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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Fracking blast kills one Halliburton worker, injures 2 in Weld County, Colorado

Halliburton fracking site

© Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

The Halliburton fracking site where one person was killed and two others were injured Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014.

Mead - One worker was killed and two were seriously injured Thursday when a frozen, high pressure water line ruptured at a Weld County oil well site.

The workers were trying to thaw the line when the accident occurred, officials said.

The Anadarko Petroleum Corp. well was being hydraulically fractured, or fracked, by the Halliburton Co. and the workers were Halliburton employees.

Anadarko said it was suspending all fracking operations in the area pending a review of the accident.

The area has been the scene of drilling since at least 1979, but this year Anadarko has sunk at least nine, deep horizontal wells, according to state records.

Each of those wells has to be fracked by pumping a mixture of water, sand and trace chemicals into the well at high pressure to crack rock and release oil.

Thomas Sedlmayr, 48, was airlifted to Denver Health and Grant Casey, 28, was taken by ambulance to the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. The name of the dead worker has not been released.

"This is a very difficult time for all of us at Halliburton, and we are working with local authorities as they look into the details of this incident," Halliburton said in a statement.

"Out of respect for the families' privacy, we are not releasing any additional information at this time," Houston-based Halliburton said.

Weld County Sheriff's Office deputies are investigating the accident.

The death and injuries appeared to be caused by a high-pressure water valve that ruptured, said agency spokesman Sean Standridge, the office's spokesman

Firefighters also responded to the accident.

The incident occurred at 9:30 a.m. at the site off of Weld County Road 9½ just north of Colo. 66.

The workers were trying to warm the pipe, which had frozen, when it ruptured, Standridge said.

The temperature was about 10 degrees at the time, but overnight temperatures were well below zero.

The water pressure was estimated at between 2,500 and 3,500 pounds per square inch.

Dozens of people work at the site, which is about two hundred yards long.

Investigators with the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration in Denver were notified of the accident at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday, said Herb Gibson, OSHA area director.

Two investigators are at the Mead area site looking into the accident, Gibson said.

"It's a dangerous industry," Gibson said. "This is a tragic situation."

The oil and gas industry in 2012 had a fatality rate of about 25 per 100,000 workers - higher than construction, manufacturing, or agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Between 2007 and 2011 there were 19 oil and gas field fatalities in Colorado, according to federal data.

In 2012, a 60-year-old worker died in another Weld County drilling accident that occurred when pressurized gas was released as workers prepared an Encana Corp. Davis well pad to begin pumping.

In October a worker was killed on a drilling rig in Garfield County.

Thundersnow starts winter with a bang, thanks to glorious lake-effect storm

Earlier this afternoon, Chris Zimmer of Mentor, Ohio, was in the right place at the right time to capture one of the rarest, most intense winter weather phenomena there is: thundersnow. Watch, and be amazed:

[embedded content]

Thundersnow happens only in particularly powerful snowstorms with especially strong updrafts. The sound of thunder in thundersnow is dampened, too, by all the snowflakes - you've got to be nearly underneath it to hear it.

Early season lake-effect snowstorms fit the bill, with the still warm-ish water giving an extra boost of energy to the cold Arctic air pushing southward from Canada. These snowstorms can behave more like summer thunderstorms and produce snowfall rates up to two or three inches - sometimes even more - an hour in narrow bands along the immediate shoreline. The effect is maximized when the wind direction is more or less in line with the orientation of the lake (for example, a due north wind over Lake Michigan).

The National Weather Service office in nearby Cleveland called today's event a "mega-band" and reports that 10 to 12 inches have already fallen in isolated areas near the shore of Lake Erie. The next several days could feature quite a bit more of the same. The Omega Block pattern that's currently in place across North America favors continued blasts of Arctic air for the East, and as long as the north winds keep blowing, the lake effect snow machine will keep on cranking. Here's the outlook, via NOAA's Weather Prediction Center, which is calling for "the threat of unusually-high amounts of accumulation":

A very prolonged period of local lake-effect snowfall events will prevail at various times across all 5 Great Lakes. With significant snows already present, hard to imagine how much more snowfall is possible. Prolific numbers are possible. Anomalous? Certainly.

How prolific are we talking about? Well, the unofficial New York state snowfall record - nearly 12 in eight days - was set back in 2007 thanks to a particularly intense lake effect event. Now, nothing like that is expected this time around. (It would be impossible to forecast such a localized phenomenon this far in advance anyway.) Still, we're talking feet for whoever finds themselves in the sweet spot. The exact locations of lake-effect snows are notoriously fickle to forecast more than a few hours in advance - there can even be clear skies just a few miles away! - but one thing's for certain: the upcoming pattern will produce a lot of shoveling somewhere.

By far the most famous encounter with thundersnow was courtesy of the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore on Feb. 1, 2011, in Chicago:

[embedded content]

By the way, Washington, D.C., and New York City are expecting their first snowfalls of the season tonight - thankfully, just an inch or so.

Neocons loathe Putin for thwarting plans for global domination

Russian President Vladimir Putin

© TASS/Mikhail Metsel

The continuing attacks on Vladimir Putin and Russia by members of the western political, military and journalistic elite tell us one thing - the Russian President is doing a good job both for the people of his country and in the international arena.

For it is a rule which invariably holds true - if the Western elites praise the leader of a foreign country it means he is doing something which is good for those elites and bad for his country. If he's demonized, as Putin is, it's the other way round.

The latest attack has come from Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The US Army general said that Russia was "pushing on the limits of international order."

Dempsey talked of the need to "deter Russian aggression against our NATO allies" - and said that Russia had "kind of lit a fire of nationalism."

"Once you light that fire, it's not controllable," the General said. "I am worried about Europe."

It's worth reflecting on Dempsey's words as they provide a classic example of what psychologists call 'projection'. The US General was accusing Russia of what his own country has been guilty of.

US General Martin E. Dempsey

© Agence France-Presse/Shah Marai

US General Martin E. Dempsey

'Pushing on the limits of international order'? Was it Russia which launched an illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 - claiming the country possessed WMDs which threatened the world? Was it Russia which led the illegal bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999? The US hasn't just pushed the 'limits of international order' it has been the number one international law breaker over the past twenty years.

'Russian aggression against our NATO allies'? Not one NATO country has been attacked by Russia - or threatened with attack. The aggression has been from the US against Russian allies. Over the last twenty or so years we have seen the US target a series of countries which had friendly links to Russia, including Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria. It's the US and its NATO allies who clearly need to be deterred, not Russia.

Russia has 'kind of lit a fire of nationalism'? Well, it was the US and their EU allies who did this in Yugoslavia in the 1990s - sponsoring separatists in order to break up the country - and it was the US and its EU allies who have been sponsoring and supporting extreme nationalists (some would say fascists and neo-Nazis) in Ukraine.

Dempsey says he is worried about Europe, but it's Russia which has cause to be worried about the US and Europe. Just take a look at the map on how NATO, since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe twenty-five years ago - has expanded eastwards, despite promises made by the west that NATO would not expand.

When figures from the Western elite talk of 'Russian aggression' what they really mean is that Russia is checking Western aggression. When Putin is compared to Hitler - it is because he is standing in the way of the real heirs of Adolf Hitler, the war lobby in the West, who like the mustachioed one, have an insatiable appetite for attacking and threatening to attack independent sovereign states.

By any objective assessment, it's the Western elites - and in particular the neocon faction within that elite - who are the biggest dangers to world peace, not Putin. Look at the havoc their policy of endless war, whether waged directly or through terrorist proxies, has caused in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

These serial warmongers are particularly angry that Russian foreign policy has thwarted their plans for 'regime change' in Syria, a key strategic objective. They're also angry that Putin clamped down on oligarchs whose role was to help Western plutocrats get control of Russia's natural resources.

Back in 2000, when he was first elected President, Western elites hoped that Putin would continue the path set by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, a man whose rule was disastrous for ordinary Russians, who saw their living standards plummet and the value of their life savings destroyed, but very good for the Western elites. Yeltsin privatized vast swathes of the economy and acquiesced while NATO destroyed Yugoslavia. Yeltsin was bad news for Russia - but he was hailed as a great 'democrat' by the West - and eulogized on his death - which tells us everything we need to know about who benefited most from his rule.

