AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1371409 times)

Offline knarf

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Bus fire kills 52 Uzbeks in Kazakhstan
« Reply #10620 on: January 19, 2018, 04:32:48 AM »

The bus, carrying 55 passengers and two drivers, was traveling along a remote road in the Aktobe region

Fifty-two Uzbek citizens have been killed in a bus fire in Kazakhstan.

The bus, carrying 55 passengers and two drivers, was travelling along a remote road in the northwestern Aktobe region when it burst into flames on Thursday morning.

Only five people managed to escape, the Kazakh emergencies department said in a statement.

"Five people who managed to escape are receiving medical assistance," the statement said. "The remaining 52 people died on the spot."

The survivors included three Kazakhs and two Uzbeks, the Kazakh ministry for investments and development said in a post on Facebook. The bus did not have a license to transport passengers, the ministry said.

Citing Kazakh officials, Radio Free Europe said the passengers were migrant workers travelling to Russia.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev sent a message of condolence to Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev saying he shared "in the irreplaceable loss".

"I wish the wounded people a speedy recovery and a return to their families," he said, adding his country has set up a special commission to determine the cause of the fire.

Uzbekistan also sent officials to Aktobe to establish the cause of the accident, according to the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency.

Vitaly Sinev, an official in Aktobe, told Kazakh news site BNews the fire may have been caused by a short circuit.
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 Theresa May famously stated no MPs are “unsackable” when she was questioned over why Boris Johnson is still in place as foreign secretary despite a long line of blunders.

However, what it takes to get sacked as a £75,000 ($104,300) per year Tory politician is pretty unclear. The list of offences committed by those in power now include heinous statements, inappropriate behavior, and public support for racist groups.

What have Tory MPs got away with recently?

Casual racism: Marie Morris MP

Morris caused outrage in 2017 when she casually dropped a vulgar, racist verbal bomb in a speech. But it was ok, because she was using an old fashioned phrase when she used the word “n*****.”

Speaking at the East India Club, Morris said: “Now I’m sure there will be many people who’ll challenge that, but my response and my request is look at the detail. It isn’t all doom and gloom. Now we get to the real n***** in the woodpile, which is, in two years what happens if there is no deal?”

A word associated with slavery, oppression and steeped in racism is clearly fine if you’re a Tory... because, although Morris had the whip removed, it was restored five months later. Essentially, the party distanced themselves from the MP (by withdrawing the whip) but let her back in the club when the smoke had cleared.

Speaking of her return as a Conservative MP, Morris said: “I would like to take this opportunity to apologize again for using such inappropriate and offensive language. It was a mistake and I regret it unreservedly.

“I have learned from this experience and have a new determination to uphold the highest possible standards in public life. I feel proud and privileged to be a member of parliament and I will continue to serve my community and my country to the best of my ability.”

Poor shaming: Ben Bradley MP

If perhaps you did not attend university, do not have middle class parents, and find yourself out of work – you should be sterilized, according to a Tory MP.

Apparently, anyone who faces desperate times has no right to a family life – because it is an expensive inconvenience to others – but such a vile opinion is accepted if you fly a blue flag in Britain.

Tory MP Ben Bradley has kept his role despite suggesting people who are unemployed should not have children. He was apparently scared of Britain “drowning in a cast sea of unemployed wasters.”

In a blog post revealed by BuzzFeed, Bradley said: “It’s horrendous that there are families out there that can make vastly more than the average wage (or in some cases more than a bloody good wage), just because they have 10 kids. Sorry, but how many children you have is a choice; if you can’t afford them, stop having them! Vasectomies are free.

“There are hundreds of families in the UK who earn over £60,000 ($83,500) in benefits without lifting a finger because they have so many kids (and for the rest of us that’s a wage of over £90,000 ($125,200) before tax!).”
Sex toys and sugar tits: Mark Garnier MP

Imagine being secretary to Tory MP Mark Garnier. Your duties include filing, taking calls, buying sex toys for him, and enduring being called derogatory names like “sugar tits.”

Garnier, MP for Wyre Forest, was named in the so-called “dirty dossier,” which accused dozens of MPs of inappropriate behavior. Listed next to Garnier’s name were accusations over the way he treated his staff.

Allegations came to light in October regarding his secretary, Caroline Edmondson, prior to his appointment as a minister in 2016. Edmondson revealed to the Mail on Sunday that she was asked to go to a Soho sex shop and buy multiple vibrators for Garnier. The MP, who would not deny the allegations, said he would “take it on the chin.”

A Cabinet Office investigation in December cleared him of wrongdoing and found there was no evidence that he had “breached the expected standards of behavior.”

He was replaced as international trade minister in May’s cabinet reshuffle.

Rubbing shoulders with racists and ‘neo Nazis’: Toby Young

A past political party that believed in creating a “better” race by selective breeding were known as the Nazis. The same Nazis were responsible for the deaths of 11 million people.

