Cover for No Agenda Show 954: Rasiss
August 10th, 2017 • 2h 55m

954: Rasiss


Every new episode of No Agenda is accompanied by a comprehensive list of shownotes curated by Adam while preparing for the show. Clips played by the hosts during the show can also be found here.

India-Bhutan bilateral meet to be held on the sidelines of BIMSTEC, Doklam to be discussed : India, News - India Today
Wed, 09 Aug 2017 22:32
The meeting of foreign ministers of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) would be held at Kathmandu. India's External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj who according to sources, would also be holding bilateral meeting with her Bhutanese counterpart, Damcho Dorji, on the sidelines of the BIMSTEC summit. This would be the first meeting between Swaraj and Dorji, since tensions broke out at the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction.
China has been unrelenting with its statements and threats against India. On the other hand, India has been responding very diplomatically, saying dialogue and engagement are the only way forward. Bhutan, on the other hand, has not responded beyond the 19 June, statement wherein they had very clearly and sternly put forth Bhutan's stand on the road construction by China in Doka La (Doklam) which is a disputed territory between the India and China.
Sources say, Bhutan will reiterate her position on the ensuing border tensions as also the discussions between the two foreign ministers will revolve around how to de-escalate the tension. Bhutan on 29 June, in a press release had invoked the 1988, 1998 bilateral agreements between China and Bhutan saying status quo should remain unchanged until the border question is resolved.
"Bhutan has conveyed to the Chinese side, both on the ground and through the diplomatic channel, that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between our two countries. Bhutan hopes that the status quo in the Doklam area will be maintained as before 16 June, 2017", the press release read.
China on multiple occasions, has questioned Indian troops' presence in the area, which India has justified with the security pact it has with Bhutan. The agreement with Bhutan that says neither country will allow any activity on its soil which is detrimental to the security of either. Bhutan is an independent country with a 2007 Treaty of Cooperation signed with India.
Also Read:
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Won't declare anybody dead without evidence: Sushma Swaraj on 39 Indians missing in Iraq
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Are 39 Indians missing in Mosul still alive? Iraq government has no clue
WATCH | Wisdom not war is in diplomacy: Sushma Swaraj in Rajya Sabha
India must stop trampling on Bhutan's sovereignty | South China Morning Post
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:35
The Sino-Indian border row over Doklam has turned the usually calm Himalayan region into a new battlefront between the two powers. However, the role of Bhutan, the third important player in this latest dispute, has often been overlooked even though the picture wouldn't be complete without taking the country into account.
Bhutan is the only nation among China's 14 neighbouring sovereign states that has yet to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing. In fact, the two sides have long been seeking to mend ties but their hands are tied in the current geopolitical landscape.
Many may not know that India took over Britain's rights over Bhutan and signed the Treaty of Friendship with Bhutan in 1949, under which India would ''guide'' Bhutan's foreign policy. This provision was removed after a revision in 2007 but both sides still agreed that neither shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.
Why tiny Bhutan remains the wild card in China's border stand-off with IndiaIn the current dispute, New Delhi claimed that its troops entered Bhutan's territory ''in coordination'' with the latter's authorities, but what exactly do the Bhutanese think about this? Information from both public and non-public sources suggests that talks between China and Bhutan over their border dispute have been smooth and peaceful. If the Indian authorities disregard Bhutan's sovereignty by forcing Thimphu to stir up controversy in what is an undisputed area, while India sends its troops across the Chinese border, it would be an unthinkable act in the 21st century.
12 perspectives on the China-India border dispute in DoklamInternational observers have, however, been blinded by the ''China threat'' theory and tended to ignore the oppression of Bhutan. Many in the Indian media and officials have been propagating a misleading message that Bhutan is a ''protectorate'' of India. Bhutan has never been a ''protectorate''. In fact, Bhutan and India do not even have a security pact and India has no right to ''represent'' Bhutan.
India signed the Treaty of Friendship with Bhutan in 1949 after declaring independence from British rule, and inherited Britain's sway over Bhutan. This became the cornerstone of India-Bhutan relations, with India even today still trying to define the two nations' security interests.
Citing the guidance provision, New Delhi attempted to represent Bhutan to negotiate with China over the Bhutan-China border disputes as early as the 1960s. The moves were blocked by the Chinese government on the grounds that Bhutan should speak for itself and take part in the talks as an independent kingdom.
Bhutan can solve its border problem with China '' if India lets itIn a recent commentary, Wangcha Sangey, a former chairman of Bhutan Times, asserted the integrity of Bhutan's sovereignty and its military, and charged that India was using Bhutan to reach its goals. As Sangey wrote: ''India ... is pushing Bhutan to claim as much as possible the part of Doklam plateau in the Sino-Bhutan border talks.''
New Delhi's delegation joined the table from the first to fifth round of the China-Bhutan border talks that started in the 1980s. The two sides have since organised 24 meetings, with fruitful results over border settlement. In 1989, the two even signed an agreement on maintaining peace and stability along their 470km contiguous border. Relations are friendly, and it's only a matter of time before the two establish official diplomatic relations, once all issues are settled.
For now, the border talks are an important communication channel between the two. As a gesture of goodwill, the Bhutanese mission was even offered an opportunity to visit Tibet for pilgrimage to the holy sites of Tibetan Buddhism. Bhutan has also set up honorary consulates in Macau and Hong Kong.
India's control over Bhutan can be seen in three aspects: the economy, military and diplomacy.
On the economic front, India has control over Bhutan's most important income source, which is not tourism as the outside world would image, but exports in hydroelectric power. The exports, a huge portion of which are sent to India, represent about a quarter of the country's gross domestic product. Aware of the overreliance on a single income source, Tshering Tobgay, Bhutan's prime minister, has sketched a vision of diversifying the economy '' whether India will allow that is another matter.
Despite the control, the Bhutanese people will never give up striving for a presence in the international arena
On the military front, Bhutan's armed forces are only about 10,000-strong (even fewer than the Hong Kong police force) and they receive Indian military training.
On the diplomatic front, as mentioned earlier, India continues to strangle efforts by the Chinese and Bhutanese authorities to form official diplomatic relations. Bhutan does not even maintain formal diplomatic relations with the rest of the UN Security Council's permanent members.
Despite the control, the Bhutanese people will never give up striving for a presence in the international arena.
Former premier Jigme Yoser Thinley had worked to forge ties with China, even holding a brief meeting with then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (æºå®¶å¯¶ ) when attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in 2012. India was upset when media reports of the meeting reached New Delhi. The Indian government stopped subsidising household gas and diesel in Bhutan right before the 2013 Bhutanese general election to express discontent over Thinley's ''pro-China'' stance.
Thinley's party subsequently lost the election, and he stepped down amid a pragmatic Bhutanese society. This further exposes India's wanton interference in Bhutan's internal affairs.
India's got itself into a fine mess in Doklam, it's time to get out and let China and Bhutan work it outA sovereign and independent Bhutan can serve as a buffer zone between China and India. Both the leaders of China and India should acknowledge that a stable and sovereign Bhutan serves the national interests of both. The international community should no longer keep its silence over India's violation of Bhutan's sovereignty.
Marco Hoksum Hung is vice-president of HK Innovision and chairman of its public affairs committee. He is also a freelance writer
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
India must stop trampling on Bhutan's sovereignty
India-Bhutan bilateral meet to be held on the sidelines of BIMSTEC, Doklam to be discussed : India, News - India Today
Wed, 09 Aug 2017 22:32
The meeting of foreign ministers of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) would be held at Kathmandu. India's External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj who according to sources, would also be holding bilateral meeting with her Bhutanese counterpart, Damcho Dorji, on the sidelines of the BIMSTEC summit. This would be the first meeting between Swaraj and Dorji, since tensions broke out at the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction.
China has been unrelenting with its statements and threats against India. On the other hand, India has been responding very diplomatically, saying dialogue and engagement are the only way forward. Bhutan, on the other hand, has not responded beyond the 19 June, statement wherein they had very clearly and sternly put forth Bhutan's stand on the road construction by China in Doka La (Doklam) which is a disputed territory between the India and China.
Sources say, Bhutan will reiterate her position on the ensuing border tensions as also the discussions between the two foreign ministers will revolve around how to de-escalate the tension. Bhutan on 29 June, in a press release had invoked the 1988, 1998 bilateral agreements between China and Bhutan saying status quo should remain unchanged until the border question is resolved.
"Bhutan has conveyed to the Chinese side, both on the ground and through the diplomatic channel, that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between our two countries. Bhutan hopes that the status quo in the Doklam area will be maintained as before 16 June, 2017", the press release read.
China on multiple occasions, has questioned Indian troops' presence in the area, which India has justified with the security pact it has with Bhutan. The agreement with Bhutan that says neither country will allow any activity on its soil which is detrimental to the security of either. Bhutan is an independent country with a 2007 Treaty of Cooperation signed with India.
Also Read:
Sushma Swaraj rebuttal in Rajya Sabha: On Doklam, India's roadmap is peace with China, not war
Won't declare anybody dead without evidence: Sushma Swaraj on 39 Indians missing in Iraq
India Today first to reach Mosul after ISIS fall. No sign of missing 39 Indians
Are 39 Indians missing in Mosul still alive? Iraq government has no clue
WATCH | Wisdom not war is in diplomacy: Sushma Swaraj in Rajya Sabha
Bhutan - Wikipedia
Wed, 09 Aug 2017 22:16
Coordinates: 27°25'²01'"N 90°26'²06'"E >> / >> 27.417°N 90.435°E >> / 27.417; 90.435
Kingdom of Bhutan འབྲུག་à½à¾'ྱལ་ཁབ་ (Dzongkha)druk gyal khap
Capitaland largest city
Thimphu27°28.0'²N 89°38.5'²E >> / >> 27.4667°N 89.6417°E >> / 27.4667; 89.6417
Official languagesDzongkhaReligionBuddhismDemonymBhutaneseGovernmentUnitaryparliamentaryconstitutional monarchyJigme Khesar Namgyel WangchuckTshering TobgayLegislatureParliamentNational CouncilNational AssemblyFormation' Unification of Bhutan
17th century17 December 19078 August 194921 September 197118 July 2008Area' Total
38,394 km2 (14,824 sq mi)[1][2] (133rd)' Water (%)
1.1Population' 2012 estimate
742,737[3] (165th)' 2005a census
634,982[4]' Density
19.3/km2 (50.0/sq mi) (196th)GDP (PPP) 2017 estimate' Total
$7.045 billion[5]' Per capita
$8,762[5] (115)GDP (nominal) 2017 estimate' Total
$2.308 billion[5]' Per capita
$2,870 [5] (130)Gini (2012) 38.7[6]medium
HDI (2015) 0.607[7]medium · 132nd
CurrencyNgultrum(BTN) and Indian rupee(INR) Time zoneBTT(UTC+6) not observed (UTC+6)Drives on theleftCalling code+975ISO 3166 codeBTInternet TLD.btThe population of Bhutan had been estimated based on the reported figure of about 1 million in the 1970s when the country had joined the United Nations and precise statistics were lacking.[8] Thus, using the annual increase rate of 2''3%, the most population estimates were around 2 million in the year 2000. A national census was carried out in 2005 and it turned out that the population was 672,425. Consequently, United Nations Population Division reduced its estimation of the country's population in the 2006 revision[9] for the whole period from 1950 to 2050.Bhutan (; འབྲུག་à½à½´à½£à¼‹ druk yul ), officially the Kingdom of Bhutan (འབྲུག་à½à¾'ྱལ་ཁབ་ druk gyal khap ),[10] is a landlocked country in South Asia. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, India in the south, the Sikkim state of India the Chumbi Valley of Tibet in the west, and the disputed Arunachal Pradesh region in the east. Bhutan is geopolitically in South Asia and is the region's second least populous nation after the Maldives. Thimphu is its capital and largest city, while Phuntsholing is its financial center.
The independence of Bhutan has endured for centuries, and the territory was never colonized in its history. Situated on the ancient Silk Road between Tibet, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, the Bhutanese state developed a distinct national identity based on Buddhism. Headed by a spiritual leader known as the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, the territory was composed of many fiefdoms and governed as a Buddhisttheocracy. Following a civil war in the 19th century, the House of Wangchuck reunited the country and established relations with the British Empire. Bhutan fostered a strategic partnership with India during the rise of Chinese communism and has a disputed border with the People's Republic of China. In 2008, it transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy and held the first election to the National Assembly of Bhutan, that has a two party system characterizing Bhutanese democracy.
The King of Bhutan is known as the "Dragon King". Bhutan is also notable for pioneering the concept of gross national happiness. The country's landscape ranges from lush subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan mountains in the north, where there are peaks in excess of 7,000 metres (23,000 ft) . The highest mountain in Bhutan is the Gangkhar Puensum, which is also a strong candidate for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. There is also diverse wildlife in Bhutan.
In South Asia, Bhutan ranks first in economic freedom, ease of doing business, and peace; second in per capita income; and is the least corrupt country as of 2016. However, Bhutan continues to be a least developed country. Hydroelectricity accounts for the major share of its exports.[11] The government is a parliamentary democracy. Bhutan maintains diplomatic relations with 52 countries and the European Union, but does not have formal ties with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. It is a member of the United Nations, SAARC, BIMSTEC and the Non Aligned Movement. The Royal Bhutan Army maintains extensive military relations with the Indian Armed Forces.
Etymology [ edit] The precise etymology of "Bhutan" is unknown, although it is likely to derive from the Tibetanendonym "Bod" used for Tibet. Traditionally, it is taken to be a transcription of the SanskritBhoá¹­a-anta "end of Tibet", a reference to Bhutan's position as the southern extremity of the Tibetan plateau and culture.[12][13][14]
Since the 17th century the official name of Bhutan has been Druk yul (country of the Drukpa Lineage, the Dragon People, or the Land of the Thunder Dragon, a reference to the country's dominant Buddhist sect) and Bhutan only appears in English-language official correspondence.[14]
Names similar to Bhutan '-- including Bohtan, Buhtan, Bottanthis, Bottan and Bottanter '-- began to appear in Europe around the 1580s. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier's 1676 Six Voyages is the first to record the name Boutan. However, in every case, these seem to have been describing not modern Bhutan but the Kingdom of Tibet. The modern distinction between the two did not begin until well into the Scottish explorer George Bogle's 1774 expedition '-- realizing the differences between the two regions, cultures and states, his final report to the East India Company formally proposed labelling the Druk Desi's kingdom as "Boutan" and the Panchen Lama's as "Tibet". The EIC's surveyor general James Rennell first anglicized the French name as Bootan and then popularized the distinction between it and greater Tibet.[15]
Locally, Bhutan has been known by many names. One of the earliest Western records of Bhutan, the 1627 Rela§£o of the PortugueseJesuitsEstªv£o Cacella and Jo£o Cabral, records its name variously as Cambirasi (among the Koch Biharis[16]), Potente, and Mon (an endonym for southern Tibet).[15] The first time a separate Kingdom of Bhutan appeared on a western map, it did so under its local name as "Broukpa".[15] Others including Lho Mon ("Dark Southland"), Lho Tsendenjong ("Southland of the Cypress"), Lhomen Khazhi ("Southland of the Four Approaches") and Lho Menjong ("Southland of the Herbs").[17][18]
History [ edit] 1777
Two of Rennell's EIC maps, showing the division of "Thibet or Bootan" into separate regions.
Stone tools, weapons, elephants, and remnants of large stone structures provide evidence that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 BC, although there are no existing records from that time. Historians have theorized that the state of Lhomon (literally, "southern darkness"), or Monyul ("Dark Land", a reference to the Monpa, the aboriginal peoples of Bhutan) may have existed between 500 BC and AD 600. The names Lhomon Tsendenjong (Sandalwood Country), and Lhomon Khashi, or Southern Mon (country of four approaches), have been found in ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan chronicles.[19][20]
Buddhism was first introduced to Bhutan in the 7th century AD. Tibetan king Songts¤n Gampo[21] (reigned 627''649), a convert to Buddhism, who actually had extended the Tibetan Empire into Sikkim and Bhutan,[22] ordered the construction of two Buddhist temples, at Bumthang in central Bhutan and at Kyichu (near Paro) in the Paro Valley.[23] Buddhism was propagated in earnest[21] in 746[24] under King Sindhu Rāja (also K¼njom;[25] Sendha Gyab; Chakhar Gyalpo), an exiled Indian king who had established a government in Bumthang at Chakhar Gutho Palace.[26]:35[27]:13
Much of early Bhutanese history is unclear because most of the records were destroyed when fire ravaged the ancient capital, Punakha, in 1827. By the 10th century, Bhutan's political development was heavily influenced by its religious history. Various subsects of Buddhism emerged that were patronized by the various Mongol warlords. After the decline of the Yuan dynasty in the 14th century, these subsects vied with each other for supremacy in the political and religious landscape, eventually leading to the ascendancy of the Drukpa Lineage by the 16th century.[23][28]
A thrikhep (throne cover) from the 19th century. Throne covers were placed atop the temple cushions used by high lamas. The central circular swirling quadrune is the gankyil in its mode as the "Four Joys".Until the early 17th century, Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms, when the area was unified by the Tibetan lama and military leader Ngawang Namgyal, who had fled religious persecution in Tibet. To defend the country against intermittent Tibetan forays, Namgyal built a network of impregnable dzongs or fortresses, and promulgated the Tsa Yig, a code of law that helped to bring local lords under centralized control. Many such dzong still exist and are active centers of religion and district administration. PortugueseJesuitsEstªv£o Cacella and Jo£o Cabral were the first recorded Europeans to visit Bhutan, on their way to Tibet. They met Ngawang Namgyal, presented him with firearms, gunpowder and a telescope, and offered him their services in the war against Tibet, but the Zhabdrung declined the offer. After a stay of nearly eight months Cacella wrote a long letter from the Chagri Monastery reporting on his travels. This is a rare extant report of the Shabdrung.[29][30]
When Ngawang Namgyal died in 1651, his passing was kept secret for 54 years. After a period of consolidation, Bhutan lapsed into internal conflict. In the year 1711 Bhutan went to war against the Mughal Empire and its Subedars, who restored Koch Bihar in the south. During the chaos that followed, the Tibetans unsuccessfully attacked Bhutan in 1714.[31]
In the 18th century, the Bhutanese invaded and occupied the kingdom of Cooch Behar to the south. In 1772, Cooch Behar appealed to the British East India Company which assisted them in ousting the Bhutanese and later in attacking Bhutan itself in 1774. A peace treaty was signed in which Bhutan agreed to retreat to its pre-1730 borders. However, the peace was tenuous, and border skirmishes with the British were to continue for the next hundred years. The skirmishes eventually led to the Duar War (1864''65), a confrontation for control of the BengalDuars. After Bhutan lost the war, the Treaty of Sinchula was signed between British India and Bhutan. As part of the war reparations, the Duars were ceded to the United Kingdom in exchange for a rent of Rs. 50,000. The treaty ended all hostilities between British India and Bhutan.
During the 1870s, power struggles between the rival valleys of Paro and Tongsa led to civil war in Bhutan, eventually leading to the ascendancy of Ugyen Wangchuck, the ponlop (governor) of Tongsa. From his power base in central Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck defeated his political enemies and united the country following several civil wars and rebellions during 1882''85.[32]
In 1907, an epochal year for the country, Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously chosen as the hereditary king of the country by an assembly of leading Buddhist monks, government officials, and heads of important families. John Claude White, British Political Agent in Bhutan, took photographs of the ceremony.[33] The British government promptly recognized the new monarchy, and in 1910 Bhutan signed the Treaty of Punakha, a subsidiary alliance which gave the British control of Bhutan's foreign affairs and meant that Bhutan was treated as an Indian princely state. This had little real effect, given Bhutan's historical reticence, and also did not appear to affect Bhutan's traditional relations with Tibet. After the new Union of India gained independence from the United Kingdom on 15 August 1947, Bhutan became one of the first countries to recognize India's independence. On 8 August 1949, a treaty similar to that of 1910, in which Britain had gained power over Bhutan's foreign relations, was signed with the newly independent India.[19]
In 1954, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck established the country's legislature '' a 130-member National Assembly '' to promote a more democratic form of governance. In 1965, he set up a Royal Advisory Council, and in 1968 he formed a Cabinet. In 1971, Bhutan was admitted to the United Nations, having held observer status for three years. In July 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended to the throne at the age of sixteen after the death of his father, Dorji Wangchuck.
Political reform and modernization [ edit] Bhutan's political system has recently changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred most of his administrative powers to the Council of Cabinet Ministers and allowing for impeachment of the King by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.[34]
In 1999, the government lifted a ban on television and the Internet, making Bhutan one of the last countries to introduce television. In his speech, the King said that television was a critical step to the modernisation of Bhutan as well as a major contributor to the country's gross national happiness,[35] but warned that the "misuse" of television could erode traditional Bhutanese values.[36]
A new constitution was presented in early 2005. In December 2005, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced that he would abdicate the throne in his son's favour in 2008. On 14 December 2006, he announced that he would be abdicating immediately. This was followed by the first national parliamentary elections in December 2007 and March 2008.
On 6 November 2008, 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, eldest son of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, was crowned King.[37]
Geography [ edit] A topographic map of Bhutan.Bhutan is located on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, landlocked between the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh to the west and south. It lies between latitudes 26°N and 29°N, and longitudes 88°E and 93°E. The land consists mostly of steep and high mountains crisscrossed by a network of swift rivers, which form deep valleys before draining into the Indian plains. Elevation rises from 200 m (660 ft) in the southern foothills to more than 7,000 m (23,000 ft). This great geographical diversity combined with equally diverse climate conditions contributes to Bhutan's outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems.[2]
The northern region of Bhutan consists of an arc of Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows reaching up to glaciated mountain peaks with an extremely cold climate at the highest elevations. Most peaks in the north are over 7,000 m (23,000 ft) above sea level; the highest point in Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum at 7,570 metres (24,840 ft), which has the distinction of being the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.[38] The lowest point, at 98 m (322 ft), is in the valley of Drangme Chhu, where the river crosses the border with India.[38] Watered by snow-fed rivers, alpine valleys in this region provide pasture for livestock, tended by a sparse population of migratory shepherds.
The Black Mountains in the central region of Bhutan form a watershed between two major river systems: the Mo Chhu and the Drangme Chhu. Peaks in the Black Mountains range between 1,500 and 4,925 m (4,921 and 16,158 ft) above sea level, and fast-flowing rivers have carved out deep gorges in the lower mountain areas. The forests of the central Bhutan mountains consist of Eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests in higher elevations and Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests in lower elevations. Woodlands of the central region provide most of Bhutan's forest production. The Torsa, Raidak, Sankosh, and Manas are the main rivers of Bhutan, flowing through this region. Most of the population lives in the central highlands.
In the south, the Shiwalik Hills are covered with dense Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, alluvial lowland river valleys, and mountains up to around 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level. The foothills descend into the subtropical Duars Plain. Most of the Duars is located in India, although a 10 to 15 km (6.2 to 9.3 mi) wide strip extends into Bhutan. The Bhutan Duars is divided into two parts: the northern and the southern Duars.
The northern Duars, which abut the Himalayan foothills, have rugged, sloping terrain and dry, porous soil with dense vegetation and abundant wildlife. The southern Duars has moderately fertile soil, heavy savannah grass, dense, mixed jungle, and freshwater springs. Mountain rivers, fed by either the melting snow or the monsoon rains, empty into the Brahmaputra River in India. Data released by the Ministry of Agriculture showed that the country had a forest cover of 64% as of October 2005.
Climate [ edit] The climate in Bhutan varies with elevation, from subtropical in the south to temperate in the highlands and polar-type climate, with year-round snow in the north. Bhutan experiences five distinct seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. Western Bhutan has the heavier monsoon rains; southern Bhutan has hot humid summers and cool winters; central and eastern Bhutan is temperate and drier than the west with warm summers and cool winters.
Biodiversity [ edit] Bhutan signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 11 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 25 August 1995.[39] It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with two revisions, the most recent of which was received by the convention on 4 February 2010.[40]
Animals [ edit] Himalayan Marmot at Tshophu Lake BhutanBhutan has a rich primate life, with rare species such as the golden langur.[41][42] A variant Assamese macaque has also been recorded, which is regarded by some authorities as a new species, Macaca munzala.[43]
The Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, hispid hare and the sloth bear live in the lush tropical lowland and hardwood forests in the south. In the temperate zone, grey langur, tiger, goral and serow are found in mixed conifer, broadleaf and pine forests. Fruit-bearing trees and bamboo provide habitat for the Himalayan black bear, red panda, squirrel, sambar, wild pig and barking deer. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north are home to the snow leopard, blue sheep, marmot, Tibetan wolf, antelope, Himalayan musk deer and the takin, Bhutan's national animal. The endangered wild water buffalo occurs in southern Bhutan, although in small numbers.[44]
More than 770 species of bird have been recorded in Bhutan. The globally endangered white-winged duck has been added recently to Bhutan's bird list.[45]
Plants [ edit] More than 5,400 species of plants are found in Bhutan.[46] Fungi form a key part of Bhutanese ecosystems, with mycorrhizal species providing forest trees with mineral nutrients necessary for growth, and with wood decay and litter decomposing species playing an important role in natural recycling.
Conservation [ edit] The Eastern Himalayas have been identified as a global biodiversity hotspot and counted among the 234 globally outstanding ecoregions of the world in a comprehensive analysis of global biodiversity undertaken by WWF between 1995 and 1997.