Putin himself had no great desire to fall out with the West when he became President - quite the contrary. He was the first international leader to offer his condolences to President George W. Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York. "In the name of Russia, I want to say to the American people - we are with you," he said.

Putin co-operated with West over Afghanistan and the so-called 'war on terror'. "Russia will continue to provide intelligence information we have collected on the infrastructure, location and training of international terrorists," he declared.

A CNN article on how 9/11 was a 'turning point' for Putin makes interesting reading today.

It shows how much Putin was willing to co-operate with the US and gives lie to the assertion that it was he who provoked the 'new' Cold War.

The truth is that it was the aggressive neocon faction within the Western elite which did that. They've been calling for sanctions on Russia for over a decade now - way before Russia's non-existent 'invasion' of Ukraine.

The current 'cold war' against Russia can be traced back to 2003.

Rebuilding the economy and improving living standards for ordinary Russians inevitably meant action being taken against certain oligarchs who had made vast fortunes in the Yeltsin years. These oligarchs, such as Boris Berezovksy and Mikhail Khodorkovsky had some powerful supporters, in the West. As I detailed in an article for the in November 2003 - influential neocons in Washington who had links to Russian oligarchs, used the arrest of Khodorkovsky for fraud and tax evasion to push for a hardening of US policy towards Moscow.

"The arrest of one man has sent us a signal that our well-intentioned Russian policy has failed. We must now recognize that there has been a massive suppression of human rights and the imposition of a de facto Cold War-type administration in Moscow" wrote Bruce P. Jackson of the Project on Transitional Democracies and the Project for the New American Century'

Jackson called for sanctions to be imposed on Russia by Congress. Sounds familiar?

In 2003, Putin also angered hawks in Washington by opposing the war against Iraq - not only that he openly ridiculed the claims about Iraq's WMDs.

"Earlier this year, Russia's stubborn holding of its line on Iraq infuriated the neoconservatives and increased their determination to work towards regime change at the next presidential elections in 2004 and to accelerate their plans to secure Russia's energy resources", I wrote in the .

The neocon propaganda stepped up again with the mysterious death of M16 agent Alexander Litvinenko, in London in late 2006. Inevitably the death was blamed on Moscow - despite the absence of proof. As I highlighted in the in an article entitled 'In Bed with Russophobes,

The incident was used in their campaign against Putin's national revival. "These rightwing hawks are gunning for Putin not because of concern for human rights but because an independent Russia stands in the way of their plans for global hegemony," I wrote, adding that "those on the center-left who have joined the current wave of Putin-bashing ought to consider whose cause they are serving."

In 2008, Putin, now firmly established as a NeoCon hate figure, angered the endless war lobby still further by standing up to aggression by the US client state of Georgia against the people of South Ossetia. The importance of what happened in Georgia in 2008 cannot be understated. It was as Seumas Milne notes in his book "one of two events in 2008 which signalled the end of the New World Order of unchallenged US global and economic power" ( the other was the banking crash). "The former Soviet Republic (Georgia) was a particular favorite of Washington's neoconservatives" says Milne. "Its forces, armed and trained by the US and Israel, made up the third-largest contingent in the occupation of Iraq.....The short-lived Russian-Georgian conflict marked an international turning point..... Russia had called a halt to a relentless process of US expansion."

The newly-elected US President Barack Obama promised a 'reset' of relations with Russia, but with the neocons still in town and peddling their anti-Putin and anti-Russian propaganda there was never any hope of that succeeding. The current wave of Russophobia can be linked to events in the Middle East- and Russia's refusal to back 'regime change' in Syria. They desperately wanted Bashar al-Assad removed- so as to break the alliance between Syria, Hezbollah and Iran, but Russia has got in the way.

Ukraine was where the neocons thought they would get their revenge. The US sponsored regime change in Kiev, an enterprise in which the State Department's Victoria Nuland the wife of the Project for a New American Century co-founder Robert Kagan played a prominent role, finally enabled the hawks to get what they been dreaming of for over ten years - the sanctioning of Russia. The 'get tough with Russia' stance they've long been calling for has finally become the official policy of the US and leading EU countries. The demonization of President Putin in the West has become 'mainstream'.

The neocon plan is for the Russian economy to be weakened by sanctions, which they hope will lead to a reduction in support for Putin and make it easier for them to destabilize the country and bring about a 'regime change' in Moscow. They want a compliant stooge in the Kremlin who will surrender all of Russia's natural resources, and allow them to get rid of President Assad and the Baathists in Syria - an essential prerequisite before any attack on Iran.

At the moment one man is getting in the way of those war plans.

To repeat: "those on the centre-left who have joined the current wave of Putin-bashing ought to consider whose cause they are serving."

Because Putin is not the problem - it's the people attacking him who are.

Big Brother is watching you: Police in California spent $45 million on surveillance gear without oversight or public knowledge

© AFP Photo / Mark Ralston

Police departments across California spent more than $45 million on surveillance equipment over the course of a decade with little to no legislative or public oversight - and without the public's knowledge, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU report, titled 'Making Smart Decisions about Surveillance: A Guide for Communities,' reveals how California law enforcement took advantage of millions of dollars' worth of federal surveillance gear to sidestep city council oversight and boards of supervisors. Police also avoided consideration of costs and benefits and left the public in the dark as to how law enforcement was using the equipment to track their lives.

RT Californi4News: #California#News ACLU: police surveillance gadgets lack oversight: The American Civil Libert... http://t.co/TceZ7yQNxs

- Anthony Hiberts (@Anthonyhead13) November 12, 2014

"After revelations of mass surveillance by the NSA, the public isn't buying the 'just trust us' approach anymore. The public expects to know why surveillance is being considered, how it is going to be used and what safeguards are in place to guard against misuse before any decisions are made," Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director for the ACLU of California, said in a statement.

The report surveyed 118 California cities and towns and found that 90 were using surveillance technology. Only five had carried out public debate before acquisition, and four had public policies concerning use and limits. In total, the 118 cities and towns had spent over $45 million on equipping their police departments.

.@ACLU_NorCal map shows importance of not just fed but local police surveillance tech issues https://t.co/Tt308LdqUx http://ift.tt/1xxRE2Q

- Elizabeth Joh (@elizabeth_joh) November 12, 2014

The majority of police units were using license plate readers (57) and video surveillance (62), but many were using a multitude of devices to track and survey people.

For example, the automatic license plate readers (ALPR) is a camera system mounted to a police car or light that scans license plates that come into view. They are often used to look for stolen vehicles, but they can record the time and place of every single vehicle that drives by.

Facial recognition software, meanwhile, identifies a person in photos or video based on various characteristics of the person's face. The accuracy of facial recognition, however, can vary widely.

Automated social media monitoring consists of software tools that collect posts and other information on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. These tools may also analyze the collected data in order to learn information such as the social connections or political views of individuals.

Another device - the International Mobile Subscriber Identity catcher (IMSI) - emulates the functionality of a cell phone tower in order to interact with a nearby mobile phone. Commonly known as Stingrays, a popular brand name, they can be used to capture and intercept the contents of communications, including calls, text messages, or internet activity. Many IMSI are used in dragnet fashion, scooping up information about every phone in range.

In one instance, the report said the San Jose Police Department obtained a drone with federal funding with no public debate and no policy safeguards in place. After protests, the police department apologized, grounded the drone, and initiated public outreach.

ACLU California is proposing a measure called the Surveillance and Community Ordinance to provide transparency, accountability, and oversight. The ordinance is being drafted and will be introduced in the coming weeks.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, as well as the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, have also both joined the ACLU to endorse the need for oversight ordinances. They are quite familiar with how unchecked surveillance often has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and religious minorities.

"Communities are increasingly concerned about making sure that time, energy and resources are not spent on expensive, ineffective and overly intrusive surveillance systems that create more problems than they solve," San Francisco supervisor John Avalos told the ACLU. "That's why public transparency and engagement are key to any decision about whether to use surveillance technology. If surveillance technology is to be used, clear rules must be in place to ensure transparency, oversight and accountability."