Yet eugenics, which aims to “improve” the human race, got public backing from a man in a high-power position. Toby Young was appointed by the government as a board member of the Office for Students, a universities watchdog. He also attended eugenics events with neo-Nazis and cranks who support the bizarre philosophy.

A string of homophobic and misogynistic tweets, in which he referenced “hardcore dykes” and described gay singer George Michael as “queer as a coot,” were not enough to get him sacked either.
May was “unimpressed,” according to reports. Young later resigned after a growing backlash over his role.

Liberal Democrat Vince Cable said: “Theresa May stood by Toby Young when she should be firing him. This is a man who has a record of misogyny and backs eugenics. His appointment shows poor judgement and, as May admitted, a lack of due diligence. It seems all you need to survive is be a friend of Boris Johnson #Marr.”

Journalist Paul Lewis said: “He attended a recent secret eugenics conference with neo-Nazis and pedophiles.”

Landing Britons in jail: Boris Johnson, foreign secretary

While BoJo runs around the world attempting to garner support for Brexit Britain, a woman named Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is rotting in an Iranian jail. The mother was arrested in Tehran and accused of “defamation against the state.”

In a careless attempt to get her out of jail, Johnson said in parliament that she was in the nation teaching journalism, blowing up her defense that she was just a tourist visiting family with her infant daughter.

The minister is still trying to get her out of prison.
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Sophisticated technology unearthed beneath ancient Greek 'pyramid'
« Reply #10622 on: January 19, 2018, 04:44:33 AM »

 Archaeologists excavating an ancient pyramid-like structure on the Greek island of Keros have found evidence that its creators were far more sophisticated than previously thought.

The builders of the settlement of Dhaskalio carved the headland into stepped terraces, and added approximately 1,000 tons of white stone to make it look like a giant, gleaming, stepped pyramid. The stone was transported from 10 kilometers away.

New research on the 4,000-year-old site has revealed a range of impressive features, including a complex series of drainage tunnels, and metalwork that was “unusually sophisticated” for the time.

A metalwork mold.

Evidence of metal-working was first discovered at the site 10 years ago and researchers have subsequently found workshops and related objects.

Archaeologists were not aware that the ancient civilization that occupied the site was capable of such feats of engineering, and are continuing their research to find out more about who lived there.

Dr Michael Boyd of the University of Cambridge, one of the directors of the excavation, says it is clear that the site was a focal point for efforts towards metallurgy and other skilled labor.

“At a time when access to raw materials and skills was very limited, metalworking expertise seems to have been very much concentrated at Dhaskalio,” he said in a statement.

“What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanisation: centralisation, meaning the drawing of far-flung communities into networks centered on the site.”

Dhaskalio was previously known for the discovery of thousands of broken marble figurines, dating back 4,500 years, thought to have been used in ritual activities.
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 With fewer than ten prosecutions for insider trading in the past five years, new data has revealed that white-collar criminals are slipping through the cracks. Meanwhile, 10,000 welfare cheats were prosecuted in a year.

A freedom of information request to the chief City watchdog revealed just how little was done to stop white collar criminals in their tracks. In the past five years, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has prosecuted just eight cases of insider trading, resulting in a mere 12 convictions. In comparison, more than 10,000 people were prosecuted or penalized for welfare fraud in 2016 alone.

In 2017, the equivalent of 63 full-time staff at the watchdog worked on insider trading investigations. At the welfare department, nearly 4,000 staff investigated those fiddling their benefits.

In an analysis conducted by the Times into share price patterns, fluctuations were found to be suspiciously large in many cases.

“For example, the day before Provident Financial, a FTSE 100 lender, announced a profit warning last year, its share price slumped by almost 6 per cent, wiping £170 million from the value of the company,” the newspaper said in its investigation.

“The following day, when the warning was officially issued, the share price collapsed by a further 67 percent, saving tens of millions of pounds for the investors who had sold the previous day.

“Private investors with no access to inside information will have seen their holdings almost wiped out.”

Provident Financial’s share price had been in decline by about 0.6 per cent a day since an earlier profit warning. There was speculation that another profit warning was on the way, but the day before it was announced share prices dropped dramatically – almost ten times more than the daily average fall over the preceding two months.

The Times did admit that there is no direct evidence that any information was leaked in relation to the drop in trading. The movement in share price could have been caused by other, legitimate information.

“Given the scale of regulation nowadays these figures are really surprising and suggest insider dealing is still a major problem,” Research director at the investment broker Hargreaves Lansdown Mark Dampier said.

“Thirty years ago it was almost seen as a perk of the job but times have changed as understanding has grown about how it damages confidence in the markets.

