank," says James Lockhart-Smith, a Latin America risk analyst at Maplecroft in New York. "It would be more focussed on restarting growth in the country."
But at a time of slow growth, Brazil probably needs these economies on side more than ever. Add to that, trade with economically-troubled Argentina - traditionally one of its biggest trading partners - has become more difficult in recent years. So establishing a development bank that will unite this grouping and give the BRICS some clout could pay off both politically - and economically too.
SnowJob
Obama administration says the world's servers are ours
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:06
Microsoft, Sandyford, Co. Dublin
Global governments, the tech sector, and scholars are closely following a legal flap in which the US Justice Department claims that Microsoft must hand over e-mail stored in Dublin, Ireland.
In essence, President Barack Obama's administration claims that any company with operations in the United States must comply with valid warrants for data, even if the content is stored overseas. It's a position Microsoft and companies like Apple say is wrong, arguing that the enforcement of US law stops at the border.
A magistrate judge has already sided with the government's position, ruling in April that "the basic principle that an entity lawfully obligated to produce information must do so regardless of the location of that information." Microsoft appealed to a federal judge, and the case is set to be heard on July 31.
In its briefs filed last week, the US government said that content stored online doesn't enjoy the same type of Fourth Amendment protections as data stored in the physical world. The government cited (PDF) the Stored Communications Act (SCA), a President Ronald Reagan-era regulation:
Overseas records must be disclosed domestically when a valid subpoena, order, or warrant compels their production. The disclosure of records under such circumstances has never been considered tantamount to a physical search under Fourth Amendment principles, and Microsoft is mistaken to argue that the SCA provides for an overseas search here. As there is no overseas search or seizure, Microsoft's reliance on principles of extra-territoriality and comity falls wide of the mark.
Microsoft said the decision has wide-ranging, global implications. "Congress has not authorized the issuance of warrants that reach outside US territory,'' Microsoft's attorneys wrote. ''The government cannot seek and a court cannot issue a warrant allowing federal agents to break down the doors of Microsoft's Dublin facility."
The Redmond, Washington-based company said its consumer trust is low in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations. It told the US judge presiding over the case that "[t]he government's position in this case further erodes that trust and will ultimately erode the leadership of US technologies in the global market."
Companies like Apple, AT&T, Cisco, and Verizon agree. Verizon said (PDF) that a decision favoring the US would produce "dramatic conflict with foreign data protection laws." Apple and Cisco said (PDF) that the tech sector is put "at risk" of being sanctioned by foreign governments and that the US should seek cooperation with foreign nations via treaties, a position the US said is not practical.
The Justice Department said global jurisdiction is necessary in an age when "electronic communications are used extensively by criminals of all types in the United States and abroad, from fraudsters to hackers to drug dealers, in furtherance of violations of US law."
The e-mail the US authorities are seeking from Microsoft concerns a drug-trafficking investigation. Microsoft often stores e-mail on servers closest to the account holder.
The senior counsel for the Irish Supreme Court wrote in a recent filing that a US-Ireland "Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty" was the "efficient" avenue (PDF) for the US government to obtain the e-mail held on Microsoft's external servers.
Orin Kerr, a Fourth Amendment expert at George Washington University, said, "The scope of the privacy laws around the world is now a very important question, and this is the beginning of what may be a lot of litigation on the question. So it's a big case to watch."
US and Austria agree to discuss spy allegations
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:47
John Kerry and Sebastian Kurz at Vienna's airport. Photo: APA/DRAGAN TATIC
Experts from the US and Austria will meet to discuss concerns over alleged US spying activities, ministers from both countries have agreed.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz before departing from Vienna on Tuesday, following a three day visit.
"Of course I have addressed the spy affair," Kurz told the Austrian Press Agency.
There were still some "unresolved issues", he said in reference to media reports that German spies had been operated by CIA agents based at the US embassy in Vienna.
He has agreed with Kerry and US ambassador Alexa Wesner that "the responsible persons will be available for experts from the ministry of the interior and the ministry of defence to clarify pending issues."
"Maybe the matter will be resolved, maybe it won't, and if so we will take appropriate action," Kurz added.
There have been allegations, raised by the German news magazine Der Spiegel, that a US spy who worked for German foreign intelligence (BND) has met at least two CIA agents working at the US embassy in Vienna several times since 2012.
The scandal has chilled German relations with Washington to levels not seen since Chancellor Angela Merkel's predecessor opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It follows allegations that Merkel herself was among thousands of Germans whose mobile phones were bugged by American agents.
Kerry was in Austria to take part in nuclear negotiations with Iran. According to Kurz he thanked Austria for its "hospitality" and the opportunity to conduct negotiations in Vienna.
Agenda 21
Uh-Oh, Climate Change Believers Waste More Electricity Than Everybody Else | TakePart
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:51
It's not what you say that matters. It's what you do. That's especially true when it comes to believing in climate change and actually adopting a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. That's one of the key findings of the Household Electricity Survey, the most comprehensive assessment ever of power usage in the United Kingdom.
The survey, which was conducted by Cambridge Architectural Research and Loughborough University for the U.K.'s Department for Energy and Climate Change, monitored 250 households across England from 2010 to 2011. It found that folks who acknowledge climate change is real are still total energy hogs.
In fact, ''households that said the effects of climate change are too far into the future to worry them use less, rather than more, electricity,'' wrote the report's authors.
The researchers asked homeowners from typical demographic backgrounds to keep a detailed record of how they used appliances such as toasters, washers, dryers, and televisions and how often they flicked the lights off and on. That consumption diary was then compared with the use reflected on electric bills.
Because they wanted to discover how social factors affect power consumption, the researchers also asked participants whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, ''The effects of climate change are too far in the future to really worry me.'' It turned out that older households were more likely to agree with the statement, and they also had lower energy consumption.
''The survey exposes the hypocrisy of many who claim to be 'green': the greater the concern people express about global warming the less they do to reduce their energy usage,'' said Commons Energy and Climate Change committee member Peter Lilley to the Telegraph.
The study's authors warn that there is ''seldom a statistically significant relationship between stated and actual behavior.'' At a time when it's hip and cool to say you're green, policy makers looking to get people to unplug their laptops and turn off their lights will really need to incentivize folks do it.
Mysterious giant hole suddenly appears in Siberia
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:07
A mysterious giant hole and crater have suddenly appeared in Siberia, Russia. There are not many details right now, but the video captured from a helicopter shows a weird configuration with debris and signs of combustion around it. Was it an explosion, an impact, or some violent drilling? What the hell is this?
The hole is about 262 feet (80 meters) in diameter and it certainly doesn't look like a sinkhole, although you can see a large cavern under it.
The video was filmed from a helicopter over the Yamal Peninsula, the location of major gas fields discovered in 1972 and currently being exploited by the Russian energy giant Gazprom.
Of course, the internet is now raging with rumors about UFOs getting in or out of our planet's crust. The reality may be less exciting than that. The Siberian Times reports:
Anna Kurchatova from Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre thinks the crater was formed by a water, salt and gas mixture igniting an underground explosion, the result of global warming. She postulates that gas accumulated in ice mixed with sand beneath the surface, and that this was mixed with salt - some 10,000 years ago this area was a sea.
That sounds like the most likely possibility indeed. At least more plausible than the alternative theories: Meteors, giant worm from hell coming out of its lair, and drilling UFOs.
According to the Russian paper, there's an expedition on its way that "includes two experts from the Centre for the Study of the Arctic and one from Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. They plan to take samples of soil, air and water from the scene."
Talking to The Sydney Morning Herald, polar scientist Dr. Chris Fogwill says it's likely to be a geological phenomenon called a pingo'--a block of ice that's grown into a small hill in the frozen arctic ground:
The permafrost [frozen earth] can be hundreds of metres thick, allowing for large ice features.
This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there's been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there.
We're seeing much more activity in permafrost areas than we've seen in the historical past. A lot of this relates to this high degree of warming around these high arctic areas which are experiencing some of the highest rates of warming on earth.
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Senate approves carbon tax repeal bill - The West Australian
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:54
AAPThe Senate to spend another day considering the carbon tax repeal with no guarantee of a resolution.It's taken nearly a year but the Abbott government has finally delivered on its promise to axe the carbon tax.
After days of debate and stalling tactics, the Senate on Thursday voted 39 to 32 to unwind the carbon pricing scheme introduced by Labor in 2012.
But it wasn't the clean finish the government had wanted.
It had to adopt as it own, amendments proposed and changed three times by the Palmer United Party after the Senate last week voted down the repeal bills a second time.
This time, as promised by Clive Palmer, his three senators and PUP ally Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party's Ricky Muir gave the government four of the six votes it required to pass the repeal package.
Family First's Bob Day and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm - also on the crossbench - rounded out the majority needed.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon and DLP senator John Madigan also backed the repeal.
Labor and the Australian Greens opposed the legislation as expected but fell far short of the numbers needed to defeat it as they did in March.
PUP moved the only successful amendment to ensure savings to energy companies from the repeal were passed on to consumers and businesses.
That was a key demand by Mr Palmer in return for committing his crucial Senate team to backing the repeal.
Another proviso for his support was that a future emissions trading scheme be established in case Australia's trading partners act the same way, but that will be dealt with in other legislation.
Things didn't always go smoothly for the government as it pushed for an early repeal.
It was forced to re-introduce its repeal bills to the lower house on Monday following days of intense negotiations with PUP in the wake of the embarrassing defeat in the Senate.
When the bills returned to the Senate, Labor and the Greens dragged out the debate until a vote was taken at 11.14am on Thursday.
Greens leader Christine Milne made a last-minute plea to the crossbench telling them it was a "critical moment" for the nation.
A vote to repeal was a vote for failure to address global warming, she warned.
"Australia will be relegated to a pariah and a backwater."
Labor's Lisa Singh said Australia risked becoming the "laughing stock of the world".
California fining for water abuse
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:16
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Some Southern California water districts became so good at saving water and building their own water storage facilities in recent decades that residents are not feeling the effects of the worst drought to hit the state in a generation.That's a problem.Thinking plenty of water was available at the start of summer, residents along a coastal area doused their lawns and filled their pools, while elsewhere in the state farmers fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres.The coastal region was cited along with the northeast corner of the state in a study released Tuesday as areas that saw significant increases in water use, even as Gov. Jerry Brown called for Californians to cut use by 20 percent.The same day, state regulators moved to jolt residents into saving water by authorizing fines up to $500 for wasting water on lawns or letting hoses run while they're washing vehicles."They're basically reaching out and grabbing urban California by the lapels and saying you have to take this drought seriously," Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, said Wednesday.The urgency has grown after the report by the State Water Resources Control Board showed that overall statewide water consumption increased by 1 percent in May over previous years.The increase was driven mainly by the heavily populated Southern California coastal communities that increased water use by 8 percent in May and the rural northeastern area of the state where use jumped 5 percent.Officials say those areas are not seeing the effects of the drought, partly because of efforts made by districts to conserve and build water storage in recent decades.The drought "doesn't seem as big of a deal," Andrew Rossignol said Wednesday as he washed his car in the driveway of his Santa Ana home.The 32-year-old musician recalls being taught to conserve water as a youngster. And though he still saves water, now the drought is something he hears mentioned in radio news reports or sees in fleeting public service messages on freeway signs.Anaheim resident Sandra Tran is frustrated because state and local water managers are sending conflicting messages. While the state threatens $500-a-day fines, last week she received a $200 citation from Orange County for her brown lawn, instructing her to maintain her vegetation in a healthy green condition."It's almost crazy because one agency is telling you one thing and another is forcing you to do the opposite," said Tran, 47, who said she now spends 30 minutes a day watering her lawn to avoid future citations.Orange County code enforcement manager Hadi Tabatabaee said that while residents are responsible for watering their grass, they are encouraged to switch to drought-resistant landscaping - a change that can cost thousands of dollars.Unlike the southern coastal area, communities that draw from the Sacramento River reduced their consumption the most, by 13 percent, while those along the North Coast used 12 percent less. San Francisco Bay Area cities and Southern California cities that draw from the Colorado River decreased use by 5 percent.Agriculture is by far the state's greatest water user, accounting for 75 percent of consumption. Cities and suburbs use about 20 percent of the state's water, with about half going outdoors.Madelyn Glickfeld, director of the UCLA Water Resources Working Group, told state regulators that because Southern California water agencies have adequate current supplies and parks and street medians are still green, residents aren't feeling the effects of the drought.That disconnect was illustrated in January, when Brown called on Californians to take shorter showers, turn off faucets while brushing their teeth, and leave toilets unflushed.The general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California responded to Brown's recommendations by saying the district had ample water storage that would allow it to avoid the mandatory residential water cutbacks that state regulators ordered on Tuesday."The fact is that urban California in particular is better prepared for this drought than it has been for any drought in its history," said Quinn, the water agencies' executive director. "It has kind of shielded the water user. You don't have water managers pushing panic buttons."Water regulators and suppliers said they believe residents will respond once they realize the statewide drought is real.While approving fines for residents, the state water board also sent a message to water districts: Agencies that don't comply with rules involving water-wasters could face fines up to $10,000 a day.Water managers in Santa Ana and San Juan Capistrano said overall water use is up as the economy improves and summer temperatures rise. Both cities are taking steps to encourage conservation, but Santa Ana water resources manager Nabil Saba said his city is unlikely to resort to fines."To observe people wasting water you are going to have to have an army of code enforcement individuals," he said. "But when we see someone or hear of someone or get an email message someone is wasting water, we react to it, definitely."---AP writers Amy Taxin in Santa Ana and Fenit Nirappil in Sacramento contributed to this report.
Rupert Murdoch expresses his views on climate change.
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:05
Rupert Murdoch was speaking on Sky News with The Australian's Editor-at-Large Paul KellyMurdoch said Australia's contribution to climate change was virtually non-existentHe called for investment in renewable energy to end, declaring 'windmills were rubbishDescribed PM Tony Abbott as an 'admirable, honest, principled man' who Australians should look up toBy Daniel Mills
Published: 17:44 EST, 13 July 2014 | Updated: 07:35 EST, 14 July 2014
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Rupert Murdoch says investment in renewable energy, such a windfarms, cost Australia too much
Australia shouldn't be building 'windmills and all that rubbish' to prevent global warming when the only outcomes would be perhaps the Maldives disappearing beneath the sea, according to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.
Speaking with Sky News, Mr Murdoch gave his frank assessment of the global warming phenomenon, conceding that because climate change was 'inevitable' houses should be built away from the shoreline.
The News Corp chairman said investment in renewable energy should end and there was probably little that could be done to save the island nation of the Maldives, considered one of the most at the most beautiful places on the planet.
In the same interview he also declared that Prime Minister Tony Abbott is an 'admirable, honest, principled man' who Australians should look up to.
Mr Murdoch was speaking with The Australian's Editor-at-Large Paul Kelly - who quizzed him on the newspaper's stance on historical and political issues and how the newspaper, which Murdoch owns, should 'balance environmental concerns, climate change concerns' and the need to maintain a competitive economy.
'What's the way Australia should approach this (climate change) issue?'
Murdoch said: 'Well I think we should approach this with great skepticism.'
Rupert Murdoch said he had met with Prime Minister Tony Abbott three or four times describing him as an admirable honest and principled man
Rupert Murdoch said Australia should build houses further in land and stop its investment in 'windmills and all that rubbish'
'If the sea level rises six inches, that's a big deal in the world, the Maldives might disappear or something, but OK, we can't mitigate that, we can't stop it,' he said.
'We have to stop building vast houses on seashores ... we can be the low-cost energy country in the world. We shouldn't be building windmills and all that rubbish.'
'The world has been changing for thousands and thousands of years. It's just a lot more complicated because we are so much more advanced.'
He called on Australians to be skeptical about the science of climate change, and said because the nation basically contributes 'nothing' to the global warming compared to the rest of the world, there was very little Australia should be doing.
'Climate change has been going on as long we have been here ... things are happening, but how much are we doing, with emissions and so on? Well as far as Australia goes nothing in the overall picture.'
On Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Mr Murdoch said he had met him 'three, four times, and the impression is that he is an admirable, honest, principled man and somebody that we really need as Prime Minister who we can all look up to and admire.'
'However, how much does he understand free markets and what should be happening? I don't know. Only time will tell. It's too early to make a judgment on this government.'