According to the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, Bhutan is viewed as a model for proactive conservation initiatives. The Kingdom has received international acclaim for its commitment to the maintenance of its biodiversity.[47] This is reflected in the decision to maintain at least sixty percent of the land area under forest cover, to designate more than 40%[48][49] of its territory as national parks, reserves and other protected areas, and most recently to identify a further nine percent of land area as biodiversity corridors linking the protected areas. All of Bhutan's protected land is connected to one another through a vast network of biological corridors, allowing animals to migrate freely throughout the country.[50] Environmental conservation has been placed at the core of the nation's development strategy, the middle path. It is not treated as a sector but rather as a set of concerns that must be mainstreamed in Bhutan's overall approach to development planning and to be buttressed by the force of law. The country's constitution mentions environment standards in multiple sections.[51]
Environmental issues [ edit] Although Bhutan's natural heritage is still largely intact, the government has said that it cannot be taken for granted and that conservation of the natural environment must be considered one of the challenges that will need to be addressed in the years ahead.[52] Nearly 56.3% of all Bhutanese are involved with agriculture, forestry or conservation.[51] The government aims to promote conservation as part of its plan to target Gross National Happiness. It currently has net zero greenhouse gas emissions because the small amount of pollution it creates is absorbed by the forests that cover most of the country.[53] While the entire country collectively produces 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, the immense forest covering 72% of the country acts as a carbon sink, absorbing more than four million tons of carbon dioxide every year.[50]
Bhutan has a number of progressive environmental policies that have caused the head of the UNFCCC to call it an "inspiration and role model for the world on how economies and different countries can address climate change while at the same time improving the life of the citizen." [54] For example, electric cars have been pushed in the country and as of 2014[update] make up a tenth of all cars. Because the country gets most of its energy from hydrolelectric power, it does not emit significant greenhouse gases for energy production.[53]
Pressures on the natural environment are already evident and will be fuelled by a complex array of forces. They include population pressures, agricultural modernisation, poaching, hydro-power development, mineral extraction, industrialisation, urbanisation, sewage and waste disposal, tourism, competition for available land, road construction and the provision of other physical infrastructure associated with social and economic development.[55]
In practice, the overlap of these extensive protected lands with populated areas has led to mutual habitat encroachment. Protected wildlife has entered agricultural areas, trampling crops and killing livestock. In response, Bhutan has implemented an insurance scheme, begun constructing solar powered alarm fences, watch towers, and search lights, and has provided fodder and salt licks outside human settlement areas to encourage animals to stay away.[56]
The huge market value of the Ophiocordyceps sinensis fungus crop collected from the wild has also resulted in unsustainable exploitation which is proving very difficult to regulate.[57]
Government and politics [ edit] Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. The reigning monarch is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The current Prime Minister of Bhutan is Tshering Tobgay, the leader of the People's Democratic Party.
The Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) is the head of state.[58] The political system grants universal suffrage. It consists of the National Council, an upper house with 25 elected members; and the National Assembly with 47 elected lawmakers from political parties.
Executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers led by the prime minister. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. Judicial power is vested in the courts of Bhutan. The legal system originates from the semi-theocratic Tsa Yig code and has been influenced by English common law during the 20th century. The chief justice is the administrative head of the judiciary.
Political culture [ edit] The first general elections for the National Assembly were held on 24 March 2008. The chief contestants were the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (DPT) led by Jigme Thinley and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Sangay Ngedup. The DPT won the elections by taking 45 out of 47 seats.[59]Jigme Thinley served as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2013.
The People's Democratic Party came to power in the 2013 elections. It won 32 seats with 54.88% of the vote. PDP leader Tshering Tobgay assumed the office of Prime Minister.
Foreign relations [ edit] The permanent mission of Bhutan to the United Nations in New York CityIn the early 20th century, Bhutan's principal foreign relations were with British India and Tibet. The government of British India managed relations with the kingdom from the Bhutan House in Kalimpong. Fearful of Chinese communist expansion, Bhutan signed a friendship treaty with the newly independent Republic of India in 1949. Its concerns were exacerbated after the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959.[61] Relations with Nepal remained strained due to Bhutanese refugees. Bhutan joined the United Nations in 1971. It was the first country to recognize Bangladesh's independence in 1971. It became a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 1985. The country is a member of 150 international organizations,[61] including the Bay of Bengal Initiative, BBIN, World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Group of 77.
Bhutan maintains strong economic, strategic, and military relations with neighbouring India.[62][63] In 2007, Bhutan and India revised their friendship treaty which clarified Bhutan's full control of its foreign relations, including its border with Tibet. Bhutan has very warm relations with Japan, which provides significant development assistance. The Bhutanese royals were hosted by the Japanese imperial family during a state visit in 2011. Japan is also helping Bhutan cope with glacial floods through developing an early warning system.
Bhutan enjoys strong political and diplomatic relations with Bangladesh. The Bhutanese king was the guest of honour during celebrations for Bangladesh's 40th anniversary of independence.[64] A 2014 joint statement by the prime ministers of both countries announced cooperation in areas of hydropower, river management and climate change mitigation.[65]
Bhutan has diplomatic relations with 52 countries and the European Union and has missions in India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Kuwait. It has two UN missions, one in New York and one in Geneva. Only India and Bangladesh have residential embassies in Bhutan, while Thailand has a consulate office in Bhutan. Other countries maintain informal diplomatic contact via their embassies in New Delhi and Dhaka.
A map of Bhutan showing its borders with Tibet and India as of 2015[update].By a long-standing agreement, Indian and Bhutanese citizens may travel to each other's countries without the need for a passport or visa but only their national identity cards. Bhutanese citizens may also work in India without legal restriction. Bhutan does not have formal diplomatic ties with its northern neighbour, China, although exchanges of visits at various levels between the two have significantly increased in recent times. The first bilateral agreement between China and Bhutan was signed in 1998 and Bhutan has also set up honorary consulates in the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.[66] Bhutan's border with China is largely not demarcated and thus disputed in some places. Approximately 269 square kilometers remain under discussion between China and Bhutan.[67]
On 13 November 2005, Chinese soldiers crossed into the disputed territories between China and Bhutan, and began building roads and bridges.[68] Bhutanese Foreign Minister Khandu Wangchuk took up the matter with Chinese authorities after the issue was raised in the Bhutanese parliament. In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang of the People's Republic of China has said that the border remains in dispute and that the two sides are continuing to work for a peaceful and cordial resolution of the dispute.[69] An Indian intelligence officer has said that a Chinese delegation in Bhutan told the Bhutanese that they were "overreacting". The Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel has said that China might use the roads to further Chinese claims along the border.[68]
In February 2007 the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty was substantially revised. Whereas the Treaty of 1949, Article 2 stated: "The Government of India undertakes to exercise no interference in the internal administration of Bhutan. On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations," the revised treaty now states "In keeping with the abiding ties of close friendship and cooperation between Bhutan and India, the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Government of the Republic of India shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other." The revised treaty also includes this preamble: "Reaffirming their respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity", an element that was absent in the earlier version. The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007 clarifies Bhutan's status as an independent and sovereign nation.
Bhutan maintains formal diplomatic relations with several Asian and European nations, Canada, and Brazil. Other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, have no formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan, but maintain informal contact through their respective embassies in New Delhi and Bhutanese honorary consulate in Washington DC. The United Kingdom has an honorary consul resident in Thimphu.[70][71][72]
Military [ edit] The Royal Bhutan Army is Bhutan's military service. It includes the royal bodyguard and the Royal Bhutan Police. Membership is voluntary and the minimum age for recruitment is 18. The standing army numbers about 16,000 and is trained by the Indian Army.[73] It has an annual budget of about US$13.7 million (1.8 percent of GDP). Being a landlocked country, Bhutan has no navy. It also has no air force or army aviation corps. The Army relies on the Eastern Air Command of the Indian Air Force for air assistance.
Human rights [ edit] Homosexual acts are illegal in Bhutan, as in many Asian countries.[74]
Ethnic conflict [ edit] In the 1990s, Bhutan expelled or forced to leave most of its ethnic Lhotshampa population, one-fifth of the country's entire population, demanding conformity in religion, dress, and language.[75][76][77] Lhotshampas were arrested and expelled from the country and their property was expropriated.[78]
A harassment campaign escalating in the early 1990s ensued, and afterwards Bhutanese security forces began expelling people. According to the UNHCR, more than 107,000 Bhutanese refugees living in seven camps in eastern Nepal have been documented as of 2008[update].[77] Whether all inhabitants are in fact refugees is questionable because the UNHCR did not check the initial inhabitants of the refugee camps adequately.[79] The facilities inside the camp, which were reportedly[citation needed ] better than in the surroundings, provided a strong motivation for Nepalese to seek admittance. After many years in refugee camps, many inhabitants are now moving to host nations such as Canada, Norway, the UK, Australia, and the US as refugees. The US has admitted 60,773 refugees from fiscal years 2008 through 2012.[80]
The Nepalese government does not permit citizenship for Bhutanese refugees, so most of them have become stateless.[81] Careful scrutiny has been used to prevent their relatives from getting ID cards and voting rights.[81] Bhutan considers the political parties of these refugees illegal and terrorist in nature.[81]Human rights groups initially claimed the government interfered with individual rights by requiring all citizens, including ethnic minority members, to wear the traditional dress of the ethnic majority in public places. The government strictly enforced the law in Buddhist religious buildings, government offices, schools, official functions, and public ceremonies.[81]
Political divisions [ edit] Bhutan is divided into twenty dzongkhags (districts), administered by a body called the Dzongkhak Tshokdu. In certain thromdes (urban municipalities), a further municipal administration is directly subordinate to the Dzongkhak administration. In the vast majority of constituencies, rural geos (village blocks) are administered by bodies called the Geo Tshokde.[82]
Thromdes (municipalities) elect Thrompons to lead administration, who in turn represent the Thromde in the Dzongkhag Tshogdu. Likewise, geos elect headmen called gaps, vice-headmen called mangmis, who also sit on the Dzongkhak Tshokdu, as well as other members of the Geo Tshokde. The basis of electoral constituencies in Bhutan is the chiwog, a subdivision of gewogs delineated by the Election Commission.[82]
Dzongkhags of the Kingdom of BhutanDistrictDzongkha nameDistrictDzongkha name1. Bumthangབུà½à¼‹à½à½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 11. Samdrup Jongkharབà½...à½à¼‹à½‚ྲུབ་ལྗོà½à½...་à½à½à½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 2. Chukhaཆུ་ཁ་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 12. Samtseབà½...à½à¼‹à½à¾(C)ེ་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 3. Daganaདà½à¼‹à½‘à½à½à¼‹à½'་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 13. Sarpangགà½...à½à¼‹à½...ྤà½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 4. Gasaà½à½‚à½à¼‹à½...་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 14. Thimphuཐིà½à¼‹à½•à½´à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 5. Haaཧཱ་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 15. Trashigangབà½à¾²à¼‹à½¤à½²à½...་à½...à¾'à½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 6. Lhuntseལྷུà½'་à½à¾(C)ེ་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 16. Trashiyangtseབà½à¾²à¼‹à½¤à½²à½...་གà½à½à¼‹à½à¾(C)ེ་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 7. Mongarà½à½¼à½à¼‹à½...à¾'à½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 17. Trongsaà½à¾²à½¼à½à¼‹à½‚à½...à½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 8. Paroà½...ྤ་à½à½¼à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 18. Tsirangà½à¾(C)ི་à½à½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 9. Pemagatshelà½--ད་à½à¼‹à½‘གའ་ཚལ་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 19. Wangdue Phodrangདབà½à¼‹à½ དུà½...་ཕོ་བྲà½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 10. Punakhaà½...ྤུ་à½'་ཁ་à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ 20. Zhemgangགཞà½à½...་à½...à¾'à½à¼‹à½à¾à½¼à½à¼‹à½à½‚་ Economy [ edit] A proportional representation of Bhutan's exports.Bhutan's currency is the ngultrum, whose value is fixed to the Indian rupee. The rupee is also accepted as legal tender in the country.
Though Bhutan's economy is one of the world's smallest,[84] it has grown rapidly in recent years, by eight percent in 2005 and 14 percent in 2006. In 2007, Bhutan had the second-fastest-growing economy in the world, with an annual economic growth rate of 22.4 percent. This was mainly due to the commissioning of the gigantic Tala Hydroelectric Power Station. As of 2012[update], Bhutan's per capita income was US$2,420.[85]
Bhutan's economy is based on agriculture, forestry, tourism and the sale of hydroelectric power to India. Agriculture provides the main livelihood for 55.4 percent of the population.[86] Agrarian practices consist largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Handicrafts, particularly weaving and the manufacture of religious art for home altars, are a small cottage industry. A landscape that varies from hilly to ruggedly mountainous has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive.
This, and a lack of access to the sea, has meant that Bhutan has not been able to benefit from significant trading of its produce. Bhutan has no railways, though Indian Railways plans to link southern Bhutan to its vast network under an agreement signed in January 2005.[87] Bhutan and India signed a 'free trade' accord in 2008, which additionally allowed Bhutanese imports and exports from third markets to transit India without tariffs.[88] Bhutan had trade relations with the Tibet region until 1960, when it closed its border with China after an influx of refugees.[89]
The industrial sector is in a nascent stage, and though most production comes from cottage industry, larger industries are being encouraged and some industries such as cement, steel, and ferroalloy have been set up. Most development projects, such as road construction, rely on Indian contract labour. Agricultural produce includes rice, chilies, dairy (some yak, mostly cow) products, buckwheat, barley, root crops, apples, and citrus and maize at lower elevations. Industries include cement, wood products, processed fruits, alcoholic beverages and calcium carbide.
Bhutan has seen recent growth in the technology sector, in areas such as green tech and consumer Internet/e-commerce.[90] In May 2012, Thimphu TechPark launched in the capital and incubates start-ups via the Bhutan Innovation and Technology Centre (BITC).[91]
Incomes of over Nu 100,000 per annum are taxed, but very few wage and salary earners qualify. Bhutan's inflation rate was estimated at about three percent in 2003. Bhutan has a Gross Domestic Product of around US$5.855 billion (adjusted to purchasing power parity), making it the 158th-largest economy in the world. Per capita income (PPP) is around $7,641,[38] ranked 144th. Government revenues total $407.1 million, though expenditures amount to $614 million. 25 percent of the budget expenditure, however, is financed by India's Ministry of External Affairs.[note 1][92]
Bhutan's exports, principally electricity, cardamom, gypsum, timber, handicrafts, cement, fruit, precious stones and spices, total '‚¬128 million (2000 est.). Imports, however, amount to '‚¬164 million, leading to a trade deficit. Main items imported include fuel and lubricants, grain, machinery, vehicles, fabrics and rice. Bhutan's main export partner is India, accounting for 58.6 percent of its export goods. Hong Kong (30.1 percent) and Bangladesh (7.3 percent) are the other two top export partners.[38] As its border with Tibet is closed, trade between Bhutan and China is now almost non-existent. Bhutan's import partners include India (74.5 percent), Japan (7.4 percent) and Sweden (3.2 percent).
Agriculture [ edit] Forestry is a major economic activity in BhutanThe share of the agricultural sector in GDP declined from approximately 55% in 1985 to 33% in 2003. In 2013 the government announced that Bhutan will become the first country in the world with 100 percent organic farming.[93]Bhutanese red rice is the country's most widely known agricultural export, enjoying a market in North America and Europe. Bangladesh is the largest market of Bhutanese apples and oranges.[94]
Fishing in Bhutan is mainly centered on trout and carp.
Industry [ edit] The industrial sector accounts of 22% of the economy. The key manufacturing sectors in Bhutan include production of ferroalloy, cement, metal poles, iron and nonalloy steel products, processed graphite, copper conductors, alcoholic and carbonated beverages, processed fruits, carpets, wood products and furniture.[95]
Mining [ edit] Bhutan has deposits of numerous minerals. Commercial production includes coal, dolomite, gypsum, and limestone. The country has proven reserves of beryl, copper, graphite, lead, mica, pyrite, tin, tungsten, and zinc.
Energy [ edit] Bhutan's largest export is hydroelectricity. As of 2015[update], it generates 5,000 MW of hydropower from Himalayan river valleys.[96] The country has a potential to generate 30,000 MW of hydropower.[96] Power is supplied to various states in India. Future projects are being planned with Bangladesh.[96] Hydropower has been the primary focus for the country's five-year plans. As of 2015[update], the Tala Hydroelectric Power Station is its largest power plant, with an installed capacity of 1,020 MW. It has received assistance from India, Austria and the Asian Development Bank in developing hydroelectric projects.
Financial sector [ edit] The two main financial institutions are the Bank of Bhutan, which is based in the southern city of Phuntsholing and is the retail wing of the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan, and the Bhutan National Bank, which is based in Thimphu. The Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan is the main stock exchange.
The SAARC Development Fund is based in Thimphu.[97]
Tourism [ edit] In 2014, Bhutan welcomed 133,480 foreign visitors.[98] Seeking to become a high value destination, it imposes a daily fee of US$250 on tourists that covers touring and hotel accommodation.[99] The industry employs 21,000 people and accounts for 1.8% of GDP.[100]
The country currently has no UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but it has eight declared tentative sites for UNESCO inclusion since 2012. These sites include Ancient Ruin of Drukgyel Dzong,[101]Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary,[102]Dzongs: the centre of temporal and religious authorities (Punakha Dzong, Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, Paro Dzong, Trongsa Dzong and Dagana Dzong),[103]Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP),[104]Royal Manas National Park (RMNP),[105] Sacred Sites associated with Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his descendants,[106]Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS),[107] and Tamzhing Monastery.[108] Bhutan also has numerous tourist sites that are not included in its UNESCO tentative list. Bhutan has one element, the Mask dance of the drums from Drametse, registered in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.[109]
Bhutan is also well known for mountain adventure trekking and hiking. Jhomolhari Base Camp Trek, Snowman Trek, and Masagang trek are some of the popular treks in Bhutan.
Transport [ edit] Air [ edit] Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. Yongphulla Airport in Trashigang is a small domestic airport that underwent upgrades through 2010.[110] Yongphulla Airport was scheduled for completion in January 2010 but as of January 2015, the airport remains closed due to ongoing runway repair.[111] National carrier Druk Air operates flights between Paro Airport and airports in Jakar (Bumthang Dzongkhag) and Gelephu (Sarpang Dzongkhag) on a weekly basis.[112]
Road [ edit] The Lateral Road is Bhutan's primary east''west corridor, connecting Phuentsholing in the southwest to Trashigang in the east. In between, the Lateral Road runs directly through Wangdue Phodrang, Trongsa and other population centres. The Lateral Road also has spurs connecting to the capital Thimphu and other major population centres such as Paro and Punakha. As with other roads in Bhutan, the Lateral Road presents serious safety concerns due to pavement conditions, sheer drops, hairpin turns, weather and landslides.[113][114][115]
Since 2014, road widening has been a priority across Bhutan, in particular for the North-East-West highway from Trashigang to Dochula. The widening project is expected to be completed by the end of 2017 and will make road travel across the country substantially faster and more efficient. In addition, it is projected that the improved road conditions will encourage more tourism in the more inaccessible Eastern region of Bhutan.[116][117][118] Currently, the road conditions appear to be deterring tourists from visiting Bhutan due to the increased instances of road blocks, landslides and dust disruption caused by the widening project.[119]
Rail [ edit] Bhutan has no railways, though it has entered into an agreement with India to link southern Bhutan to India's vast network by constructing an 18 kilometres (11 mi)-long 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in ) broad gauge rail link between Hashimara in West Bengal and Toribari in Bhutan. The construction of the railway via Satali, Bharna Bari and Dalsingpara by Indian railways will be funded by India.[120]
Demographics [ edit] Bhutanese people in national dress at the Wangdi Phodrang festival.Bhutan has a population of 770,000 people in 2015.[3] Bhutan has a median age of 24.8 years.[38] There are 1,070 males to every 1,000 females. The literacy rate in Bhutan is 59.5 percent.[121]
Ethnic groups [ edit] Bhutanese people primarily consist of the Ngalops and Sharchops, called the Western Bhutanese and Eastern Bhutanese respectively. The Lhotshampa, meaning "southerner Bhutanese", are a heterogeneous group of mostly Nepalese ancestry. It was claimed they constituted 45% of the population in 1988 census,[122] and include migrants from as early as the 1890s to as recent as the 1980s, who have fought a bitter war with Bhutan over rights to abode, language, and dress. Consequently, there has been mass emigration from Bhutan (both forced and voluntary) and ethnic cleansing in Bhutan resulting in hundreds of thousands of people left stateless in refugee camps of Nepal.[78]
The Ngalops primarily consist of Bhutanese living in the western part of the country. Their culture is closely related to that of Tibet. Much the same could be said of the Sharchops the dominant group, who traditionally follow the Nyingmapa rather than the official Drukpa Kagyu form of Tibetan Buddhism. In modern times, with improved transportation infrastructure, there has been much intermarriage between these groups. In the early 1970s, intermarriage between the Lhotshampas Bhutanese and mainstream Bhutanese society was encouraged by the government, but after the late 1980s, the Bhutanese government forced about 108,000 Lhotshampas from their homes, seized their land, and expelled them to refugee camps.[78]
Cities and towns [ edit] Thimphu, the largest city and capital of Bhutan.Damphu, the administrative headquarters of Tsirang District.Jakar, the administrative headquarters of Bumthang District and the place where Buddhism entered Bhutan.Mongar, the eastern commercial hub of the country.Paro, site of the international airport.Phuentsholing, Bhutan's commercial hub.Punakha, the old capital.Samdrup Jongkhar, the southeastern town on the border with India.Trashigang, administrative headquarters of Trashigang District, the most populous district in the country.Trongsa, in central Bhutan, which has the largest and the most magnificent of all the dzongs in Bhutan.
Samdrup Jongkhar
2PhuntsholingChukha60,4003PunakhaPunakha21,5004Samdrup JongkharSamdrup Jongkhar13,8005GeylegphugSarpang6,7006ParoParo4,4007TrashigangTrashigang4,4008Wangdue PhodrangWangdue Phodrang3,3009Daga DzongDagana3,10010TrongsaTrongsa2,300Religion [ edit] Religion in Bhutan (Pew 2010)[123]
Bon and other indigenous faith (1.9%) Other or none (2%)
It is estimated that between two-thirds and three-quarters of the Bhutanese population follow Vajrayana Buddhism, which is also the state religion. About one-quarter to one-third are followers of Hinduism. Other religions account for less than 1% of the population.[124] The current legal framework, in principle guarantees freedom of religion; proselytism, however, is forbidden by a royal government decision[124] and by judicial interpretation of the Constitution.[125]
Buddhism was introduced to Bhutan in the 7th century AD. Tibetan king Songts¤n Gampo (reigned 627''649), a convert to Buddhism, ordered the construction of two Buddhist temples, at Bumthang in central Bhutan and at Kyichu Lhakhang (near Paro) in the Paro Valley.[23]
Languages [ edit] The national language is Bhutanese (Dzongkha), one of 53 languages in the Tibetan language family. The script, here called Chhokey ("Dharma language"), is identical to classical Tibetan. In the schools English is the medium of instruction and Dzongkha is taught as the national language. Ethnologue lists 24 languages currently spoken in Bhutan, all of them in the Tibeto-Burman family, except Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language.[76]
Until the 1980s, the government sponsored the teaching of Nepali in schools in southern Bhutan. With the adoption of Driglam Namzhag and its expansion into the idea of strengthening the role of Dzongkha, Nepali was dropped from the curriculum. The languages of Bhutan are still not well-characterized, and several have yet to be recorded in an in-depth academic grammar. Before the 1980s, the Lhotshampa (Nepali-speaking community), mainly based in southern Bhutan, constituted approximately 30% of the population.[76] However, after conducting the purge of Lhotshaampas from 1990''1992 this number might not accurately reflect the current population.
Dzongkha is partially intelligible with Sikkimese and spoken natively by 25% of the population. Tshangla, the language of the Sharchop and the principal pre-Tibetan language of Bhutan, is spoken by a greater number of people. It is not easily classified and may constitute an independent branch of Tibeto-Burman. Nepali speakers constituted some 40% of the population as of 2006[update]. The larger minority languages are Dzala (11%), Limbu (10%), Kheng (8%), and Rai (8%). There are no reliable sources for the ethnic or linguistic composition of Bhutan, so these numbers do not add up to 100%.
Health [ edit] Bhutan has a life expectancy of 62.2 years (61 for males and 64.5 for females) according to the latest data from the World Bank.
Education [ edit] The ILCS Campus Tagse Bhutan.Bhutan has one decentralised university with eleven constituent colleges spread across the kingdom, the Royal University of Bhutan. The first five-year plan provided for a central education authority'--in the form of a director of education appointed in 1961'--and an organised, modern school system with free and universal primary education.
Education programmes were given a boost in 1990 when the Asian Development Bank (see Glossary) granted a US$7.13 million loan for staff training and development, specialist services, equipment and furniture purchases, salaries and other recurrent costs, and facility rehabilitation and construction at Royal Bhutan Polytechnic.
Culture and society [ edit] Chaam, sacred masked dances, are annually performed during religious festivals.Bhutan has a rich and unique cultural heritage that has largely remained intact because of its isolation from the rest of the world until the mid-20th century. One of the main attractions for tourists is the country's culture and traditions. Bhutanese tradition is deeply steeped in its Buddhist heritage.[126][127]Hinduism is the second most dominant religion in Bhutan, being most prevalent in the southern regions.[128] The government is increasingly making efforts to preserve and sustain the current culture and traditions of the country. Because of its largely unspoiled natural environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan has been referred to as The Last Shangri-la.[129]
While Bhutanese citizens are free to travel abroad, Bhutan is viewed as inaccessible by many foreigners. Another reason for it being an unpopular destination is the cost, which is high for tourists on tighter budgets. Entry is free for citizens of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, but all other foreigners are required to sign up with a Bhutanese tour operator and pay around US$250 per day that they stay in the country, though this fee covers most travel, lodging and meal expenses.[130] Bhutan received 37,482 visitor arrivals in 2011, of which 25% were for meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions.[131]
Bhutan is the first nation in the world to ban smoking. It has been illegal to smoke in public or sell tobacco, according to Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010. Violators are fined the equivalent of $232'--more than two months' salary in Bhutan.
Dress [ edit] The national dress for Bhutanese men is the gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. Women wear an ankle-length dress, the kira, which is clipped at the shoulders with two identical brooches called the koma and tied at the waist with kera. An accompaniment to the kira is a long-sleeved blouse, the wonju which is worn underneath the kira. A long-sleeved jacket-like garment, the toego is worn over the kira. The sleeves of the wonju and the tego are folded together at the cuffs, inside out.