“Getting the evidence to launch a prosecution is not easy but you have to wonder whether the regulator has been distracted since the financial crisis.”
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Zambian tour promoters found perfect answer to Trump’s alleged s***hole remark
« Reply #10624 on: January 19, 2018, 04:51:26 AM »

South Luangwa Valley National Park - Zambia - Africa

 These guys in Zambia have taking the proverbial making lemonade out of lemons to a new level when they found this perfect way to respond to Donald Trump’s alleged demeaning remarks about African nations.

Published by website on its Facebook page, the banner proudly says: “****hole Zambia. Where the only stars and stripes you’ll have to see are in the sky and on a zebra!”
January 15 at 5:30am ·

Where beautiful vistas and breathtaking wildlife are our trump card!

*DISCLAIMER: This post does not represent the opinions of the official Zambia Tourism Agency, but that of an independent marketing site

The post carries a disclaimer, which says it does not represent the Zambian government and was made by an independent site promoting tourism in the country. Zambia offers foreigners picturesque scenery and hunting opportunities as prime attractions. America is the biggest non-African source of Zambia’s tourists.
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Dying North Koreans a sign US diplomatic strategy works, Tillerson says
« Reply #10625 on: January 19, 2018, 04:54:45 AM »
 Signs of starvation and death in North Korea indicate that US diplomatic strategy works fine, says the secretary of state. The objective now is not to let Pyongyang evoke sympathy around the world for its sanctions-induced woes.

The unexpectedly-revealing description of what Rex Tillerson apparently considers successful diplomacy came from his own mouth on Wednesday as he was speaking at Stanford University with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“The Japanese… have had over a 100 North Korean fishing boats that have drifted into Japanese waters. Two-thirds of the people on those boats have died,” Tillerson said, citing the Japanese delegation that attended a conference in Vancouver, Canada, earlier this week.

He was referring to the regular phenomenon of so-called ‘ghost ships’ from North Korea, which have become stranded on the Japanese coast for years. Last year, a record 104 such cases were reported by Japanese authorities, with some 30 fishermen found dead on arrival. Any survivors usually ask to be returned to their home country, and Japan obliges.

So why are dozens of dead North Koreans a good sign?

“[The fishermen] are being sent in the wintertime to fish because there are food shortages. And they are being sent out to fish with inadequate fuel to get back. So we are getting a lot of evidence that these [sanctions] are really starting to hurt.”

Tillerson claims that the leadership in Pyongyang will be willing to negotiate in the face of starvation and fuel shortages. The same leadership that, according to some US officials, does not value the lives of ordinary North Koreans and has a record of enjoying lavish lifestyle as the county lost an estimated hundreds of thousands to the famine in the mid-1990s.

What will Pyongyang do now? Tillerson believes that, “The playbook is: OK, we’re going to start our charm offensive to the rest of the world and let them see we are just like normal people like everybody else. We are going to stir some sympathy. We are going to drive a wedge between South Korea and their allies.”

But fear not. The US was assured by South Koreans they won’t allow themselves to think North Koreans are human beings that deserve sympathy.

“An extraordinary amount of time yesterday in the group discussion was hearing from Foreign Minister Kang [Kyung-wha] of South Korea about how they are not going to let that happen,” Tillerson said.

READ MORE: 'Reprehensible & racist': African states respond to Trump’s alleged 's***hole countries' comment

Well, one can give that to the diplomat: he’s not trying to sugarcoat this. Evidently, the Trump administration is fine discussing things in public the same as they do in private.
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Most Americans can't cover a $1,000 emergency
« Reply #10626 on: January 19, 2018, 05:00:00 AM »

Life happens: A broken-down car. A leaky roof. A broken bone.

If you were hit with a $1,000 emergency, would you be able to cover it?

For the majority of Americans, the answer is no.

Only 39% of Americans say they would be able to pay for a $1,000 unplanned expense, according to new report from Bankrate.

"Even though unemployment is down and there's been a recent uptick in wages, we aren't seeing the needle move savings," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.

Unexpected bills aren't uncommon. More than one-third of households had a major unplanned expense last year, the survey showed, with half of those costing at least $2,500.

Related: 5 money mistakes to avoid in the new year

Nearly one in five Americans said they would put the expense on a credit card, the report stated, which usually makesthe cost even higher as you pay off the interest.

That's why experts usually recommend you have an emergency fund.

"Having that emergency savings fund will help you sleep at night before and after that unplanned expense," said McBride.

He recommended having six months of living expenses to help blunt the financial blow of a surprise bill. While that can seem like an insurmountable goal, every little bit helps.

"In the last recession we had nearly 7 million people who were out of work longer than six months," noted McBride. "To someone who doesn't have any or very little extra funds, accumulating six months of expenses sounds like climbing Mount Everest, but that is the destination."

Here are fourtips to help bulk up your savings:

Save first, then spend

Have a portion of your paycheck go directly into a savings account, McBride recommended.

"Too many people try to save what is left over at the end of the month only to find out there is nothing left over. You have to flip the equation around: save first, then spend what is left over."

Start early

The best way to make saving a habit is to start early.

