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Offline knarf

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Americans will spend about $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day
« Reply #11220 on: February 14, 2018, 04:01:40 PM »
Including $654 million on co-workers



New Valentine's Day statistics show that Americans might really like their co-workers after all: They are expected to spend a near-record high of $19.6 billion for the holiday, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), including $654 million on gifts for their co-workers, or about $4.79 each.

That said, co-workers are the least of Americans' priorities on Valentine's Day, as significant others or spouses and family members such as parents or children receive the bulk of today's holiday spending.



"Americans are looking forward to pampering and indulging their loved ones with flowers, candy, dinner and all of the other Valentine's Day stops," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. "With the holidays behind them and the winter months dragging along, consumers are looking for something to celebrate this time of year."

The NRF surveyed 7,277 consumers about their Valentine's Day plans and found this year's spending came close to the 2016 record-high of $19.7 billion. The organization has conducted this annual survey annually over the past 15 years.

People aged 25-to-34 will be spending the most on Valentine's Day gifts this year, dropping an average of $202.76 per person.

Americans overall are sticking to traditional gifts for Valentine's Day, including candy, flowers, cards and jewelry.

Becoming friends with your co-workers or even having a "work spouse" has been shown to increase happiness and positivity and, as a result, make you a better worker, so a valentine for your co-workers could actually be a smart investment.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/14/millennials-are-driving-19-point-6-billion-in-valentines-day-spending.html
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Offline knarf

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Iran believes the US spied on it with special lizards
« Reply #11221 on: February 14, 2018, 04:04:42 PM »

Desert chameleon



Lizards with the ability to "attract atomic waves" were reportedly used by Western spies to gain intelligence on Iran's nuclear program, a high-ranking Tehran official has claimed.

Hassan Firuzabadi, senior military advisor to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told local media on Tuesday that he became aware of the special reptiles "several years ago."

In remarks that were widely picked up by international media outlets, Firuzabadi referred to one case involving foreigners who were in the Islamic Republic on an aid mission.

They possessed lizards and chameleons whose skin attracted atomic waves, he said, adding that the foreigners were "nuclear spies" who wanted information on Tehran's uranium mines and atomic activities.

Firuzabadi also said Western spy agencies had "failed every time," suggesting that the energy-sensitive lizards did not succeed in their mission.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/13/us-used-lizards-to-spy-on-iran-official-claims.html
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Author Coll chronicles American idiocy in Afghanistan
« Reply #11222 on: February 14, 2018, 04:08:50 PM »
Directorate S, the sequel to Ghost Wars, provides an inside look at the gradual diminution of American hopes in its longest running war, writes Heather Mallick.


In this May 27, 2016 file photo, Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan. "The U.S. could not make things go its way in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan," writes Heather Mallick. "Part of the reason was Directorate S, a secret covert unit within ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency that had long been backing the Taliban, though Pakistan always denied it."

The never-ending war in Afghanistan looks very much like the Vietnam War, except that the U.S. got out of Vietnam. It took them eight years but they were done.

I accept that all the U.S. learned from this was to make the same mistakes again. War is generational, just like child abuse, I hear.

Canada, canny enough to avoid the Vietnam catastrophe, stayed in the mountains of Afghanistan hunting with the U.S. and 59 NATO allies for nothing definable, permanent or even temporarily reachable. At least we left in 2014. The war has now been dragging on for 18 years.

In 2004, journalist Steve Coll wrote Ghost Wars, a fine history of the CIA, Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, right up to that last sunny day, Sept. 10, 2001. He has just published a tragic sequel, Directorate S, about what happened next, the CIA’s failure at spycraft and good sense.

The U.S. could not make things go its way in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. Part of the reason was Directorate S, a secret covert unit within ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency that had long been backing the Taliban, though Pakistan always denied it.

There was no common cause between the U.S. and Pakistan, never had been. The U.S. doesn’t actually have common cause with anyone beyond temporary self-interest. It’s not in the nature of the beast.

When Coll introduces us to the mediocre men — only five of 73 people were female — in charge of the world’s most militarized nation, it becomes clear that the CIA and the military are still in VietnamThink. They believe the world is American in its outlook and thinks in American ways. This is untrue, also dumb.

The world isn’t rooting for Americans, very much the opposite. Why had ISI — or rather, Directorate S — let bin Laden live in an Abbottabad compound since 2005? Maybe it just felt like it. Maybe it thought it would prevent al Qaeda from attacking Pakistan. Or maybe it treasured the world’s most successful terrorist.

The CIA’s parallel to ISI, a counterterrorism centre known as CTC, was not a desirable place to work until 9-11 made it so. It was like any bureaucracy forced to adapt fast: as Coll writes in his deadpan way, it was mismanaged, underpaid, overworked, filled with rivalries, couldn’t run terror watchlists, didn’t get along with the FBI, just your standard workplace really.

The Americans misunderstood Afghan tribalism, just as they didn’t grasp the difference between Sunni and Shiite when they invaded Iraq. “All you have to do is win,” a general was told by the Obama White House, meaning, one supposes, erase the Taliban. It was a comedy of errors, minus the comedy.

Coll gives us an inside look at the gradual diminution of American hopes. Be like us, they said as they gave Afghans lessons in democracy, a supreme irony now that American democracy seems to be getting distinctly wobbly.

The exemplar of failure, Coll writes, was an investigation into an extraordinary phenomenon on the battlefield: insider murders. U.S.-led forces were being shot by their fellow Afghan soldiers. The 2009 slaughter of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan was just the start.

In 2012, a quarter of all fatalities were in-house. It was unique in warfare and could not be explained. The Americans had to hire armed guards as “guardian angels” to surveil its own army, effectively creating a ludicrous double army to stand and stare at itself.

Investigators found that the Afghan killer soldiers weren’t just reacting to cultural outrages like Qu’ran burning. It was more than that.

