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Monday, 27 October 2014

Unconscious mind influences accuracy of decisions

Unconscious information

© alphaspirit/iStockphoto

The idea that unconscious information can influence our decisions has been an intriguing but controversial idea in psychology.

Information processed unconsciously can influence the accuracy of our decisions without us knowing it, new research has found.

"People tend to think the decisions they make are based on deliberation but there are elements in every type of decision we make that are unconscious -- a lot more than people think," says PhD candidate Alexandra Vlassova, of the University of New South Wales.

"Unconscious information could make your decisions better but it could also make them worse."

The idea that unconscious information can influence our decisions has been an intriguing but controversial idea in psychology, says Vlassova.

In a paper published today in the , she and colleagues report on a study designed to overcome the limitations of previous research into this question.

Participants were given the task of deciding whether a group of grey dots were moving left or right across a computer screen.

"The longer you look at the dots, the more evidence you get and at a certain point you have enough evidence to make your decision," says Vlassova.

"That's quite similar to how we make any type of decision. We accumulate information over time until we have enough to make a decision."

Probing the unconscious

To study how unconscious exposure to the 'decision dots' contributed to accuracy, the researchers presented different images to each of the participants' eyes at the same time.

One eye was shown the grey decision dots and the other eye was shown bright, apparently random-moving coloured dots.

Under these conditions, the coloured dots dominated the participants' conscious mind, while their unconscious mind took in and processed information on the grey decision dots.

"Even though they were not aware that the grey dots are on the screen, they were still able to extract some information from them," says Vlassova.

They then removed the coloured dots and allowed the conscious mind to focus on the grey decision dots which were either randomly moving, moving to the left or moving to the right.

The researchers found that the participants' accuracy was improved by unconscious exposure to the decision dots, but only if the dots were moving in the same direction as those focused on by the conscious mind.

Importantly, the researchers found that they could explain the unconscious decision-making using current mathematical models for conscious decision-making.

Just as accumulated conscious information helps improve decision accuracy, so does accumulated unconscious information -- although less effectively, say the researchers.

"It is not as strong as conscious processing," says Vlassova. "The quality of information being gathered unconsciously is reduced. If it was all conscious information they would be even more accurate"

Also, the researchers found the participants' confidence in their decision was the same regardless of whether they had unconscious information to help them decide.

"They were not aware that they were processing information unconsciously and that it was affecting their decisions," says Vlassova.

By contrast, she says, previous research has shown conscious information we gather prior to deciding increases confidence in our decisions.

Broader implications

Vlassova says if this type of unconscious influence works the same way with far more complex everyday decisions, it could have broad implications.

"For example, when you are driving, a lot of the decisions you make are based on unconscious processing of information," she says.

While the 'power of the unconscious' has often been invoked, Vlassova says there is little evidence to support the idea that subliminal advertising makes people buy products, or that listening to recordings in your sleep can help you learn languages.

"I haven't seen any convincing evidence to support that," she says. "There are definite limits to what we can do with unconscious learning but I think it's a very interesting area."

"This is just the first step and as we understand more we can get a better idea about possible practical implications."

Evil clowns harass French civilians

© AFP Photo/Frederick Florin

People dressed as zombie clowns take part in the Zombie Walk on September 13, 2014 in the eastern French city of Strasbourg

A wave of panic sparked by evil clowns stalking French towns has spread to the south of France where police on Saturday night arrested 14 teenagers dressed as the pranksters, carrying pistols, knives and baseball bats. A police source said Sunday the group of teens were arrested in the parking lot of a high school in the Mediterranean port town of Agde, as several other complaints poured in about "armed clowns" in the region over the weekend.

In the nearby city of Montpellier a man disguised as a clown was arrested after beating up a pedestrian with an iron bar, while three motorists in different towns complained about "scary clowns" threatening them. The phenomenon of dressing up as an evil clown and terrifying passers-by -- a trend which has also been seen in the United States and Britain -- cropped up in the north of France in early October.

In the northern French town of Bethune, a 19-year-old received a six-month suspended jail term Monday for threatening passers-by while dressed as a clown. These "clowns" have been "mostly spotted outside schools, but also on public roads, in bushes, in a square. Their targets are often young children or teenagers, but also adults," a police source in northern France told AFP.

Theories abound as to the origin of the trend in a country where the American fear-fest Halloween has yet to take hold. The suggestions include a challenge launched on social networks, a video published on YouTube showing a terrifying clown pranking people -- which has had some 31 million views -- or even a recent episode of the popular TV series American Horror Story featuring Twisty the killer clown.

Anti-clown vigilantism

After a rumour a clown was stalking the eastern French town of Mulhouse, five teenagers on Wednesday armed themselves with a baseball bat, a teargas canister, a hammer and a truncheon to mete out vigilante justice to the not-so-funny pranksters. They were arrested and later released, but the incident prompted the national police to step in to quell the hysteria.

"Since mid-October, a rumour inspired by videos published on the Internet, is worrying the population about the presence of threatening and aggressive clowns in France," the national police said in a statement this week.

It cautioned that "despite numerous reports made to police, there have been only a few sightings of people dressed as clowns having fun scaring passers-by."

"Symptomatic of the impact of the Internet, this phenomenon can lead to damaging individual acts and disturbances to public order," it said.

Whether brandishing a rubber chicken at a children's party or starring as the evil protagonist in a horror film, clowns have long had the ability to both entertain and terrify. Infamous creepy clowns include notorious American serial killer and rapist John Wayne Gacy -- who would dress up as Pogo the clown -- to the fictitious Pennywise in Stephen King's movie "It".

The fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia.

Watch your email attachments: Microsoft office bug lets hackers take over computers


© AFP Photo/Sam Yeh

A dangerous new security vulnerability has been discovered in Microsoft's Office software, threatening to hijack users of virtually every existing version of Windows.

The bug in question affects programs like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel - and could allow an intruder to gain access to and control over a user's entire computer.

Already, Microsoft has discovered that hackers are using the bug to hack computers through PowerPoint. Windows users should be wary of opening PowerPoint files sent via email unless they completely trust the original source, the company wrote in an online security advisory. Even in cases involving trusted sources, it has advised to not open the files received unexpectedly.

"Microsoft is aware of a vulnerability affecting all supported releases of Microsoft Windows, excluding Windows Server 2003," their online statement reads. "The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted Microsoft Office file that contains an OLE object. An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user."

While PowerPoint is the only known program affected so far, it is still possible that Word and Excel documents are vulnerable.

As for what this bug could enable hackers to do, the answer is pretty much everything:

"If the current user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system," Microsoft wrote. "An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights."

The Redmond-based giant added that it is currently looking into the situation. Until that investigation is over, it is offering a temporary patch which can be downloaded off its advisory page.

"Currently, Microsoft has not indicated whether a patch to solve this issue will be sent outside of the regular Patch Tuesday cycle," Jonathan Leopando from security firm TrendMicro told the .

"Until more definitive information becomes available, we advise users to be careful about opening Office documents that they have been sent, particularly if they come from parties that have not sent you documents beforehand."

It is important to note that while Microsoft says nearly all "supported releases" of Windows are vulnerable - Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, and Windows RT - chances are that the popular Windows XP is also at risk. Microsoft stopped supporting that operating system earlier this year, meaning a new security patch will not fix this bug for XP users.

Back in April, another security flaw left Internet Explorer - which makes up roughly 56 percent of all browsers around the world - ripe for a cyber-intrusion. Similarly, successful hackers were said to be able to install programs, change or delete data, or create new accounts in a user's name with all the applicable rights.

MH17 might have been shot down from air - chief Dutch investigator

MH17 wreckage

© Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

George and Angela Dyczynski sit on a piece of wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, during their visit to the crash site near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), in Donetsk region July 26, 2014.

The chief Dutch prosecutor investigating the MH17 downing in eastern Ukraine does not exclude the possibility that the aircraft might have been shot down from air, Der Spiegel reported. Intelligence to support this was presented by Moscow in July.

The chief investigator with the Dutch National Prosecutors' Office Fred Westerbeke said in an interview with the German magazine published on Monday that his team is open to the theory that another plane shot down the Malaysian airliner.