Gun rights advocate tells moms against guns to 'put a d*ck in your mouth and shut up'

© Twitter/@Robhot1982

The ever charming Robert J. Kinnison

In an expletive-filled video diatribe directed at gun control group Moms Demand Action, a gun rights activist pushed back at the group's latest attempts to limit the open carry of weapons, telling the women to "Put a d*ck in your mouth and shut up!" in a video discovered by Liberaland.

Phoenix resident Rob Kinnison - who uploads pro-gun rants on YouTube under the name Raging Rob - posted the video in response to Moms Demand Action's drive to get the country's largest supermarket chain, Kroger, to ban open-carry in their stores.

In a bleep-filled tirade, Kinnison vociferously explains that he is going to continue sending photos of himself bearing his gun while at Kroger stores.

"I'm gonna send photos of Kroger, of me inside Kroger, outside Kroger, with my gun, inside Kroger ... whatever," he states, before adding, "And I'm going to send those photos to mothers demand ... momsdemandaction.org, and I'm going to send them every f*cking day until Moms Demand Action shuts the f*ck up!"

Following some unintelligible and heavily bleeped yelling, Kinnsion then tells the group to "Put a d*ck in your mouth and shut up!"

When not posting videos defending open carry, Kinnsion maintains a Twitter account @Robhot1982 , comprised mostly of retweets and videos from neo-Nazi and white power groups calling for a "White Revolution," as well as racist and homophobic tweets from an account called 'N*gger Basher .'

Watch the video below:

Comment: If only this guy would take his own advice and shut up, the rest of us wouldn't have to listen to his angry, hateful, racist, and sexist remarks that only serve to point out that there are definitely some people who shouldn't be allowed to put videos on YouTube, much less carry a gun.

Newly released data adds more proof that Ukrainian warplane shot down MH17

© RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko

Dutch experts work at Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Amsterdam - Kuala Lumpur crash site

New radar data indicating that military aircraft were in the air near Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17 has been released by a Russian air safety consultancy.

The consultancy provided a snapshot representing the readings taken by a radar station located in Russia's Rostov, near the Ukrainian border, shortly before and about 20 minutes after the MH17 crash.

According to Sergey Melnichenko, CEO of Aviation Safety consultancy, there were one or two warplanes in the air close to the Malaysian airliner. The data casts doubt on the version of the tragedy favored by Western nations, which claims the plane was shot down from the ground by rebel forces with a sophisticated surface-to-air missile.

The data "came from an air traffic control center in Rostov," Melnichenko told newspaper, declining to reveal which one and whether it was civilian or military. He assured that "we have full trust in the sources, which helped us make it available to the public."

"The data clearly shows that at the moment of the crash and after it there were planes moving north of the Boeing course. Most likely, they were military, because the spots are very close to each other. The conclusion is that there were either one or two aircraft there," Melnichenko told the daily.

© image from www.aviasafety.ru

The alleged military plane or planes are represented by blue spots tagged 'T,' while MH17’s route is marked by a purple line

Another indication that the planes in question were military aircraft is the fact that they didn't respond to being scanned, Melnichenko said. Civilian planes always reply to signals from radar, while military aircraft are "usually unequipped with transmitter-responders or the pilots turn them off during combat flights," he explained.

With the rebel forces possessing no air force of their own, Russia and Ukraine are the most logical parties to send warplanes to that area, the expert said. But it would have been impossible for a Russian warplane to make it over the border without being detected by Ukrainian and NATO radars.

"There would've been reaction on something like that long ago - from NATO and Ukraine. But there was no reaction because there was nothing to react to," he explained.

© RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko

A man on the crash site of the MH 17 Malaysian Boeing that was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur

Several days after the MH17 crash, the Russian Defense Ministry released evidence that it detected a Ukrainian fighter jet near the Boeing at the time of the catastrophe. Kiev denied deploying any jets on that day, but it had been routinely using aviation to deliver airstrikes at rebel positions.

According to Melnichenko, the new data is consistent with that published by the military.

"Our data is somewhat more precise...they didn't present the airplane's flight paths as clearly. But maybe they did it intentionally, I don't know," he said.

© RIA Novosti / Mikhail Voskresenskiy

At the crush site of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777, outside the village of Grabovo, near Shakhtyorsk, Donetsk Region

The expert added that the presence of military planes north of the Boeing would put them in a position to the left of the plane. Some photos from the crash site showed damage to the cockpit's left side, consistent with a scenario of an attack by those planes.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 were killed when the airliner crashed on July 17. The plane was downed over the warzone in Ukraine's Donetsk region, where Kiev authorities imposed after the February coup launched a military crackdown on rebels rejecting the change of power.

Both sides involved in the conflict have accused each other of bringing down the aircraft. Kiev and its Western sponsors claim it was shot by a BUK defense missile system brought from Russia, and hold Moscow accountable for the tragedy. No evidence has ever been presented, except for questionable photos floating online which claim to show the system.

© RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko

OSCE experts examine the crash site of the Boeing aircraft of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17/MAS17) from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur

In late October, the chief investigator with the Dutch National Prosecutors' Office, Fred Westerbeke, told magazine that his team is open to the theory that another plane shot down the Malaysian airliner.

According to its website, Aviation Safety consultancy and analysis agency provides information, advice, and analytical services in the field of aviation safety for the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a collective of former Soviet republics.

Psychopathic Israeli leaders refuses to allow UN into country to investigate war crimes against Palestine

© Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Israel has officially declined to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council committee's investigation into the country's 50-day '' over possible war crimes committed, saying it is obvious the probe will find it guilty.

The Israeli government refused entry to the investigation team on Wednesday, which arrived in Jordan's capital of Amman with plans to travel through Israel and into the Gaza Strip.

The decision not to cooperate was due to the team's "one-sided" view of the events, reported, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon.

"The council's obsessive hostility toward Israel, the committee's one-sided mandate and committee chairman William Schabas' declared anti-Israeli positions" were listed as reasons for refusal by Nachshon.

The spokesman referred to the investigation as "a pretense that some inquiry is being held before the conclusions are published."

"While Hamas launched thousands of rockets at Israel, the UN's Human Rights Council made a decision stating Israel's guilt in advance and set up a probe as a rubber stamp for its known positions,"he said.

© Reuters / Mohammed Salem

A Palestinian man runs for cover from rain near houses that witnesses said were destroyed or damaged by Israeli shelling during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the east of Gaza City

The move to reject cooperation did not come as a surprise, despite the fact that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the official decision only on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Israeli authorities will maintain indirect contact with the investigation, according to .

The committee still expects to receive documents from Israel outlining how Hamas used civilians as shields and committed other war crimes during the war in Gaza.

Soon after the investigative committee was announced in August, Netanyahu blasted the idea, accusing the organization of bias and the legitimization of Hamas.

"UNHRC gives legitimacy to murderous terror organizations like Hamas and Daash (Islamic State),"Netanyahu said.

The committee is scheduled to publish its investigation findings in March 2015. was launched by Israel on July 8, 2014 and resulted in the deaths of some 2,200 people - the majority of them from Gaza.

Israel previously refused to cooperate with a UN inquiry following in 2008-2009.

Disgusting stuff turns us into liars and cheats, and cleanliness makes us honest again


© The Independent, UK

Study reveals the subconscious impact of emotions on decision making.

Feeling physically disgusted can make us prone to deceive others, whereas cleanliness prompts us to play fair again, say scientists behind a newly published study.

The decisions you make are often highly influenced by seemingly innocent objects and events around you, whilst you remain completely oblivious to the effect. Seeing an ad for a burger chain and choosing to stop for food is an obvious example, but some of the ways in which our minds are guided by the outside world are less self-evident. Would you have guessed, for example, that watching the toilet scene from would make you more likely to lie and cheat?

That infamous scene was shown to one group of participants in a new study published in the journal which aimed to uncover the effects of disgust on unethical behaviour. And lo and behold, those who had just watched Ewan McGregor slide through the 'Worst Toilet in Scotland' were more likely to lie in order to get two dollars than those who had been spared this ordeal.