Social status and class determine the texture, colours, and decorations that embellish the garments. Differently coloured scarves, known as rachu for women (red is the most common colour) and kabney for men, are important indicators of social standing, as Bhutan has traditionally been a feudal society. Jewellery is mostly worn by women, especially during religious festivals (tsechus) and public gatherings. To strengthen Bhutan's identity as an independent country, Bhutanese law requires all Bhutanese government employees to wear the national dress at work and all citizens to wear the national dress while visiting schools and other government offices though many citizens, particularly adults, choose to wear the customary dress as formal attire.
Architecture [ edit] Bhutanese architecture remains distinctively traditional, employing rammed earth and wattle and daub construction methods, stone masonry, and intricate woodwork around windows and roofs. Traditional architecture uses no nails or iron bars in construction.[29][132][133] Characteristic of the region is a type of castle fortress known as the dzong. Since ancient times, the dzongs have served as the religious and secular administration centres for their respective districts.[134] The University of Texas at El Paso in the United States has adopted Bhutanese architecture for its buildings on campus, as have the nearby Hilton Garden Inn and other buildings in the city of El Paso.[135]
Public holidays [ edit] Bhutan has numerous public holidays, most of which centre around traditional, seasonal, secular and religious festivals. They include the Dongzhi or winter solstice (around 1 January, depending on the lunar calendar),[136] Lunar New Year (February or March),[137] the King's birthday and the anniversary of his coronation, the official end of monsoon season (22 September),[138] National Day (17 December),[139] and various Buddhist and Hindu celebrations.
Film industry [ edit] Music and dance [ edit] Masked dances and dance dramas are common traditional features at festivals, usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colourful wooden or composition face masks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, d...mons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dancers enjoy royal patronage, and preserve ancient folk and religious customs and perpetuate the ancient lore and art of mask-making.
The music of Bhutan can generally be divided into traditional and modern varieties; traditional music comprises religious and folk genres, the latter including zhungdra and boedra.[140] The modern rigsar is played on a mix of traditional instruments and electronic keyboards, and dates back to the early 1990s; it shows the influence of Indian popular music, a hybrid form of traditional and Western popular influences.[141][142]
Family structure [ edit] In Bhutanese families, inheritance generally passes matrilineally through the female rather than the male line. Daughters will inherit their parents' house. A man is expected to make his own way in the world and often moves to his wife's home. Love marriages are common in urban areas, but the tradition of arranged marriages is still common in the villages. Although uncommon, polygamy is accepted, often being a device to keep property in a contained family unit rather than dispersing it.[143] The previous king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who abdicated in 2006, had four queens, all of whom are sisters. The current king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, wed Jetsun Pema, 21, a commoner and daughter of a pilot, on 13 October 2011.
Cuisine [ edit] Rice (red rice), buckwheat, and increasingly maize, are the staples of Bhutanese cuisine. The local diet also includes pork, beef, yak meat, chicken, and lamb. Soups and stews of meat and dried vegetables spiced with chilies and cheese are prepared. Ema datshi, made very spicy with cheese and chilies, might be called the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned into butter and cheese. Popular beverages include butter tea, black tea, locally brewed ara (rice wine), and beer. Bhutan is the first country in the world to have banned the sale of tobacco under its Tobacco Act of 2010.[29]
Sports [ edit] Bhutan's national and most popular sport is archery.[144] Competitions are held regularly in most villages. It differs from Olympic standards in technical details such as the placement of the targets and atmosphere. Two targets are placed over 100 meters apart, and teams shoot from one end of the field to the other. Each member of the team shoots two arrows per round. Traditional Bhutanese archery is a social event, and competitions are organized between villages, towns, and amateur teams. There is usually plenty of food and drink complete with singing and dancing. Attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter's ability. Darts (khuru) is an equally popular outdoor team sport, in which heavy wooden darts pointed with a 10 cm nail are thrown at a paperback-sized target 10 to 20 meters away.
Another traditional sport is the Digor, which resembles the shot put and horseshoe throwing.
Another popular sport is basketball.[144] In 2002, Bhutan's national football team played Montserrat, in what was billed as The Other Final; the match took place on the same day Brazil played Germany in the World Cup final, but at the time Bhutan and Montserrat were the world's two lowest ranked teams. The match was held in Thimphu's Changlimithang National Stadium, and Bhutan won 4''0. A documentary of the match was made by the Dutch filmmaker Johan Kramer. Bhutan won its first two FIFA World Cup Qualifying matches, beating Sri Lanka 1-0 in Sri Lanka and 2-1 in Bhutan, taking the aggregate at 3''1.[145]Cricket has also gained popularity in Bhutan, particularly since the introduction of television channels from India. The Bhutan national cricket team is one of the most successful affiliate nations in the region.
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Retrieved 2015-11-21 . ^ Bhutan Wins Again! A Match Report From A Deadspin Reader In Bhutan. Retrieved on 2015-12-04. Further reading [ edit] A.P. Agarwala (2003). Sikkim and Bhutan. Nest and Wings. ISBN 81-7824-008-4. Aris, Michael. Bhutan: the early history of a Himalayan Kingdom (Aris & Phillips, 1979).Bothe, Winnie. "In the name of king, country, and people on the Westminster model and Bhutan's constitutional transition." Democratization 22.7 (2015): 1338-1361.Givel, Michael. "Mahayana Buddhism and gross national happiness in Bhutan." International Journal of Wellbeing 5.2 (2015).Osmani, Siddiqur R.; Bajracharya, B.B.; Tenzing, S.; Wangyal, T. (2007). Macroeconomics of Poverty Reduction: The Case Study of Bhutan(PDF) (2 ed.). Colombo: UNDP. p. 302. ISBN 978-955-1416-00-3. Archived from the original(PDF) on 28 July 2011. Karma Phuntsho (2013). The History of Bhutan. Nodia: Random House India. ISBN 9788184003116. Rizal, Dhurba. The Royal Semi-authoritarian Democracy of Bhutan (Lexington Books, 2015).Robles, Chelsea M. Education and Society in Bhutan: Tradition and Modernisation (Routledge, 2016).Rose, Leo. The Nepali Ethnic Community in the Northeast of the Subcontinent. University of California, Berkeley. Rose, Leo E. The politics of Bhutan (Cornell University Press, 1977).Sinha, Awadhesh Coomar. Himalayan kingdom Bhutan: tradition, transition, and transformation (Indus Publishing, 2001).Wangchhuk, Lily (2008). Facts About Bhutan: The Land of the Thunder Dragon. Thimphu: Absolute Bhutan Books. ISBN 99936-760-0-4. Revkin, Andrew C. (4 October 2005). "A New Measure of Well-Being From a Happy Little Kingdom". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2005 . "Border tension pushes MEA allocation". The Tribune, Chandigarh. Archived from the original on 22 July 2005. Retrieved 8 September 2005 . Bhutan. MSN Encarta. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2005 . "BTI 2008 '-- Bhutan Country Report". G¼tersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung. 2007. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2008 . Datta-Ray, Sunanda K. (1984). Smash and Grab: The Annexation of Sikkim. Vikas. ISBN 0-7069-2509-2. Foning, A.R. (1987). Lepcha, My Vanishing Tribe. Sterling Publishers. ISBN 81-207-0685-4. Napoli, Lisa (2011). Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth. Crown. ISBN 0-307-45302-2. Niestroy, Ingeborg; Garc­a Schmidt, Armando; Esche, Andreas (2013). Bhutan: Paradigms Matter, in: Bertelsmann Stiftung (ed.): Winning Strategies for a Sustainable Future. Reinhard Mohn Prize 2013.(PDF) . Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, G¼tersloh. pp. 55''80. ISBN 978-3-86793-491-6. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2016-05-22. External links [ edit]
Blackwater founder wants to boost the Afghan air war with his private air force
Sun, 06 Aug 2017 15:15
WASHINGTON '-- Erik Prince, the former CEO of the private military company known as Blackwater, wants to step up the Afghan air war with a private air force capable of intelligence collection and close-air support, according to a recent proposal submitted to the Afghan government.
According to a senior Afghan military official, Prince has submitted a business proposal offering a ''turn-key composite air wing'' to help the fledgling Afghan air force in its fight against the Taliban and other militant groups.
The development comes as the White House is considering a plan to draw down the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and replace the ensuing power vacuum with contractors.
Pentagon officials are skeptical of that plan. Moreover, a senior Afghan defense official told Military Times that U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has refused to meet with Prince regarding the contractor plan.
Military Times has reached out to U.S. military officials in Afghanistan for a comment on Nicholson's meeting or lack thereof with Prince and have yet to receive a reply.
The proposal submitted to the Afghan government in March boasts an impressive array of combat aircraft for a private company. The aircraft offered in the proposal includes fixed-wing planes, attack helicopters and drones capable of providing close-air support to maneuvering ground forces, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by Military Times.
The proposal promises to provide ''high speed response'' close-air support and ''the entire country can be responded to in under 1 hour.'' The proposal states that weapons release decisions will still be made by Afghans.
The air frames are also outfitted with equipment to provide intelligence collection that includes imagery intelligence, signals intelligence and communications intelligence. The aircraft would be operated by the private company's employees.
Sign up for our NEW Good News Report - All positive stories about the military.One tool in particular is an iPhone application called Safe Strike. Safe Strike is a deconfliction tool for air tactical controllers to safely and accurately call in precision airstrikes or indirect fire, according to the proposal.
The proposal also promises to ''conduct medical evacuation in combat situations'' with ''ex-military medics and door gunners,'' according to a copy of the proposal.
Blackwater founder Erik Prince, pictured here during a panel discussion in 2007, has proposed using his company's private air force to support the Afghans' fight against the Taliban and other militants. (Sara D. Davis/AP) The Afghan air force is in the first stages of transition from its old fleet of Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters to U.S. UH-60A model Black Hawks '-- a development Nicholson deemed as necessary to help break the stalemate in Afghanistan.
However, those helicopters won't be arriving in Afghanistan for almost two years, and training isn't expected to begin until later this fall.
With battlefield casualties rising and the continued seesawing of territory between Afghan and Taliban control, Prince's proposal seeks to provide an interim private air force while the Afghan air force reaches full operational capability.
However, not everyone is on board with the plan. Ronald Neumann, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007 and now president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, said Afghanistan won't accept a private contractor force.
''President Ghani has told me he won't accept it,'' Neumann told Military Times in an interview. ''Afghans will never accept this.''
Neumann also questioned the legality and cost of using a private contracted force compared to using U.S. military assets.
''It cannot be cheaper,'' he said. ''This idea that it is somehow cheaper is ridiculous. Any force is going to have the same [support and logistical] requirements.''
Contracted forces would also not have the same legal protections under international law, Neumann said.
A private air force for Afghanistan?A private security firm known as Lancaster6 has offered to provide the government of Afghanistan with a ''turnkey air wing'' with range of aviation assets.
By: Military Times
Nevertheless, this isn't Erik Prince's first rodeo. The former Blackwater CEO sparked controversy a decade ago when his firm provided hundreds of millions of dollars in security support services to U.S. government in Iraq.
More recently, Prince has been using his private air force all over the globe to include Somalia, Iraq and South Sudan. Prince also reportedly has close ties to the Trump administration: He is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and was reportedly tapped to create a back channel line of communication with the Russian government during the Trump transition.
Prince's firm is now called the Frontier Services Group and is based in Hong Kong.
Through an affiliate known as EP Aviation, Prince operates his own personal air force. In Central Africa, the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army is bolstered by Prince's airpower. Helicopters registered to EP Aviation have been seen transporting U.S. Special Forces troops in the central African region, per a Daily Beast report.
The company named on the proposal to the Afghan government, Lancaster6, is already operating some of its aircraft in Afghanistan providing air mobility, troop transport, and parachute air drop support for supplies and cargo.
It's unclear precisely what Prince's current role is with Lancaster6, which is based in Dubai. The Afghan military official said Prince personally presented the Lancaster6 proposal to Afghan officials.
The current CEO of Lancaster6, according to a personal LinkedIn profile is the former director of operations and director of aviation for Prince's Frontier Services Group, Christiaan Durrant.
Durrant was recruited by Erik Prince to build his private air force, according to a report by The Intercept.
Frontier Services Group and Lancaster6 did not respond to Military Times requests for comment.
Afghan National Army Special Operations commandos prepare to conduct a mission in Kandahar Province Feb, 20, 2013. The Afghan military's air force's capability remains limited. Afghan forces, since taking over the responsibility for the security of Afghanistan in 2015, have borne the brunt of the sacrifice with dozens of lives lost every day, an Afghan defense official told Military Times.
''Aviation is an important part of the fight against terrorism,'' the official said. ''We hope that Afghan security forces are provided with proper, modern and sophisticated aircrafts, ultimately these are the Afghan forces who will continue to make sure that the region is protected from terrorist getting a foothold in the long run.''
A Pentagon spokeswomen declined to comment specifically on the contractor proposal from Prince.
''The secretary listens to many different viewpoints in the formulation of military plans,'' said Dana W. White, a spokeswoman for Defense Secretary James Mattis.
''Right now his focus remains on working with his fellow cabinet members and the White House to complete a national strategy for South Asia,'' she said. ''Any decisions he makes on troop levels or other support to Afghanistan will be in support of that strategy.''
According to the proposal, the contracted air support will continue until Afghans stop losing territory through 2017-2018, and Afghan forces begin to retake back ground lost to the Taliban.
There are currently about 8,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of about 100,000 in 2011. The U.S. provides close-air support for Afghan ground forces in operations against the Taliban and the Islamic State group's faction in Afghanistan.
Pentagon bureau chief Tara Copp and Mackenzie Wolf contributed to this report.
War on Ca$h
New Indian rupee 500 and 2000 note
'Unprecedented' outbreak of dengue fever plagues Sri Lanka - CNN
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 23:01
The international aid organization, formally known as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), is increasing its emergency assistance across Sri Lanka to help contain the spread of the mosquito-borne disease, a press release says.
Hospitals across the country are at breaking point and have been forced to turn away patients suffering from the disease as they struggle with the intake. Particularly hard hit is the country's Western Province, which accounts for almost half of Sri Lanka's infections.
More than 1190 Army personnel have been deployed in response to the outbreak.
"Island-wide Army troops will continue the campaign throughout the month until the incidence of Dengue is eradicated from all corners of the island," said a press release from the Sri Lankan militray.Delayed medical attention has been the leading cause for deaths arising from dengue, Ali Akram, of the National Hospital in Colombo told CNN earlier in July.The spread of the deadly viral disease is attributed to heavy monsoon rains, piles of rain-soaked garbage, standing pools of water and other mosquito larvae breeding grounds, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
A Sri Lankan man throws trash onto garbage piled on a street in Colombo on June 26, 2017.
More than half of the country's districts have been affected by heavy rains and flooding, and impoverished areas are most at risk, says Gerhard Tauscher, IFRC's operations manager in Sri Lanka.
"Dengue tends to seek out the poor who live in densely populated places where sanitation is inadequate, rubbish piles up, water pools and mosquitoes thrive," he said in a statement.
Growing problem
Dengue is endemic in Sri Lanka, and the last major outbreak -- in 2009 -- saw 25,000 infections and 249 deaths.
Priscilla Samaraweera, of the Sri Lankan National Dengue Control Unit, told CNN earlier that healthcare workers are struggling to combat the virus, which is more infectious and fatal than other strains that have hit the Asian nation in previous years.
The disease, which is mainly transmitted by a type of mosquito (Aedes aegypti) -- the same type of mosquito that carries the Zika and Chikungunya viruses -- is found in tropical and subtropical climates worldwide. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, rashes and pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain.
The spread of the disease, which manifests itself in flu-like symptoms and can develop into a deadly complication called severe dengue, also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever, has grown "dramatically" in recent decades, according to the WHO.
Over half of the world's population live in dengue endemic areas and there are as many as 390 million infections annually.
Major contributing factors to its rise include climate change, urbanization, poor sanitation control, according to Kym Blechynden, Regional Emergency Health Coordinator for IFRC Asia Pacific.
Higher humidity and temperatures mean mosquitoes can survive longer, increasing the likelihood for transmitting diseases and being able to travel to a wider geographic range.
It is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some developing countries, and half the world's population is at risk.
In Sri Lanka IFRC teams have been assisting with hospitalizations, and also by providing public education on the causes and prevention of the disease.
"But the disease can be stopped in its tracks when affected communities are informed about prevention and treatment, have access to medical care and mobilize to clean up their environment. That's what our teams are focusing on," Tauscher added.
The IFRC focuses on community education and prevention -- teaching communities how to destroy breeding sites and avoid bites, as well as making sure vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant women are educated and protected, said Blechynden.
In addition to the ideal conditions for dengue-carrying mosquitoes to thrive, the virus is the Dengue Serotype Two, a strain that is uncommon in Sri Lanka, according to Blechynden.
First reported in Sri Lanka in 2009, it has been detected only infrequently since, meaning that the population hasn't been exposed to it as much as other strains.
A government-backed four-day intensive clean-up drive, involving "tens of thousands of volunteers and security personnel," is scheduled to begin Friday, according to the state-owned Daily News.
To Help End Sexism, You Should Stop Eating Cheese | PETA
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 20:50
As feminists, we're working to put more women in office and in corner offices. We fight for equal pay, tax-free feminine hygiene products, an end to sexual harassment, funding for women's sports, and streets safe enough for us to walk alone. We push for strong role models who don't objectify women on television and in movies. We work to end sex trafficking, slavery, genital mutilation, and ''honor killings.'' We rail against sexism in all its many forms'--except, perhaps, when it comes to what's on our plates.
Can food really be sexist? Yes, when it's the product of imprisonment, rape, reproductive control, kidnapping, and abuse.
Contrary to popular belief, female cows produce milk only when they're pregnant or nursing. They make milk for the same reason that human women do: to feed their babies. Cows who are imprisoned on dairy farms are forcibly impregnated through artificial insemination again and again on rape racks. Rape racks. All for your milk, cheese, and yogurt.
PETA investigations have shown that farm workers kick, whip, and jab laboring mother cows and others who had just given birth. Eyewitnesses also filmed workers attaching chains to unborn calves' legs when their mothers had difficulty giving birth and yanking the babies out of their birth canals, causing the laboring cows to cry out.
The mothers are not allowed to nurse their babies. Instead, their infants are stolen from them, usually within hours of birth. Male calves, who are considered worthless to the dairy industry, are often sold for veal. Otherwise, they're raised to be killed for beef. Females are typically fed a milk replacement and eventually sentenced to the same sad fate as their mothers.
(C) Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals After their calves have been taken away from them, the mother cows are hooked up to milking machines two or more times a day. Through the use of intense milking regimes and sometimes drugs, their reproductive systems are exploited and they're forced to produce much more milk than they normally would. The average cow today produces more than four times as much milk as cows did in 1950.
Right image (C) Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals A cow's natural lifespan is about 20 years. Those used by the dairy industry live only five years on average before their bodies wear out from the strain of constant pregnancy, birth, and drastically increased lactation. They are slaughtered, and their flesh is typically turned into soup, ground beef, or dog and cat food because their bodies are too ''spent'' to be used for anything else.
Mothers, and all females, deserve better.
Help end violence, reproductive control, and rape of females of animal species who desperately need us to speak up for them. Try delicious plant-based milk, vegan cheese, and dairy-free yogurt. Our vegan mentors can answer your questions and help you leave sexism off your plate.
I Pledge to Go Vegan to Help End Sexism
Wondering if your child is transgender? Here are some tips
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 15:13
In this Tuesday, July 11, 2017, photo, Molly Maxwell hugs her child Gracie at the Bay Area Rainbow Day Camp in El Cerrito, Calif. The camp caters to transgender and ''gender fluid'' children, aged 4-12, making it one of the only camps of its kind in the world open to preschoolers, experts say. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu EL CERRITO >> How can a parent know if their child is transgender? What separates a young boy who might be transgender from one with a vivid imagination who likes to dress up in his sister's dresses? What do you do if your daughter tells you she's a boy?
The Associated Press spoke to gender experts to answer some of parents' most commonly asked questions.
''My answer is, we don't know,'' says Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and clinical psychologist, director of mental health at the University of California, San Francisco's Child and Adolescent Gender Center and author of ''The Gender Creative Child.''
''What we know is, you have a son who likes princess dresses. I would say get him the dresses. Have your child feel free to choose. Maybe they'll stop wearing dresses. Maybe they'll grow up to be gay.''
Transgender children will be insistent, consistent and persistent about their gender dysphoria, she says.
''It's not something the child says one time and it goes away.''
For critics who question whether preschool-age kids should be allowed to ''socially transition,'' Ehrensaft says: ''We expect a 2-year-old to know 'I am boy. I am girl.' So why can't that also apply to transgender children?''
''If I'm a kid who occasionally wants to put on my mom's high-heeled shoes or wear my mom's princess dress, I'm not the kid who wants to live as a girl. I'm the boy who occasionally wants to wear girl's clothes,'' says Johanna Olson-Kennedy, medical director of The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
The important thing to ask is whether your child is in distress.
''Are you having daily battles about clothing before school?'' Olson-Kennedy says. ''There are some things that are pretty universal. Is this the kid that everyone is trying to give Mutant Ninja Turtles to, and what they really want is the gifts their sisters are getting?''
Using a child's happiness and health as a guide is critical, she says.
It can also help for parents to get away somewhere with their child and allow the child to call the shots in terms of their gender, such as letting them use a different pronoun or wear a dress or other clothing of their choice, Olson-Kennedy says.
''Do it somewhere where you're not going to see people you know, if that's an issue for you,'' she says. ''Do a weekend as a different gender, and see what you learn.
''People have said this over and over again: 'Oh, my God. I saw a side of my child I had never seen before.'''
Though there are no set rules, Ehrensaft says some early signals can provide information about whether a child is transgender. They include:
'-- Certain actions at a very young age, such as toddlers pulling barrettes from their hair, grabbing for their sister's dress and dolls, or throwing away their trucks.
'-- The use of verbs regarding gender. Instead of ''I wish I was a girl,'' a transgender child will say, ''I am a girl.''
'-- Frustration over their genitals. By around age 3, children understand ''penis equals boy, and vagina equals girl,'' Ehrensaft said. ''Often those are the kids who cry out, 'Why did God get it wrong? Mommy, can you put me back inside so I can come out like my sister?'''
'-- Taking ''gender expansion play'' seriously. Many young boys like to play dress-up in their sisters' princess costumes, twirling around and then moving on to other toys, Ehrensaft said.
A transgender child ''also wants to get into his sister's closet, but he's not going to go for the princess dress '-- he's going to go for her school uniform,'' she says. ''He's going to put on her everyday clothes because he wants to be a regular girl, not a pretend princess.''
She thought she was Irish '-- until a DNA test opened a 100-year-old mystery - Washington Post
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:19
How Alice Collins Plebuch's foray into ''recreational genomics'' upended a family tree.
Five years ago, Alice Collins Plebuch made a decision that would alter her future '-- or really, her past.
She sent away for a ''just-for-fun DNA test.'' When the tube arrived, she spit and spit until she filled it up to the line, and then sent it off in the mail. She wanted to know what she was made of.
Plebuch, now 69, already had a rough idea of what she would find. Her parents, both deceased, were Irish American Catholics who raised her and her six siblings with church Sundays and ethnic pride. But Plebuch, who had a long-standing interest in science and DNA, wanted to know more about her dad's side of the family. The son of Irish immigrants, Jim Collins had been raised in an orphanage from a young age, and his extended family tree was murky.
After a few weeks during which her saliva was analyzed, she got an email in the summer of 2012 with a link to her results. The report was confounding.
About half of Plebuch's DNA results presented the mixed British Isles bloodline she expected. The other half picked up an unexpected combination of European Jewish, Middle Eastern and Eastern European. Surely someone in the lab had messed up. It was the early days of direct-to-consumer DNA testing, and's test was new. She wrote the company a nasty letter informing them they'd made a mistake.
But she talked to her sister, and they agreed she should test again. If the information Plebuch was seeing on her computer screen was correct, it posed a fundamental mystery about her very identity. It meant one of her parents wasn't who he or she was supposed to be '-- and, by extension, neither was she.
Eventually, Plebuch would write to Ancestry again. You guys were right, she'd say. I was wrong.
In a family photo, Alice Collins Plebuch's father, James ''Jim'' Collins, poses with his children. In the second row: Jim Collins, John Collins, Bill Collins, Brian Collins and Ed Collins. In the third row: Alice Collins Plebuch and her sister, Gerry Collins Wiggins.
We are only just beginning to grapple with what it means to cheaply and easily uncover our genetic heritage.
Over the past five years, as the price of DNA testing kits has dropped and their quality has improved, the phenomenon of ''recreational genomics'' has taken off. According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, nearly 8 million people worldwide, but mostly in the United States, have tested their DNA through kits, typically costing $99 or less, from such companies as 23andMe, and Family Tree DNA.
The most popular DNA-deciphering approach, autosomal DNA testing, looks at genetic material inherited from both parents and can be used to connect customers to others in a database who share that material. The results can let you see exactly what stuff you're made from '-- as well as offer the opportunity to find previously unknown relatives.
[DNA's new 'miracle': How adoptees are using online registries to find their blood relatives]
For adoptees, many of whom can't access information about their birth parents because of closed adoption laws, DNA testing can let them bypass years, even decades, of conventional research to find ''DNA cousins'' who may very well lead them to their families.
But DNA testing can also yield uncomfortable surprises. Some testers, looking for a little more information about a grandparent's origins, or to confirm a family legend about Native American heritage, may not be prepared for results that disrupt their sense of identity. Often, that means finding out their dad is not actually their dad or discovering a relative that they never knew existed '-- perhaps a baby conceived out of wedlock or given up for adoption.
In 2014, 23andMe estimated that 7,000 users of its service had discovered unexpected paternity or previously unknown siblings '-- a relatively small fraction of overall users. The company no longer provides data on surprise results. However, its customer base has more than doubled since 2014, and now contains more than 2 million people '-- and as more people get involved with recreational genomics, bloodline surprises are certain to become a more common experience. The 2020s may turn out to be the decade that killed family secrets, for better and for worse.
''We see it every day,'' says CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist and consultant for the PBS series ''Finding Your Roots.'' She runs a 54,000-person Facebook group, DNA Detectives, that helps people unravel their genetic ancestries. ''You find out that a lot of things are not as they seem, and a lot of families are much more complex than you assume.''