Following the downing of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight in July that killed almost 300 people, Russia's Defense Ministry released military monitoring data, which showed a Kiev military jet tracking the MH17 plane shortly before the crash. No explanation was given by Kiev as to why the military plane was flying so close to a passenger aircraft. Neither Ukraine, nor Western states have officially accepted such a possibility.

Westerbeke said that the Dutch investigators are preparing an official request for Moscow's assistance since Russia is not part of the international investigation team. Westerbeke added that the investigators will specifically ask for the radar data suggesting that a Kiev military jet was flying near the passenger plane right before the catastrophe.

"Going by the intelligence available, it is my opinion that a shooting down by a surface to air missile remains the most likely scenario. But we are not closing our eyes to the possibility that things might have happened differently," he elaborated.

MH17 wreckage2

© AFP Photo

A picture taken on October 15, 2014 shows the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the village of Rassipnoe. The flight MH17 was shoot down on July 17, 2014 with 298 people on board.

The international probe led by the Dutch - as nearly two-thirds of the victims were from the Netherlands - has not yet established how the crash happened. A preliminary report issued in September said only that the plane crashed as a result of structural damage from outside.

Meanwhile, a report issued by the Dutch Safety Board on air crashes, listed several passenger jets in flight MH17's vicinity, but no military aircraft nearby.

In regard to this report Westerbeke said that the statement was based on information that was available at the time suggesting Russia could have more information on the issue.

Though the West has accused Eastern Ukrainian militia forces of shooting down the plane, it has provided only circumstantial evidence in support of such claims. Moscow has urged the US to release satellite images that prove its claims.

"This may be a coincidence, but the US satellite flew over Ukraine at exactly the same time when the Malaysian airliner crashed," a Russian Defense ministry spokesman said in a July statement.

MH17 wreckage3

© AFP Photo

Nadezhda, a 76 year-old woman, walks on October 15, 2014 among the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the village of Rassipnoe.

In his interview to the German media, Westerbeke also called on the US to release proof that supports its claims.

"We remain in contact with the United States in order to receive satellite photos," he said.

German's foreign intelligence agency reportedly also believes that local militia shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, according to . The media report claimed the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) president Gerhard Schindler provided "ample evidence to back up his case, including satellite images and diverse photo evidence," to the Bundestag in early October.

However, the Dutch prosecutor stated that he is "not aware of the specific images in question".

"The problem is that there are many different satellite images. Some can be found on the Internet, whereas others originate from foreign intelligence services."

The Kiev government and Eastern Ukraine rebels have accused each other of shooting down the plane. Kiev released what it calls an intercepted conversation between rebel fighters in which they admit to downing a plane.

MH17 wreckage4

© AFP Photo

A picture taken on October 15, 2014 shows candles and plush toys at the site of the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the village of Rassipnoe.

The Dutch prosecutor stated that "we will need evidence and more than a recorded phone call from the Internet or photos from the crash site. That's why we are considering several scenarios and not just one."

The Dutch investigators have come under criticism especially from the relatives of the victims, who blame the probe for slow progress.

Westerbeke elaborated that it will take a long time to establish what really happened adding "we certainly need the whole of next year for work".

"It's not easy, but we can do it."

Westerbeke concluded that in the Netherlands 10 prosecutors are investigating the incident, as well as forensic experts and 80 policemen. While the Dutch also regularly hold meetings with colleagues from Malaysia, Australia and Ukraine.

'Fluids, rest and prayer' are the only things a hospital can offer an Ebola patient, says ER doc


A severely botched Ebola case (which resulted in at least two more cases) has turned a Dallas, Texas hospital into a virtual ghost town, with its ER visits dropping 50% and revenue dropping 25% since it happened. When I called the place, the woman in the ER who answered the phone refused to even tell me what the wait time would be if I showed up in the ER (per what she said was hospital "policy"); must be a new policy, because when ABC News asked a few days before me, they got an answer of "zero wait time" in a hospital where it used to be an hour.

People are realizing that going to the hospital in the case of Patient Zero Thomas Eric Duncan did make his situation any better and by the second time, only prolonged the inevitable while putting other people in harm's way.

Why? Because, per the nurses' own statement on the shocking events that went on in that hospital during Duncan's care, the facility was not even remotely prepared.

In a recent article, emergency physician Dr. Louis M. Profeta, author of the book The Patient in Room Nine Says He's God, has detailed a much bigger fear he has than Ebola itself.

Dr. Profeta says that in preparing for any large-scale emergency, the biggest question is always "Will the staff show up?"

That, Dr. Profeta says, he doesn't know.

He goes on to detail how studies have shown it is housekeepers - the people with the lowest pay who clean the rooms between patients - that hold up patient movement throughout a hospital:

If the rooms on the floor were not cleaned fast enough, then no patients could move from the ER to the floor, and no patients from the waiting room to the ER. ER wait times rose and patient care suffered. Housekeepers handcuffed the entire system, and not because they were lazy. The regulations, protocols and procedures put into place to clean a room are so extensive that rapid room turnover was next to impossible with the current staffing model. That stuck with me. What is the rate-limiting step in a mass casualty scenario or massive patient influx that would handcuff us? Where will all the preparedness collapse? What is the leaking O-ring? What am I afraid will fail?

That protocol and procedure to clean a room has been enhanced in the case of Ebola, and therefore takes even longer to complete.

As reported today, nurses are already calling out sick and thus, refusing to treat Dr. Craig Spencer, America's newest highly publicized Ebola patient who was admitted to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday.

So if nurses are already calling in sick on this single Ebola patient at Bellevue, why would the cleaning staff - again, traditionally paid the lowest wages at a hospital - risk their lives to show up?

Furthermore, should Ebola breakout at a handful of hospitals or in a handful of cities, forcing multiple hospitals to take on multiple Ebola patients at once, imagine this same scenario of people calling out multiplied across the country.

When Dr. Profeta gave congressional testimony regarding hospital ability to handle mass casualty events, he told them his biggest worry was "the flu."

," he wrote. Dr. Profeta continued:

...the trauma from a major incident like an earthquake or terrorist attack is very predictable. All you really need to know is the type of event and the numbers and you almost immediately have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

But a real bad flu? There is no way you can prepare for it. The goal should be to protect your hospital from it.

There ya go. There is no way for a hospital to effectively prepare for Ebola or any real bad flu out of the mouth of an experienced ER doctor who has testified before Congress on hospital preparedness in the face of a potential mass casualty event.

Dr. Profeta lays out what an outbreak scenario would look like at your average American hospital:

Thus my biggest fear has always been a strain of flu that is highly contagious with a high mortality rate. The Spanish-flu mortality rate of 1918 was 2 to 5 percent. Ebola has a 20 to 90 percent mortality rate, but it fortunately is not quite as contagious as Influenza. However, I still keep going back to flu and envisioning an epidemic of the Spanish type that will quickly fill all our inpatient beds, every ICU bed, every ventilator, every outpatient bed, every cot, gurney and chair in the ER and in all the waiting rooms. I'm afraid that a flu virus this aggressive will bring five dying flu victims to our ER each day and dozens more with a real possibility of dying.

This would occur on top of a department that is always operating at capacity and drowning in documentation and electronic medical record bureaucracy. After 30 days in our ER, nearly 150 people will have died, providers will be physically and mentally spent and morale will be at below-despair levels. Multiply it by 20 or so other hospitals in the area and now we are talking about 3,000 members of our community dead in only a single month. The obituary pages of the local paper will be thicker than the advertising section the day after Thanksgiving. Expand that number statewide and nationwide and the numbers become so immense they aren't even real.

Now imagine a realistic scenario in which the flu vaccine only provides immunity to 50 percent of the recipients. That means that half of our ER staff who are seeing all these patients will have little protection, outside of gowns, masks, and gloves, against a virus that is spread primarily though coughing, sneezing and saliva. Simply put, some of us in the trenches in damn near every ER in America will almost certainly die. It could be me, it could be any one of my partners, colleagues and co-workers and it could be one of our children or a spouse who gets infected when one of us comes home thinking the headache and fatigue they are feeling is simply exhaustion from the workload of the day. Can you picture it?