"The sooner you can get in that habit the better," McBride said. "If you can do it when you are young and not making much that, the habit will stick with you as your age and income grows."

Separate the money

Remove all temptation to spend your emergency savings by keeping the funds separate from your checking account.

Keep your emergency savings stash away from your checking account. "It has to be a dedicated savings account," suggested McBride.

Find the best savings account

Interest rates on savings accounts are still recovering from their tumble in the wake of the financial crisis, so it's a good idea to shop around to find the highest rates.

Currently, your best bet is likely an online bank account.
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NK is not weak kneed ike the west
« Reply #10627 on: January 19, 2018, 01:58:17 PM »
NK does not shy away from killing off the people it can not feed. Sanctions will have no effect. 

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Shutdown deadline nears; no accord in Trump-Schumer meeting
« Reply #10628 on: January 19, 2018, 03:23:04 PM »
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer met Friday afternoon in an eleventh-hour effort to avert a government shutdown, with a bitterly divided Washington locked in stare-down over federal spending and legislation to protect some 700,000 younger immigrants from deportation.

The two New Yorkers, who pride themselves on their deal-making abilities, emerged from the meeting at the White House without an agreement, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress continued to trade blame as the midnight deadline approached.

“We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements,” Schumer told reporters upon returning to Capitol Hill.

As news of the Schumer meeting spread, the White House sought to reassure Republican congressional leaders that Trump would not make any major policy concessions, said a person familiar with the conversations but not authorized to be quoted by name.

Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said Trump told Schumer to work things out with McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “The ball is in Sen. Schumer’s court,” Cornyn said.

Democrats in the Senate have served notice they will filibuster a four-week, government-wide funding bill that cleared the House Thursday evening. That could expose them to charges that they are responsible for a shutdown, but they point the finger at Republicans instead.

“They’re in charge,” Schumer said Friday as he entered his Capitol office. “They’re not talking to us. They’re totally paralyzed and inept. There’s no one to negotiate with.”

Republicans controlling the narrowly split chamber argue that it’s the Democrats who are holding the government hostage over demands to protect “dreamer” immigrants brought to the country as children and now here illegally.

And the White House piled on, trying to paint the impending action as the “Schumer shutdown.” Still, officials said the president has been working the phones trying to avert one. The White House said Trump would not leave for a planned weekend trip to Florida if there was no agreement. The president had been set to leave Friday afternoon to attend a fundraiser at his Palm Beach estate marking the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

The impact of the potential shutdown on the planned trip by Trump and much of his Cabinet to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week was still undetermined.

Trump entered the fray early Friday morning, mentioning the House-approved bill on Twitter, adding: “Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate — but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!”

Trump has given Congress until March 5 to save the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting young immigrants, so “there is absolutely no reason to tie those things together right now,” Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at the White House.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hoped to vote on the House-passed bill “soon,” and he said Americans at home would be watching to see “which senators make the patriotic decision” and which “vote to shove aside veterans, military families and vulnerable children to hold the entire country hostage... until we pass an immigration bill.” A Senate GOP aide said McConnell was not attending the White House meeting because Trump had only issued the invitation to Schumer.

In the House, Republicans muscled the measure through on a mostly party-line 230-197 vote after making modest concessions to chamber conservatives and defense hawks.

The chamber backed away from a plan to adjourn for a one-week recess Friday afternoon, meaning the GOP-controlled House could wait to see if a last-minute compromise would be reached requiring a new vote.

A test vote on a filibuster by Senate Democrats appeared likely before the shutdown deadline. Schumer was rebuffed in an attempt to vote Thursday night.

“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road,” said Schumer, insisting on more urgency in talks on immigration. “In another month, we’ll be right back here, at this moment, with the same web of problems at our feet, in no better position to solve them.”

The short-term measure would be the fourth stopgap spending bill since the current budget year started in October. A pile of unfinished Capitol Hill business has been on hold, first as Republicans ironed out last fall’s tax bill and now as Democrats insist on progress on immigration. Talks on a budget deal to ease tight spending limits on both the Pentagon and domestic agencies are on hold, as is progress on a huge $80 billion-plus disaster aid bill.

House GOP leaders sweetened the pending stopgap measure with legislation to extend for six years a popular health care program for children from low-income families and two-year delays in unpopular “Obamacare” taxes on medical devices and generous employer-provided health plans.

A shutdown would be the first since 2013, when tea party Republicans — in a strategy not unlike the one Schumer is employing now — sought to use a must-pass funding bill to try to force then-President Barack Obama into delaying implementation of his marquee health care law. At the time, Trump told Fox & Friends that the ultimate blame for a shutdown lies at the top. “I really think the pressure is on the president,” he said.

Arguing that Trump’s predecessors “weaponized” that shutdown, Mulvaney said Friday the budget office would direct agencies to work to mitigate the impact of a potential lapse in funding.