Vikas Mittal, professor of marketing at Rice University in Houston, Texas, co-authored the paper and explains the mechanism behind the seemingly bizarre connection.

"As an emotion, disgust is designed as a protection. When people feel disgusted, they tend to remove themselves from a situation. The instinct is to protect oneself. People become focused on 'self' and they're less likely to think about other people. Small cheating starts to occur: If I'm disgusted and more focused on myself and I need to lie a little bit to gain a small advantage, I'll do that."

Another group of subjects was asked to evaluate products with a high ick factor, such as anti-diarrheal medicine, diapers, cat litter, and adult incontinence pads. Again, compared to a control group, these people were more likely to cheat directly after completing their task.

As happens in daily life, the participants were unaware that the revulsion they felt had anything to do with their subsequent decision. In fact, the researchers had purposely chosen the supermarket products as examples of innocuous items that could easily influence a person's mind as they go about their business.

In a second set of experiments, the researchers examined whether the effects of disgust could be reduced by asking people to assess cleaning products, such as disinfectants and body washes. Sure enough, those who were exposed to the cleansing goods after feeling revolted were well behaved afterwards, indicating that thinking about soap cancelled out the morally corrupting effects of disgust.

The implications of these effects seem clear. "At the basic level, if you have environments that are cleaner, if you have workplaces that are cleaner, people should be less likely to feel disgusted," Mittal said. "If there is less likelihood to feel disgusted, there will be a lower likelihood that people need to be self-focused and there will be a higher likelihood for people to cooperate with each other."

Outside of the workplace, it may be advisable to tidy up your dirty socks before having a heart-to-heart with anyone close to you.

See no evil: Merkel's "wall of hypocrisy" regarding Israeli war crimes

Merkel & Netanyahou

© Inconnu


On the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a speech of sublime hypocrisy when juxtaposed beside the illegal Apartheid/Annexation Wall and beside the blockade 'wall' constricting Gaza constructed by Israel, which she once vowed, "Germany will never abandon Israel but will remain a true friend and partner."

Merkel rhapsodised, "the fall of the Berlin Wall showed us that dreams can come true - and that nothing has to stay the way it is, no matter how high the hurdles might seem to be."

The fact is Germany's partnership with Israel is one of the major hurdles that block Palestinians' right to self-determination under international law. In 2012, Germany abstained ( actually if its not a 'Yes' it's a 'No' ) to accord Palestine Non-Member Observer State status in the UN, voted against Palestine's membership to UNESCO and buttressed the brazen lie that Israel's war crime, Operation , was an act of self-defense.

The Palestinian parents in Gaza mourning the deaths of 506 innocent children were not living the hackneyed dreams about which Merkel waxed lyrical.

To add to her hypocrisy, a mere month after the horror of Israel's war crimes on blockaded Gaza and the destruction of the homes of half a million families in Gaza who are struggling with the consequent trauma, the grief and survival with winter approaching, Merkel's government donated a shameful and paltry $63 million at the donors conference in Cairo, then, 6 days later hands Israel an obscene $382 million discount on a missile boat (no doubt the kind that can continue killing little Palestinian boys playing football on Gaza beaches).

There was no stopping the Chancellor's banal posturing,

"We can change things for the better - that is the message of the fall of the Berlin Wall."..for the people in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and in many, many other regions of the world where liberty and human rights are threatened or being trampled."

Glaringly omitted was Palestine, the longest trampling of human rights and freedom in modern political history by Israel and western governments. Mentioning Ukraine, Syria and Iraq was a free plug for US imperial ventures.

Merkel goose-steps in time to America's war drums and interests vis-à-vis support for sanctions against Iran and arming Saudi Arabia. She lacks the nationalistic pride of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder who, in line with the majority of Germans, opposed the unsanctioned and unjustified US military intervention in Iraq opting instead for a peaceful solution.

Angela Merkel is hailed by as the world's most powerful woman, and yet, she submissively lets Israel perpetually pull on the Holocaust ring through Germany's nose and suck billions of reparation euros from the German economy while Israel simultaneously shifts its own reparation dues to the Palestinians onto Germany and compliant international donors.

Merkel penitentially made reference to November 9th's shared anniversary with 'Kristallnacht,' the 1938 Nazi pogrom against Jews and synagogues, which she condemned as a 'day of shame and disgrace'.

In September, she publicly condemned antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment, "Anyone who hits someone wearing a skullcap is hitting us all. Anyone who damages a Jewish gravestone is disgracing our culture. Anyone who attacks a synagogue is attacking the foundations of our free society."

But, during the past weeks and present days, no such condemnation was heard from the German government over the demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem for Jewish settlement expansion, over the Israeli desecration of the Al Aqsa mosque, the closing of it to Palestinian worshipers and over the inflammatory calls to replace it with the third temple.

If Merkel genuinely felt 'the responsibility of German history' she would ensure Germany never again participates in state terror and therefore would not have revoked the safeguards restricting arms exports to areas of conflict and to dictatorships.

Germany supplies Israel with nuclear capable Dolphin-class submarines, anti-armour weapons systems made by German Dynamit Nobel Defense (became a subsidiary of Israel's RAFAEL in 2004) which also combined with Israel's Corner Shot to create the CSP in 3 versions: a pistol, assault rifle and grenade/ teargas launcher that fire around corners.

Apropos, the 'Iron Frau' is responsible for supplying the German-made weapons that help enforce Israel's Nazi-like policies against Palestinians such as Lebensraum( land expansion), human experimentation ( Gaza and her people are a laboratory of testing Israeli weapons), deportation and ethnic cleansing (under Plan Dalet, forced expulsion of 700, 000 Palestinians was executed in 1948), racial policies of Aryan superiority (apartheid and the right of Jews only to the land of Palestine), institutionalised terror, night raids and wholesale imprisonment ( in 2013 Israeli soldiers kidnapped 3874, including 931 children, the figures are far higher in 2014) , looting and destruction of Jewish property (Electronic Intifada reported "The Israeli army confiscated nearly $3.5 million worth of property and cash from Palestinians during its recent three-weeks long military incursion into the West Bank, under the pretense of searching for three Israeli teens who went missing on 12 June and whose bodies were found 30 June."), Nazi Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour prohibiting marriages between gentiles and Jews (With very few exceptions, Israeli civil law does not permit marriages between Jews and non-Jews within the state of Israel. Children of mixed marriages are not considered Jewish), and the establishment of ghettos (the West Bank and Gaza are virtual ghettos sealed off by checkpoints),

In the ghettos the Jews are to receive only as much food as the rest of the population can spare, but not more than is required for their bare subsistence. The same applies to the allocation of other essential goods. Jewish Virtual Library

It was revealed that "the dietary needs for the population of Gaza are chillingly calculated" or as Israeli bureaucrat, Dov Weisglass put it, "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger."

In February 2014, a photo went viral of Merkel with a Hitler moustache shadow cast by Netanyahu. Although met with amusement, the photo evokes a karmic warning that the shadow of Zionism has Nazi resonances.

Objection to comparing Israeli and Nazi policies is usually made on the grounds that no atrocity can surpass the horrendous extermination of 6 million Jews over 6 years, but how do you measure the accumulative trauma and suffering of all Palestinians suspended in a 67 year transit between birth and ethnic cleansing?

Today, there are more than 11.6 million native Palestinians, more than half of whom have been dispersed worldwide by Israel which denies their legal right of return. The almost 6 million within Palestine, every single day, suffer war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel which enjoys carte blanche impunity to violate international law granted by Germany and Israel's other powerful backers.

The partition of Germany into military occupation zones by the WWII victors was, ultimately, an ideological war between between the US and Russia and an act of collective punishment on the German people. Despite Angela Merkel living her first 35 years on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall which was under oppressive Soviet control, her far right-wing heart is devoid of empathy for Palestinians struggling to survive under oppressive Israeli control.