And this is where people stop coming to work:

Now imagine that huge numbers of hospital staff - from doctors to housekeepers, from food services to registration, from security and parking to transportation will decide not show up. They will call in sick or simply just say: "No, I'm not coming to work today." In just a few days, human waste, debris, soiled linens, the sick, the dying and the bodies will pile up. We will be overwhelmed and unable to offer much in the way of assistance because the labor-intensive protocols that allow us to safely care for even one patient are just too exhausting. These procedures are barely repeatable more than once or twice of day, and fraught with so many steps and potential for mistake that it becomes too physically and emotionally taxing for the staff to do ... so they simply wont show up.

If the protocols are that labor intensive for just patient, something barely replicable twice a day, what about five patients? Or ten? More?

And the doc says by then he's not sure he'll show up either. Why? Because Dr. Profeta is only human. He has a wife and kids to think about, family just like anyone else. But what's more, he goes on to point out the glaringly obvious:

I also am keenly aware that not a damn thing I do will have any real impact on the survivability of a patient with either the Spanish flu or Ebola. Fluids, rest and prayer is about all there is to offer. There is an old adage that says a hospital is no place for a sick person. I think whoever first said that had Spanish flu and Ebola in mind. [emphasis added]

That's it. "Fluids, rest and prayer." A person is either going to survive or not, regardless of what a hospital can do and that's according to a seasoned ER doctor!

The doctor goes on to point out that it would be much less risky to the entire medical infrastructure of the country and, basically the safety of everyone in general, with home care.

he asks.

Good question. It does make a lot more sense to expose as few people as possible to something like Ebola.

He goes on to say, risking the infrastructure of a medical center for the sake of a few patients that will either do OK at home with simple supportive care or die no matter what care I provide." [emphasis added]

In other words...

  • Hospitals cannot fully prep for something like the Spanish flu pandemic or a mass outbreak of Ebola. It's just not possible when just a few housekeepers calling out sick can literally grind the entire building to a halt.

  • Further, even the ER doc says that there's nothing magical about simply going to a hospital for Ebola. Hospitals can offer Ebola patients little more than "fluids, rest and prayer," because these patients will either do okay with supportive care at home or die no matter what a hospital does.

But that's not something that the media wants to tell you. Yes, the role of nutrition (something our medical doctors don't really learn that much about, curiously) and the importance of the immune system's ability to fight off disease has been and will at all times be downplayed by the establishment brought to you by our various industrial complexes. In this case, they want you to run into the arms of Big Pharma at the slightest cough and, oh, don't forget to get your vaccine after they rush the experimental money maker to market.

Please be sure to keep all this in mind once flu season hits and everyone who has gorged themselves on a steady diet of mainstream media Ebola fear and who has even a slight fever runs screaming to the nearest ER thinking they might have Ebola.

Hysterical politcians: Jogger in London bumps into David Cameron, tackled by police and taken to jail

The jogger who was manhandled to the ground after running into David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has said he had "no idea" why police officers jumped on him.

Dean Farley, a 28-year-old hospital worker from Leeds, questioned the Prime Minister's security arrangements.

Protect the corrupt politicians at all costs, even from joggers.

He said he had been able to just "run between them" as he headed to a lunchtime appointment with his personal trainer at the gym.

"I had a quick look across the road and ran across the road and all I saw was a bunch of men in suits come out of the side of the Civic Hall," said Mr Farley.

"I could not see any uniformed police as I crossed the road and there was no cordon.

"It begs the question how good is security if I managed to run between them before they stopped me.

"I dodged in and out and around and the next thing I knew I have got half a dozen suited men haranguing me and manhandling me to the floor.

"The whole while I am asking what is going on and 'Who are you?'

"I had no idea who I had run into. I gathered I had run into someone quite important. I could not know it was David Cameron.

"I did not see David Cameron. I did not know it was David Cameron until they let me out of the police van an hour later."

Mr Farley, who was carrying a towel but no ID at the time, told BBC Look North it had been a "harrowing" experience.

"I'm quite shook up. I was almost in shock, like I'd been in an accident or something," he said.

He added: "I will look back eventually and see the funny side."

Mr Farley's mother Lisa said at her home in Leeds: "I've spoken to Dean. He's very upset by the whole situation.

"It's all a misunderstanding. He was just jogging to the gym."

Mr Farley was described by friends as a fitness fanatic, a devotee of superhero comic books and a former skateboarder.

Jatinder Dewgun, a friend of Mr Farley's, said: "He's a stand-up guy.

"I've seen the pictures of the police taking him to the floor. He goes out for a run and gets taken down like a terrorist."

IRS seizes hundreds of perfectly legal bank accounts, refuses to give money back

The IRS. Grand theft America.

The Internal Revenue Service has been seizing bank accounts belonging to small businesses and individuals who regularly made deposits of less than $10,000, but broke no laws. And the government is refusing to return all the money taken.

The practice ‒ called civil asset forfeiture ‒ allows IRS agents to seize property they suspect of being tied to a crime, even if no charges are filed, and their agency is allowed to keep a share of whatever is forfeited, the New York Times reported. It's designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking cash deposits under $10,000, which is the threshold for when banks are federally required to report activity to the IRS under the Bank Secrecy Act.

It is not illegal to deposit less than $10,000 in cash, unless it is specifically done to avoid triggering the federal reporting requirement, known as structuring. Thus, banks are required to report any suspicious transactions to authorities, including patterns of deposits below that threshold.

"Of course, these patterns are also exhibited by small businesses like bodegas and family restaurants whose cash-on-hand is only insured up to $10,000, and whose owners are wary of what would be lost in the case of a robbery or a fire," the Examiner noted.

Carole Hinders, a victim of civil asset forfeiture, owns a cash-only Mexican restaurant in Iowa. Last year, the IRS seized her checking account ‒ and the nearly $33,000 in it. She told the Times she did not know of the federal reporting requirement for suspicious transactions, and that she thought she was doing everyone a favor by reducing their paperwork.

"My mom had told me if you keep your deposits under $10,000, the bank avoids paperwork," she said. "I didn't actually think it had anything to do with the I.R.S."

And her bank wasn't allowed to tell her that her habits could be reported to the government. If customers ask about structuring their deposits, banks are allowed to give them a federal pamphlet. "We're not allowed to tell them anything," JoLynn Van Steenwyk, the fraud and security manager for Hinders' bank, told the Times.

Last year, banks filed more than 700,000 suspicious activity reports, according to the Times. The median amount seized by the IRS. was $34,000, according to an analysis by the Institute for Justice, while legal costs can easily mount to $20,000 or more, meaning most account owners can't afford to fight the government for their money.

"They're going after people who are really not criminals," David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia, told the Times. "They're middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law."

Rick Ungar wrote that the practice "amounts to nothing short of grand larceny on the part of the Internal Revenue Service" in an article for Forbes.

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 came about after a Supreme Court case, Ratzlaf v. US (510 US 135 (1994)), in which the government argued that because "structuring is not the kind of activity that an ordinary person would engage in innocently," it was therefore "reasonable to hold a structurer responsible for evading the reporting requirements without the need to prove specific knowledge that such evasion is unlawful." But the Court rejected that argument, citing the lawful actions of small businesses to reduce the risk of an IRS audit.

Congress, believing that the decision "would make it harder to find and to prosecute money launderers and drug dealers," according to the Washington Post blog the Volokh Conspiracy. The legislature then removed the word "wilfully" from the previous law about civil asset forfeiture, "leaving us with the mess we now have."

The Institute for Justice, a Washington-based public interest law firm that is seeking to reform civil forfeiture practices, analyzed structuring data from the IRS, which made 639 seizures in 2012, up from 114 in 2005, the Times reported. Only one in five was prosecuted as a criminal structuring case.

"Think about that - a full eighty percent of the bank accounts emptied by the IRS in 2012 involved completely innocent people and businesses," Ungar wrote. "How is that not a criminal enterprise?"

Most victims of civil asset forfeiture settle with the government for only a small portion of what was seized from them.

Army Sgt. Jeff Cortazzo of Arlington, Va., wanted to deposit cash for his daughters' college education, but wanted to avoid paying a second round of taxes on the money. He asked the bank teller what to do.

"She said: 'Oh, that's easy. You just have to deposit less than $10,000'," he told the Times.

