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Friday, 31 October 2014

Modern day America: One step away from the Third Reich

Unbeknownst to most Americans the United States is presently under thirty presidential declared states of emergency. They confer vast powers on the Executive Branch including the ability to financially incapacitate any person or organization in the United States, seize control of the nation's communications infrastructure, mobilize military forces, expand the permissible size of the military without congressional authorization, and extend tours of duty without consent from service personnel.

Declared states of emergency may also activate Presidential Emergency Action Documents and other continuity-of-government procedures which confer powers on the President, such as the unilateral suspension of habeas corpus - that appear fundamentally opposed to the American constitutional order. Although the National Emergencies Act, by its plain language, requires the Congress to vote every six months on whether a declared national emergency should continue, Congress has done only once in the nearly forty year history of the Act.

Patrick Thronson, Michigan Journal of Law (2013, Vol 46).

US Flag

© Global Research

A bit of irony, perhaps, that on November 4, 2014 - as Americans go to the polls to cast their ballots for a slate of politicians at the local, state and federal levels - the august citizens of the United States will also celebrate the birth of the National Security Agency (NSA).

On November 4, 1952 the NSA was created by a Presidential Executive Order signed by then president Harry Truman. Earlier that year, in January 1952, Truman's state of the union address focused on the Korean War, the global Soviet-Communist threat, the "Iran oil situation", and the need to increase the production of US military equipment for use by American forces, and for transfer to Western European Allies. Truman called on Americans to seek guidance in the God of Peace even as a brutal shadow war was being waged by the United States to eliminate popularly elected "leftist" governments.

In 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected to the American presidency and with him came John Foster and Allan Dulles, two political appointees who would, it turns out, seek the counsel and expertise of "former" Nazi executioners, scientists and intelligence operatives. J Edgar Hoover, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was already on the case using whatever resources were at his disposal - including Nazis - to hunt down unionists, communists, dissenters and radicals wherever they might be. According to the UK's Guardian newspaper, Truman had this to say about Hoover and his FBI, "We want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail... Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him."

From 1953-1961, Eisenhower, as Commander in Chief, constructed a nascent military-intelligence-law enforcement-industrial complex influenced directly by Nazi ideology and technological know-how. No wonder he warned the world about his creation, the military-industrial complex. At one time in the early 21st Century it was uncomfortable to call out America's ties to the Nazis. But that has changed particularly with the release of Eric Lichtblau's The Nazis Next Door (2014) and "The Collaboration" by Ben Urwand. It has also been confirmed by the overthrow of a nationally elected leader in Ukraine - Victor Yanukovych - and the open support of neo-Nazi groups largely responsible for that event. Is it a coincidence that the head of the CIA, John Brennan, visited with the neo-Nazi usurpers not long after the coup given the CIA's history?

Do You Want to Know a Secret, do, da, do?

According to Lichtblau, writing in the New York Times :

"The full tally of Nazis-turned-spies is probably much higher', said Norman Goda, a University of Florida historian...but many records remain classified even today, making a complete count impossible. U.S. agencies directly or indirectly hired numerous ex-Nazi police officials and East European collaborators who were manifestly guilty of war crimes, he said. Information was readily available that these were compromised men. The wide use of Nazi spies grew out of a Cold War mentality shared by two titans of intelligence in the 1950s: Mr. Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, and Mr. Dulles, the C.I.A. director."

Over at Antiwar.com, in "Federal Agencies Just Doing Whatever They Want Now", Lucy Steigerwald comments wryly on Lichtblau's findings:

...the CIA hid their precious assets from Nazi hunters and prosecutors trying to deport then-old men in the 1980s and even into the '90s. Most disturbing, one of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann's little buddies, Otto von Bolschwing, was protected until 1982, when he conveniently died of a brain disorder before he could be deported or prosecuted. Famously, Nazi rocket scientists were picked up by America to prevent their expertise from falling into Soviet hands. Maybe an exception to the prickly feeling that letting heinous war criminals off the hook is not what America was supposed to be doing when it won the good war in a heroically-sepia montage could be made for geniuses like Wernher Von Braun. Von Braun was a rocket scientist and "honorary" SS member under the Nazis, and he helped America get to the moon (which is neat, so that apparently makes his debated level of involvement/enthusiasm for the party acceptable.) What exactly did von Bolschwing contribute to America after happily joining the SS in 1933 to make ignoring his crimes worthwhile? What's the purpose of this kind of grim revelation? There are several.

One, they diminish the moral high ground about the Second World War that the US clings to desperately to this day. Yes, everyone who isn't literally Adolph Hitler gets to feel pretty good about themselves, so anyone not allied with Hitler must be doing the right thing. Yet, helping to plan the Final Solution is forgivable if the CIA really wants you around. Another more contemporary reason to be horrified by this revelation is that it is just one outrage of many. Sharing the CIA's dark corner is most of the other big-name, secretive agencies. For the past 18 months, the National Security Agency's (NSA) massive campaign of spying has been big news. Less prominent were stories that suggest the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are also playing the part of secretive, unaccountable rulers.

Welcome to the Reich, American Style

William Binney, former NSA employee and whistleblower, stated that the NSA had gone "totalitarian". In an interview with DW he likened the NSA and the US government to the Third Reich.

Binney: "Sure, they haven't gone that far yet [as the Nazis and East German Stassi], but they tried to shut down newspaper reporters like Jim Risen...Look at the NDAA Section 1021, that gave President Obama the ability to define someone as a terrorist threat and have the military incarcerate them indefinitely without due process. That's the same as the special order 48 issued in 1933 by the Nazis, [the so-called Reichstag Fire Decree]. Read that - it says exactly the same thing. These were totalitarian processes that were instituted...Totalitarianism comes in the form first of knowledge of people and what they're doing, and then it starts to transition into using that power against people. That's what's happening - in terms of newspaper reporters, in terms of crimes. That's a direct violation of our constitution.

DW: But surely the difference is that there was an ideological regime behind the Stasi and the Nazis.

Binney: You mean like putting people like John Kiriakouin prison for exposing torture and giving the torturers immunity? That's what our country's coming to. That's what we did. That's disgraceful. The motives of totalitarian states are not exactly the same every time, but they're very similar: power, control and money...We're focusing now on everyone on the planet - that's a change from focusing on organizations that were attempting to do nasty things. When you focus on everybody, you're moving down that path towards population control."

Ingeniously Produced from Concentration Camps: Data "Comes to Light"

Many advances in warfare can be traced to Nazi innovations built on the backs of tortured souls. For example, air and ship crew survivability in frigid seas is just one of them:

...the Germans noted the terrible loss of critical personnel in sudden cold water immersion accidents. The sinking of the Bismarck and loss of airmen who bailed out alive and well into the cold North Sea during the Battle of Britain caused their physiologists and aviation medicine physicians to examine the problem. They commenced a large Research and Development program, which in part was the cause for the infamous Dachau experiments.

They were the first to observe the "after drop" or continuation in reduction of body core temperature after being withdrawn from the cold water. They also experimented with survival suits and the Deutsches Textilforschunginstitut in München-Gladbach, ingeniously produced one that provided the insulation using soap bubbles which appears to have gone into limited service.

Another example is the development of the military aircraft "ejection seat". InAchtung! Schleuder-Sitzaparat by Chris Carry, German engineering was far afield of American efforts in pilot safety.

With the acquisition by the US of both German databases in egress research and actual examples of the German Heinkel explosive cartridge ejection seat immediately after the war had ended, the US began to vigorously attempt to gain greater knowledge in this overlooked area of aviation technology. The new American developmental research spurred on by acquisition of German wartime data branched off into two distinctly different approaches towards the same end, one taken by the US Air Force and one by the US Navy.