In that dark light, Merkel's mastery of pedestrian rhetoric shines,

"It was a victory of freedom over bondage and it's a message of faith for today's, and future, generations that can tear down the walls - the walls of dictatorship, violence, ideology and hostility."

You can be sure Frau Merkel wasn't referring the iron wall policy of Zionist dictatorships that began with Ben Gurion, or to the Zionist violence in the Nakba, or Zionist apartheid and Eretz Israel ideology and definitely not to Israeli hostility that two months ago bombed to smithereens the bondaged inmates of the concentration camp that is Gaza.

Sooner than later, these zionist walls will fall. There is a new generation of Germans not cowered by the burden of antisemitism blackmail, who took to the streets protesting the war on Gaza, who dare to speak out defying Merkel's clamp on their freedom of speech, who advance BDS and Palestinian rights.

And there has always been and always will be generations of Palestinians whose spirits are armed with dignity and sumud.

On November 8, in an grand gesture of resistance and defiance, young Palestinian activists armed with hammers, demolished a section of the Apartheid/Annexation Wall in East Jerusalem, "to mark the 25th Anniversary of the fall of Berlin's Wall, and that "as the Berlin Wall fell, the Annexation wall in Palestinian will fall, along with the occupation."

Russia prepares for economic war by stockpiling gold

Russia has taken advantage of lower gold prices to pack the vaults of its central bank with bullion as it prepares for the possibility of a long, drawn-out economic war with the West .

The latest research from the World Gold Council reveals that the Kremlin snapped up 55 tonnes of the precious metal - far more than any other nation - in the three months to the end of September as prices began to weaken.

Vladimir Putin's government is understood to be hoarding vast quantities of gold, having tripled stocks to around 1,150 tonnes in the last decade. These reserves could provide the Kremlin with vital firepower to try and offset the sharp declines in the rouble.

Russia's currency has come under intense pressure since US and European sanctions and falling oil prices started to hurt the economy. Revenues from the sale of oil and gas account for about 45pc of the Russian government's budget receipts.

The biggest buyers of gold after Russia are other countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States, led by Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

In total, central banks around the world bought 93 tonnes of the precious metal in the third quarter, marking it the 15th consecutive quarter of net purchases. In its report, the World Gold Council said this was down to a combination of geopolitical tensions and attempts by countries to diversify their reserves away from the US dollar.

By the end of the year, central banks will have acquired up to 500 tonnes of gold during the latest buying spell, according to Alistair Hewitt, head of market intelligence at the World Gold Council.

"Central banks have been consistently adding to their gold holdings since 2009," Mr Hewitt told the . In the case of Russia, Mr Hewitt said that the recent increases in its gold holdings could be a sign of greater geopolitical risk that has arisen since it seized Crimea sparking a dispute with Ukraine and the West.

Overall, the World Gold Council said that global demand for gold was down 2pc year-on-year to 929 tonnes in the third quarter amid signs that buying in China, one of the main markets, had tailed off. Jewellery demand in the quarter ending in September was down 39pc to 147 tonnes, signalling weaker consumer sentiment in the world's second-largest economy.

However, demand for gold in India has rebounded sharply since the election earlier this year of prime minister Narendra Modi. Demand for jewellery in the world's most populous democracy grew by 60pc year-on-year to 183 tonnes in the third quarter.

Gold prices have fallen about 7pc since October to trade at around $1,160 per ounce and the asset class is expected to post its second straight yearly loss. The precious metal has bounced since hitting a four-year low at the beginning of the week but sentiment remains weak despite the World Gold Council's latest outlook.

Bilingual brains process information more efficiently


Speaking more than one language is good for the brain, according to new research that indicates bilingual speakers process information more efficiently and more easily than those who know a single language.

The benefits occur because the bilingual brain is constantly activating both languages and choosing which language to use and which to ignore, said Northwestern University's Viorica Marian, the lead author of the research and a professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders in the School of Communication. When the brain is constantly exercised in this way, it doesn't have to work as hard to perform cognitive tasks, the researchers found.

"It's like a stop light," Marian said. "Bilinguals are always giving the green light to one language and red to another. When you have to do that all the time, you get really good at inhibiting the words you don't need," she said.

The study, which will be published online in the journal on Nov. 12 was one of the first to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to test co-activation and inhibition in bilinguals. Co-activation during bilingual spoken language comprehension, a concept Marian pioneered in 1999, means that fluent bilinguals have both languages "active" at the same time, whether they are consciously using them or not. Inhibitory control involves selecting the correct language in the face of a competing other language.

Earlier in her career, Marian recorded eye movements to track co-activation and inhibition. She found that when bilinguals heard words in one language, such as "marker" in English, they often made eye movements to objects whose names sounded similar in another language they knew, such as "marka" which means stamp in Russian.

She is now looking at the brain itself by using MRI imaging, which shows blood flow to certain areas as the volunteers perform a cognitive task. The more oxygen or blood flow to the region, the harder that part of the brain is working.

In her most recent study, volunteers were asked to perform language comprehension tasks. Upon hearing a word, study participants were shown pictures of four objects. For example, after hearing the word " cloud" they would be shown four pictures, including a picture of a cloud and a picture of a similar-sounding word, such as a "clown." The study participants needed to recognize the correct word and ignore the similar-sounding competing word.

The bilingual speakers were better at filtering out the competing words because their brains are used to controlling two languages and inhibiting the irrelevant words, the researchers found.

The fMRI scans showed that "monolinguals had more activation in the inhibitory control regions than bilinguals; they had to work much harder to perform the task," Marian said.

Other research suggests efficient brains can have benefits in everyday life. For example, bilingual children were better at ignoring classroom noise than children who speak one language, according to a study Marian recently coauthored with colleagues in the U.K., which was published last month in the journal .

"Inhibitory control is a hallmark of cognition," said Marian. "Whether we're driving or performing surgery, it's important to focus on what really matters and ignore what doesn't."

The fact that bilinguals are constantly practicing inhibitory control could also help explain why bilingualism appears to offer a protective advantage against Alzheimer's and dementia, said Marian.

"That's the exciting part," she said. "Using another language provides the brain built-in exercise. You don't have to go out of your way to do a puzzle because the brain is already constantly juggling two languages. "

Marian's team included Northwestern Ph.D candidates Sarah Chabal and James Bartolotti. They collaborated with Kailyn Bradley and Arturo Hernandez of the University of Houston.

Marian grew up speaking Romanian and Russian. English is her third language; she also speaks some basic Spanish, French and Dutch.

"It's never too late to learn another language," she said. "The benefits can be seen even after just one semester of studying."

Study finds that cellphone use greatly increases risk of brain cancer

Did you ever wonder how a cell phone might affect your brain? When you think about it, the use of cell phones is massively experimental, as we had no idea what kind of negative effects they might have on people when they were first introduced. Well now, decades after heavy use of cell phones, a study shows that brain tumor rates nearly triple after 25 years of cell phone use.

The Swedish study, published in the journal , found that the longer someone talked on their phone - in terms of hours and years - the more likely they were to develop glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer.

The study found that, overall, people who used wireless phones for more than a year were at 70% greater risk of brain cancer as compared to those who used wireless phones for a year or less. Those who used wireless phones for more than 25 years were at a 300% greater risk of brain cancer than those who used wireless phones for a year or less.

Dr. Gabriel Zada, a neurosurgeon at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine who wasn't involved in the study, said that the study provides more evidence that cell phones and brain cancer may be linked.

Indeed, the Swedish study came to similar conclusions as many other studies - that cell phone use increases brain cancer risk. Another study examining how cell phones might fuel brain cancer followed nearly 800,000 middle-aged women for seven years. In that time, there were 51,680 invasive cancers and 1,261 cancers of the central nervous system. But when analyzing the data and looking at the women who reported using cell phones for over ten years, a 10% increase in meningioma risk was discovered.

Here is the good news: even though the Swedish study mentioned above tripled the risk of developing giloma, the chances of someone being diagnosed with this type of brain tumor are extremely low. One study found that just more than 5 out of 100,000 Europeans (.005%) were diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor between 1995 and 2002. Tripling that rate puts the chances of developing giloma at .016%.