The government seized $66,000 from the sergeant; he lost $21,000 of his money in the settlement with the IRS. "As a result, the eldest of his three daughters had to delay college by a year," the Times noted.

"The IRS 'accidentally' takes your money and when you ask for it back, they try to keep a portion of it," Ungar wrote. "How does that not have the odor of extortion?"

For his part, Cortazzo would have done things differently if he'd known his account could have been seized. "I would have just plopped the whole thing in the account and been done with it," he said.

The IRS announced in a written statement Thursday that it will "no longer pursue the seizure and forfeiture of funds associated solely with 'legal source' structuring cases unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying the seizure and forfeiture and the case has been approved at the director of field operations (D.F.O.) level."

But Richard Weber, the chief of Criminal Investigation at the tax agency, noted in the statement that structuring is still a crime, regardless of source and that the new policy will not apply to past seizures. "The policy involving seizure and forfeiture in 'illegal source' structuring cases will remain the same," he noted.

Oklahoma youth pastor arrested for sexual abuse of children in his care

timothy shawn


Timothy Shawn Cato is accused of eight counts of sexual abuse (KOTV)

Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma said that they arrested a youth pastor for allegedly sexually abusing children who he was supposed to have been helping.

Court documents obtained by KWTV indicated that 50-year-old Timothy Shawn Cato used his status as a youth pastor and a volunteer at an Oklahoma Department of Human Services children's shelter to gain the trust of children, and then sexually abuse them.

"Some of the victims indicated that they had met him through a program at a church where he was a, what they referred to as a commander of their group, that would do scouting-like activities for boys of a younger age," TPD Sgt. Mike Brown said.

Documents said that Cato had admitted to bringing children home from the shelter, bathing them, and sleeping with them in a bed away from his wife.

"This is definitely one of the most obvious and disturbing cases of a child predator being in a situation where he's entrusted with the opportunity to deal with these vulnerable children, so it's certainly very, very, difficult to see," Brown pointed out.

According to the affidavit, Cato said that "he would routinely every week check two children out of the shelter on a pass and take them to his home where he would bathe them and share a bed with them."

Cato's history included 20 years of volunteering and working for churches, summer camps, and the Little Lighthouse and Town and Country School. And the suspect claimed that he both owned and worked at Eastland Christian Academy. Witnesses reportedly told investigators that he had been a youth pastor at Eastland Assembly Church.

The pastor of Eastland Assembly Church has insisted, however, that Cato was only a volunteer at the church, and that he did not own the academy.

The affidavit also claimed that Cato was a coach for the Liberty Upward basketball team, and for the Wright Christian Academy. And it said that he was a volunteer at Falls Creek summer camp.

"Falls Creek Conference Center denies any affiliation with the accused," Falls Creek Conference Center spokesperson Brian Hobbs said in a statement. "Every church that attends the camp is required to perform background checks on individuals they bring to camp."

A spokesperson for Wright Christian Academy made a similar denial.

Documents showed that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services was paying Cato to provide care to two children. Those children were placed in DHS custody.

Cato was charged with eight counts of child sexual abuse of five boys ages 7 to 17. Four of the eight incidents allegedly happened after Oct. 1 of this year.

The Tulsa Police Department said that it had a strong case against Cato, and it did not dismiss the possibility that more children could come forward. Anyone with information was urged to contact the department.

Watch the video from KJRH, broadcast Oct. 27, 2014.

Monsanto's pharmaceutically "enhanced" GMO foods

We have all been concerned about the implications of Genetically Modified (GM) foods. And one company that has received much controversy is Monsanto; established in 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Their involvement in countless controversial endeavors is nothing short than an attack on humanity!

As a refresher, let's briefly take a look at some of Monsanto's accomplishments.

  • Artificial Food Substitutes such as Saccharin (artificial sweetener) - blamed for many health issues including cancer.

  • Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) - One of the Greatest Pollutants to Air, Water, and Soil, partially banned in 1973 due to serious health complications including cancer.

  • Dayton Project & Manhattan Project - The development of Atomic and Nuclear Weapons

  • Partnered with Bayer - a chemical and pharmaceutical company

  • Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) - Widely used Insecticidal, later banned in 1972 due to serious health complications including cancer as well as the near extinction of many birds including the Bald Eagle.

  • Herbicide Orange (Better Known as Agent Orange) - Used during the Vietnam War, nearly 1,000,000 people were either killed or permanently damaged by its use (including US soldiers). Reportedly over 4.5 million people were exposed, and an estimated 500,000 children were later born with defects. Today, health problems continue to persist due to environmental changes resulting from the extensive use of Agent Orange.

  • First to develop the Genetically Modified Plant in 1982

  • Bought G.D. Searle & Company (Searle) -

The following mergers of Pharmaceutical companies is enough to make your head spin. It's amazingly complicated and interestingly intertwined!

Instead of paraphrasing, I thought it best for you to read it for yourself straight from Pfizer's website (The world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company)

"In the United States, Pharmacia traces its roots back to 1886. It was then that W.E. Upjohn, M.D., established The Upjohn Pill and Granule Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan, (USA). The company continued its growth throughout the 19th century, eventually evolving into an innovative, international company. Two years later, the Searle and Hereth Co. was formed by a young druggist named Gideon Daniel Searle, as an innovative company developing many "firsts." These firsts include the first bulk laxative, the first motion sickness drug, the first oral contraceptive, the first once-a-day calcium channel blocker for the treatment of hypertension, and many other innovative products. Likewise, Searle discovered and introduced aspartame, a hugely successful sugar substitute.

The Searle and Hereth Co. was incorporated in 1908 as G.D. Searle and Co. in Chicago, and in 1985, became the pharmaceutical unit of Monsanto.

In 1995, Pharmacia & Upjohn was formed through the merger of Pharmacia AB and The Upjohn Company. Pharmacia & Upjohn became a global provider of human health care products, animal health products, diagnostics and specialty products. In 1998, Pharmacia & Upjohn relocated its global headquarters from the United Kingdom to the United States.

In April 2000, Pharmacia & Upjohn completed a merger with Monsanto and Searle creating Pharmacia, a dynamic new competitor in the pharmaceutical industry. This top-tier company's innovative medicines and other products saved the lives of many and enhanced health and wellness. Following the merger, Pharmacia continued Searle's agreement with Pfizer to co-promote Celebrex, which was originally co-developed by Searle and Pfizer.

In August 2002, Pharmacia completed the spin-off of its agricultural subsidiary, Monsanto Company."

Whew! And guess who is the common denominator? Monsanto!

Continuing with Monsanto's :

  • Developed Celebrex - a controversial drug involved in many years of litigation (as well as a brief recall) due to extensive reported health damages - including deaths. As of 2010, Celebrex has made over 35 billion in profits.

  • Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) - A synthetic hormone injected into cows to increase milk production. rBGH is controversial due to health implications of cattle and an increased need for antibiotics resulting in new resistant bacterial strains. Though the U.S. does not believe there are health implications to humans, The following countries ban the use of rBGH, rBST (Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin) as well as other synthetic (and "natural") hormones in cattle:

    • All 28 Countries of the European Union

    • Canada

    • Australia

    • New Zealand

    • Japan

    • Israel

  • Purchased DEKALB Genetics Corporation - Largest distributor of genetically modified agricultural seeds, with corn at the top of the list.

  • Joint collaboration with Badische Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik (BASF) - a chemical company now working with Monsanto in the development of Biotechnology (Better known as Genetically Modified Foods)

Have you had enough yet?

Announced on August 28, 2012 Monsanto and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. formed a "Strategic Alliance". Why strategic? Together they intend to "... advance biological technologies in the field of agriculture..."

"The new alliance brings Alnylam's broad RNAi-based intellectual property (IP) and proprietary technologies to Monsanto's which aims to deliver innovative biological solutions for farmers."

So they are going to bring solutions for farmers? Well, that's what they want you to believe...

Let's take a look at what "RNAi-based intellectual property" actually is. Better known as RNAi therapeutics - here is the explanation in the words of Alnylam:

"RNAi (RNA interference) is a revolution in biology, representing a breakthrough in understanding how genes are turned on and off in cells, and a completely new approach to drug discovery and development.