They had simply changed their minds about which side they were on. It often happened during Ramadan when Afghans expiated religious guilt by shooting Americans in the head.

“In theory, cultural misunderstanding might be overcome through training,” Coll wrote. But if the “broad, fertile belief” was that American soldiers were enemy occupiers, the only answer to that was for the Americans to give up and go home.

Daily journalism isn’t sufficient. One must read books like this — by Coll, Jane Mayer, Jeremy Scahill, Masha Gessen — thick with money and disgrace. As nations crash and stumble, I hope there are always subterranean writers like these laying down the history — both the detail and the overview — of what is really going on.

What is going on is terrible, but at least we find out later how truly terrible it was. Then, I take it, the process repeats itself.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2018/02/14/author-coll-chronicles-american-idiocy-in-afghanistan.html
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Offline knarf

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Berkeley City Council votes to become sanctuary city for cannabis, likely a first
« Reply #11223 on: February 14, 2018, 04:15:52 PM »
How a Hollywood producer, an Indian carmaker and the Israeli PM pushed a plan to produce vehicles for the Arab world, according to police


Cannabis plants are sold at Berkeley Patients Group, the city’s oldest dispensary.

Cannabis users and providers in Berkeley got an added layer of protection on Tuesday as the city declared itself a sanctuary city for marijuana, likely the first of its kind.

The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to become a sanctuary city for legal adult-use marijuana, prohibiting city agencies and employees from turning over information on legal cannabis activities and assisting in enforcing federal marijuana laws.

“I believe we can balance public safety and resisting the Trump administration,” Mayor Jesse Arreguin said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “We’re keeping with the strong position Berkeley is a sanctuary for people in our community.”

The measure doesn’t prevent the Police Department and other officials from collaborating with federal agents on nonpot-related criminal matters.

Arreguin, Councilman Ben Bartlett and Councilwoman Cheryl Davila authored the resolution in response to the rescinding of guidelines that ordered federal prosecutors to lay off pot activities that complied with state and local laws.

While the resolution sends a message of support to the cannabis industry and one of resistance to the federal government, experts said it would be difficult to stop a federal enforcement operation set on cracking down on a particular provider.

But noncompliance would slow attempts at federal enforcement, as the Drug Enforcement Agency and federal prosecutors often rely on local agencies to give information and manpower for their operations.

https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Berkeley-City-Council-votes-to-become-sanctuary-12612148.php

 
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A Feminist's Guide to Rom-Coms and How to Watch Them
« Reply #11224 on: February 14, 2018, 04:19:11 PM »
Today is Valentine's Day, which means lots of chocolate, teddy bears, and single ladies being made to feel especially inadequate. Some might celebrate Galentine's Day instead, some might skip on acknowledging the holiday at all, and some, myself included, will be holed up watching romantic comedies.

The internet is filled with lists of which rom-coms will "get you through" Valentine's Day" -- the assumption seems to be that, otherwise, we singles would be festering alone in our living rooms, drinking vodka and singing "All By Myself" à la Bridget Jones. I enjoy the genre, but as a feminist I have some qualms.

Romantic comedies, particularly "the classics" of the genre, can be problematic by today's standards of feminism. Movies like Pretty Woman and Princess Bride tend to perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and romanticize men's predatory behavior. Not to mention they are usually limited to depicting heterosexual relationships between an attractive cis man and an equally, perhaps even more, attractive cis woman. (LGBTQ folks: Here's a list of rom-coms that drown out the heteronormative noise.) Lastly, if rom-coms are marketed to single women, then why are they mostly written and directed by men? (That's a rhetorical question.)

Despite all this, rom-coms are stunningly popular. How do you reconcile your love of rom-coms with your staunch feminism?

Monique Jones, a pop culture critic and entertainment journalist, says that it's OK if you like problematic rom-coms. "That doesn't make us any less of an activist, it doesn't make us any less down for the cause. It's just being a human -- and being part of a culture that has indoctrinated us to believe certain things, whether or not they're true," she says.

However, as feminists we do have to hold ourselves accountable, Jones says. Here are three tips on how to be a responsible rom-com consumer.
1. Be Aware of How You're Internalizing the Underlying Messages

One of the biggest problems with the genre is that it tends to reinforce problematic ideas of romance. Contrary to rom-com plots, it's actually not an outrageous notion for a man to love you "just as you are" (Bridget Jones's Diary, Trainwreck, Pretty Woman, Grease), but it actually is outrageous for a man to consistently ignore your rejections and relentlessly pursue you (The Notebook, 10 Things I Hate About You, 50 First Dates, Breakfast at Tiffany's).

"There are a lot of patriarchal things in society that we've grown up with that we've just assumed are normal. And those same ideals get stuck in these movies. That's why so many of them don't get called out as being problematic, even though they are indicative of larger problems in society," Jones says.

Once you're aware of the patriarchal underpinnings of these movies, you can more objectively decide what you believe is romantic. For example, maybe you don't think it's romantic to pretend to be someone's fiancée while they are in a coma and have no idea who you are. It's creepy, Sandra Bullock.
2. Be Conscious of What/Who You're Supporting

This takes some research, but it's worth it (IMDB will be your new best friend). Jones suggests learning what you can about the movie: Who's the director? Who wrote it? Who acts in it? What's the premise? "If you don't feel offended, then I think it's fine to watch," Jones says.

And for the movies we don't feel good about -- like anything involving Woody Allen -- consider skipping it. "I can't justify having my head in the sand just to support somebody like Woody Allen," Jones says. She skips anything with his name attached to it.

"I never liked his movies anyway. They don't speak to me, first of all, as a woman, and second of all, as an African-American woman," she says. "I know all the film critics and film students that I have been in contact with say that Woody Allen is a master at doing this and that. But I don't align with anything that he does or is. And that's how I go about it. If what the person does doesn't align with my core values, then I just can't do it."