He praised Australia for its entrepreneurial attitude, encouraging the country to work with its Asian neighbours, particularly China.
'We have to come to terms with the Chinese and live with them,' he said.
'I don't believe they are aggressive. I don't believe they want to take us over.'
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Kroes supports Danish PM for EU Council job | EurActiv
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:06
Neelie Kroes, the Dutch EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, has publicly endorsed the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to become the next President of the European Council, ahead of a key EU summit on Wednesday (16 July).
Kroes took to Twitter on Monday (14 July) to show her support for the Danish social democratic prime minister.
"I am going on record saying that Helle Thorning-Schmidt would make a great successor to Herman Van Rompuy as President of European Council," Kroes wrote.
Kroes's declaration came ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday (16 July) set to discuss replacements for Catherine Ashton, the EU's Foreign policy chief, and Herman Van Rompuy, the current President of the European Council, for the next five-year mandate. The European Council President chairs meetings of EU heads of state, which take place at least four times a year, and acts as a consensus-builder among the 28.
Kroes' spokesperson Ryan Heath told the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that "Helle Thorning-Schmidt is a competent politician who would do well as a Council President, and it is good to see more women getting the top jobs. She is a modern social democrat, and Kroes agrees with her politics in many ways."
Thorning-Schmidt's name has been whispered in the corridors of Brussels in recent months, but Kroes' backing is the first public support she has received so far, aside from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who joked recently that he wouldn't officially back her because then she wouldn't get the job.
Thorning-Schmidt is also believed to be backed by Germany, Italy and France, although Paris has hesitations since Denmark is not part of the eurozone. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised Thorning-Schmidt, and suggested the EU Council job could go to an outsider.
>> Read: Merkel praises Danish PM, hints at outsider for EU Council job
However, French media now report that President Fran§ois Hollande would be willing to accept the Danish prime minister if France gets a prominent economic portfolio in the next EU Commission.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament is expected to formally approve Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President before heads of state and government meet in Brussels on Wednesday (16 July).
However, if the EU leaders fail to agree on a candidate, there's a risk that Van Rompuy's successor won't be named until the autumn. Van Rompuy's mandate expires in December 2014.
Should Thorning-Schmidt step down as prime minister, her successor is likely to be the current Employment Minister, Mette Frederiksen.
Cabinet reshuffle: William Hague stands down as Foreign Secretary following Ken Clarke's departure as minister without porfolio - Home News - UK - The Independent
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:59
David Cameron will name a new Foreign Secretary today, when he completes a wider than expected Cabinet reshuffle. It will not be George Osborne, who has expressed an interest in moving to the Foreign Office if the Conservatives retain power next year but is likely to remain as Chancellor until the election.
The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond was this morning confirmed as the new Foreign Secretary.
In what was dubbed the ''cull of the men in suits'', several ministers were sacked or stood down to make way for a new generation of younger Tory women who entered the Commons in 2010. Their posts will be announced today as the Prime Minister unveils his new team for the election.
Those tipped for a move to the Cabinet include the Employment minister Esther McVey, who was seen entering No 10 last night and the Education minister Elizabeth Truss.
Margot James, Amber Rudd and Harriett Baldwin are also thought to be in line for promotion as Cameron seeks to counter criticism that older men dominate his cabinet.
The departures include David Jones, the Welsh Secretary; David Willetts, the Universities Minister; Damian Green, the Policing Minister; Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General; Nick Hurd, the minister for Mr Cameron's flagship ''big society'' ; Greg Barker, the Energy and Climate Change Minister; Alan Duncan, the International Development Minister and Andrew Robathan, a Northern Ireland minister. The head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake, was also sacked.
Video: Hague - 'I want to use this last year to help my party' Labour will attack the shake-up as a ''massacre of the moderates.''
Mr Hague, 53, said he wanted to return to writing books, which he did after his spell as Tory leader between 1997-2001. He will remain in the Cabinet as Leader of the Commons until the election, co-ordinating government policy and staying on as First Secretary of State, in effect Mr Cameron's Tory deputy, before standing down as MP for Richmond in Yorkshire next May.
READ MORE: Behind the facade, the same old male-dominated ToriesA baptism of fire awaits new Foreign SecretaryIt's time David Cameron thought like a CEOAnother ''big beast,'' Kenneth Clarke, announced his retirement as a minister after a marathon 22-year stint . Mr Clarke, 74, stood down as Minister Without Portfolio. But the prominent Europhile intends to carry on as an MP after the election and vowed to play a key role in the ''in'' campaign in the in/out referendum on Europe Mr Cameron has promised in 2017.
Unlike Mr Clarke's, Mr Hague's departure from the Cabinet was unexpected. There had been signs he would leave it after the election but his decision to quit the Commons is a surprise.
Ken Clarke arrives at 10 Downing Street in London as David Cameron put the final touches to a reshuffle Mr Hague said: ''By the time of the general election next year, I will have served 26 years in the House of Commons and it will be 20 years since I first joined the Cabinet. In government there is a balance to strike between experience on the one hand and the need for renewal on the other, and I informed the Prime Minister last summer that I would not be a candidate at the next general election.''
He said was stepping aside as Foreign Secretary to focus all his efforts on gaining a Conservative victory next year. He will spearhead his party's efforts to fight back in the North of England, where it needs to win several key marginals to secure a majority. ''I want to finish in frontline politics as I began '' speaking in Parliament and campaigning among the voters. After the general election I will return to my writing, while still giving very active support to the Conservative Party and campaigning on international causes I believe in,'' said Mr Hague.
Mr Cameron said: ''William Hague has been one of the leading lights of the Conservative Party for a generation, leading the party and serving in two cabinets. Not only has he been a first class Foreign Secretary '' he has also been a close confidante, a wise counsellor and a great friend.''
There was speculation that Tuesday's Cabinet departures might include Andrew Lansley, the Commons Leader; Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary and Sir George Young, the Chief Whip, and that Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, might move to a new job. Right-wing Tories were optimistic of a return for Liam Fox, who resigned as Defence Secretary in 2011 over his dealings with his special adviser Adam Werrity.
Read more: PM attempts to solve the Tory's 'women problem'Reshuffle is a 'last-minute worry about votes,' says LabourBritain has 'real problem' with lack of female MPsIn a parliamentary career dating back to 1970, Mr Clarke served as Chancellor, Home Secretary, Education Secretary, Health Secretary and Justice Secretary as he became the longest-serving minister since the Second World War. He stood three times for the Tory leadership and was seen by admirers as ''the best leader we never had.'' But his Europhile views counted against him as the centre of the party's gravity shifted towards Euroscepticism.
In a letter to Mr Cameron, Mr Clarke said: ''I have been doing red boxes at night for a high proportion of my adult life. There are plenty of other able people who could take on the work that I was doing in government and I think the time has come to return to being a veteran back bencher.''
Mr Clarke added: ''My belief in Britain's membership of the EU remains as firm as ever'... We must not diminish Britain's ability to influence events in the next few decades.'' He said he would be ''campaigning vigorously for a vote to keep us in the Union.''
Welsh Secretary David Jones pictured on July 2, 2014. (Getty) Mr Barker said after 10 years in the the Energy and Climate Change post - both in opposition and in Government - he would not seek re-election in Bexhill and Battle next year, while Hurd thanked his "friends and critics in our brilliant voluntary sector."
"You have often driven me nuts but my respect and love is undimmed," he said of his resignation on Twitter.
Nick Hurd broke the news on Twitter on his official Ministerial feed.
There is growing speculation that Eric Pickles could be shifted to chief whip, with his communities and local government brief potentially being handed to a new Cabinet entrant.
Mr Cameron also needs to identify a new commissioner to represent the UK in Brussels.
He is thought to be reluctant to select an MP for the post and trigger a by-election that would suck up valuable resources. Former Tory leader Lord Howard of Lympne is among those being touted as a candidate.
Sweden's Six-Hour Workday Experiment Officially Kicks Off Tomorrow
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 04:35
Tomorrow, the tantalizing and contentious dream of a 30-hour workweek will become a reality in Sweden's second-largest city of Gothenburg.
The year-long experiment will compare two factions of municipal workers -- a control group who will stick to a 40-hour workweek and a test group that will have their hours slashed. All salaries will remain the same.
The aim of the experiment is to determine whether reducing work hours might lead to increased productivity and fewer sick days. Initially brought forth by the city council's majority coalition of Social Democrat and Green parties in April, the program officially kicks off tomorrow.
Related: Does a 6-Hour Workday Lead to Better Productivity? Sweden's About to Find Out.
While Gothenburg's deputy mayor, Mats Pilhem, noted that a local car factory had employed a similar model to great success, opponents in the city council have referred to the proposal as a ''dishonest and populist ploy'' that would bear no impact on worker quality.
A similar experiment involving 250 workers in the Swedish town of Kiruna was scrapped in 2005 after 16 years. With shrinking hours, job pressures intensified, reports The Local, and as a result, the city council concluded that sickness actually increased.
Related: How an Email Snafu Led to 61,000 People Storming an Employment Office
Dutch state liable over 300 Srebrenica deaths.
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:54
16 July 2014Last updated at 11:49 ET Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.
The BBC's Anna Holligan: "Lawyers representing the soldiers say they did try to protect the refugees"
A Dutch court has ruled that the Netherlands is liable over the killings of more than 300 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys at Srebrenica in Bosnia-Hercegovina in July 1995.
The men and boys were among 5,000 Bosniaks, mostly women and children, sheltering with Dutch UN peacekeepers.
But the Dutch state was cleared over the deaths of more than 7,000 other men killed in and around Srebrenica.
The Srebrenica massacre is considered Europe's worst since World War Two.
"The whole valley was scattered with personal belongings and remains of clothing. There were no bodies - carrion would have removed any remains left by then"
Jamie Adam, UN Mine Action Centre for Bosnia-Hercegovina
Horror of Srebrenica's mass graves from the air
CompensationThe case was launched by relatives of the victims under the name "Mothers of Srebrenica".
The Hague district court said that the Dutch peacekeeping forces, Dutchbat, did not do enough to protect more than 300 of the Bosniaks and should have been aware of the potential for genocide to be committed.
It said the state should have known they would be killed by Bosnian Serbs when they handed them over from the UN compound of Potocari.
"It can be said with sufficient certainty that, had Dutchbat allowed them to stay at the compound, these men would have remained alive. By co-operating in the deportation of these men, Dutchbat acted unlawfully," the court added.
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Munira Subasic, president of the "Mothers of Srebrenica": "The court definitely did not recognise justice for other groups of victims."
Analysis: Anna Holligan, BBC News, The HagueThis was a bittersweet judgement for the "Mothers of Srebrenica".
Three of the women came to court bearing the hopes of thousands of survivors on their shoulders. They sat united on the front bench in a dignified silence, as the cameramen jostled to capture their reactions.
The verdict means the mothers, wives and children of more than 300 Bosniaks who were deported from the Dutch-administered compound in Potocari on 13 of July 1995 will be entitled to compensation. But the Mothers of Srebrenica's relatives were not among that group.
For them, it was never about the money. As their lawyer put it, 'How do you put a price on life?'
For the "Mothers of Srebrenica" the verdict failed to deliver the justice and accountability they have dedicated their lives to pursuing.
It said that the Dutch state must accept some degree of responsibility for what happened and pay compensation to the families of more than 300 victims.
But the court stopped short of holding the Netherlands liable for the fate of the majority of men killed in Srebrenica, saying that many of the male refugees at the time had not fled to the UN compound but "fled to the woods in the vicinity of Srebrenica".
The BBC's Anna Holligan, in the courtroom, says it was a hugely significant ruling but a heart-breaking verdict for the women because the Dutch state was only found partly responsible for the deaths of more than 300 of more than 7,000 men killed.
This, she says, means many of the relatives of the victims will not be entitled to compensation.
"Obviously the court has no sense of justice,'' said Munira Subasic, a representative of the relatives' group.
"How is it possible to divide victims and tell one mother that the Dutch state is responsible for the death of her son on one side of the wire and not for the son on the other side?'' she added.
During the 1992-1995 war, Bosniaks from the surrounding area sought refuge in the town of Srebrenica as the Bosnian Serb army carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing, expelling non-Serb populations.
The UN declared Srebrenica a "safe area" for civilians in 1993. It fell in July 1995, after more than two years under siege.
Thousands of Bosniaks went to the UN base just outside Srebrenica at Potocari.
However, the Dutch soldiers told them they would be safe and handed the men and boys over to the Bosnian Serb army.
The women and young children were transported to a Bosniak-majority area.
The two key figures of the wartime Bosnian Serb leadership - one-time President Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic - are on trial for war crimes at the UN tribunal in The Hague.
Timeline of Srebrenica siege:6-8 July 1995: Bosnian Serb forces start shelling Srebrenica enclave
9 July: Bosnian Serbs step up shelling; thousands of Bosnian Muslim refugees flee to Srebrenica
10 July: Dutch peacekeepers request UN air support after Bosnian Serbs shell Dutch positions. Large crowds of refugees gather around Dutch positions
11 July: More than 20,000 refugees flee to main Dutch base at Potocari. Serbs threaten to kill Dutch hostages and shell refugees after Dutch F-16 fighters bomb Serb positions. Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic enters Srebrenica and delivers ultimatum that Muslims must hand over weapons
12 July: An estimated 23,000 women and children are deported to Muslim territory; men aged 12-77 taken "for interrogation" and held in trucks and warehouses
13 July: First killings of unarmed Muslims take place near village of Kravica. Peacekeepers hand over some 5,000 Muslims sheltering at Dutch base in exchange for the release of 14 Dutch peacekeepers held by Bosnian Serbs
14 July: Reports of massacres start to emerge
Timeline: Siege of Srebrenica
The former Yugoslavia was a Socialist state created after German occupation in World War II and a bitter civil war. A federation of six republics, it brought together Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Slovenes and others under a comparatively relaxed communist regime. Tensions between these groups were successfully suppressed under the leadership of President Tito.
After Tito's death in 1980, tensions re-emerged. Calls for more autonomy within Yugoslavia by nationalist groups led in 1991 to declarations of independence in Croatia and Slovenia. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav army lashed out, first in Slovenia and then in Croatia. Thousands were killed in the latter conflict which was paused in 1992 under a UN-monitored ceasefire.
Bosnia, with a complex mix of Serbs, Muslims and Croats, was next to try for independence. Bosnia's Serbs, backed by Serbs elsewhere in Yugoslavia, resisted. Under leader Radovan Karadzic, they threatened bloodshed if Bosnia's Muslims and Croats - who outnumbered Serbs - broke away. Despite European blessing for the move in a 1992 referendum, war came fast.
Yugoslav army units, withdrawn from Croatia and renamed the Bosnian Serb Army, carved out a huge swathe of Serb-dominated territory. Over a million Bosnian Muslims and Croats were driven from their homes in ethnic cleansing. Serbs suffered too. The capital Sarajevo was besieged and shelled. UN peacekeepers, brought in to quell the fighting, were seen as ineffective.
International peace efforts to stop the war failed, the UN was humiliated and over 100,000 died. The war ended in 1995 after NATO bombed the Bosnian Serbs and Muslim and Croat armies made gains on the ground. A US-brokered peace divided Bosnia into two self-governing entities, a Bosnian Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation lightly bound by a central government.
In August 1995 the Croatian army stormed areas in Croatia under Serb control prompting thousands to flee. Soon Croatia and Bosnia were fully independent. Slovenia and Macedonia had already gone. Montenegro left later. In 1999 Kosovo's ethnic Albanians fought Serbs in another brutal war to gain independence. Serbia ended the conflict beaten, battered and alone.
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Suspect in Benghazi attack found dead.
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:02
Faraj al-Shibli was last seen being detained by a local militia in Marj, Libya, two days ago, a Libyan source said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Faraj al-Shibli is the second Benghazi suspect to surface in recent weeksHis body was found in an eastern Libya townLast month, U.S. commandos captured Ahmed Abu Khattalah, who is charged in the attackFour Americans died in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in BenghaziTripoli, Libya (CNN) -- A man once detained by Libyan officials and interviewed by the FBI over suspected links to the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, has turned up dead.
Faraj al-Shibli, whose name is also spelled Chalabi, was last seen in the custody of a local militia in Marj two days ago, a Libyan source said. His body was found Monday in the eastern Libyan town.