Alice Plebuch found herself in this place in the summer of 2012. To solve the mystery of her identity, she needed more help than any DNA testing company could offer. After all, genetic testing gives you the what, but not the why.
Plebuch would turn out to be uniquely suited to the role of private eye in her own detective story. Now living in the suburbs of Vancouver, Wash., she worked as an IT manager for the University of California before her retirement. ''I did data processing most of my life, and at a fairly sophisticated level,'' she says. Computers do not intimidate her, and neither do big questions that require the organization and analysis of complex information. She likes to find patterns hidden in the chaos.
Just the skills necessary to solve a very old puzzle.
Jim and Alice Nisbet Collins on their wedding day in the 1940s.
After the initial shock of her test results, Plebuch wondered if her mother might have had an affair. Or her grandmother, perhaps? So, she and her sister, Gerry Collins Wiggins, both ordered kits from DNA testing company 23andMe.
The affair scenario seemed unlikely '-- certainly out of character for her mom, and besides, all seven Collins children had their father's hooded eyes. But she couldn't dismiss it. ''My father, he was in the Army and he was all over the world, and it was just one of those fears that you have when you don't know,'' she says.
As they waited for their results, they wondered. If the findings were right, it meant one of Plebuch's parents was at least partly Jewish. But which one?
They had a gut sense that it was unlikely to be their mother, who came from a large family, filled with cousins Plebuch and her siblings all knew well. Dad, who died in 1999, seemed the likelier candidate. Born in the Bronx, Jim Collins was a baby when his mother died. His longshoreman father, John Collins, was unable to care for his three children and sent them to live in orphanages. He died while Jim was still a child, and Jim had only limited contact with his extended family as an adult.
But still, the notion Jim could somehow be Jewish seemed far-fetched. His parents had come to the United States from Ireland, and that history was central to Jim's sense of himself. ''He was raised in an orphanage; he didn't have anything else,'' Plebuch says. ''He had his Irish identity.''
She plunged into online genealogy forums, researching how other people had traced their DNA and educating herself about the science. She and her sister came up with a plan: They would persuade two of their first cousins to get tested '-- their mother's nephew and their father's nephew. If one of those cousins was partly Jewish, they'd know for sure which side of the family was contributing the mysterious heritage.
The men agreed. The sisters sent their kits and waited.
Then Plebuch's own 23andMe results came back. They seemed consistent with her earlier test, indicating lots of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry from areas such as Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania. She also discovered that her brother Bill had recently taken a 23andMe test. His results were a relief '-- sort of.
''No hanky-panky,'' as Plebuch puts it. They were full siblings, sharing about 50 percent of the relevant DNA, including the same mysterious Jewish ancestry. This knocked out another theory they had considered '-- that Plebuch might have been adopted.
Plebuch found a feature on 23andMe's website showing what segments along her chromosomes were associated with Ashkenazi Jews. Flipping back and forth, comparing her DNA to her brother's, she had a sudden insight.
There was a key difference between the images, lurking in the sex chromosomes. Along the X chromosome were blue segments indicating where she had Jewish ancestry, which could theoretically have come from either parent because females inherit one X from each. But males inherit only one X, from their mothers, along with a Y chromosome from their fathers, and when Plebuch looked at her brother's results, ''darned if Bill's X chromosome wasn't lily white.'' Clearly, their mother had contributed no Jewish ancestry to her son.
Passes down only
X chromosomes to
all children
Can only pass down a
Y chromosome to sons and an X to daughters
Genome screenshot of Alice Plebuch
= Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
X chromosome showing Jewish ancestry, which theoretically could have come from either parent
Genome screenshot of Alice's brother Bill
X chromosome, which had to come from his mother, without any Jewish ancestry
Source: Screenshots from (C) 23andMe, Inc. 2007-2016.
All rights reserved; distributed pursuant to a Limited
License from 23andMe
Can only pass down a Y chromosome to sons and an X to daughters
Passes down only
X chromosomes to
all children
Genome screenshot of Alice Plebuch
= Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
X chromosome showing Jewish ancestry, which theoretically could have come from either parent
Genome screenshot of Alice's brother Bill
X chromosome, which had to come from his mother, without any Jewish ancestry
Source: Screenshots from (C) 23andMe, Inc. 2007-2016.All rights
reserved; distributed pursuant to a Limited License from 23andMe
= Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
X chromosomes showing Jewish ancestry, which theoretically could have come from either parent
Passes down only
X chromosomes to
all children
Genome screenshot of Alice Plebuch
Genome screenshot of Alice's brother Bill
X chromosome, which had to come from his mother, without any Jewish ancestry
Can only pass down a
Y chromosome to sons and an X to daughters
Source: Screenshots from (C) 23andMe, Inc. 2007-2016. All rights reserved; distributed pursuant to a Limited License from 23andMe
''That was when I knew that my father was the one,'' Plebuch says.
The next day, her sister Gerry Wiggins's results came back: She, too, was a full sibling who also displayed significant Jewish ancestry. Then, Plebuch got an email from a retired professor known for his skill at interpreting ancestry tests, to whom she'd sent hers. ''What you are is 50 percent Jewish,'' he wrote. ''This is in fact as solid as DNA gets, which in this case is very solid indeed.''
But how could their father have been Jewish? Could Jim Collins's parents have been secret Irish Jews? Or maybe Jews from Eastern Europe who passed themselves off as Irish when they came to the country as immigrants?
Now they really needed the data from the cousin on their father's side. If he also had Jewish ancestry, Plebuch figured, that could point to a family secret buried in Europe.
They waited for months, through a series of setbacks '-- problems in the lab, problems with the mail. Meanwhile, the sisters emailed back and forth.
Plebuch asked her younger sister: Did this revelation about their father's ethnicity unnerve her? They'd been so certain of their family roots, and ''now we know nothing,'' she wrote.
''It is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning,'' Wiggins replied, ''and the last thing I think about as I drift off to sleep.''
At last, Plebuch was alerted that her cousins' results were ready. The data from their mom's nephew revealed that he was a full first cousin, as expected '-- sharing about 12.5 percent of his DNA with Plebuch.
But the results from her dad's nephew, Pete Nolan, whose mother was Jim Collins's sister, revealed him to be a total stranger, genetically speaking. No overlap whatsoever with Plebuch '-- or, by extension, with her father.
In other words, Plebuch's cousin wasn't actually her cousin.
And her dad's sister wasn't actually his sister.
Jim Collins, his wife, Alice, and John Collins, the brother he was raised with, in a circa 1944 photo. John was nearly a head taller than Jim.
Plebuch was devastated. This finding knocked out the secret-Jews theory '-- but if it put Plebuch closer to the truth, she still felt unmoored. She was deeply fond of Nolan, with whom she shared a birthday. ''I was afraid he was going to reject me because we were no longer biological cousins.''
She called Nolan to share the results of his DNA test. ''He was sad,'' Plebuch says, ''but he also told me I was the best cousin he ever had.''
Plebuch and Wiggins came to the stunned conclusion that their dad was somehow not related to his own parents. John and Katie Collins were Irish Catholics, and their son was Jewish.
''I really lost all my identity,'' Plebuch says. ''I felt adrift. I didn't know who I was '-- you know, who I really was.''
For Wiggins, the revelation confirmed a long, lingering sense that something was amiss with her father's story. Studying the family photographs on her wall, she'd thought for years that their paternal grandfather looked like no one in her immediate family. Visiting Ireland in 1990, she had searched the faces for any resemblance to her 5-foot-4, dark-haired father. ''There was nobody that looked like my dad,'' Wiggins says.
The sisters set about methodically pursuing several theories. With Jim Collins and his parents long dead, Plebuch knew she needed to unravel his story through the living. She signed up to take a class in Seattle on how to use DNA to find her father's relatives.
If the woman Jim called his sister was not his sister, was there evidence of an actual sibling out there somewhere? Might that sibling have children? Might Plebuch and her siblings have first cousins they'd never known about?
The family tree Alice Collins Plebuch grew up with began to look different.
The dystopian novelist Margaret Atwood is fond of saying that all new technologies have a good side, a bad side and a ''stupid side you hadn't considered.'' Doing DNA testing for fun can carry consequences few of us might anticipate. It requires little investment at the outset, but it has the potential to utterly change our lives.
After researching her family history, Laurie Pratt decided five years ago to enhance her genealogical knowledge by testing herself and her parents. This was how she discovered that her dad was not related to her.
Pratt, 52, an airline ground operations supervisor in Orange County, Calif., went to her mother, who at first said the results were ''impossible.'' But over time, her mother divulged hazy memories of a short-lived relationship during a period when she and her husband were briefly separated.
Her mother couldn't recall a name before she died. The man who raised Pratt also died; she never told him he was not, biologically speaking, her father.
She searched over several years, eventually identifying a potential candidate within the family tree of previously unknown cousins she found through DNA matching. She sent this man a letter '-- and days later, in February of this year, he suddenly popped up in the database, identified by a saliva test as her biological father.
The man called her, and they spoke briefly on the phone. Though he was unmarried when Pratt was conceived, he fretted over the idea that he had abandoned a baby without knowing it. Pratt asked if they could meet, and the man agreed, but asked if he could take some time first to process the news and tell his wife and daughter.
Two days later, Pratt logged onto and discovered that the man's test had been deleted.
Reactions to DNA testing surprises vary dramatically. Moore, the genetic genealogist, says that, in her experience, even those who are initially dismayed end up glad that ''they learned about the truth of themselves.''
But seekers may be a self-selecting bunch, and those who find the truth thrust upon them by someone else's quest are not always happy about it. Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum, an adoptee who spent decades searching for her birth parents and now helps others on their quests, says in some instances, people are ''outright hostile'' when they learn of a newly discovered relative.
The reaction is understandable: DNA surprises often imply extramarital affairs, out-of-wedlock births and decades-old secrets.
Researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium recently examined the English-language websites of 43 direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies and found that few companies warn consumers about the possibility of discovering ''misattributed paternity.''
23andMe is unusual in offering multiple warnings. (''Unexpected relationships may be identified that could affect you and your family.'') ''We are as transparent as possible,'' says Kate Black, the privacy officer for 23andMe, brought on in 2015 after the company was criticized for failing to prepare consumers for such surprises. ''We try to educate and inform people in every tool.''
Still, consumers may skim those warnings or refuse to believe such surprises might lurk within their own families. Jennifer Utley, the director of research at, says that even though she had seen many cases of surprise relatives in her work, she still found herself in ''complete shock'' when she tested her own DNA and discovered a first cousin she hadn't known existed.
''I had no idea who this person was,'' says Utley, who has since learned that her cousin was the product of a teenage relationship, raised by an adoptive family. Of her family, she now concludes: ''We're the best secret-keepers on the planet.''
Pratt says she doesn't regret testing her DNA. She found herself both ''devastated and curious'' after the initial discovery about her genetic heritage. But, of course, that discovery was not hers alone, because her genes are not hers alone. Cases of unexpected paternity and secret adoptions implicate other people.
''I think this jars him,'' she says of her biological father. ''He goes to bed the good guy '-- he's always been very religious, very Catholic. And he wakes up, he's Mick Jagger. He has a baby. It blew his mind a little bit.''
In late April, Pratt sent the man another letter. She had ''no desire to push myself into your family,'' she wrote, nor make a financial claim. What she sought were stories about him and his family, to help her build a sense of where she came from. Just one meeting, a few hours, was all she asked.
She still hasn't heard back.
The Collins children '-- from left, Kitty, Jim and John '-- with their longshoreman father, John Josef Collins, in 1914. Collins, a widower, was unable to care for his three children and sent them to live in orphanages. He died while Jim was still a child.
By early 2013, the Collins children were hot on the trail of a hundred-year-old mystery.
They had their father's birth certificate, indicating that he'd been born on Sept. 23, 1913. They wrote to his orphanage and learned that their dad had been sent there by the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Plebuch wondered if Jim Collins, just a baby at the time, had somehow been confused with another child when he was taken from his father's home.
She found a forensic artist said to be skilled in understanding how faces change over time. She sent her a picture of her dad sitting on his father's lap when he was about 11 months, along with photos of him as an adult. Were these of the same person?
Probably, the forensic artist ruled. The ears hadn't changed, and the mouth, chin and facial proportions seemed the same.
If the mystery of their father didn't begin with his parents' life in Ireland, nor with his own time in the orphanage, Plebuch and her sister concluded it must have happened shortly after Jim was born. Unusually for the era, his mother gave birth not at home but at Fordham Hospital in the Bronx.
Could something have happened there?
Fordham Hospital in the Bronx, where Jim Collins was born in 1913. (Wurts Bros./Museum of the City of New York)
By this time, the sisters were using techniques developed by Moore and others to help adoptees try to find relatives in a vast universe of strangers' spit. Every time a site like 23andMe informed them of what Plebuch calls a ''DNA cousin'' on their Jewish side '-- someone whose results suggested a likely cousin relationship '-- they would ask to see that person's genome. If the person agreed, the site would reveal any places where their chromosomes overlapped.
The idea, Plebuch explains, was to find patterns in the data. A group of people who share segments on the same chromosome probably share a common ancestor. If Plebuch could find a group of relatives who all shared the same segment, she might be able to use that '-- along with their family trees, family surnames, and ancestors' home towns in the old country '-- to trace a path into her father's biological family.
The work was slow and painstaking, complicated by the fact that Ashkenazi Jews frequently marry within the group and often are related in multiple ways. This can make distant relatives look like a closer match than they actually are. But the sisters forged on, sending at least 1,000 requests for genome-sharing to DNA cousins through 23andMe. It became Plebuch's full-time job.
Some ignored their overtures, while others were drawn in by the saga and devoted their own efforts to helping the sisters untangle it. It was as if the Collins sisters had plugged into a larger family, a web of strangers who wanted to help because generations before, their ancestors had shared soup, shared heartache, slept in the same bed.
One DNA cousin made a clever suggestion: Why not search for evidence of a baby born around the same time under a common Jewish surname, Cohen? He reasoned that the nurses, perhaps relying on an alphabetical system, might have confused a Collins baby with a Cohen baby. CeCe Moore was by now volunteering to advise Plebuch, and with additional help from Tannenbaum and the New York City Birth Index of 1913, Plebuch found a Seymour Cohen born in the Bronx on Sept. 23. DNA cousins fanned out on the Internet, tracking down a descendant of Seymour's sister.
Plebuch wrote to the woman, a professor in North Carolina, and offered to pay for her test kit if she'd contribute something completely free and absolutely priceless: her saliva. The woman agreed.
Weeks later, the results came back. No relation.
After that red herring, Plebuch decided to dive deeper into the 1913 birth index, to find babies who were in the hospital at the same time as her father. It was no easy task: The list of children born in the Bronx in 1913 ran 159 pages, was not ordered by date, and didn't distinguish hospital births from home births. But she managed to isolate all the male children born on Sept. 23, as well as the day after and the day before. She further narrowed the list to names that sounded either Jewish or ethnically neutral '-- 30 babies in all.
Her hope was that one of those babies would share a surname with one of the people that the DNA matching sites identified as a likely relative. So she searched methodically.
''Appel'' '-- nothing. ''Bain'' '-- nothing. ''Bamson'' '-- nothing.
It was another dead end.
The sisters went back to the chromosome segment matching, both at 23andMe and Family Tree DNA, where they had also uploaded their genetic data. They bought at least 21 DNA test kits for themselves, relatives and strangers suspected of being relations. Plebuch found she and her siblings matched to 6,912 likely DNA relatives, with 311,467 ''segment matches'' among them '-- segments along the chromosomes that overlapped with those of the Collins children. Which is to say, 311,467 potential clues.
The data they had kept on spreadsheets quickly became overwhelming, so their brother Jim, a retired software and systems engineer who had worked on NASA supercomputers, designed an iPad app called DNAMatch to help them and other seekers keep their data straight.
Plebuch was determined and unusually well suited to the task of solving a puzzle hidden in big data. She and Wiggins searched this way for two and a half years. But she was having no luck finding someone closely related to her father's biological family '-- they simply weren't in the system.
Perhaps they didn't know about DNA testing, or couldn't afford it, or weren't interested.
All the sisters could do was keep working and waiting, hoping the DNA testing revolution would make its way to strangers who shared their blood.
To solve her father's mystery, Plebuch explored a web of ''DNA cousins'' who testing suggested were blood relatives.
Ultimately, the crack in the case came not through Plebuch's squad of helpful DNA cousins, but through a stranger with no genetic connection.
It was Jan. 18, 2015, a Sunday, and Plebuch was feeling down. She was writing an email to her cousin Pete Nolan '-- the beloved relative it turned out she wasn't really related to '-- to update him on her stalled search.
As administrator of his 23andMe account, she had permission to check the list of his DNA relatives yet rarely did so, since new relatives rarely showed up. But she decided to check it this day '-- and this time, there was a new person. A stranger had just had her saliva processed, and she showed up as a close relative of Nolan.
Plebuch emailed the woman and asked if she would compare genomes with Nolan. The woman agreed, and Plebuch could see the segments where her cousin and the stranger overlapped. Plebuch thanked her, and asked if her results were what she expected.
''I was actually expecting to be much more Ashkenazi than I am,'' the woman wrote. Her name was Jessica Benson, a North Carolina resident who had taken the test on a whim, hoping to learn more about her Jewish ethnicity. Instead, she wrote, she had discovered ''that I am actually Irish, which I had not expected at all.''
Plebuch felt chills. She wrote back that her father had been born at Fordham Hospital on Sept. 23, 1913. Had anyone in the Benson family been born on that date?
Jessica replied. Her grandfather, Phillip Benson, might have been born around that date, she wrote.
Plebuch began to cry.
She started combing through her list of baby names from the 1913 Index. No ''Benson'' born that day in the Bronx. But then, well after midnight, she found it:
The New York City Birth Index had a ''Philip Bamson,'' born Sept. 23 '-- one of the names she had searched among her DNA cousins. This had to be Phillip Benson, his name misrecorded on his birth certificate.
Plebuch knew in her bones what had happened. This was no ancient family secret, buried by shame or forgotten by generations.
This was a mistake that no one had ever detected, a mistake that could only have been uncovered with DNA technology. Someone in the hospital back in 1913 had messed up. Somehow, a Jewish child had gone home with an Irish family, and an Irish child had gone home with a Jewish family.
And the child who was supposed to be Phillip Benson had instead become Jim Collins.
Sitting, from left, are Phillip Benson's first wife, Esther Abolafia Benson, their son Kenny and Phillip Benson. Behind them are Ida Cott Benson and Sam Benson, the parents Phillip Benson grew up with.
Pam Benson was stunned by what this stranger was telling her over the phone.
''I said, 'You've got to be kidding me,''‰'' says Pam, who is Jessica's aunt and the daughter of the late Phillip Benson.
The Lawndale, Calif., woman sent off for her own DNA kit and discovered that, rather than being part Jewish as she'd long thought, she was part Irish, and first cousins with a man she'd never heard of '-- Plebuch's ''Irish cousin,'' Pete Nolan.
The families compared the birth certificates for Jim Collins and Phillip Benson and found they were one number apart and signed by the same doctor, suggesting they were processed close together in time. Plebuch began to research the ways an earlier generation of hospitals kept track of their littlest charges. In the book ''Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950,'' she found an astonishing picture, taken at a Manhattan medical institution the year before her father was born. It shows at least a dozen newborns piled on a cart like so many cabbages.
''Every time I show it, when I give lectures, the whole audience gasps,'' says author Judith Walzer Leavitt, a childbirth historian and a retired professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ''You can understand how possible it was to switch babies inadvertently.''
In 1913, hospital births were still unusual, and procedures to identify babies were inconsistent. Some hospitals kept babies sleeping in cots by their mothers' beds, while others kept them in nurseries, increasing the chances of a mix-up. While it's hard to know what practices were in place at Fordham Hospital, which was shuttered in 1976, Leavitt says it was not until the 1930s or '40s that it became standard for hospitals to give babies and their mothers identifying wristlets or anklets. In 1913, they more typically ''just depended on mothers' recognition or nurses' remembrance.''
The families exchanged photographs. Pam Benson saw Plebuch's short, dark-haired dad Jim Collins, who looked far more like Benson's 5-foot-4 grandfather and 4-foot-9 grandmother than did her own blue-eyed, 6-foot father, Phillip.
Plebuch's search led to a family she never knew about that was inextricably linked to her own. A Collins baby was raised a Benson and a Benson baby was raised a Collins. Here are the biological lines revealed by DNA testing.
Plebuch's search led to a family she never knew about that was inextricably linked to her own. A Collins baby was raised a Benson and a Benson baby was raised a Collins. Here are the biological lines revealed by DNA testing.
''My grandfather came to my dad's shoulders,'' she says. She had once asked her dad how he could be so tall. ''He said, 'recessive genes.''‰''
The Collins sisters had long had their own explanation for why their father didn't seem to resemble his siblings. Roger Wiggins, Gerry's husband, recalls meeting Jim's tall, lanky brother in the 1970s and asking Gerry about it. ''She said, 'Well, my dad was in the orphanage, and when he was in the orphanage he was malnourished.''‰''
Plebuch and Pam Benson took to calling each other ''swapcuz,'' though in fact they share no genetic relation. And now Plebuch discovered she had a real new first cousin: Phylis Pullman, the daughter of the biological sister Jim never knew. In late 2015, Plebuch flew to Florida to meet her. Sitting at opposite ends of a couch, the diminutive women were like mirror images; they could have been sisters.
Pullman told her the family story of how, when her tall Uncle Phillip was courting his first wife, her observant Jewish parents didn't believe he could possibly be a member of the tribe.
''He had to bring his birth certificate,'' says Pullman. ''Little did we know it wasn't his birth certificate.''
Phylis Pullman, left, first cousin to Alice Collins Plebuch, and Alice chat with Alice's second cousins Dan Klein and Jerry Klein while looking over photo albums of their families. (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)
In January, all seven Collins siblings joined Pullman and Pam Benson on a cruise. It was oddly comfortable, Pullman says '-- no strangeness among strangers, as if blood recognized blood. Even Pam Benson, the daughter of an Irishman raised Jewish, who didn't share genes with any of them, felt at ease. ''It was like we were all one big swap family,'' she says. She and Plebuch have been working together to try to get New York State to annotate their fathers' birth certificates, to reflect their true parentage.
But the revelations have also felt like a loss. Pam Benson's late father was a Jew, only he wasn't, and sometimes her daughter would come home and catch Pam crying over what he would have thought of this. How were she and Plebuch to reconcile that their fathers weren't what they thought they were? And, for that matter, what were they? Was Jim Collins a Jewish man because he was born that way, or an Irishman because he was raised one?
Plebuch has come to agree with her younger sister that if their dad were alive, it would be right to tell him the truth about his birth. But she considers it a mercy that Jim Collins didn't live through the era of recreational genomics. This was a man so proud of his heritage that his children gave him an Irish wake, with Wiggins singing his favorite song, ''Danny Boy.''
''My dad would have lost his identity,'' Plebuch says. ''He's been kind of spared that.''
She and her siblings also think about what would have happened if Jim Collins remained with his biological family, and had become Phillip Benson, as he was supposed to. As the two families exchanged old photos, Plebuch came across one of a young Phillip sitting on a horse and felt a pang of jealousy. She wouldn't begrudge Phillip for those happy childhood days '-- but it should have been her dad on that horse.
In looking over Benson family photos, Alice Collins Plebuch was struck by a childhood photo of Phillip Benson on a horse. She wondered what kind of life her father, Jim, would have lived had he been raised with his biological family, the Bensons.
If not for the switch, Jim would have been raised in an intact home. He almost certainly would have completed high school and might have done something with his gift for mathematics. Instead, he served in the Army and later as a California prison guard '-- spending his career in institutions like the one that defined his childhood. He made a decent life for himself, but his kids still grieve for the losses of that little boy. ''In the orphanage, my father got an orange for Christmas,'' Plebuch says.
And yet, were it not for what happened in 1913, Alice Collins Plebuch would not exist. The Collins children owe their lives to an administrative oversight. A nurse's momentary lapse of attention, perhaps. It was a terrible thing, and yet, how can they resent that it happened?
It is astonishing what DNA testing can do. The same technology can cleave families apart or knit them together. It can prompt painful revelations, and it can bring distantly related members of the human family together on a quest, connecting first cousins who look like sisters, and solving a century-old mystery that could have been solved no other way. It can bring to light a split-second mistake committed by someone long dead, in a city across the country, in a building that no longer exists. It can change the future and it can change the past.
It can change our understanding of who we are.
Plebuch says she and her siblings decided as a family ''we were not going to be bitter.'' It is a complex feat, made necessary by old-fashioned error and modern-day technology, to grasp that a terrible thing happened, and that you are grateful for it. Nor does Plebuch regret what she's learned. She does not regard DNA testing as a Pandora's box better left closed, though this thing she undertook casually turned out, she says, to be ''the biggest deal in the world.''
It is the truth, after all.
Alice Collins Plebuch poses for a portrait after meeting relatives in Seaford, N.Y., on June 24. Of her father, she says she is glad he did not live into the age of recreational genomics. ''My dad would have lost his identity,'' Plebuch says. ''He's been kind of spared that.'' (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)
Libby Copeland is a former Washington Post staff writer. She is collecting interesting stories about DNA testing. To share yours, contact her at
Words matter. '' Stealthmode Blog '' Medium
Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:31
Words matter.
I cannot believe that Google will not fire him for this manifesto. Or at the very least get him into an employee assistance program. This guy needs help. Especially because we are now in the midst of the greatest discussion about gender in the history of Silicon Valley, and the women have decided it's okay to speak out.
I haven't seen anything on social media from another woman speaking out, so I will. I'm untouchable because I own my own company, and because I have forty years of business experience.
Women have made some great strides in the past forty years, since I wasn't allowed to get a credit card or open a bank account in my own name. In the 70s, the first women's movement had to start a Women's Bank to make that happen, but all the big banks suddenly jumped on.
Fast forward to the era of big data.