There are funnier, more romantic movies than Annie Hall, anyway.
3. Opt for Rom-Coms With Fewer or Zero Problems

I know the classics are, well, classics, but why not watch a movie that takes a healthier approach to romance? "There are always movies that are smaller productions, and they might not have the big box-office dollars, but they're still well-crafted, well-made movies," Jones says.

Here's a list of five from Thought Catalog to get you started: Warm Bodies, She's Out of My League, Celeste and Jesse Forever, My Best Friend's Wedding, and Kate and Leopold (sarcasm).

So, my fellow feminist rom-comphiles, don't be discouraged.

There are still a lot of things people can enjoy about romantic comedies, Jones says. "With as much choice as there is out there, a person doesn't have to give up their romantic comedy love altogether."

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/43542-a-feminist-s-guide-to-rom-coms-and-how-to-watch-them
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Offline knarf

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$180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge
« Reply #11225 on: February 14, 2018, 04:26:22 PM »

One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, with most ending up in landfill or in the sea.

The global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years after multibillion dollar investments in a new generation of plastics plants in the US.

Fossil fuel companies are among those who have ploughed more than $180bn since 2010 into new “cracking” facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons.

The new facilities – being built by corporations like Exxon Mobile Chemical and Shell Chemical – will help fuel a 40% rise in plastic production in the next decade, according to experts, exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis that scientist warn already risks “near permanent pollution of the earth.”

Coastal communities dumping 8m tonnes of plastic in oceans every year

“We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realising we should use far less of it,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the US Center for International Environmental Law, which has analysed the plastic industry.

“Around 99% of the feedstock for plastics is fossil fuels, so we are looking at the same companies, like Exxon and Shell, that have helped create the climate crisis. There is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and gas companies and plastics.”

Greenpeace UK’s senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge said any increase in the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans would have a disastrous impact.

“We are already producing more disposable plastic than we can deal with, more in the last decade than in the entire twentieth century, and millions of tonnes of it are ending up in our oceans.”

The huge investment in plastic production has been driven by the shale gas boom in the US. This has resulted in one of the raw materials used to produce plastic resin – natural gas liquids – dropping dramatically in price.

The American Chemistry Council says that since 2010 this has led to $186bn dollars being invested in 318 new projects. Almost half of them are already under construction or have been completed. The rest are at the planning stage.

“I can summarise [the boom in plastics facilities] in two words,” Kevin Swift, chief economist at the ACC, told the Guardian. “Shale gas.”

He added: “There has been a revolution in the US with the shale gas technologies, with the fracking, the horizontal drilling. The cost of our raw material base has gone down by roughly two thirds.”

The findings come amid growing concern about the scale of plastics pollution around the world. Earlier this year scientists warned that it risked near permanent contamination of the planet and at a UN environment conference in Kenya this month the scale of plastic in the sea was described as an “ocean armageddon”.

In June a Guardian investigation revealed that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute with most ending up in landfill or the sea. Earlier this month, UK environment secretary Michael Gove said reducing plastic pollution was a key focus, adding that he had been “haunted” by images of the damage being done from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II TV series.

However, campaigners warn that despite the rising tide of concern, powerful corporations are pressing ahead with a new generation of plastic production facilities that will swamp efforts to move the global economy away from single use, throw away plastic products.

Steven Feit, from the Centre for Environmental International Law which has researched the impact of the US shale boom on plastics, said: “The link between the shale gas boom in the United States and the ongoing – and accelerating – global plastics crisis cannot be ignored.

“In the US, fossil fuel and petrochemical companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars to expand plastic production capacity… All this buildout, if allowed to proceed, will flood the global market with even more disposable, unmanageable plastic for decades to come.”

Make supermarkets and drinks firms pay for plastic recycling, say MPs

Athough the majority of the new investment is in the US, the impact will ripple outwards in the form of vast new supplies of raw materials for plastics being transported to Europe and China.

Petrochemical giant Ineos has been shipping natural gas liquids from the US to cracking plants in Europe and the UK on huge “dragon ships” for the past year.

Last month the company announced it will ship the first NGLs from the US to China in 2019 where it will be turned into plastic resin at a new cracking facility in Taixing China.

Roland Geyer, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, was the lead author of a study earlier this year revealing that humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes of plastic since the 1950s, with the majority ending up in landfill or polluting the world’s oceans and continents. The report warned that plastic, which does not degrade for hundreds of years, risked “near-permanent contamination” of the earth.

He said he was deeply troubled by the expansion in plastic production.

“I am now all but convinced that the plastic waste/pollution problem will remain unmanageable without serious source reduction efforts,” he told the Guardian. “Building out production capacity is obviously the opposite of source reduction.”

But experts believe the new facilities will lock in an increase in plastic production for years to come.

Matthew Thoelke, executive director at IHS Markit analysts in Germany and an expert in the global chemical industry, said the expansion in the US would be a critical part of a 40% increase in global plastics production over the next decade.

Diverting aid to fund waste collection will save lives and clean the ocean, says charity



Page added on February 13, 2018
6245 Votes

 
 
 
 
 
 
$180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge
$180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge thumbnail

Colossal funding in manufacturing plants by fossil fuel companies will increase plastic production by 40%, risking permanent pollution of the earth

One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, with most ending up in landfill or in the sea.
One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, with most ending up in landfill or in the sea. Photograph: Zakir Chowdhury/Barcroft Images

The global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years after multibillion dollar investments in a new generation of plastics plants in the US.

Fossil fuel companies are among those who have ploughed more than $180bn since 2010 into new “cracking” facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons.