RNAi is a natural process of gene silencing that occurs in organisms ranging from plants to mammals. By harnessing the natural biological process of RNAi occurring in our cells, the creation of a major new class of medicines, known as RNAi therapeutics, is on the horizon."

Now based on everything so far, an obvious pattern emerges leading to an undeniable outcome:

Synthetic Food + Pharmaceuticals + Genetically Modified Foods & Organisms + RNAi Therapeutics = Pharmaceutically Enhanced Food

But wait...it gets even better!

The FDA granted none other than Orphan Drug Designation to Alnylam

"The FDA Office of Orphan Products Development (OOPD) mission is to advance the evaluation and development of products (drugs, biologics, devices, or medical foods) that demonstrate promise for the diagnosis and/or treatment of rare diseases or conditions."

Isn't this getting more and more concerning? Especially when we still don't know the long term effect of GM foods, of record breaking prescriptions of pharmaceutical drugs, and of the thousands of pollutants in the air, water, and soil on our health!

... Or do we?

Something is indeed wrong here when health conditions such as: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune are on an along with created every year

Isn't it obvious that this system isn't' working?

But something is working isn't it? Profit, control and power!

What kind of world will it be when any type of drug can be genetically spliced into the structure of our food?

There are steps begin taken here that may not be able to be undone... and the implications for humanity are unimaginably terrifying!


About the author

Healthcare Freedom Revolution: Exposing the Lies, Deceit and Greed of the Medical Profession, and Founder of the website Online Holistic Health.

Mazal Tov - Jewish leader indicted for calling Dieudonne 'Anti-Semite'

Roger Cukierman

President of CRIF Roger Cukierman

The President of CRIF, France's largest Jewish Lobby that specializes in harassing and terrorizing the French political elite was indicted on Monday for defamation. Roger Cukierman was cited for remarks he made in an interview on in which he called Dieudonne Mbla Mbla, - France's No 1 comedian, a "professional anti-Semite."

On Monday, the elder Zionist announced the indictment himself on CRIF's website. "So I am being indicted for having stated on that Dieudonne is a professional anti-Semite. Isn't that funny? For once, Dieudonne is actually comical."

It seems as if the people who imposed 'correctness' on the rest of us, may have to start policing their own language. This may be a positive development.

Watch Gilad on Dieudonne and the

[embedded content]

On the impossibility of rational calculation under a Keynesian/Friedmanite central banking regime

The following is an introduction to the Polish edition of . By Fijorr Publishing, 2014.

"From Adam Smith to David Stockman"

By Jerzy Strzelecki

There is no doubt that by David Stockman, the Polish translation of which has been made available to the Polish reader by Fijorr Publishing, is a real chef's , a . There should also be no doubt that its importance, with more and more people having an opportunity to read it, will grow in time, similar to the quality of wine resting in oak barrels.

Although Paul Krugman, the foremost representative of Keynesian doctrines in the United States, in his review of Stockman's book in the called it "an old man's rant" - immediately contributing to a big leap of the book on the bestsellers list - most of other reviews of have been much more positive, if not laudatory.

Michael Levin, for example, on the pages of called "the most important book about the American economy and the world economy published in the last 50 years", adding that it should become "required reading" and "a requirement for voting." The , although critical, and calling Stockman America's "serial apostate", does not question, however, that what he wrote, in his diagnosis of the state of the nation, is an excellent description of "the burdens imposed on 'our children and grandchildren' we were warned about by our parents and grandparents." Lew Rockwell, of the American chapter of the Austrian School, called Stockman's book "the book we have been waiting for and we owe David Stockman a great debt." The most laudatory review of , however, may be found on the web portal which in the very title of an analysis of the book authored by the former head of Reagan's Office of Management and Budget called it "the most important book on economics since ."


What makes Stockman's book so important? Why is it so highly praised? What justifies such claims about its greatness? These are the questions we should now attempt to answer.

My answer is as follows. If by Adam Smith, usually considered to be the foundational book of modern economics, shows how a spontaneous economic order can arise out of autonomous activities of individuals, without the necessity of these activities to be coordinated by any political authority (thus the notion of "invisible hand"), may be justifiably seen as the first book in the history of economic thought describing the consequences for the markets - if we can still talk about markets - of the destruction by the Central Banks - in the framework of the fiat paper money system - of the institution of the autonomous interest rate as a fundamental regulatory mechanism of the social order of the "invisible hand."

Paraphrasing Smith, it can be argued that David Stockman's book is the first one in the history of economic thought which describes in detail, mostly based on economic history of the United States from World War I to the present, and in particular on the basis of a detailed analysis of the period from 1985 to 2012, what happens in the economy when a Central Bank, liberated from the anchor of the "barbaric relic" consisting in a linkage between money and gold, becomes a completely discretionary master of the interest rate, replacing in the process of its determination "the invisible hand" with a "visible hand" of the Monetary Political Bureau of the Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve System.

Stockman is not the first economists who in his reflections on the working of the economic system focused on the creation of money and the determination of the interest rate, considering those two as the key institutions in regulating the economic order, in particular in the context of the analysis of the so called business cycle. The institution of the interest rate is the cornerstone of the business cycle theory of the so called Austrian School. The main architects of this theory were, Knut Wicksell, a famous Swedish economist who studied in Vienna and was Carl Menger's pupil, Ludvig von Mises, and his pupil Friederich Hayek.

According to this theory, business cycles of the modern "credit economies" (to use Wicksell's term) result from economic booms produced by the expansion of credit by commercial banks, acting in the framework of the fractional reserve system and thus being able to lower the market interest rate for loans below the wicksellian natural interest rate which equilibrates the level of saving and investments in the economy. The market interest rate pushed below the natural rate induces economic actors to produce a greater volume of investments in the aggregate than the volume of available savings. As a consequence, a large part of investment projects turn out to be a mistake, as they are uneconomic. Sooner or later the boom ends in a crash.

What occupies the key place in Stockman's reflections in this area is the issue of the termination of the link between money and gold and the influence of this phenomenon on the workings of the international financial system. Pioneering a central position in this area of economic inquiry is definitely due to Jacques Rueff, one of the most famous French economists of the XX century, an adviser to both Raymond Poincare's government in 1926 and to General De Gaulle in the 1960's. Rueff was the most ardent supporter of the return of the West to the classical "gold standard", desperately calling politicians to go back to the "barbarous relic" before the impending catastrophe. It can be reasonably argued that is the first book in the history of economics linking these two theoretical perspectives, and developing both of them in substantial ways in the process of a very detailed analysis of the United States economic history in the period from 1995 to 2012. This is the main root of the book's claim to greatness.


In terms of economic theory, the key chapter of is chapter 13: "Milton Friedman's Folly: Rise of the T-Bill Standard." Stockman argues on its pages that Friedman, undoubtedly a great supporter of capitalism and free markets, on the other hand, in his monetary theory, criticizing the gold standard and calling for the replacement of dollar's "golden fetters" with floating rate paper dollar, contributed crucially to the destruction of the autonomous interest rate as a key regulatory institution of the free markets, and to its replacement by an interest rate discretionally set by the monetary central planner, embodied by the FED. In this new international monetary system, inaugurated in August 1971 by President Nixon's announcement of the closure of the so called "gold window", i.e. termination of dollar's link to gold, the key role in determining the interest rate is performed by the operations of purchase and sale of treasury bonds by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve System, the FED.

The abolition of dollar's link to gold allows the Central Banks to set the interest rate in an absolutely discretionary manner, thus leading to the destruction of the self-regulatory mechanism of interest rate fluctuations within the course of the business cycle. What is equally important, Friedman's invention of discretionary setting of the interest rate in the context of the international monetary system, characterized by floating exchange rate fiat paper monies, becomes an ally and a catalyst of the Keynesian contraption of deficit finance, permitting the generation and financing of sovereign debt for a much longer time than would be the case either under the classical gold standard or under its modified version, known as the gold exchange standard characteristic for the Bretton Woods System. The Central Bank, having the possibility of manipulating the interest rate in a discretionary manner, tends, under the pressure of politicians and financial institutions, to set the market interest rate below the wicksellian "natural rate", thus permanently falsifying the cost or the price of money.