Now we know for a fact that women make most of the buying decisions, live longer than men, and therefore end up by inheritance or their own work with most of the money. They therefore also make most philanthropic decisions. When I was coming up, we suspected this, but we didn't have the data. You male engineers who are all about data and metrics, there it is for you.
Thus, you cannot circumnavigate around us, because we can break you. Even though we are still discriminated against and not paid equally, we still control 51% of the wealth. 70% of us are in the work force. We have more college degrees, and more advanced degrees than men, and that's increasing every year.
I would urge my fellow women (what an incredibly mixed metaphor) to continue speaking up and speaking out until we get where we want to be. I love men, and I know that inside most of them feel insecure and that's why they write screeds like this, but I would urge them to get some counseling, as they've forced us to do over the years.
long tern bond yields
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:47
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Brexit caused by low levels of education, study finds | The Independent
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 23:37
Britain would have likely voted to remain in the European Union were its population educated to a slightly higher level, a new study has found.
Researchers at the University of Leicester say that had just 3 per cent more of the population gone to university, the UK would probably not be leaving the EU.
The researchers looked at reasons why people voted Leave and found that whether someone had been to university or accessed other higher education was the ''predominant factor'' in how they voted.
The paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal World Development, applied a multivariate regression analysis and logit model to areas of the country to identify why people voted the way they did.
The level of higher education in an area was far more important than age, gender, the number of immigrants, or income in predicting the way an area voted, the researchers found.
Age and gender were both significant but not as important as education level, the researchers found. Income and number of immigrants in an area were not found to be a significant factor in how people voted.
The researchers also found that a lower rate of turnout '' by just 7 per cent '' would also likely have changed the result to Remain.
The last Labour government set a target of half of young people accessing higher education and there has been a large expansion in numbers in recent decades. Universities UK says it expected the number of people in employment with higher education qualifications to have risen from 28.7 per cent in 2002 to 51.3 per cent in 2022
Dr Aihua Zhang, from the University of Leicester's Department of Mathematics, said: ''The EU referendum raised significant debate and speculation of the intention of the electorate and its motivations in voting. Much of this debate was informed by simple data analysis examining individual factors, in isolation, and using opinion polling data.
''This, in the case of the EU referendum where multiple factors influence the decision simultaneously, failed to predict the eventual outcome. On June 23rd 2016, Britain's vote to leave the EU came as a surprise to most observers, with a bigger voter turnout '' 72.2 per cent '' than that of any UK general election in the past decade.''
British voters voted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the EU in a referendum held in June 2016.
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Agenda 2030
'Dodgy' greenhouse gas data threatens Paris accord - BBC News
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 22:24
Image copyright JUNGFRAUJOCH Image caption The air monitoring station at Jungfraujoch, in Switzerland, has detected the Italian emissions for nine years Potent, climate-warming gases are being emitted into the atmosphere but are not being recorded in official inventories, a BBC investigation has found.
Air monitors in Switzerland have detected large quantities of one gas coming from a location in Italy.
However, the Italian submission to the UN records just a tiny amount of the substance being emitted.
Levels of some emissions from India and China are so uncertain that experts say their records are plus or minus 100%.
These flaws posed a bigger threat to the Paris climate agreement than US President Donald Trump's intention to withdraw, researchers told BBC Radio 4's Counting Carbon programme.
Among the key provisions of the Paris climate deal, signed by 195 countries in December 2015, is the requirement that every country, rich or poor, has to submit an inventory of its greenhouse-gas emissions every two years.
Under UN rules, most countries produce "bottom-up" records, based on how many car journeys are made or how much energy is used for heating homes and offices.
Image caption Scientist Dr Stefan Reimann has been recording high levels of warming gases over the Swiss Alps But air-sampling programmes that record actual levels of gases, such as those run by the UK and Switzerland, sometimes reveal errors and omissions.
In 2011, Swiss scientists first published their data on levels of a gas called HFC-23 coming from a location in northern Italy.
Between 2008 and 2010, they had recorded samples of the chemical, produced in the refrigeration and air conditioning industries, which is 14,800 times more warming to the atmosphere than CO2.
Now the scientists, at the Jungfraujoch Swiss air monitoring station, have told the BBC the gas is still going into the atmosphere.
"Our estimate for this location in Italy is about 60-80 tonnes of this substance being emitted every year. Then we can compare this with the Italian emission inventory, and that is quite interesting because the official inventory says below 10 tonnes or in the region of two to three tonnes," said Dr Stefan Reimann, from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.
"They actually say it is happening, but they don't think it is happening as much as we see.
"Just to put it into perspective, this greenhouse gas is thousands of times stronger than CO2.
"So, that would be like an Italian town of 80,000 inhabitants not emitting any CO2."
The Italian environment agency told the BBC its inventory was correct and complied with UN regulations and it did not accept the Swiss figures.
Another rare warming gas, carbon tetrachloride, once popular as a refrigerant and a solvent but very damaging to the ozone layer, has been banned in Europe since 2002.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Coal use in China has been subject to major revisions in the country's statistics But Dr Reimann told Counting Carbon: "We still see 10,000-20,000 tonnes coming out of China every year."
"That is something that shouldn't be there.
"There is actually no Chinese inventory for these gases, as they are banned and industry shouldn't be releasing them anymore."
China's approach to reporting its overall output of warming gases to the UN is also subject to constant and significant revisions.
Its last submission ran to about 30 pages - the UK's, by contrast, runs to several hundred.
Back in 2007, China simply refused to accept, in official documents, that it had become the largest emitter of CO2.
"I was working in China in 2007," said Dr Angel Hsu, from Yale University.
"I would include a citation and statistics that made this claim of China's position as the number one emitter - these were just stricken out, and I was told the Chinese government doesn't yet recognise this particular statistic so we are not going to include it."
A report in 2015 suggested one error in China's statistics amounted to 10% of global emissions in 2013.
The BBC investigation also discovered vast uncertainties in carbon emissions inventories, particularly in developing countries.
Methane, the second most abundant greenhouse gas after CO2, is produced by microbe activity in marshlands, in rice cultivation, from landfill, from agriculture and in the production of fossil fuels.
Global levels have been rising in recent years, and scientists are unsure why.
For a country such as India, home to 15% of the world's livestock, methane is a very important gas in their inventory - but the amount produced is subject to a high degree of uncertainty.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption There are huge uncertainties over methane emissions from India and other countries "What they note is that methane emissions are about 50% uncertain for categories like ruminants, so what this means is that the emissions they submit could be plus or minus 50% of what's been submitted," said Dr Anita Ganesan, from the University of Bristol, who has overseen air monitoring research in the country.
"For nitrous oxide, that's 100%."
There are similar uncertainties with methane emissions in Russia, of between 30-40%, according to scientists who work there.
"What we're worried about is what the planet experiences, never mind what the statistics are," said Prof Euan Nisbet, from Royal Holloway, University of London.
"In the air, we see methane going up. The warming impact from that methane is enough to derail Paris."
The rules covering how countries report their emissions are currently being negotiated.
But Prof Glen Peters, from the Centre for International Climate Research, in Oslo, said: "The core part of Paris [is] the global stock-takes which are going to happen every five years, and after the stock-takes countries are meant to raise their ambition, but if you can't track progress sufficiently, which is the whole point of these stock-takes, you basically can't do anything.
"So, without good data as a basis, Paris essentially collapses. It just becomes a talkfest without much progress."
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Miami sea level
I was a realtor here in Sunset Beach NC for 10 years.
There is one particular high end residential lot, on the Island, that has been on the market for at least 20 years. The seller is an idiot but I digress.
In 1999/2000 the elevations were shot by a fellow realtor friend of mine. The same realtor had the lot shot again in 2004, I had clients in 2010 who I had shots produced for and they made a rich offer and it was rejected. In 2015 my buddy at the bank refinanced the lot and of course, shot elevations. Friday my banker friend called me and said that he shot the lot yet again.
In 1999 the dead center mark was 2’6” above mean high tide (sea level). The reading has been the same every time since.
So, either the surveyors are lying or Al Gore is full of shit.
Have a great show.
Child miners aged four at Congo cobalt mine | Daily Mail Online
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 22:14
Picking through a mountain of huge rocks with his tiny bare hands, the exhausted little boy makes a pitiful sight.
His name is Dorsen and he is one of an army of children, some just four years old, working in the vast polluted mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where toxic red dust burns their eyes, and they run the risk of skin disease and a deadly lung condition. Here, for a wage of just 8p a day, the children are made to check the rocks for the tell-tale chocolate-brown streaks of cobalt '' the prized ingredient essential for the batteries that power electric cars.
And it's feared that thousands more children could be about to be dragged into this hellish daily existence '' after the historic pledge made by Britain to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 and switch to electric vehicles.
Eight-year-old Dorsen is pictured cowering beneath the raised hand of an overseer who warns him not to spill a rock
It heralds a future of clean energy, free from pollution but '' though there can be no doubting the good intentions behind Environment Secretary Michael Gove's announcement last month '' such ideals mean nothing for the children condemned to a life of hellish misery in the race to achieve his target.
Dorsen, just eight, is one of 40,000 children working daily in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The terrible price they will pay for our clean air is ruined health and a likely early death.
Almost every big motor manufacturer striving to produce millions of electric vehicles buys its cobalt from the impoverished central African state. It is the world's biggest producer, with 60 per cent of the planet's reserves.
The cobalt is mined by unregulated labour and transported to Asia where battery manufacturers use it to make their products lighter, longer-lasting and rechargeable.
The planned switch to clean energy vehicles has led to an extraordinary surge in demand. While a smartphone battery uses no more than 10 grams of refined cobalt, an electric car needs 15kg (33lb).
He then staggers beneath the weight of a heavy sack that he must carry to unload 60ft away in pouring rain
Goldman Sachs, the merchant bank, calls cobalt 'the new gasoline' but there are no signs of new wealth in the DRC, where the children haul the rocks brought up from tunnels dug by hand.
Adult miners dig up to 600ft below the surface using basic tools, without protective clothing or modern machinery. Sometimes the children are sent down into the narrow makeshift chambers where there is constant danger of collapse.
Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it '' cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death.
Even simply eating vegetables grown in local soil can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, thyroid damage and fatal lung diseases, while birds and fish cannot survive in the area.
No one knows quite how many children have died mining cobalt in the Katanga region in the south-east of the country. The UN estimates 80 a year, but many more deaths go unregistered, with the bodies buried in the rubble of collapsed tunnels. Others survive but with chronic diseases which destroy their young lives. Girls as young as ten in the mines are subjected to sexual attacks and many become pregnant.
Dorsen and 11-year-old Richard are pictured. With his mother dead, Dorsen lives with his father in the bush and the two have to work daily in the cobalt mine to earn money for food.
When Sky News investigated the Katanga mines it found Dorsen, working near a little girl called Monica, who was four, on a day of relentless rainfall.
Dorsen was hauling heavy sacks of rocks from the mine surface to a growing stack 60ft away. A full sack was lifted on to Dorsen's head and he staggered across to the stack. A brutish overseer stood over him, shouting and raising his hand to threaten a beating if he spilt any.
With his mother dead, Dorsen lives with his father in the bush and the two have to work daily in the cobalt mine to earn money for food.
Dorsen's friend Richard, 11, said that at the end of a working day 'everything hurts'.
In a country devastated by civil wars in which millions have died, there is no other way for families to survive. Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) is donating £10.5million between June 2007 and June 2018 towards strengthening revenue transparency and encouraging responsible activity in large and small scale artisanal mining, 'to benefit the poor of DRC'.
There is little to show for these efforts so far. There is a DRC law forbidding the enslavement of under-age children, but nobody enforces it.
The UN's International Labour Organisation has described cobalt mining in DRC as 'one of the worst forms of child labour' due to the health risks.
Soil samples taken from the mining area by doctors at the University of Lubumbashi, the nearest city, show the region to be among the ten most polluted in the world. Residents near mines in southern DRC had urinary concentrates of cobalt 43 higher than normal. Lead levels were five times higher, cadmium and uranium four times higher.
The worldwide rush to bring millions of electric vehicles on to our roads has handed a big advantage to those giant car-makers which saw this bonanza coming and invested in developing battery-powered vehicles, among them General Motors, Renault-Nissan, Tesla, BMW and Fiat-Chrysler.
Chinese middle-men working for the Congo Dongfang Mining Company have the stranglehold in DRC, buying the raw cobalt brought to them in sacks carried on bicycles and dilapidated old cars daily from the Katanga mines. They sit in shacks on a dusty road near the Zambian border, offering measly sums scrawled on blackboards outside '' £40 for a ton of cobalt-rich rocks '' that will be sent by cargo ship to minerals giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt in China and sold on to a complex supply chain feeding giant multinationals.
Challenged by the Washington Post about the appalling conditions in the mines, Huayou Cobalt said 'it would be irresponsible' to stop using child labour, claiming: 'It could aggravate poverty in the cobalt mining regions and worsen the livelihood of local miners.'
Human rights charity Amnesty International also investigated cobalt mining in the DRC and says that none of the 16 electric vehicle manufacturers they identified have conducted due diligence to the standard defined by the Responsible Cobalt Initiative.
Monica, just four-years-old, works in the mine alongside Dorsen and Richard
Encouragingly, Apple, which uses the mineral in its devices, has committed itself to treat cobalt like conflict minerals '' those which have in the past funded child soldiers in the country's civil war '' and the company claims it is going to require all refiners to have supply chain audits and risk assessments. But Amnesty International is not satisfied. 'This promise is not worth the paper it is written on when the companies are not investigating their suppliers,' said Amnesty's Mark Dummett. 'Big brands have the power to change this.'
After DRC, Australia is the next biggest source of cobalt, with reserves of 1million tons, followed by Cuba, China, Russia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Car maker Tesla '' the market leader in electric vehicles '' plans to produce 500,000 cars per year starting in 2018, and will need 7,800 tons of cobalt to achieve this. Sales are expected to hit 4.4 million by 2021. It means the price of cobalt will soar as the world gears itself up for the electric car revolution, and there is evidence some corporations are cancelling their contracts with regulated mines using industrial technology, and turning increasingly to the cheaper mines using human labour.
After the terrible plight of Dorsen and Richard was broadcast in a report on Sky News, an emotive response from viewers funded a rescue by children's charity Kimbilio. They are now living in a church-supported children's home, sleeping on mattresses for the first time in their lives and going to school.
But there is no such happy ending for the tens of thousands of children left in the hell on earth that is the cobalt mines of the Congo.
Scientists Leak Study on Global Heating Before Trump Can Suppress it - Juan Cole - Truthdig
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 23:22
Square, Story page, 2nd paragraph, mobile
A draft report on the current impact of global heating on the United States, produced by 13 Federal agencies, has been leaked to the New York Times. The scientists who leaked it are afraid that the anti-science Trump administration will suppress the findings to help its friends in Big Oil.One of its central findings is that man-made climate change (driving your car, air-conditioning your house on fossil fuels so that you release toxic CO2) is already having an impact on the United States. For instance, the West is hotter, which exacerbates droughts.
One of the findings that alarmed me is that just in the next few decades average temperatures in the US will go up 2.5 degrees F. But by 2100, only 80 years from now, the average temperature will be 5 to 8.5 degrees F. higher! Remember, average surface temperature includes the cold Great Lakes and cold North Dakota. So in any particular place, say Savannah or Atlanta or Phoenix, the temperature could go up even higher than 8.5 degrees F. The scientists are saying that unusual record temperatures will become normal. Some whole cities (we're looking at you, Tucson) could become uninhabitable in the old age of my grandchildren!
Square, Site wide, Desktop
Square, Site wide, Mobile
The report says,''The world has warmed (globally and annually averaged surface air temperature ) by about 1.6 °F (0.9°C) over the last 150 years (1865 '' 2015), and the spatial and temporal non-uniformity of the warming has triggered many other changes to the Earth's climate.
'— Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans.
'— Thousands of studies conducted by tens of thousands of scientists around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures;
'— melting glaciers;
'— disappearing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea level; and an increase in atmospheric water vapor.
'— Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate changes.
'— The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related, weather extremes,
'— as well as the warmest years on record for the globe.
In the beginning of the Executive Summary, the government scientists have managed to refute all the talking points of their current ignoramus or venal bosses, Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt. And a simple little chart shows that the idea that there hasn't been dramatic heating already (especially in the American West) is daft:
The report is good on regional differences. The US Northeast has had an unusual amount of heavy precipitation lately. These extreme rain events and the consequent danger of flooding will increase.
The West, in contrast, risks long-term drought and declining snow packs.
The oceans around the US are rising, warming and becoming more acidic. You take a Gulf coast fishing town and this is bad news. The town itself could be flooded out and disappear. Warmer Gulf waters mean more extreme hurricanes, so it could be leveled. And an acidic ocean will kill off a lot of the fish on which they depend.
The report is concrete, careful and scarier than any horror movie you've ever seen. It gives upper and lower estimates, depending on whether humankind gets its act together. Given the oil-drenched buffoons now in charge, you'd want to bet on the higher and more dangerous numbers in each case.
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US embassy employees in Cuba possibly subject to 'acoustic attack' - CNNPolitics
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:32
One official said the employees could have suffered permanent hearing loss as a result.
The employees affected were not at the same place at the same time, but suffered a variety of physical symptoms since late 2016 which resembled concussions.
The State Department raised the incidents with the Cuban government over the course of several months and sent medical personnel to Havana, but have not been able to determine exactly what happened.
"It can be quite serious," one official told CNN. "We have worked with the Cubans to try and find out what is going on. They insist they don't know, but it has been very worrying and troublesome."
The FBI is now looking into the matter, the officials said.
"It's very strange," one official said.
'Physical symptoms'
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday said that "some US government personnel" working at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba on official duty reported some incidents that were causing "physical symptoms." But she could not elaborate on the nature or cause of the incidents.
"Because there are a variety of symptoms, there could be a variety of sources," one US official said. "That is why we are being very careful here with what we say. There is a lot we still don't know."
For years US diplomats in Havana complained that they suffered harassment from Cuban officials and frequently had their homes and cars broken into. But diplomats said that after the US and Cuba restored full diplomatic ties in 2015, the campaign of harassment stopped.
Some of those affected chose to return to the US, said Nauert, prompting the administration to expel two Cuban diplomats from the embassy in Washington in May.
"The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva convention to protect our diplomats," Nauert told reporters, "so that is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours."
"We felt like we needed to respond to the Cubans and remind them of their responsibility under the Vienna convention," one of the officials said. The officials were not declared "persona non-grata" and may be allowed to return back to the United States if the matter is resolved.
Those affected were State Department employees, Nauert said, and no American civilians were affected. The State Department is taking these incidents "very seriously," she added, and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incidents.
A statement from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday categorically denied any Cuban involvement in the mistreatment of US diplomats in Cuba, and said the decision to expel Cuban diplomats was "unjustified and unfounded."
"The Ministry emphatically emphasizes that Cuba has never allowed ... Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception," the statement said in Spanish.
Creepy Canadian App Gives Citizens Points for Making Government-Approved Choices '' The Fifth Column
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 01:19
(FEE) '' Ontario announced earlier this month that it will become the fourth Canadian government to fund a behavioral modification application that rewards users for making ''good choices'' in regards to health, finance, and the environment. The Carrot Rewards smartphone app, which will receive $1.5 million from the Ontario government, credits users' accounts with points toward the reward program of their choice in exchange for reaching step goals, taking quizzes and surveys, and engaging in government-approved messages.
The app, funded by the Canadian federal government and developed by Toronto-based company CARROT Insights in 2015, is sponsored by a number of companies offering reward points for their services as an incentive to ''learn'' how to improve wellness and budget finances. According to CARROT Insights, ''All offers are designed by sources you can trust like the BC Ministry of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador Government, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and YMCA.'' Users can choose to receive rewards for companies including SCENE, Aeroplan, Petro-Canada, or More Rewards, a loyalty program that partners with other businesses.
Carrot Rewards is free to download, and users receive 200 points just by downloading the app and answering a few questions (the answers don't have to be correct). Sending an invitation code to friends will also gain users points, as the government is happy to track the daily activity of as many citizens as possible '-- which, by the way, the app can do even when it is not ''active.'' In order to use the app, users are giving Carrot Insights and the federal government permission to ''access and collect information from your mobile device, including but not limited to, geo-location data, accelerometer/gyroscope data, your mobile device's camera, microphone, contacts, calendar and Bluetooth connectivity in order to operate additional functionalities of the Services.''
Founder and CEO of CARROT Insights Andreas Souvaliotis launched the app in 2015 ''with a focus on health but the company and its partner governments quickly realized it was effective at modifying behavior in other areas as well,'' according to CTV News.
Image Source: Alex Indigo, Flickr, Creative Commons
Canada flag on CNE. Taken in Toronto @ December 21, 2006
The Canadian government is asking citizens to track their activity and modify their behavior by dangling a carrot on a stick, and it's working. While still voluntary, the Carrot app is eerily similar to social credit systems in China, which not only offer rewards for compliance but also punishments for ''trust-breakers,'' who may face ''penalties on subsidies, career progression, asset ownership and the ability to receive honorary titles from the Chinese government.'' Though current applications of the social credit systems are unconnected, there has been a push in the country to combine them into one government-run program.
As Creemers, a researcher specializing in Chinese law and governance at the Van Vollenhoven Institute at Leiden University told CNBC:
''China has huge problems with legal compliance so the regime conclusion was that since existing methods of generating compliance were not sufficient, they would step up their game with extra punishment. The system merely uses information the government already has on its citizens in a more coercive way.''
Currently, the Carrot Rewards app is limited to citizens in Ontario, Newfoundland, and Labrador, and British Columbia, but according to the website, it will soon be harvesting personal data and modifying the behavior of Canadians across the entire country.
Josie Wales
Josie Wales, journalist for the Anti-Media, is a writer, public speaker, Youtube personality, and activist from Philadelphia. She is also a tech writer for, and formerly worked as an editor and contributing writer at The Free Thought Project. Josie covers disruptive technology, artificial intelligence, innovation, tech solutions, and digital privacy issues for Anti-Media.
This article was originally published on Read the original article.
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Hate Trumps Love
A psychological analysis of Trump supporters has uncovered 5 key traits about them
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 01:49
'Roger Ailes would be appalled': Kayleigh McEnany's 'Trump TV' debut gets ruthlessly fact-checked
Fox News lies about Bolling: 'None of these women' have come forward '-- except one of them has
Pharma Bro Shkreli's post-verdict media 'antics' may lead to harsh sentence from judge
'That was a new low': April Ryan bursts out laughing at idea of Stephen Miller as WH comms director
'Stay tuned, there's more coming': Ex-FBI agent says Mueller investigation is blowing up fast
White House to get a makeover soon
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake: 'I wish we as a party had stood up against birtherism'
Alt-right's 'crazy assault' on McMaster is Bannon's revenge for firings of his proteges
Foreign policy expert warns Trump victory dance over N. Korea sanctions 'will be very short-lived'
WATCH: Bill Maher gets an Obama impersonator to say Trump phrases so the GOP can see the absurdity
Who Is Hank Siemers? Melania Trump's Rumored Boyfriend Facts, Pics & Rumors | YourTango
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:08
Apparently, there could be more trouble in paradise than we realize at the White House.
Rumors started circulating last month that First Lady Melania Trump has had a longtime affair with Henry "Hank" Siemers, the head of security at Tiffany's in the Trump Tower.
Novelist Monica Byrne was the first to blow the whistle with a string of tweets accusing Melania of the affair '-- and of President Donald Trump knowing about it. They've since been deleted, but Perez Hilton has the thread posted to his site.
One reads: "But here it is: word is, for many years, Melania's been having an affair with the head of security at Tiffany's in the Trump Tower lobby."
RELATED: 17 Theories & Facts About Hope Hicks, Her BIG White House Job & Rumors She's Actually Donald Trump's Girlfriend
Here are 5 things we've learned about First Lady Melania Trump's rumored boyfriend (and hot pictures of Hank Siemers to boot):
1. The President and the First Lady Melania might have been on their way to a divorce.
A former White House staffer even claimed that divorce papers for the first family were signed, but the divorce was put on hold when he won the election.
The theory states that they had to renegotiate the agreement. She is imprisoned in that marriage for as long as he's president.
2. Trump knows about Melania's affair.
Byrne tweeted that Trump knew about Hank Siemer and is totally OK with it. This might explain why Melania didn't bat an eyelash over those "grab her by the p*ssy" remarks during the election.
Rumor has it that Melania stayed at the Trump Tower in New York City (versus moving to the White House when Donald did in January) to stay close to her boyfriend.
3. Hank is kind of a hunk.
Judging from the pictures of the First Lady's rumored boyfriend, he's not bad on the eyes. Even with a fruity cocktail in his hand, Melania did a good job picking her side-piece.
He's like a real-life Mr. Clean, only tanner. Well done.
4. Where does Hank Siemer work? Well, he's got a cozy job (and likes to stay fit?)
Hank Siemers' official title is the vice president of global retail security of Tiffany & Co., so he's not just the guy guarding the big doors. And apparently, that was a somewhat recent promotion.
5. He has a pretty impressive career and background.
Loss Prevention Media
Only the best for Mel, right? Hank was not only recently promoted to VP, but he's also held leadership roles with Barnes & Noble, Pergament Home Centers and Caldor over the course of his 27+ years in loss prevention.
And he has a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from St. John's University.
Here's a conspiracy theory video about Melania and Hank Siemers affair... enjoy.
Shut Up Slave
Let your kids spend more time online to 'save the country', says ex-GCHQ chief
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 15:08
Parents should be encouraging their children to spend more time online so that they can "save the country", the former head of GCHQ has said.
Britain is lagging behind other countries when it comes to cyber skills and is "desperately" short of computer scientists and engineers, Robert Hannigan warned.
He said "the assumption that time online or in front of a screen is life wasted" needed challenging and was "driven by fear".
"Gaming and social media can be as sociable as mooching around the streets with a group of friends," he argued.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: "If you are spending a disproportionate amount of your holiday unsuccessfully attempting to separate your children from WiFi or their digital devices, do not despair. Your poor parenting may be helping them and saving the country.
"We need young people to explore this digital world just as they explore the physical world.
"We worry about being over-protective when they leave the house; we need to have the same debate about the balance of risk in the world of the internet."