The new facilities – being built by corporations like Exxon Mobile Chemical and Shell Chemical – will help fuel a 40% rise in plastic production in the next decade, according to experts, exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis that scientist warn already risks “near permanent pollution of the earth.”
Coastal communities dumping 8m tonnes of plastic in oceans every year
Read more

“We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realising we should use far less of it,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the US Center for International Environmental Law, which has analysed the plastic industry.

“Around 99% of the feedstock for plastics is fossil fuels, so we are looking at the same companies, like Exxon and Shell, that have helped create the climate crisis. There is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and gas companies and plastics.”

Greenpeace UK’s senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge said any increase in the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans would have a disastrous impact.

“We are already producing more disposable plastic than we can deal with, more in the last decade than in the entire twentieth century, and millions of tonnes of it are ending up in our oceans.”

The huge investment in plastic production has been driven by the shale gas boom in the US. This has resulted in one of the raw materials used to produce plastic resin – natural gas liquids – dropping dramatically in price.

The American Chemistry Council says that since 2010 this has led to $186bn dollars being invested in 318 new projects. Almost half of them are already under construction or have been completed. The rest are at the planning stage.

“I can summarise [the boom in plastics facilities] in two words,” Kevin Swift, chief economist at the ACC, told the Guardian. “Shale gas.”

He added: “There has been a revolution in the US with the shale gas technologies, with the fracking, the horizontal drilling. The cost of our raw material base has gone down by roughly two thirds.”

The findings come amid growing concern about the scale of plastics pollution around the world. Earlier this year scientists warned that it risked near permanent contamination of the planet and at a UN environment conference in Kenya this month the scale of plastic in the sea was described as an “ocean armageddon”.
Plastic waste washed up on the coast of the Philippines.
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Plastic waste washed up on the coast of the Philippines.
Photograph: Jes Aznar/Getty Images

In June a Guardian investigation revealed that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute with most ending up in landfill or the sea. Earlier this month, UK environment secretary Michael Gove said reducing plastic pollution was a key focus, adding that he had been “haunted” by images of the damage being done from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II TV series.

However, campaigners warn that despite the rising tide of concern, powerful corporations are pressing ahead with a new generation of plastic production facilities that will swamp efforts to move the global economy away from single use, throw away plastic products.

Steven Feit, from the Centre for Environmental International Law which has researched the impact of the US shale boom on plastics, said: “The link between the shale gas boom in the United States and the ongoing – and accelerating – global plastics crisis cannot be ignored.

“In the US, fossil fuel and petrochemical companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars to expand plastic production capacity… All this buildout, if allowed to proceed, will flood the global market with even more disposable, unmanageable plastic for decades to come.”
Make supermarkets and drinks firms pay for plastic recycling, say MPs
Read more

Athough the majority of the new investment is in the US, the impact will ripple outwards in the form of vast new supplies of raw materials for plastics being transported to Europe and China.

Petrochemical giant Ineos has been shipping natural gas liquids from the US to cracking plants in Europe and the UK on huge “dragon ships” for the past year.

Last month the company announced it will ship the first NGLs from the US to China in 2019 where it will be turned into plastic resin at a new cracking facility in Taixing China.

Roland Geyer, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, was the lead author of a study earlier this year revealing that humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes of plastic since the 1950s, with the majority ending up in landfill or polluting the world’s oceans and continents. The report warned that plastic, which does not degrade for hundreds of years, risked “near-permanent contamination” of the earth.

He said he was deeply troubled by the expansion in plastic production.

“I am now all but convinced that the plastic waste/pollution problem will remain unmanageable without serious source reduction efforts,” he told the Guardian. “Building out production capacity is obviously the opposite of source reduction.”

But experts believe the new facilities will lock in an increase in plastic production for years to come.

Matthew Thoelke, executive director at IHS Markit analysts in Germany and an expert in the global chemical industry, said the expansion in the US would be a critical part of a 40% increase in global plastics production over the next decade.
Diverting aid to fund waste collection will save lives and clean the ocean, says charity

“This will help meet growing demand for plastic in the existing big markets of the US, Europe and China as well as a predicted steep increase in demand in India and south east Asia,” he said.

But the American Chemistry Council said the plastics boom had brought huge economic benefits to the US creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and allowing the manufacture of a wide range of important products from medical supplies to auto parts, piping to technology.

Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council also defended the environmental impact of plastic, citing a study from 2016 that found using plastic reduces environmental damage.

“Advanced plastics enable us to do more with less in in almost every facet of life and commerce. From reducing packaging, to driving lighter cars, to living in more fuel-efficient homes, plastics help us reduce energy use, carbon emissions and waste.”

http://peakoil.com/enviroment/180bn-investment-in-plastic-factories-feeds-global-packaging-binge
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Offline knarf

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The basis of our society is addiction.
« Reply #11226 on: February 14, 2018, 04:28:59 PM »
If you think about it, you have to come to the conclusion that it is true. Addiction is playing a key role in our society and in our daily lives. And to prove it to you, I'll give you a few examples to showcase this claim. I will also tell you why, in my opinion, this is a very bad thing.

But first, we need to define what an addiction is. Wikipedia tells us that "addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process – one which is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus – is the core pathology that drives the development and maintenance of an addiction. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they are perceived as being inherently positive, desirable, and pleasurable)."

A first example of addiction in our daily lives would be what we eat. There are a big quantity of sugar and salt in most aliment you can buy in a supermarket. The reason is very simple. Salt is a flavor enhancer which makes it pleasing to eat. Sugar is also a flavor that is pleasing for most humans but it is also having an effect on your brain. It releases dopamine which is the substance released when you consume drugs or are having sex. Note that both, sugar and salt, have a negative impact on your health if you consume them in too great quantity. Also, as you are eating more because of the addiction, the risk for obesity also increases.