Friedman's monetarism becomes thus an ally of Keynesian deficit finance, a necessary condition of the Keynesian "prosperity management policy", through permanent stimulus of demand via the constant accretion of sovereign debt issued at low cost. The 2008 Lehman's crisis is shown by Stockman to be a portent of the end of the Keynesian State, built on false prosperity based on credit/leverage, the price of which is falsified by Central Banks, and the FED in particular.

The Keynesian policy of stimulating "aggregate demand" via budget deficits, its critics argue, may have positive effects in the short term but must necessarily have nefarious long term results. Keynes, famously, answered his critics that "in the long term we are all dead." Lehman's crisis, says Stockman, means the coming of this very Keynesian "death in the long term", when the economy dies under the burden of debt, private and sovereign, accumulated during the long period of the application of Keynesian formulas for "stimulating the economy", the real meaning of which has always been living on credit, facilitated by the manipulation of the interest rate by Central Banks, made possible, in turn, by Milton Friedman's floating rate paper dollar theories.


For a Polish reader, coming from a country which barely a quarter of a century ago escaped the clutches of the economic/social system based on a set of social theories known as Marxism-Leninism, should be of particular importance. Why? Because Stockman's book presents a very clear diagnosis of the nature of the fundamental economic problem faced by Poland today. It is true that Stockman's is focused on the United States, but its diagnosis of the character of the contemporary economic crisis applies also to Europe.

Following its exit from the world of Marxism-Leninism, Poland entered the western economic system in the last stages of the so called "Great Moderation", i.e. international prosperity founded on the theories of Keynesism-Friedmanism. The key traits of the world of Marxism-Leninism were the nationalization of the means of production, justified by Karl Marx's conviction that private ownership of capital is the essential source of most evil on Earth, and the central role of the Communist Party as the key instrument in the process of implementing the New Social Order. The political-economic social order based on Keynesianism-Friedmanism is based, as the world of Marxism-Leninism, on the conviction of the fundamental instability and imperfection of Adam Smith's "invisible hand", meaning that the free market necessitates permanent state intervention and deficit finance as a source of stabilization. The crucial institution making it possible to implement this project is the Central Bank, acting, as it were, as a form of monetary Political Bureau (i.e. the key center of power in the Communist Party).

The problem is that the project of Keynesianism-Friedmanism has clearly entered the final stages of its shelf life, as it were, as the model of economic development based on permanent borrowing of demand from the future has inevitably run its course, as indicated by the indices of sovereign debt and general leverage in most of EU countries. Having said that I will now leave the answer to the question: Should Poland join the EU Fiscal/Banking Pact to the conscience and wisdom of the readers.

Early in the XX century, in 1920, Ludwig von Mises, wrote a famous short treatise . He argued that the absence of private property of the means of production would make it impossible in the socialist economy to rationally allocate resources, i.e. to engage in rational economic calculation. Although the Austrians (Mises and Hayek) lost the debate on the possibility of national economic calculation in the socialist commonwealth, which took place in the 1930's, and it was Lange and Lerner who were announced to be the winners, today, having behind us the experience of communist economies, we know that it was the Austrians who were right in their diagnosis. Whoever doubts this statement should read books by the late Janos Kornai.

In their essence by David Stockman and by Ludwig von Mises are treatises on the same subject, or better, on the same issue. While Mises argued the impossibility of rational economic calculation within the economic system lacking private property of the means of production, Stockman's treatise could well bear the subtitle "Economic Calculation in the Fiat Paper Money System", as its key argument states the impossibility of rational economic allocation within the framework of fiat paper money deprived of any anchor in gold, where the interest rate is discretionally determined by the Central Bank via open market operations characteristic of the "war economy" - with all its consequences.

Is there a way out of this predicament?

In the conclusion of his book Stockman argues that it is necessary to return to the classical gold standard, stating at the same time that although returning to the classical gold standards seems the only solution, the political chances for its implementation look rather slim. All those who argue that the return to the classical gold standard is rubbish, impossible or hopelessly naive, should be reminded that until quite recently the exit from communism was perceived in a similar manner - as rubbish, impossible or naïve. And yet it happened. Taking into account the fact that Marxism - Leninism and the abandonment of the classical gold standard have similar, if not the same, roots - the catastrophe of World War I, , as Alexander Solzhenitsyn called his unfinished great book - the probability of putting an end to the fiat paper money system might be greater than we all think.

Conquest by land theft continues: Israel approves plan to build 1,000 settler homes in E. Jerusalem

The Israeli government has approved plans to build over 1,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem. It will expand two existing Israeli settlements on part of the territories seized in 1967.

An official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office declined to comment on the possible political and diplomatic impact. He said on Monday that "The government has decided to advance the planning of more than 1,000 units in Jerusalem - roughly 400 in Har Homa and about 600 in Ramat Shlomo," as cited by Reuters.

He also said that plans would be "advanced for infrastructure projects in the West Bank that will include roads for the Palestinians."

It is a sidestep by Netanyahu's office, as the ultranationalist Jewish Home party and its leader Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, has been pressing the Prime Minister to call for 2,000 new building tenders.


© AFP Photo / Abbas Momani

Palestinians run to take cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces during clashes following the funeral of Palestinian-American Orwa Hammad on October 26, 2014 in the West bank village of Silwad, near Ramallah.

However, Palestinians regard the holy city of Jerusalem as a future capital of their state and strongly oppose any Israeli expansion. According to Reuters, in a statement the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that "We strongly condemn the latest Israeli announcement to expand its illegal settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine."

"This announcement amounts to evidence of an intent to further commit crimes defined by, and punishable under international law," he added.

The new plan isn't welcomed by some Israeli politicians. Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party told Reuters the settlement building "should not be promoted now because there is a crisis with the US and the world."

"There is never a good time to do such things, now more than ever as Jerusalem is burning," Lior Amichai of the settlement watchdog Peace Now told AFP. He added that it was unclear at what stage the Israeli plans were, or how close they were to construction.

The international community hasn't shown any support for Israeli settlement building. Relations with Israel's traditional ally the US have also become strained over public criticism of US foreign policy by Israeli officials.

Palestine warns about increasing tension

The latest Israeli moves come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sent an "urgent letter" to US President Barack Obama concerning the "dangerous Israeli escalation" in East Jerusalem on Sunday night, reported the

According to a statement released by the president's office in Ramallah, Abbas warned that a "wider explosion that cannot be controlled," could be triggered by Israel's recent measures, including the suggestion to allow Jews to pray at the Temple Mount compound.

The Palestinian President also blamed the Israeli government for the "dangerous escalation"; the recent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters in East Jerusalem this weekend. Hundreds of Palestinians marched in several neighborhoods of the city, throwing stones and firecrackers at Israeli police, and 18 arrests were made, according to .

Last week's clashes marked a new wave of tension that has been running high since June. That's when three Israeli teenagers were abducted and killed by Palestinian militants in the West Bank, and Israeli extremists responded with the abduction and killing of a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem. The riots contributed to the 50-day Gaza war that claimed the lives of over 2,000 people, most of them Palestinians.

French-Israeli entrepreneur and Strauss-Kahn's partner Thierry Leyne jumped out of Tel Aviv window

Thierry Leyne, the French-Israeli entrepreneur who last year started an investment firm with disgraced former International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, committed suicide on Thursday by jumping out of his Tel Aviv apartment, reported. He was 49.

Last year, Leyne and Strauss-Kahn started the Paris-traded firm Leyne, Strauss-Kahn & Partners, after Kahn had bought a 20 percent stake to help develop the investment-banking franchise of Leyne's company, Luxembourg-based Anatevka SA.

Leyne had taken Anatevka public in March 2013 before partnering with Strauss-Kahn.

The new partnership was part of Strauss-Kahn's efforts to revive his career after he was charged in 2011 of criminal sex, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and the forcible touching of a chambermaid in a Manhattan hotel.

Strauss-Kahn denied the charges, which were later dropped. He settled the maid's lawsuit in 2012.