Exceptionalism and Innovative Torture Techniques Led to Technological Advances

How could human beings engage in such hideous experiments on other human beings? Well, that is a time tested formula: Indoctrinate the masses into thinking that all others besides, say, Americans, are inferior, unexceptional, demons and insects. The world is witnessing just that as the US government, its allies and its media and academic proxies seek to reduce the Russians, Arabs, Chinese, Iranians, and the immigrants, unemployed and impoverished in the United States, down to the level of parasitic microbes.

Just how does that mentality work?

For that answer we turn to the UK's Telegraph for an article written in 2008 by Richard Evans:

The answer springs from the fact that medicine was both dominant in the world of science under the Third Reich, and closely allied to the Nazi project... After all, German medical science had uncovered the causes of several major diseases and contributed massively to improving the health of the population over the previous decades. Surely, therefore, it was justified in eliminating negative influences as well? What underpinned this behavior was a widespread belief that some people were less than human, relegated to a lower plane of existence by their inherited degeneracy - or their race.

For German doctors, a camp inmate was either a racially inferior subhuman, a vicious criminal, a traitor to the German cause, or more than one of the above. Such beings had no right to life or wellbeing - indeed, it was logical that they should be sacrificed in the interests of the survival and triumph of the German race, just as that race had to be strengthened by the elimination of the inferior, degenerate elements within it.

Evans continues on describing the torture:

SS doctors used inmates to test treatments for injuries sustained in battle, cutting open their calves and sewing bits of glass or wood or gauze impregnated with bacteria into the wounds, sometimes even smashing the prisoners' bones with hammers to create a more realistic effect; again, the results were presented to scientific conferences without anyone offering any criticism of the methods employed. Perhaps the most enthusiastic user of human guinea pigs was the ambitious young SS doctor Sigmund Rascher, who employed camp inmates at Dachau to test the human body's reactions to rapid decompression and lack of oxygen, in an attempt to help pilots forced to parachute out of their planes at high altitudes.

He called some of his research sessions "terminal experiments". He measured the time it took his subjects to die as their air supply was gradually thinned out. He showed his work, which led to the deaths of between 70 and 80 prisoners, to a conference of Luftwaffe medical experts in September 1942. The following month, Rascher presented the results of another experiment to a conference of 95 medical scientists in Nuremberg. This time, he showed how long inmates dressed in Luftwaffe uniforms and life jackets could survive in cold water, simulating conditions in the North Sea. The average time that elapsed before death, he reported, was 70 minutes. None of those listening to him raised any ethical objections.

Albert Camus offers a sort of prayer for these dark times:

All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked.

Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.

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Genes could influence who survives Ebola

Ebola virus

© iStockphoto/nopparit

The Ebola virus rendered into 3D.

The Ebola virus is not always deadly and genetics may play a role in the severity of the illness, according to a new study on mice.

Researchers at the University of Washington infected mice with a mouse form of the same species of the Ebola virus that is sweeping West Africa.

Seventy per cent of the mice got sick, and more than half of this group died, some due to liver inflammation and others due to internal hemorrhage.

About 19 per cent of the mice lost weight initially but then regained it in two weeks and made a full recovery.

The remaining 11 per cent showed a partial response to the virus and less than half in this group died.

The findings are reported in the journal Science this week.

Scientists say the variability in outcomes resembled what has been seen in the human epidemic sweeping West Africa this year, killing more than 4,900 people and infecting more than 13,000.

They were also able to find associations in disease outcomes and mortality rates according to specific genetic lines of mice.

"Our data suggest that genetic factors play a significant role in disease outcome," says Michael Katze from the University of Washington Department of Microbiology.

Those that died showed more activity in genes that promoted blood vessel inflammation and cell death, leading to more serious illness.

Those that survived tended to show more activity in genes responsible for blood vessel repair and making infection-fighting white blood cells.

Specialized types of liver cells might have also helped stop the virus from reproducing, the study says.

"We hope that medical researchers will be able to rapidly apply these findings to candidate therapeutics and vaccines," Katze says.

Similar observations about the link between genes and outcomes have been made in many different viruses, so the finding should not come as a surprise in Ebola, says Andrew Easton, professor of virology at the University of Warwick.

"While this is valuable information, the data in the paper cannot be directly extrapolated to the human situation and used as a basis for potential therapy at the moment," says Easton, who was not involved in the study.

"Unlike the mice used in the study, humans are extensively outbred and have a large variety of genetic combinations, making assessment of the impact of the genes in humans difficult."

The study also did not account for environmental factors that experts say can affect whether a person lives or dies from Ebola, including the quality of care, their age and how healthy they are when they first become infected.

NATO: Rebellion in the junior ranks?

warsaw pact nato

© Mike Faille/National Post

Vladimir Putin, the wily strategist of Russian revanchism, is well on his way to reconstructing the Warsaw Pact. That, at least, is what the pundits of are making it out to seem. Last week, Jackson Diehl penned a column on how Putin has driven a wedge between NATO and its easternmost members. Anne Applebaum, meanwhile, pins the failure to maintain quiet on the eastern front on NATO itself and its decision not to establish bases in the region 10 years ago. The resulting crisis of confidence in what were once Soviet satellites, she laments, has undermined alliance cohesion.

These misreadings of what's taking place on the eastern stretches of Europe contribute to an almost 1946-like sense of foreboding and inevitability. The small countries of Eastern Europe are bending to Moscow's will, and the West is doing little more than appease the bear. Diehl and Applebaum stop short of declaring a new Iron Curtain and insisting that the region choose sides (over and above membership in NATO). But their all-or-nothing logic tends in that direction.

Contrary to these assertions, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and the rest of the region are not replaying 1946. Although these governments are pursuing very different strategies, they all know that a new Cold War would exact a terrible price on their countries. In most cases, they are quite sensibly trying to forestall this scenario. NATO's imperative to push ever eastward, which pundits like Applebaum are urging it to do now under the cover of demonstrating resolve, will only make matters worse.

To understand why these pundits are wrong, first it's important to understand how Russia and NATO arrived at this impasse.

After the Berlin Wall fell nearly 25 years ago, the new democratic governments in East-Central Europe couldn't wait to leave the Warsaw Pact. Who could blame them: the Pact was a symbol of their subjection to the will of the Soviet Union. They showed a measure of caution, however, and didn't disband the alliance until February 1991. Then, again at a rather cautious pace, they crept under the umbrella of NATO. First the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland took the plunge in 1999. In the second wave of expansion in 2004, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Baltic countries joined the fold. Albania and Croatia had to wait until 2009.

Russia was not overjoyed at these developments, to put it mildly. The Kremlin was under the impression that it had received guarantees that NATO would not expand to its doorstep. As Mary Elise Sarotte writes in , Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and company received unwritten assurances early on that not even East Germany would be part of NATO. Then, in exchange for what amounted to a huge Deutschemark bribe, Gorbachev assented to a united Germany entering NATO. The Soviet Union didn't expect NATO to move further eastward. But then, the Soviet Union also didn't expected to disappear with the stroke of a pen. It is to the Russians' perennial dismay that they never got any of these promises down on paper.

NATO didn't have to twist the arms of the former Warsaw Pact members to switch sides. The coup in Moscow in 1991 and the outbreak of hostilities in Yugoslavia were both reminders of the importance of a security guarantee - against a revival of Russian imperialism and the potential of internecine conflicts. Also, whatever reservations they might have had about joining an alliance that had lost its original overarching purpose and however ambivalent they might have felt about the costs of modernizing their militaries to achiever interoperability with NATO, the countries in the region realized that membership conferred enormous nonmilitary advantages. With accession to the European Union still in the future, NATO's imprimatur was a powerful signal to investors that it was safe to pour money into the aspirant countries.