A second example of addiction in our daily lives would be what we see. I'm talking about commercials. Indeed, if you are watching television, you are exposed to commercials. If you walk in the streets, you are exposed to commercials. And finally, on Internet, the most common way to monetize content is through commercials. The same is true for newspapers. The whole art of marketing is to expose you to stimuli, the sexual one being one of the strongest, that will make you feel missing something. And that missing feeling should be answered with the product they want to sell you.

With these two examples, we already have a good view on how the economy is working. First, make you want to buy something you don't want in the first place by exploiting your weaknesses. Than make you addicted to the product so, once you bought it a few times, chances are you will buy them again later. And no one cares if your psychological or physical health is hurt in the process. Well, this is a first reason why I think addiction, and especially, the way we use addiction in our society is a problem but it is far from being the main reason why I want to oppose to it. But first, let's give a last example of addiction in our daily lives to show you that it is not just true for one industry but that, if you dig deeper, you'll come to the conclusion that it is a widespread technique used in every industry.

The third example being social networks, smart phones and the new technologies we adopted those last 15 years. Have you ever wondered why you are being notified in real time and per one action at a time instead of being notified once a day and have a summary of what happened that day ? It is because, notifications in real time also release dopamine. You are pleased every time you receive a notification and that makes you want to use their services even more in order to get even more notifications (think of facebook likes) and, in the process, your dopamine. The same thing goes for why updates on smart phones are not automatic but you need to pull your feed to get new updates. The gesture is the same than it is for cash machine you can find in the casinos. You pull, you get new content, you have a micro feeling of reward by dopamine. If you think seriously about it, you'll find plenty of similar examples in the Internet industry but also on other industries as well.

You may think that, on the contrary of the food addiction, this one is not as problematic as it does not have a negative impact on your health. That would be a wrong conclusion as the true problem with addiction is not that it has negative impact on your health but, as with the drugs, the problem is that you WANT to continue your addictive behavior because you became dependent of it. It means that, if you agree with the fact that we base our selling strategies on getting customer addicted, then it means that any manufacturer is nothing more than a drug dealer. That is already quite disturbing to think of economic actors in this way but it is not even the worst part of it ... The worst part is that, because you are addicted to this society, even if you don't like it, you will have a very difficult time changing your behavior because of your addictions. You are addicted to a sick society and most people, seeing society as pleasurable will want to defend it. The ones who are aware that there is a problem with society will have both a hard time convincing the others but they will also have a hard time living by their principles as they were raised in a society that made them addict in the first place. Let that sink in !

https://busy.org/@damiens/the-basis-of-our-society-is-addiction
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The permafrost bomb is ticking
« Reply #11227 on: February 14, 2018, 04:33:49 PM »
We must act now to disarm it.



About a fifth of the Northern Hemisphere landmass is permafrost, ground that has been mostly frozen for half a million years or more. Now there are signs of thaw appearing in many places across this vast landscape circling the Arctic, and at accelerated rates.

It is only a matter of time until the incremental thawing of the permafrost reaches a tipping point of no return, a state of accelerated and irreversible change, the side effects of which might well push other parts of the Arctic beyond their own tipping points. Quite possibly, we are poised to witness such a transformation within our lifetimes – ice sheet loss, increased frequencies of fires in the tundra and boreal forests, and complete habitat loss for marine mammals, to name just a few examples of the changes that could occur.

The major side effect of a thawing permafrost is that it will further enhance global warming with the release of large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The permafrost contains organic matter, and thawing will enable bacterial decomposition that will release methane as a byproduct of anaerobic respiration.

The permafrost is not the only climatic system that is susceptible to abrupt regime shifts – the Greenland Ice Sheet, the West Antarctic Ice sheet, and numerous ice shelves in both hemispheres have the potential to undergo abrupt and irreversible change in their state. However, the permafrost is likely one of the fastest to respond, given its southward extent and the existence of positive feedback loops – vicious circles that can amplify the thawing initiated by human-caused warming.

The question is, where is the tipping point? The past history of permafrost thawing might give a few clues.
Permafrost thaw in the past

During the last two million years, the climate has periodically shifted between cold (glacial) and warm (interglacial) states. We are currently in an interglacial that began about 11,000 years ago. Not coincidentally, the beginning of this warm stable period marked the dawn of agrarian societies and complex human civilizations.

The glacial cycles were driven by changes in Earth’s axial tilt, which slightly altered the distribution of solar energy across latitudes. The small variations in incoming energy was amplified by internal feedbacks within the climate – feedbacks from growing and retreating ice sheets, sea ice extent, and large scale changes in ocean circulation, for example.

Through the repeated bouts of glaciation, large ice sheets waxed and waned over North America and Eurasia. However, significant portions of the ground frozen during the glacial phases persisted through multiple interglacial cycles up to the present day, their thaw slowed down by insulating layers of soil.

The last time there was a large-scale thaw of the permafrost was four interglacials ago. Evidence of this thawing event can be found in Siberian caves where stalactites and stalagmites growth last occurred at that time. Such deposits can only form when there is liquid water flowing. At the time of the thaw, about 450,000 years ago, the climate was about 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures. Today, the temperature is nearly as warm – 1°C hotter than in pre-industrial times. Even more worrisome is the rate of the current warming, unprecedented in over 50 million years of geological history.
2° might be too much

It’s worth noting that the principal goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. In part, the value of 2°C derives from evidence – such as that found in the Siberian caves – that predict tipping points at or beyond that threshold.

However, it is possible that a tipping of the permafrost may not happen at a specific temperature threshold, but would rather depend on the rate of human-caused warming.

That scenario is an extension of the “Compost Bomb instability” model proposed in 2010 by a team led by mathematician Sebastian Wieczorek. Wieczorek’s team modeled peatlands, which have large carbon reservoirs like the permafrost. Their model predicted that decomposition of that organic matter, once initiated, would become a source of heat itself, causing an explosive increase in soil temperatures, additional decomposition, and methane release. Crucially, the higher the rate of global warming, the sooner the tipping point could take place.