Major volcanic eruption could be an extinction event for Japan, study warns

© Unknown

One major volcanic eruption could make Japan "extinct," a study by experts at Kobe University warns, although the chances of that happening are relatively slim. The study, by Prof. Yoshiyuki Tatsumi and Associate Prof. Keiko Suzuki, concludes that the chance of a big eruption that would disrupt the lives of everyone in Japan are about 1% over the next 100 years. The researchers based their findings on the cycles and impacts of major eruptions in Japan on the study of the Aira Caldera near what is now the city of Kagoshima on southern Kyushu island. The caldera was created 28,000 years ago and has a diameter of 20 kilometers. If a similar eruption were to take place in the area today, within about two hours the flow of molten rock, lava and ash would cover an area in which seven million now live. A large amount of ash would be carried across the country, shutting down transportation and other key systems, disrupting the lives of nearly 120 million people, or almost everyone in Japan.

"We should be aware," the researchers warn in their report to be published in November. "It wouldn't be a surprise if such gigantic eruption were to take place at any moment." The study pointed out that following the eruption of the Kikai Caldera over 7,000 years ago off what is now the southern tip of Kyushu, it took 1,000 years for human settlement in the area to recover. The study also said approximately 7% of all volcanoes that have erupted over the past 10,000 years are located in Japan. The professors warned that volcanic activity, especially in Kyushu, should be closely studied and monitored. The eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan in September killed 56 people and left seven still missing. It was the first fatal eruption in 14 years in Japan.

Nicaragua, Honduras under threat of flooding, mudslides from Tropical Storm Hanna

tropical storm hanna

Tropical Storm Hanna, the eighth named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, formed quickly Monday morning and has now moved inland after making landfall along the Caribbean coast near the Nicaragua - Honduras border.

A tropical storm warning was issued by the governments of Nicaragua and Honduras for a small part of each country's Caribbean coast.

Hanna is drifting toward the west and moving inland over northern Nicaragua. Given that, Hanna has run out of time to strengthen significantly.

tropical storm hanna watches

The main concern for Hanna will be heavy rain, flooding and mudslides over the next few days in parts of Honduras and northern Nicaragua, where up to 15 inches of rain may fall. Tropical storm-force winds, mainly in sporadic gusts, until Hanna weakens inland.

Hanna flared up from the remnants of what was Tropical Depression Nine which first formed over the southwest Gulf of Mexico and Bay of Campeche on the evening of October 21.

projected path storm hanna

Satellite-derived wind estimates helped pinpoint an area of tropical storm-force winds embedded in a flare-up of convection Monday morning, leading to the initiation of advisories from the National Hurricane Center.
satellite tropical storm hanna

Detroit: The dispersal of urban black America begins

"The water department is determined to solve its financial problems - and change the city's demographics - by ejecting the poor from the grid."

Detroit's Water Protesters

© mentalunrest.com

The two United Nations Special Rapporteurs have seen human rights violations around the world, but Detroit's massive water shut-offs are uniquely upsetting. "We were deeply disturbed to observe the indignity people have faced and continue to live with in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and in a city that was a symbol of America's prosperity," said Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha, in a joint statement. An "unprecedented" 27,000 households have been disconnected from the pipes that sustain life and dignity - most of them Black and poor, according to the rapporteurs' observations, although the city doesn't bother to maintain records on the race and income of those it casts into purgatory. The water department is deliberately blind to the shut-offs' "disproportionate impact on low-income African Americans."

Detroit, an 82 percent Black city, run for four decades by Black mayors and Black city councils, and presided over for the past year and a half by a Black state-appointed emergency financial manager, may well be in violation of the United Nations Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, "which explicitly prohibits and calls for the elimination of racial discrimination in relation to several human rights directly affected by water disconnections, including the right to housing and the right to public health," wrote Albuquerque and Farha.

The poor are not asking for a free ride, said Albuquerque. "In the three days we were here, nobody asked us for free water. People want to pay their bills within their possibilities...they want affordable and fair bills." However, the water department is determined to solve its financial problems - and change the city's demographics - by ejecting the poor from the grid. Albuquerque was compelled to remind Detroit that the city's bankruptcy drama "doesn't exempt it from human rights obligations."

We have decided to foreclose on everything

High water bills and cascading shut-offs have added to the flood of forced evictions. "Our conclusion is that you have here in Detroit a man-made perfect storm," said the UN officials.

More precisely, a corporate-made vortex of ethnic and class cleansing, to make way for a new, gentrified city. Just as the water shut-offs are "unprecedented," so too is the pace of county home foreclosures, which have now targeted one of every five properties in Detroit. Wayne County is notifying 70,000 Detroit households that they have been caught up in the foreclosure frenzy. "We have decided to foreclose on everything," said Wayne County chief deputy treasurer David Szymanski. He claims the foreclosure proceedings are for the occupants own good, since they might then be eligible for federal housing aid.

It is obvious that the water disconnections and housing foreclosures are coordinated prongs of a hyper-aggressive gentrification pincer movement. While emergency manager Kevyn Orr completes the financial restructuring of the city under bankruptcy proceedings, the bureaucracy clears the land of unwanted populations. Back in September, the mayor and city council could have peremptorily dismissed Orr, whose term of authority under the emergency manager law had expired. Instead, they kept him on, so that he can complete the corporate handover of the city in bankruptcy court. The city council reclaimed its powers to award contracts and Mayor Mike Duggan, the first white person to occupy that office since 1974, took responsibility for the day-to-day duties of pushing out the poor.

You have here in Detroit a man-made perfect storm

Mayor Duggan resents the two young UN rapporteurs' interference with Detroit's race and class makeover project. Aid Alexis Wiley claims the city is in possession of facts that were not taken into account. "It's disappointing but it's kind of scary that you can have such a heavy name of the United Nations - that is such a responsibility - and to not live up to that responsibility, to come really without an interest in information," said Wiley. "No one's saying we're perfect. But if you want to work together, let's work together and make sure policy is built on facts. It's not built on an agenda."

Certainly, not on a human rights agenda. One wouldn't want that, would one?. After all, Detroit still has big dreams - it's just that poor Black people have no place in the plan.

Albuquerque and Farha recommended "that the Federal Government immediately undertake an investigation into the water shut-offs to determine if they are having a disproportionate impact on African Americans and other groups protected against discrimination" - an idea that will be flushed into the nearest Oval Office toilet. The Obama administration is a full partner in transforming Detroit into the model for urban "renaissance" across the country, having signed off on the city's financial restructuring and acquiesced in the effective disenfranchisement of Detroit - and half of all Black voters in Michigan - under the emergency manager regime.

The Great Black Urban Dispersal is set to accelerate.

Severe hailstorm causes havoc in Australian wine country - up to 30% vineyard losses

Vineyards in the south of Western Australia could see yield losses of up to 30 per cent after they were hit by damaging hail storms this week.

Severe thunderstorms struck the South West and Great Southern regions on Wednesday evening.

Wineries in Frankland and Pemberton were hardest hit, with reports of hail completely stripping vines of new season growth.

Ferngrove Wine Group was one of the wineries that fell victim to the hail. Ferngrove senior winemaker Kim Horton said that the storm completely damaged some vines, but some were left unscathed.

"There's vines that don't seem to have had any impact at all, so they still have bunches and leaves in tact," he said.

"Other vineyards which are completely stripped, so the vine would have no leaves, possibly still a stem but not inflorescence or bunches on there."

Mr Horton said the storm was like something out of a sci-fi movie.

"It was quite devastating," he said.

"Hopefully we don't see another one."

Jacob Longwood is a viticulturalist at Bellarmine Wines in Pemberton.

Mr Longwood said the hail may cause losses of up to 30 per cent of his harvest yield. He said the damage could cost him upwards of $200,000 in retail sales.

"There's a lot of mechanical damage as in the vines have been hit," he said.

"The shoots that are growing have been severed or knocked off."

The evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup: It really is that bad for you

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an insidious chemical that has crept into our food supply over the past few decades. Today HFCS represents1 more than 40 percent of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages.

HFCS can contain anywhere from 55 to 90 percent fructose and is derived from corn, a heavily subsidized (read: cheap) crop. Manufacturers love HFCS because, especially when compared to regular sugar, it's cheaper, sweeter and produced in abundance.

Not surprisingly, HFCS's ubiquity in the 1980s correlated with the beginning of the obesity epidemic. Other factors, including increased portion sizes, certainly play a role, but the inclusion of HFCS in soft drinks and other sweetened beverages merits serious consideration as an important cause of the obesity epidemic.