Still, significant portions of the population throughout the region expressed reservations about NATO membership. In Hungary and the Czech Republic, support for joining was actually quite low: at 32 percent and 28 percent respectively in 1997. Bulgarians were generally split down the middle. Only in Romania, often an outlier in the region, was support consistently in the 70 percent range.

Then the governments went to work on persuading their citizenry. Bulgarian opposition to NATO fell to a mere 1 percent by 2002. In Slovenia, where the public was quite skeptical of the alliance in the 1990s, opinion turned around sufficiently by 2003, when the country held a referendum on membership in both the EU and NATO. Citizens backed both measures, though their enthusiasm for the EU (89 percent) overshadowed their approval of NATO (66 percent). The populations in the other countries in the region similarly fell in line.

But this fundamental ambivalence never entirely disappeared. In fact, latent dissatisfactions sharpened when the countries in the region began to understand that NATO wasn't just a security guarantee: it was a set of obligations. And those obligations were not simply to modernize their militaries and participate in periodic exercises. It meant authorizing combat missions (in Kosovo in 1999) and contributing soldiers to out-of-area operations, such as Afghanistan.

The Czech Republic joined NATO only six days before the alliance started bombing former Yugoslavia over the issue of Kosovo. "Javier Solana phoned me up and informed me that NATO would start to bomb former Yugoslavia the following Monday, and we as a new member of NATO should formally accept that decision," then-Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan told me last year. "Given the traditional friendship between the Czechs and the Serbs going back many many years, this was a very difficult decision. After a very acrimonious debate at the cabinet level that lasted until early in the morning, we finally agreed. But we only agreed to allow NATO planes to fly over our airspace, no other form of cooperation. Neither our air force nor the army played any role in an action that most of us had major problems with." It was not the kind of cooperation NATO expected. "Because it took us such a long time and was obviously a reluctant decision, NATO made it clear that it was not happy with us," Kavan concluded.

The war in Afghanistan two years later was even more controversial. When Polish soldiers began to die in the NATO mission, enthusiasm for the more confrontational style of the United States began to wane. By 2009, 77 percent of Poles wanted their troops out of Afghanistan.

Then came the war in Georgia in 2008. It didn't last long, and the origins of the conflict are murky. But what was abundantly clear, particularly to the countries of East-Central Europe, was that NATO didn't do much in response. Of course, because Georgia wasn't a member of NATO, the alliance's collective security clause didn't come into play. But that was a fine distinction for many in the region. They were fighting in wars far from their borders but sitting on their hands when it came to conflicts closer to home.

Jump to the present. Russia's seizure of Crimea and its military involvement in eastern Ukraine have sent shock waves through East-Central Europe. These moves should ordinarily promote greater NATO cohesion, not less. And indeed, at the most recent NATO summit, Poland pushed for a proposal to permanently base 10,000 NATO troops on its territory. NATO politely said no. The Baltic members wanted missile defense batteries to protect against Russian missiles. Again, NATO said no.


But although Washington would have liked to see a solid anti-Russian front from Poland down to former Yugoslavia, the region has been much more nuanced in its policies. The ambivalence of the 1990s has resurfaced.

Consider, for instance, what's happening in Poland where a new prime minister and foreign minister are sending different signals about their Ukraine policy. On the one hand, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz has suggested that Poland needs to pay more attention to its own security and has no plans to intervene in Ukraine. At the same time, Kopacz has renewed calls for greater U.S. military presence in her country, and her defense minister has signaled that Poland is ready to sell arms to Ukraine. So, Poland has certainly not lined up on Putin's side. But it's not going to take on Russia by itself.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia, meanwhile, came out against economic sanctions on Russia. It's not that these countries are prioritizing the health of their economies over the fate of Ukraine. In fact, their commercial relationship with Russia is relatively modest. The two countries trade first of all with Germany, then with each other and other Central European countries. The decision to oppose sanctions is nevertheless pragmatic. Both countries worry that an overall downturn in EU-Russian relations, and a resumption of conflict over oil and natural gas transfers, would have a devastating impact on the entire region.

Serbia and Bulgaria, meanwhile, have long had closer relations with Russia, Putin or no Putin. Neither country wants to be put in the awkward position of having to choose between the east and the west. And, until recently, they didn't really have to do so.

The obvious exception to this pragmatism is Hungary. Led by the right-wing Fidesz party, Hungary has grown ever more distant from both the European Union and NATO. In July, for instance, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared that "since the rule of Soviet empire, no other external power has dared to try to curb the sovereignty of Hungarians openly, choosing a legal form." Was he referring to Russia? No, he was reserving his wrath for the European Union. The European Parliament had recently issued a scathing report on the Hungarian government's performance, and Orban was fuming. It only reinforced his turn eastward.

Hungary's relationship with Russia has been on an upward swing, in part for reasons of energy. Hungary has signed deals with Gazprom for the delivery of natural gas and with Rosatom to build two new blocks at Hungary's nuclear power plant in Paks. But there is also an ideological affinity between Orban and Putin. The Hungarian leader has declared his preference for Hungary to be an "illiberal democracy," and he definitely has Putin's Russia in mind as a potential model.

So, the countries of the region don't have a unified position on Russia, nor are they succumbing to Putin's arm-twisting or his charm offensive. Serbia and Bulgaria have longstanding ties to Russia, Hungary is forming an illiberal partnership with Moscow, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have larger economic concerns, and Poland wants to be even more firmly anchored in NATO even as it distances itself from direct entanglement in Ukraine.

But it's not just a misreading of Eastern European motives that plagues the analysis of Diehl and Applebaum. By emphasizing Putin's malevolence and NATO's fecklessness, they fail to appreciate the impact that austerity measures dictated by Brussels and military costs dictated by NATO have had on the small countries of East-Central Europe. The rebellion in the East has been growing over a long period of time. Even if Putin wasn't engaging in strong-arm petro-politics or attempting to reconstruct Novorossiya, the region would be expressing its reluctance to follow every order issued by Brussels or Washington.

It wasn't long ago that East-Central Europe experienced a long-anticipated "return to diversity" with the collapse of the Soviet template. NATO and the EU provided them with some initially welcome institutional structures to fill the vacuum. Now, the countries of the region are all chafing, to one degree or another, at the "adult supervision" provided by these multinational entities (much as they once chafed at the directives provided by the multinational entities of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union).

Both Brussels and Washington should learn to respect the diversity of East-Central Europe and stop trying to force the former Warsaw Pact countries to toe the line when it comes to Russia. The region knows a cold war when it sees one, and it certainly doesn't want to go through all that again.

Foreign Policy In Focus.

The human microbiome: Gut Bacteria quickly being cast as culprits or saviors for a diverse array of ailments

© Kharlamova/Thinkstock

In 2001, Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, coined the term "microbiome," naming the trillions of microorganisms that reside in and on our bodies. Today, if you type that word into Google, you'll turn up thousands of hits linking gut bacteria to a laundry list of health problems, from food allergies to Ebola. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of journal articles published on the microbiome increased by nearly 250 percent. Our bodily inhabitants are quickly being cast as culprits or saviors for a diverse array of ailments.

The hype has kicked off a gold rush. Big food companies - including Nestle, PepsiCo, Monsanto, and General Mills - have funded gut bacteria studies, and some have even opened centers to develop foods that interact with the microbiome, such as probiotics. According to Transparency Market Research the global probiotics market is expected to reach an astonishing $45 billion by 2018.