There are good reasons to suspect that this would also be true for the permafrost, which like the peatlands would have the same capacity to generate internal heat due to bacterial decomposition of organic matter. If so, we might expect a tipping before reaching the 1.5°C limit as was the case for the last thaw 450,000 years ago.

A principal difficulty in modeling and predicting tipping points is the inclusion of positive feedbacks. By their nature, they tend to “blow up” due to exponential growths, especially if the physics of those processes aren’t known with great certainty. For this reason, climate scientists often err on the side of caution and do not include many of them in climate models. The IPCC projections, for example, do not include feedbacks from the permafrost. As a result, climate predictions often underestimate future warming.

Consider a recent study which finds that the models which do the best job at simulating the recent past predict greater future warming. In other words, models that predict the greatest future warming are very likely the most accurate.

So it might turn out that the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement are not sufficient. Indeed, there are telltale signs that the permafrost is already tipping across the Arctic.
The state of the permafrost

The Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost makes available temperature data from hundreds of boreholes across the Arctic. Analysis of the data reveals that in many places, the thickness of the seasonally thawed upper layer increased significantly between 2009 and 2015, the end points of a large number of datasets.

Ground temperatures at shallow depths show large seasonal variations, warming during the summer months and cooling in winter. In many places, particularly at lower latitudes, temperatures near the surface of the permafrost go above freezing. This is the “active layer”, so called on account of the biological activity, vegetation and microbial growth, the thawing initiates.

Temperatures at greater depths respond much more slowly, being insulated by the overlaying permafrost, and typically do not change appreciably. However, at many borehole sites, heat is observed to be steadily penetrating into the depths, aided by warming trends in surface temperatures and percolating meltwater from the upper layers. As a result, the permafrost landscape is starting to show signs of a dramatic transformation.

Thermokarst lakes, formed from the collapse of thawing ground, are appearing at accelerated rates in Alaska and in the Canadian Arctic. Large number of gas emission craters are appearing in Siberia. Methane emissions measured from degrading permafrost on land and subsea continental shelves are increasing. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 16-24 percent of the Alaskan permafrost will degrade by 2100.

Since 2007, there have been reports of increasing numbers of fires in the tundra and boreal forests, at rates that are unprecedented in the last 10,000 years. The meltwater from the already underway thaw and the fires could work together to speed up permafrost thaw even more.

The picture emerging is that the Arctic is full of positive feedback mechanisms that can work together to amplify warming. In fact, this is already evident in the amplified warming of the Arctic relative to the rest of the world.

While it is difficult to quantitatively pinpoint when a system is about to undergo tipping (though some studies have outlined definite criteria), it is likely a decent guess to speculate that the permafrost, and indeed the Arctic as a whole, is already at or very near a tipping point. The basis for such a claim is the simultaneous shift towards tipping points in a number of interconnected systems, many of which are positive reinforcing feedback mechanisms.
Adopting a hands-off policy

Is it too late to prevent a regime shift in the Arctic? Possibly. That by no means implies that we might as well sit back and continue with the “business-as-usual” agenda. While it is a certainty that Arctic systems like the permafrost are susceptible to tipping, it is also likely that the thresholds are sensitive to rates of human-caused greenhouse emissions. By acting now, and on a frantic global scale, we just might be able to delay the tipping and the climatic domino effect from taking hold.

Even if a tipping is inevitable, we might be able to prevent further degradation of the last of pristine environments left on Earth and the rich and intricate ecosystems it supports.

It’s a no-brainer that we need to reduce and cut emissions, and there are many studies that provide directives and roadmaps for how we should proceed. One such study, by the Stockholm Resilience Institute, proposes a set of multi-decadal efforts on global scales to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. That’s a start, though a “Herculean” undertaking in itself, as the authors put it.

We also need specific policies aimed at the protection of the entire Arctic, not just limited to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This means stopping any and all kinds of resource extraction – oil, natural gas, shale oil, and heavily restricting and regulating trans-Arctic shipping and tourism, all of which have seen a boom in recent years due to the access made possible by receding sea ice.

At the same time, we need policies to support indigenous communities of the Arctic whose lives have been the most affected by the changing environment. Some communities are being displaced right now due to coastal erosion. Some have become entirely reliant on tourism to support their economies. Protection and empowerment of the peoples of the Arctic is a must.

It’s time we start accepting that climate change is here, not something waiting to happen in some hypothetical future. By acting now we have some chance of disarming the ticking permafrost bomb.

https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2018/02/the-permafrost-bomb-is-ticking/
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George Washington's hair found in New York college library book
« Reply #11228 on: February 15, 2018, 04:34:37 AM »


Archivists at a New York college library stumbled upon an intimate artifact of George Washington — a lock of his iconic grey hair, tucked in an 18th-century almanac.

The rare find has Schenectady's Union College revisiting its relationship with the first president of the United States as historians wonder how the hair made it there.

Historical records project archivist Daniel Michelson found the almanac atop a bookshelf at the college's Schaffer Library. The leather-bound book, titled Gaines Universal Register or American and British Kalendar for the year 1793, includes population estimates of the American colonies.

Inside the book, the college said, was an envelope, which read "Washington's hair, L.S.S. & (scratched out) GBS from James A. Hamilton given him by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871." The hair was inside the envelope, tied together by a thread. 

The book belonged to Philip J. Schuyler, son of one of the college's founders, Gen. Philip Schuyler, a friend of Washington's. Historians and authors suggest Martha Washington gave the hair to Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, who later passed it on to family members.

A lock of hair used to be given as a keepsake, said Susan Holloway Scott, author of I, Eliza Hamilton.

The college concedes it can't definitively prove the hair was Washington's and does not know how it came to be at the library. Although, the college reported, manuscripts dealer John Reznikoff believes its "100% authentic."