Image: Former GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan Mr Hannigan, who stood down as the director of Britain's electronic surveillance agency in January, was responding to remarks made by the Children's Commissioner for England.
Anne Longfield earlier this week urged parents to moderate their children's use of social media in the same way they limit junk food.
She said very young children are on the internet for more than eight hours a week, while 12 to 15-year-olds spend more than 20 hours a week online.
A new "digital five-a-day" campaign aims to ensure children are not left to use smartphones, computers or tablets without agreed boundaries, she said.
But Mr Hannigan warned the country lacked the broad "cyber skills" needed now, never mind in the next 20 years.
"Traditional methods will not solve this. There are many excellent computer science and engineering teachers, but not enough," he wrote.
"Fortunately, today's young people have become good at learning through seeing and doing online.
"They are teaching themselves in new ways. It follows that the best thing we can do is to focus less on the time they spend on screens at home and more on the nature of the activity.
"The key is less passive watching and more inquisitive discovery," he said, allowing children "to explore, experiment and break things" as they always have done, but in the this day and age, "digitally".
Ministry of Truthiness
Full David Brock Confidential Memo On Fighting Trump
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 22:42
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NA-Tech News
Uber drivers gang up to cause surge pricing, research says
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 11:39
U ber drivers team up in gangs to force higher prices before they pick up passengers, research has revealed.
Researchers at the University of Warwick found Uber drivers in London and New York have been tricking the app into thinking there is a shortage of cars in order to raise surge prices.
According to the study. drivers manipulate Uber's algorithm by logging out of the app at the same time, making it think that there is a shortage of cars.
Uber raises its fare prices when there is a high demand for vehicles and a short supply of drivers available. Fares are known to increase during peak times such as rush hour, during public events and late at night. Surge pricing can boost the cost of rides to multiple times the normal rate.
The study said drivers have been coordinating forced surge pricing, after interviews with drivers in London and New York, and research on online forums such as In a post on the website for drivers, seen by the researchers, one person said: "Guys, stay logged off until surge. Less supply high demand = surge."
R esponding to fears that Uber might discover that its drivers are manipulating its algorithm, the driver said: "They already know cos it happens every week."
T he researchers said the collusion reflects driver dissatisfaction with Uber's policies regarding them, and exposes the "ethically questionable" nature of its algorithm.
"Drivers have developed practices to regain control, even gaming the system," said Dr Mareike M¶hlmann, from the University of Warwick Business School. "It shows that the algorithmic management that Uber uses may not only be ethically questionable, but may also hurt the company itself."
I t is not clear how much impact the trick has had on prices. Uber denied that the practice is widespread.
Uber said: "This behaviour is neither widespread or permissible on the Uber app, and we have a number of technical safeguards in place to prevent it from happening."
The ride-hailing company has come under fire in the past over its surge pricing, which has rocketed during events including tube strikes, but been suspended during taxi strikes.
Separate research at Northeastern University has previously found passengers can game surge pricing with simple tricks such as waiting five minutes or crossing the road.
Personal Audio loses its appeal for podcasting patent | TechCrunch
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 12:13
A year after taking up the case, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled in favor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in its challenge against podcasting patent troll, Personal Audio. The decision is a massive relief for the vibrant and ever-growing medium, which has been operated under the threat of lawsuit for a number of years.
It's also part of the EFF's larger on-going fight against overly broad tech patents. And the organization doesn't mince words. Daniel Nazer, who has been working closely on the case, is the EFF's ''Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents.''
The case involves Personal Audio's broad patent for a ''System for Disseminating Media Content Representing Episodes in a Serialized Sequence,'' which the company used to levy suits against a number of podcast providers, including Adam Corolla, HowStuffWorks, CBS, and NBC. The EFF filed a petition challenging the patent in 2013, urging the US Patent and Trademark Office to take another look at the broad ruling.
''In this particular case, podcasting is a technology that is used by a lot of non-traditional media outlets,'' EFF staff Attorney Vera Ranieri told TechCrunch following today's decision. ''Here it was a technology that was allowing a lot of non-traditional players to let their values be known. We wanted to protect the way that people engage in communications and share idea.''
The EFF won the initial ruling in April 2015, thanks to two instances of prior art. The digital rights organization cited the CBC's long standing science show Quirks & Quarks and CNN's Internet Newsroom, as examples of the technology dating back before the patent's 1996 date.
Personal Audio appealed the ruling roughy this time last year, but the today's decision keeps things, thankfully, as is. The court cited both pieces of prior art in today's ruling, ''We have considered all of Personal Audio's arguments,'' the decision reads, ''and affirm the PTAB's conclusion that the challenged claims are anticipated by the Patrick/CBC reference, and alternatively that the claims are invalid as obvious in view of the Compton/CNN reference.''
As far as what this means to who've settled with Personal Audio, that's entirely dependent on the wording of those agreements. Though Ranieri notes that those who agreed to running royalties rather than an upfront sum, may be in the clear, depending on the nature of their agreement.
If Personal Audio decides to keep fighting, the next stop is the Supreme Court. We've reached out to the company and its representation for comment.
Featured Image: Slaphead/iStock
Auburn police say cruiser problem fixed after CO scare
Sun, 06 Aug 2017 21:41
Cyrus Moulton Telegram & Gazette Staff @MoultonCyrus AUBURN - The Auburn Police Department announced Saturday evening that they believe they have corrected the carbon monoxide issue in local cruisers which recently sent six officers to the hospital.
''The police department was very pleased and impressed with the rapid and professional response by Ford and its engineering staff which spent several days troubleshooting the problem,'' Auburn police said in a statement on the department's Facebook page. ''We anticipate that by Monday the CO issue (will) have been corrected in the three remaining vehicles that have not been modified to correct the problem.''
Authorities said an Auburn officer passed out while on patrol and struck a car at a stop sign Wednesday morning after he was exposed to carbon monoxide.
Subsequent testing revealed 10 cruisers from the police department, two fire department vehicles, and a DPW vehicle with certain CO levels, and the vehicles were taken out of service. All vehicles were Ford Explorers made between 2014 and 2017, and the police cruisers were all outfitted with the Police Interceptor package.
All officers were also tested for CO exposure, and five were sent to the hospital as a precaution after showing elevated levels of the deadly gas. The officers were treated and released.
Thursday, engineers from Ford - in conference with engineers in Detroit - visited the town and began testing the town's vehicles.
The problem with the Fords has been popping up across the country. There have been other reports of other accidents and officers becoming ill while driving the sport utility vehicles.
In Austin, Texas, police removed all of the Ford Explorers from their fleet after 62 workers' compensation claims related to carbon monoxide poisoning were filed, reported.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the problems, which include complaints of exhaust odors and possible carbon monoxide issues in civilian cars as well as the cruisers.
Auburn police said Saturday that modifications to correct the CO problem included removing exterior aftermarket emergency lighting, sealing the tail light wiring areas and replacing the rear spoiler clips.
You're Gonna Need a Bigger Virtual Wallet - Bloomberg
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:30
One for Bitcoin, and one for Ripple, and one for Zcash ...
One unusual development is how many new ''coins'' -- sometimes called alt coins or cryptocurrencies -- have been created lately. Bitcoin is well-known, but now there's Ethereum, Ripple, Zcash, Byteball, Augur and many others. By one estimate, there are more than 900 such assets on the market. These are not physical coins, of course, but rather entries in ledger systems based on new information technologies, sometimes called a ''blockchain.''
In the long run, how many of these assets can survive? After all, we are used to nations having one dominant currency, or investors holding assets in a relatively small number of currencies, such as dollars, euros and yen.
QuickTake Bitcoin and Blockchain
A common view is that we are due for a ''coin consolidation,'' in which hundreds of assets will be whittled down to two or three dominant brands. To be sure, it seems likely that many of the coins trading right now are ill-conceived startups or maybe even fraudulent, and their values will fall to zero. That said, the marketplace can probably sustain a large number of alt coins, and I expect we will continue to live in a kind of coin menagerie.
Consider how people might use these coins. After the current speculative fervor fades, an individual might hold an alt coin for risk diversification. Just as the wealthy may put a certain percentage of their portfolios into gold, they are starting to do the same with these new coins. They don't necessarily expect superior returns; rather the coins may be a hedge, as there are not enough high-quality government securities to go around.
Alt coins may be effective hedges for at least two reasons. First, the value of the coin may depend on how well the original rules for the coin were written, or how well it is governed in the case of managed coins like Ethereum or Ripple. Those factors may be fairly independent of what's driving returns in traditional stocks and bonds, which in turn creates an opportunity for diversification.
Under these scenarios, alt coins are primarily stores of value rather than media of exchange. There is a notable tendency for exchange media to consolidate into a dominant currency in a given geographic region. But the very large number of financial assets in the world shows that thousands of stores of value can coexist and compete without much consolidation.
Second, alt coins to some extent are used for money laundering. If you think the world might be moving toward greater authoritarianism, the demand for money laundering could go up, to evade capital controls or asset restrictions. The value of alt coins would rise in turn, and that means alt coins would provide partial insurance against this very possible but unpleasant future path.
Money laundering may have a pejorative connotation, but a lot of laundering protects wealth from political tyranny or unfair treatment. Regulators may not wish to eliminate money laundering entirely, even if they could.
Clear thinking from leading voices in business, economics, politics, foreign affairs, culture, and more.
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That said, money laundering is often illegal and harmful. If you earned some money by smuggling drugs, you might use it to buy an alt coin on one of the less regulated international coin exchanges, and then sell back that coin for a major currency, converting your dirty money into clean. You might go further and call your initial coin purchase an ''investment'' in a coin-related company and (illegally) claim you suffered a loss of funds, thereby strengthening your tax position with a potential loss offset. These actions will help make liquid markets in the coins and give them a real financial value.
The authorities are likely to take steps to rein in such behavior, but it won't be easy to force full financial disclosure from all the exchanges. Many of the newest coin products specialize in creating transactional anonymity, protected by encryption. As is so often the case, for better or worse, technology is outracing the regulators.
Furthermore, when money laundering is a motive, at least some people in the market won't want to consolidate into the best-known and most heavily scrutinized coins. New and unusual coins will flourish and find their markets, even if there is a high degree of churn.
Not long ago, we thought we knew what money was, but now it's becoming so strange and diverse that the actual practice of money is outracing anything found in economic theory or in the law.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
To contact the author of this story:
Tyler Cowen at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Stacey Shick at
Deep State
Bombshell Exclusive: Intelligence Agency Caught McMaster Briefing Soros on White House Takeover >> Alex Jones' Infowars: There's a war on for your mind!
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 22:15
Bombshell Exclusive: Intelligence Agency Caught McMaster Briefing Soros on White House Takeover >> Alex Jones' Infowars: There's a war on for your mind!Bombshell Exclusive: Intelligence Agency Caught McMaster Briefing Soros on White House Takeover >> Alex Jones' Infowars: There's a war on for your mind!
Phrase from the Chaise
'Curry favour' - the meaning and origin of this phrase
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:03
MeaningTo attempt to gain favour or ingratiate oneself, by officious courtesy or flattery.
OriginIn August 2007, the BBC ran a series of programmes to mark the 60th anniversary of the Partition of India. Given the popularity of Indian food in the UK they included several cookery programmes and I heard the 'curry flavour' pun three times in the first two programmes.
On looking into the source of the 'curry favour' phrase (curry source? - now they've got me at it) it appears that it isn't original at all, but is itself a mishearing of another phrase.
To disentangle 'curry favour', or as the Americans prefer it spelled, 'curry favor', we need to look at 'curry' and 'favour' separately.
This expression has nothing to do with Indian food.
The word curry, as denoting the spicy food, comes from the Indian words 'kari' or 'karil' and was known in the English-speaking world by the late 16th century. A translation of Van Linschoten's His Discours of Voyages into ye Easte & West Indies, 1598, records that:
"Most of their fish is eaten with rice, which they seeth in broth, which they put upon the rice, and is somewhat soure... but it tasteth well, and is called Carriel."
To no great surprise, the curry of 'curry favour' has nothing to do with Indian food. It comes instead from an Old French verb conraier - 'to prepare', 'to put in order'. This is the same source as the name for the rubbing down and dressing of horses - curry-combing.
The mishearing that gives us 'curry favour' is of the second word. This was originally not 'favour' but 'favel'. John Palsgrave's Lesclarcissement de la langue fran§oyse [The clarification of the French language], 1530, records a curryfavell as 'a flatterar'.
Favel comes from the 1310 poem by the French royal clerk Gervais du Bus - Roman de Fauvel [The Romance of Fauvel]. That morality tale relates the story of Fauvel, an ambitious and vain horse, who deceives and corrupts the greedy leaders of church and state. The name Fauvel or Favvel, which is formed from 'fau-vel' (in English 'veiled lie'), is an acrostic made from the initial letters of a version of the seven deadly sins: flaterie (flattery/pride), avarice (greed/gluttony), vilanie (wrath), vari(C)t(C) (inconstancy), envie (envy), and lachet(C) (cowardice).
In the poem, the rich and powerful humiliate themselves by bowing down and stroking the coat of the false leader, that is, by 'currying Fauvel'.
The first citation of 'curry favour' rather than 'curry Fauvel' comes in Alexander Barclay's, The mirrour of good manners, circa 1510:
"Flatter not as do some, With none curry fauour."
Curry Favor - Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria -
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:00
WASHINGTON '-- The end came quickly for one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A.
During a White House briefing early last month, the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, recommended to President Trump that he shut down a four-year-old effort to arm and train Syrian rebels. The president swiftly ended the program.
The rebel army was by then a shell, hollowed out by more than a year of bombing by Russian planes and confined to ever-shrinking patches of Syria that government troops had not reconquered. Critics in Congress had complained for years about the costs '-- more than $1 billion over the life of the program '-- and reports that some of the C.I.A.-supplied weapons had ended up in the hands of a rebel group tied to Al Qaeda further sapped political support for the program.
While critics of Mr. Trump have argued that he ended the program to curry favor with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, there were in fact dim views of the effort in both the Trump and Obama White Houses '-- a rare confluence of opinion on national security policy.
The shuttering of the C.I.A. program, one of the most expensive efforts to arm and train rebels since the agency's program arming the mujahedeen in Afghanistan during the 1980s, has forced a reckoning over its successes and failures. Opponents say it was foolhardy, expensive and ineffective. Supporters say that it was unnecessarily cautious, and that its achievements were remarkable given that the Obama administration had so many restrictions on it from the start, which they say ultimately ensured its failure.
The program did have periods of success, including in 2015 when rebels using tank-destroying missiles, supplied by the C.I.A. and also Saudi Arabia, routed government forces in northern Syria. But by late 2015 the Russian military offensive in Syria was focusing squarely on the C.I.A.-backed fighters battling Syrian government troops. Many of the fighters were killed, and the fortunes of the rebel army reversed.
Charles Lister, a Syria expert at the Middle East Institute, said he was not surprised that the Trump administration ended the program, which armed and trained thousands of Syrian rebels. (By comparison, a $500 million Pentagon program that envisioned training and equipping 15,000 Syrian rebels over three years, was canceled in 2015 after producing only a few dozen fighters.)
''In many ways, I would put the blame on the Obama administration,'' Mr. Lister said of the C.I.A. program. ''They never gave it the necessary resources or space to determine the dynamics of the battlefield. They were drip-feeding opposition groups just enough to survive but never enough to become dominant actors.''
Mr. Trump has twice publicly criticized the effort since he ended it. After The Washington Post first reported on his decision, Mr. Trump tweeted that he was ending ''massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.'' During an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month, the president said many of the C.I.A.-supplied weapons ended up in the hands of ''Al Qaeda'' '-- presumably a reference to the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, which often fought alongside the C.I.A.-backed rebels.
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Michael V. Hayden, a former C.I.A. director, said the president's comments ''might give the agency pause with regard to how much he will have their backs on any future covert actions.''
Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of United States Special Operations Command, said during a conference last month that ending the C.I.A. program was a ''tough, tough decision.''
''At least from what I know about that program and the decision to end it, it was absolutely not a sop to the Russians,'' he said. ''It was, I think, based on an assessment of the nature of the program, what we're trying to accomplish, the viability of it going forward.''
A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.
President Barack Obama had reluctantly agreed to the program in 2013 as the administration was struggling to blunt the momentum of Syrian government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. It soon fell victim to the constantly shifting alliances in Syria's six-year-old civil war and the limited visibility that American military and intelligence officials had over what was occurring on the ground.
Once C.I.A.-trained fighters crossed into Syria, C.I.A. officers had difficulty controlling them. The fact that some of their C.I.A. weapons ended up with Nusra Front fighters '-- and that some of the rebels joined the group '-- confirmed the fears of many in the Obama administration when the program began. Although the Nusra Front was widely seen as an effective fighting force against Mr. Assad's troops, its Qaeda affiliation made it impossible for the Obama administration to provide direct support for the group.
American intelligence officials estimate that the Nusra Front now has as many as 20,000 fighters in Syria, making it Al Qaeda's largest affiliate. Unlike other Qaeda affiliates such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Nusra Front has long focused on battling the Syrian government rather than plotting terrorist attacks against the United States and Europe.
The American officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a program that is classified.
In the summer of 2012, David H. Petraeus, who was then C.I.A. director, first proposed a covert program of arming and training rebels as Syrian government forces bore down on them.
The proposal forced a debate inside the Obama administration, with some of Mr. Obama's top aides arguing that Syria's chaotic battlefield would make it nearly impossible to ensure that weapons provided by the C.I.A. could be kept out of the hands of militant groups like the Nusra Front. Mr. Obama rejected the plan.
But he changed his mind the following year, signing a presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to covertly arm and train small groups of rebels at bases in Jordan. The president's reversal came in part because of intense lobbying by foreign leaders, including King Abdullah II of Jordan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who argued that the United States should take a more active role in trying to end the conflict.
Given the code name Timber Sycamore, the covert program began slowly, but by 2015 the C.I.A.-backed rebel groups had made significant progress against Syrian forces, pushing into areas of the country long considered to be government strongholds. The offensive gained momentum after the C.I.A. and Saudi Arabia began supplying the powerful tank-destroying weapons to the rebel groups.
But the rebel push in Idlib, Hama and Latakia Provinces in northern Syria also created problems for Washington. The Nusra Front, often battling alongside the C.I.A.-supported rebel groups, made its own territorial gains.
It was Nusra's battlefield successes that Mr. Putin used as one justification for the Russian military offensive in Syria, which began in 2015. The Russian campaign, a relentless bombing of the C.I.A.-backed fighters and Nusra militants, battered the rebels and sent them into retreat.
The program suffered other setbacks. The arming and the training of the rebels occurred in Jordan and Turkey, and at one point Jordanian intelligence officers pilfered stockpiles of weapons the C.I.A. had shipped into the country for the Syrian rebels, selling them on the black market. In November, a member of the Jordanian military shot and killed three American soldiers who had been training Syrian rebels as part of the C.I.A. program.
White House officials also received periodic reports that the C.I.A.-trained rebels had summarily executed prisoners and committed other violations of the rules of armed conflict. Sometimes the reports led to the C.I.A. suspending cooperation with groups accused of wrongdoing.
John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama's last C.I.A. director, remained a vigorous defender of the program despite divisions inside the spy agency about the effort's effectiveness. But by the final year of the Obama administration, the program had lost many supporters in the White House '-- especially after the administration's top priority in Syria became battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, rather than seeking an end to Mr. Assad's government.
During one meeting in the White House Situation Room at the end of the Obama administration, with C.I.A.-backed rebels continuing to lose ground in the face of withering Russian air bombing, Mr. Brennan pressed the case that the United States continue to back the effort to topple Mr. Assad, according to one person who attended the meeting.
But Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, shot back. ''Make no mistake,'' she said, according to the person in the meeting. ''The president's priority in Syria is fighting ISIS.''
Backed by Russian aircraft, Syrian government forces gradually began to reclaim areas near the Turkish border that had long been rebel strongholds, and eventually pushed many of the rebels back to the besieged city of Aleppo.
Aleppo fell to Syrian government troops in December.
Duitse politie: veel meer illegale migranten op goederentreinen | NOS
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 21:49
Steeds meer illegale migranten worden betrapt bij een poging Duitsland binnen te komen door zich te verstoppen in goederentreinen. Dat bevestigt een woordvoerder van de Duitse politie aan de NOS.
In de eerste drie maanden van 2017 werden zo'n twintig migranten opgepakt die op die manier de grens over probeerden te komen. In juni waren het er honderd, en in juli zelfs 175.
Het gaat vooral om mensen uit Eritrea, Guinea en Gambia, die via Itali en Oostenrijk Duitsland proberen te bereiken.
Een verklaring voor de toename heeft de politie niet. De controles zijn sinds december vorig jaar aangescherpt. Ook toen zagen ze een -tijdelijke- toename van het aantal vluchtelingen in de treinen. 'Risicotreinen' worden sindsdien extra gecontroleerd. Er worden onder meer helikopters ingezet die warmtebeelden maken.
Bij de grens met Oostenrijk wordt vooralsnog geen toename gezien van het aantal migranten dat illegaal de grens over wil steken. Dat aantal blijft steken op 10 20 per dag.
De politie waarschuwt migranten voor de risico's. Onlangs werd langs het spoor een dode man gevonden. Hij was waarschijnlijk uit een trein gevallen. Eind vorig jaar werden in een schuilplaats in een goederentrein twee dode vluchtelingen gevonden, die waarschijnlijk waren doodgevroren.
ACoE Invades South Texas '' Jude Lieber
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 12:17
Photo caption: Snapshot from one of my trips to the Rio Grande '-- Big Bend National Park hot springs with with wild mustangs on the Mexican bank.
We knew this was coming, but it doesn't make it any easier. Trespassing on private soil, our own Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) have begun clearing areas for the border wall. Rather than steal land legally through eminent domain, they have arrived without permission or notification. Instead of cutting through ranchland, they have begun where it will hurt the most '-- nature preserves. The first location to fall beneath the saw, machete, and blade is a strip through the National Butterfly Center. Scientists had purchased the area from farmers and restored it with plant species vital to the survival of the threatened monarch butterfly. Now, only brown stubble remains. The wall will block the migration of thousands of land-based animals, cutting their territory in two.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says the region contains ''a few remaining wild tropical cats like ocelots and jaguarundis. Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Green jay, Elf Owl, Texas tortoise, Indigo snake and Mexican burrowing toad are also found in this region. Rare plants, especially in the cactus family like Albert's black lace cactus, star cactus and Runyons cory cactus'' still remain in the area, but ''Today, most of the region has been bulldozed, plowed or otherwise fallen victim to urbanization.'' Invaders from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the ACoE will now take away a large piece of the remaining wildlife habitat and sever migration lanes vital to the survival of these rare species.
To those who care nothing for plants or animals, this remains an egregious violation of property rights. Rather than follow legal channels, submitting the work to the Department of Justice, obtaining clearance, and providing notification to property owners, they have followed the plan of oil and gas developers throughout the country: build first, then settle the illegal construction in court. Sure there are lawsuits, payouts, and a protracted battle, but just as with pipelines such as the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline, the damage is done. There is no going back.
Soon the crews will move into neighboring Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge. The plans have been secretly assembled and will be implemented suddenly, without warning, to avoid an uprising like the one at Standing Rock. Congress has backed the venture with $20 million from taxpayers, so we are all responsible.
We can stop this if we elect environmentally conscious representatives to congress, especially in Texas. Please go to Vote Adam Bell U.S Congress House of Representatives Texas District 3 and click the link to DONATE.
Adam Bell on Twitter
NBC News: Border Wall Push Creates Flap in House '-- and at the National Butterfly Center
PBS NewsHour: Congressmen oppose Texas wildlife refuge as border wall site
Texas Observer: National Butterfly Center Founder: Trump's Border Wall Prep 'Trampling on Private Property Rights'
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VIDEO - Inside the bizarre world of YouTube ASMR videos
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:37
"ASMR is not as odd as it sounds," said Burnie Burns, co-founder and chief creative officer of production company Rooster Teeth. "In the 90s we had CDs and audio tapes of rain forest sounds that many people used for relaxation purposes -- there just wasn't a fancy term to classify that media. Since online video has become a phenomenon, now we have a whole new generation of those kinds of ephemeral experiences created by people all over the world."
Last year, Rooster Teeth released the documentary "The World's Greatest Head Massage: An ASMR Journey," where filmmakers traveled to Pushkar, India to find Baba the Cosmic Barber. Unbeknownst to Baba, he had become a YouTube sensation after people had been uploading videos of his "cosmic energy" shaves and head massage techniques. Baba has since created his own YouTube channel, ASMR Barber, to take advantage of his popularity.
"ASMR videos tend to have low production costs, but have a massive replay-ability factor," Burns explained. "'Baba the Cosmic Barber's original head massage video has almost 10,000,000 views. Many of those views come from people who probably watch it several times a week to fall asleep. Ten million views is incredible for a video that costs less than fifty dollars to make."
But creating an ASMR video isn't as simple as filming for an hour. Maria said her more complex videos take about three days to create. She'll write up a script with specific soothing words she should be using and do research into what sounds she should incorporate. She tests out the appropriate lighting and sound levels before filming. She sets up microphones positioned where a viewer's ears would be in real life, and places the lens where a onlooker's eyes would be. Then, after filming the video, she goes into post-production, which includes a special ear toward sound to remove any clap or loud noise.
"It creates this presence of a person with you or around you concentrating on you," Maria. "It creates privacy. Most of the time people will watch it by themselves and truly lose themselves in the moment."
While the Ephemeral Rift YouTube channel features conventional relaxing videos like trees rusting in the wind or someone shuffling wooden blocks, Paul also experiments by playing characters like Dr. Lampert Schade, a psychiatrist with a lampshade on his head, and Corvus Clemmons, a plague doctor who wears a bird-like steampunk mask. All the videos feature soft soothing sounds and no sudden movements.
"I looked to YouTube as a creative outlet," Paul said. "I was searching for something in my life that was fulfilling."