At a 2012 Institute of Medicine forum called Susan Crockett, former vice president for health and nutrition at General Mills, spoke about the "amazing things" the food industry could do to help people maintain a healthy microbiome, in the same way cereals helped Americans increase their fiber consumption.Baby formula, other industry reps suggested, could be enhanced to more closely match the bacterial profile of breast milk and weight-loss products could harness the microbiome to speed up metabolism.

Agribusiness firms, including Monsanto, AgBiome and Bayer CropScience, are looking into how bacteria can help farmers. Last year, Monsanto acquired Agradis, a private agricultural research firm studying how microbes can produce bigger plants. Monsanto also partnered with a company called Novozymes, which is developing microbial-based pesticides.

Pharma companies, too, are reaping the benefits of the microbiome boom. Second Genome partnered with Janssen (the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson) in 2013 to begin microbiome drug discovery for a variety of diseases, including ulcerative colitis. Seres Health, a "clinical-stage therapeutics company focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat diseases of the microbiome," received more than $10 million in 2012 and 2013 from investors and announced in July that it has been granted patents to produce a pill that would allow patients the benefits of a fecal transplant without the gross factor.

Still, despite the optimism, some researchers caution that much of what we hear about microbiome science isn't always, well, science. Dr. Lita Proctor heads the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project (HMP), an outgrowth of the Human Genome Project. "We are discovering a whole new ecosystem," she says. But "I do have some fear - we all do in the field - that the hype and the potential over-promise, and the idea that somehow this is going to be different - there is a terrific fear that it will all backfire."

The goal of the first phase of the HMP was to identify the microbial makeup of a "healthy" microbiome. And, in a study published earlier this year, researchers made an important discovery - that there is no such thing. Even among people who were examined and found to be perfectly healthy, each person's microbiome was unique.

"We were going about it all wrong," Proctor explains. "It is not the makeup - these communities come together and they actually become bigger than the sum of their parts...It almost doesn't matter who is present, it just matters what they are doing."

Jonathan Eisen, a professor and biologist who studies the ecology of microbes at the University of California-Davis, shares Proctor's concerns. In a series on his blog called "The Overselling the Microbiome Awards," Eisen highlights what he considers to be skewed science. He has taken on transplants purported to treat multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease. He casts doubt on a study claiming there's a connection between a mother's oral hygiene during pregnancy to the health of her newborn. He critiques the notion that you can use bacteria to battle breast cancer, prevent stroke, and cure Alzheimer's.

Eisen says that one of the most common errors in studies is confusion between correlation and causation. "The microbiome has 400 million different variables that you can measure about it," Eisen explains. "The different sites, the different species, the relative abundance of those species, the variation - if you have that many variables, I can guarantee statistically that some of them will be perfectly correlated with Crohn's disease and have nothing to do with it."

Eisen and Proctor worry that early hunches won't pan out - and ultimately, the false leads could threaten both support and funding for the science in the future. Worse, the growing popularity of untested and unregulated therapies based in microbiome research - such as probiotics and DIY fecal transplants - could pose health threats to the public. One example: Remember those Jamie Lee Curtis commercials, where she blithely talked about how Activia yogurt kept her "regular"? The Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation and Dannon ponied up $21 million in a settlement for false statements.

Meanwhile, the American Gut Project, housed at the University of Colorado-Boulder, has raised more than $612,000 from people wanting to learn more about their own microbiomes. A $99 contribution gets you a sample kit, which you send back for sequencing in their lab. Your results are used in an open-data research project and you get the chance to see how your microbiome compares to other participants'. (Michael Pollan wrote about his experience participating in the project in the .) Another project called uBiome offers a similar service. While the genome sequencing company 23andMe came under fire from the US Food and Drug administration for offering customers insights into their personal health risks, neither the Human Gut Project nor uBiome have received such a warning - likely because it doesn't make the same diagnostic claims.

Given the concerns of Proctor and Eisen, that might be a smart approach. "You haven't seen any specific therapy or product yet, and in that regard it is still some years away," Proctor says. "There is a certain pace at which things can happen and it is such a brand new area that there is a lot yet to be understood."

Riots against police brutality break out across France

Protesters stand off against police in southern France

Another anti-police brutality protest turned violent in the French city of Rennes, with masked youths and police engaging in running street battles. The unrest follows the death of a young environmental activist earlier this week.

Overnight Thursday, protesters in the northwestern city lobbed flairs at police and flipped over cars, some of which they set ablaze. Police responded by firing tear gas. The number of arrests or injures, if any, remains unclear.

A similar protest in Paris on Wednesday also descended into violence. Around 250 people gathered outside City Hall in Paris, with some throwing rocks at police and writing "Remi is dead, the state kills" on walls, The Local's French edition reports. At least 33 people were taken into police custody following the unrest.

[embedded content]

The protests are in response to the death of 21-year-old activist Remi Fraisse. He was killed early on Sunday by an explosion, which occurred during violent clashes with police at the site of a contested-dam project in southwestern France.

His death, the first in a mainland protest in France since 1986, has been blamed on a concussion grenade fired by police. France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who came under serious pressure to resign following the incident, announced an immediate suspension of such grenades, which are intended to stun rather than kill.

[embedded content]

On Monday, outrage at Fraisse's death sparked protests in several French cities. Violence erupted in Albi, the town close to the dam, as well as in Nantes and Rennes.

Fraisse was one of 2,000 activists present in the southwestern Tarn region to protest the €8.4m ($10.7) million Sivens dam project.

Activists said the project would harm the environment, but officials say it is needed to irrigate farm land and boost the local economy.

On Friday, however, local authorities suspended work on the project, saying it would be impossible to continue in light of current events. The executive council, however, which is tasked with overseeing the project, has not ruled to abandon it all together.

The incident has put additional pressure on the already unpopular government of Francois Hollande, who has vowed that a thorough investigation will be conducted into the circumstances surrounding Fraisse's death.

Sense of disgust is '95 percent accurate' predictor of whether you're liberal or conservative

© Shutterstock.com

Woman disgusted by something

Scientists say they can predict "with 95 percent accuracy where you'll fall on the liberal-conservative spectrum by showing you just one picture" and then studying how your brain responds to the image. Furthermore, studies show that political orientation may be as inheritance-based as height.

According to , increasing evidence indicates that the sense of disgust is closely aligned with a person's political orientation. People who land on the conservative end of the spectrum have a more easily aroused sense of disgust than their liberal counterparts.

A team of scientists at Virginia Tech led by researcher Read Montague found that people who are more likely to sit on the right side of the political spectrum have a higher sensitivity to disgusting pictures like bodily waste, gore or the remains of dead animals.

These individuals also showed a greater preoccupation with ideas of bodily and spiritual purity and as a result tended to oppose things they view as unclean like same-sex marriage and abortion.

In their study - published Thursday in the Cell Press journal - Montague's team took a group of 83 volunteers and performed fMRI brain imaging scans on them as the test subjects viewed a series of images. Some were disgusting, others threatening. Some were neutral and others pleasant.

After the images of their brain activity were recorded, the volunteers answered a questionnaire about a series of social and political issues, asking them to rate themselves on a continuum from "very liberal" to "very conservative."

In a press release about the study, Montague said, "A single disgusting image was sufficient to predict each subject's political orientation. I haven't seen such clean predictive results in any other functional imaging experiments in our lab or others."

When confronted with disgusting images, the people who classified themselves as conservatives showed increased brain activity in brain regions associated with disgust - the basal ganglia and amygdala - as well as in a complex network of regions involved in emotional self-control, information processing and attention. Liberals showed increased activity in their own brains, but in a diverse array of areas.