But even still, there are numerous ways cell phones could negatively affect your brain. So what can you do to prevent these potential negative effects? Whether you have the latest LTE technology or an old flip-phone, you can minimize your exposure to cell phone radiation by:

  • Seldom holding the phone up to your head. This can be accomplished by either using the speaker option or using headphones with a microphone attached.

  • Not sleeping with your phone next to you, and turning it off at night.

  • Shutting it off while not in use.

  • Look into, heavily research, and invest in radiation protection options for your phone.

  • Placing your phone in 'airplane' mode if you cannot turn it off entirely.

  • Informing everyone of the dangers of cellphone use.

Ridiculous: Police officer dubbed 'Cannibal Cop' released from jail

© Reuters / Carlo Allegri

Former New York City police officer Gilberto Valle (L), dubbed by local media as the "Cannibal Cop," speaks to the media beside his father Gilberto Valle (C) outside the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

A former New York City police officer convicted of planning to kidnap and rape women before killing and eating them was sentenced to time served on Wednesday, as he insisted in court that the women were "never in danger."

Gilberto Valle, now known as the 'cannibal cop,' was convicted in 2013 for kidnapping conspiracy. Though he faced a possible life term, a federal judge threw out a jury's guilty verdict earlier this year given Valle's steps were "not sufficient - standing alone - to make out the elements of conspiracy to commit kidnapping."

On Wednesday, Valle, 30, was sentenced to one year time served, the maximum for a misdemeanor, and one year probation. He also was ordered to continue mental health treatment. Valle had already served 20 months in jail as he awaited trial.

During his sentencing in a Manhattan federal court, Valle apologized to the women who had to testify in the trial. He said his conversations in online fetish chat rooms were only role-playing fantasies and not about taking concrete steps to kidnap or harm anyone.

"I just hope they know they were never in danger," Valle said, according to AP. "I would never do the things I talked about on the Internet - never."

Valle said later outside the court that he wanted to move on with is life.

"My legacy is not going to be the story of the 'cannibal cop,'" he said.

The then-New York Police Department patrolman was arrested in 2012 when his wife alerted the FBI to disturbing material she found on his computer. Valle had used the NYPD's federal database to collect information on various women he intended to target.

The findings included a series of unsettling documents and statements, including one file titled,"Abducting and Cooking (Victim-1): A Blueprint." Inside were details regarding the birthdate and bra size of a woman and a list of materials needed to carry out a kidnapping plot.

"I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus... cook her over low heat, keep her alive as long as possible," the document read, according to court papers.

The FBI's complaint also alleged that Valle discussed kidnapping a woman for a third party.

"I will really get off on knocking her out, tying up her hands and bare feet and gagging her," he wrote."Then she will be stuffed into a large piece of luggage and wheeled out to my van."

In another chat exchange, Valle indicated that he knew a woman who could be an easy target, as she lived alone. The men discussed cooking her, basted in olive oil, over an open fire and using her severed head as a centerpiece for a sit-down meal.

Although prosecutors originally argued that Valle's access of the NYPD database signaled that the former officer was taking steps to carry out his lurid plan - they also claimed he had searched the internet in order to learn about using chloroform to knock someone unconscious - defense attorneys said his involvement with a dark fetish website was simply fantasy.

When Valle appealed his conviction, his lawyers claimed the jury could not differentiate between the details of his fantasy and real steps toward making it a reality.

In June, US District Judge Paul Gardephe overturned the earlier conviction, setting conditions for Wednesday's sentencing on misdemeanor charges.

Valle's "depraved, misogynistic sexual fantasies about his wife, former college classmates and acquaintances undoubtedly reflected a mind diseased," Gardephe wrote in his decision to drop the kidnapping conviction. He added the prosecutors could not prove Valle was taking steps to actually carry out the plots.

"Dates for 'planned' kidnappings pass without comment, without discussion, without explanation, and with no follow-up. The only plausible explanation for the lack of comment on inquiry about allegedly agreed-upon and scheduled kidnappings is that Valle and the others engaged in these chats understood that no kidnapping would actually take place."

Russian FM reiterates: Russian troops never crossed Ukraine border

Russian troops have never crossed the border with Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters Thursday.

"I state it openly and officially that there was no troop movement through the [Ukrainian] border and certainly no Russian military presence on the territory of Ukraine," he said.

On Wednesday, NATO said it had observed columns of Russian tanks, artillery and combat troops entering Ukraine over the past two days, while the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Tuesday said it had seen a convoy of 43 unmarked military trucks moving toward eastern Ukraine. However, both organizations failed to present any facts to support the claim.

Lukashevich added that "we are currently looking into what the OSCE wrote in their report."

As for NATO allegations, the spokesman said that such claims are mainly driven by the alliance's desire to justify boosting its military presence near the Russian border.

Relations between Russia and NATO have been strained since the alliance accused Russia of meddling in Ukraine's internal conflict, a claim Moscow has denied. NATO has also repeatedly said that Russia has been sending troops to Ukraine and supporting eastern Ukrainian militia. However, when leaders of the alliance have been asked to provide evidence to support their statements, they have failed to do so.

In April, NATO ended all practical cooperation with Russia over Ukraine, only maintaining contacts at ambassadorial and higher levels.

Resumption of Hostilities in Southeast Ukraine Must Be Prevented: Moscow

The resumption of military action in southeastern Ukraine would be a disaster and must be prevented, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday.

"The scenario [of renewed hostilities] must be prevented," he told reporters, adding that "it would be catastrophic from the point of view of the Ukrainian situation and on a wider regional level."

Lukashevich stressed that Russia is urging the international community to stop Kiev from planning the resumption of full-scale military action.

The official also pointed out that the Minsk agreements remain the basis for the political reconciliation of the Ukrainian internal conflict.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said the country was redeploying its military in Donbas in case of "unforeseeable actions by separatists."

Last week, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic claimed that Kiev had deployed tanks to the outskirts of Donetsk. However, Ukrainian authorities said that pro-independence fighters painted their military hardware in Ukrainian Army colors in order to compromise Kiev.

Ukraine Crisis Negotiations Ineffective Without Donetsk, Luhansk Participation

Negotiations in any format on settling the Ukrainian crisis without the participation of the eastern Ukrainian republics of Donetsk and Luhansk are ineffective, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday.

"In regard to the situation in southeastern Ukraine, hope for a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis without taking into consideration the opinion of the residents from that region, again, we believe to be completely ineffective. Any negotiations without the direct participation of the conflicting parties cannot be effective," he said at a press briefing.

On November 9, the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics held elections for the heads of local governments and representatives of legislative bodies. Following the vote, the Ukrainian president said that Ukraine would not recognize the results of the elections and announced his plans to submit an abolition of the law granting special status to the regions to Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council.

The law on self-administration in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions was passed by the Ukrainian parliament on September 16, following the September 5 ceasefire agreement between Kiev and the independence supporters. According to the deal, Kiev was obliged to ensure early local elections in the two regions.

Be present: Living in the moment really does make people happier

© Corbis RF/Alamy

Reminiscing, thinking ahead or daydreaming tends to make people more miserable.

Psychologists have found that people are distracted from the task at hand nearly half the time, and this daydreaming consistently makes them less happy.

Happiness is found by living in the now, particularly if the now involves having sex, according to a major study into mental wellbeing.

But the study also found that people spend nearly half their time (46.7%) thinking about something other than what they are actually doing.

The benefits of living in the moment are extolled by many philosophical and religious traditions, but until now there has been scant scientific evidence to support the advice.

Psychologists at Harvard University collected information on the daily activities, thoughts and feelings of 2,250 volunteers to find out how often they were focused on what they were doing, and what made them most happy.

They found that people were happiest when having sex, exercising or in conversation, and least happy when working, resting or using a home computer. And although subjects' minds were wandering nearly half of the time, this consistently made them less happy.

The team conclude that reminiscing, thinking ahead or daydreaming tends to make people more miserable, even when they are thinking about something pleasant.

Even the most engaging tasks failed to hold people's full attention. Volunteers admitted to thinking about something else at least 30% of the time while performing these tasks, except when they were having sex, when people typically had their mind on the job around 90% of the time.