It's likely worth between $2,000 and $3,000, he added, and is "undoubtedly George Washington's."

The college now plans to preserve the hair and put it on display.

"As an archivist, we come across interesting material all of the time," said India Spartz, Union's head of special collections and archives. "But this is such a treasure for campus."

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/02/14/george-washingtons-hair-found-new-york-college-library-book/337694002/
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Civilian victims of Afghan war exceed 10,000 in 2017
« Reply #11229 on: February 15, 2018, 04:39:48 AM »
Afghanistan suffered more than 10,000 civilian casualties in 2017, as deadly suicide and complex attacks killed and injured more people than any previous year in the war-torn country, according to the UN.

In its annual report released on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office, documented 3,438 deaths and 7,015 injuries - a decline from the record-high figure in 2016.

"The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war's impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children," Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

At nearly 2,300, 2017 recorded the highest number of civilian casualties from suicide and complex attacks in a single year since the UN mission began documentation in 2009.

The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) - suicide and non-suicide - by armed groups led to the majority of the casualties last year, with ground engagements accounting for the second-highest number of victims.

"I am particularly appalled by the continued indiscriminate and unlawful use of IEDs such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices in civilian populated areas," Yamamoto said. "This is shameful."

The report attributed 42 percent of the casualties to the Afghan Taliban, while noting an increase in victims of attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, which was resonsible for 10 percent of the casualties.

Pro-government forces, including Afghan national security forces and international military forces caused a fifth of the civilian casualties.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the "perpetrators to be held accountable"

"The people of Afghanistan, year after year, continue to live in insecurity and fear, while those responsible for ending lives and blighting lives escape punishment," he said in a statement.

"Such attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are likely, in most cases, to constitute war crimes."
'Difficult year'

This year, a wave of attacks by armed groups have killed nearly 150 people in recent weeks.

On May 31, in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital, at least 150 people were killed after a massive truck bomb ripped through the heart of Kabul's diplomatic district.

To date, no group has claimed responsibilty for the attack.

Despite the decline in overall figures, Danielle Bell, UNAMA's human right director, said "much more needs to be done".

"It is the fourth consecutive year where we've seen more than 10,000 civilians killed or injured," she told Al Jazeera from Kabul.

"It has indeed been a difficult year".

"While we did see an improvement on the battlefield by Taliban and pro-goverment forces, more still needs to be done."
Women, children affected

Women and children continued to bear the brunt of the armed conflict.

UNAMA reported a five percent rise in female deaths at 359, with 865 injured.

Total child casualties stood at 3,179 (861 killed and 2,318 injured) - an overall 10 percent decrease compared with 2016.

"We cannot sleep day and night due to the frightening sounds of firing," an 11-year-old girl injured by a bullet during a ground engagement in Arghandab district, Zabul province in September, told UNAMA.

The UN agency also reported cases of sexual abuse and child recruitment by Afghan national security forces and anti-government elements.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/02/civilian-victims-afghan-war-exceed-10000-2017-180215070732833.html
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Regina Mustafa receives death threats in US mayor race
« Reply #11230 on: February 15, 2018, 04:43:11 AM »

Mustafa said she largely felt welcome in Rochester despite occasional confrontations

A woman seeking to become the first Muslim mayor of a city in the US state of Minnesota has claimed receiving a death threat online.

Regina Mustafa, running for mayor in the city of Rochester, which is about 160km southeast of Minneapolis, said a threat to "execute" was made online by "Militia Movement" earlier this week.

"I have no way of knowing if the person is nearby or across the country," Mustafa told the Post-Bulletin.

On her Twitter page, Mustafa said: "It won't derail me. But any threats must be taken seriously. No one should feel threatened when wanting to serve their community in elected office."

 Regina Mustafa @cidi_cidimn

Threat to "Execute" me made online. It won't derail me. But any threats must be taken seriously. No one should feel threatened when wanting to serve their community in elected office.
10:46 AM - Feb 12, 2018

    20
    18 people are talking about this

Mustafa said the threat, made on a post she made on Google Plus last year, has been reported to the police.

Almost 12,000 of Rochester's 114,000 population is Muslim.

In response to the threat, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) requested police to investigate the matter.

"We urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this implicit threat of violence targeting a member of a minority community seeking to take part in our nation’s political process," said Jaylani Hussein, CAIR Minnesota chapter's executive director.

According to a report in the Star Tribune, Mustafa had people shout at her from passing cars.

The report adds that a man walked up to her at a coffee shop last year and told her to "go home".

Rochester Police Department told The Independent that it was investigating the incident but as the threat was directly not aimed at Mustafa, it would be difficult to prosecute the individual.

"I'm concerned they're considering this as harassment," she said.

"I've suffered harassment. I know what harassment is. This is a threat."

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/02/death-threat-city-mayor-aspirant-180215070014540.html
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Plunging US dollar boosts gold’s safe-haven demand
« Reply #11231 on: February 15, 2018, 04:47:20 AM »


 Gold prices have edged up on the back of a tumbling US dollar which, according to analysts, has set the stage for a new bull market for the precious metal. Experts project higher gold prices in the near-term.

The yellow metal was trading at $1,354.65 an ounce as of 10:20 GMT on Thursday, after enjoying its best trading day on Wednesday since June 24, 2016.

"Higher US inflation combined with the US dollar exhibiting zero correlation to higher interest rates amidst burdening duel deficits (trade and budget) should play out favorably for gold markets,” the head of trading APAC at foreign exchange OANDA, Stephen Innes, told Reuters.

The US dollar hit a 15-month low on Thursday, trading at 106.30 yen. The dollar index, a measure of the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, fell 0.5 percent to 88.66.

“I think we could see significant US dollar weakness through the first half of the year,” Bill Baruch, president of Blue Line Futures, told the Street. “The real move in gold is yet to come. I think we could see prices above $1,400 an ounce later this year.”