"In fact," Montague told "the responses in the brain are so strong that we can predict with 95 per cent accuracy where you'll fall on the liberal-conservative spectrum by showing you just one picture. This was surprising as there are no other reports where people's response to just one stimulus predicts anything behaviorally interesting."

The team's findings also indicate that since the structure and function of these areas of the brain are almost entirely determined by genetics, political leanings may be something we mostly inherit from our parents, just as much as height and hair color.

"We pursued this research because previous work in a twin registry showed that political ideology - literally the degree to which someone is liberal or conservative - was highly heritable, almost as heritable as height," Montague said in a statement from Virginia Tech's Carillon Research Institute.

However, that doesn't mean a person's political outlook is determined at birth, he cautioned.

"Genetics predetermines height - but not fully," he said. "Nutrition, sleep, and starvation can all change someone's ultimate height. But tall people's children tend to be tall, and that's a kind of starting point. If we can begin to understand that some automatic reactions to political issues may be simply that - reactions - then we might take the temperature down a bit in the current boiler of political discourse."

With regards to the approach of the 2014 midterm elections next week, Montague said it's incumbent upon voters to "Think, don't just react," he said. "But no one needs neuroscience to know that's a good idea."

#Droughtshaming: residents play water cop while Big Agra gets away with sucking California dry

bike rider

Amid California's record drought, towns up and down the state are rolling out smartphone apps that enable people to snap pictures of neighbors and businesses who are violating water restriction rules and "play water cop":

The apps put more boots on the ground to spot waste and leaks that might go unnoticed, officials say. They say the high-tech citizen reporting programs are intended to encourage water conservation, and not to be used as evidence to fine offenders.

But at least one private company is taking things a step further. Creators of Vizsafe, a neighborhood watch app, have added a feature allowing users to map photos of water wasters - a practice dubbed "drought shaming" on Twitter and Instagram.

Here are a few examples:

#droughtshaming Modern Lounge 56. 6935 Melrose LA, CA 90038 sidewalks don't need to be washed! Spotted... http://t.co/taD7bH0p0H - Canadian in L.A. (@sugaspice) October 30, 2014

Another water main break in #Hollywood . And I've been flushing only every other time... Ridiculous #droughtshaming http://ift.tt/1DE5qSe - Kyle Tekiela (@TekielaCreative) October 28, 2014

The Tweets extend to YouTube, where some users like "Western Water Luv" are apparently on a mission, putting up multiple videos of people's "water waste" using their address in the video title.

In this particular video, the address in the video doesn't match the one added to the title:

[embedded content]

People in some urban areas in California now face $500 a day fines for "wasting" water outdoors, so the citizen spies are being called in.

While the majority of these videos and Tweets pit neighbor against neighbor, I have yet to see videos or Tweets against the mega corporate giants like Nestlé who are sucking millions upon millions of gallons of water off city supplies throughout California for private profits.

So what if little old lady Simpson down the street leaves on her sprinkler for an extra ten minutes in the middle of a Tuesday night?

It matters very little when you have corporate giant Nestlé sucking some off Sacramento, for just one example, only to turn around and bottle it for pennies on the dollar.

It's not population growth - or the average lawn sprinkler - driving California's water usage. It's mega corporations. Eighty percent of water usage in California can be attributed to agriculture, and for the most part, it's Big Agra, not some guy growing a small garden in his backyard.

No one points fingers at how wide scale industrial mega-farming practices throughout the state have eroded soils to the point where they can't and don't hold water properly, causing more to be used. Where's someone taking a selfie to drought shame one of California's environmental disasters otherwise known as a Confined Animal Feed Operation (CAFO)? There's only hundreds to choose from.

Fun fact. Did you know the 1.7 million dairy cows, 563,000 beef cattle, 131,000 hogs, 49.6 million broiler chickens, and 19.7 million egg-laying hens on factory farms in California produce as much untreated manure as 456 million people? (source) That's way more than the entire U.S. population, and I'm guessing that uses a whole lot of water.

While there's some truth to the idea that cities compete with farmlands for water, the absolute refusal of megafarms to implement any kind of wholistic practices that are even remotely sustainable (a hijacked word, but the one that works best here), the whole system is gamed for a -like scam - where the population is subjected to restrictions, fines, and peak pricing models that allow corporate billionaires to make even more profits off the drought while the average person is shaking in their boots about flushing their toilet more than twice a day.

Scientists say that even if the drought were to last 200 years, in theory, cities can't "run out of water," even in place like California. They can only run out of water. Farmers with senior water rights will start making bank off their sources, food prices will surely rise, desalination plants will be built (for billions) and prices will go up. Someone is set to make of money off the drought.

Can anyone say Wall Street and water derivatives?

And while things like these apps might start out with some shred of a good intention (you know, that stuff the road to Hell is paved with), it never ends well. So how far down the Orwellian water slide is this thing set to go?

Matthew Kahn, a professor of economics at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, said the mere existence of the apps could increase conservation.

"While we all fear Orwell's Big Brother," he said, "we all try harder when we are being watched, even if that is a little creepy. You may need these social apps to motivate these behavioral changes." [emphasis added] (source)

California is about to turn into a bunch of people watching and tattling on each other over dubious lawn sprinkler usage while the corporations at the top continue to rape and pillage and ultimately nothing changes except the burden on the average citizen. Same as usual, only now as an individual you won't be able to buy a garden hose from the local hardware store without getting gawked at by everyone in the checkout lane like you're a sexual predator.

And if they can turn the average person against each other (while completely ignoring our corporate overloads' misdeeds which actually do the most harm) over water, there's nothing stopping them from doing it for similar issues under the guise of "emergency conditions." Imagine the kind of snitch society we're going to be living in when this technology really gets going everywhere.

Already, some police departments are using similar "next gen" technology for their 9-1-1 calls.

It'll be the "See Something Say Something" society of Homeland Security former head Big Sis Napolitano's wet dream. Perhaps that's why she moved to California when she left DHS.

Did you ever see that episode of Twilight Zone where all the neighbors turn on each other? I believe it was called, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." It begins with a mysterious light flashing over a small neighborhood which causes the power to go out. Within the span of a night, all the residents begin freaking out and turning on each other over who is to blame for what, and one guy ends up shot dead. The whole neighborhood devolves into utter chaos. In the end, you find out it was aliens who cut the power because they knew they could set people against each other, allowing the inhabitants of Earth to conquer themselves without the aliens actually having to do all that much.

This water app reminds me so much of that episode, it is actually scary.

Texas plans to fingerprint everyone of driving age within the next 12 years

texas fingerprint

The Texas Department of Public Safety might as well be called the Texas Department of Public Invasiveness.

They've launched a plan to fingerprint every single person of driving age in the state, after which they will add the person's prints to the criminal database.

Is it just me or is that a rather Dystopian plan?

Jon Cassidy of Watchdog.org writes:

The credit for breaking the news on those two items goes to consumer affairs columnist Dave Lieber of the Dallas Morning News, whose long-running "Watchdog" column often shows up in my Google Alerts, for obvious reasons.

As an old-school columnist, Lieber tends to keep his opinions subdued, and he doesn't generally call people dishonest. But I have no problem with doing that, so I'd like to point out that the DPS spokesman he quotes at length is less than straightforward about his department's legal authority.

Last month, Lieber broke the news that DPS had started collecting full sets of fingerprints on everyone who went in to renew their license.

Friday, he followed up with a story on DPS' dubious legal authority to do so, and then posted lengthy quotations on the issue to his blog.