He's the second Benghazi suspect to surface in recent weeks. U.S. forces arrested suspected attack mastermind Ahmed Abu Khattalah last month.
Here's what CNN has previously reported about those suspected of involvement in the attacks. With the exception of Abu Khattalah, it's unknown if any have been charged in connection with the Benghazi attack. The charges remain under seal.
Al-Shibli -- The Libyan government took al-Shibli into custody in March 2013 in connection with the Benghazi attack. The FBI was able to question him during that detention. Al-Shibli was no longer in custody as of May 2013, according to a Libyan source briefed on the case. Libyan officials have not explained why he was released. It's not clear what role he may have played in the attack, or if he's among the suspects named in sealed federal charges brought last year. Al-Shibli was a member of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group, a militant organization that tried to overthrow the government of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in the mid-1990s. That regime named him as a suspect in the murder of a German counterintelligence official and his wife, who were killed in the Libyan town of Sirte in 1994. Libyan authorities also issued an arrest warrant for former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in connection with the crime.
Abu Khattalah -- The Libyan militia leader for Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi has been described as the mastermind of the attack -- an allegation he denied in an interview with CNN's Arwa Damon. He was captured by U.S. forces last month and brought to Washington to face charges. He has pleaded not guilty to one count of providing material support to terrorists and will remain jailed until his trial, a federal magistrate ruled July 2.
Ali Ani al Harzi -- Tunisian authorities held him in Tunis for several weeks in 2013 in connection with the Benghazi attack. A Tunisian judge released him in January on grounds of insufficient evidence, but a U.S. law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the Benghazi investigation told CNN at the time that al Harzi's release "doesn't mean he's any less a suspect."
Mohammed al-Zahawi -- One of the leaders in Ansar al-Sharia. He has denied the group's involvement in the attack, and U.S. officials have also expressed doubts.
Sheikh Nasser al-Tarshani -- Ansar al-Sharia's religious authority.
Sufian bin Qumu -- He headed the Darnah branch of Ansar al-Sharia, which the U.S. State Department said in January was involved in the Benghazi attack.
Several unnamed Yemeni men -- A senior law enforcement source told CNN in May 2013 that authorities had traced the men to northern Mali, where they are believed to have connected with a fighting group commanded by jihadist leader Moktar Belmoktar. It's unclear where these men might be.
Moktar Belmoktar -- He is an Algerian terror suspect linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb who was on the receiving end of an excited phone call from someone in or close to Benghazi in the attack's aftermath, a source briefed on the investigation told CNN in May 2013. "Mabruk, Mabruk!" the caller repeated, meaning "Congratulations" in Arabic. There is no proof the call was about the attack, but it was assumed to be, the source said. Troops in Chad claimed to have killed Belmoktar in 2013, but several taped messages from him have been released since then.
Mohammed Jamal Abu Ahmed -- According to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the investigation, authorities were examining in December whether Abu Ahmed played a role in the attack. He is allegedly the leader of a post-revolution terrorist network in Egypt. He was released from jail after the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak but was thought to be back in an Egyptian prison late last year.
Read: President Obama under fire over Benghazi suspect
Read: Controversy swirls over handling of Benghazi suspect Abu Khatallah
Read: Death of a revolutionary: Murder robs Libya of 'a true patriot'
CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reported from Libya; CNN's Holly Yan and Mike Pearson wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Susan Candiotti, Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister, Nic Robertson and Fran Townsend contributed to this report.
Bill Blum: We Need Elizabeth Warren on the Supreme Court - Bill Blum - Truthdig
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:13
AP/Charles Dharapak
The Supreme Court is in summer recess, but the political handwringing over the high tribunal's future continues unabated. The big worry in left-of-center legal circles, and it's a real one, is that sooner rather than later and whether anyone likes it or not, the court's liberal standard-bearer'--the frail 81-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a survivor of both colon and pancreatic cancer'--will have to step down, and no one of equal ability and courage will be appointed to take her place.
As I have reported previously in this column, Ginsburg anxiety syndrome reached its apogee back in March in a testy debate among liberal commentators over the pros and cons of the justice's possible retirement.
At one end of the debate spectrum, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the School of Law at UC Irvine, argued that Ginsburg should leave the bench at the conclusion of the present term in order to give President Obama time to name her replacement before the Republicans retake the Senate in November. Pushing the opposite view was Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick, who argued that despite her health challenges, Ginsburg remained strong and, citing Slate colleague Emily Bazelon, overtures for her to exit smacked of sexism.
Now that the court's current term is complete, the debate has resurfaced with renewed pleas for Ginsburg's immediate departure and fresh expressions of distress that it's already too late in the election cycle for Obama to propose a worthy successor.
Predictably, the end result of all the deliberation is a stalemate of ideas on how best to move forward. While the court's all-male, all-Catholic conservative majority has united to transform the nation's legal architecture on issues ranging from campaign finance and voting rights to the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, the legal left appears indecisive, divided, defensive and defeatist.But for those wallowing in despair at what fellow Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges aptly warns is our fast-approaching ''post-constitutional era,'' I have two simple words of encouragement: Elizabeth Warren.
Yes, there are many progressives who would much rather see Warren run for president in 2016 than don a black robe to take on Chief Justice John Roberts and his Republican brethren. But Warren isn't running for president, and even if she were to change her mind, she stands little chance of mounting a successful challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. She also would be vulnerable, perhaps even more than was first-term candidate Obama, to charges of inexperience in elected office.
By contrast, Warren is unquestionably qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. Even more, she is uniquely positioned to revive the flagging spirits of the left, and help restore the country's confidence in the tribunal, which has sunk to record lows as the court has moved openly and often cravenly to the right.
Before Warren's election to the Senate in 2012, she was a Harvard Law School professor and a respected expert in bankruptcy and consumer protection law. She served on congressional panels dealing with bankruptcy reform and oversight of the bank-bailout Troubled Asset Relief Program under the Clinton and Obama administrations, respectively. She also was instrumental in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
But above all, Warren is and has been for many years an outspoken defender of the vanishing American middle class, and a vocal critic of the current court's capitulation to corporate interests. In March, the day after the court heard oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, Warren posted a foreboding column on her official Senate blog titled, ''We don't run this country for corporations.''
Anticipating the worst in the case, Warren referred to an exhaustive study written for the University of Minnesota Law Review in 2013 by three legal scholars, including conservative federal appeals Judge Richard Posner, who examined almost 20,000 Supreme Court cases from the last 65 years and found that the two most pro-business justices over the entire time span were Roberts and Samuel Alito. The remaining three conservatives on the present panel'--Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas'--ranked in the top 10.
Invoking an additional barometer of the court's corporate takeover, Warren also noted that the success rate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in cases in which it had taken a formal position had skyrocketed from 43 percent during the mid-1980s to an astounding 70 percent in the Roberts era. ''Follow these pro-corporate trends to their logical conclusion,'' she warned, ''and pretty soon you'll have a Supreme Court that is a wholly owned subsidiary of big business.''
Sounding precisely like the kind of jurist needed to turn the tide on the nation's most powerful legal body, Warren continued, ''Republicans may prefer a rigged court that gives their corporate friends and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists every advantage. But that's not the job of judges. Judges don't sit on the bench to hand out favors to their political friends.
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PedoBear
Butler-Sloss steps down from UK child abuse inquiry.
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:15
14 July 2014Last updated at 11:26 ET Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.
Theresa May: "I think she would have done an excellent job"
Retired judge Baroness Butler-Sloss has stepped down as head of a probe into child sex abuse saying she was "not the right person" for the job.
Lady Butler-Sloss has been under pressure to quit from MPs and victims concerned about her family links.
Her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she did not regret appointing the peer, adding that she would "not hang around" in naming her successor.
Lady Butler-Sloss said she "did not sufficiently consider" whether her family links would cause difficulties in the inquiry.
'Right person'Downing Street said it would "take a few days" to appoint a new chairman and appeared to indicate that whoever was chosen would not be so closely linked to the establishment.
Mrs May told MPs that she believed Lady Butler-Sloss was the "right person for the job" despite what she suggested was a lot of "rumour and innuendo" about her appointment.
"I do not regret the decision I made. I continue to believe that Elizabeth Butler-Sloss would have done an excellent job as chair of this inquiry," she told the Home Affairs select committee.
Asked about her successor, Mrs May said she still favoured appointing a single individual to head the over-arching inquiry rather than a panel of experts urged by Labour and some abuse victims.
She said she hoped to name a new candidate "within a reasonable amount of time" but said whoever was approached would need to "think carefully" about the nature of the role.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, which is also investigating historical child sex abuse, said the handling of the issue had been "somewhat shambolic" and raised issues about Mrs May's judgement.
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Tom Watson MP says the decision was the "right thing" to do
In a statement, Lady Butler-Sloss said she had been "honoured" to be asked to chair the inquiry and had hoped to "make a useful contribution".
Important issuesBut, she added: "It has become apparent over the last few days, however, that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry.
"It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been attorney general would cause difficulties.
"This is a victim-orientated inquiry and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns and give appropriate advice to government.
"Having listened to the concerns of victim and survivor groups and the criticisms of MPs and the media, I have come to the conclusion that I should not chair this inquiry and have so informed the Home Secretary."
The inquiry was set up to examine how state institutions handled their duty of care to protect children from paedophiles.
What next? By BBC political correspondent Iain Watson
Most public bodies at least claim they appoint people because of what they know, not who they know. But it was Lady Butler-Sloss's family and political connections - not her experience and knowledge - which led to her resignation.
There will be no rush to appoint her successor - it could take several days. That's because while her resignation was unfortunate, a second controversial appointment might look like carelessness at the top of government.
Already there are calls for a figure less linked to the establishment to be appointed - but if a legal background, along with the security clearance to read confidential government papers is required, then that could be easier said than done.
David Cameron's spokesman said Lady Butler-Sloss's decision to quit was "entirely" her own.
"The reasons for her appointment still absolutely stand in terms of her professional expertise and her integrity, which I don't think has been questioned from any quarter whatsoever, and rightly so," he said.
'Question of integrity'Appearing before the Commons home affairs select committee, Mrs May was asked whether she was aware before appointing Lady Butler-Sloss of claims that her late brother had tried to persuade former Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens against naming an alleged paedophile on the floor of the House of Commons.
Mrs May implied the answer to that question was no, saying that these were issues which had "surfaced in the last few days as far as I am concerned".
She added: "There was absolutely no doubt that Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was Michael Havers' sister. That was well known. A number of issues about Michael Havers had been raised publicly in the past."
She insisted she had conducted "due diligence" on Lady Butler-Sloss before appointing her, including holding a "number of discussions" with relevant people, but said the focus was on her ability to perform the role.
"My judgement was about her integrity to do this job. That is why I appointed her."
'Conflict of interest'For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was the right decision since concerns about "victim confidence or conflict of interest" had not been addressed.
"It is very unfortunate that the last minute nature of the Home Secretary's response means that proper consideration was not given to the perception of conflict of interest and Lady Butler-Sloss was placed in an unfair position by the Home Office," she said.
Author Alex Wheatle, who was abused at a children's home in the late 1960s, said victims must be "100% sure they will be treated fairly".
"For any people coming forward they must have the utmost confidence in whoever chairs that inquiry," he said.
Peter Saunders, from the National Association for Abused People in Childhood, said the government had "missed a trick" in not seeking the views of victims before the appointment.
"We need somebody who is trusted," he said. "This is not a slight on Lady Butler-Sloss... but there were so many things stacked against her in having the trust of survivors."
Pope Francis: 'One in 50' Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals is a paedophile
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:01
Speaking in an interview with La Repubblica, the Pope said his advisers had tried to ''reassure'' him that paedophilia within the Church was ''at the level of two per cent''.
He pledged that he would drive away the ''leprosy'' of child abuse that was infecting the ''house'' of Catholicism.
''I find this state of affairs intolerable,'' he said.
Pope Francis said his advisers at the Vatican had given him the 2 per cent estimate, which included ''priests, bishops and cardinals''.
He also warned of much greater figures for people who were aware of the existence of abuse '' sometimes within their own families '' but who stayed silent because of corruption or fear.
Read more:Francis apologises to clerical sex abuse victimsPope Francis defends Vatican's record on child sex abuseVoices: Francis must stop the sexual abuse of young boysHis comments came a week after the Pope met with six victims of clerical paedophilia to apologise for their abuse at the hands of priests.
The meeting, with six British, Irish and German Catholics, was designed to acknowledge the gravity of the Church's guilt and complicity.
Despite Pope Francis's popularity, there has been criticism of him for failing to take a high-profile stand against the global paedophilia scandal.
His predecessor, Benedict XVI, met with victims of sexual abuse by priests, in Washington in 2008. He then met with victims in Australia, Germany, Malta and the UK.
In February and May, critical reports released by two separate UN committees condemned the Church's ''code of silence'' on paedophile priests. It said this silence was allowing known sex offenders to continue working with children.
Church child abuse scandal: Archbishop of Canterbury Welby warns of more revelations
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:01
Justin Welby said the Church had to be absolutely transparent, after learning from victims of cover-ups, bungled investigations and the devastating long-term impact of abuse, at a fringe meeting of the Synod of the Church of England. His comments came as the Pope described child abuse as ''leprosy'' that affected 2 per cent of clergy in the Roman Catholic Church and was determined to confront the problem.
The figure would represent some 8,000 out of a global figure of more than 400,000 priests worldwide.
The intervention of two of Christianity's most prominent religious figures highlighted the damaging legacy of long-term child abuse and the failure of organised religion to confront the problem.
Read more: Child abuse victims to sue GovernmentA group representing victims said that it welcomed the Archbishop's comments but said that the Anglican Church was still responding too slowly to genuine complaints of abuse.
The Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (Macsas) group told The Independent that it was aware of at least two men with child abuse convictions who still called themselves ''reverend'' and wore dog collars.
''If they knock on the door and say 'I'm a reverend' they already have trust. It's not all about sexual gratification, it's all to do with power,'' said the group's chair Lucy Duckworth. ''To abuse a child, you need to get the trust of the families and children, it's a lot easier to do that if you're called reverend.'' She said one of the men, living in the South-east of England, had previously been convicted of the abuse of young girls.
The Church of England said it was powerless to prevent anyone using the term ''reverend''. But after years of accusations of cover-ups and inadequate investigations, the Synod last week agreed a ''draft safeguarding and clergy discipline measure'' to give Bishops the power to suspend clergy on arrest '' an earlier stage than previously permitted. However, the change would be put in place at the earliest in November, officials said.
In an interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, the Archbishop said he dealt with issues of child sex abuse on a daily basis and he anticipated that more ''bad stories'' would emerge. ''I would love to say there weren't, but I expect there are.'' He said that it was ''becoming clearer and clearer that for many, many years things were not dealt with as they should.
''We must show justice to survivors of abuse, that's the first and absolute principle and we must be absolutely transparent and we have to keep saying how utterly devastated and how sorry we are.''
Survivors said the Anglican Church had opened their doors more than other they worked with, but that it ''was still not enough and not fast enough,'' said Ms Duckworth. In an address to a fringe meeting at the Synod, a victim, Phil Johnson, highlighted the failure of inquiries to resolve child sex abuse investigations.
Mr Johnson, who was abused by two priests when he was a choirboy in the Chichester Diocese, criticised the failure of an earlier inquiry headed by Baroness Butler-Sloss '' who has now been appointed to head the Government's overarching review of child abuse allegations, following claims that clergy were part of an Establishment paedophile ring that went to the heart of Westminster. She had previously been appointed to look into how the Church handled claims of abuse, following the convictions of two vicars and a choirmaster in 2008.
In his address on Friday, Mr Johnson said: ''She seemed far too ready to believe accounts by bishops and far too interested in keeping damaging revelations out of the press.''
The Home Office defended her appointment to run the inquiry after revelations at the weekend by Mr Johnson that she refused to go public about the Right Rev Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester, after Mr Johnson made allegations against him.
The former Bishop was charged with indecently assaulting two people, one a boy aged as young as 12 in 1978, and misconduct in public office, following an investigation into alleged attacks on 19 young men and boys.
Mr Johnson's claims put fresh pressure on the former High Court judge who faced calls to step down after reports that her brother Sir Michael Havers tried to prevent ex-MP Geoffrey Dickens airing claims about a diplomat in Parliament in the 1980s. Lady Butler-Sloss insisted she is ''mindful of the very real suffering'' and that she ''has never put the reputation of an institution including the Church of England, ahead of justice for victims''.