Democrats want a deal to protect around 700,000 immigrants from deportation who arrived in the U.S. as children and have stayed here illegally. Trump has ended an Obama-era program providing those protections and given Congress until March to restore them, and he and Republicans want any immigration deal to include money for the president’s promised wall along the Mexican border and other security measures.

Congress must act by midnight Friday or the government will begin immediately locking its doors. Though the impact would initially be spotty — since most agencies would be closed until Monday — the story would be certain to dominate weekend news coverage, and each party would be gambling the public would blame the other.

In the event of a shutdown, food inspections, federal law enforcement, airport security checks, and other vital services would continue, as would Social Security, other federal benefit programs and military operations. But most federal workers wouldn’t be paid.,-but-no-agreement-after-Trump,-Schumer-meet
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House rejects Democratic effort to impeach Trump as shutdown looms
« Reply #10629 on: January 19, 2018, 03:26:26 PM »
The House on Friday once again rejected an effort by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) to impeach President Trump, in a sign of inflamed partisan tensions ahead of a midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

Green, who has agitated for Trump’s impeachment for months, forced a procedural vote on articles of impeachment following Trump’s Oval Office comments last week describing some nations as “shithole countries” while expressing a preference for immigrants from places like Norway.

It failed by a 355-66 vote, with three Democrats voting "present."

Trump made the comments during a meeting with members of Congress about a potential deal to shield young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally from deportation while enhancing border security. Those talks have been in limbo since that meeting, which in turn has led to an impasse over keeping the government open.

Green previously forced a vote on articles of impeachment last month, which failed due to most Democrats joining with Republicans to table it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) both oppose calling for impeachment at this point, citing the ongoing investigations of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election.

Eight more Democrats voted in favor of impeaching Trump than a month ago, demonstrating the growing support on the left for pushing Trump out of office.

A total of 58 Democrats voted in favor of impeachment in December, primarily the most liberal lawmakers and fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

Green’s latest articles of impeachment are similar to those he offered last month but updated with Trump’s “shithole” comment from last week.

Trump, Green alleges in the articles of impeachment, has “brought the high office of president of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace and disrepute” and “has sown discord among the people of the United States.”

Aside from the latest controversy from Trump’s immigration meeting, the articles of impeachment cite Trump’s travel ban, push to prevent transgender people from serving in the military, attempts to cast equal blame on white supremacists and counter-protesters for violence in Charlottesville, Va., and attacks on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

Most Democrats aren’t ready to support impeachment out of concerns that it would be premature.

Instead, Democratic leaders are endorsing an effort from members of the CBC and House Judiciary Committee to censure Trump for describing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries.”

The censure resolution, unveiled Thursday, calls on Trump to apologize for remarks it describes as “hateful, discriminatory and racist, and cannot and should not be the basis of any American policy.”

CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said that Democrats may try to force a vote on the censure resolution if GOP leaders don’t bring it up for consideration on the floor.

Some Republicans have joined with Democrats in criticizing Trump for the comments. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) used milder language than Democrats, saying that Trump’s remarks were “very unfortunate” and “unhelpful.”

Despite breaking with Trump over the comments, GOP leaders are highly unlikely to support efforts to censure him.

Democrats also introduced a resolution to censure Trump over his handling of the Charlottesville violence, but Republicans similarly dismissed it.
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Opioids in the Suburbs
« Reply #10630 on: January 19, 2018, 03:32:06 PM »

Medical workers and police with an overdose victim in Warren, Ohio, July 14, 2017

In nine days in early December, eight young people died of overdoses in Fairfax County, Va., the second-richest of the 3,007 counties in the United States. Mass events like these happen frequently and in all sorts of places. A half-dozen people died in the small Rhode Island town of Burrillville in the first weeks of 2015. Twenty-eight people overdosed in a single afternoon in Huntington, West Virginia, in 2016, though all but two survived. We describe them as “mass” overdoses, but of course the life of a heroin addict is a solitary one, and most of those involved die alone in alleys, in cars, in the bedrooms they grew up in. Sixty-four thousand Americans died of overdoses in 2016, and early statistics for 2017 hint at a 21 percent rise. It is perhaps natural that observers link the problems to economic or social hard luck, as Bill Clinton did a couple of years ago, when he described white working-class people as “dying of a broken heart.” To look at prosperous Northern Virginia is to see a different sociological picture, in which the drugs are more a cause than an effect.

Americans are beginning to understand what the lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies successfully concealed from them for two decades: Factory-made prescription opioids like Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin are basically the same drug as the heroin that street addicts buy from their dealers and inject into their veins. When unsuspecting people get prescribed oxycodone for a knee injury or a surgery, a certain percentage will become addicted. That percentage is high: The Centers for Disease Control reported last March that 13.5 percent of people prescribed eight days of opioids were still using them a year later. Unwarned, any patient can get hooked. It happened to quarterback Brett Favre and to radio host Rush Limbaugh. And the over-prescription of these pills created a massive recreational market. Everyone “knew” that pills, which respectable people took, could never be as dangerous as heroin, which respectable people did not. People of modest means who became addicted to these pills discovered they were prohibitively expensive on the streets. Heroin was affordable.