"Human beings have this unique ability to focus on things that aren't happening right now. That allows them to reflect on the past and learn from it; it allows them to anticipate and plan for the future; and it allows them to imagine things that might never occur," said Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral student in psychology and lead author of the study.

"At the same time, it seems that human beings often use this ability in ways that are not productive and furthermore can be destructive to our happiness," he added.

For the study, Killingsworth and his supervisor, Daniel Gilbert, author of the 2006 book , developed a web application for the iPhone that contacted participants at random times during their waking hours. When they received a message, those taking part had to respond with information about what they were doing, by selecting from a list of 22 activities, such as doing housework, shopping, or watching TV. They went on to rate their happiness on a scale from zero to 100, and said whether they were focused, or daydreaming about something positive, negative or neutral.

The results showed that happiness was more affected by how often people drifted off, and where they went in their imagination, than by the activity they were doing at the time. The researchers say they're confident that being distracted was the cause of unhappiness, rather than the other way round.

The authors write in the journal :

"A human mind is a wandering mind and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost."

Asked why people seemed to be particularly focused during sex, Killingsworth observed: "If you were messaged while you were having sex it probably wouldn't turn out so well if you whipped out your iPhone. Sex is one of the few broad categories of activity that requires and perhaps benefits from our full attention."

More than 5,000 people have signed up for the happiness study and the researchers hope to attract more so they can look at mental wellbeing in different geographical regions and between the sexes with greater accuracy.

"Hopefully we will get a lot of new participants from all over the world and be able to answer questions we've not really been able to ask before, because we've never had this kind of data on people's experiences," Killingsworth said.

United States of Ignorance: Americans are almost as dumb as Italians

© Pete Markham, CC-BY-SA

It's quiz time, people. Let's start with an easy one: What percentage of working-age Americans are unemployed and looking for work?

If you guessed about 6 percent, give yourself a pat on the back. You have a pretty good understanding of the unemployment rate, one of the basic measures of economic well-being. If, on the other hand, you guessed 32 percent -- which would rank America among the most desperate nations on Earth -- then you guessed just like the average American!

That's one of the findings of a survey released this week by U.K. pollster Ipsos Mori, which interviewed 11,527 people. In the 14-country Index of Ignorance (Ipsos Mori's name, but we approve), Americans are second only to Italians in how little we understand some of the stats that track the most basic contours of our society.

Ready for more? Try these:

What percentage of the U.S. population identifies as Muslim?

Americans guessed: 15%

Reality: 1%

What percentage of the population do you think are immigrants to America?

Americans guessed: 32%

Reality: 13%

Do you think this statement is true or false: The murder rate is rising in America

70 percent of Americans guessed: True

Reality: False

Here's a question that every country got wrong by a wide margin:

What percentage of American girls aged between 15 and 19 years give birth each year?

Americans guessed: 23.9%

Reality: 3.1%

This is a tricky one. I suspect most people ignore the "each year" part and instead guess what percentage of women get pregnant at any point during their teenage years. But that's part of the point: the phrasing above is exactly what's meant by "teen pregnancy rate," which is often bandied about but rarely explained. If the annual pregnancy rate really were 23.9 percent, the average American woman would have more than one child by the age of 20, and the U.S. population would probably be closer to that of China.

Here's the ranking of countries on the Index of Ignorance, with the most fabulously ignorant at top:

1. Italy

2. U.S.

3. South Korea

4. Poland

5. Hungary

6. France

7. Canada

8. Belgium

9. Australia

10. Great Britain

11. Spain

12. Japan

13. Germany

14. Sweden

Click here to take the full quiz and see how your ignorance of basic numbers in the news stacks up with the ignorance of other nations.

Global warming, where art thou? A mini ice age is what we're in store for

Parts of the lower 48 states could see temperatures between 20 and 40 degrees below average, the National Weather Service said Sunday. In the Wall Street Journal, we read that global warming has taken a long holiday or what officials call warming pause. "Well, the pause has now lasted for 16, 19 or 26 years - depending on whether you choose the surface temperature record or one of two satellite records of the lower atmosphere. That's according to a new statistical calculation by Ross McKitrick, a professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada."

The first scenes of the next mini ice age is all about us at the beginning of November. Soon most in the northern hemisphere are going to have to throw out the idea of having a fall at all. Winter is going to run rampage earlier and earlier each year. Winter is going to annihilate the fall. It already has.

'Earliest and deepest snowfalls in more than 100 years in Southeastern U.S.' and lots of snow combined with record low temperatures. Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Georgia all saw unexpected snow, in some places almost two feet deep. According to the Climatology Office in South Carolina, Concord, South Carolina has broken a 125-year record for the earliest snow seen. In addition, Columbia, South Carolina's capital broke a 129-year record.

Global warming is a dead idea. In fact, that is all it ever was, and unsubstantiated idea. About 14.1 million square kilometers of snow blanketed Siberia at the end of October, the second most in records going back to 1967, according to Rutgers University's Global Snow Lab. The record was in 1976, which broke a streak of mild winters in the eastern U.S. In addition, the speed at which snow has covered the region is the fastest since at least 1998.

Cold air builds over the expanse of snow, strengthening the pressure system known as a Siberian high. The high weakens the winds that circle the North Pole, allowing the cold air to leak into the lower latitudes. The term "Polar Vortex" actually refers to those winds, not the frigid weather.

Last year, 12.85 million square kilometers of snow covered Eurasia at the end of October. "The big early snow build will definitely set things up for a cold back half of the winter," said Todd Crawford, a meteorologist at commercial forecaster WSI in Andover, Massachusetts.

Over 1.2 million square kilometers more snow cover already. We are talking about a huge area. For comparison, the entire United States, including Alaska, contains 3.8 million sq. miles (9.85 million sq. km).

Even relatively warm areas are seeing record cold. Miami, West Palm Beach, Naples, Key West, all broke previous records. On Nov 2, 2014 - In Miami, the temperature fell to 52 degrees, breaking the previous record of 54 degrees set in 1993. In West Palm Beach, the temperature dipped to 49 degrees, breaking the previous record of 51 degrees set in 1993. In Key West, the temperature dropped to 61 degrees, breaking the previous record of 62 degrees set in 1957.

Record storms will bring record cold so on top of solar dimming and record volcanic activity slamming temperatures downwards we have cyclone Nuri racing up in the far north. On Monday night, the European model was forecasting the cyclone to drop 36 mb in 18 hours to an incredible low pressure of 916 mb. This would likely be the lowest pressure ever recorded in the Bering Sea - the previous record for Alaska is 927 mb at Dutch Harbor in 1977. It would also come very close to the lowest extra tropical pressure on record for any location, which is 913 mb, set in the North Atlantic in 1993. Weather Underground chief meteorologist Jeff Masters says Nuri's remnants are "predicted to become one of Earth's strongest storms on record."

This storm is setting the stage for a frigid blast of air into the mainland United States that will send temperatures plunging this week.

The Religion of Global Warming Goes On

CNN must be the world champion in terms of showing off how badly the news can be corrupted. You can read all about the glorious lie of global warming on their consistent posts but they are not alone. The United Nations insists we have a warming problem. International government officials at a summit in Copenhagen over the past week, is intended to provide the clearest and most concise summary yet of the widely agreed scientific evidence on climate change. Widely agreed on by blind men who are out to rob others of wealth through carbon taxes. The United Nations is an organization whose day we should put behind the human race. Why the major media outlets even bother to print the disinformation the UN puts out is beyond my imagination.

ABC News in Australia, a diehard global warmer publication says, "The world's top scientists have given their clearest warning yet of the severe and irreversible impacts of climate change. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its report, a summary of its last three reports. It warns greenhouse gas levels are at their highest they have been in 800,000 years, with recent increases mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels. Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems," the report said.