650 paedophile suspects held in huge crackdown: Doctors, teachers and police seized... and 430 children now 'safe' | Mail Online
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:37
Police crackdown has led to the arrest of 660 suspected paedophilesSuspects are being arrested at a rate of three a day in crackdownIncludes teachers, Scout leaders, doctors, former officers and care workersPolice say 430 children in care, custody or control have been protectedBy Chris Greenwood, Crime Correspondent
Published: 06:06 EST, 16 July 2014 | Updated: 18:58 EST, 16 July 2014
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Suspected paedophiles are being arrested at a rate of three a day in an unprecedented crackdown, it was revealed yesterday.
Every force in Britain is involved in the operation, in which more than 660 men have been questioned in six months.
Those held are from all walks of life and include doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers and former police officers.
Police said 431 children 'in the care, custody or control' of the suspects had been protected as a result. Of those, 127 were said to be at immediate risk of harm.
660 suspected paedophiles have been arrested following a crackdown by the National Crime Agency (NCA). The organisation targeted who had accessed images of child abuse online (library image)
But they fear the explosion of images of child abuse online means they will never catch up with everyone who accesses them.
They called on global companies making millions every day from the internet to do more to stem the flow of vile material.
Of those arrested, 39 were registered sex offenders, while nine out of ten had no past involvement with police for offences of this type. Six teachers, four school workers, two police staff, two medical workers and a social worker were held, the National Crime Agency said, along with two ex-police officers, a scout leader and a private sector worker who cared for children.
The hunt prioritised those in positions of trust, with access to children or involved in distributing images. It is believed to have found thousands of other less dangerous suspects who are yet to be arrested.
Phil Gormley of the NCA, which co-ordinated the raids, said they have 'lifted a stone' to reveal the shocking scale of the crimes.
He said law enforcement must 'up its game', adding: 'There are questions here for society and policymakers. This operation shows the propensity of a very large number of people to view this material. We cannot afford not to look under this stone. But are we going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem? I doubt it.'
Asked if he was shocked, he said: 'We all are pretty appalled about what it says about human nature. That is why we need to think carefully about what this means and how we approach this behaviour.'
Senior officers said the investigation is the largest of its kind since Operation Ore in 2000, in which 4,000 were arrested. Since then the number of online videos and images of abuse has grown from several thousand to 'tens of millions'.
The NCA declined to discuss its methods as the inquiry is still active and more arrests are taking place.
But it is thought some suspects were using the so-called 'dark web', which can be accessed only with special software and is not indexed by Google. Most have been freed on bail as forensic experts study computers, tablets and mobile phones.
But a handful, including a doctor allegedly caught with a million images, have been charged. He is on remand in custody as detectives probe evidence of attempts to communicate with young boys.
Another suspect admitted looking at indecent images of children for more than 30 years and said he often travelled to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand as a sex tourist.
A foster carer with a clean police record was arrested and found to have a vulnerable child in his care. In another case a man with 17 grandchildren was arrested. Two have since said they were abused.
Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the national lead on child abuse investigations, said police get better every day at tracking paedophiles online. He added: 'The clear message from this is that law enforcement now has the ability to see what people are doing.
'There is a dark side to the internet and that is one of the greatest challenges law enforcement faces today, how to tackle the abuse of the web to perpetrate this crime and other types of crime.' A 2012 report estimated there are 50,000 people in Britain accessing child abuse images online.
But fewer than 1 per cent of such images are hosted on UK servers, making it almost impossible for police to block them. They rely on organisations like the Internet Watch Foundation that try to get providers to take material down.
Global pressure is showing signs of success as paedophiles resort to hiding material within legitimate websites to keep it secret. Susie Hargreaves, of the IWF, said: 'It is vital all organisations work together to combat this criminality.' John Carr, of the UK Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, said the arrests show the internet is becoming 'a very hostile environment' for criminals.
He said: 'Police all over the world are co-operating on an unprecedented scale in pursuit of online child sex offenders and they are deploying technical tools to find them with greater effectiveness.'
Claire Lilley, of the NSPCC, added: 'Direct action like this sends a strong message to those who subject children to harrowing sexual assaults that they can and will be traced and prosecuted.'
CASE STUDIES OF THOSE ARRESTED BY NCAThe National Crime Agency highlighted a number of case studies as it revealed 660 suspected paedophiles had been arrested in a major sex crime crackdown.
Here are details of those case studies:
Case A - A doctor who had access to more than one million obscene images of children was arrested, and rope and sex aids were found in the boot of his car. The medic, who was arrested with a second man and is currently in custody, had allegedly got in touch with and met up with boys.Case B - Another suspect admitted in police interview that he had been viewing sexual images of children for 30 years, since he was 16. He said that he regularly travelled to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand as a sex tourist and has been highlighted as a risk to children abroad.Case C - A man who was already identified as a sex offender admitted that he was part of an online group that shared films of child abuse carried out by one of the other members. The NCA said that the footage was of the most severe form of abuse against very young children.Case D - A registered violent sex offender who was already charged with the rape of a girl under 13 was arrested and charged with further counts of possessing indecent images of children. These included "erotic" posing right through to the most depraved forms of abuse.Case E - One suspect was found to have access to 17 grandchildren, two of whom had already warned that he had abused them. He is in custody.Case F - A foster carer, who had no previous convictions or allegations against him, was arrested at a time when he was caring for an autistic 12-year-old who has now been identified as being at risk of serious harm. Officers are searching four computers and one phone and the investigation is ongoing.
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A Different Take on Ryan Block's Viral Customer Service Call With Comcast '' Latest
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:40
There is no question, in anyone's mind really, at just how bad cable companies are. When I wrote last week about the death of true customer service, the way in which cable companies operate is perhaps the clearest example of what I meant. Yet, there are two kinds of customer service. I was talking about the attempts companies make to keep their current customers happy. The other kind is what you receive when you threaten to take away your business and is often a case where the call center employee's job depends on his or her ability to make sure you stay.
Ryan Block was a technology journalist wunderkind who became the editor-in-chief of Endgaget shortly before turning 27. His most famous accomplishment seems to be posting a fake e-mail from Apple that, until it was corrected, affected its market cap. He then left Endgadget to create some app that AOL eventually bought for boatloads of money.
So when Block tried to cancel his Comcast service yesterday, the customer service rep who tried desperately to find out why he was cancelling didn't realize who he was messing with. Block posted a recording of the call '' possibly in violation of California's wiretapping laws '' to Twitter and it has begun making the viral rounds.
Block claims he was angered by the rep being ''rude, unhelpful, condescending, etc.'' However in the first few minutes of the call, it's Block who better fits that description. The customer service rep '' someone who surely makes a low wage but is probably teased with a bonus for saving clients '' is simply trying to find out why Block wants to cancel his service. Block refuses to answer the question as if that is some huge imposition on him. Of course, no other company in the world ever asks this question, so naturally Block was annoyed.
The customer service rep, noting the animus with which Block was speaking to him told Block that to go a Comcast store if Block didn't want to talk to him on the phone. Block replied, ''We're actually going to just mail the cable card in, but if you can just please cancel our service that would be great.'' The rep then tried to inform him that this item can't be returned through the mail when Block interrupted him saying, ''Then I will send someone, like a task rabbit, to return the cable card for us.''
I have never heard of Ryan Block before today, so I admit that I don't know much about him. While I can sympathize with him at how frustrating some phone reps can be, I know that if I had his audience, my goal wouldn't be to shame the customer service rep who probably makes less in a year what Block pays his ''task rabbits.*''
Unlike Block, and the legion of his fans showing him Twitter support like he just negotiated peace in the Middle East or came out to his parents right before junior prom, I have worked on the other end of those calls. Call centers thrive on their total lack of job security to motivate their employees to lose the company as little money as they can. If Block thinks this CS rep is the problem with cable companies, he should meet the executives who will most likely lay the negative PR blame not on their company's shoddy service, but this dummy's bad fortune. Still the real lesson will be learned: Do not waste the time of a rich guy with a podcast.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out both by lawyers I know and in the comments below that customer service calls are typically monitored by the company and that's announced, so two-way consent was (technically) given.
*Fairness note: While this sounds like the kind of term a rich jag-off might use to refer to a person who is so poor he or she is willing to do menial tasks for people who have too much money to do such things, it may be a reference to a site of the same name that provides this service.
Ryan Block Speefed on APPLE Email 7 years ago-Regarding yesterday's Apple news
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:40
Yesterday Engadget posted an incorrect story about an iPhone delay, and I wanted to go into greater detail about how this happened.At 9:09am CDT yesterday a number of Apple employees received an email that appeared to be from Apple corporate reporting that the iPhone and the next version of OS X had been delayed. An Apple employee who we trust then forwarded this email to us. Let's be clear that this is someone who we know without any doubt is an employee of Apple, not someone we merely believe to be an employee of Apple. We contacted our source after receiving their email, and they confirmed for us that they had indeed received this email, an email which by all appearances was a legitimate email from Apple corporate. In fact, this Apple employee certainly believed this, especially since the email had also been received by other Apple employees. They gave us absolutely no indication that its origin might be in doubt.
For a reporter, this kind of thing -- an internal memo to a company's employees -- is solid gold. You don't often get inside information more sound than a memo stating plans -- and it is not uncommon to see these sorts of internal emails quoted in mainstream newspapers and magazines -- but we are still aware of precisely how dangerous it would be to leave any story at that. So after verifying that the email was indeed sent to internal Apple email lists -- but before publishing anything -- we immediately contacted Apple PR, trying to reach our contacts on their PR team that handles iPod / iPhone matters. It was before business hours on the West coast, though, so we even called an Apple PR manager via their private cellphone in search of a statement. When no one was immediately available, we left voicemail and email.
The question we faced at that moment was: Do we run with the story without Apple's comment or not? The answer seemed fairly clear there, too, at the time. We possessed what confirmed Apple employees believed was an internal Apple memo that with absolutely no doubt had also been received by any number of other Apple employees. This memo was passed to us in good faith -- our source believed that what they were sending was real because it was exactly like every other email of this type they had received from Apple corporate. And it stood to reason that Apple, which normally holds its cards very close to the chest with this kind of news, would more than likely not comment on these matters. (How many times have you read a news story with "Apple was not available for / declined to comment"?) Even when Leopard was facing multiple accusations of delay from across the media, Apple denied it up and down for weeks right up until the very day it announced the delay.
So we were sitting on news of obvious importance -- the email was circulating, and it was enough to set off the alarms of other sources at Apple who also started forwarding it outbound. (As it happened, we were not the only site that acquired and published that memo, perhaps just the first.) Given the nature of that news, we felt we had an obligation to inform people that Apple had sent out an internal memo in preparation of a delay in the iPhone and Leopard. And so I ran the story; I believe most people in my place would have done the same.
About an hour and 40 minutes after the initial memo went out, a second memo was sent to the same internal Apple lists, dismissing the first. Soon after, our source -- who we'd been in contact with through the morning -- let us know that Apple was dismissing this earlier email; the second memo passed off the first as "fake" and "not from Apple". Fake indeed, but it still came from someone familiar with Apple's internal mail systems, lists, memo composition structure, etc., who found a way to plant a phony memo in the inboxes of who knows how many Apple employees. (Both emails are published in the original post.) Why Apple took nearly two hours to respond to the situation we do not know.
The person or persons behind the phony email had apparently put one over on Apple employees to the extent that those employees who received that memo and passed it along to us and others took it as truth -- as did we. Although we made sure to confirm and reconfirm with our source that this email was legit at the time it was sent out, unfortunately no amount of vetting and confirming sources can account for what happens when a corporate memo turns out to be fraudulently produced and distributed in this way.
So who sent the memo, and why? We don't know, and we're not sure we ever will. Again, it was not a public memo, and it was not distributed outside Apple's internal Bullet News list to employees. Ultimately we did the only thing we felt right in doing after the initial post: leave it up unedited (but struck through), making sure the developing situation was made as lucid as possible for anyone involved in order to minimize the damages the leaked email caused.
Credibility and trust is the currency of our realm, and it's clear we lost some of that. (And to be 100% clear, no one at Engadget is allowed to own stock in any of the companies we write about.) We take what we do very seriously and would never knowingly pass along information that we believed could be false or inaccurate; in this case, as stated above, we had confirmation from within Apple that this was in fact information that been distributed via Apple's internal corporate email system. If we had had any inkling that ANYONE could have exploited that system that would have greatly affected how we proceeded.
Could things have be done differently? Definitely. We might have waited until the press release the memo mentioned hit the wires. That could have been any time, though, an hour, three hours; we were obviously sitting on a pretty major story, and we believed that would have been a disservice to our readers. We might also have presented it as rumor or whim, although given the information we had at the time, there was truly no reason to believe it was anything but totally legit, and would have been a misrepresentation of the situation.
We also might have waited to hear what Apple had to say, however long it would take for them to get back to us. While we did indeed do our best to get in touch, but we were unable to immediately produce a result, so I chose to run the without comment, as is standard practice for a reporter working on a big, urgent story. (As it happened, we only heard back from Apple after we got the second internal memo.) Of course, had I waited long enough, that second memo would have made its way to me through the pipeline, and the story would have died on the vine, never to be published. (Well, maybe we would have done a story about a planted internal memo at Apple.)
We have learned a very serious lesson yesterday. We will work very hard to earn back the trust we have lost and to do our best to be what we have always strived to be: a trustworthy source for the latest on gadgets, consumer electronics, and personal technology.
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FCC sets clock for Comcast's Time Warner Cable and Charter deals - LA Times
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:35
The Federal Communications Commission has released its schedule for the public and the media industry to weigh in on Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable and its complex deal to trade some cable systems with Charter Communications.
Comments and petitions seeking to block Comcast's deals are due on Aug. 25. Comcast will then have until Sept. 23rd to respond to those comments. Subsequent replies to Comcast's response are due on Oct. 8.
Setting the dates for comments starts the FCC's 180-day merger clock to review and either approve or deny the deals. Presuming the FCC doesn't have to delay its process for any reason, that would mean it would issue its verdict in January 2015. The Dept. of Justice is also reviewing the Comcast - Time Warner Cable sale.
Many media watchdog groups and consumer activists have already voiced their intent to strongly oppose Comcast's deals. Earlier this week, satellite broadcaster Dish Network told the FCC that it should block Comcast from buying Time Warner Cable because the acquisition would give the cable giant too much power in the video and broadband marketplace. Netflix has also expressed concern about Comcast's plans.
Comcast has argued in government filings that acquiring Time Warner Cable will be beneficial to consumers and won't harm competition. If Comcast is successful in acquiring Time Warner Cable, it would serve 30% of the nation's cable-TV households and about 40% of homes that have broadband Internet service.
"We fully expect a robust debate, and that's what the FCC process is for," Comcast said, adding, "but we believe that once all the facts are in the record, it will show the significant advantages that bringing these companies together will bring."
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.
Copyright (C) 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comcast Statement Regarding Customer Service Call
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:33
We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.
Tags : Customer Experience
Sympathy for the Comcast Rep from Hell - The Awl
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:33
Above is eight solid minutes of empathic pain. It is a recording of a calm, polite caller, Ryan Block, attempting to cancel his Comcast service. The representative, by the time the recording starts, already sounds angry: He demands, again and again and again, to know why Block is leaving Comcast for a smaller provider, to know what it is that he'--that Comcast'--can't supply that this other company, this obviously objectively inferior company, this loser company, can. Just tell him what he did wrong, he says. Just explain to him. Just make him understand this stupid mistake.
The rep sounds, when he demands to be convinced of something that is both his company's fault and none of his company's business, like an abusive partner; that is how I interpreted this call, anyway, the first time I heard it. Judging by Twitter, where people are sharing similar experiences, many others did too. (One of the last times I dealt with a cable company, Time Warner, it was to try to reinstate an account and associated email address that had been removed for days because a young rep insisted there was "no other way" to transfer the decades-old account from my deceased father to his spouse, my mother; a few weeks later, moving apartments in New York, I realized that here, as at my family home, as at my last apartment, I had no other option but Time Warner, who I then called and have been paying ever since. That's why people hate monopolies.)