Lieber quotes an entire email from DPS spokesman Tom Vinger, who quotes Transportation Code Sec. 521.059 at length, including the key phrase, "The department shall establish an image verification system based on the following identifiers collected by the department: ....an applicant's thumbprints or fingerprints." (source)

According to the laws on the books, it's legal to take ONE print, but not a set of ten.

To get the full context, you'd have to go back to the original bill that was signed into law, and then look up the relevant section of law, which states that an application for a drivers' license "must include: 1) the thumbprints of the applicant or, if thumbprints cannot be taken, the index fingerprints of the applicant."

So that's why the law mentions fingerprints - it's index fingerprints, not a full set of 10 fingerprints. While the law mentions that those records can be used by law enforcement agencies investigating a crime, it doesn't say anything about making them generally available in a criminal database.

According to Lieber, a political science professor at Texas Christian University named Donald W. Jackson, who has a new organization called the North Texas Civil Rights Project, is offering legal support if anybody wants to challenge this new policy in court. (source)

I bet a lot of Texans will have one particular fingerprint they'll be happy to give - the middle one.

Hat tip to Kimo

Weekend storm to bring first snowfall to New England, Great Lakes, Appalachians

© Weather.com

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories are posted for parts of the Appalachians and snow advisories are in effect in the Great Lakes as the season's first snow targets those areas from Halloween into the weekend.

As of Friday morning up to 8 inches of snow fell in Winchester, Wisconsin and near Three Lakes, Michigan. Wind gusts up to 60 mph have also been reported in parts of Michigan.

Snow Timing

Given the expected intensity of a southward plunge of the jet stream and the magnitude and depth of cold air pulled with it, we're not simply talking about chilly rain showers, but also accumulating snow for some as well as the first flakes of the season for others.

- Friday: The cold front plunges through the Great Lakes early, then through the Ohio Valley and Appalachians. Rain will mix with, or changeover to wet snow in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin and spread to the Ohio Valley and Appalachians later in the day into the night. Bands of lake-effect rain or snow will also set up.

- Saturday: Additional snow will fall over the Appalachians and parts of the piedmont from east Tennessee and western North Carolina (possibly Upstate South Carolina) north to at least West Virginia. Some wet snow may also linger in parts of eastern Lower Michigan, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, western New York. Snow may develop later in parts of northern New England.

- Sunday: Snow, possibly heavy, in parts of northern New England and gusty winds are expected as well.

Heavy snow and high winds into Monday and early Tuesday in parts of Atlantic Canada, from New Brunswick to Labrador.

How Much Snow?

Keep in mind additional snow may fall beyond the 48-hour window shown in the map. Here are the highlights of that forecast:

- Accumulating snow likely: U.P. and northern Lower Michigan, northern Wisconsin, Appalachians from West Virginia to east Tennessee, western North Carolina, and the mountains of northern New England. A few areas of the Appalachians may pick up 6 inches of snow, or locally more. Totals over 6 inches are possible in parts of Maine (northern or eastern).

- Some chance of accumulating snow: Parts of eastern Wisconsin, southern Lower Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, eastern Kentucky, western/northern Pennsylvania, western/central New York, piedmont of North Carolina, Upstate South Carolina,

- Some possible season's first flake cities: Marquette, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Charleston (WV), Asheville, Caribou (ME)

Be prepared for hazardous winter driving conditions, particularly on bridges or overpasses, if you have plans to check out the fall foliage in the Appalachians this weekend.

Also, with low pressure intensifying off the Eastern seaboard this weekend, the combination of strong winds and wet snow accumulations may lead to some power outages and downed trees/tree limbs in parts of the Appalachians and northern New England.

Persistent strong winds off Lakes Superior and Michigan will also whip up some impressive waves along each lake's south shore. Lakeshore flood advisories have been posted, including in the lakefronts of Chicago and Marquette, Mich.

If the low-levels of the atmosphere are sufficiently cold enough, a band of wet lake-effect snow may form Friday in northwest Indiana.

Even without any snow, it will be chilly and raw, with highs in much of the Great Lakes and Northeast holding in the 40s, or even 30s in some spots.

Is This Snow Early?

In almost all locations, this will not be the earliest measurable (at least 0.1 inches) snow on record in the Great Lakes, Appalachians or northern New England. Here are some factoids about the season's first snow.

Three spooky spy tactics of Big Brother


© hanna horwarth/Flickr

It's that time of year when people don sinister masks, spray themselves with fake blood, and generally go all out for a good fright. But here at EFF, we think there are plenty of real-world ghouls to last all year-round. Fortunately, we won't let them hide under your bed. Sometimes our work sounds like science fiction, but the surveillance techniques and technology we fight are all too real. Here are some of the beasts hiding in your backyard that we've been fighting to expose:

Automated License Plate Readers

Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) are cameras that can either be mounted on squad cars or stationary. They read license plates and record the time, date, and location a particular car was encountered. And they're paving the way for wholesale tracking of every driver's movements. ALPRs can scan up to 1,800 license plates per minute, and can collect data on vast numbers of vehicles. In Los Angeles, for example, the Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff's Department collect data on per week.

Much like metadata about phone calls, the information obtained from ALPRs reveals sensitive personal information. In fact, the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a report in 2009 recognizing that "recording driving habits" could raise First Amendment concerns, because cameras could record "vehicles parked at addiction-counseling meetings, doctors' offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests."

Because of this potential for serious invasions of privacy, EFF and ACLU teamed up to ask the city and county of Los Angeles for a week's worth of ALPR data. The lower court sided with the government after it denied our request, but we're appealing the ruling.

Fusion Centers

Fusion centers are information clearinghouses that enable unprecedented levels of bi-directional information sharing between state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies and federal agencies like the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Bi-directional means that local law enforcement can share information with these agencies while also accessing federal information, through portals like the FBI's eGuardian database.

Fusion centers are a serious threat to privacy. They magnify the impact of excessive spying by making sure that it gets shared through a vast network of agencies, with almost no oversight.

And oversight is clearly needed. Fusion centers coordinate the National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI), an effort to implement suspicious activity reporting (SAR) nationwide. SAR are intelligence reports that, according to the government, document "behavior reasonably indicative of pre-operational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity." And while they do lead to law enforcement contact with innocent people, they do not meet legally cognizable standards for search or seizure under the Fourth amendment. Instead, they lead to racial and religious profiling and political repression. Public records act requests have shown that people of color often end up being the target of SARs.

And that's not the only way fusion centers threaten privacy and civil liberties. Public records requests have also shown that fusion centers are used to record and share information about First Amendment protected activities in a way that aids repressive police activity and chills freedom of association .

That's why when the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) announced that it was considering looking at the standards for SAR we submitted a comment. We urged PCLOB to review not only SAR standards, but to conduct a thorough assessment of fusion centers in general. We believe that such a review will show what every other review by the government has shown: that fusion centers produce "predominantly useless information," "a bunch of crap," while "running afoul of departmental guidelines meant to guard against civil liberties" and are "possibly in violation of the Privacy Act."


Last but not least, we're keeping an eye on the spreading use of Stingrays.1 These are devices that are used by law enforcement to electronically search for a particular cell phone's signal by capturing the International Mobile Subscriber Identity of potentially thousands of people in a particular area. Small enough to fit in a van, they masquerade as a cell phone tower, and trick your phone into connecting with them every 7-15 seconds. As a result, the government can surreptitiously figure out who, when and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations.