VIDEO - Starbucks and IBM using AI to spy on consumers and alter their behavior '' Lionel - YouTube
Wed, 09 Aug 2017 00:40
VIDEO - YouTube must crack down on videos pushing violence & knife crime | London City Hall
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 23:47
The Mayor is urging tech and social media companies, including Youtube and its parent company, Google, to take tough action to crack down on videos that encourage gang violence and knife crime.
YouTube has refused to take down four violent videos reported to them by the Metropolitan Police since December. The videos depict gang members threatening and goading rival gangs, describing how they would murder them, making shooting hand signals and waving a Rambo knife.
Collectively, the videos have been viewed more than 356,000 times. Despite YouTube's own rules stating that 'threats, harassment, intimidation (and) inciting others to commit violent acts'...are taken very seriously' and the Met providing detailed context, the site claimed no breach had taken place.
VIDEO - Fears grow for Sinead O'Connor after singer posts video saying she is 'alone' and 'suicidal' living in a Travelodge | The Independent
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 22:30
Singer Sinead O'Connor has sparked fresh concern over her mental health after posting a Facebook video in which she reveals she has wanted to kill herself for the past two years.
The Irish songwriter, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, took to the social media site for a tearful confessional recording, opening up about how alone she has felt since losing custody of her 13-year-old son.
In the video, posted from the Travelodge in New Jersey where she says she is now living, the 50-year-old said she suffers from three mental illnesses. ''I'm all by myself, there's absolutely nobody in my life.
''I'm now living in a Travelodge motel in the arse-end of New Jersey.
''[No one] except my doctor, my psychiatrist '-- who is the sweetest man on earth who says I'm his hero '-- and that's about the only f**king thing keeping me alive at the moment. The fact that I'm his bloody hero ... and that's kind of pathetic.''
O'Connor, who shot to fame in 1990 with the smash hit Nothing Compares 2 U, claims she is being treated ''like s***'' by family members who are refusing to take care of her.
''It's like a witch hunt, they are pointing the finger saying 'see, see this is why','' she said.
''I'm fighting and fighting and fighting like all the millions of people.
''If it was just for me I'd be gone. Straight away back to my mum ... because I've walked this earth alone for two years now as punishment for being mentally f**king ill and getting angry that no one would f***ing take care of me.''
When O'Connor, a mother of four, lost custody of her youngest child, she made suicide threats, warning Ireland's Child and Family Agency they would have ''a dead celebrity on their hands'' if they didn't reverse their decision.
In her latest post, she describes her mental illness as being like ''a drug'' but said she hopes that by sharing her feelings, she can help others.
''I hope that this video is somehow helpful,'' she said.
''I know that I'm just one of millions and millions of people in the world that suffer like I do that don't necessarily have the resources that I have.''
''I give so much love in my life ... I want everyone to see what it's like.''
She adds: ''Mental illness is a bit like drugs, it doesn't give a s*** who you are. Equally what is worse is that the stigma doesn't give a s*** who you are.''
She reveals her suicidal thought, saying: ''I have been wanting to go for two f***ing years. I'm a 5'4'' little f***ing woman wandering the world for two years by myself.
''Nobody in my f***ing life ... It's a crime and it should not be acceptable to any man that knows me or claims to love me.''
But she adds that she intends to survive her latest crisis.
''I'm really sad and I shouldn't be here and I know I'm just one of millions and that's the only thing that keeps me going,'' she said.
''I'm making this video because I am one of millions.
''You've got to take care of us ... We are doing our best like everybody else.
''Three f***ing illnesses made me suicidal ... My whole life is revolving around just not dying.
''And I'm not going to die, I'm not going to die but still this is no way for people to be living.
''I'm not doing this for me. I'm staying alive for the people that are doing this to me. If it was me, I'd be gone.''
The thousands of comments from friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter mainly expressed concern for the singer's well-being and urged her to seek help.
Last May, the singer sparked a police investigation after she went missing after going on a bike ride with friends concerned she may have carried out her threats to take her own life.
O'Connor, who says she has not been back to Ireland for two years, has had recent financial problems and was forced to sell her Irish home in January 2017 after she reportedly owed substantial amounts in back taxes.
The singer has led a troubled life and was left devastated when her mother died in 1985 when O'Connor just a teenager. She has claimed that she and her siblings were subject to frequent physical abuse from their parents growing up in a strict Catholic household.
She has been married four times, having her four children in four different relationships and becoming a grandmother for the first time in 2015.
O'Connor has previously declared herself to be gay, but once but told the Independent she had been ''overcompensating'' in saying she was a lesbian and that she was ''not in a box''.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2007, O'Connor revealed she had attempted suicide on her 33rd birthday in 1999.
In a later interview in 2014, she told Winfrey that she had sought second opinions on her bipolar diagnosis, and three psychiatrists had told her she did not have the condition.
Anyone feeling suicidal can call the Samaritans on 116123.
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VIDEO - Facebook News, Videos, Emoji and App Features Updates | Daily Mail Online
Tue, 08 Aug 2017 12:19
08/08/17 12:36
Troubled Irish singer Sinead O'Connor (left and right), 50, posted the clip on Facebook revealing she was all by herself at the $70-a-night Travelodge motel and fighting to stay alive every day. But a post on her Facebook page today said: 'Hi everybody, I am posting at Sinead's request, to let everyone who loves her know she is safe, and she is not suicidal. She is surrounded by love and receiving the best of care. She asked for this to be posted knowing you are concerned for her. I won't respond to any questions, so please understand. I hope this comforts those of you were concerned.' In the video filmed from the bed of her room in Hackensack (centre), the mother-of-four said: 'I am now living in a Travelodge motel in the a**e end of New Jersey. I'm all by myself.' O'Connor said she was 'fighting like all the millions of people' battling a mental
Sinead O'Connor says she is suicidal and living in a New Jersey motel 08/08/17 11:28
Lola Lo nightclubs, which has branches in Bristol, Cambridge, Derby, Reading and Manchester, was promoting its Coco Beach Mondays event for students.
Lola Lo ad is banned for encouraging 'eyeballing' 08/08/17 09:41
Young Melbourne man Josh Gay got a nasty surprise when he found a dangerous shard of glass the size of a fingernail in his bowl of porridge made from Coles brand Quick Oats.
Melbourne man claims he found shard of glass in his Coles brand oats 08/08/17 08:27
Rhodes Waterside, in NSW, launched its Shopping Nanny service on 3 August - spruiking it on Facebook with the caption 'YES we're serious! Drop off the kids and we'll do the rest'.
Shopping centre offers weary mothers free NANNIES to take care of kids 08/08/17 07:50
Quantasia Sharpton, a 21-year-old mother of three, spoke out about the herpes-related lawsuit against Usher at a press conference in New York on Monday.
Usher accuser revealed she 'needed money' before filing herpes lawsuit 08/08/17 01:44
An heiress to the famed Bulleit family, founders of the Kentucky-based bourbon distillery, has come forward claiming she was dismissed from her job because of her sexuality.
Bourbon heiress fired from her job after coming out as lesbian 08/08/17 01:31
A man who brandished a knife at police was shot by officers on Sunday had previously written Facebook posts hinting at his hatred of police.
Man posted about hatred of police before being fatally shot by police 08/08/17 01:30
Lusea Warner was left distraught after thieves broke into her maid of honour's after she tied the knot with husband James at St John the Baptist Church in Symondsbury, Dorset, last Wednesday.
Bride pleads for help to find her engagement ring after it was stolen 08/08/17 01:05
Prisoners at Bali's Kerobokan jail are facing more sweeps and earlier lock-down as officials are taunted on social media over the escape of Australian Shaun Davidson (pictured).
Australian escapee posts to Facebook taunting officials 08/08/17 00:45
The woman, from Cheshire, was reported to police after she appeared to write on a secret Facebook group for parents who believe autism is caused by 'parasites'.
Mother investigated over using bleach to cure son's autism 07/08/17 14:38
The Data Protection Bill will make it simpler for people to control how companies use their data, with extra powers for the information watchdog to issue fines of up to £17million.
New 'right to be forgotten' on social media is unveiled 07/08/17 12:04
The couple, who have four-year-old son Jack, announced the news on Sunday via social media revealing their disappointment at not being able to make their marriage work.
Chris Pratt and Anna Faris separate after eight years of marriage 07/08/17 11:01
Fans of Hollywood couple Chris Pratt and Anna Faris took to social media sharing emotional messages about their shocking split.
Internet loses it over news Chris Pratt and Anna Faris split 07/08/17 10:32
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane (pictured) has slammed a Muslim businessman for suggesting Australia's white race will die out in 40 years.
Race discrimination boss slams Muslim businessman on white race slur 07/08/17 08:28
Muslim Mohamed Elmouelhy predicted Australia's white race would become extinct within 40 years because Australian men are busy smoking,drinking beer has said he's being a 'larrikin'.
Islamic 'larrikin' Mohamed Elmouelhy defends vile Facebook post 07/08/17 08:10
A New Zealand high school principal's 'disturbing' letter about a student's suicide has provoked outrage on social media, leaving suicide prevention advocates 'speechless'.
Outrage at principal's letter to parents after student commits suicide 07/08/17 08:07
Pauline Hanson wants every Australian to carry a national identity card in a bid to tackle welfare fraud and terrorism. 'Time for Australia to get a security upgrade,' the One Nation leader told her followers.
Pauline Hanson wants every Australian to carry ID national card 07/08/17 07:55
Under a new policy, which comes into affect Monday, Australian government employees could face disciplinary action for 'liking' or failing to delete any anti-government posts on social media.
Government employees could lose jobs for liking Facebook posts 07/08/17 07:39
A violent, left-wing extremist group Antifa has defended leading Islamic businessman Mohamed Elmouelhy's (pictured) claim Australian women need Muslim men to fertilise them.
Lefties defend Islamic leader's call for Muslims to fertilise women 07/08/17 05:16
One Sydney man may have taken the title of Australia's dumbest suspect after leading officers right to his own doorstep when taunting them online as police searched for his identity.
Police track down Sydney suspect who taunted officers online 07/08/17 00:13
UK based consumers who have unwittingly handed over personal information will be protected in future by having to tick a box before companies can harvest their data.
Consumers have to tick a box before firms can take their data: New law 05/08/17 23:24
An Islamic activist from Brisbane Ali Kadri (pictured) has slammed a halal businessman's vile suggestion Muslim men needed to fertilise Australian women as white men died out.
Muslim group slams halal boss' remarks as 'foolish and ignorant' 05/08/17 00:50
A curious koala has left staff and customers at a rural New South Wales pharmacy stunned after waltzing into the store and taking a good look around.
Hilarious moment a curious koala walks into a rural NSW pharmacy 04/08/17 23:43
Antonio Garc­a Martinez, a former Facebook product manager, became terrified of tech and quit his job to live a recluse life with a bucket toilet and assault weapon in the woods.
Ex Facebook exec warns robots will lead to society collapsing 04/08/17 23:30
Cliff, 42, and Paris Bradley, 57, had been baffled when £800 Versace handbags, large amounts of cash, mobile phones and jewellery started disappearing from their Warwickshire home.
Cleaner stole jewellery and flaunted it online 04/08/17 22:19
Estherwood Assistant Police Chief Wayne Welsh, from Louisiana, stepped down from his post on Tuesday, three days after sharing a racist image on Facebook featuring the word 'n***o.'
Louisiana cop quits after sharing racist meme on Facebook 04/08/17 14:05
Wayne Richard Esmonde, 35, asked South Wales Police in Swansea to remove their Facebook post as he was unhappy with the image used in appeal page. Mr Esmonde has since been arrested.
Man wanted after alleged assault asks Swansea police to remove mugshot 04/08/17 12:51
The shocking clip, filmed on an N train in New York City and posted to Facebook, has been viewed more than a million times online.
Subway rider launches a foul-mouthed tirade and spits at a passenger 04/08/17 11:26
A popular Sydney salon has shocked thousands of their followers after they posted an offensive photo of a model who had a large neo-Nazi tattoo plastered across the back of her neck online.
Sydney hair salon shocks followers after Nazi slur on Facebook 04/08/17 10:57
Antonella The Uncensored Reviewer has tested the stick-on bra. The 43-year-old Facebook celebrity from Lancashire tested the popular underwear with her JJ boobs.
Woman with JJ breasts gives a hilarious verdict on the stick-on bras 04/08/17 09:40
He clashed with Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Dr Michael Gannon this week, over his paleo documentary film, The Magic Pill.
Pete Evans goes on Facebook rant about AMA president over paleo film 04/08/17 08:22
Greg Skomal, a researcher with the Massachusetts Division of Marine and Fisheries, was tagging great whites with a crew from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.
Horrifying moment 12ft killer great white bites camera 04/08/17 05:38
After announcing that they will stop selling margarita pizzas, Domino's have decided to keep the classic option after Pizza Hut announced they wold give away 10,000 margherita pizza this weekend.
Domino's to keep margarita after backlash from the public, Pizza Hut 04/08/17 05:12
Attention all pizza-lovers. Drop everything, because Pizza Hut is giving out free margherita pizzas all weekend long after Dominos announced it will no longer be selling the classic menu item.
Pizza Hut to hand out 10,000 FREE margheritas starting TODAY 04/08/17 04:52
A five-year-old girl who is currently in Sydney hospital fighting cancer has been sent a personalised message from Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot.
Wonder Woman Gal Gadot's message to girl, 5, battling cancer 03/08/17 23:56
It's previously added stories to Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and the Facebook mobile app. While still a test, it will roll out widely soon.
Facebook is bringing its Stories feature to desktop for the first time 03/08/17 23:18
Craig Harker runs the George Pub and Grill in Stockton-on-Tees and shared a picture of the parmo dish asking if people would punch their ex for one, resulting in a complaint to the ASA.
'Would you punch an ex for parmo?' Pub rapped for 'promoting violence' 03/08/17 18:47
The first video to the Facebook page shows Rebecca Meldrum, 28, being driven to hospital to be induced at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.
Pregnant mother is live vlogging her birth via Facebook 03/08/17 18:17
China has held a joint drill with internet providers today to practice the removal of websites thought to be harmful. Censors are tightening grip in run up to this year's party meeting.
China holds drill to shut down 'harmful' websites 03/08/17 18:15
Facebook is to send more potential hoax articles to third-party fact checkers and show their findings below the original post.
Facebook to step up fact-checking in fight against fake news 03/08/17 11:35
A person claiming to be fugitive Shaun Davidson -who escaped from a Bali jail nearly six weeks ago - has again bragged about his fugitive life and vowed he would never be captured.
Bali prison escapee gloats he'll never be caught because he's 'smart' 03/08/17 07:34
She made the heartbreaking announcement in May that her breast cancer had returned and spread to her back.
Olivia Newton-John provides an update on her cancer battle 03/08/17 07:00
A Geelong woman who unknowingly plucked a strange carrot from the vegetable section of Woolworths warned people to 'shield their child's eyes' before sharing a video of the *interesting* vegetable.
Geelong woman uses practically pornographic carrot as office decor 03/08/17 05:22
Mark Zuckerberg hired Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist, Joel Benenson to conduct research at his charity. The recent hire adds to rumors Zuckerberg is eyeing a role in politics.
Mark Zuckerberg hires Clinton's strategist fueling political rumors 03/08/17 03:16
The argument broke out inside the Chick-fil-A at River City Marketplace in Jacksonville when a teenage boy started arguing with staff for 20 minutes about getting a refund on his order.
Florida Chick-fil-A is trashed by angry customers 02/08/17 15:07
Marie Dent, 44, from Essex used a fake name and child's picture to groom a 15-year-old boy only to be exposed when his mother walked into the boy's bedroom while they were having sex.
Essex woman, 44, used fake Facebook profile to have sex with teenager 02/08/17 14:05
The unidentified suitor is said to have set an alarm off at the woman's house. He later took to Facebook to track down her number - even though she'd blocked him - and his post was shared on Reddit.
Man breaks into woman's house at 2am in a bid to woo her 02/08/17 11:12
Jennifer McLean repeatedly sent former Partick Thistle player Scott McLean, 41, obscene messages on Facebook and threatened his new partner, Claire Campbell, 37.
Footballer's ex-wife, 39, is spared jail 02/08/17 08:53
Tziporah Malkah, formerly known as Kate Fischer, revealed another addition to the family this week, months after confirming romance with Guy Vasey.
Tziporah Malkah announces her adorable new family member 02/08/17 08:06
Pit bull Blue King's owners gave him to the Carson Shelter in California, where rejected dogs often have to be put down, when they decided to move home.
Heart-breaking moment dejected Pit Bill appears to cry 02/08/17 04:42
A 51-year-old Queensland country musician has been spared jail despite exposing himself to a 12-year-old boy over webcam after befriending his mother seven years ago.
Queensland musician spared jail despite exposing himself to boy online 02/08/17 03:03
Leah Bracknell, 53, has shared an emotional poem about her cancer diagnosis. The London-born star, who is best known for playing Zoe Tate on Emmerdale, is battling lung cancer.
Emmerdale's Leah Bracknell shares a sad poem after cancer diagnosis 02/08/17 01:18
Corey Constable, 21, has been praised on social media after a video surfaced of him offering food, coffee and an umbrella to a homeless man sitting outside an Adeliade shopping centre.
Beautiful moment caf(C) owner offers homeless man food, coffee, umbrella 01/08/17 22:55
Confused members of the 'Fatherland first' group described the photo as 'tragic and scary', with others claiming that it was proof of Norway's 'Islamification.'
Norwegian anti-immigrant group confuses Muslim women with bus seats 01/08/17 22:13
The laptop-sized touchscreen and smart camera technology is said to make people connecting digitally through the device feel like they're actually in the same room.
Facebook's building an AI video chat device for your living room 01/08/17 22:12
Joe Snipes, 25, and Brandon Frye, 21, have been charged with aggravated burglary and theft after allegedly robbing a Memphis home and then trying to sell stolen property online.
Burglary suspects busted selling stolen goods on Facebook 01/08/17 22:10
Lara Trump, wife of Eric Trump, is hosting a new online video series in which she uncritically highlights recent events that cast the president in a positive light. Donald Trump shared it on Twitter.
President Donald Trump launches 'news program' on his Facebook 01/08/17 16:00
A television cameraman had the shock of his life when he discovered a giant snake (pictured) lurking on his office desk in Darwin, in the Northern Territory on Monday.
Snake found hiding at 9News cameraman desk in Darwin 01/08/17 10:24
Mummy blogger Sophie Lilley, from Warrington, Cheshire, posted a photo of herself with a home-cooked lasagne, while her husband was pictured asleep on the sofa as he 'looked after the kids'.
Blogger shows difference between 'dad hangover' and 'mum hangover' 01/08/17 10:20
Ozlo specialises in text-based conversations, and claims its software can understand and answer complex questions. It will join Facebook's Messenger team in Menlo Park, California.
Facebook buys AI firm Ozlo to transform Messenger into your assistant 01/08/17 09:24
The hilarious video of a DIY dentists has gone viral in Spain after it was originally shared on Whatsapp by bemused onlookers and has now gone viral on Facebook.
Open wide! DIY dentist pulls out wrong tooth with pliers 01/08/17 08:40
Muslim businessman Mohamed Elmouelhy (pictured) predicts Australia's white race will die out within 40 years because Australian men are too busy drinking, smoking and taking drugs.
Muslim businessman says Australian white race will die out in 40 years 01/08/17 07:51
In a Facebook post Thursday, Susan Thompson showed her neighbor named Mrs Newby proud of a successful kill of 11 snakes at her home in Lequire, Oklahoma.
Woman, 72, kills more than a dozen copperhead snakes in Oklahoma 01/08/17 07:46
Senator Cory Bernardi has slammed halal boss Mohamed Elmouelhy, saying he doesn't want him in the country after Mr Elmouelhy said the 'white race' will die out in Australia in 40 years.
Senator Cory Bernardi calls to deport halal boss Mohamed Elmouelhy 01/08/17 07:35
A woman has been left shocked by the response of a Victorian cafe, who called her a 'c**t' and told her to 'choke on her olives' when she cancelled her party food order.
'You're a c**t': Cafe's reply to a woman who cancelled her food order 01/08/17 03:14
Chester Bennington's ex-wife Samantha Bennington posted a moving tribute to the Linkin Park lead singer on Sunday. She signed it from herself and her son with Chester, Draven, 15.
Chester Bennington's ex-wife posts moving tribute after funeral 01/08/17 03:07
Potus Frank Ramirez recorded a Facebook video in his Harlingen, Texas, Country Side Inn room showing incidents that he believes were paranormal activity.
Man records alleged ghost encounter in Texas hotel but people doubt it 31/07/17 23:30
The bots were attempting to imitate human speech when they developed their own machine language spontaneously - at which point Facebook decided to shut them down.
Facebook shuts down chatbot experiment after AIs develop own language 31/07/17 18:52
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg revealed how she 'screamed' down the phone to her best friend just hours after her husband Dave suffered a heart attack in Mexico in May 2015.
Sheryl Sandberg breaks down as she opens up about her husband's death 31/07/17 17:20
A researcher from the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia, found that there is association between social media use and language complexity.
People who post on social media use more complex language 31/07/17 16:43
Mother-of-three Sherrie Rhodes, 37, from Hull, East Yorkshire, posted the intimate picture on social media this week in a bid to raise awareness of the lesser-known symptoms of breast cancer.
Woman bravely shares pictures of breast cancer 31/07/17 12:24
An Australian mother has shared the hilarious picture her five-year-old son drew of her - declaring she doesn't know whether 'to be proud or embarrassed' at the depiction.
Can YOU spot what's unusual about this boy's picture of his mum? 31/07/17 10:15
Photos on the Turns Out Kavos Was Ready For You Facebook page show inebriated revellers looking worse-for-wear in the Corfu party resort.
Britons share debauched photos of cavorting friends in Kavos 31/07/17 07:34
Laura Csortan lists her $2,000 Alex Perry dress for sale on Facebook
Laura Csortan lists her $2,000 Alex Perry dress for sale on Facebook 30/07/17 23:34
Connie Yates and Chris Gard had desperately hoped for more time with their son but a family friend said the equipment and medical team necessary to prolong his life were unavailable.
Charlie Gard's parents distraught at son's untimely death 30/07/17 21:16
A Nepalese student who failed to convince a female Instagram 'friend' to attend Sydney's Vivid festival with him sent her a Facebook message threatening a terrorist act.
Student makes ISIS bomb threat to Opera House on Facebook 30/07/17 09:19
Shaun Davidson is now auctioning off his story to the highest bidder, taunting police with yet another Facebook post.
Bali prison escapee continues to taunt police auctioning off interview 29/07/17 23:46
Unique 'Pinky' Parsha is being forced to live out of her car because of the high cost of living in Silicon Valley, California, despite working for social media giant Facebook.
Facebook employee lives in her car due to high rent 29/07/17 09:26
The world's biggest tech companies face being broken up as they toast a formidable set of sales figures.
Time to break up titans of silicon valley as tech giants generate £74B 29/07/17 02:19
Tesla founder Elon Musk is concerned about the future of artificial intelligence, but Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has a more optimistic view. The two have now begun a row.
Founders of Facebook and PayPal locked in row over robot intelligence
VIDEO - The manipulative tricks tech companies use to capture your attention | Tristan Harris - YouTube
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 23:41
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 13:11
VIDEO - ''Earth has Shifted'' '' Inuit Elders Issue Warning to NASA and the World (Video)
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:11
Global Climate Change: The Earth Has Shifted, Say Inuit Elders. NASA has been issued a new warning from the Inuits. They are claiming that the change in climate is not due to global warming, rather, because the Earth is shifting. They state that the earth has shifted or ''wobbled''and that ''their sky has changed!'' The Inuits are local people that live in the Arctic regions of Canada, the United States and Greenland. They are excellent weather forecasters as were their ancestors. Presently they are warning NASA that the cause of change in weather and earthquakes are not due to global warming as the world thinks.
The elders declare that the sun rises at a different position now, not where it used to previously. They also have longer daylight to hunt now, the sun is much higher than earlier, and it gets warmer much quickly. Other elders across the north also confirmed the same thing about the sky changing when interviewed
VIDEO - Michael Moore: "Who Wouldn't Vote For Tom Hanks For President?"
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 11:47
(Getty Images)
Michael Moore said on ''The View'' on Thursday that Democrats should run a celebrity in the 2020 presidential election. He even suggested Tom Hanks and other stars. Watch the video below.
Moore began his appearance on the ABC talk show by stressing that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, and it was the ''archaic'' electoral college that prevented her from actually becoming president. He went on to say, ''We need to run a beloved American in 2020.'' That led Whoopi Goldberg to hilariously interject and exclaim, ''No, I won't!''
But Moore actually didn't think that was such a bad idea, telling her, ''You run and Michelle Obama as your running mate!'' When Jedediah Bila questioned whether Donald Trump has proven that celebrity isn't enough to govern, he responded, ''The celebrities on our side, first of all, are smart. If we ran Al Franken, ran Tom Hanks '-- who wouldn't vote for Tom Hanks for president of the United States? C'mon! Or Oprah!''
Bila, however, pushed back. ''No. I'll tell you who,'' she told the activist filmmaker. ''Many Americans feel that those celebrities are out of touch. A lot of people would tell you 'they don't understand my needs.''' Moore retorted, ''Wrong. We're on TV right now. Americans love celebrities.'' And Goldberg backed him up.
''It's very clear that America loves celebrities, 'cause that's why they voted for him,'' she said of Trump. ''They thought they knew him. They believed that that was his office. Listen, I talked to as many of these voters as you have. They believed he was actually in his office [doing business]. My face fell off!''
Bila responded, ''But as a businessman, they looked at him, even his television show, he looked like that savvy businessman.'' She then said to Moore, ''Look, hey I want you to run celebrities. I'm a conservative. I don't want them to win. I don't want the Democrats to win.'' He then declared, ''We're gonna win with Oprah!'' Of course, as of now, Oprah has no intention of running , and Tom Hanks running for president seems to just be an ''SNL'' joke. Check out ''The View'' video below.
VIDEO - Greenspan: Bond bubble about to break because of 'abnormally low' interest rates
Mon, 07 Aug 2017 11:44
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan issued a bold warning Friday that the bond market is on the cusp of a collapse that also will threaten stock prices.