But overnight my sympathies shifted: If you understand this call as a desperate interaction between two people, rather than a business transaction between a customer and a company, the pain is mutual. The customer service rep is trapped in an impossible position, in which any cancellation, even one he can't control, will reflect poorly on his performance. By the time news of this lost customer reaches his supervisor, it will be data'--it will be the wrong data, and it will likely be factored into a score, or a record, that is either directly or indirectly tied to his compensation or continued employment. It's bad, very bad, for this rep to record a cancellation with no reason, or with a reason the script should theoretically be able to answer (the initial reasons given for canceling were evidently judged, by the script, as invalid). There are only a few boxes he can tick to start with, and even fewer that let him off the hook as a salesman living at the foot of a towering org chart. The rep had no choice but to try his hardest, to not give up, to make it so irritating and seemingly impossible to leave that Block might just give up and stay. The only thing he didn't account for was the possibility the call would be recorded. Now he's an internet sensation. The rep always loses.
What the rep really wanted, and what Block could have provided, was an excuse. Lie! Mention something about leaving town. That would have saved everyone time and energy, and given the rep the escape he needed from this particular circle of service industry hell. Two people trapped in a shitty situation, acknowledging how shitty it is and escaping in the least costly, least painful way possible.
Of course, it's absurd that a company like Comcast is able to force two humans into combat like this in the first place. If you don't take the existence of a near-monopoly company like Comcast for granted'--and why should we?'--the situation is as clear as can be: The rep didn't abuse Block, and Block didn't torture the rep. Comcast, the organization, is tormenting them both.
Comcast and Time Warner are in the process of merging in a paper-swap worth somewhere north of $40 billion. They are doing this to consolidate power, to consolidate assets, and to make the relationships like the one they once had with Block not just deep, but permanent. Comcast's call script could not account for the possibility that a customer might choose to switch to another company that isn't "number one," as the rep repeated, out of distaste. A merger might fix that: It brings these companies one step closer to making sure there's no number two.
I hope this tape gets played in front of Congress.
Update: You! Under the bus, now.
We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.
What a terrible Comcast rep can teach regulators about the Time Warner Cable merger - The Washington Post
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:31
By now, you've probably heard about that epic phone call involving former Engadget editor Ryan Block and a Comcast rep who was trying to keep him from disconnecting his Comcast service. Block had already signed on with another provider, but the cable guy just wouldn't take no for answer.
The call was pretty crazy in itself. For eight minutes, the customer rep demanded to know why Block wanted out and kept challenging his choice to forgo the best Internet product in the country, seemingly unable or unwilling to understand that he'd already lost Block as a customer. Comcast has since apologized, saying the rep's behavior was "unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives." But the episode is actually far more worrisome for the company than it'll let on in any statement. Because the fact is, Comcast can't afford anything right now that even remotely puts its merger with Time Warner Cable in jeopardy.
If you haven't heard the call yourself, have a listen:
If you managed to make it through all eight minutes, you deserve a medal. (Comcast has acknowledged on previous occasions that people find its customer service lacking.)
Even though this episode by itself won't sink Comcast's regulatory approval prospects, it happened right in the middle of Comcast's charm offensive with decision-makers and the general public. Waking up to NPR's Morning Edition here in Washington, it's rare not to hear a Comcast ad touting the company's low-cost Internet Essentials program. With as many as 100 lobbyists reportedly at its disposal, Comcast has been working the halls of Congress pretty hard '-- and it's even taken its pitch to state regulators who could threaten parts of the deal.
For something like this to crop up now doesn't help Comcast's argument that controlling one-third of the pay-TV market would be good for the industry. To examine its claims, regulators are lining up economists and antitrust experts who'll determine whether the merger might threaten competition.
But what Block's ordeal highlights is something else--something that isn't as easily quantified by cold, hard economic analysis. It's the entirely human, emotional relationship between customers and their cable providers. This customer rep was the only way Block was going to get his service canceled; in the face of such obstinance, all Block could do was stay on the line and endure the punishment (or maybe hang up and hope to get someone else later).
The Federal Communications Commission, one of two agencies along with the Justice Department charged with approving the cable merger, typically considers the public interest as part of its mandate. Consumer advocates argue that quality customer service ought to be included under that umbrella. Yet the very fact that people are making that case at all underscores how subjective the term "public interest" really is, and why it's sometimes easier to focus on what can be measured or projected numerically.
Our competition policies just aren't equipped to deal with Block's kind of story; if they were, perhaps more than half of all Americans wouldn't say they'd cut the cord if they could.
So will this infamous phone call to Comcast play an unexpected role in the merger approval process? If regulators are thinking with their heads, probably not. If you believe no review process is complete without thinking with your heart, then you can't assume it won't have some effect. And it's the not knowing that may be causing heartburn for some company executives.
Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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Tom Karinshank Bio
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:26
Tom Karinshak serves as Senior Vice President of the Customer Experience for Comcast Cable. In this role, he and his team work cross functionally with the Company's care, technical operations, marketing and new product development and deployment teams to ensure a superior experience at every point in Comcast's relationship with its customers.
Before joining Comcast in November 2010, Mr. Karinshak served as Managing Director and Customer Experience Director for Barclay's Bank of Delaware, where he designed and built a top talent customer experience, marketing, and operations organization. Prior to Barclays, Mr. Karinshak was at AOL, where he held a variety of senior leadership roles across marketing and operations.
Mr. Karinshak has 20 years of leadership experience with multi-service providers and leading consumer brands. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army for six years as a Combat Engineer Captain.
Mr. Karinshak holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an M.S. in Engineering Management from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Listen To A Comcast Rep Torture Customers Trying To Cancel
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:19
We all know that it takes strength to call a utility or telecom. But the patience of two customers was seriously tested recently when they had the audacity to contact Comcast and make a simple request.
Writer Veronica Belmont and her husband Ryan Block, a product manager at AOL (parent company of The Huffington Post), called Comcast last week to disconnect their service. The couple planned to switch to another cable and Internet provider, but the customer service representative who handled their call had no intention of letting them do so.
According to Belmont:
He began asking me why we switched and that he would get us a better deal. I said, again ''No, thank you, we've already switched, I just need to turn off the service in the old place.'' It went back and forth like that for another five minutes. At one point I actually pleaded with him, ''Please, I don't want to get into a back-and-forth, our minds are made up and we just need to cancel.'' He wouldn't relent.
So Belmont handed the phone to Block.
"Overhearing the conversation, I knew this would not be very fun," Block wrote on SoundCloud. "What I did not know is how oppressive this conversation would be. Within just a few minutes the representative had gotten so condescending and unhelpful I felt compelled to record the speakerphone conversation on my other phone."
(Warning: This conversation may cause anger, teeth grinding and an all-consuming sense of frustration.)
"We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize," Tom Karinshak, Comcast's senior vice president of customer experience, said in a statement posted online. "The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives."
He said that Comcast is investigating the incident.
This post has been updated with a statement from Comcast.
Here We Go Again: How Rupert Murdoch/Time Warner Merger Would Fuck You In Hollywood | NikkiFinke.com
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:05
"Rupert Murdoch moves more swiftly than most rivals, takes bigger risks, and never gives up." The same year that was written about him, in 1995, he ordered his bankers and lawyers to examine a takeover attempt of Time Warner, then valued at $40M pre-AOL fiasco. Murdoch didn't like that Time Warner was joining with Turner Broadcasting because it blocked some of his expansionist plans. Now it's deja vu all over again. Hollywood woke up today to big news about the first-in-a-while possible Big Media mega-merger. The New York Times reported, subsequently confirmed by both sides, that Murdoch offered $80 billion to purchase Time Warner for his 21st Century Fox. The price, $85/share in a combination of non-voting stock and cash, was too low for Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes and his board to accept on the spot so they politely declined. That's now prompted speculation that Murdoch can and might pay over $100/share and won't stop until Time Warner is his.
Such media consolidations shocked us in the nineties and the naughts but now they elicit little more than a shrug. The only surprise is that this deal didn't involve Google or Apple or Amazon but instead two large cap content conglomerates. Already talking heads on Wall Street are nodding approvingly of Murdoch's offer for Time Warner while they discussed when Time Warner would be bought, not if, and what other content companies might be in play. That list now includes Discovery, AMC, Scripps Network, even the studios Viacom/Paramount/CBS and Sony and Lionsgate and Starz. Almost every media company's stock price except Murdoch's jumped on the news.
What wasn't discussed is how media consolidations like this hurt Hollywood and its content providers. Because it stinks. In sum, the Street sees scale as only helping the 'Content Is King' theory. But the people who actually provide that content are peons who become prisoners of these deals.
For the past 25 years I've written story after story warning about the downsides of Big Media mergers. But it's been like pissing in the wind. Neither the FCC nor the FTC nor the DOJ no matter who's been in the White House have stopped them because of anti-trust or anti-access concerns. Put 21st Century Fox and Time Warner together, and they make up 25%-to-30% of the market share for movies being made. The Fox and Warner Brothers TV studios are the #1 and #2 film and TV studios in the entire industry. Merging their significant distribution infrastructures '-- for international box office, home video distribution, and/or digital distribution '-- would create both revenue and cost synergies for their outsized businesses. That's good for the companies. Merge their movie and TV production studios who are now bitter rivals looking to sign the best talent, and suddenly directors and writers and actors and showrunners can't play off the two companies against each other for bigger deals. That's bad for you. Combine their international cable footprints and its uber-huge with Fox revenue 44% of total and strong in Europe while TW 36% and well penetrated in Latin America. Murdoch's resultant international cable scale would create synergies on ad sales, affiliate fees, and pay-TV penetration, according to the analysts. Good for the companies.
What this also means is that, just as a time when a wealth of new buyers like Goggle, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Yahoo and Netflix for scripted professional TV programming have appeared, it's entirely possibly that 2 of the biggest traditional buyers will become one combined entity to better control over how content is sold to these new online players. That's bad for you. A merged Fox/Time Warner company would negotiate digital rights more effectively and create an even more formidable rival to these still fledgling programmers and distributors. That's good for the companies.
Today media analysts couldn't wait to explain that Murdoch needs the more clout that Time Warner could provide to press for more favorable terms from the cable and telecommunications industries. True, those octopus arms are only getting longer with their own pending mergers of Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV. So having more cable networks would give traditional Big Media more negotiating leverage with these mega-distributors so they can receive dual revenue streams from advertising as well as retransmission fees, not to mention take "billions of dollars of synergies". Investment bankers are putting pressure on media companies to consider mergers and partnerships to gain scale to push back. Of course, Wall Street wants more Big Media consolidation in order to pocket big bucks fees from the deals.
Take Goldman Sachs, which is handling Murdoch's takeover offer. It just beat profit expectations last quarter because revenues from investment banking were up 15% (outweighing a 10% drop in its traditional powerhouse of trading bonds, currencies and commodities). And Goldman already has set aside nearly $4B out of the last three months' revenues to pay annual bonuses for its top executives at the end of 2014. The rich get richer. They don't care what happens to 21st Century Fox or Time Warner employees when the redundancy studies are made and the job layoffs are started. They also won't be around when the next billions of dollars of a goodwill writedown takes place after another recession hits and neither corporation will be worth what is now at the top of the stock market. (Interesting how only Time online, which soon won't be owned by Time Warner, notes that Murdoch has a track record of making bids that all coincide with market peaks and mark the end of bull runs. Shortly after he makes these deals, stocks go splat.)
Murdoch has always had an unquenchable appetite for acquiring companies and growing bigger. It led his News Corp to the precipice of bankruptcy in 1990. But that was then and this is now. So he'll be seen as an acquirer in one way or another even if Time Warner becomes out of reach. But Murdoch knows this offer gives him scale in sports and cable networks to bolster the negotiating power of a content provider like his vis a vis Fox News, F/X, and the Fox regional sports networks alongside TNT, TBS, and others. (One analyst sees 10+% affiliate rate increases assured for the next 5 years.) Sports rights ownership of Time Warner would help with launches of Fox Sports cable networks along with Turner's rights to NBA, NCAA basketball, and the PGA on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), which itself has strengths in other sports including MLB, NASCAR, and USGA. A combined portfolio of sports could better challenge ESPN and keep NBC's growing sports coverage at bay.
For Time Warner, the price may simply still be too low, even with a 20% control premium and the non-voting stock offer unacceptable. (The separate voting stock is how Murdoch and his family keep control.) That prompted analysts today to speculate that Time Warner may require a much higher percentage of cash, if not all cash, from Murdoch. Meanwhile, sounding quite arrogant, Time Warner is saying in response that its existing business plan is superior to any proposal no matter how ''determined'' Murdoch is to buy TWX.
But could this offer, or any offer, have been avoided by Time Warner? Of course. But by the company stripping away asset after asset '' first AOL, then Time Warner Cable, finally Time Inc later this year '' the once biggest global media conglomerate is now just Warner Bros, HBO and the Turner Networks. That, in turn, made Time Warner more attractive but also more vulnerable as a takeover target. For instance, why wasn't chairman Jeff Bewkes using the resulting cash from the cable sale to acquire what even Gordy Crawford had said were rare opportunities in its core entertainment arena? So while Disney's Bob Iger was buying Pixar and Marvel and LucasFilm to build Mouse House value, Bewkes was sitting on his hands during the recent recession. There were repeated stock buybacks, a move which I consider to be the equivalent of burning dollar bills.
Bewkes also has resisted repeated calls to spin off extremely lucrative HBO. "The inherent value of HBO's business probably exceeds the 8x-10x EV/ EBITDA multiples ascribed to HBO by the Street in TWX's sum-of-the-parts models (especially if you index HBO to Netflix valuations)," wrote Nomura media analysts Anthony DiClemente and Benjamin Black about the proposed merger today. "And even on a standalone basis, HBO is a desirable asset that is well positioned for a digital media future."
Oh, and let's not forget the platinum parachute which Bewkes' compensation contract will call for if Time Warner gets bought and/or he gets canned.
Back in 1983, some 90% of the U.S. media was controlled by 50 companies. I thought Hollywood had it bad enough when studios started gobbling up networks, and cable companies started taking over studios and networks. Now 90% of media is controlled by 5 companies '' Comcast, Viacom, CBS, Walt Disney, Time Warner and 21st Century Fox. The Nation used to complain about "The National Entertainment State" and the journalistic, political and cultural questions raised by the ongoing concentration of media power in so few hands. Nowadays, journalism doesn't matter because it's barely in existence. Note how quickly Murdoch said he would toss aside CNN. (No journalism on that so-called cable news channel anymore: just watered-down partisan political polemics, reruns of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknowns, and endless searches for that missing Malaysian plane.) I now see where Big Media will soon consist of Disney and Comcast and 21st Century Fox. Analysts today called Murdoch's Time Warner offer "basically the first salvo in a wave of media consolidation." You're fucked.
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DUDE NAMED BEN-Ben Macdonald - Network Ten
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:46
Amy Shields
Ben Macdonald
Brendan Langfield
Brent Owens
Byron Finnerty
Colin Sheppard
Deepali Behar
Emelia Jackson
Emily Loo
Georgia Hughes
Jamie Fleming
Kira Westwick
Laura Cassai
Nick Doyle
Nicole Cleave
Rachael Ciesiolka
Renae Smith
Sam Gant
Sarah Todd
Scott Yeoman
Sean Baxter
Steven Peh
Tash Shan
Tracy Collins
State: QueenslandAge: 36Occupation: IT Systems ConsultantIT consultant Ben Macdonald's love of food and a penchant for globetrotting have delivered him to the MasterChef Australia kitchen.
Ben grew up two hours north of Auckland in Whangarei, New Zealand. It was a childhood filled with vivid memories of his grandparents' 10-acre block. A hands-on helper on the farm, when he wasn't mucking in to pick plums and shear sheep with his granddad, he was cooking with his grandmother.
Having lost his Dad in 2009 to a sudden heart attack, Ben says it is his Dad who inspires him in the kitchen.
''One of the reasons I love to cook so much is it makes me think about good times with Dad '' my passion for food is one that he instilled in me.''
After gaining an Honours degree in Manufacturing and Industrial Technology, Ben travelled overseas. He has since worked in the US, France, Denmark, Spain, New Zealand and Australia and been based in the UK for the majority of his career.
It was while living in Newcastle Upon Tyne in 2002 that Ben confronted one of the biggest challenges of his life.
Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Ben spent six months in and out of hospital, followed by a further three years of treatment. Now in remission for more than 10 years, the illness was a turning point in his life, proving his resilience and tenacity.