It is usually the arrival of a “bad batch” of heroin or, increasingly, of fentanyl that causes a mass poisoning of the sort Fairfax just underwent. About three years ago, the street heroin market began to be shaped by a pharmaceutical revolution. Organized crime groups got access to fentanyl, an opioid that had been used since the early 1960s to treat people with terminal cancer. They began to substitute it for heroin, wholly or in part. It was chemists and pharmacists in China and Mexico who produced most of the stuff. An investigation by Britain’s Guardian newspaper found that 80 percent of the fentanyl in the New York area came from Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, while most of Philadelphia’s was Chinese-made, shipped through Mexico. Between 2014 and 2016 fentanyl seizures sextupled in the United States.

Fentanyl could more easily be substituted for heroin east of the Mississippi than west, because it looks like a slightly paler version of the cream-colored powder that is the form East Coast heroin has traditionally been sold in. In the west, most heroin is not “white powder” but “black tar.” To an addict out west, fentanyl doesn’t look trustworthy or right. Fentanyl fatalities doubled nationwide between 2015 and 2016, and those deaths were concentrated in Appalachian states (including Ohio and Pennsylvania) and New England.

When we talk about a “bad batch” of drugs, we usually mean one that is too concentrated. The basic problem with fentanyl is that, fresh out of the lab, it is about 50 times stronger than heroin, and there is no standard process for reliably “stepping on” the drug, to use the dealers’ term for diluting it. Dealers will cut the drug with almost any white powder: inositol (a synthetic, powdered version of the sugar found in cantaloupes and oranges); creatine (an acid body-builders use to gain muscle mass); ground-up Tylenol; meat tenderizer (although it “tenderizes” human flesh, too, and gives people boils). In Baltimore they sell a kind of heroin called “scramble,” which is cut with quinine and various powders and packed into gelcaps.

By the time it arrives on the streets, heroin is usually 6 to 12 percent pure. At levels higher than that, overdoses happen. It is a distressing thing for better-off addicts that one of the only ways to be absolutely certain of opioid dosage— using the pills manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies—is now less reliable. Dealers have learned to press fentanyl into realistic-looking molds of existing pills, with trademark and all.

What went wrong in Fairfax was likely the mistake of a local distributor, involving fentanyl. Most of the heroin in the county comes from Baltimore or Southeast Washington, D.C. Had the miscutting occurred higher up the chain, there would probably have been similar overdoses throughout those two metropolitan areas, and there were not. Although suburbs of Washington are not saturated with fentanyl, as New England is, they have a lot of it. In October, the Fairfax County police submitted to their labs 36 “exhibits” of real heroin, versus 17 of fentanyl. At the time of this writing, the lab reports were not back for the early December overdoses.

It didn’t take long after the early December wave for Fairfax police to understand—by looking at the clinical evidence of the dead and the paraphernalia (needles, powders) left on the scene—that opioids were involved. They soon got another lead. Police in neighboring Loudoun County (the only American county richer than Fairfax) reported three (nonfatal) overdoses of carfentanil. This was striking. Carfentanil is an opioid developed in 1974 by Janssen Pharmaceuticals (now part of Johnson & Johnson) for quieting big animals. Five thousand times as concentrated as heroin, it is often called an “elephant tranquilizer.” The Russian military almost certainly used an aerosolized version of it to knock out the Chechen terrorists who took 850 hostages at a musical theater in Moscow in 2002.

One is tempted to ask, in frustration: How big can the market for elephant tranquilizers be? Who is making this stuff? But we are probably not talking about the American commercial elephant-tranquilizer market. We are more likely talking about Chinese labs that have pirated the formula and now export something like carfentanil into the United States. Until 2017, it was not illegal to manufacture in China. In the American northeast, it sometimes arrives over the Canadian border and goes under the name W-18. Where a toxicologist might see concentrated poison, a criminal sees portability. If you are crossing borders with it, the concentration of carfentanil is a tremendous boon. Indeed it would be surprising if carfentanil didn’t come to dominate the market.

Heroin is what is known as a “respiratory suppressant.” It makes your breathing shallower over time, and if you take too much, you fade away. There are antidotes that sometimes work to jolt people out of this slow suffocation, such as Narcan, a trademark for naloxone, which can be administered by syringe or spray. Many states, including Virginia, have passed laws giving a “standing order” to pharmacies to prescribe Narcan to any comer. Such plans are generally embedded (they are in Virginia) in a “good Samaritan” law, which gives the pharmacist immunity from any civil lawsuits arising from the dispensation and may offer criminal immunity to any fellow user of the overdosing person who calls the police. With heroin, there might be a window of 15 to 45 minutes during which naloxone can be used to rescue a person. With fentanyl this window is dramatically narrower—maybe a matter of a couple minutes.