In a CNBC interview, the longtime central bank chief said the prolonged period of low interest rates is about to end and, with it, a bull market in fixed income that has lasted more than three decades.
"The current level of interest rates is abnormally low and there's only one direction in which they can go, and when they start they will be rather rapid," Greenspan said on "Squawk Box."
That low interest rate environment has been the product of current monetary policy at the institution he helmed from 1987-2006. The Fed took its benchmark rate to near zero during the financial crisis and kept it there for seven years after.
Since December 2015, the Fed has approved four rate hikes, but government bond yields remained mired near record lows.
Greenspan did not criticize the policies of the current Fed. But he warned that the low rate environment can't last forever and will have severe consequences once it ends.
"I have no time frame on the forecast," he said. "I have a chart which goes back to the 1800s and I can tell you that this particular period sticks out. But you have no way of knowing in advance when it will actually trigger."
One point he did make about timing is it likely will be quick and take the market by surprise.
"It looks stronger just before it isn't stronger," he said. Anyone who thinks they can forecast when the bubble will break is "in for a disastrous" experience."
In addition to his general work at the Fed, which also featured an extended period of low rates though nowhere near their current position, Greenspan is widely known for the "irrational exuberance" speech he gave at the American Enterprise Institute in 1996. The speech warned about asset prices and said it is difficult to tell when a bubble is about to burst.
Those remarks foreshadowed the popping of the dot-com bubble, and the phrase has found a permanent place in the Wall Street lexicon.
"You can never be quite sure when irrational exuberance arises," he told CNBC. "I was doing it as part of a much broader speech and talking about the analysis of the markets and the like, and I wasn't trying to focus short term. But the press loved that term."
VIDEO - Narcan Parties: Drug users overdosing to be brought back to life | WSOC-TV
Sun, 06 Aug 2017 21:40
by:Tina Terry Updated: Aug 4, 2017 - 12:48 PM
SALISBURY, N.C. - Rowan County emergency workers expressed frustration Thursday over "Narcan parties" that they said are increasing in the area.
They said they've noticed the spike over the past six months.
"With Narcan readily available and over the counter now, they are having group gatherings called Narcan parties,'' said Chris Richardson, Emergency Management Services battalion chief for Rowan County. ''They will have numerous people around.''
He said party-goers get high in houses or cars in public places, then an emergency responder with Narcan will try to revive them, giving the drug user a rush.
He said a few weeks ago that a couple overdosed on heroin at a shopping center, knowing an ambulance with Narcan was just a call away.
"Picked up the drug, didn't want to wait to get to their residence, both wanted to use, they did it in a public place so they would be found," Richardson said.
The numbers of overdoses are staggering.
There were 292 calls in 2016 in Rowan County when Narcan was administered.
This year, through June, they've already had 284 calls a 94 percent increase.
Read more top trending stories on
(C) 2017 Cox Media Group.
VIDEO - Maxine Waters Accuses Dershowitz of Racism - YouTube
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 15:03
VIDEO - Interviews - Donald Gregg | Kim's Nuclear Gamble | FRONTLINE | PBS
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:42
I was in Japan in 1968 when the [USS] Pueblo was seized [by North Korea]. I was with CIA at that point. We were trying to figure out a way to retaliate for the seizure of the Pueblo. We could not figure out anything to do that would not have gotten the crew's throat cut and probably started a second Korean War. So we swallowed our pride, and eventually we got the crew back.
It's just always been an extraordinarily difficult nut to crack. I think our intelligence is better now. We certainly have much better satellite coverage ... and we fly U2s and so forth. But we still are not able to get inside their heads.
So that presents a major obstacle for anybody formulating policy, because we don't know what they want. We can't get inside their heads. How do we decide what we should do?
That was why I was motivated in March last year to write Chairman Kim Jong Il a letter. With the encouragement of Kim Dae Jung, the president of South Korea, who had asked me to plant the flag of the Korea Society in North Korea, I had been cultivating relationships with the North Koreans here in the United States. I'd met with them offline.
It had been arranged for early last year for four of us former ambassadors to visit North Korea under the leadership of Bob Scalapino, the renowned Asian scholar from U.C.-Berkeley. Then after the "axis of evil" rhetoric in the State of the Union message, that visit was cancelled.
I went to a conference in Europe and was so appalled at how little our European friends understand our frame of mind after 9/11. I thought, "My Lord. If these people don't understand how angry we are, how vulnerable we feel, how concerned we are about weapons of mass destruction, the North Koreans can't have a clue how we feel."
So I wrote the Chairman Kim Jong Il. I just was impelled to do it. Nobody told me to do it. I did it. I took it to the North Korean mission here. A man I knew read it, and had a wonderful reaction. He sort of read it and cocked his head and said, "How dare you write my chairman that way? Who do you think you are?"
I said, "Well, I'm writing him because I think I understand how his mind works." He said, "How can you understand how my chairman's mind works?" I said, "I've talked to Chinese and Russians and South Koreans and Americans who have seen him in action in China, in Russia, in North Korea. What I get is a very consistent picture of a man who wants to change the way North Korea relates to its neighbors. I'm all for that. I think we need to change the way we relate to North Korea. I think it's very important that we talk about your weapons of mass destruction, because we're particularly concerned about them falling into hands of people hostile to us after 9/11."
He said, "That's a good answer. I'll send your letter." Two weeks later, I was invited to come.
[Did] you do this with the blessing of this administration?
You do this with the disapproval of this administration?
I informed them after I wrote the letter, and I informed the South Korean government. They were very pleased that I had sent the letter, and I did not get any rebuttals from the Bush administration.
Well, get back to that. I want to go back to understanding the mentality of the North Koreans. They see us as a nuclear threat. Is that a fair statement?
They see us as a military threat.
We've threatened them in the past, historically, since the war.
Yes, we did. We threatened them with nuclear weapons during the Korean War, and they haven't forgotten that. ...
Let's go back to the crisis in 1994. Give me some sense of how serious of a crisis this was. This is not something that most Americans remember.
Bill Perry, who was a magnificent secretary of defense, calls it the most dangerous moment by far of his tenure as secretary of defense. Jim Laney, the distinguished former president of Emory University, who was my successor as ambassador, said he felt we were going to war. He was on the verge of calling for the evacuation of all civilian personnel, which you do only if you are about to have hostility start. It was he who suggested to Jimmy Carter that Jimmy Carter activate a standing invitation that he had to visit North Korea. ...
So Carter went, and at the last moment, really pulled the chestnuts out of the fire. He found that Kim Il Sung, who had lost the support from the Soviet Union after its collapse, could no longer really count on China, which had recognized South Korea was very anxious [for] improved relations with the United States.
So when Carter said to him, "We're worried about your nuclear reactor at Yongbyon," he said, "Well, I'll shut it down if you'll build be two light-water reactors and give me oil to compensate for the power we'll use." That was the germ of the Agreed Framework, which was negotiated a few months later.
What's the lesson?
I think the lesson is that if you send somebody of serious stature with a serious message, you will be taken seriously. ...
That almost happened at the end of the Clinton administration. After Bill Perry's excellent work in defusing the missile crisis of 1998, the North Koreans sent Jo Myong Rok, their second-ranking man, to the United States. He stopped in San Francisco, and asked to be taken to Silicon Valley, because he said, "We need to move to a wireless economy." He visited the White House in uniform, invited Bill Clinton to visit North Korea. A very important statement was issued at that time, saying, "We two countries do not harbor hostile relations toward each other. We will work toward the improvement of relations."
The North Koreans have always wanted a reiteration of that statement from the Bush administration, and they've never gotten it. I think that's the cornerstone of their anxiety about what the Bush administration has in mind.
What happened with this administration that they've taken another tack? If those were the clear lessons of 1994 and 1998 -- that talking to them seriously, cooperating with them where possible, works -- why have they failed to learn that lesson?
I think two reasons. I think that President Bush, as he acquired a worldview as he ran for office, came into office with very hostile feelings toward four or five world leaders: Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, Arafat, Castro, Chavez of Venezuela. He also had a very strong antipathy toward Bill Clinton for some of the things Clinton had done while he was president, and for the fact that Clinton defeated his father in 1992.
Colin Powell's first statement on North Korea was, "We're going to take up where the Clinton administration left off," and that statement did not stand. When Kim Dae Jung pressed for an early meeting with President Bush in Washington -- he got it in, I think, March 2001 -- President Bush said, "I don't trust Kim Jong Il. We're going to have a policy review. And we're not going to do anything until we've finished the policy review." So there was just really a cutoff of the progress that had been made.
When the policy review completed in May or June, they said it validated the attempt to improve relations with North Korea. But the stacking of the issues had changed. The issue of conventional troop deployments, which is the most difficult issue, had been raised to a much higher position.
So this was laid out for the North Koreans, who did not respond immediately, because I think they felt we had moved the goalpost. The agenda had changed from what it had been at the end of the Clinton administration to what it had become at the beginning of the Bush administration.
Is it indicative of a Cold Warrior kind of mentality taking hold in the administration to move the conventional forces issue up to the top of the agenda?
Yes, I think so. And that is the biggest threat. I mean, the threat that North Korea has to this day is the 10,000 to 12,000 artillery tubes that are heavily bunkered and can rain 300,000-400,000 shells an hour into Seoul. ...
The 1994 Agreed Framework -- chestnuts are pulled from the fire. Good agreement, in your view?
Very quick and dirty negotiation, ably done by Bob Gallucci. It's almost impossible sometimes to deal with South Koreans alone or North Koreans alone -- to deal with them both at the same time is almost impossible.
So he basically worked out what the North Koreans would sit still for, and then sold it to the South Koreans, who where not very happy with the result. But they went along with it.
But a good agreement for the United States?
I think a good agreement, because it shut down the plutonium weapons process.
The plant at Yongbyon?
At Yongbyon. And it got fuel rods stored under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Administration] inspection. If we hadn't had it, North Korea would have produced far more plutonium and would have had enough material for several weapons. So I think it was a good agreement. But the Republicans took over both houses of Congress in November 1994.
A few days after it was signed?
After. And Newt Gingrich began to wave the bloody shirt immediately, saying, "It's a bad agreement. We're giving away too much."
I think McCain came forward and called it appeasement. You know all these analogies are made that Kim Dae Jung is another Chamberlain and the United States is engaged in appeasing North Korea.
Right, and the North Koreans remember that. A number of the ancillary agreements, such as getting North Korea off the terrorism list and improving relations between the United States and North Korea -- they were just dropped.
But there was an agreement. The administration had an obligation to hold to an agreement. Are you blaming Congress, or the administration?
I am blaming, I think, both. There were some delays in the heavy [fuel oil] shipments. These separate side agreements that were supposed to come along to try to improve the overall relationship between our two countries did not get much tender loving care from the Republicans, and the North Koreans are aware of that.
Then in 1998 came the Rumsfeld report on missile threats to the United States. Then came their Taepodong [missile].
But if I can take us back, 1994, to 1997, 1998, is a key period. Now we're sending what kind of message back to the North? What kind of message are the North Koreans getting as to our willingness to keep a deal?
That's a very mixed period, because during that period, the North Koreans send their submarines down the east cost of the Korean Peninsula. ... This was a--
Deliberate action?
Deliberate action, showing the North Koreans still had a very bloody-minded tentacle that they were extending toward the South. I think that has stopped. Kim Jong Il apologized after the last sea fight in the Western Sea.
But at that point, I think things were not fully coordinated, and that kind of hostile activity inflames Republicans, inflamed the people of South Korea, caused some delay in the oil shipments, and accounted for a lot of the delay in building the light-water reactors.
The North Koreans never acknowledged that. They say, "It's all your fault." But it's very good to remind them of these things they did that also contributed to the delay and to a poisoning of the atmosphere.
So they poisoned the atmosphere. But on the letter of the agreement, did they hold to the agreement?
The North Koreans held to the Agreed Framework?
They did.
Did the Americans hold to the Agreed Framework or did the Americans renege?
... I think there was some foot-dragging on our part. I think that the oil shipments came later, and there was, as I say, a real lack of enthusiasm for the issue of getting them off the terrorist list.
It became an orphaned policy at the State Department.
I wouldn't say we reneged. But it was not implemented with any great enthusiasm.
Were we perceived as reneging?
I think the North Koreans can say with a straight face that, "We think that you have never really been enthusiastic about improving relations with us. We think you have contributed to the delay of the building of the [light]-water reactors. This has contributed to our power shortage, and you are to blame for the sad state of our economy." That's the line I got, both in April and November.
Now somewhere along the way, U.S. intelligence starts to report that they're on shopping trips.
That they're in Pakistan. Tell me about that. They're buying high-frequency modulators, aluminum tubes.
Yes. I don't really know much about it. I only know that when [Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs] Jim Kelly was supposed to go to North Korea in June of last year, then there was a sea clash that delayed that trip. He says he was carrying with him a bold initiative. I'm not quite sure what that was, but it was a talk about economic aid and assistance if North Korea would back off its interest in all things nuclear.
Then between June and his trip on Oct. 3, apparently we got definitive aerial photographs of equipment from Pakistan being delivered to North Korea.
But we knew about this long before.
I don't know when we knew about it. I don't know when we knew about it. But it became a matter of certitude in July or August. So as Kelly geared up for his trip, apparently there was a dogfight within the administration. Should he mention it? Should he not mention it?
Those who said he should mention it put it right at the top of the agenda. So that really was the only thing that was discussed at his Oct. 3 meeting. Then, interesting enough, the North Koreans, after caucusing overnight, came back and said, "Yes, we do have that program."
They said that? Or they said, "We have every right to have such a program?"
They said, "We have every right to have any kind of weapon we want to design, because of the threats you have mounted against us. We will adopt a 'neither confirm nor deny' policy as to what we actually have."
But that's an important difference, isn't it? I mean, they didn't say, "Yes, we have this program. You've caught us."
What they said is repeated in their Oct. 25 statement -- that is, [that] North Korea is entitled to develop any kind of weapons system it wants to, in view of the threats that it perceives from the outside. ...
When you went on your trip and he said, again, "We have every right," did you ask him point blank, "Do you have a uranium enrichment program?"
No, we did not. We said, "Why did it take you all night to decide how to answer Kelly's charge?" "Well," he said, "I, for one, didn't know all about that program, so we have to pull together everybody who did know about it and then decide what we were going to say about it. What we decided to say was what's in the Oct. 25 statement."
We then said, "What does that do to the Agreed Framework?" He said, "It's hanging by a thread." That thread was cut on Nov. 15, when Washington cut off further oil shipments.
So Washington cut the Agreed Framework, not the North Koreans?
Right. ...
You made an observation to me when we first spoke on the phone about the demonization of Kim, the damage that that does, and that you had remembered that we had done that in history.
Right, with Ho Chi Minh. Yes. I think when we have an antagonist whom we don't understand, we have a very dangerous tendency to fill our gaps of ignorance with prejudice. We did that with Ho Chi Minh and we are doing that with Kim Jong Il -- a perfect example being a cover story on Newsweek calling him "Dr. Evil." ...
Well, they could spend less on their military and more on feeding their people.
They could. Absolutely.
They could spend less on a nuclear weapons program, and more on feeding their people.
That's correct. I think the reason they don't is what I said at the beginning of the program -- that the military feels threatened by a process of openness, and lays the demands on for a continuation of the very generous resource allocation to them.
Some people are going to listen to this, and say, "You know, Donald Gregg, conservative, former CIA, national security adviser to George Herbert Walker Bush -- where did you become a dove on North Korea? Where did you begin apologizing for the North Koreans?"
I don't [think] I am apologizing for North Korea. I think nothing I've done in the 25 years since I retired from CIA is so reminiscent to me of my CIA work. I always saw intelligence work as an attempt to cut behind appearance to reality, and I always felt that if you were going to be effective in dealing with a problem, you had to know what actually was going on, not what appeared to be going on.
So, what I am trying to say is, yes, there are people starving in North Korea. Yes, there is a misallocation of resources. But there is a group in North Korea that has a hope that North Korea can do better by establishing better relations with their neighbors, by, as I said, building widgets instead of nuclear weapons. I think that that plan ought to be encouraged, and by threatening them, by calling them a terrorist state, by calling them the other things that this administration has called them -- the axis of evil, pygmy, etc.
The president called Kim Jong Il a pygmy?
So it is reported. We make it much harder for them to change the allocation of resources. We make it much harder for them to become a normal nation.
They are very proud people. They have said to me, and they have said to others, "Do not confuse us with Iraq. You're not going to be able to do to us what you probably are going to try to do to Iraq."
So what happened to U.S. policy towards North Korea when the new administration--
It's never had a policy. It's had an attitude.
What's the attitude?
Who's driving it?
I think it came from the original orientation that the close advisors to President-elect Bush, and Governor Bush, the candidate, laid out for him.
You've long time been a supportive of Kim Dae Jung.
He came to the United States to talk to the president. What happened?
He came very early in President Bush's term. President Bush did not have in place the Asian specialists -- Jim Kelly, [Deputy Secretary of State] Rich Armitage had not been confirmed. The people in place in the White House were proliferation people.
Kim Dae Jung has quite a lot of hauteur. He may have lectured President Bush on why he ought to support Sunshine Policy. Anyway, the meetings did not go well, and President Bush said, "We're going to have a policy review on North Korea." His father had done that. He had a policy review on the Soviet Union when he was elected in 1988. So this was a perfectly legitimate thing for him to do.
The South Korean mistake was in pushing too hard for a meeting that came too early. If perhaps it had come a little later, with some people who knew more about Asian face and Asian history in place, maybe it would have gone better.
When you met with President Kim Dae Jung after that meeting, what did he tell you?
... He said as a result of the meeting in Washington, where it was publicly stated that President Bush said, "I don't trust Kim Jong Il. We're going to have a review of our policy before we take any forward steps," that that had reverberated very strongly in North Korea, that there was no ongoing dialogue between North and South Korea until this policy review was completed.
This seems like a textbook case in discontinuity between one administration and the other, to the detriment of foreign policy.
[Yes]. That's not unique. I was in the White House when Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan, and there was the same kind of hostility there. There was the same kind of discontinuity. When there is a hostile campaign, and the two candidates are from quite different parts of the political spectrum, I think that's quite natural. But I think sooner or later things veer back towards the center, and the process goes on.
What were the consequences of 9/11 for U.S.-North Korean relations?
I think it became the most time-consuming issue. It validated a great many of the sort of Manichean theories that people like Richard Perle and [Paul] Wolfowitz, and [William] Kristol and [Lewis] Libby had been laying out: that this is an evil world, that we are under threat.
I think the North Koreans were a little slow in condemning what had been done. They did. They signed onto two or three U.N.-sponsored anti-terrorism measures. There's never been any indication of a tie between North Korea and terrorism. I think the biggest thing that it did to North Korea was just suck up all the time and attention of the White House, and the North Korean policy was just sort of left to wither.
Didn't it also leave the United States more fearful that a North Korea, which we know sells missile technology to the Middle East, could be selling to any customer, including Al Qaeda?
We knew that North Korea had sold missile technology to Egypt, to Syria, to Pakistan and perhaps to Libya. But beyond that, they had no track record of that sort.
But you're right. This became a fear. That was the reason that I wrote the letter to Kim Jong Il that I described earlier -- because I knew that that was a fear, and that any country with a nuclear technology became of great concern to us, because we did not want that technology to fall into the hands of those who had no compunction about using it against us.
You wrote the letter. What did you learn from those meetings that you had with the North Koreans?
I came back and I wrote a report, saying, "The North Koreans fear us. The North Koreans don't trust us. The North Koreans are offended by our rhetoric, and they have no stake in their relationship with the Bush administration. That could be changed, however, if a high-level emissary were sent to North Korea with a presidential letter indicating our interest in working towards a better relationship, reviving echoes of the statement made at the time of Jo Myung Rok's visit."
I said that I felt that the things that had been in play during my time as ambassador, and during the end of the Clinton administration were lying fallow, but they could be resuscitated by a genuine expression of high-level friendly interest from the president, conveyed to North Korea by someone of real stature, known to be someone trusted by the president. ...
But this notion that they cheat on their agreements with us -- why should we be rewarding them with any kind of concessions, with any kind of olive branches? They're apparently double dealing.
That has come into full bloom after the highly enriched uranium program with Pakistan has become known. That's the hardest thing to explain, if you are still saying these people are someone that we ought to negotiate with. My guess is that the North Koreans and the Pakistanis had a long relationship involving the sale of missiles to Pakistan, which were somehow being mated up with Pakistan's nuclear weapons. ...
Do you think that, had we been more rigorous in holding to the letter of the Agreed Framework, had we not delayed on opening the economic and diplomatic relations and what-not, would the North Koreans still have gone forward with a uranium enrichment program?
That's really speculative. I think the key thing that the Bush administration did not do was not reiterate the joint statement issued at the time of Jo Myung Rok's visit in October 2000, where it said we no longer have hostile intentions towards each other and we will work towards establishment of a better basis, of a better relationship.
That is what North Korea has always wanted to hear from the Bush administration. And they so far, they haven't heard it.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist as we look down the road? You want to be an optimist?
I want to be an optimist. I'm hearing more and more from Colin Powell and Rich Armitage, and less and less from people like [Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security] John Bolton. I was part of what I thought was a very good testimonial before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 4. That committee has very, very fine personnel, Senators Lugar and Biden. The two chairs get on extremely well. They have Chuck Hagel, Senator Rockefeller, Chris Dodd, Senator Chafee. Some really fine people.
There was not a single partisan note struck in the session Rich Armitage testified in, was complimented on his testimony. I was very glad to see the Senate becoming more involved in what, up to now, has been something that there really only the executive branch has thought about, and that is, "How do we deal with North Korea from here on?" The interest on the part of the Senate seemed to be, "Why aren't we talking to them?"
Why aren't we talking to them?
That is seen by the Bush administration as rewarding bad behavior. Why should we talk to them, when they've cheated on the previous agreement we have with them?
But yet it's a very dangerous situation. We say we care about nuclear proliferation. We're going to war over the issue of weapons of mass destruction, proliferation in Iraq. But yet we won't talk to the North Koreans? What sense does that make?
Well, in my Senate testimony, I said, "We're saying two things: We're not going to attack you, but we won't talk to you. And to me, that really does not make a particularly coherent policy."
It does nothing to inhibit them from moving towards the acquisition of full nuclear weapons capacity, which I think they intend to do, unless we give them a security guarantee. It was very interesting in the testimony of Secretary Armitage. He said the North Koreans want a non-aggression treaty from us.
We think that's very difficult, because we don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell of having it ratified by the Senate. Senator Biden said, "Mr. Secretary, if the president came before us and said he was very interested in having a non-aggression treaty with North Korea ratified, I'll bet you a million dollars we would do it." I thought that was new ground being broken, and I was very glad that that exchange took place. ...
If we don't talk to them, do you think they'll build nuclear weapons?
In my view, yes, and that changes the balance of power in northeast Asia. We already have a very difficult relationship with South Korea. ...
It doesn't seem that the lessons of the 1994 crisis are being absorbed.
I think that what we're missing is the real change in chemistry between North Korea and the United States, which would still be possible if a truly sincere, high-level message were sent from Washington, saying, "We want to improve relations with you, and we are willing to guarantee your security." That was a very interesting approach put out by Jim Laney and--
Former ambassador.
--former ambassador to South Korea in this month's Foreign Affairs written, co-authored with Jason Shaplen. They suggest that a first step be a guarantee of North Korea's security by China, Russia, Japan and the United States; that we sit down, the four of us, and say, "We all have no hostile intent towards North Korea."
This might then encourage the North Koreans to make a first step, in terms of eschewing further development of nuclear weapons. That might pave the way for the kind of direct talks that the North Koreans want to have with us. I think it's all for the good that that kind of new idea is being floated.
How much time do we have?
... I think we have six months.
We have six months to do what?
To start a dialogue with North Korea that they feel can lead to a guarantee of their security by us.
And if we don't?
They will become a nuclear power.
VIDEO - Media goes nuts over "anti-diversity" Google memo | SUPERcuts! #510 - YouTube
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:25
VIDEO - Inside the bizarre world of YouTube ASMR videos
Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:37
"ASMR is not as odd as it sounds," said Burnie Burns, co-founder and chief creative officer of production company Rooster Teeth. "In the 90s we had CDs and audio tapes of rain forest sounds that many people used for relaxation purposes -- there just wasn't a fancy term to classify that media. Since online video has become a phenomenon, now we have a whole new generation of those kinds of ephemeral experiences created by people all over the world."
Last year, Rooster Teeth released the documentary "The World's Greatest Head Massage: An ASMR Journey," where filmmakers traveled to Pushkar, India to find Baba the Cosmic Barber. Unbeknownst to Baba, he had become a YouTube sensation after people had been uploading videos of his "cosmic energy" shaves and head massage techniques. Baba has since created his own YouTube channel, ASMR Barber, to take advantage of his popularity.
"ASMR videos tend to have low production costs, but have a massive replay-ability factor," Burns explained. "'Baba the Cosmic Barber's original head massage video has almost 10,000,000 views. Many of those views come from people who probably watch it several times a week to fall asleep. Ten million views is incredible for a video that costs less than fifty dollars to make."
But creating an ASMR video isn't as simple as filming for an hour. Maria said her more complex videos take about three days to create. She'll write up a script with specific soothing words she should be using and do research into what sounds she should incorporate. She tests out the appropriate lighting and sound levels before filming. She sets up microphones positioned where a viewer's ears would be in real life, and places the lens where a onlooker's eyes would be. Then, after filming the video, she goes into post-production, which includes a special ear toward sound to remove any clap or loud noise.
"It creates this presence of a person with you or around you concentrating on you," Maria. "It creates privacy. Most of the time people will watch it by themselves and truly lose themselves in the moment."
While the Ephemeral Rift YouTube channel features conventional relaxing videos like trees rusting in the wind or someone shuffling wooden blocks, Paul also experiments by playing characters like Dr. Lampert Schade, a psychiatrist with a lampshade on his head, and Corvus Clemmons, a plague doctor who wears a bird-like steampunk mask. All the videos feature soft soothing sounds and no sudden movements.
"I looked to YouTube as a creative outlet," Paul said. "I was searching for something in my life that was fulfilling."

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