Ben's love of food intensified as he indulged his love of travel from his UK base. He clocked up visits to almost 100 countries, including India, Thailand, Morocco, Egypt, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Japan, Costa Rica and more. Along the way he enjoyed street food, fine dining and everything between.
Two highlights in particular were life changing.
''Eating at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck changed the way I thought about food forever,'' says Ben.
Now back at home in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm, Ben enjoys cooking for his girlfriend of six years, Robyn.
Robyn was a vegetarian when they met, but after trying Ben's lamb tagine on their first date she was a convert.
Ben's ambition is to run a restaurant by the sea, combining modern European cuisine with the finest Australian produce. He dreams of inviting chefs from around the world to visit and cook with him.
View Another Bio
Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Promoting modern websites for modern devices in Google search results
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:10
Webmaster level: all
A common annoyance for web users is when websites require browser technologies that are not supported by their device. When users access such pages, they may see nothing but a blank space or miss out a large portion of the page's contents.
Starting today, we will indicate to searchers when our algorithms detect pages that may not work on their devices. For example, Adobe Flash is not supported on iOS devices or on Android versions 4.1 and higher, and a page whose contents are mostly Flash may be noted like this:
Developing modern multi-device websitesFortunately, making websites that work on all modern devices is not that hard: websites can use HTML5 since it is universally supported, sometimes exclusively, by all devices. To help webmasters build websites that work on all types of devices regardless of the type of content they wish to serve, we recently announced two resources:
Web Fundamentals: a curated source for modern best practices.Web Starter Kit: a starter framework supporting the Web Fundamentals best practices out of the box.By following the best practices described in Web Fundamentals you can build a responsive web design, which has long been Google's recommendation for search-friendly sites. Be sure not to block crawling of any Googlebot of the page assets (CSS, JavaScript, and images) using robots.txt or otherwise. Being able to access these external files fully helps our algorithms detect your site's responsive web design configuration and treat it appropriately. You can use the Fetch and render as Google feature in Webmaster Tools to test how our indexing algorithms see your site.
As always, if you need more help you can ask a question in our webmaster forum.
Posted by Keita Oda, Software Engineer, and Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst
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WAR ON YOUR DATA-OMNITURE-Google To Start Alerting Mobile Search Users To Flash-Heavy Sites '' Consumerist
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:08
What Google mobile search results will look like for sites with heavy Flash content.
You know what's really great? When you're trying to access a website on your phone and the page you're looking at uses Flash, which is not supported on iOS devices and hasn't been supported on Android since version 4.1 started rolling out in 2012. In an effort to preempt user frustration (and nudge sites to upgrade their mobile experiences), Google is now including information about unsupported technology on a site when it turns up in mobile search results. So if you Google a site that uses a lot of Flash and you're on a device that doesn't support Flash, you'll see a result like the one pictured above, telling the user that they may be going to a site that doesn't function properly on mobile.
It's both a helpful note to users and a way for Google to remind developers to use HTML5, which works on both iOS and Android devices. After all, Google has a financial stake both in providing quality results and in providing a mobile operating system that consumers are happy with.
The switch to HTML5 has been a huge boon for mobile browsing. When smartphones first launched, many websites either would not display properly on these devices or were stripped down to mere text links. While most major sites have long since upgraded to be more mobile-friendly, there are still plenty of older sites that still refuse to play nice with phones and tablets.
To that end, Google is offering resources for webmasters who need to do some online renovation.
[via GigaOM]
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Workplace Discrimination: Ageism in Silicon Valley | TheBlot
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:55
A former engineer with the social media website Twitter is suing the company claiming he was fired for being too old.
According to a complaint filed in a California court last week, 57-year-old Peter Taylor claims he was let go from the company in September for being too old and too sick.
Taylor was hired by Twitter in January 2011 to work as a managing engineer in the social network's data center. According to Taylor, he received many accolades for his work at the company, received positive employment reviews and was awarded 20,000 restricted stock units for saving the company $10 million during his employment.
But then he got sick, and that's where Twitter's attitude toward Taylor changed, the former employee says.
In April 2013, Taylor was diagnosed with kidney stones, a disability under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act. Within the next two months, he had surgery to remove the stones, scheduling his hospital visits around his work schedule so that he could continue to fulfill his job duties, according to his complaint.
DOCUMENT: Click here to read the civil complaint
When Taylor started asking for additional assistance following his surgery, he says his bosses at Twitter ''refused to accommodate'' his disability.
Several months later, his managers at Twitter let him go. According to Taylor, one manager made a ''critical remark'' about the man's age. Taylor says he was replaced with ''several employees in their 20s and 30s.''
Taylor is seeking unspecified damages as well as attorney's fees. Twitter says the company will vigorously defend itself and the lawsuit is without merit.
The lawsuit will certainly add more fuel to the ongoing debate about ageism in Silicon Valley. For those who work in the industry, it's no secret that young startups and large companies alike prefer to hire younger talent '-- industry experience and age can, and often does, work against prospective employees.
One reason? Tech bosses feel younger people have less commitments in life and can better focus on a company's product.
''Young people just have simpler lives,'' Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in 2007. ''We may not own a car. We may not have family. Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what's important.''
Those with less experience are also seen as bringing innovation to the table at a cheaper cost, an attractive quality for many budding Silicon Valley startups. Older technophiles are often perceived as coming with older ideas, a higher price tag and a potential myriad of health problems that can slow development and stifle innovation.
''Especially in social media, cloud computing and mobile apps, if you're over 40 you're perceived to be over the hill,'' Kris Stadelman, the director of the NOVA Workforce Board, told The New York Times in 2012.
The opportunities are popping up in places where older technology workers may not want to work: Mobile apps like Snapchat, Grindr and WhatsApp are looking for engineers right now, and have been for months, but its unlikely that lifers from Cisco and Hewlett-Packard are applying for those jobs.
And the kids who are graduating from college with their sights set on Silicon Valley? They'll likely apply to startups where they can help build a potentially world-changing product '-- or prestigious tech companies like Facebook and Google where they'll feel a sense of validation and security.
That was certainly true for a handful of young tech workers who took Peter Taylor's job at Twitter last year. Now a court will determine if Taylor is the latest example of Silicon Valley pushing out the old to make way for the new.
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Apple doesn't like vaginas
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:02
However, the female customer soon discovered that "penis" and "dick" were acceptable. This strange breed of sexism isn't new to Apple '-- it has already been discovered that its autocorrect function would rather assume you're talking about bacon or cabins rather than vaginas.
All of this would be laughable, maybe even trivial, if it didn't belong to a wider trend of people who are so uncomfortable with the word "vagina" that they want to censor it.
Back in 2012, US State Representative Lisa Brown was banned from speaking in the Michigan House of Representatives because she used the word during a debate on abortion.
Mike Callton, a Republican State Rep for Michigan, said that Brown's use of vagina was so vile and disgusting that he would never mention it in front of women or ''mixed company''.
In 2013, a biology teacher said "vagina" during a tenth-grade high school science lesson in the US. Upon hearing that their children had learned the correct anatomical term for female genitalia, numerous parents pushed for an investigation into the teacher's conduct.
So what's wrong with the word "vagina"? Is it the pronunciation? Do the three syllables and long vowel sounds make people cringe? Or is it more the fact that vaginas are often attached to women and linked with sexual shame and disgust?
Apple's decision to class the word "vagina" as "inappropriate" makes no sense. But at the same time, such an attitude has become sadly predictable. We live in a world that holds women's bodies in high disregard, and a dislike towards the word 'vagina' is a hateful product of this. Especially after the recent Hobby Lobby ruling, a multinational corporation's choice to censor this word is alarming.
Apple's restriction displays an indisputable gender bias that is completely unacceptable. Silencing and prohibiting use of the word "vagina" but permitting "penis" is one of the clearest examples of phallocentrism anyone could imagine. Doesn't Apple's sleek branding suggest that they're a bit more forward-thinking than this?
Women's reproductive rights are under huge threat from governments, who treat vaginas like public property, as well as schools, who refuse to teach children about family planning. Global sexual violence against women has reached epidemic levels. Somehow, female genital mutilation still exists.
In order to combat all of these issues, we need to stop stigmatising and shaming women's bodies. Everyone '-- individuals, governments and companies alike '-- has a part to play in this.
We need to be talking about vaginas much more. We need to do so candidly, intelligently, with respect and without censorship. Most importantly, we need to be talking about the rights of the humans that they belong to.
No part of anyone's body is intrinsically offensive or inappropriate. For global corporations to say it is is not just disrespectful, but dangerous.
READ MORE:What's the point in the Tour de France?What happens in Shagaluf no longer stays thereThe debate on climate change proves that balance shouldn't get in the way of truth
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More Than 5,000 Microsoft Employees Could Be Laid Off This Week
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:19
Satya Nadella took over as Microsoft's CEO just under six months ago and he's already poised to give thousands of employees a pink slip "as soon as this week." Bloomberg reports that the restructuring "may end up being the biggest in Microsoft history," and could surpass the 5,800 employees laid off in 2009.
Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said in an interview last week that he has preparing to make sweeping changes at Microsoft. The reductions will probably be in engineering, marketing and areas of overlap with Nokia, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren't public. [...]
While Microsoft has undergone smaller, intermittent job cuts in individual businesses '-- for example trimming a few hundred positions in advertising sales and marketing in 2012 and some marketing jobs across the company earlier that same year '-- the company has only undertaken a companywide restructuring impacting thousands of workers once before, in 2009 at the start of the recession. Over the course of that year, the company cut 5,800 jobs, or about 5 percent of its workforce at the time.
Many of the cuts are being forced by Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia in 2013. The purchase was supposed to turn Microsoft into a "hardware giant," but Microsoft committed to cutting annual operating costs by $600 million to close the deal.
Tocontactthe author of this post, please emailkevin@valleywag.com.
[Photo: Getty]
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Out Therte
Spaceport UK - Speeches - GOV.UK
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:34
Good morning.
The fact that there was such a rush to exhibit here today (15 July 2014) and that we have so many great names in this audience is testament to the fact that the space industry in Britain is once again confident and flourishing.
It is backed by a science base that is truly world class, it has the technological edge to keep Britain competitive and it is tuning in to other sectors.
50 years ago, President John F Kennedy described the exploration of space as holding the key to our future on earth.
But he cautioned that the challenge of doing so would be so difficult and expensive to accomplish and that it would require a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities.
Now, we're at the dawn of nothing less than a second space revolution.
Space science, technology and exploration is still absolutely essential to tackling some of the biggest challenges we face from cutting congestion to tackling man made climate change.
Predictably as the cost of building small satellites falls, the demand for them is rising.
This means that we currently have a queue of companies waiting for a launch for their small satellites.
We need more launches.
And often, satellite operators are paying a premium for those launches that are available '' sometimes more than the cost of the satellite itself '' for a piggyback launch on a traditional launch system.
Meanwhile, the technologies that enable commercial spaceflight, including space tourism, are now just over the horizon.
That's going to change the economics of space.
By 2030 the government rocket programmes that have been the work-horses of the last fifty years will be competing with new, lower-cost services to meet the needs of the growing space sector. As a result, we can expect spaceflight to increasingly move from being a nationalised industry towards private commerce.
Commercial spaceflight has an estimated global market of £40 billion by 2030.
Now, Britain's aerospace industry is already thriving and the space sector is also growing fast.
This week the UK Space Agency has released the new top-line figures of space's continued success. The sector has been growing at an average of 7.2% over the last 2 years. It now contributes £11.3 billion to the UK economy each year, and employs more than 34,000 people around the country.
And I'm delighted to announce today that Lockheed Martin is establishing a new space technology office at the UK Space Gateway in Harwell Oxford.
We want the UK to be at the forefront of the next stage of spaceflight.
For you to be able to grow and expand your businesses and we have a clear ambition for the UK to capture 10% of a global space market likely to be worth £400 billion by 2030.
That's why it is important we start laying the foundations today for the infrastructure that we will need tomorrow. We are the first European country to take the challenge of spaceplane regulation seriously. The CAA has made a detailed set of recommendations following their review of spaceplane opportunities and technology under development.
Spaceplanes are currently regulated as aircraft, because they use lift to go through the atmosphere. But in the short-term what we are going to do is treat them as experimental aircraft '' which of course they are. This will mean that flights will operate on the principle of informed consent from participants.
We also want to ensure that we have the facilities needed for a worldclass spaceport. We therefore asked the CAA to examine where we are strong and where we are not, and where we will succeed and where we may not.
The CAA has recommended that no new greenfield site be developed.
Instead an existing aerodrome should be adapted and improved if required.
They have identified essential criteria for the location of the UK's spaceport.
And this is why I can announce today that the department will be consulting on these criteria to get them right.
We think it will need good transport links '' by land, sea and air.
As the nature of the early flights will at the cutting edge of technology, it will need to be secluded from large population centres and busy conventional airspace.
We know strong consistent crosswinds could restrict initial operations, as will cloud cover.
So it will need to be located somewhere with as favourable weather conditions as possible.
The spaceport is also likely to require substantial site with the ability to incorporate a runway of more than 3,000 meters.
Based on these criteria I am pleased to announce today that the CAA has identified 8 potential locations for the UK's first spaceport.
They are (in alphabetical order):
Campbeltown airportKinloss barracksLlanbedr airportRAF LeucharsRAF LossiemouthNewquay-Cornwall airportGlasgow Prestwick airportStornoway airportThese areas meet the criteria but I should stress other places in the UK may also do so.
More detailed work will now need to be undertaken by the CAA.
At the same time we will speak to colleagues in national governments, including the United States, and interested commercial operators.
We want to forge partnerships and to share experience and expertise with our colleagues including the Federal Aviation Authority's Office of Commercial Space Transportation and NASA. I know Dr. Nield will say a bit more about the US experience of commercial spaceflight and how this may impact on Britain's plans.
Our plan is for Britain to have a fully functional, operating spaceport by 2018. This would serve as a European focal point for the pioneers of commercial spaceflight using the potential of spaceflight experience companies like Virgin Galactic, XCOR and Swiss S3 to pave the way for satellite launch services to follow. It would also create a centre of gravity for related technology and service businesses.
This exercise has involved 3 government departments working together.
BIS is responsible for the space plan and I am grateful for the progress the Ministry of Defence has been making on ITAR, which is a big issue for any company wanting to bring a spaceplane from the US.
I look forward to working with all of you over the coming years to ensure we achieve our ambition for Britain.
Thank you for listening.
I hope you enjoy the rest of the show.
VIDEO-CLIPS-DOCS
VIDEO-Must Watch Video '' Congressman Thomas Massie Calls for Release of Secret 9/11 Documents Upon Reading Them | Liberty Blitzkrieg
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:35
Late last year, I published a post titled: Two Congressmen Push for Release of 28-Page Document Showing Saudi Involvement in 9/11. Here's an excerpt from the piece:
Since terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, victims' loved ones, injured survivors, and members of the media have all tried without much success to discover the true nature of the relationship between the 19 hijackers '' 15 of them Saudi nationals '' and the Saudi Arabian government. Many news organizations reported that some of the terrorists were linked to the Saudi royals and that they even may have received financial support from them as well as from several mysterious, moneyed Saudi men living in San Diego.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any connection, and neither President George W. Bush nor President Obama has been forthcoming on this issue.
But earlier this year, Reps. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., were given access to the 28 redacted pages of the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry (JICI) of 9/11 issued in late 2002, which have been thought to hold some answers about the Saudi connection to the attack.
''I was absolutely shocked by what I read,'' Jones told International Business Times. ''What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me. I cannot go into it any more than that. I had to sign an oath that what I read had to remain confidential. But the information I read disappointed me greatly.''
The public may soon also get to see these secret documents. Last week, Jones and Lynch introduced a resolution that urges President Obama to declassify the 28 pages, which were originally classified by President George W. Bush. It has never been fully explained why the pages were blacked out, but President Bush stated in 2003 that releasing the pages would violate national security.
Naturally, the so-called ''most transparent Administration in history'' hasn't declassified anything, but that didn't stop Rep. Thomas Massie, R-KY from reading them. What he saw was so incredibly disturbing he called a press conference to talk about it. This is what he had to say:
That's three members of Congress that I know of who have come out shell-shocked upon reading this document. So why can't the American public see it?
In Liberty,Michael Krieger
Follow me on Twitter.