Public opinion about HCFS has radically shifted from a diabetic-friendly sweetener to a very harmful one. "Fructose was initially thought to be advisable for patients with diabetes due to its low glycemic index," researchers in the journal wrote.2 "However, chronically high consumption of fructose in rodents leads to [liver and systemic] insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and high blood pressure."

Realizing the public has a rather dismal view about this sweetener, manufacturers have gradually removed HFCS from processed foods. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data show 3 decreased HFCS consumption since 2002, while other sugar consumption has held steady or increased.

Don't be fooled. HFCS still lurks in many foods in numerous disguises, and you must carefully scrutinize labels to learn where it hides.

How Does Fructose Differ From Glucose?

Table sugar (sucrose) and other sugars break down into the simple sugars glucose and fructose in your body, but from there they behave far differently.

Nearly every cell can use glucose, which becomes the basic sugar your body uses for energy and metabolism. Glucose is one of the key building blocks of all carbohydrates and often found as part of other slowly absorbed sugars found in beans and whole grains.

Only your liver cells can process fructose, and that's where the problems begin. Among the damning claims, recent studies conclude HFCS increases appetite4, promotes obesity5 more than regular sugar, and is more addictive than cocaine6. HFCS contributes to diabesity and inflammation.

High doses of fructose have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining7 , allowing nasty by-products of toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins to enter your bloodstream and trigger inflammation.

Because fructose goes straight to your liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol), liver damage - called fatty liver - affects 70 million people in this country. Studies show fructose8 contributes to the development and severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, increasing hepatic fat, inflammation, and possibly fibrosis.

Unlike glucose, fructose doesn't trigger two key satiating hormones. "The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fructose differ from those of glucose," researchers in a review published in wrote. "[U]nlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production. Because insulin and leptin act as key afferent signals in the regulation of food intake and body weight [to control appetite], this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased energy intake and weight gain."5

In other words, your brain doesn't get the message to stop eating HFCS, making it easy to overeat and create hormonal and metabolic havoc. Even though it doesn't raise insulin, studies show fructose contributes to insulin resistance9, leading to weight gain, elevated triglycerides10,Type 2 diabetes11, and even cancer12.

What Makes Fructose in Fruit Different Than HFCS?

Fruit is an exception to the fructose rule. Naturally occurring fructose in fruit is part of a complex web of nutrients and fiber and doesn't exhibit the same biological effects as the high fructose found in corn sugar.

Unless you just eat massive amounts of fruit, fructose shouldn't become a problem. When you eat fruit, the amount of fructose you ingest is significantly lower than in sweetened beverages, and the metabolic effects of it are different because the increased intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants helps slow absorption and improve metabolism.

When fructose is processed into high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), it is absorbed more quickly than regular sugar and enters your cells without any help. It doesn't require the help of insulin the way glucose does, nor do the fiber and nutrients help buffer out that fructose load. Fructose makes a beeline straight to your liver, where metabolic havoc ensues.

How Can I Eliminate HFCS From My Diet?

The easiest way to completely avoid HFCS is to eat real, whole, unprocessed foods. If you buy packaged foods, read food labels carefully to identify sugar in other disguises.

Sugar is sugar by any other name. Be wary about the numerous disguises manufacturers hide sugar as, and if you have any doubt put the package back. If you find "high-fructose corn syrup" or the new term "corn sugar" on the label, you can be sure it is not whole, real, fresh food full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Stay away if you want to stay healthy.

Additional References

1George A Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popkin, Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity1,2 - 2004

2Tappy L1, Lê KA., Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity - Physiol Rev. 2010 Jan;90(1):23-46. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00019.2009.

3USDA - Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables.

4Richard J Johnson, Mark S Segal, Yuri Sautin, Takahiko Nakagawa, Daniel I Feig, Duk-Hee Kang, Michael S Gersch, Steven Benner, and Laura G Sánchez-Lozada, Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease1,2,3 - 2007

5George A Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popki - Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity1,2 - April 2004 vol. 79 no. 4 537-543

6Magalie Lenoir equal contributor, Fuschia Serre equal contributor, Lauriane Cantin, Serge H. Ahmed, Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward - Published: August 01, 2007DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000698

7Jean Robert RapinI,III and Nicolas WiernspergerII,II, Possible Links between Intestinal Permeablity and Food Processing: A Potential Therapeutic Niche for Glutamine

8Vos MB1, Lavine JE., Dietary fructose in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. - . 2013 Jun;57(6):2525-31. doi: 10.1002/hep.26299. Epub 2013 May 1.

9Basciano H1, Federico L, Adeli K., Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia. - Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005 Feb 21;2(1):5.

10Elliott SS1, Keim NL, Stern JS, Teff K, Havel PJ., Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome. - Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Nov;76(5):911-22.

11Stanhope KL1, Havel PJ., Endocrine and metabolic effects of consuming beverages sweetened with fructose, glucose, sucrose, or high-fructose corn syrup. - Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1733S-1737S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.25825D.

12Port AM1, Ruth MR, Istfan NW. - Fructose consumption and cancer: is there a connection? - Curr Opin Endocrinol . 2012 Oct;19(5):367-74. doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e328357f0cb.

Brownell KD, Horgen KB. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.

Exodus to Berlin: Thousands of young Israelis fleeing Zionism

israeli exodus

A growing exodus of young Israelis to Berlin has not only shocked Israel's far right leadership but has highlighted the growing disillusionment with Zionism among Israel's younger generation.

As Israeli commentators noted, the trend would encourage the late Israeli leader, Yitzhak Rabin to turn in his grave. He once described those who fled Israel as a "cascade of wimps" and a "fallout of cowards." Ravit Hecht, a columnist with Israel's oldest daily newspaper, , has blamed ultranationalists for the exodus, and there may well be substance to her claim. "Berlin is a lovely city, but it is sucking away all the forces that we desperately need here, especially now," she wrote. Of course, it's not Berlin that's doing the sucking, but Israel, in a different sense of the word.

The recent outrage in Israel about what has become a developing trend was sparked by what at first seemed an absurd Facebook posting by Asaf Lev, a 25-year-old former Israeli soldier living in Berlin. On his Facebook page, he posted his grocery list to show how much cheaper the cost of living was in Germany. One of the food items on his list was "Milky," a copycat of a German pudding produced in Israel that costs much less in Berlin. The posting went viral and was taken up by thousands of young Israelis in Germany, many of whom appealed to Israeli youth back home to join them in Berlin where life was cheaper and free of the all the stresses in Israel, including mandated military service.

Within days, social media forums carried the story of the grocery list and highlighted fact as many as 30,000 young Israelis now lived in Berlin. That figure, however, may be on the low side because large numbers of Israelis arrive in Germany using European and not Israeli passports. Some studies have concluded Israelis hold 100,000 German passports. A common feature of Israeli life nowadays is more and more people have two passports, often European, Canadian or American. The second passport offers the freedom to relocate at any time, and as far back as 2008, one study concluded 59% of Israelis were thinking of leaving the country.

But missing in all the hoopla was the fact the exodus to Germany reflected the findings of several studies showing disenchantment among Israelis with their Zionist lifestyle. A 2012 survey by found that almost 40% of Israelis were considering emigrating. A March 24, 2014 study commissioned by the Zionist Council in Israel showed around 25% of young, secular Israelis wanted to make a life away from Israel.

Rarely mentioned in mainstream media news coverage of Israel is its growing population of poor and the fact it has the highest percentage of poor of developed world countries , higher even than Mexico and Turkey. Were it not for its weapons industry, the billions of dollars it receives annually in United States taxpayer dollars and the massive sums of money wealthy American Jews transfer to Israel through questionable means and by way of so-called non-profits, the country's economy would be at rock bottom. The other factor driving young people from Israel is the expanding power of its ultranationalists, many of whom have been encouraged to settle in Israel from parts of Asia and Eastern Europe to fill the void left by those who are leaving and to increase the country's population as it seizes more Palestinian land and builds settlements on it.

Israel is also losing its battle to keep its brightest at home. Many of them see no future in a country whose leadership has become increasingly extreme and isolated from the rest of the world.