One of the assumptions that goes into making drug policy is that there is always a business logic underneath the transaction between dealer and pusher. There is, however, a rather frightening truth about the nature of the street market in opioids, and it arises from the nature of the drug. The first couple of times a person uses opioids, he gets an extraordinary high. Unfortunately, that high never comes again. Users develop a tolerance for the drug very quickly, so that feeling anything except relative normality from the drug requires higher and higher doses. In fact, the dosage required to replicate that first high exceeds the fatal dose. Heroin addicts are in the habit of walking up to death’s door. That being the case, a death from an overdose reported in the media, far from scaring addicts away from a certain pusher or neighborhood, often attracts them. One hears this from addict after addict: “He must have the good stuff.” Business booms.

One does not need to believe that a drug pusher is utterly indifferent to his clients’ well-being. But one can still be troubled that incentives exist to water the tree of profit with the blood of addicts.
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Offline knarf

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It's time to take our privacy back from tech companies
« Reply #10631 on: January 19, 2018, 03:34:51 PM »

our personal information is being collected, organized, purchased and sold on a global market. Polls consistently show that most people are concerned they have lost control of their own personal data. No one is immune from the pervasive information grab by governments, companies, and hackers. This is happening to pretty much anyone alive (or dead) who has ever used the internet, a credit card, gone to school, subscribed to cable television or used a cell phone. There is no escaping this new reality.

However, we can change the rules that govern the way your information is collected and used.

Absolute control of your information is no longer possible, but you can and should have a say in the matter. Think of your data or information as personal property. Companies and governments can use eminent domain or other seizure processes to take that property, but the sting eases when you realize they must afford due process and justly compensate the owner for the property taken.

The biggest difference between your digital property and other personalty is that your every action online creates new digital items of value. Especially your online actions that involve monetary transactions, such as what kind of movies you watch, food you eat or places you visit. This data goes into a profile that increases the value of your information to a marketing company.


Today, internet service providers, social media and search engines develop and sell your profile. Sometimes these marketing companies develop or buy popular apps so they can directly collect information. Your digital property is making money for everyone involved in the process — except you.

My question is, if we are creating something of value, shouldn’t we get compensated for it? We shouldn’t view all data mining as negative. Make no mistake, some of it can get creepy, but most of it is designed to put products I like in my wallet’s sight line. The part that’s disconcerting is that it’s usually done without my knowledge or consent. This is especially troubling when it comes to my children’s information, as kids are now more in touch with electronics than any generation before them. One university study revealed that by age two, 90 percent of kids have a moderate ability to use digital devices.

What’s even worse is when this invasion of privacy is used as a way to extort money. It wasn’t that long ago AT&T actually charged customers $30 a month to not be spied on. It was also just this past summer that AT&T talked about rolling out regular internet service that would come with ads based on their data mining. They would allow customers to opt out of their information grabbing ad-crammed service, but for an additional cost of $500 to $800 annually. AT&T has done something important here: admit how much your digital property is worth.

There are, however, a few places that have seen the light. Switzerland, for instance, with their long established respect for personal privacy. Under Article 13 of the country’s constitutional right to privacy, authorities are not allowed access to anyone’s personal data without their notification and a thorough and transparent data request process. Another example is Australia, where new legislation would allow consumers to own their data. This policy would force government agencies and companies to get explicit permission from users before transferring or selling their data to third parties. Compare that to the United States’ current consideration of Section 702, and the unforgivable lack of media coverage over how much of your information law enforcement is allowed to collect and sift through without notice, or even much cause to then use it for whatever purpose they want.

Our actions create new digital property with every click of the mouse, and the result has monetary value. Companies like AT&T shouldn’t be allowed to loot our information, then profit from it. We pay them for a service, nothing more. If they want my data, they should have to compensate me. Facebook allows me to use their platform to connect with others for this privilege, and I consider it fair enough to stay on the platform. It’s my right to leave that platform, and remove their rights to my digital property when I do.

State legislators and Congress need to be urged to recognize that we own our personal digital property, and clarify it is protected through the bundle of property rights protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. So, next time someone running for office stops by your area, ask them if they believe the data you generate — which has significant monetary value (apparently $500 to $800/year) — is rightfully yours and what they will do to protect your rights. It’s time to stop this digital robbery, and it is time we take action to take back our privacy and property.
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Texas judge interrupts jury, says God told him defendant is not guilty
« Reply #10632 on: January 19, 2018, 03:37:25 PM »
 A state district judge in Comal County said God told him to intervene in jury deliberations to sway jurors to return a not guilty verdict in the trial of a Buda woman accused of trafficking a teen girl for sex.

Judge Jack Robison apologized to jurors for the interruption, but defended his actions by telling them “when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it,” according to the Herald-Zeitung in New Braunfels.