Analysts say concerns over Washington’s possible pursuit of a weak-dollar strategy and the growing US fiscal deficit weighed on the greenback. Inflation fears boosted gold, which is considered as a safe haven against inflation.

According to Fawad Razaqzada, technical analyst at City Index, gold prices have managed to hold on to crucial retracement levels despite the recent pullback. “That tells me that the buyers are in control of this market and prices are going higher,” he said.

Looking at the long-term picture, Razaqzada said gold has risen higher for three consecutive years with prices last month hitting a 1.5-year high.

https://www.rt.com/business/418881-weak-dollar-boosts-gold/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS
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Huge sinkhole swallows cars, prompts evacuations in Rome
« Reply #11232 on: February 15, 2018, 04:51:14 AM »


 A massive four-lane-wide sinkhole swallowed at least six cars in Rome on Wednesday, forcing 20 families to flee their homes. A dramatic video captured the extent of the damage.

The incident happened in the Italian capital's Baldunia neighborhood on Wednesday evening. Although no injuries were reported, police and several fire brigades were deployed at the scene to ensure that two residential buildings are safely evacuated.

The area was cordoned off by rescue teams due to the risk of further land subsidence, Corriere della Sera reported.

A local resident returned from a gym to find a gaping hole around 50ft (15 meters) wide. "I was at the gym, my sister-in-law called me and I got scared. She told me that the street collapsed,” Lorella Giordana told Ruptly. Giancarlo De Capraris, another evacuated resident, said: "I have a three-month-old baby, I don't know where to go.”

Giordana said the incident happened following “months” of construction works involving three buildings in the area being developed for new housing.

Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi, who inspected the scene on Wednesday, said an investigation had been launched to find the cause of the collapse. She told the evicted residents that they would be accommodated in hotels.

https://www.rt.com/news/418858-sinkhole-swallows-cars-rome/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS
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7 Billion People, One Planet. Can Everyone’s Needs Be Met?
« Reply #11233 on: February 15, 2018, 04:58:57 AM »
Can we provide good lives for the seven billion people on Earth without wrecking the planet?

Daniel O’Neill of the University of Leeds and colleagues asked this enormous question in a recent paper in the journal Nature Sustainability and on an accompanying website.

Their answer is uncomfortable. After looking at data on quality of life and use of resources from some 150 countries, they found that no nation currently meets the basic needs of its citizens in a sustainable way. The nations of the world either don’t provide the basics of a good life or they do it at excessive cost in resources, or they fail at both.

To Dr. O’Neill, an economist, this was something of a surprise. “When we started, we kind of thought, ‘surely, out of 150 different countries, there will be some shining star’” with a high quality of life and moderate resource use. “We really didn’t find that,” he said, pointing only to Vietnam as coming close to meeting both measures.

The United States, on the other hand, provides a relatively high quality of life but fails on every measure of sustainability in the study. For example, it emits 21.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, while the study’s sustainability threshold is 1.6 metric tons.

Providing a good quality of life to everyone on the planet would require “two to six times the sustainable level for resources,” Dr. O’Neill said. “Something has to change.”

He did not say, however, that these findings doom humanity to poverty or environmental ruin. “It doesn’t tell us what’s theoretically possible,” he said, noting that the study only projects the results of continuing with business as usual.

The conclusions have caused a stir, especially in conservative circles. National Review denounced the paper as a call for “global wealth distribution,” saying “the goal clearly is a technocracy that will undermine freedom, constrain opportunity, not truly benefit the poor, and materially harm societies that have moved beyond the struggle for survival.”

Dr. O’Neill said that that reading of the paper missed the point — redistribution cannot solve the problem. Whoever owns the wealth, he said, “We need to improve both physical and social provisioning systems.”

At the same time, global income inequality is an issue, he added wryly. “I am all for taking away yachts and providing food, clean water and access to electricity to people in sub-Saharan Africa.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/climate/sustainable-good-life.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fclimate&action=click&contentCollection=climate&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront
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There have already been 18 school shootings in the US this year: Everytown
« Reply #11234 on: February 15, 2018, 05:02:32 AM »


 Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, had recorded 17 school shootings on their website prior to this afternoon's shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Everytown defines a school shooting as "any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials," according to its website.

Today's shooting marks the first of the year in Florida. There were three shootings at different schools in Texas, two in different California schools and two in different Michigan schools, according to Everytown's data. There are 10 other states that had at least one shooting.

In eight of the 17 school shootings recorded by Everytown prior to today, a gun was fired but no one was injured.

 Two of the shootings were classified as being attempted or completed suicides with no intent to injure another person.

The Gun Violence Archive, which tracks reports of mass shootings -- defined as incidents where four or more people are shot, not including the shooter -- reports there have been 30 mass shooting incidents so far in 2018, including today's in Florida.

Schools have been some of the deadliest sites for shootings in the past.

 The third deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history was at Virginia Tech University in 2007, when 32 people were killed, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which is tied for the fourth-highest casualty shooting, led to 26 deaths.

Broward County Public Schools superintendent Robert Runcie said that there were "numerous" fatalities in today's shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.

 According to Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and current ABC News consultant, most school shootings last for about five minutes or less.

It takes much longer to clear the scene, however, since responding law enforcement officers need to methodically go through, room by room, to both secure and de-arm the shooter and to help students and faculty at the school, Garrett explained.

 Former New York Police Department commissioner Ray Kelly said that bullying could be a possible factor in today's shooting, though the motive has not been confirmed.

"We've seen it in so many cases," said Kelly, who is now an ABC News consultant.

"We don't know for sure but I'm pretty sure there's an element of that here," he said, noting that the bullying could be "real or perceived."

http://abcnews.go.com/US/18-school-shootings-us-year-group/story?id=53091125
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