VIDEO-Networks Push Extreme Weather | MRCTV
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 05:31
MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them '-- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.
MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 1900 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, VA 20194. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.
Copyright (C) 2014, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-Yellen: Long-Term Unemployment Has Declined | MRCTV
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 05:28
MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them '-- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.
MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 1900 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, VA 20194. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.
Copyright (C) 2014, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-CBS Shamelessly Hypes Climate Change Will Cause More Turbulence For Airplanes | MRCTV
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 05:16
[More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.]
Wednesday's CBS Evening News unsurprisingly spotlighted a recent study that asserted that turbulence will become more common due to climate change during a news brief about the injuries on an international flight that encountered such unsettled air. Anchor Scott Pelley played up how "one British study predicts that this kind of turbulence will increase significantly in the future because of climate change."
The full transcript of Scott Pelley's brief from the 16 July 2014 edition of CBS Evening News:
SCOTT PELLEY: Twenty people were hurt overnight '' two seriously '' when a South African Airways jetliner hit severe turbulence on its way to Hong Kong. One passenger's head put a hole in the overhead bin on the Airbus A-340. The turbulence happened without warning. Many passengers were sleeping.
Turbulence is caused when two air masses move against each other. One British study predicts that this kind of turbulence will increase significantly in the future because of climate change.
VIDEO-U.S. Drone Strike In Pakistan Kills At Least 18! - YouTube
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:59
VIDEO- Eric Holder: 'Homegrown Violent Extremists ... Keep Me Up at Night' - YouTube
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:44
VIDEO-New alert system gives president special code for emergency messages | TheHill
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:07
AdSense Player. This player has full sharing enabled: social, email, embed, etc. It has the ability to go fullscreen. It will display a list of suggested videos when the video has played to the end.
New alert system gives president special code for emergency messagesThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to overhaul the Emergency Alert System so the president can speak to the country at the flip of a switch in the event of a nationwide emergency.
The national Emergency Alert System broadcasts television alert messages to warn people about immediate dangers. The system is often used at the local level to warn people about weather conditions such as tornadoes or flash floods.
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The system is not capable of reaching the entire country all at once should the president need to warn the public of something like a terrorist attack or an act of war against the country. Instead, to reach the entire country, each local jurisdiction would have to broadcast the same message '-- a tedious process that could leave room for gaps if one station misses the broadcast.So the FCC is proposing a national location code that would give the president the ability to broadcast to the entire country with a single message in the event of a nationwide emergency. The proposal will be published in Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register.
The FCC says the update will help with "saving human lives, reducing injuries, mitigating property damage, and minimizing the disruption of the national economy."
The changes would not only allow the warning system to reach a larger audience but also make it more accessible to people with disabilities, such as those who are deaf.
In addition to the audio warnings, these alerts also issue "visual crawlers," or text that runs across the top of the TV screen, so deaf people can read the warnings.
Critics have complained that the text, in some cases, goes by too quickly for deaf people to read. So the FCC is also looking to establish new rules that would slow down the text to make the alerts more readable.
The updates would also require broadcasters to file test results electronically with the FCC.
The FCC estimates all of these changes would cost the industry between $7 million and $13.6 million in compliance costs.
The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed rules.
VIDEO-Apple, IBM in massive enterprise hardware, software partnership
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:02
Some of the services IBM will provide via iOS include device management, security, analytics and mobile integration, they said in a release. In return, Apple's vaunted AppleCare service would provide support for these applications.
The partnership is about "transforming enterprise," Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC in an exclusive interview. The partnership aims to "deliver on the promise of mobile in a big way," he said.
Read MoreApple vs. Microsoft: The battle for the office heats up
One priority of the partnership will be one of the "biggest inhibitors" in enterprise, which is security, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty told CNBC. Security is increasingly important as cyberhacking and surveillance become more ubiquitous concerns.
The news could impact Blackberry, once the industry leader in enterprise mobile, which is aiming to right itself after years of declining profits and fleeing clients.
"Apple just took a sword and just stabbed it right in the heart of Blackberry and said 'you're done,'" said Ross Gerber, CEO of wealth management firm Gerber Kawasaki, in a "Closing Bell" interview.
The partnership is also sure to put more pressure on Microsoft, which is making its own push into cloud and mobile services for enterprise clients.
That software giant is at the first stage of what CEO Satya Nadella recently said will be a transformation away from selling software. The company also launched a version of its office software for Apple's iPad earlier in the year.
Read MoreIBM, Apple up after deal; BlackBerry down
'--By CNBC.com's Matt Hunter
VIDEO- Nigel Farage over Juncker als Commissievoorzitter (ondertiteld) - YouTube
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:57
VIDEO-More Than 600 Paedophile Suspects Arrested
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:42
An operation by the National Crime Agency involving 45 police forces has seen 660 suspected paedophiles arrested across the UK.
Thirty-nine of the 660 were registered sex offenders but the vast majority had not come to the authorities' attention before. More than 800 properties were searched.
One arrested man had access to 17 grandchildren - two of them had already made allegations against him.
Two men, one of whom is a doctor, had between them more than a million indecent images of children on their phones and computers.
Care workers and former police officers were also among the hundreds arrested.
As a result of the six-month investigation across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - which has only now been revealed - more than 400 children have been safeguarded, the NCA said.
A total of 431 children now under official protection had been in the "care, custody or control" of suspects, 127 of those children were considered to be at immediate risk of harm, the agency revealed.
None of those arrested is a serving or former MP or member of the Government, it said.
Charging decisions are still due in most cases because of continuing inquiries, but charges brought so far range from possessing indecent images of children to serious sexual assault.
The NCA's deputy director general, Phil Gormley, said: "This is the first time the UK has had the capability to coordinate a single targeted operation of this nature.
The undercover operation involved 45 police forces"Over the past six months we have seen unprecedented levels of cooperation to deliver this result.
"Our aim was to protect children who were victims of, or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation. A child is victimised not only when they are abused and an image is taken. They are re-victimised every time that image is viewed by someone.
"Some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly. So the operation is not only about catching people who have already offended - it is about influencing potential offenders before they cross that line.
"We want those offenders to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it."
Mr Gormley said he was "profoundly disappointed" at the scale of the problem and the number of arrests police were forced to make.
It was necessary, he said, to take a harder look at the amount of people looking at child abuse images on the internet.
"The alternative," he said, "is not to look under the stone, and we cannot afford not to look under this stone."
Claire Lilley, Head of Online Safety at the NSPCC said: "This is an important two-pronged operation which has rescued children from abuse and also identified many previously unknown sex offenders.
"Direct action like this sends a strong message to those who subject children to harrowing sexual assaults that they can and will be traced and prosecuted."
VIDEO-Exclusive "Weird Al" Yankovic Music Video: FOIL (Parody of "Royals" by Lorde) - YouTube
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:25
VIDEO-Police: Al Qaeda Magazine Suggesting Attack On US Open CBS New York
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:15
Cops Say Inspire Magazine Instructing Would-Be Terrorists On Where To Set Bombs OffJuly 16, 2014 2:26 PM
TRI-STATE NEWS HEADLINESFrom our newsroom to your inbox weekday mornings at 9AM.
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Sign UpNEW YORK (CBSNewYork) '-- The US Open Tennis Championship appears on a wish list of terror targets in an al Qaeda magazine, an NYPD official said Wednesday.
In a briefing for New York City's private security community, Rebecca Weiner, the NYPD's director of intelligence analysis, warned that Inspire magazine is instructing would-be terrorists on how to make bombs and where to set them off, WCBS 880'²s Marla Diamond reported.
The magazine lists targets in Washington, D.C.; Virginia; and New York '-- including the US Open, which begins Aug. 25 in Flushing Meadows, Queens.
Police: Terrorist Magazines Suggesting Attack On US OpenWeiner stressed that police are not aware of any specific threats against the tournament.
''We will ensure that the suggestions in this magazine remain hypothetical,'' she said. ''Nonetheless, we would be remiss not to take note of it as this event comes up.''
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the biggest concern is lone wolves who operate under law enforcement's radar.
''Two thousand years ago, the expression was 'all roads lead to Rome,''' Bratton said. ''Well, in 2014, as it relates to this subject matter, terrorism, unfortunately all roads lead to New York City.''
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories
VIDEO-Reporter stopped by TSA agent who didn't know District of... | www.wftv.com
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 17:47
ORLANDO, Fla. '--
It's something most students learn in elementary school -- the United States is made up of 50 states and the District of Columbia. But Channel 9's Justin Gray found out it's a lesson that an Orlando agent with the Transportation Safety Administration seems to have missed. Gray, who lives in Washington, D.C., was flying out of Orlando International Airport when a TSA agent said Gray's District of Columbia driver's license wasn't a valid form of identification. Gray said his license is legal and up-to-date, but the TSA agent didn't seem to know what the District of Columbia was when Gray arrived at the security checkpoint over the weekend. When Gray handed the man his driver's license the agent demanded to see Gray's passport.
Gray told the agent he wasn't carrying his passport and asked why he needed it. The agent said he didn't recognize the license. Gray said he asked the agent if he knew what the District of Columbia is, and after a brief conversation Gray realized the man did not know. Gray was able to get through security and then stopped to complain to a TSA supervisor. Critics of the TSA said that what happened to Gray is a sign that the problems at TSA are bigger than just not knowing geography. "They simply have not been either applying or maintaining standards for good personnel," said Douglas Kidd, with the National Association of Airline Passengers. A TSA spokesman contacted Gray just minutes after he tweeted about the problem. He confirmed that a District of Columbia license is an acceptable form ID. The spokesman said, "Officers are trained to identify fraudulent documents, which can potentially deter and detect individuals attempting to circumvent this layer of security." "It makes you wonder what's going on with their training and their policies," said Kidd.
A TSA spokesman told Gray that all of the TSA agents in Orlando are being shown copies of District of Columbia driver's license.
VIDEO-Hague quits as UK's foreign minister while Cameron conducts major jobs reshuffle | euronews, world news
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:55
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague has surprised many by announcing his resignation.
Although he will stay on in the cabinet as Leader of the House of Commons, Hague intends to leave Parliament altogether at the 2015 general election.
A former Conservative leader he has been Britain's most senior diplomat for the past four years
His going comes as Prime Minister David Cameron conducted his biggest ministerial reshuffle since 2010.
Dubbed ''Cameron's bloodbath'' by the UK's tabloid newspapers, several senior figures have been sacked including veteran Conservative MP Ken Clarke ahead of new appointees to be announced today.
The man said to be replacing Hague is eurosceptic Philip Hammond. He takes up the job in the run up to a 2017 referendum on Britain's EU membership.
With the Conservatives lagging behind the opposition Labour party in the polls, Cameron is expected to promote a raft of women to senior posts to correct a gender imbalance.
VIDEO_BBC News - MEPs elect Jean-Claude Juncker to head EU Commission
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:00
15 July 2014Last updated at 09:23 ET Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.
Tory MEP Syed Kamal and UKIP's Nigel Farage addressed the former Luxembourg prime minister
A majority in the European Parliament has approved former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker to be President of the European Commission.
He got 422 votes out of the 729 total cast in the secret ballot, despite strong opposition earlier from Britain.
He told reporters in Strasbourg he was prepared to discuss repatriating some powers from Brussels to member states.
A firm believer in EU integration, he will succeed incumbent Jose Manuel Barroso of Portugal in November.
In a speech to MEPs, he pledged the Commission would be a "political body", not just Europe's civil service.
He got sustained applause when he said the euro "protects Europe".
Continue reading the main storyHe is a creature of the 'dark, secret rooms', a master of the backroom deal''
End QuoteMr Juncker was well over the 376 votes minimum that he needed. There were 250 votes against him, 47 abstentions and 10 spoilt ballots.
Mr Juncker, a veteran of Brussels deal-making, was lead candidate of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which won May's European elections. He played a key role in the eurozone bailouts.
The presidency is the most powerful job in Brussels. The Commission drafts EU laws, oversees national budgets, enforces EU treaties and negotiates international trade deals.
On Wednesday EU leaders are expected to nominate a new EU foreign policy chief, to replace Baroness Ashton.
Eurozone veteranAt his news conference, Mr Juncker reiterated previous comments that any repatriation of powers would be a matter for renegotiation with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and other heads of government of EU states.
But he said he would be prepared to make a "fair deal" with Britain.
As chair of the eurozone finance ministers, Mr Juncker steered the massive bailouts for Greece, Portugal and other struggling countries at the height of the euro crisis in 2010-2012.
He likened that role on Tuesday to "trying to keep a burning plane in the air while repairing it - you burn your fingers sometimes".
Elsewhere in his speech he said:
The eurozone should create a joint budget, separate from the EU budget, to help countries making difficult structural reforms The EU needs a 300bn-euro (£238bn; $408bn) investment plan to boost growth and create jobs "Maximum transparency" is needed in the EU's free trade negotiations with the US, to allay people's suspicions The EU "should not Europeanise every tiny problem" but "deal with the big tasks" The troika group - in charge of EU bailouts - must be made more democratic, with more parliamentary scrutiny EU rules on free movement of workers will not be changed - but national authorities must tackle abuses When he sought to argue that the euro represented monetary stability, UK Independence Party MEPs shouted "rubbish".
Last month, Mr Juncker won the backing of 26 out of 28 leaders of the EU.
Mr Cameron - supported by his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban - called the move "a serious mistake" because Mr Juncker, 59, was too much in favour of closer political union and might block EU reform. He pushed for - and lost - a vote on Mr Juncker, breaking with tradition.
In the past such appointments were made by the EU leaders - meeting in the European Council - by unanimity.
After the European Council vote Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said there would be a review of how the Commission president was nominated - but only after the new Commission team was in place.
Mr Juncker's supporters value his record of consensus-building and commitment to EU integration.
Under new EU treaty rules, the leaders have to take account of the European election result when nominating a Commission chief.
In the coming months, the other 27 new members of the Commission - one from each country - will be appointed. The EU will also appoint a new foreign policy chief and new president of the European Council.
Jean-Claude Juncker: A man for Europe?
Arguments for and against Juncker
VIDEO-BBC News - Michael Gove moved to chief whip in cabinet reshuffle
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:59
15 July 2014Last updated at 09:45 ET Education Secretary Michael Gove is to become the new chief whip in the most wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle of David Cameron's premiership.
He has been replaced by Treasury minister Nicky Morgan, as Mr Cameron promotes more women into top jobs.
Ken Clarke is among the old guard to have stood down and Foreign Secretary William Hague has moved to a lower profile role as Commons leader.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has taken over at the Foreign Office.
Among the other changes announced:
Lord Hill, Leader of the House of Lords, has been nominated as the UK's next European Commissioner Liz Truss, a 38-year-old education minister, who entered the Commons in 2010, has been drafted into the cabinet as environment secretary Business minister Michael Fallon - a veteran frontbencher - is named as the new defence secretary Sir Bob Kerslake is to step down as head of the civil service in the autumn and will retire as permanent secretary at the communities department Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, is to take back the role of the head of the civil service - two years after the roles were split David Jones is sacked as Welsh secretary to be replaced by his deputy Stephen Crabb David Willetts replaced as universities minister by Greg Clark, who will attend cabinet Justice Minister Jeremy Wright, a 41-year-old barrister, replaces Dominic Grieve as Attorney General, the government's chief legal officer Baroness Tina Stowell, a former head of corporate affairs at the BBC, is the new leader of the House of Lords Two MPs return to government: Mark Harper who quit as immigration minister after admitting employing an illegal immigrant as a cleaner, becomes a work and pensions minister, and Nick Gibb - sacked in a 2012 reshuffle - returns to the education department The BBC News channel's chief political correspondent Norman Smith said the aim of the reshuffle was to bring in fresh faces and make voters think again about the Conservatives' "male, pale and stale" image.
The number of women in cabinet has been doubled from three to six so far, out of a total of 23 ministers in Mr Cameron's top team. Nine women have been promoted so far, across government.
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MP Ken Clarke tells the BBC why he thinks all-women shortlists are a good thing
Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox has turned down David Cameron's offer of a return to government as a minister in the Foreign Office, saying on his website he preferred to carry on campaigning on immigration and Europe from the backbenches.
But it is Michael Gove's move to chief whip, a behind-the-scenes role in charge of party discipline, announced by Mr Cameron on his Twitter feed, that has caused the most surprise.