Robin Williams was on anti-depressant drug with 'black box' warning at the time of his suicide; findings downplayed by mainstream media

Robin Williams

The antidepressant found in Williams' toxicology test, Mirtazapine (Remeron), has 10 drug regulatory agency warnings citing suicidal ideation

If news headlines were to be believed about the autopsy findings of beloved actor/comedian Robin Williams, who tragically committed suicide nearly two months ago, no drugs were found in his system at the time of his death, as evidenced by headlines from USA Today, NBC News, the BBC and others proclaiming "no alcohol or drugs" were found. These headlines couldn't be more wrong.

The medical examiner's report cites an antidepressant drug was in Williams' system at the time of his death. The particular antidepressant, Mirtazapine, (also known as Remeron ) carries 10 international drug regulatory warnings on causing suicidal ideation.

According to the autopsy results, not only was Williams under the influence of antidepressant drugs, but the powerful antipsychotic Seroquel was also found at the scene and appears to have been recently taken by Williams. While toxicology tests apparently were negative for the antipsychotic Seroquel, the fact remains that a bottle of Seroquel prescribed to Williams on August 4th, just seven days prior to Williams' suicide, was missing 8 pills. The Seroquel instructions advise to take one pill per day as needed. Side effects associated with Seroquel include psychosis, paranoid reactions, delusions, depersonalization and suicide attempt.

Robin Williams

'The human spirit is more powerful than any drug and THAT is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter. --Robin Williams, Awakenings

The question that has to be asked is why the press continues to promote the idea that no drugs were found in Williams' system? At what point did mind-altering psychiatric drugs, which have side effects rivaling those of heroin or crack cocaine, stop being called drugs? And for those in the press who did "mention" the fact that Williams was found to have antidepressants in his system, the acknowledgement seems to promote the fact that "therapeutic concentrations" of prescription psychiatric drugs "improved his condition and kept him active until his death."

This is a highly misleading take on the events leading to Williams tragic suicide, especially in light of the fact that not only was Williams receiving mental health "treatment," he was under the supervision of a psychiatrist, was not abusing illegal drugs and had not "fallen off the wagon."

The facts regarding antidepressant drugs are these:

  • Food and Drug Administration's Medwatch Adverse Drug Reports include 470,000 adverse reactions for psychiatric drugs between 2004-2012. The FDA admits only 1% of side effects are ever reported to them, so the actual number of reported side effects is assuredly much higher.

  • Mirtazapine (also known as Remeron) carries the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) "Black box" warning for suicidality.

  • There are ten warnings of suicide associated with Mirtazapine alone and suicide is among the top 2 side effects reported to the FDA on this particular antidepressant

  • The FDA's MedWatch drug adverse event reporting system recorded 411 attempted and completed suicides associated with the antidepressant Mirtazapine alone (and the FDA estimates only 1% of side effects are ever reported to them)

  • 90,000 emergency room visits are attributed to psychiatric drugs each year in the U.S.

  • 23,755 suicides are attributed to psychiatric drugs each year in the U.S. alone.

Give the above data, one can only wonder why Williams' psychiatric drug use has effectively been dismissed by reporting organizations. A careful review of Williams' psychiatric "non-drug" use paints a very different tragic story.

What was found in Williams' system were prescription psychiatric drugs with side effects that not only rival illegal street drugs, but also carry the FDA's "Black box" warnings - the federal agency's most serious warnings - about increased thoughts of suicide.

The fact is that two of the drugs Williams had been prescribed list suicidal thoughts as possible side effects. The Seroquel he was prescribed (and appears to have taken in the week prior to his suicide), and the antidepressant that was still in his system at the time of his suicide. Moreover, considering the FDA's Medwatch drug adverse event reporting system recorded 411 attempted and completed suicides associated with the antidepressant Mirtazapine alone (and the FDA estimates only 1% of side effects are ever reported to them), it becomes even more bizarre that the world's press ignore even the possibility that these drugs could be involved in Williams' suicide.

The much-loved comedian's death is a great loss, but the tragedy is further compounded by the mainstream press glossing over the serious and well-known association between suicide and the psychiatric drugs Williams was taking. If only the sentiments from one of Williams' finest roles in had been taken literally in his personal life: "The human spirit is more powerful than any drug and is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter."

Alabama man vilified for telling the truth in Veteran's Day Facebook rant: 'You never fought for any freedoms...'

An Alabama gun shop employee is backing away from controversial remarks he made in a Facebook post on Veterans Day.

Michael Schuette said he became angry while reading social media comments praising veterans for their service and posted remarks that have angered people all over the U.S.

"OK, for my yearly Veterans Day speech...to all vets...you are NOT hero's," Schuette posted. "You got paid to learn how to fight and kill for profit. You 'Served' your leader...You followed the rules and made it out of whatever country you terrorized alive."

"You got a check and a holiday," he continued. "YOU NEVER FOUGHT FOR ANY OF MY FREEDOMS!!!!! You fought for corporate interests...You never sacrificed for this country...You did so for your government owners...You did nothing for American citizens...YOU WANNT MEET HERO's???? Well, shake hands with CIVILIAN EMTs, nurses, firefighters, lawyers and anyone in the ACLU...Please feel free to add some more hero's below but Veterans are you NOT American hero's."

The Anniston man said he has received 1,400 emails, 200 text messages, and hundreds of voice mails from military supporters who were upset by his comments.

Some of the messages pointed out that Schuette's wife owns Outlaw Gun Repair and Hydrographing, and he now plans to step down from his position repairing firearms at the shop.

"Next time don't bite the vets hands that feed your freedom of speech....they bite back," one person posted on the company's website.

He eventually took the post offline, although Yellowhammer News preserved a screen capture, and said he has been apologizing ever since he posted the remarks.

"I've spent the last 12 hours on the phone with veterans all across the nation who have called me, let me know their feelings and told me their stories," Schuette said. "I am very humbled. I am very apologetic. I have taken down the post."

Some of the messages he's received contain apparent threats against his life and health.

Schuette, whose grandfather and stepfather served in the military, said he did not intend to personally disparage veterans.

"I did not mean for it to get out," he said. "My anger was misplaced. I am angry at the machine that sends out children to war senselessly."

Schuette said his best friend, who's currently serving in uniform, was also deeply angered by the post.

"He's so mad at me right now about this post he won't talk to me," he said.

Watch this video report:

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Chechen Islamic State commander dead, according to Chechen leader

© Sputnik. Said Tcarnaev

Ramzan Kadyrov.

A national of Chechen origin from the post-Soviet republic of Georgia, considered to be a senior commander of the Islamic State (IS), has been killed, the head of Russia's Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov wrote in his Instagram account Thursday.

"The enemy of Islam Tarkhan Batarishvili, who called himself Omar al-Shishani, was killed. This will happen to everyone who dares to threaten Russia and the Chechen people," Kadyrov wrote.

Batarishvili, known under the nom de guerre Omar Shishani [Omar the Chechen], reportedly left the Georgian army after the 2008 conflict with Russia. According to the US Department of Treasury, he resurfaced in Syria in 2012 and became a senior IS commander the following year. The jihadist has appeared in several photos and videos released by the group in 2014.

In October, Bloomberg reported that al-Shishani threatened to invade Russia while calling his father in Georgia. "Don't worry, dad, I'll come home and show the Russians. I have many thousands following me now and I'll get more. We'll have our revenge against Russia," he was quoted as saying by his father.

Omar the Chechen

In September, the IS published a video threatening Russia and President Vladimir Putin due to his "close ties" with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The jihadists on the footage also vowed to "liberate" Chechnya and the Caucasus.

In response, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov threatened to kill any terrorists who voice threats against Russia.

Comment: Interesting that this veteran of the U.S. proxy war in Georgia - who had previously had contact with the terrorist 'rebels' in the U.S.'s proxy war in Chechnya - 'left' the Georgian army to join the U.S.'s newest proxy army, IS. Can we say intelligence asset? Or does Omar just get around?

It's also curious that news of "Omar the Chechen's" death comes at the same time as that of another alleged "IS terrorist", the so-called White Widow, killed while fighting for one of Kolomoisky's Right Sector 'volunteer' battalions death squads, the Aidar battalion, in Ukraine. Is someone sending a message by taking out these obvious U.S. 'war on terror' assets?

See also: Who is the "Islamic Emirate"?