The jury went against the judge’s wishes, finding Gloria Romero-Perez guilty of continuous trafficking of a person and later sentenced her to 25 years in prison. They found her not guilty of a separate charge of sale or purchase of a child.


Robison, who also presides in Hays and Caldwell counties, did not respond to a message left with his court coordinator, Steve Thomas, who said the case is still pending. Robison is scheduled to return to the bench in Comal County on Jan. 31.

The Herald-Zeitung reported that Robison recused himself before the trial’s sentencing phase and was replaced by Judge Gary Steele. The defendant’s attorney asked for a mistrial, but was denied.

Robison’s actions could trigger an investigation from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has disciplined Robison in the past.

In 2011, the commission slapped Robison with a private reprimand for improperly jailing a Caldwell County grandfather who had called him a fool for a ruling Robison made in a child custody case involving the man’s granddaughter.

The reprimand, the commission’s harshest form of rebuke, said Robison “exceeded the scope of his authority and failed to comply with the law” by jailing the man for contempt of court without a hearing or advance notice of the charge.

The act of intervening in a jury’s deliberations is not addressed in the state’s list of judicial canons, which serves as an ethical code for judges. However, it states judges shall “comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Eric Vinson, executive director for the commission, said he would not be able to confirm or deny if a complaint had been filed against Robison.
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Offline knarf

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24,000 pounds of dead mullet fish make for 'truly unbelievable' sight
« Reply #10633 on: January 19, 2018, 03:43:27 PM »

Rarely do waters get so cold in this region of the country that a massive amount of fish dies all at one time, but that's just what happened last week in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Water was barely visible when Jeffrey Trout, a salesman at Harbor View Marine in Pensacola, snapped photos of a canal near his home on Jan. 11. Trout estimated he saw at least 4,000 to 5,000 mullet belly up, but that there were "probably more out there." He believes those fish died from a lack of oxygen and said they ranged from 6 to 12 inches in length.

"It was truly unbelievable," said Trout, who said he fishes frequently. "I've seen (the canal) freeze over twice in 12 years, and this occurred both times. Mullet need air, that's why they jump out of water."

The cleanup was both costly and time consuming — Gulf Shores paid a sub contractor $9,600 to clean the 24,000 pounds of dead mullet, according to public information officer Grant Brown. The cleanup took four days.

The smell wasn't pretty, either.

"Oh, it was horrible. I mean horrible," Trout said. "You didn't want to go outside last week when the temps got back up to 70 degrees. They started to bloat up with the heat and it was very bad."

Trout said the "very rare occurrence" was a result of strong winds from the north pushing water out of the canal on Creekview Drive, making for a shallow body of water. Once the water is shallow and temperatures drop enough to freeze the water, the mullet run out of oxygen.

The lows in Gulf Shores on Jan. 11 were around 40 degrees, just as they were in Pensacola at that time.

The mass death of the mullet is bad news for both fishermen and the wildlife in that area.

"It will affect the pelicans and larger fish that eat mullet," Trout said. "And the baby mullet. It will affect the fishing for sure."

After seeing the photo, a representative with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed Trout's analysis, saying "we suspect these are related to sudden and prolonged drops in temperature."
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New Climate Censorship Tracker Comes Online
« Reply #10634 on: January 19, 2018, 03:47:47 PM »
The project has so far assembled 96 entries of federal restrictions or prohibitions on climate science since November 2016

Columbia University and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund today launched an online tracker of the Trump administration's crackdown on climate science.

The project, called the Silencing Science Tracker, has so far assembled 96 entries of federal restrictions or prohibitions on climate science since November 2016. The database is built from media reports, and it's searchable by agency, date and type of action.

More than half the entries are listed as censorship, either from government restriction or researchers who are self-censoring. Other instances include targeted personnel changes, budget cuts and other federal actions aimed at minimizing or hindering climate research. The project also links to resources for whistleblowers and legal help.

Plans are underway to expand the project to states.

"The Trump administration has sort of studied the playbook of some states," said Romany Webb, a fellow at Columbia's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. She pointed to Florida and Texas as examples.

The Silencing Science Tracker joins similar efforts by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which also monitors other fields like health science, and the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which has closely tracked changes to government websites.

"An administration like this requires multiple points of oversight," said Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Part of the challenge is that there are so many avenues by which to attack science, with a new attempt coming more than once a week on average, he said. That's an unprecedented pace, even under a Republican president.

"Under [the George W. Bush administration] it was more likely that inconvenient science would be suppressed, but this administration is disrupting the scientific process itself," Halpern said.

The silver lining, he added, is that the scientific community is getting better at building the infrastructure necessary to make research resilient against political interference.

The trackers are a prime example of that. Another is legislation sponsored by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) to strengthen protections for government data.

"It took years under Bush to identify the threat and muster a sustained response," Halpern said. "I don't think those doors are going to close again."
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