Mr Gove has been one of the most radical and at times controversial figures in David Cameron's government, driving through far-reaching changes to the education system such as free schools, exam changes and the extension of the academy programme.
His calls for a return to more traditional teaching methods and exam reforms have brought him into conflict with the unions - his replacement by the relatively unknown Nicky Morgan - seen as having a less confrontational style - could be an attempt to calm things down, said the BBC's Norman Smith.
Downing Street is talking up Mr Gove's new role, which will see him leading the fight against Labour in the general election campaign.
"You should expect to see a great deal of Michael Gove on your TV and radio channels," said the prime minister's official spokesman.
But BBC political editor Nick Robinson said it will be seen by some as a demotion as Mr Gove will no longer be a full cabinet member, just have the right to attend meetings when required.
"He now continues not as a leading Tory figure in his own right but as 'a friend of David and George'," writes Nick Robinson.
"His first job would appear to be to help them win the election. His second to make sure Boris and his old sparring partner Theresa May aren't the next Tory leader."
'Surprised and shocked'Nicky Morgan will add responsibility for equalities to her previous brief as minister for women, but business and education minister Nick Boles will be responsible for implementing same sex marriage legislation, which Mrs Morgan voted against on the basis of her Christianity.
The teaching unions have said they are seeking urgent meetings with Nicky Morgan to discuss pay, pensions and professional standards.
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said he was "surprised and shocked" by Mr Gove's departure, telling LBC radio: "I'm a great admirer of the Secretary of State, I think he's been a transformative and radical minister of education."
Analysis
By BBC Political Correspondent Robin Brant
Three things to take from this reshuffle:
1. This is about presentation. Unashamedly the prime minister is changing what his government looks and sounds like to voters. It looks like he's doubling the number of women cabinet ministers, albeit from a low starting point of just three. The new education secretary, Nicky Morgan, is a marathon-running working mum. The new environment secretary, Liz Truss, is still in her thirties. But the risk is that some, both inside and outside politics, will see it as just that; presentation, and nothing more.
2. The Tory take on Europe is a key theme to the reshuffle. Arch-Eurosceptic Owen Patterson is out, as are the more Europhile Ken Clarke and the now ex-Attorney General Dominic Grieve. Some in the Conservative Party believe Mr Hague "went native" in his time at the Foreign Office and his anti-Brussels sentiment waned. We still don't know if Liam Fox is returning to the government, but much is pinned on the ascension of Phillip Hammond to foreign secretary - he has said the UK should leave the EU if it doesn't get the reforms it wants.
3. The prime minister has gone on to full election fighting mode. Michael Gove and Mr Hague both have less significant jobs but Downing Street is making it clear both will have big campaigning roles. The respected statesman from the north and the uber-polite, articulate - although his toxicity became too much at education - son of adoptive parents will be prominent media performers between now and May 2015.
Other women to be promoted into ministerial roles, outside of the cabinet, include Anna Soubry, who becomes a defence minister, Clare Perry, who goes to transport, and Priti Patel, who becomes Exchequer Secretary at the Treasury.
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William Hague said he was "delighted" with new role
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has effectively been fired, while former Commons leader Andrew Lansley has also left the government.
But the biggest name in the changes has been Mr Hague, who announced late on Monday that he had decided to step down as an MP at next year's general election after 26 years - including four turbulent years as Tory leader.
Until then he will be, as Mr Cameron put it, his "de facto political deputy" and leader of the House of Commons. Mr Hague said he was "delighted" with his new role as he had always enjoyed speaking in the Commons and explained his retirement at the next election by saying he wanted to return to his successful writing career and to spend more time with his wife.
'Massacre of moderates'Some see the appointment of Mr Hammond - who has said he could vote to leave the EU if the UK did not get the changes it wanted in a future re-negotiation - and the departure of Dominic Grieve - who would oppose any attempt to take Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights - as a shift towards a more Eurosceptic stance.
But Ken Clarke - the cabinet's most prominent Europhile - heading for ministerial retirement after a career in frontline politics that stretches back to the early 1970s - dismissed such claims, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If the whole thing is all about Europe then we really have gone mad."
He also praised Mr Cameron's decision to promote more women into frontline roles, saying it was long overdue.
Labour has described the reshuffle as the "massacre of the moderates", claiming it marks a lurch to the right on Europe and a range of other issues.
The party also poured scorn on claims more women were being promoted, saying "half the new faces in the cabinet we've heard of so far are male".
Labour's Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Gloria De Piero said: "The Tories have spent the last few days briefing that this would be the reshuffle which fixed David Cameron's 'women problem' but it's turning in to a damp squib."
Among other changes:
Esther McVey - who was tipped for promotion - will remain as employment minister but with the added status of attending cabinet meetings Matt Hancock is given a minor promotion at the business department and will attend cabinet A cull of long-serving ministers includes chief whip Sir George Young, minister for civil society Nick Hurd, Foreign Office minister Hugh Robertson, energy minister Greg Barker, international development minister Alan Duncan, Northern Ireland minister and policing minister Damian Green
VIDEO-Theme park employees caught in child porn arrests - CNN.com
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 04:23
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
CNN investigation finds arrests of Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld employeesCharges include child porn possession, trying to meet minors for sexNone had prior history of sex crimes before they were hiredNone of the cases involved children or teenagers visiting the parksEditor's note: The following article contains references that may not be suitable for all readers.
Clermont, Florida (CNN) -- Just days after getting arrested in a child sex sting, Robert Kingsolver is a long way from his beloved job at Walt Disney World.
Inside his rented house in a suburban Orlando neighborhood filled with children, he sits in a folding chair in a nearly empty room, wires dangling in the corner where his computer used to be connected.
Now, he can't be online or near children.
"My life is ruined," he told CNN in an interview at his home. "My family's life is ruined. My kids' life is ruined. I've devastated my parents because of bad judgment."
Robert Kingsolver is one of at least 35 Disney employees arrested since 2006 on charges of sex crimes involving children.
Kingsolver, 49, is one of at least 35 Disney employees arrested since 2006 and accused of sex crimes involving children, trying to meet a minor for sex, or for possession of child pornography, according to a six-month CNN investigation that examined police and court records, and interviewed law enforcement officials and some of the men who have been arrested.
Five Universal Studios employees and two employees from SeaWorld have also been arrested.
So far, a total of 32 have been convicted, with the remaining cases pending.
Two cases, which were for possession of child pornography, occurred on Disney property, according to police reports.
None of the cases involved children or teenagers visiting the parks.
Principal arrested in child-sex sting
Kingsolver, a service manager who oversaw ride repairs at the Magic Kingdom, has pleaded not guilty to soliciting a child for sexual acts and traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity.
He said he thought he was going to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex at a house set up by detectives from the Lake County, Florida, Sheriff's Office, according to police records. Instead, when he showed up at the house, he was met by detectives.
Kingsolver told CNN he was just trying to protect the girl, and planned to call authorities when he showed up at the house. He said his family is standing by him.
"They love me," Kingsolver said. "My kids know me, and they know how much I care for kids. They know that their dad is not somebody that will go out and hurt a young child. They know their dad is somebody that would go out and protect a young child at any cost."
Other Disney employees caught up in the police stings and child porn cases include security guards, a costumer, a VIP tour guide in training, a gift shop employee and maintenance workers, according to police and court records.
"Wherever you find children, you'll find sexual predators that want to be there," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
In the latest sting that ended in July, two Disney employees and an employee at Universal Studios were among those arrested by Polk County Sheriff's detectives. One of those arrested was 40-year-old Allen Treaster, a concierge at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge who used to work at Disney's popular Toy Story ride. The police report said he advertised himself online as "Big Teddy Bear for younger chaser."
Detectives arrested Treaster after he showed up at a house to meet someone police said he thought was a 14-year-old boy, hoping to "fulfill a fantasy," according to his text messages. Treaster was actually communicating with an undercover detective. He has pleaded not guilty.
During the videotaped interrogation with detectives, Treaster confessed to having sex with a teenage boy he met online 3½ weeks before his arrest. He said he drove to Georgia to meet the boy at his house, then took him to a hotel where they had sex, according to the interrogation video.
The undercover detective asked Treaster, "OK and when did you find out how old he was?"
"Honestly, I found out before I met him, but you know," Treaster said.
"So you still went for that, to have sex with him, knowing he was 15 years old?" the detective asked.
"Yes," Treaster said.
Treaster did not return calls from CNN.
He was one of four Disney employees and one Universal employee arrested in sex stings or in child porn cases from June 10 to July 1.
Previous arrests include:
' Cedric Cuthbert, the night shift custodial manager at Disney's Port Orleans resort, who was downloading child porn last year on his work computer while writing a sermon for his church, where he was the pastor, according to police. Cuthbert pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to six years in prison.
' Paul Fazio, who worked in an Animal Kingdom Lodge gift shop. Fazio was convicted of downloading videos showing "multiple scenes of nude prepubescent children engaging in sexual activity with adults and other children," the police report said.
' William Marrero-Maldonado, who worked for Disney security. He was arrested in April after an Osceola County Sheriff's Office investigation claimed that he was downloading child porn videos. He has pleaded not guilty.
In the February sting by the Lake County Sheriff's Office, police also arrested 32-year-old Patrick Holgerson, another Disney employee. Holgerson sent nude photos and engaged in explicit sexual chats online with someone he thought was a 13-year-old boy and his uncle, according to police records. After he showed up to meet the boy, Holgerson ran from police.
During a videotaped interview with sheriff's detectives after the arrest, Holgerson said he was a character actor at Disney and in training to become a VIP tour guide.
He pleaded not guilty and said he went to the home to make sure the boy was OK.
"I work with kids," Holgerson told the detectives during the videotaped interrogation. "I love kids and not in a bad way. I just have a strong connection with kids. I like working with kids. I just enjoy helping them grow and that's why I've been working with high schools for so long is because a lot of these kids look up to me.
"And that's why I was honestly worried about this kid. Because I felt his uncle was in the wrong. I would never do anything with the kid, I promise. I didn't want him hurt. And I'm being honest here."
The sprawling Disney theme park has about 70,000 employees.
In a statement to CNN, Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said, "Providing a safe environment for children and families is a responsibility we take very seriously. We have extensive measures in place, including pre-employment and ongoing criminal background checks and computer monitoring and firewalls.
"The numbers reported by CNN represent one one-hundredth of one percent of the 300,000 people we have employed during this time period. We continue to work closely with law enforcement and organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as we constantly strengthen our efforts."
Universal Studios said it fired Matthew Cody Myers, who was arrested in the July sting by the Polk County Sheriff's Office after police say he showed up to have sex with a 14-year-old girl. He told detectives during an interrogation that he wouldn't have really gone through with it. He pleaded not guilty, and did not return CNN's calls.
In a statement, Universal Studios spokesman Tom Schroder said, "We have zero tolerance for this kind of activity. We deal with situations such as this immediately and permanently." The company, like Disney and SeaWorld, requires that "all our team members undergo thorough background checks as part of the hiring process."
SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said, "The safety of our team members and employees is our top priority," adding that the company has "policies and procedures in place and we need to take appropriate action as needed."
Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Florida, said Disney and other businesses that cater to children need more leeway to use polygraph tests when hiring employees.
"Anyone that works around children, whether it's a church, in the nursery, or whether it's Disney or any of our other theme parks, we should be able to give a polygraph examination to them," Judd said.
Congress, citing privacy and civil liberties issues, has made it illegal for most private companies to polygraph employees.
In the wake of the CNN investigation, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Florida, has proposed legislation that would add an exemption to the Polygraph Act of 1988. The proposal would give businesses that cater to children the option to use a polygraph to screen prospective employees. Specifically, the exemption would apply to prospective employees "whose activities would involve the care or supervision of children or regular access to children who are cared for or supervised by another employee," or where there is a "high probability" the employee "will interact with unsupervised children on frequent basis."
"We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, we owe it to our future to make sure we don't let the next predator find a victim," Ross said.
Asked specifically about the number of theme park employee arrests, Ross said, "You know I can't put the label on any particular employer because there's just too many of them -- period. And it doesn't matter so much the industry but it's the act that it's happening. And I understand the propensity is probably greater where there are more opportunities to be around children and that's something that I find that we have to offer them the tools necessary so that we can prevent it."
In Robert Kingsolver's case, police records and chat logs show he thought he was e-mailing and texting a 14-year-old girl and her father who he met on Craigslist to set up a meeting. The pair was actually a Lake County Sheriff's detective posing as both the father and girl.
"The defendant specifically stated he would perform oral sex when referring to what he was going to do with the 14-year-old child," the police report said.
Kingsolver, in the chat logs released by police, wrote he was "actually a very cuddling and snuggling kind of guy" and that "I really enjoy giving oral."
Kingsolver wrote, "I work for Disney so I love to see dads having fun with their daughters. I believe in treating a lady like a princess. I treat ladies with respect because that is how I hope my daughter gets treated."
In the interview with CNN, Kingsolver said police got it all wrong. He said he planned to call authorities after showing up at the home and meeting the girl and her father.
"I'm not the monster that people are saying I am, and that the news, CNN and everyone else is saying that I am. I'm an honest guy that I thought was trying to help and I thought I was trying to do the right thing. Did I do it in the right manner? No, obviously not," he said.
Kingsolver, who is separated from his wife, has a son and a daughter as well as two stepchildren. During the CNN interview, he reminisced about seeing children and their families enjoying the rides at the park.
"It was like going to a fun -- some place you really enjoyed," he said. "The best part about that job was just seeing families. Some family you knew had saved up literally for a decade to come there and spend a few days. Just to see them having fun and to see the, you know, look on the children's faces when they get to see, you know, Prince Charming or one of the princesses or you know, riding Barnstormer or anything, or any of the rides or just walking around and maybe running into Mickey. It was just, that was the best part, just seeing kids glow and seeing their heroes. I just enjoyed that so much."
Asked why he had a sexually laced chat with people he thought were a father and 14-year-old girl, he had an explanation.
We threw the bait out in the water ... and you bit the bait. What we didn't do is take this big net ... grab you and then stick the bait in your mouth.Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, on child sex stings
"I was trying to get someone safe," Kingsolver said. "I honestly thought someone was in danger and if I had to tell him anything, if I had to tell him the moon was made out of cheese, I would have told him that. I have no intention and had no intention of doing anything with anyone, any minor."
After he was arrested, he said he was in shock.
"I was mad at myself for making a mistake like that. I was in shock that I was there because I'd never even been in a jail before or on the outside looking in to visit someone, much less, you know, having to get to wear a size 3X jumpsuit and a size 13 shoe. So you know, yeah, I did a lot of thinking."
Kingsolver was booked into jail on a Friday night and was released two days later. The next day, he said he showed up for work at Disney, where he was promptly placed on what he said was unpaid leave. He hired a lawyer to fight the charges.
Judd, the Polk County sheriff, said he has no sympathy for the men arrested like Kingsolver, who was arrested in a neighboring county's sting operation.
"I get tickled when they say, 'You set me up, you set me up.' I go, 'Yeah, so what?' That's exactly what it is. We did an undercover operation. We threw the bait out in the water, and you're the fish and you bit the bait. What we didn't do is take this big net, and grab you up and then grab you and then stick the bait in your mouth."
Judd said predators are attracted to venues where there are children.
Florida man linked to massive child porn database
"Why do people work at Disney? Well, they work at Disney because they want a good, stable job for a great company, but there is always a few that are there because they can see children. They can live in a child's world," Judd said.
Ernie Allen, president of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, said the number of those arrested in the child sex stings and for child porn "should signal to all of us that this is a real threat. It's a threat to Disney, it's a threat to a lot of companies and a lot of settings because these offenders will attempt to defeat the barriers that you put in place that deny them access to children."
Asked if Disney is doing enough, Allen said, "It's hard to imagine any company that's done more, that cares more, that's trying harder on these issues and part of the reason is Disney recognizes that it's a magnet, it's a magnet that is sort of America's symbol for children."
He pointed out that, even though only two of the cases were on Disney property, that didn't make the threat less serious.
"It also indicates that there is that interest present, that there are people who have sexual interest in children, and will be at risk of offending against a real child," Allen said.
If you've got a tip for Kyra Phillips on this, or on any story, you can let her know by going to CNN.com/Investigate.
CNN's Janet Ahn contributed to the report.
Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

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