Part of what's so concerning about Stingrays is that we know very little about how they are being used. In the first case to consider the constitutional implications of stingrays, (in which we filed an amicus brief along with the ACLU) the court denied a motion to throw out evidence obtained using a Stingray. In our brief, we pointed out that the application for a warrant neither made it clear that law enforcement would be using a Stingray nor explained how the device worked. It's that lack of explanation that we find so concerning.

But what we do know about Stingrays is chilling. They capture data from anybody who happens to be in an area where one is being used, regardless of whether they are suspected of a crime. And some models can even capture contents of communications.

The constitutionality of Stingrays is almost certain to be challenged again, especially after the Supreme Court's decision requiring a warrant to search arrestee's cellphones in Riley v. California. We'll continue to keep an eye out for any cases addressing this technology. In the meantime, we're doing public records act requests to police departments to learn more about who is using these devices, and how.

We think this technology is scarier than any costume you'll see on the streets this week. But don't worry - we're here to turn the lights on.

Tropical Storm Vance threatens Mexico's Pacific coast, could strengthen to hurricane by Sunday

tropical storm vance

Tropical Storm Vance continues to churn over the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean after developing on Thursday afternoon.

The AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center is keeping a close eye on the system, located several hundred miles south-southeast of Acapulco.

Further strengthening will occur through this weekend as the tropical cyclone remains over the warm waters of the eastern Pacific and in an environment that lacks disruptive wind shear, which can shred apart tropical systems as evident with Tropical Cyclone Nilofar.

The system is likely to strengthen into a hurricane by Sunday.

Through this weekend, Vance will pose hazards only to shipping interests as it stays well south of mainland Mexico.

That will change next week as a turn to the north, then northeast is expected. The Mexican states of southern Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Jalisco are being put on alert for a potential landfalling Vance around Tuesday of next week.

Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta lie within this zone.

While Vance will likely be past its peak intensity when it comes onshore, it should still bring a danger of flooding rain, mudslides, damaging winds and pounding surf.

Residents and visitors to Manzanillo should also keep a close eye on this developing system. A sharper turn to the northeast could put the city and its state of Colima in its path.

However, even if Vance remains to the north, Manzanillo would still face rough surf and potential downpours.

The impacts from Vance may not stop when it reaches the coast. Its heavy rain may get drawn across northern Mexico and into the U.S. states of Texas and New Mexico.

All residents and visitors in western Mexico should continue to check back with AccuWeather.com as Vance takes shape and more precise details on its impacts unfold.

Watch the video here.

US: Cold temperatures rush into East, shock parts of South

The coldest air since April will blast into the Eastern states and will shock parts of the South this weekend.

In many areas, the cold air will be pushed along and enhanced by gusty winds.

The winds will be generated by a winterlike storm swinging off the mid-Atlantic coast and possibly taking a curved path back toward New England.

Gusts ranging between 35 and 50 mph will sweep from the southern Appalachians to the Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida coasts, initially. Next, the swath of strong winds will roll across the mid-Atlantic and New England later this weekend.

The combination of plunging temperatures, winds and other conditions will produce shockingly low AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures. Levels will dip into the teens over the Appalachians and New England to the 20s over the interior South and along the mid-Atlantic coasts and to the lower 30s in part of Florida.

College football fans heading to afternoon and evening games from the South to the Midwest and Northeast will want to dress warmly and wear layered clothing.

A hard freeze will visit areas from the Ohio Valley to the Appalachians this weekend. Freezing temperatures will touch areas from northern Texas to parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas and Virginia.

Although far from a freeze, record low temperatures will be challenged in South Florida and the Keys Sunday morning.

The worst of the wind and cold will ease in the South and parts of the Midwest by Sunday afternoon for NFL games. However, winds will continue howling in much of the Northeast.

Runners and spectators partaking in the New York Marathon on Sunday should be prepared for RealFeel Temperatures in the 20s at times and strong, gusty winds being funneled through buildings and across bridges.

Parts of New England on Sunday will not only have wind and cold to contend with, but also the potential for heavy snow.

What happens when you take a psycho's advice - 'Europe to pay for the whole mess in Ukraine'

russia, EU ukraine gas agreement

© Agence France-Presse

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak (L), Ukraine's Energy and Coal Industry Minister Yuri Prodan (R), European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso (C) address a press conference as EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger (2nd L) and European Commission vice-president Miros Sefkovic look on, after an agreement was signed between Ukraine, Russia and the EU at the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels on October 30, 2014.


Michael Hudson: It's apparently most important for Europe because it was Europe that gave in on the deal. The problem was never about the price of the Russian gas. The problem was whether Ukraine was doing to keep up trying just to run up a larger and larger gas bill every month and every year and finally default. In the US Treasury, strategists have already discussed in public how Ukraine can simply avoid paying Russia the money that it owed by going to court and stalling it. So Russia understandably said, "We need credit in advance." Mr. Oettinger of the European Commission said "Wait a minute, Russia, why don't you just lend them the money. They will repay you." And Mr. Putin at the Valdai Club speech in Sochi last week made it very clear. Look, [Russia] has already lent them 11 billion dollars, much more than anyone else has lent to Ukraine. Ukraine is bankrupt, it's torn itself apart. Why didn't perhaps a European Bank underwrite the loan? Finally, Mr. Oettinger gave in. Europe said "OK, the IMF is going to lend Ukraine the money to pay Russia for the gas for the balance of the year." So that Ukraine would end up owing the IMF money and the European Commission money, not Russia. So Russia will not be exposed to having to lend any more money to a dead-beat economy.


MH: Ukraine has passed. Ukraine said "We are broken, we don't have any money, we have spent all our money on war. Our export industry is collapsing. If we need gas, we'll simply steal the gas that Russia is sending to Europe. We are not going to starve - we'll just take your gas." And Putin said, "Well, if they try to steal gas like they did a few years ago, we'll just turn off the gas and Europe won't get gas". So Europe realized that it wouldn't get the gas if it didn't step behind Ukraine and all of a sudden Europe is having to pay for Ukraine's war against Russia. Europe is having to pay for the whole mess in Ukraine so that it can get gas, and this is not how they expected it to turn out.


MH: Europe is very uncomfortable with being pressured by the US that essentially said "Let's you and Russia fight." Europe is already suffering. Germany has always been turning towards Russia, all the way. 50 years ago, I remember Konrad Adenauer in Germany always spoke very pro-Western and pro-American, but always turned economically towards Russia. So of course Europe, and Germany especially, has wanted to maintain its ties with Russia. The problem is the US [wants] to start a new Cold War. It created a lot of resentment in Europe, and Europe is finally capitulating. This means that the US pressure to set Europe against Russia has failed.


MH: No, Europe is still being pressured, the sanctions are pressured by NATO, and NATO is pressing for a military confrontation with Russia. The sanctions are going to continue unless Russia gives back Crimea, which of course it won't. The sanctions are hurting Europe, they are turning out to be a great benefit for Russia because finally Russia is realizing: "We can't depend on other countries to supply our basic imports, we have to rebuild our industry." And the sanctions are enabling Russia to give subsidies to its industry and agriculture that it couldn't otherwise do. So Russia loves the sanctions, Europe is suffering and the Americans are finding that the Europeans are suddenly more angry at it than they are at Russia.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo destroyed after 'in-flight anomaly'

virgin galactic spaceshiptwo

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo fired its engine for the first time over the Mojave Desert in California

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has been destroyed after "an in-flight anomaly" during a rocket powered test flight over the Mojave Desert, Calif. Friday morning.

"#SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly. Additional info and statement forthcoming," the official Virgin Galactic feed tweeted at 10:13 a.m. PDT (1:13 p.m. EDT). This announcement came 6 minutes after the space tourism company announced the sub-orbital spacecraft's engines had ignited.

The anomaly appears to have occurred after the spacecraft, which is designed to carry 6 passengers and two pilots on a trip to the edge of space, was released from its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, and under powered flight.

Under a normal flight profile, SpaceShipTwo, which is being developed by Scaled Composites, would be carried to an altitude of approximately 45,000 feet before being released. The rocket engines of SpaceShipTwo should then ignite and, during commercial flights with fee-paying tourists, the spaceship is designed to fly to around 62 miles in altitude.

Unfortunately during today's test flight, the first powered flight since January's supersonic test, an anomaly during the rocket-powered phase of flight destroyed the vehicle, scattering debris over the Mojave Desert.

Virgin Galactic has issued a statement regarding the incident (via Twitter):

"Virgin Galactic's partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of #SpaceShipTwo earlier today. During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo. WhiteKnightTwo landed safely. Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time. We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP."

The Associated Press has reported that the California Highway Patrol, who are currently on the scene with rescue crews, have announced there has been one confirmed fatality and one major injury after SpaceShipTwo accident.

Virgin Galactic has signed up 800 people for the first series of flights. Tickets cost around $250,000 per seat.

Travesty of US 'healthcare' system where 225,000 people die yearly from prescription drugs

drugs USA

From time to time, I reprint my interview with Dr. Barbara Starfield. Each time I try to write a new introduction.

In this case, I'll highlight the arbitrary nature of scare-propaganda. And by arbitrary, I mean "has a covert agenda."

For instance, suppose you learned that a single source in the US, every year, like clockwork, kills 225,000 people. That would be 2.25 million killings per decade.

Wouldn't you think we'd hear about it? Wouldn't public health agencies make a big deal about it? Wouldn't they call it an epidemic?

After all, we supposedly have a handful of "Ebola cases" in the US, and the media are hyping this "fact" to the skies.

Suppose they had far, far bigger numbers to work with? Suppose they had 225,000 deaths, not just once, but every year, as the raw material for their stories?

Suppose they could say, "We now have 225,000 deaths in the US as a result of Ebola, and the authorities are quite sure that next year, and the year after that, and every year we're going to have 225,000 more."

Can you imagine the reaction at every level of society? The insane panic? The madness in the streets? The attacks against institutions tasked with preventing such a cataclysm? The collapse of the stock market and the healthcare system? The predictions of the end of the world? The churches on roaring business highs?

On July 26, 2000, the published Dr. Barbara Starfield's review,

The Starfield paper can be downloaded freely (as a .pdf) from here (via drug-education.info). The paper is fully cited as Starfield B. Is US health really the best in the world?. JAMA. 2000; 284(4):483-4.

In it, Starfield, who was a respected public health expert working at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, stated that:

* The US medical system kills 225,000 Americans a year.

* 106,000 deaths per year from FDA-approved medical drugs.

* 119,000 deaths per year from error-ridden treatment in hospitals.

I'm aware that independent research puts those death figures much higher, but I focus on Dr. Starfield's work because no mainstream reporter or government official could challenge her credentials or the credentials of the journal that published her findings.

And yes, there were stories in the press at the time, in 2000. But the coverage wasn't aggressive, and it faded out quickly.

And none of the mainstream coverage did the obvious extrapolations. For example, we are talking about 2.25 MILLION deaths per decade. And over a MILLION deaths per decade from medicines the FDA has approved as safe and effective.

The US government is aware. You can search for an FDA page titled, "Why Learn About Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs)?"

It states: "Over 2 MILLION serious ADRs yearly." And "100,000 DEATHS yearly." (The capital letters are the FDA's, not mine.)

The FDA, of course, is the single federal agency responsible for certifying all medical drugs safe and effective before they are released for public use. They readily admit the human death-and- maiming devastation...but take no responsibility for it.

On December 6-7, 2009, I interviewed Dr. Starfield by email. Here are excerpts from that interview.

JR: What has been the level and tenor of the response to your findings, since 2000?

BS: The American public appears to have been hoodwinked into believing that more interventions lead to better health, and most people that I meet are completely unaware that the US does not have the 'best health in the world'.

JR: In the medical research community, have your medically-caused mortality statistics been debated, or have these figures been accepted, albeit with some degree of shame?

BS: The findings have been accepted by those who study them. There has been only one detractor, a former medical school dean, who has received a lot of attention for claiming that the US health system is the best there is and we need more of it. He has a vested interest in medical schools and teaching hospitals (they are his constituency).

JR: Have health agencies of the federal government consulted with you on ways to mitigate the [devastating] effects of the US medical system?


JR: Since the FDA approves every medical drug given to the American people, and certifies it as safe and effective, how can that agency remain calm about the fact that these medicines are causing 106,000 deaths per year?

BS: Even though there will always be adverse events that cannot be anticipated, the fact is that more and more unsafe drugs are being approved for use. Many people attribute that to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is (for the past ten years or so) required to pay the FDA for reviews [of its new drugs] - which puts the FDA into an untenable position of working for the industry it is regulating. There is a large literature on this.

JR: Aren't your 2000 findings a severe indictment of the FDA and its standard practices?

BS: They are an indictment of the US health care industry: insurance companies, specialty and disease-oriented medical academia, the pharmaceutical and device manufacturing industries, all of which contribute heavily to re-election campaigns of members of Congress. The problem is that we do not have a government that is free of influence of vested interests. Alas, [it] is a general problem of our society - which clearly unbalances democracy.

JR: Can you offer an opinion about how the FDA can be so mortally wrong about so many drugs?

BS: Yes, it cannot divest itself from vested interests. (Again, [there is] a large literature about this, mostly unrecognized by the people because the industry-supported media give it no attention.)

JR: Would it be correct to say that, when your JAMA study was published in 2000, it caused a momentary stir and was thereafter ignored by the medical community and by pharmaceutical companies?

BS: Are you sure it was a momentary stir? I still get at least one email a day asking for a reprint - ten years later! The problem is that its message is obscured by those that do not want any change in the US health care system.

JR: Are you aware of any systematic efforts, since your 2000 JAMA study was published, to remedy the main categories of medically caused deaths in the US?

BS: No systematic efforts; however, there have been a lot of studies. Most of them indicate higher rates [of death] than I calculated.

JR: Did your 2000 JAMA study sail through peer review, or was there some opposition to publishing it?

BS: It was rejected by the first journal that I sent it to, on the grounds that 'it would not be interesting to readers'!

JR: Do the 106,000 deaths from medical drugs only involve drugs prescribed to patients in hospitals, or does this statistic also cover people prescribed drugs who are not in-patients in hospitals?

BS: I tried to include everything in my estimates. Since the commentary was written, many more dangerous drugs have been added to the marketplace.

Comment: Hyping death is an industry. It cuts two ways. The people who do the scare-propaganda also delete the uncomfortable truths.

As always, they are fronting for an agenda.

They are inventing reality for the public.

Reality-invention is the biggest business in the world.

Woman killed by wild boar in rare attack, Vietnam

© Getty

A woman died after being trampled and bitten by a wild boar in a mountainous area of central Vietnam, a local official said Thursday.

The 39-year-old woman was working in a rice field in Pho Hoa commune in Quang Ngai province when the animal attacked her, said Nguyen Van Nho, chairman of the commune's People's Committee.

The woman died several hours later.

The boar was being pursued by hunters when it attacked the woman, and the animal was later shot, Nho said, adding that it was the first such incident reported in the commune.

"If it was not being chased, the animal would not have attacked her," he said.

Boars used to be a common sight in the area, but they have become much scarcer in recent years because of hunting.